The Marksman Weapons System Mark 1998, commonly referred to as the Mk 98, was a marksman weapon devised to allow for a high amount of modularity and resilience against the elements, without compromising functionality.
The Mk 98 was born out of necessity. With the Soviet Union and China developing new and refined weapons technology -- most notably the SVT-92 -- the United States felt underprepared in the off chance that one or both of its competitors decided to attack. Their designated marksman rifle at that point, the aging M21, had numerous faults that had made it undesirable during the Indochina War as the XM21, and most which were never resolved in the years following. By 1998, nearly every one of its faults had been outlined officially by the government, from a high amount of recoil, which canceled out the point of a marksman rifle, to a lack of reliability in harsh, humid environs, which were the most likely battlefield. It was also weighty and difficult to wield in close quarters.
In 1994, the U.S. Government approached Colt, Winchester, Heckler and Koch, Steyr, and Remington with a set of constraints with which to develop a new weapons platform. The emphasis with these constraints was upon reliability and accuracy, with an additional focus on modularity. Steyr was the first to accept this contract, and began development on what would become the Mk 98 in January 1995. The basic concept which the developers had in mind was a weapon which began as an oversized handgun: the action, bolt, magazine well, trigger assembly, rear pistol grip, magazine, and chamber were to be a single unit, with the end result looking much like the Mauser C.96. This design improved the weapon's resilience to the elements, although it made the weapon more difficult to maintain overall.
In May 1995, an accuratized barrel was developed for the rifle, as well as the first body, into which the weapon unit would simply lock into. The weapon's body was created out of synthetic materials, which decreased the weight and increased its resilience to water damage when compared to wood.