Snipers seem to get a lot of attention; be it the “lone gunman” fantasy, media concoctions capitalizing on this, or on a more professional level, the fear that the trained marksman can instil in an opponent. Frequently among “other” circles, it creates a highly Walter Mitty-ish atmosphere and chatter. Such talk is annoying and silly.
Let’s cut through the fog so we can put some metal in the meat.
Identifying Levels of Experience
The marksman on the Battlefield can be broken down into three distinct categories.
The Irregular Sniper- This is just a guy with a rifle and a scope. Your everyday, average bubba with a deer rifle falls into this category. He’s an opportunist and has no formal training. He is erratic and unpredictable, and may score a few successes but will end up getting killed by his actions after the shot. Jack Hinson is a great example.
The Marksman- This person is a trained Infantryman or a Guerilla who’s been in the fight a while. He’s learned some hard lessons and knows how to integrate his weapon with a team. He understands he’s part of a larger picture and behaves as such. His weapon most likely will have commonality with the other guys in his team, and equipped with a low to medium power optic. His equipment is selected based upon what’s available and what the mission entails. Kinda like SGT Joseph Kickstand, his ACOG, and his team of studs here:
As stated in the “building the scout team” post, often the Marksman in an Insurgent capacity serves in a leadership role. In conventional military forces he’s often a senior or more seasoned soldier. The reason for this is that as a Marksman he’s more discretionary in the shots he takes. He targets, unlike everyone else on the team who manuever and provide supporting fires. It is important to understand that he is part of a Team. Without his team, he will not and cannot survive long. A neat example of this concept in action is Mr Douchenozzle Umarov here:
Notice he has a semi-close range weapon(VSS Vintorez/9x39mm) with a close range optic(PK-AS etched red dot collimator)? Chechens largely worked(and still do) as a team allowing the Marksman to get within 200M or so of the intended target. Dodge Billingsly, Yossef Bodansky, and LTC Lester Grau do a great job of explaining this further in reference to the Chechen perspective.
The Trained Sniper- As the label indicates, this guy knows what he’s doing. Normally he can work alone or with a team, it depends upon the mission. In addition, he targets very specifically based upon intelligence gathered. It could be in support of a larger operation, it could be the elimination of a key OPFOR, and most often, he’s used as a longer-term observer to further gather intelligence and make a judgement call. Due to his level of training and experience, this level of marksman will use ruses and cruel trickery in the attack in addition to advanced concealment techniques. He is a hunter of men. Or sometimes She…
This lady, Strela, was one of the deadliest marksmen in the Serbian conflicts. UN peacekeepers had a hard time with her. And her example brings up my next point.
We’ve all heard the “behind every lade of grass” quote that was actually only uttered in Tora!Tora!Tora!, but the fact is that without actual training, simply having a rifle you shoot once or twice a year during whatever wild game season you hunt does you absolutely no good. Just because one owns a rifle does not equal making a competent marksman.
Ms. Strela from above started life as a level 1 and worked her way to level 3. But it took work, and a lot of bad days. Her story also did not end well, like most examples in this field. It comes with the territory.
Most military service Sniper schools last a significant amount of time, mostly dedicated to learning the fieldcraft basics such as camo, concealment, the 3Ses(Shape, Shine, Silhouette) and it’s not something that’s learned in a weekend; although in a weekend one can certainly pick up a few valuable pointers. In addition, train regularly. Get past the 100M square range…and out of your comfort zone. Find a local F-Class shoot and talk to the competitors; get involved. You’ll learn, make some friends, some of whom are likely former military marksmen themselves, and you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Notice if you will that not once have I mentioned any gear except to illustrate an example. The rifle really does not matter. I’ve seen an old Mosin Nagant with irons punch an inch and a half group at 100M in very capable hands…from a young guy who shoots it religiously. Now his is a diamond in the rough for sure, but I’d trust him long before I would some clown with the latest tacticool add-ons on a Remington 700 action and shoots it twice a year.
It’s all on you. Get out there and do it.