Wednesday, April 2, 2014


A vote is like a rifle; its usefulness depends upon the character of the user.

Theodore Roosevelt


It’s a strange thing, but the U.S. Army has regularly neglected sniper training in the past—despite overwhelming evidence that snipers are effective out of all proportion to their numbers.

I have never really understood the Army’s attitude towards sniping but suspect it has to do with the fact that snipers tend to work alone or with a spotter—and the military is oriented towards controlling its soldiers in large groups, and disapproves of the individuality of snipers (indeed it disapproves of individuality period). However, whatever be the reason, it is a fact that sniping rarely gets the attention it deserves except in time of war. Even then, it is normally the enemy that reminds us first that snipers are lethal and decidedly disconcerting.

World's longest sniper kill - 2.47km twice!

Cost may be another reason for the Army’s neglect of sniping. A sniper, who wants to remain at his peak, really needs to shoot daily—and the costs of that in an army quickly mount up. That said, if you want to keep your snipers up to the mark, they have to be allowed to shoot live ammunition in quantity—and regularly.

I vividly recall asking a scout sniper in the 82nd Airborne how often he shot and being quite taken aback when I was told: “Once a month—if I’m lucky, sir.” But that was in the early Nineties when the U.S. didn’t have a war or two going.

When I queried this neglect of sniper training, I was told that the 82nd were emphasizing the reconnaissance role of a scout sniper—and not the sniper aspect.

I didn’t buy the answer then—and still don’t.

I have featured sniping in all my novels—and was originally taught what I needed to know by a former Royal Marine, John Napier—a marvelous man—who had seen action all over the place including the Falklands.

I hold snipers in high regard. It’s a difficult skill to master, and involves a great deal more than shooting. You have to get where you are going without being seen and then remain undetected—sometimes for days. It also requires formidable self discipline and patience—and courage. Snipers frequently operate with little or no immediate support.

A British sniper from the Coldstream Guards recently killed 6 Taliban with one bullet from 930 yards away. His round killed the suicide bomber and caused his vest to explode—killing 5 more of his comrades nearby.

The same sniper, with his first shot on his tour of duty, killed a Taliban machine-gunner from 1,465 yards.

He was using the L115A3—made by Accuracy International—which fires an 8.59mm (.338 Lapua Magnum) round.

The deadliest sniper in recorded history is Finland’s Simo Hayha who racked up 505 confirmed kills in three months. As if that wasn’t enough, he killed a further 200 with a Suomi KP/31 submachine gun—to make a grand total of 705.

Thumbs upIf you want to read more about sniping

Hans Halberstadt, Trigger Men: Shadow Team, Spider-Man, the Magnificent Bastards, American Combat Sniper (Unabridged) [Unabridged  Nonfiction]

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