Monday, September 10, 2012


Fundamentally the skills are simple in and of themselves, the math isn't terribly complicated, and the fieldcraft isn't particularly difficult.  The marksmanship standard can be met by nearly anyone who cares to compete in High Power rifle matches.  So why do so many potential snipers wash out of sniper school?  Because adding all the little things together makes something more than the sum of its parts.

Outside of the .mil world there has been a lot of changes.  Since the 1980s there has been a rise in civilian interest in military sniper style training and shooting.  Hollywood helped by portraying American Snipers as heroes instead of "cowardly murderers" as the Marquis of Queensbury would have proclaimed.  Also the publication of several biographies and autobiographies of American Snipers has helped turn "Sniper" from synonymous with "murderer" to "Life Saver."  There has been a rise in equipment built for "sniper style" shooting, from first focal plane mil/mil scopes to heavy barreled "tactical" bolt action rifles.  Both "match grade" and "tactical" ammunition is readily available.

There are some very good books and instructional videos for those who are interested, and several worthwhile schools open to anyone with money and willingness to learn.  I don't think it is possible to do justice to sniper training in one blog post, so I'll focus on what I see as the "problem areas."  In my experience the two things that wash students out of Army sniper training is shooting movers at distance, and the dreaded stalk exercise.

When you are shooting at movers there are two basic techniques, "trap" and "lead."

Trapping is pointing your rifle at a place where your target is likely to be, and pulling the trigger when they hit a mark (either near them, or a mil measurement on the reticle).  Leading is moving your rifle to a point in front of your target and pulling the trigger.  Duck hunters are quite familiar with leading the target, "butt belly beak BOOM!" is an old catchphrase to teach young waterfowl hunters to lead the bird.

Trailing is the same as "leading" but it means you are moving faster than your target.  Shooting from a helicopter (really cool when it works) is like this.  The principle is the same, aim at a point other than your target and if all goes well the bullet and target meet at the right time and place.

This is simple right?  Now account for the wind.  Now account for temperature changes.  Now account for humidity changes.  As I wrote before, nothing on its own is too difficult, but they all add up quickly to make it hard to get first round on target.

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