Sniper

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A sniper and spotter team in Afghanistan

A sniper is a person who is trained to shoot perfectly at things that are very small or very far away. The sniper's target is most often a human or non-human enemy. A military sniper has often been given special training to use a sniper rifle, a special type of gun. Most of the time, a sniper rifle has a telescope called a sniper scope to help the sniper see the target. Snipers are also trained to be stealthy. Snipers hide or use military camouflage such as a ghillie suit that looks like (and may include some of) the surrounding foliage so that it is hard for the enemy to see them. A sniper is also called a "marksman".

Experienced hunters often share many of the skills that snipers need to know. The two jobs are very similar. The word "sniper" came from Britain when highly accurate shooters would hunt–also known as "snipe"–birds that were very hard to see and shoot.[1]

Many police departments have snipers on their SWAT teams.[2] Because police snipers do not always perform the same tasks as military snipers, police snipers are sometimes known as "marksmen".

Sniping[change | edit source]

Snipers shoot targets that are far away. Because the bullet shot by a sniper has to travel a very long distance, the sniper has to be very careful when taking aim. There are three main things that have an effect on the accuracy of the shot. The sniper must plan for these things.

  • The target may be moving, such as walking or running. A sniper must think about where the target will be when the bullet reaches it. A still target might move suddenly.
  • The force of gravity affects the bullet, so that it will drop towards the ground. If the target is close, the effect of gravity does not have a big effect on the accuracy. If the target is far distant, then the sniper must judge how high to shoot, to make up for the distance that the bullet will fall as it flies.[3]
  • Wind affects the way in which a bullet will travel and can blow it away from the target. The sniper must think about the direction that the wind is blowing and the strength of the wind. The sniper might need to shoot to the left or the right of the target, to make up for the wind.[4]

The bullets used by snipers are usually heavy. They are powered by a large amount of gunpowder.[5] This makes the bullet travel very fast. The heaviness makes the bullet less affected by wind.[3][5] The speed makes the bullet less affected by gravity. A fast bullet reaches a target quicker, before it has time for gravity to affect it. Large fast bullets do more damage to the target than lighter or slower bullets.[6]

Accuracy[change | edit source]

Most soldiers are trained so that they can shoot a target that is between 200 metres (656 ft) to 300 metres (984 ft) away and hit it with approximately half their shots.[7] Very well trained soldiers, such as the U.S. Marine Corps, can hit a target that is between 400 metres (1,312 ft) to 500 metres (1,640 ft) away, with approximately half of their shots.[8] A sniper is trained to be able to hit a target over 800 metres (2,625 ft), or half a mile away with almost every single shot.[9][10] Some snipers are so accurate that they can shoot something out of a person's hand,[11] but they usually aim for the target's head or chest. These areas are harder to miss, and are more likely to disable the target.

Sniper rifles[change | edit source]

Sako TRG 42 Sniper rifle

A sniper uses a special kind of rifle called a sniper rifle. This rifle is much more accurate than normal rifles.[12] Almost all sniper rifles use a Sniper scope, a special telescope that allows them to see targets very far away. There are two different kinds of sniper rifles: bolt action rifles, which fire a single shot and then the user must ready the next shot,[13] and semi-automatic ("semi-auto") rifles which fire a single shot each time the trigger is pulled, and automatically ready the next shot for firing.[13] Typically, bolt-action rifles have a longer range and are more accurate than semi-automatic rifles,[12] however because each round must be loaded by operating the bolt, the rate of fire is slower than a semi-automatic rifle, which fires as fast as the shooter can squeeze the trigger. At close ranges, or where a shooter must make a quick follow-up shot, a sniper may prefer to use the semi-automatic rifle instead. A magazine is used on semi automatic rifles and most bolt action rifles. Magazines hold more shots in the gun and make it much faster to ready the next shot. With many rifles, the shooter can carry more full magazines to put into the gun when the magazine that is in the gun is empty.[13]

Camouflage[change | edit source]

Snipers usually wear camouflage clothing, to avoid being seen.[14] Camouflage works by hiding the outline and shape of the human body, so that it is not easily seen. Camouflage does not work very well when the person wearing it is moving because the eye sees movement much better than shapes or colors.[15] Snipers often paint their faces green or black to make them shine less, and blend in with the surroundings.[16] Sometimes snipers wear special camouflage suits, called ghillie suits. Ghillie suits are made of shredded burlap or yute and often have plants attached to them.[17] Snipers will often make several different ghillie suits to help them hide in different kinds of terrain.[18] These suits are very effective at hiding the sniper.[17] Often a sniper can be invisible to an enemy standing right next to him.[19]

Police snipers generally do not need camouflage, because their main job is to make accurate shots, not to hide from the criminal.[2][20] Sometimes police need to hide, so police snipers are trained in hiding techniques.[21]

Snipers in War[change | edit source]

A U.S. Marine Corps sniper in training

Military snipers are chosen for their intelligence, their good sight and their ability to shoot very well. They are trained to use their sight very well. They are trained to see the enemy from far away, and to notice small movements that might show that enemies are near. They are also trained to hide themselves. Snipers use these skills to destroy enemy troops. Snipers generally work in a small unit (or team) of just two people, a sniper and a spotter.[22] The spotter finds targets for the sniper with a telescope. If the sniper misses the target, then the spotter also helps the sniper adjust the next shot so it hits the target.[22] The spotter also protects the sniper from enemies at close range.[22]

Snipers are often used as scouts for the army because they can easily hide themselves from the enemy, even when they are close.[7] They use the sniper scope on their rifles to see farther than most soldiers are able to see.[7] Snipers are often able to notice details and remember information that ordinary soldiers would not.[23] When a sniper is in a team with a spotter, it is usually the spotter's job to use a radio to speak with other military units. The team can report on the enemy position and enemy movements.[24]

Snipers in World War I and II[change | edit source]

A camouflaged sniper using a ghillie suit to remain hidden
Russian postage stamp depicting a sniper

In World War I (WWI), there were no special sniper rifles. Instead, snipers used normal rifles with a sniper scope mounted on them.[25]

In World War II, snipers were common. They were an important part of the fighting. Every squad of the Soviet army included sniper or a 'marksman'. Camouflage tactics were developed during this time. Snipers were very useful during the Battle of Stalingrad. One Russian sniper was said to have killed over 240 German troops. Even that wasn't the best. Mihail Surkov killed 702 enemy troops and Semen Nomokonov killed 367 by sniping, including a general.[26]

Police snipers[change | edit source]

Police departments train and use snipers. These snipers mainly serve on the SWAT team for their department.[21] Often they are called upon to provide security at special events, or to make sure that other snipers do not murder someone.[20] This job is called counter-sniping.[20] Most police snipers are trained by the military.[21]

Famous snipers[change | edit source]

Some snipers are famous for having killed hundreds of enemy soldiers. One such sniper is U.S. Marine Corps sniper Carlos Hathcock, who was famous in the Vietnam War for wearing a white feather in his hat.[27] Other snipers are famous for being able to kill an enemy from very far away. Carlos Hathcock held the record for the furthest distance kill for a very long time — his farthest was over 2,500 yards (2,286 m).[27][28][29] However, in the Afghanistan War, snipers from the Canadian Army broke the record with a shot of 2,430 metres (2,660 yd).[30] Other snipers are known for difficult shots. For example, Matt Hughes had to make a 860 metres (2,822 ft) shot in very high winds by aiming over 56 feet (17 m) to the left of the enemy.[4] An example of a famous sniper in WWII is Vasily Zaytsev. He supposedly killed 225 enemy soldiers during the Battle of Stalingrad.[31]

Simo Häyhä (the White Death,bielaja smjert) has more documented kills than any other sniper in history.

Snipers in popular culture[change | edit source]

Snipers are often used in video games as elite soldiers. Getting a headshot with a sniper rifle is thought of as a hard skill to learn. In some movies, assassins use sniper rifles; examples include Phone Booth and Vantage Point.[32][33]. Sometimes snipers have a bad reputation in the media; for example, in October 2002 two men went on a month long killing spree using a Sniper rifle in the Virginia and Maryland area.[34]

Related pages[change | edit source]

References[change | edit source]

  1. "Online Etymology Dictionary - Snipe". Etymonline.com. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?l=s&p=29. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The Sniper, SWAT Teams Grow In Number". CBS News. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2001/01/25/60II/main267184.shtml. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Hyperphysics, by Georgia State University on bullet drop. Accessed Oct. 10, 2008
  4. 4.0 4.1 Parker, Nick (2003-04-05). "Matt's Shot in a Million". The Sun. http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article158181.ece. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
  5. 5.0 5.1 The Heavy Bullet Advantage. The Outdoor Writer, Accessed Oct. 10, 2008
  6. University of Utah Medical Library, Accessed Oct. 10, 2008
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Global Security: Sniper Rifles". Global Security. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ground/sniper.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
  8. "USMC M16 range qualifications". United States Marine Corps. http://www.usmcweapons.com/articles/m16/m16%20Qual/currentcourse/currentm16qual.html. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
  9. "QBU88". Sinodefence.com. http://www.sinodefence.com/army/small_arms/qbu88.asp. Retrieved 2008-10-02. "The 5.8 X 42mm “heavy round” cartridge has an effective range of 800m and can penetrate 3mm steel plate at a distance of 1,000m."
  10. "Top Shot Long Range Sniper Weapon". Armed Forces of Canada. http://www.army.forces.gc.ca/cfb_gagetown/news/newsroom/documents/2002/BG02008_e.doc. Retrieved 2008-10-02. "event will run for the first time ... It is capable of producing long-range precise fire at ranges out to 800m and ..."
  11. "Badass Sniper Cleanly Shoots the Gun Out Of A Crazy Mans Hand". Gizmodo. http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/cold_blooded/badass-sniper-cleanly-shoots-the-gun-out-of-a-crazy-mans-hand-291329.php?autoplay=true. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Modern Firearms - Sniper Rifles - Intro". Guns.ru. http://world.guns.ru/sniper/sn00-e.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-01. "While the "true" sniper rifles usually are bolt action ones, to achieve maximum accuracy..."
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "M110 Semi-automatic Sniper System". Military Factory. http://www.militaryfactory.com/smallarms/detail.asp?smallarms_id=246. Retrieved 2008-10-02. "As a semi-automatic weapon with no bolt-handle to operate, the sniper need not be distracted with the operation of loading the next round into the chamber."
  14. Jon Latimer, Deception in War, London: John Murray, 2001
  15. Blechman, Hardy and Newman, Alex (2004). DPM: Disruptive Pattern Material. DPM Ltd. ISBN 0-9543404-0-X.
  16. How Stuff Works: Military Camouflage Accessed Oct. 10, 2008
  17. 17.0 17.1 Ghillie history at ghilliesuitsonline.com Accessed Oct. 10, 2008
  18. Hextr: Make your own ghillie suit Accessed Oct. 10, 2008
  19. Ghillie.com: 9 Rules to buying a Ghillie Suit Accessed Oct. 10, 2008
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 "Police sniper watches from roof, Sydney". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2007-09-06. http://www.abc.net.au/news/photos/2007/09/06/2025679.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 "Gastonia Police Department - Sniper School". Archived from the original on 2012-07-22. http://archive.is/T1bC. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 "How Stuff Works: Spotters and Sniper Teams". How Stuff Works. http://science.howstuffworks.com/sniper2.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
  23. "KIMS Training at U.S. Army Ranger Sniper School". How Stuff Works. http://science.howstuffworks.com/sniper10.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
  24. The Sniper at War: From the American Revolutionary War to the Present Day by Michael Haskew, Published by Macmillan, 2005, ISBN 0312336519, 9780312336516 Accessed Oct. 10, 2008
  25. "Snipers in WWI". http://www.firstworldwar.com/weaponry/rifles.htm.
  26. "top WWII snipers". http://wio.ru/galgrnd/sniper/sniper.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Lance Cpl. George J. Papastrat (March 29, 2007). "Range complex named after famous Vietnam sniper". Marine Corps News. http://www.marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/lookupstoryref/2007329115513. Retrieved 2008-10-02. "...famous Hathcock shot that killed an enemy from more than 2,500 yards (2,286 m) away..."
  28. "Sniper Rifles". Global Security. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ground/sniper.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-02. "When a 24-year old Marine sharpshooter named Carlos Norman Hathcock II chalked up the farthest recorded kill in the history of sniping - 2,500 yards (1.42 miles, a distance greater than 22 football fields) in February 1967 he fired a Browning M2 .50 Cal. Machine Gun."
  29. Sgt. Grit (2006). "Marine Corps Sniper Carlos N. Hathcock II". http://www.grunt.com/scuttlebutt/corps-stories/heroes/carloshathcock.asp. Retrieved 2008-10-02. "Viet Cong shot dead by a round fired from a scope-mounted Browning M-2 .50 caliber machine gun at the unbelievable range of 2500 yards."
  30. "Killing shot made at distance of 2,430 metres". Canadian Press. December 30, 2003. http://www.snipercountry.com/articles/killingshot_2430metres.asp. Retrieved 2008-10-02. "The two-man Canadian team, coupled with American Sgt. Zevon Durham of Greenville, S.C., made the kill from 2,430 metres, or nearly 2 1/2 kilometres, on the second shot."
  31. "Top WWII Snipers". http://www.wio.ru/galgrnd/sniper/sniper.htm. Retrieved 18-08-2008.
  32. Stephen Holden (April 4, 2003). "Phone Booth (2003) Film Review; When a Sniper Calls the Shots". New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/mem/movies/review.html?res=9F06E6DE1638F937A35757C0A9659C8B63. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
  33. Desson Howe (March 16, 2001). "A Riveting War Within a War". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/entertainment/movies/reviews/enemyatthegateshowe.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-13.
  34. "Sniper suspects sent to Virginia for trial". CNN. November 8, 2002. http://archives.cnn.com/2002/US/11/07/sniper.case/index.html. Retrieved 2008-10-13.

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