May 3, 2010

Sniping.

"I was lucky that my physical fitness levels were very high before my arms were fractured and after six weeks in plaster I was still in pretty good shape.... It hasn’t affected my ability as a sniper."

63 comments:

Scott M said...

My brother was an A-team sniper for years and is now an instructor. You wouldn't believe what these guys go through...or how sure of your manhood you have to be. Those guys get into some pretty cozy positions.

Hagar said...

In 1874 Billy Dixon shot a Comanche off his horse at 1540 yards with a Sharps buffalo gun during the 2nd Battle of Adobe Walls.

It was luck then; it was luck twice in a row now.

Jason said...

Incredible shooting. That wasn't done with a souped-up .50 cal on a T&E mechanism, either. That was probably done from a bipod. And if the target is manning a machine gun, they are not likely standing up and presenting a whole torso to shoot at.

I was unaware that Carlos Hathcock's previous record of 1.4 miles or so (on a T&E mounted .50 cal) had been broken. Indeed it has.

Nice job putting a round in the weapon, too.

Respect!

Kirby Olson said...

I shot a black-capped chickadee with a BB gun in about 1968. The gun barrel was bent and I had to fire the gun about twenty times until a red dot appeared on the white breast and the chickadee fell to its death.

I wished then that I could resurrect the bird.

I wonder if snipers feel any real regret after they snuff a man even at such a tremendous range, or whether it's all pride:

"Got'im!"

Fists in the air.

Who's supplying arms and ammo to the Taliban? What kind of machine gun did they have?

Kirby Olson said...

Oh, I capped the chickadee at a range of about five feet.

GMay said...

"It was luck then; it was luck twice in a row now."

Bullshit. Snipers have been hitting targets at this range for decades.

LarsPorsena said...

He survives a roadside bombing and comes back to make these shots...payback is a bitch.

Triangle Man said...

The proportion of link followers seems low for this kind of story:

“Conditions were perfect, no wind, mild weather, clear visibility. I rested the bipod of my weapon on a compound wall and aimed for the gunner firing the machinegun."

“The driver of my Jackal, Trooper Cliff O’Farrell, spotted for me, providing all the information needed for the shot, which was at the extreme range of the weapon.”

"The previous record for a sniper kill is 7,972ft, set by a Canadian soldier who shot dead an Al-Qaeda gunman in March 2002. "

...

"The previous record was held by Corporal Rob Furlong, of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, who was using a 12.7mm McMillan TAC-50 rifle. "

Big Mike said...

You could always ask Union General "Uncle John" Sedgwick. Oh, that's right, he was shot by a Confederate sniper -- using black powder and a muzzle-loading rifle -- from at least 1000 yards away in 1864 at Spotsylvania.

His famous last words were "they couldn't hit an elephant at this dist..."

Skyler said...

I wonder if snipers feel any real regret after they snuff a man

Let's hope not. Snipers should have a more sensible morality than to pity such people. No one who supports the Taliban or Al Qaeda should be given any pity after what they did on 9/11. And anyone manning a machine gun has a death wish that should be granted.

Snipers are necessary, but over rated. In my battalion, which is no different than any other in this regard, it's always a struggle to keep the snipers focused on the fact that 99.9% of their usefulness is not in pulling a trigger, but in seeing and reporting what is happening. That's why we call them scout/snipers.

That 1% of the time (or less) that they actually pull a trigger is important, and they'd better hit their target, but it is not the end all and be all of being a sniper.

And every sniper either claims to have bested Hathcock's shot, or claims to know someone who has.

Jason said...

I wonder if snipers feel any real regret after they snuff a man

Generally not.

Mostly what they feel is recoil.

Remember, almost all these guys have seen their friends get shot up by Taliban and other assorted bad guys.

Now, the 9x and more recently the 25x scope means you get to look the guy in the eyes before you snuff him, and there have been accounts of snipers being... not bothered by it, but cognizant of it. But they do their jobs.

It's easier still when you're firing at someone manning a machine gun and firing it at your unit. There's really not too much for faint little libtard hearts to bleed all over themselves about, here.

Hagar said...

Proxy wars give occasion for all sorts of armchair commentaries about "fairness," the "laws of war," etc., but for the boots on the ground a little proxy war is just as deadly as a "real" war, and the idea is to kill the enemy before he kills you; never mind the more esoteric principles.

Cedarford said...

Kirby Olson - "I wonder if snipers feel any real regret after they snuff a man even at such a tremendous range, or whether it's all pride"

I think it is more a "necessity defense" of the act. No regret, but based on the fact that the enemy was a threat to guys on your side. So killing meant more on your side stayed alive.

Martin Niemoeller wrote of how in WWI as a submariner, his boat sunk a British troopship, then spent an hour harassing two British warships trying to rescue the men in the water until they were assured that the cold and the drowning had finished off the hundreds of survivors. They did it at great risk to the sub, but survived and were satisfied not just at the torpedoing ship but how many they sent into the water they also helped kill.

Niemoeller said he never regretted it. Because by going against what were all peacetime morals - law of the sea rescues, mercy for the helpless - what they did blocking rescue ultimately saved German lives on the Front. From those Brit troops, had they lived. It was moral in the circumstances of war, it was necessary...And was to Pastor Niemoeller further proof of just how terrible war was for forcing men into such inevitable and awful logic ordering inevitable actions in unavoidable circumstances.

The Gulf War had certain times like that. You took out Iraqi armor from the air, you took out survivors that emerged - if there was no practical way to accept surrender. Even if they had arms up and were trying to surrender to the helos or warplanes or Abrams tank crews. If you just let them walk away to rejoin enemy units, your guys could die from letting the Iraqis do so.

The Drill SGT said...

Kirby said...Who's supplying arms and ammo to the Taliban? What kind of machine gun did they have?

It was a PKM, basicly an M-60 class bipod MG using a 7.62 long (unlike most Russian 7.62)

LarsPorsena said...

I've got to wonder if the shooting Afghanistan is better ,not only because of the technology, but the height above sea level. Less dense air?

Lem said...

My favorite sniper is former vice president Dick Cheney ;)

MadisonMan said...

I wonder what kind of vision a sniper like that has.

Better than mine, I'm thinking.

rhhardin said...

I wonder what limits the effective range.

Precession of the bullet?

peter hoh said...

The best part of this blog are the commenters who have relevant experience. Thanks, Skyler.

RH: I realize it doesn't quite answer your question, but the article mentioned wind and visibility as significant factors that affect range.

Maybe our engineer/Marine friend can enlighten us again.

Andrea said...

Kirby Olson: the targets of snipers aren't helpless little birdies. You should have felt regret, because you killed an innocent creature. A sniper killing, say, a member of Al Qaeda who probably has a number of atrocities under his belt? Not so much.

ironrailsironweights said...

There'll probably never be another sniper to compare with Simo "White Death" Hayha.

Peter

dbp said...

"It was luck then; it was luck twice in a row now."

Luck favors the prepared.

al said...

Gives a whole new meaning to "Reach out and touch someone".

The .338 Lapua Magnum looks to be an amazing round.

I read this story yesterday and while driving to work today I noted my mileage at a intersection and paid attention when I was 1.5 miles down the road. Try that and see just how far it is.

Great shooting by the soldier.

Jason said...

I'm a former infantry scout/sniper platoon leader, and had some under my command as an HHC commander as well, later, though I did not attend the sniper school, nor did I serve in that capacity in combat.

Historically, what has limited sniper effectiveness is patience. After that, wind, fatigue, the precision machining of rifles and barrels, precision manufacture of match-grade ammunition, and the availability and quality of optics, and finally the precision motor skills and marksmanship ability of the sniper himself.

We've had rifles that can fire reasonably accurately at ranges up to a thousand meters or more, or even 1200, since at least the Russo-Japanese war of 1905. Certainly the 1903 Springfield, which was the sniper weapon of choice for the USMC through WWII, was an excellent rifle and still is to this day.

Optics are trickier, because the bigger you make them, the bulkier they get in the field. They also tend to glare, which attracts bullets and chases targets away. For years the 9x scope was the standard. The 25x scope is in use today, though, and it's a big part of what is making it possible to consistently make these very long range shots.

Also the mountainous terrain in parts of Afghanistan lends itself to that kind of shooting, especially where vegetation is relatively sparse. You can simply acquire targets at much longer distances than you ever could in an urban fight (Iraq) or in the jungled areas of Viet Nam. (The delta region gave you a lot of long shots, though.)

Skylar is precisely correct: A sniper's real value on the battlefield is for his observation powers, and if the tactical situation allows, it is almost always better to call for and adjust indirect fire than it is to fire the sniper rifle, because the second a sniper fires, he is compromised. If he fires a second time from the same position, he will attract bullets. If there is another sniper on the battlefield, the sniper who fires first is in mortal peril.

If he moves, he is vulnerable. If he doesn't move, he is still vulnerable. If he goes to ground in hopes of avoiding getting shot by another sniper, he is vulnerable to getting flanked by a search party. If they have tracking dogs, he's in trouble. Then you not only lose your sniper - you lose a premium battlefield intelligence asset as well.

Much better to call and report, and to adjust indirect fire and airstrikes.

themightypuck said...

Luck doesn't favor anyone. By definition. The trick is to reduce the impact of luck.

AllenS said...

Checking my military records, I see that I was a sharpshooter with an M14 rifle in basic training, expert with an M60 (light machine gun) in AIT, and a sharpshooter with an M16 rifle in the 82nd Abn. Div. Nothing special.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

"I wonder if snipers feel any real regret after they snuff a man even at such a tremendous range, or whether it's all pride"

This is why we don't want snipers to snort ocytocin

Like I said. SOMEone has to be able to squish the spiders.

MadisonMan said...

Luck favors the prepared.

Yes. I tell my kids that a lot of hard work goes into manufacturing luck.

junyo said...

I wonder what limits the effective range.

Loss of velocity from drag, bullet drop past the point the adjustment range of your scope, inherent accuracy of the round.

At a certain point air drag scrubs off enough velocity that your not delivering enough kinetic energy to do enough damage to your target, IIRC lower bounds for a human target is around 400 ft/lbs assuming they're not wearing body armor. A standard .338 Lapua Magnum load is at around 550 ft/lb at 2500 yards (the longest range chart I could find), his shot was 200 yards beyond that. However the British use a slightly hotter loading of .338 Lapua Magnum, so he likely had more initial velocity to work with, and so more energy downrange. According to the previous record holder, Canadian sniper Rob Furlong, the thin air in the Afghan mountains does making these long shots easier, because rounds don't shed speed as quickly.

Then there's bullet drop, you have to counter gravity the whole way. So you're essentially lobbing the bullet into the target. Sniper scopes have a huge adjustment range for the crosshairs, and usually a custom base that gives even more, but even so, the bullet drop at 2500 yards is 145 MOA, which means to drop it on target he'd have to adjust his scope to basically give him a point of aim better than 12 feet high. However, bullet drop is effected by flight time, which is a function of velocity.

338 Lapua Mag is a very inherently accurate round, very consistent, the first round purpose built for long range tactical shooting. .50 BMG (which was used for the previous long shot) has more mass, and therefore retains energy better at distance, but isn't as accurate.

As was mentioned, conditions were perfect, but it's still a hell of a thing. It's like throwing a basketball into the hoop from 20 football fields away.

edutcher said...

ScottM makes a good point. There are a number of programs on the various history and military channels on cable about snipers and there's even a "Best Sniper" competition analogous to "Best Ranger". The physical and intellectual skills, along with the self-discipline, these guys must have is phenomenal.

Billy Dixon made his shot with a black powder rifle and open sights. Berdan's Sharpshooters made similar shots during the Civil War. GMay, OTOH, is talking about men with varying types of optical aids. That modern snipers can do as well is not entirely surprising, but the further out the shot, the trickier it gets.

As to regrets, history shows they come later in life and, unlike Niemoller, most men have them.

GMay said...

Or may favorite quote on luck:

Luck is the residue of design.

JAL said...

Details. Details.

His arms were broken after he made the shots. (And that occurred after he'd taken a round in his helmet.)

GPS measurements will fine tune the records.

The Drill SGT said...

GMay said...
Or may favorite quote on luck:


"Give me lucky men for my Generals, I can teach them everything else"

Napoleon

The snipers with the biggest nads I ever met were the MACV SOG guys, who went out in 3 man teams to hunt NVA commanders/commissars. One shot, then it was like hitting a wasps nest when several hundred NVA started hunting you through the jungle.

That's while running is the most important military skill :)

Methadras said...

That is just kick-ass.

Monkeyboy said...

He made three shots, hitting the two men and then clipping the machine gun.

To do that he had to aim six feet up and 20 inches to the left.

Dude should never have to buy a pint for the rest of his life.

Beta Conservative said...

Great Story.

Does bitterness and/or clingyness add to the effective range of a sniper rifle?

Jason said...

I was once engaged to be married to a world-class competitive shooter. She is an excellent shot, which qualified her for a number of medals at world competitions.

So based on personal experience I would have to say yes.

TRO said...

"I wonder if snipers feel any real regret after they snuff a man even at such a tremendous range, or whether it's all pride:

"Got'im!"

Fists in the air."

Why would any decent and sane man feel regret for killing the enemy? Especially when that enemy is actively trying to kill his comrades in arms?

Fists in the air, of course.

Jason said...

Of course he wouldn't TRO.

Idiots who've never been there would like to think that they would, though. So they can imagine they are somehow superior to their betters.

Libtards, all of them.

Punks.

Slow Joe said...

The fact that some snipers and other soldiers indeed feel some mental anguish eventually for having killed even awful people is a legitimate aspect of their heroism.

I know it's probably not an immediate concern (and I hardly look down on the idea of a fistpump when you save your commander's life from the enemy). But some of these bad guys, who do need to be killed, were brainwashed and hardly had a chance. Even if they weren't, it's harder to kill someone than it seems in Halo.

Our vets aren't mentally broken sob stories, but it's OK to note that a large number of them will wrestle with the fact that they killed people for their entire lives. Most of them, at least most of the ones I know, do not make a show about it. They are heroes, after all.

Pastafarian said...

I've done a little long-range rifle shooting before (well, what I'd consider long-range -- not anything like this), and anything beyond 400 yards is damned difficult.

When you get out beyond 400 yards, not only do little factors become magnified in their ability to throw off the shot (trigger pull moving the point of impact, pulse/heartbeat causing the target to bounce in the scope, accurate range estimate so that you allow for drop and windage), but you have to deal with entirely different factors too.

For example, at a range of 1000 yards, you don't just calculate a firing solution based on one wind speed and direction -- the wind can be blowing from left to right at 5mph 200 yards away, from right to left at 5mph 600 yards away, and from left to right at 10mph at the target.

To hit three targets with three rounds at 2700 yards requires some real talent. (And training, and equipment, and good conditions). But mostly talent.

Slow Joe said...

I was always excited when I hit the 300 yard target that is the furthest rifle target normal US Army troops are presented with.

In fact, even the best shots I knew were impressed with someone who could do that half the time. I know a lot of people bluster, but soldiering is often very difficult and interesting work. Those green plastic men with red stars on their heads didn't shoot back, either.

john harvard said...

Nice of the paper to publish not only the sniper's full name and unit, but also the names of his wife and kid, as well as his county of origin. All the AQ lone-wolves in Britain have all the info they need to make a play for vengeance.

I hope the family lives on-base, on a closed post.

Fred Drinkwater said...

dbp, madisonman:
I have a TV news clip of my then 12-year old son being interviewed after a golf match, saying: "The more you practice, the luckier you get."
Out of the mouths of babes...

WV: gleenda, the goood wiitch of the Weest

Pogo said...

When the Soviet Union invaded Finland in 1939, Simo Häyhä decided to fight for his country.

Since the majority of fighting took place in the forest, he grabbed his trusty rifle, a couple of cans of food and hid in a tree all day shooting Russians. In six feet of snow. And 20-40 degrees below zero.

When the Russians heard that dozens of their men were going down and that it was all one dude with a rifle, he became known as "The White Death" (because of his white camouflage).

They mounted missions just to find Hayha and take him out. He killed them all. Then they sent a team of counter-snipers to eliminate Hayha. He killed them all as well.

Over the course of 100 days, Hayha killed 542 people with his rifle. He took out another 150 or so with his SMG, sending his credited kill-count up to 705.

The Russians carpet-bombed his location, and he got hit by a cloud of shrapnel that tore his coat up, but didn't hurt him, and he shot more Russians. Many of his targets were taken at over 400 yards; he preferred sniping from a seated position.

Finally on March 6th, 1940, Hayha was hit in the head with an exploding bullet. When some other soldiers found him and brought him back to base, he "had half his head missing." The White Death lived, and regained consciousness.

Simo Häyhä died on April 1, 2002.

Kirby Olson said...

Andrea,

The black-capped chickadee probably also oppressed female chickadees in some ways and had bizarre beliefs about God, and probably deserved to be capped.

It wasn't innocent!

I never fired a gun again, but I'm glad for the guys that do -- and for the people who are able to be police officers, etc.


As for me, I'm just a poetry reader, hoping we will never run out of the warrior class and I might be forced into taking up a gun.

I'm also glad they don't feel regret. I would, but I don't see how it would help.

I do still feel regret about the chickadee and am now 53 (was 11 then).

Pastafarian said...

Re. his re-enlistment after breaking both forearms: We've heard quite a few stories like this from these two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan), and it's pretty clear that the quality of people the West has sent over (in terms of character, not just marksmanship) has been unparalleled.

We haven't heard about very many massacres or rapes -- and if there had been many atrocities, the media would have featured them pretty prominently during the last administration. And we've heard countless stories of heroism and compassion.

And I suspect that having these people over there as ambassadors will do as much good, long term, as they'll do with their weapons. The people of Afghanistan could respect a man like this, I suspect. Knowing someone like this could change their attitudes toward the west more than appeasement.

Michael said...

I am a shot gunner myself and have only one experience with a rifle. I shot a red deer on a stalk in Scotland and I was shocked that I could hear, actually hear, the bullet hit the beast from around two hundred yards. Clearly the sniper cannot hear the bullet hit his target at these ranges, but I wonder if bystanders can.

Slow Joe said...

"but I wonder if bystanders can."

Yeah, they can. A few seconds later they hear the crack of the rifle, but the first thing they hear and feel is the bullet impact.

Snipers are great psychological warfare.

john said...

I cannot get this out of my mind: the "Hurt Locker" sniper scene.

Jason said...

This is the most vivid and riveting sniper sequence ever caught on film:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/karlmek/sets/72157604133601476/

Eric said...

I've got to wonder if the shooting Afghanistan is better ,not only because of the technology, but the height above sea level. Less dense air?

Yes, that's a huge factor. The bullet retains far more energy than it would at sea level. Also, the air in A-stan is dry, which helps, and it's mountainous, which means snipers can get an altitude advantage over the target. It's the perfect place for dropping people in the next zip code.

This particular day even the weather cooperated, with the crosswind being as close to zero as it ever is.

holdfast said...

Optics sure as hell helps - My vision, even corrected with specs, was never anything to write home about, and I admit to struggling on the 300m range. Then they replaced our iron sights with the Elcan 3.4X, and suddenly 300 was easy and 400 and 500 were possible. I was even able to shoot on the 100m without any specs while wearing a gas mask.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ELCAN_Optical_Technologies

Eric said...

And from the wiki:

The external ballistics software program JBM Ballistics further predicts that the bullets of British high pressure .338 Lapua Magnum cartridges using 16.2 g (250 gr) Lapua LockBase B408 bullets fired at 936 m/s (3,071 ft/s) muzzle velocity under International Standard Atmosphere conditions at 1,043 m (3,422 ft) elevation (air density ρ = 1.1069 kg/m3) arrive at 2,475 m (2,707 yd) after approximately 6.017 s flight time at 251.8 m/s (826 ft/s) velocity and have dropped 121.23 m (4,773 in) on their way.

mariner said...

In Armed America, Clayton Cramer described things that ordinary Americans did with ordinary firearms of the colonial period.

One Englishman visiting Virginia wrote home that he went hunting with several colonists and was ashamed of shooting his birds in the bodies; his companions shot theirs in the heads.

Today it is common to refer to a very accurate firearm as a "tack-driver". In colonial times people competed to drive tacks into trees with shots from flintlock rifles.

Today's military snipers are very, very skilled; their skills appear magical to most of us because we aren't as familiar as our forebears were with firearms.

Eric said...

Also, this particular shot probably would have been impossible at sea level, since the bullet would have crossed the sound barrier. Apparently that throws off the accuracy by quite a bit.

The Drill SGT said...

"but I wonder if bystanders can."

Take a large kitchen knife. Whack it into a water melon.

The Thunk you hear?

That is the sound of a bullet hitting somebodies head at 15 feet away.

edutcher said...

As to the subject of regrets, although this is somewhat OT, the man who shot down Yamamoto said the more he found out about the man, the more he was disinclined to crow about it.

Kirby Olson said...

Glad to hear about Simo the Finn who shot up all the Russians, too.

Some Finns were killing ten thousand or more Russians, it is said -- since the Soviet troops had to run across plains into machine gun nests (pushed from behind by their own machine guns).

It caused a lot of psychological problems for the Finnish gunners.

But, Finland never caved into a communist hellhole at least, which can also cause psychological problems for the entire population.

Sixty Grit said...

Michael Yon has written that most of the enemy shoots very poorly - they excel at IEDs. He said something to the effect that we shoot better as 14 year olds than the muhj's do as adults.

I have shot all my life, haven't been to the range in over a year, but last time I was there I hit a bulls eye with a nice .22 Czech rifle from a bench rest position. Distance? Thirty feet - oh yeah, sign me up Gunny, I want to be a rifleman.

Never mind...

David said...

john harvard said...
"Nice of the paper to publish not only the sniper's full name and unit, but also the names of his wife and kid, as well as his county of origin."

Occurred to me too . . .

Stuff like this must give nightmares to the Secret Service.

Aridog said...

Do soldiers feel remorse? Whether snipers or not?

My experience is that you compartmentalize it all. Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, former Senator Robert Kerry said, subsequent to the Thanh Phong incident in RVN, (not his MoH related action) what I believe the best way: " I thought dying for your country was the worst thing that could happen to you, and I don't think it is. I think killing for your country can be a lot worse."

Regardless of one's opinion of his politics, there is some truth in those words. Stuff happens. You are there. And stuff happens.

Skyler said...

Yon is right about most Iraqis, they don't shoot very straight. But a lot of the people in Iraq were foreign fighters who were quite good.

Afghanistan is populated with very well trained infantry. They have been known to do what never occurred in Iraq; company level (and perhaps higher) attacks. They have a long tradition of being trained by some first rate militaries.