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Old April 8, 2014, 10:32 PM   #1
Kimio
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Traits of a "sharpshooter" or "Sniper"

This might be a silly question but...

I've often heard this tossed around that it takes a very specific mindset or personality to persevere as a LEO Sharpshooter or a military Marksman/Sniper.

Typically this takes the form of a very calm and methodical approach to situations and frame of mind. Getting into the zone so to speak.

That said, for those here who may have served in these functions, would you say that this holds true? Clearly not everyone has what it takes to get into these specific fields of work, but are these kinds of things inherent to the individual, or can it, over time and intense training, be honed and taught to any person who so desires to master long distance shooting?
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Old April 8, 2014, 10:51 PM   #2
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I went through the British SAS Sniper School back in 1976. Before even being considered, you had to pre-qualify at a certain level within your own unit.

Once having accomplished that, you had to be in extremely fit condition. Once at the school, marksmanship courses were attended to verify that you were good to proceed.

Military snipers just aren't about marksmanship. It's about the ability to be able to function under the worst conditions w/o any time constraints. The mindset is established all the while you are in training. You can drop out at any given moment.

It's literally impossible to cover all the aspects of training and mindset conditioning on a forum. The school was seven weeks long and it was as tough as it gets. Graduating from sniper school was not only a full blown accomplishment for me, it was an honor and a privilege as well. The percentage of American soldiers that attend it are less than 1/3 of 1 %.

I had already graduated from Jump School and Ranger Training. I thought that I had already seen the hardest training that would come my way. Man was I in for a surprise. Later that same year, I was able to attend Belgian Commando School. That was another story in and by itself.

Needless to say, 1976 was a very challenging year for me.

Forgot to mention........No comparison between civilian (LE) sharp shooting and military applications. Whole different animal.

Last edited by 2123; April 8, 2014 at 11:03 PM.
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Old April 8, 2014, 11:16 PM   #3
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it takes a very special person to be a military sniper. cant really speak for civilian.

i went to squad designated marksman school during my time in the army and was slotted for sniper training. my unit only had two slots for sniper training and both men that were sent out ranked me.

in some ways i am glad that i never went to sniper school because it is one of the toughest schools in the us military.

that being said. anyone can be taught to be a good shooter but i believe that it takes someone special to be a (Sniper)
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Old April 8, 2014, 11:30 PM   #4
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I think it takes a mindset rather than specific training. Massad Ayoob said of Charlie Askins :"He was also a stone cold killer." If squeezing the trigger on a human being means no more than hitting a paper target or a tin can, if, as Carlos Hathcock said, you can "get in the bubble" and shut out everything but concentrating on the shot, then I think you can be a sniper.
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Old April 8, 2014, 11:46 PM   #5
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^^^^.........What he said. You have to remember, the whole idea of training and to graduate from that training, is about taking the shot.

In military applications, it's not about being on time, taking the shot and leaving. It's about being where you need to be way early, waiting for how ever long it might take, taking the shot and being successful, and then getting out with your life still intact.

All your training is there to support your sole mission and that mission only. Everything else is just clutter (irrelevant).

Last edited by 2123; April 8, 2014 at 11:59 PM.
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Old April 9, 2014, 05:24 AM   #6
Ben Towe
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The duties of a military sniper and a civilian (LE) sniper are vastly different.

A military sniper may have to be in position for days or even weeks before he is authorized to take his shot or before he locates his target, or he may have to remain on station for an extended period of time in order to cover infantry operations, particularly in urban warfare situations (The Second Battle of Fallujah, Ramadi, and Stalingrad are some examples that come to mind). Then he has to get out without getting killed.

The LE sniper on the other hand is generally on over watch duty during a relatively short operation such as a drug raid or he is brought in to neutralize a hostage taker or an active shooter. Their mission will only last a matter of hours at most, and they will almost certainly be engaging a relatively low number of targets.

As far as taking the shot itself, the mindset required would be similar. As for the mental toughness required leading up to the shot, the military sniper would need to be far tougher. Laying in wait for days reconnoitering or engaging dozens of targets in a war zone would much more difficult, mentally and physically, than doing so for an hour or two in an American city or town.
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Old April 9, 2014, 10:56 AM   #7
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The rumor is that to be a sniper requires remaining alert, while laying in wait, in mud, heat and rain, while getting bit all over by every available insect, peeing laying down, and wondering if another guy has you in his sights.
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Old April 9, 2014, 02:52 PM   #8
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IMHO there's been too much emphasis in the sniper mystique on the "camouflage" and "hiding out" versus being a hunter or a stalker for lack of a better term. Big difference between fighting on a static front-say Stalingrad, or Vietnam-and a fluid situation-say the Normandy Breakout or the Russian Front after Stalingrad. Seems to me part of the "sharpshooter" idea is that he knows how to shoot and scoot. Just read a book about the Commandos, in the fighting in Normandy they quickly found out the Germans knew the best hiding locations and the marksmen who could get one or two effective shots and quickly vacate the area had a greater effect.
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Old April 9, 2014, 03:29 PM   #9
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It definitely makes sense that the laying in wait technique is only good until the first round is fired, giving away the position.
Having the next ones already in mind wouldn't hurt.
Serious business and the more one studies it, it becomes clear there's lots more about it than just the shooting.
Brrr.
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Last edited by g.willikers; April 9, 2014 at 03:42 PM.
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Old April 9, 2014, 05:14 PM   #10
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There are many, many tactical/strategies systems that are studied by military snipers. A police SWAT sharpshooter would certainly never have the need to use. The Aguilar system comes to mind, used extensively in Chechnya: basically it requires being highly mobile and fast (having many hides lined up) while maintaining a distance of 300-500yds from enemy troops (inside 300 you are vulnerable to SAWs and other infantry weapons, outside 500-600 there is the possibility of tank or artillery fire.). These sorts of tactics would be totally irrelevant to a LE sharpshooter, who is (more or less) never in any danger and never needs to relocate.
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Old April 9, 2014, 06:02 PM   #11
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There is a difference between being a marksman and a sniper, at least in the military.
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Old April 9, 2014, 06:34 PM   #12
2123
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The term sniper is frowned upon in the LE world. It still gets tossed around though, usually by the press / media.

The appropriate term would be sharp shooter or marksman. You don't want to refer to a LE sharp shooter as a sniper to his face. You will be corrected.
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Old April 9, 2014, 09:28 PM   #13
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At one time, police "shooters" or "marksmen" were referred to as "countersnipers". Guess they didn't like that one, either....

At one time, anyone who fired from concealment was considered a "sniper". Seems like today, anyone without the training and physique to be the hero in an adventure novel cannot be one. Or at least that's the way some people talk.

The role of a sniper in a military unit has varied over the years, from as simple as being a regular soldier who was simply more skilled at shooting than average, to a highly trained individual tasked with missions of a highly specialized nature.

What are the traits of a sniper or sharpshooter? Beyond the ability to hit their target, its whatever it takes for someone else to apply that label to them, or the way they do what they do. And that varies with each person applying the label.
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Old April 9, 2014, 10:15 PM   #14
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Nonsense. The only requirements for full-fledged sniperhood are: the wearing of camouflage clothing and/or boonie hats, or a One Shot One Kill or similar slogan T-shirt, together with the possession, or desire to possess, a centerfire rifle of any type or caliber, in any configuration known to man. These requirements may also be met by verbal claims of specious credibility or by proximity to persons the sniper wannabe deems to be of a gullible nature.
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Old April 9, 2014, 10:48 PM   #15
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Yup......those "One Shot One Kill" t-shirts pretty much clear up all the confusion.
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Old April 9, 2014, 10:56 PM   #16
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Kilimanjaro - well, your 'configuration' has to include a scope too...just sayin'.
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Old April 10, 2014, 12:01 AM   #17
SIGSHR
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The t-shirt must also read : "If you run you'll die tired!"
Getting back to the subject, I note that Simho Haya did not use a scope and the Soviet snipers of WWII made do with their 3.5x PU scope.
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Old April 10, 2014, 02:33 AM   #18
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I’m an LE sharpshooter in a county with a lot a rural land. There is some discussion about the term “sniper” being used for law enforcement officers that use center-fire rifles with scopes for the purpose of shooting at moderate-to-long distances. Personally, I don’t get too worked up about being called a sniper, or a sharpshooter, or a marksman. I’ve never served in the military, but as others have alluded to, military sniper training is far more advanced than law enforcement training. So in that sense, "we are not worthy," but as 44AMP stated, "At one time, anyone who fired from concealment was considered a 'sniper'." It has happened as recently as the "D.C./Metro Snipers" a few years ago. So it's hard to fault people for referring to LE sharpshooters as snipers. Many citizens, the media, and even other law enforcement officers will refer to us “snipers.” It’s like people referring to “magazines” as “clips,” sometimes it's not worth your effort to bother correcting them.

I would agree with what Ben Towe had to say above, although, I would add that LE applications can happen in rural areas too. A good example would be that former LAPD officer that was barricaded in that cabin last year. So the ability to approach a backwoods hideout unseen, and wait for hours upon hours reconnoitering is important. As law enforcement our goal would be to apprehend a criminal so they can stand trial, but if a person poses an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death to us or others then we will “end the threat.” This is all kind of common sense, but we would prefer to have absolute concealment, and good cover; however, because we are reactionary, getting both or either of these in a timely manner can be difficult. The average LE sharpshooter engagement distance is under 100 yards (some studies put the average distance around 55 yards), and almost all are under 150 yards. With such short distances we realistically wouldn’t have to worry about making adjustments to our optics, since point of aim and point of impact would only be off a couple inches up or down at most. With that said, we train for shorter and longer distances, and to make adjustments.

Getting more to the OP’s mindset question... You can probably guess or research the things law enforcement sharpshooters would have to train and be ready for, but you may not have given any thought about what happens after the shot. This really goes for any officer that kills someone in the line of duty. After a LEO takes the shot that’s generally the end of the ball game, as far as action goes. Then the LEO will have to worry about things like debriefing interviews, reports, psychological issues, and (the dreaded) grand jury. Assuming the grand jury decides that you shouldn’t be charged with murder, you have to continue living and working in a community where you killed someone, who most likely had family and friends in that community.
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Last edited by Departed402; April 10, 2014 at 04:37 AM. Reason: grammar
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Old April 10, 2014, 04:28 AM   #19
Ben Towe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Departed402
I would agree with what Ben Towe had to say above, although, I would add that LE applications can happen in rural areas too. A good example would be that former LAPD officer that was barricaded in that cabin last year.
That's absolutely true. There was an incident in Alaska some years back where a shot had to be taken from a helicopter in a remote location (sadly, one of the officers on the helicopter was killed by the perpetrator). I live in a rural area and there was an incident nearby a few years ago that required a sniper/sharpshooter to resolve it, so it isn't unheard of.
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Old April 10, 2014, 08:27 AM   #20
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UncleBuck's answer

Quote:
There is a difference between being a marksman and a sniper, at least in the military.
Yes a vast difference. Marksmen is just another ribbon to wear for someone that at least once, did very well on their weapon qualification. I made marksman (USAF) in the M-16 as well as a range of pistols we had in our inventory in our unit. It got me extra duty during exercises, since I could carry a pistol and courier things like keys to the weapons lockers shipped for the exercise. Our LE personnel were required to score 26 out of 40 to be qualified, I shot a 39 out of 40. This score was 39 shots within the 9 ring with one flyer in the 8. You get 50 rounds to qualify, 10 of those are to sight your weapon. I was aircraft maintenance not an LE for SP, but I did get posted, during simulated attacks, usually in a machine gun nest with a 50 cal. Thankfully, I never had to do this real world. When I was engaged in Central America, I was unarmed entirely, being a Crew Chief for that mission. Thankfully the Army had a very well armed helicopter at the ready and responded overwhelmingly in kind (thanks guys)

For the Military - marksmen are just well qualified with their weapons, and it isn't very special other than, 'okay, this guy can shoot'. Sniper on the other hand is an entire job field and training includes tactics, SERE school, very advanced shooting training, etc. There is no training at all for someone designated as a marksman, except that they may be asked to qualify on other weapons and be assigned extra duties beyond their normal duties, at least in the USAF where I was. I assume in the infantry services, it is similar in that the marksmen are the ones you upgrade to more powerful weapons.

Former SSgt USAF 136AW Carswell
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Old April 10, 2014, 09:08 AM   #21
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I think the key is whether one can send the shot when the target has eyes.

Lots of people "say" they can but not everyone can view another human as if it was just a paper target.

Lot's of people have the physical and "tactical" skills, a lot less are dispassionate enough to be a "sniper". To actually watch a good part of your target's head become "maggot food".
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