While the function of a sniper will always be firmly rooted in delivering on demand marksmanship to the foreheads of enemy combatants, it’s fascinating to see that the way in which they are employed changes from conflict to conflict. The Peshmerga have a very unique method of utilizing their snipers, probably most closely resembling that of the sharpshooters in World War I. Of course, this will change with the times and the requirements of the Kurdish forces, but up to that point they are only expected to deliver death from a different area code while perched on a dirt berm.
Now most of you are probably thinking, “No shit, Kurt. Snipers shooting at people far away!? Preposterous.” But this has its own flavor here. Imagine two massive dirt berm lines spanning the length of a village on both sides. Think inverted trench warfare. These physical lines of battle are spaced, on average, 500 meters to a kilometer apart, with a literal minefield of IEDs—reminiscent of Afghanistan—between them. Now, along this berm are Humvees, technical gun trucks, and soldiers (Peshmerga) bunkered up, waiting for the day they can push in on their enemy opposite them. Daesh ranks will apply many of the same tactics with a heavier emphasis on defense, but do it a little differently.
There are buildings scattered about on each side, too. These are utilized for various purposes to include sniper hides. Amidst the sporadic back and forth of machine guns and potshots taken at each other lie the snipers, both Daesh and Pesh, who observe and wait. Targets of opportunity are encouraged to be taken if deemed valuable, but are often ignored, because a jackass hip-firing a BKC at 500 meters isn’t going to hit shit, anyway.
Instead, they wait for the enemy sniper. Once a location has been dialed in, enemy forces are taken out at every opportunity. While counter-sniping is the primary name of the game, vehicles are also a top priority, as they allow Daesh to egress more effectively, often have large-caliber machine guns (12.7mm DSHK) mounted to them, and are almost always packed with explosives. The Kurds under the YPG flag in Rojava have taken this to a whole other level, combining guerrilla tactics and kilometer-size sniper fights.
The Peshmerga snipers have a rather unique role to fill, and this requires rather unique equipment. SVD Dragunovs are used, but they’re also often out of range and are far too inaccurate for this type of warfare. They are also a bit light to take on a vehicle or bunker. This has led to the development of the Zagros or Gulala sniper rifle. This 12.7mm, single-shot beast is capable of destroying anything important out to insane distances.
These weapons were developed by Kurds for Kurds, and are used in both Rojava and Bashur by Pesh and YPG forces. They kick like a mule and make the user deaf (Kurds don’t believe in ear pro) but the accuracy and destructive capabilities are far superior to that of the Dragunov. The other day, I followed the local brigade snipers out to the range and observed them consistently engaging man-size targets at two kilometers. Now, I will attest that most Kurds have trouble with marksmanship, but watching these guys work was impressive, especially considering they were firing these behemoths that were handmade in someone’s garage. One of them only had iron sights, so naturally I chose that one.