“The 21st Century is ushering in a tremendous shift in training methodology and technology implementation in the asymmetric battle field.  The modern day sniper is evolving with this shift and turning into one of the most effective tools in the inventory.”-Brandon Webb, Former SEAL Sniper Course Manager.

“How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been”

How can you truly prepare for the future without knowing the past?

Bring up the topic of snipers at your next dinner party and see where the conversation leads.  In modern times, it is a topic of controversy and mystery, taking people in different directions and conjuring a range of images depending on the mind of the individual.

Hollywood has done its share, and an entire generation of modern youths will grow up having played realistic games on computers simulating combat sniper operations.

Ask a middle aged mother from New England and you might get a recap of an old Cheers episode where Sam Malone and the boys from Cheers lure Dr. Crane out to the woods for a good old fashioned ‘snipe hunt’, an old school practical joke that will leave the mark deep in the woods with a sack, making clucking noises and hoping the elusive snipe comes jumping into the bag.

The darker connections to the term will bring some to the DC area in 2002, when it was terrorized by John Allen Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo, shooting innocents as the ‘Beltway Snipers’, and later becoming caught in one of the largest manhunts in modern history.

Veterans of the Armed Forces might remember quiet men keeping mostly to themselves, carrying scoped weapons and disappearing into the night, sometimes not returning for days on end.  Wherever the term ‘sniper’ brings you, it has a long history, and in the following chapter we’ll trace its roots back to the early days of marksmen, riflemen, sharpshooters, and hunters.

SOFREP Pavlichenko sniper
The Russian Widow Maker: Pavlichenko

Russian snipers were used to great effect as a rearguard behind the retreating Russian Army, taking out officers and NCO’s, artillerymen and lines of communication.  The Russians were primarily using the Moisin-Nagant 1891/1930 rifle with scopes made from Zeiss, primarily a 4x scope, but later they mass produced a 3.5x  telescopic sight which was well received.

The numbers that rest in the record books of the Russian military are extraordinary, with a tremendous list of men and women snipers tallying 300+ confirmed kills.

The 21st Century Sniper defined

Vietnam Snipers: The Hunting Club

In Vietnam, it took the big military machine an average of 200,000 shots to achieve one confirmed NVA kill.

It took a U.S military sniper an average of 1.3.

Talk about your cost effective machine of war.

After the evacuation of Hanoi, the U.S. entered a relative lull in global hostilities, taking part in only a few small conflicts over the course of the next 16 years prior to 9/11.  The loss of the experienced war fighter brought about a bureaucratic military establishment that eventually would forget the professionalism and power of one well trained marksman.

In the 20th Century, U.S. military sniper programs were maintained and began to thrive as we shifted into a new post 9/11 century.  The 21st Century has brought about a shift in training and tactics, whose effectiveness gets proven immediately in real time combat.

*Editor’s note: This article’s headline was modified on 9/17/2019