Saturday, January 17, 2009


A sniper is an infantry soldier who specializes in shooting from a concealed position over longer ranges than regular infantry, often with a specially designed or adapted sniper rifle. It requires skill in marksmanship, camouflage and field craft.
The term sniper is attested from 1824 in the sense of sharpshooter. The verb to snipe originated in the 1770s among soldiers in British India-in the sense of: ¡°to shoot from a hidden place,in allusion to snipe hunting, a game bird known for being extremely difficult to hunt. Those who were skilled at the hunting of this bird were thus dubbed "snipers".
During the American Civil War, the common term used in the United States for much the same function was "skirmisher". A Civil War army often protected itself by using such concealed marksmen, who were deployed individually on the extremes of the moving army. Generally, such skirmishers were selected on the basis of prior proven hunting and marksmanship skills. Often these were either young soldiers with promising maneuverability and field craft, or older men with refined marksmanship and tactical skills. The term 'sniper' was not in widespread use in the United States until after the American Civil War.
In the last few decades, the term "sniper" has been used rather loosely, especially by media in association with police precision riflemen, those responsible for assassination, any shooting from all but the shortest range in war, and any criminal equipped with a rifle in a civil context. In the Bosnian War, and for much of the Siege of Beirut, the term 'sniper' was used to refer to what were generally ill-trained soldiers who terrorized civilians, mainly by firing at them from windows and rooftops. During the Siege of Sarajevo, the main street of the city became known as "Sniper Alley".
This has rather expanded the meaning of the term. It has also given "sniper" mixed connotations. Official sources often use other terms, especially for police snipers: "counter-sniper", "precision marksman", "tactical marksman", "sharpshooter, or "precision shooter". Some of these alternatives have been in common use for a long time; others are closer to undisguised euphemisms.Snipers in warfareDifferent countries have different military doctrines regarding snipers in military units, settings, and tactics. Generally, a sniper's goal in warfare is to reduce the enemy's fighting ability by striking at a small number of high value targets, such as officers.
Soviet Russian and derived military doctrines include squad-level snipers, which may be called "sharpshooters" or "designated riflemen" in other doctrines. They do so because this ability was lost to ordinary troops when assault rifles (which are optimized for close-in, rapid-fire combat) were adopted.
Military snipers from the US, UK, and other countries that adopt their military doctrine are typically deployed in two-man sniper teams consisting of a shooter and spotter. The two have different functions and hence their assignment corresponds to their skills, but a common practice is for the shooter and spotter to take turns in order to avoid eye fatigue.
Typical sniper missions include reconnaissance and surveillance, counter-sniper, killing enemy commanders, selecting targets of opportunity, and even anti-mat riel tasks (destruction of military equipment), which tend to require use of rifles in the larger calibers such as the .50 BMG. Snipers have of late been increasingly demonstrated as useful by US and UK forces in the recent Iraq campaign in a fire support role to cover the movement of infantry, especially in urban areas.
The current world record for the longest range sniper kill is 2,430 meters (7,972 feet), accomplished by a Canadian sniper, Corporal Rob Furlong, of the third battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, during the invasion of Afghanistan, using a .50 BMG (12.7mm) McMillan TAC-50 bolt-action rifle. This meant that the bullet had a flight time of approx 4.5 seconds, and a drop of approx 70 meters (230 feet).
This impressive feat of marksmanship is not typical for the effective range with a high first hit probability of the employed rifle. The ambient air density in the Shah-i-Kot Valley where Corporal Furlong operated is significantly lower then at sea level due to its 2,432 m (9,000 ft) mean elevation. This increases the maximum effective range of a high powered sniper rifle like Corporal Furlong used by approx 600 m (1968 ft).
The previous record was held by US Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock, achieved during the Vietnam War, at a distance of 2,250 meters.

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