From the Archives, 2016
A former Marine scout sniper shares life lessons from the Marine Corps’ Scout Sniper Basic Course.
There is no shortage of popular culture lionizing snipers. From movies to books, legendary exploits are laced with evocative imagery. Alone, unafraid, heroically holding back enemy hoards with only a bolt gun. This captivation is not without good cause, but Hollywood’s depictions often fall short of capturing what it truly means to be a sniper. Those hard lessons learned from the Marine Corps’ Scout Sniper School have been ones that have profoundly changed who I am and stayed with me for life.
Brilliance in the basics. In the military, firepower is everything, but often there is a common misconception about what that means. Most think that increasing firepower means to increase the number of rounds per minute. Snipers believe that increasing firepower means increasing the number of hits per minute. With this infectious mentality, accuracy becomes supreme. “One shot, one kill.” In this way, a single sniper could feasibly provide more ‘firepower’ than a squad of machine gunners. It is no surprise that accuracy is the cornerstone for snipers, but it is attained by adhering to a simple maxim: “brilliance in the basics.” By mastering the seemingly simplistic fundamentals of marksmanship, snipers effectively change the battlefield. Snipers offer a long-range precision that prevents enemies from being shielded by distance or imprecise area weapons. It is profound that something so minor found in ‘the basics’ can change the way warfare is conducted. The same way this logic applies to the battlefield it applies to the classroom, office, or wherever you might find yourself. Mastering the basics changes the game making you more effective.
Dedication. Many service members are professionals — clean rooms, inspection-ready uniforms, excelling at their day jobs. Sniper school students don’t aspire to a mere occupation, to be a scout sniper is a way of life. The job doesn’t end with the fallout of formation or weekend liberty; it is brought home and lived. In the evenings at the barracks, snipers can be found studying the physics of ballistics, adjusting their gear until it is perfectly balanced or hand-sewing patches in their ghillie suits. Discussions of techniques in fieldcraft are shared over meals and debates about guns, optics and tactics rage into the nights. This dedication extends throughout the sniper community. The ‘community’ is an abstraction, with only about 300 active duty scout snipers, it is a small circle where everyone knows everyone else, separated only by a degree or two at most. This community makes it easier to remain sharply focused and dedicated to the craft. Sniper school taught me that the level of dedication necessary to master any vocation requires actively living it.
Read the Remainder at Task and Purpose
Another great resource.
Stay Alert, Armed and Dangerous!
In a previous article entitled “The 5 Gun Theory“ I expounded on the logic of the CO owning at least 5 types of firearms in order to be adequately prepared to survive and defend himself adequately. One of those guns was a .30 Caliber scoped bolt-action or semi-auto rifle to be used for hunting and sniper work. It is that gun and the training that goes with it that we are going to discuss.
Now since the driving mantra behind the Civilian Operator Lifestyle is “Practical not Tactical”, I wanted to explore a subject which is not really talked about much in most “Sniper” or “Precision Rifle” training courses, and that is for the EVERYDAY CIVILIAN, what type of rig and training is the most realistic and practical for what that CO will most likely be doing with the weapon system? Just to be clear: This is not a rifle for shooting steel gongs and paper and impressing your buddies at the range.
You see, most all weapon training courses, whether you are talking about Handgun, Assault Rifle, Shotgun or Long Range Rifle are typically approached from either a Law Enforcement and sometimes a Military Training approach/method. Now depending on the trainer and his expertise, this can be made to work for most weapon systems, because MOST OF THE TIME the skill-sets transfer and are applicable. For example, with a Handgun, as long as the trainer integrates specific civilian-type carry issues and scenarios, it works.
This is not the case with Sniper training. As a civilian, if you are picking up a sniper rifle, you are picking it up as a GUERILLA SNIPER, not a Law Enforcement or even a Conventional Military Sniper. This demands and calls for a unique tradecraft that has no parallels in conventional type training. The CO CANNOT AFFORD to waste his time sharpening skills that are not applicable to his particular tradecraft. For example, WHY waste the time and money attempting to hit targets at 1,000 yds, when the farthest shot you will most likely have to make as a GUERILLA SNIPER will be under 400 in an urban environment most likely? Yeah, 1,000 yd and 1 Mile shots are fun to watch on You-Tube, and for the Military Operator in dirka-dirka A-Stan who is packing a $12,000+ Rifle and Scope, this may be a typical shot, but for the CO GUERILLA SNIPER, who is operating in his own backyard in TX or wherever, it makes much more sense to prepare to make closer, higher percentage shots, as this will most likely be the scenario he faces. For more on Guerilla Sniping check out Fry the Brain by John West.
We have to remember that as a Guerilla Sniper, the CO has to RE-DEFINE the meaning of what a “Sniper Rifle” can be. Now as John West elaborates in his book Fry the Brain, anything from a Ruger 10/22 to a Stock AR-15 CAN BE USED as a “SNIPER RIFLE”, it just depends on the situation. For our cause however, a scoped .30 Caliber is the most practical choice, for the primary reasons that this will (or can be) a duel use gun (man killing and hunting for meat) and no better caliber exist for those 2 task. For those of you that think the two worlds of hunting and sniping cannot cross over and mesh, I direct you to two historical points. The First is Carlos Hathcock, one of the deadliest Marine Snipers to ever walk the face of the Earth with 93 Confirmed kills. One of Carlos’s first rifles was a stock Winchester Model 70 .30-06 topped with a 8x Unertl Scope. The Second is Charles Whitman, the UT Tower Sniper ( Another Marine). Whitman killed 16 and wounded 32 in 1966 during one of the most violent college campus shooting spree’s until Virginia Tech in 2007. Whitman’s primary rifle that day was a Remington 6mm with a 4x Scope, in which he made kill shots out to 500 yds.
Now I am not about to open up the eternal can of worms which begins with the idiotic phrase:”Buy this rig because it is better than that rig…”. What I am going to do is present to you that you DO NOT need to take out a 2nd mortgage on your house or risk divorce to have a decent Sniper rig.
Now before I continue, I want to address the fact that there is a HUGE amount of “gun snobbery” out there when it comes to precision, long-range rifles. There is the “custom” crowd, who maintains only a custom tube can give you the accuracy you need to be considered a “SNIPER” (BS!!) There is the “modification” crowd, who absolutely love to talk triggers, sears, scopes, barrel twist and ballistics. Typically their snobbery has to do with BRANDS of after market parts. Now all these things are fine as HOBBIES, but contrary to popular opinion, there is only a certain degree of accuracy the CO sniper rifle needs (minute of man versus minute of a fly’s ass). As I said before, we are NOT building a TARGET RIFLE, but.a MAN KILLING and HUNTING RIFLE. Like I said PRACTICAL is our aim here!
So as far as the rifle goes, no “off the shelf” gun manufacturing company has went further to offer the average, everyday joe civilian more practical bang for his buck than Savage Arms. Speaking from experience, I personally don’t think you can find a better out of the box, off-the-shelf bolt action rifle than their Model 11/111 Long Range Hunter. Although they have many caliber choices for this model, (including the ever-popular, but uber-overkill .338 Lapua Mag) the venerable .308, .300 Win Mag and .300 WSM are awesome choices for the CO Sniper. My reasoning for not choosing the .338 Lapua (or the .50 BMG for that matter) goes back to the “practical not tactical” thing; it is simply TOO MUCH GUN for what the CO would typically need. Add to this the exorbitant cost of ammunition, and you have all the reasons you need. I mean seriously, why own a weapon that you could only afford to shoot maybe a few times a year and by “shoot” I mean 5-10 rounds at a time! The CO needs a weapon system he can shoot plentifully, because precision rifle work requires trigger time, lots of trigger time, and choosing a caliber that handicaps that is just stupid. Now if you want to buy a .50 BMG or .338 Lapua or .416 Barrett for the simplest and most basic of all reasons, because you can and it’s currently LEGAL TO OWN, then by all means! But let’s be clear on our reasoning before we jump off that cliff!
So let’s talk scopes. Now this is the area where the “gun snobs” really love to flaunt, and unfortunately, in this area, they are right to a degree. A Precision rifle CANNOT CONSISTENTLY be precise with INFERIOR GLASS. No Way, No Day. I don’t know if any of you have tried to cut corners with the cheaper scopes and experienced the frustration of the scope not being able to hold zero, and floating all over the paper, but I will tell you, it can, at the end of the day, make you want to cry. And though there is no cutting corners in this area, there is finally a compromise. A Scope that offers you the full benefits of the higher priced glass but at reasonable “CO prices “check out Lucid Optics. In a recent article from Guns America, Lucids L5 Model is put through the paces, and although the distances are a bit much for what the CO would realistically need, nevertheless, the scope proves it’s metal without breaking the bank!
So there it is in a nutshell guys. I know it was brief, but I intend to do some more intensive, more specific articles in the future on sniping to help you guys along on your journey. Until then…….
Stay Practical, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!