On the Marksman

Snipers seem to get a lot of attention; be it the “lone gunman” fantasy, media concoctions capitalizing on this, or on a more professional level, the fear that the trained marksman can instil in an opponent. Frequently among “other” circles, it creates a highly Walter Mitty-ish atmosphere and chatter. Such talk is annoying and silly.

Let’s cut through the fog so we can put some metal in the meat.

Identifying Levels of Experience

The marksman on the Battlefield can be broken down into three distinct categories.

The Irregular Sniper- This is just a guy with a rifle and a scope. Your everyday, average bubba with a deer rifle falls into this category. He’s an opportunist and has no formal training. He is erratic and unpredictable, and may score a few successes but will end up getting killed by his actions after the shot. Jack Hinson is a great example.


The Marksman- This person is a trained Infantryman or a Guerilla who’s been in the fight a while. He’s learned some hard lessons and knows how to integrate his weapon with a team. He understands he’s part of a larger picture and behaves as such. His weapon most likely will have commonality with the other guys in his team, and equipped with a low to medium power optic. His equipment is selected based upon what’s available and what the mission entails. Kinda like SGT Joseph Kickstand, his ACOG, and his team of studs here:


As stated in the “building the scout team” post, often the Marksman in an Insurgent capacity serves in a leadership role. In conventional military forces he’s often a senior or more seasoned soldier. The reason for this is that as a Marksman he’s more discretionary in the shots he takes. He targets, unlike everyone else on the team who manuever and provide supporting fires. It is important to understand that he is part of a Team. Without his team, he will not and cannot survive long. A neat example of this concept in action is Mr Douchenozzle Umarov here:


Notice he has a semi-close range weapon(VSS Vintorez/9x39mm) with a close range optic(PK-AS etched red dot collimator)? Chechens largely worked(and still do) as a team allowing the Marksman to get within 200M or so of the intended target. Dodge Billingsly, Yossef Bodansky, and LTC Lester Grau do a great job of explaining this further in reference to the Chechen perspective.

The Trained Sniper- As the label indicates, this guy knows what he’s doing. Normally he can work alone or with a team, it depends upon the mission. In addition, he targets very specifically based upon intelligence gathered. It could be in support of a larger operation, it could be the elimination of a key OPFOR, and most often, he’s used as a longer-term observer to further gather intelligence and make a judgement call. Due to his level of training and experience, this level of marksman will use ruses and cruel trickery in the attack in addition to advanced concealment techniques. He is a hunter of men. Or sometimes She…


This lady, Strela, was one of the deadliest marksmen in the Serbian conflicts. UN peacekeepers had a hard time with her. And her example brings up my next point.

Getting there

We’ve all heard the “behind every lade of grass” quote that was actually only uttered in Tora!Tora!Tora!, but the fact is that without actual training, simply having a rifle you shoot once or twice a year during whatever wild game season you hunt does you absolutely no good. Just because one owns a rifle does not equal making a competent marksman.

Ms. Strela from above started life as a level 1 and worked her way to level 3. But it took work, and a lot of bad days. Her story also did not end well, like most examples in this field. It comes with the territory.

Most military service Sniper schools last a significant amount of time, mostly dedicated to learning the fieldcraft basics such as camo, concealment, the 3Ses(Shape, Shine, Silhouette) and it’s not something that’s learned in a weekend; although in a weekend one can certainly pick up a few valuable pointers. In addition, train regularly. Get past the 100M square range…and out of your comfort zone. Find a local F-Class shoot and talk to the competitors; get involved. You’ll learn, make some friends, some of whom are likely former military marksmen themselves, and you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Notice if you will that not once have I mentioned any gear except to illustrate an example. The rifle really does not matter. I’ve seen an old Mosin Nagant with irons punch an inch and a half group at 100M in very capable hands…from a young guy who shoots it religiously. Now his is a diamond in the rough for sure, but I’d trust him long before I would some clown with the latest tacticool add-ons on a Remington 700 action and shoots it twice a year.

It’s all on you. Get out there and do it.

4 thoughts on “On the Marksman

  1. Nicely said.
    As I said in another comment-those who run their mouths about what great shots they are usually suck at any kind of long range shooting. Those who have all the latest tacticool bullsheet tend to fall into the same category.
    It took me years untiI could put rounds in tight groups at 300-500yds,and a few more tilI I could hit at longer distances.
    Then came raising kids,and not having the time or $$$ to shoot regularly,I doubt I could shoot a nice group at 300 yds today-I know I can still shoot nice tight groups at 100-150 yds,even with my in line muzzleloader,because I just shot nice groups with it at 25,50,75,100,125,and 150yds a few weeks ago,and once a week all summer.
    Long range shooting is a perishable skill-just because you could hit steel plates at 1,000 yds 20 years doesn’t mean you can still hit reliably.

    1. In my experience, with only one exception I can recall, pretty much everyone who toots their own horn suck at pretty much whatever it is they’re talking about.
      Aside from that though, while being a hunter and a successful Recon man aren’t necessarily one in the same, one skill set easily translates to the other.

      1. Agreed.
        While I did not serve in the military,I know quite a few guys who did,many were some form or another of high speed,low drag elite forces ninja.
        Just about all of them say the same thingy you did in relation to many of the skills a hunter has/uses being similar to the skills a recon guy has/uses.
        I think a huge part of it is being aware of what’s going on in the woods/field,being able to move real quietly,using terrain features to your advantage,and shape/shine/shadow.
        I’ve found over the years that most people don’t grasp the concept that camo isn’t meant to make you look like something-it’s meant to make you look like nothing.
        We did have an at the time recently returned from Afghanistan Ranger staff Sgt. work with us on SUT and a lot of other stuff-the guy was an excellent teacher.
        World of difference between what he taught us and hunting,but as you said,many of the skills are similar.
        I really like your site,hope you keep it going-you’ve been posting very useful info.stuff most of us can learn from.

  2. Spot on Brother…and thanks for the very kind words.

    I feel, as many others who share this opinion, that the point is identifying and cultivating critical skills in the civilian population from skill sets that already exist. Fortunately, America still, despite the best efforts of an abysmal nationalized education system, has a wealth of potential out there.

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