Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fundamentals of Sniping

Watching the great film American Sniper recently reminded me a book recommended by an old friend Jack Savage Wildman on the art of sniping.  I found a copy on line and tried to extract some of the essential points made by the author, Major H. Heskseth-Prichard, a former big game hunter and highly successful sniping instructor for the British Army makes in his 1920 book:

  • Selecting snipers:  candidates should be
  1. A high-class shot
  2. A good and accurate observer
  3. A good judge of distance, wind and light

  • Speed s always the essence of sniping. Snipers not only must be good shots, but quick shots.

  • The most difficult thing to teach a prospective sniper: judging the efficacy of the wind.

  • Sniping must work in pairs, one observing, the other shooting.  Have the observer maintain a note book, it will be invaluable from an Intelligence point of view.

  • It is absolutely essential that the use of the the telescope should be taught from the stalking or big-game point of view. Shooters must be taught that any change, adjustment or cleaning of his scope may redirect the rifle's trajectory. Never touch the lens with fingers or thumb.

  • Open loopholes from the side, and expose a cap badge before looking through.  If the German does not fire for 75 seconds, one may conclude it is fairly safe.  Trenches should have numerous loopholes, functional and blanks.

Doughboy Sniper with Scoped Rifle at a Trench Loophole

  • Best way to locate an enemy sniper: push a dummy head (papier-mâché works well) slowly above the parapet.

  • On camouflage: What is an absolute protective background at eleven o'clock may become quite useless at twelve

  • Preferred targets:  enemy's forward artillery observers, leaders, machine gun teams, flame thrower detachments, and enemy occupying captured ground.

  • Snipers during an advance: after an objective is gained, push forward beyond the position and cover the consolidation from old shell holes or trenches.

  • Was the target hit or just ducking?  Big game hunting teaches that an animal that is fired at and missed always stands tense for a fraction of a second before he bounds away.  But, when an animal is struck by a bullet, there is no pause. It's a very good sign when the Hun's field glasses fall on the wrong side of the parapet.

The Sometimes Fate of the Sniper

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