Snipers at War, an Equipment and Operations History

This is a nicely balanced history of the art of sniping detailing the equipment and operations. The sniper has grown in importance over the years, from a handful of good shots in the early days of firearms to the highly polished and considerably more numerous sniper teams of today. – much recommended.


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NAME: Snipers at War, an Equipment and Operations History
FILE: R2629
AUTHOR: John Walter
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, Naval Institute Press, Greenhill Books
BINDING: hard back
PAGES:  294
PRICE: £25.00
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Snipers, matchlock, flintlock, percussion lock, bolt 
action, self-loading, smooth bore, rifle, iron sights, optical 
sights, sniper team, observer, shooter, concealment, long range

ISBN: 1-78438-184-4

IMAGE: B2629.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/y7n2mnw2
LINKS:  
DESCRIPTION: This is a nicely balanced history of the art of 
sniping detailing the equipment and operations. The sniper has 
grown in importance over the years, from a handful of good shots 
in the early days of firearms to the highly polished and 
considerably more numerous sniper teams of today.  – much 
recommended.

The sniper pre-dates the availability of firearms. Archers fired 
from concealment, usually as assassins rather than as special 
forces units, the crossbow being favoured because it aided 
concealment. They were relatively rare because of the limited 
range that a highly trained archer could achieve. Firearms opened 
a whole new avenue for combat. When James the Bastard was 
assassinated in Scotland, in the Sixteenth Century, he fell as 
victim to a concealed sniper firing from ambush with a hackbut, a 
match lock smooth bore long gun, equipped with a match lock. 
History does not record exactly what that hackbut was, but it 
could have been a German-made long gun firing a stone ball.

There were probably earlier snipers successfully using long guns 
to ambush a high value target but history has been poor at 
recording them. As the latch lock was succeeded by the wheel lock, 
and the snaphance and then the flintlock, the typical firearms 
were becoming increasingly suitable for sniper use. The flintlock 
could be cocked easily and was reasonably weatherproof for a 
shooter who might have to lay in wait for some time, exposed to 
the elements.

As the methods of firing a gun became more reliable, not much 
changed in the basic design of stocks and barrels, or in the 
sights fitted. The American backwoodsman had to be able to take 
down dangerous game and the Kentucky long rifle developed into a 
formidable long range gun, but was still little different from the 
muskets and sporting rifles of the time, employing a flintlock and 
lead ball, with iron sights. What marked it out, apart from its 
unusually long barrel and use of greased patches to improve the 
muzzle velocity, was the shooter who became highly skilled at 
concealment and use of weapon.

Kentucky long rifles were frequently used in the American War of 
Independence to take down British officers from long range. The 
British began to adopt the Baker rifle, initially in very small 
numbers, eventually creating The Rifles, as a unit for crack shots. 
In the Peninsular War, Wellington made much use of Chosen Men armed 
with Baker Rifles. These marksmen were generally scattered through 
his musket- equipped regiments and were employed as skirmishers and 
as snipers to take down French officers and NCOs.

The introduction of the metal cartridge and optic sights was to 
revolutionize the equipment available for snipers. In America these 
new features were applied to drop breech and lever action guns to 
great effect. In Europe, the trend was to use the new bolt action, 
with some form of box magazine, often simply adopting standard 
military rifles that may have received greater attention during 
manufacture and employing much more effective iron sights and 
optical sights.

WWI saw great use of snipers in the trench lines, picking off the 
unwary from across No Man's Land. WWII saw a further development 
of snipers, particularly in the Commando Special Forces units that 
were becoming increasingly important military units. Again, the 
rifles were still largely more carefully manufactured standard 
military rifles that would be fitted with improved sights and 
sound moderators to help the sniper remain concealed. Commonly, 
snipers operated singly, choosing a place of concealment and 
waiting for a target of opportunity. German and Russian snipers 
became the stars of Stalingrad.

From that point, the sniper has received much better consideration 
in the availability of equipment. Special rifles and ammunition 
are now commonly used, although often being based on a sporting 
rifle or a standard military design. Calibres have increased and 
.50 calibre weapons are now becoming common with targets being 
routinely taken at ranges above 1 kilometre. The sniper is now 
likely to be one member of a two man team, being supported by a 
spotter who is equipped with special optical ranging equipment and 
also serving as bodyguard to watch the back of the sniper as he 
concentrates on the target.

The author has presented an engaging book that brings the story of 
the sniper to life, supported by a fine selection of images through 
the body of the book.