Sniper marksmanship is an extension of basic rifle marksmanship and focuses on the techniques needed to engage targets at extended ranges. To successfully engage targets at increased distances, the sniper team must be proficient in marksmanship fundamentals and advanced marksmanship skills. Examples of these skills are determining the effects of weather conditions on ballistics, holding off for elevation and windage, engaging moving targets, using and adjusting scopes, and zeroing procedures. Markmanship skills should be practiced often.


The sniper team must be thoroughly trained in the fundamentals of marksmanship. These include assuming a position, aiming, breath control, and trigger control. These fundamentals develop fixed and correct firing habits for instinctive application. Every sniper should periodically refamiliarize himself with these fundamentals regardless of his experience.


The sniper should assume a good firing position (Figure 3-1, page 3-2) in order to engage targets with any consistency. A good position enables the sniper to relax and concentrate when preparing to fire.

a. Position Elements. Establishing a mental checklist of steady position elements enhances the sniper's ability to achieve a first-round hit.

(1) Nonfiring hand. Use the nonfiring hand to support the butt of the weapon. Place the hand next to the cheat and rest the tip of the butt on it. Bail the hand into a fist to raise the weapon's butt or loosen the fist to lower the weapon's butt. An effective method is to hold a sock full of sand in the nonfiring hand and to place the weapon butt on the sock. This reduces body contact with the weapon. To raise the butt, squeeze the sock and to lower it, loosen the grip on the sock.

(2) Butt of the stock. Place the butt of the stock firmly in the pocket of the shoulder. Insert a pad on the ghillie suit (see Chapter 4) where contact with the butt is made to reduce the effects of pulse beat and breathing, which can be transmitted to the weapon.

(3) Firing hand. With the firing hand, grip the small of the stock. Using the middle through little fingers, exert a slight rearward pull to keep the butt of the weapon firmly in the pocket of the shoulder. Place the thumb over the top of the small of the stock. Place the index finger on the trigger, ensuring it does not touch the stock of the weapon. This avoids disturbing the lay of the rifle when the trigger is squeezed.

(4) Elbows. Find a comfortable position that provides the greatest support.

(5) Stock weld. Place the cheek in the same place on the stock with each shot. A change in stock weld tends to cause poor sight alignment, reducing accuracy.

(6) Bone support. Bone support is the foundation of the firing position; they provide steady support of the weapon.

Figure 3-1. Firing position,

(7) Muscle relaxation. When using bone support, the sniper can relax muscles, reducing any movement that could be caused by tense or trembling muscles. Aside from tension in the trigger finger and firing hand, any use of the muscle generates movement ofthe sniper's cross hairs.

(8) Natural point of aim. The point at which the rifle naturally rest in relation to the aiming point is called natural point of aim.

(a) Once the sniper is in position and aimed in on his target, the method for checking for natural point of aim is for the sniper to close his eyes, take a couple of breaths, and relax as much as possible. Upon opening his eyes, the scope's cross hairs should be positioned at the sniper's preferred aiming point. Since the rifle becomes an extension of the sniper's body, it is necessary to adjust the position of the body until the rifle points naturally at the preferred aiming point on the target.

(b) Once the natural point of aim has been determined, the sniper must maintain his position to the target. To maintain his natural point of aim in all shooting positions, the natural point of aim can be readjusted and checked periodically.

(c) The sniper can change the elevation of the natural point of aim by leaving his elbows in place and by sliding his body forward or rearward. This raises or lowers the muzzle of the weapon, respectively. To maintain the natural point of aim after the weapon has been fired, proper bolt operation becomes critical. The sniper must practice reloading while in the prone position without removing the butt of the weapon from the firing shoulder. This may be difficult for the left-hand firer. The two techniques for accomplishing this task are as follows:

After firing, move the bolt slowly to the rear while canting the weapon to the right. Execution of this task causes the spent cartridge to fall next to the weapon.

After firing, move the bolt to the rear with the thumb of the firing hand. Using the index and middle fingers, reach into the receiver and catch the spent cartridge as it is being ejected. This technique does not require canting the weapon.

NOTE: The sniper conducts bolt operation under a veil or equivalent camouflage to improve concealment.

b. Steady Firing Position. On the battlefield, the sniper must assume a steady firing position with maximum use of cover and concealment. Considering the variables of terrain, vegetation, and tactical situations, the sniper can use many variations of the basic positions. When assuming a firing position, he must adhere to the following basic rules:

(1) Use any support available.

(2) Avoid touching the support with the barrel of the weapon since it interferes with barrel harmonics and reduces accuracy.

(3) Use a cushion between the weapon and the support to prevent slippage of the weapon.

(4) Use the prone supported position whenever possible.

c. Types of Firing Positions. Due to the importance of delivering precision fire, the sniper makes maximum use of artificial support and eliminates any variable that may prevent adhering to the basic rules. He uses the prone supported; prone unsupported; kneeling unsupported; kneeling, sling supported; standing supported; and the Hawkins firing positions.

(1) Prone supported position. The prone supported position is the steadiest position; it should be used whenever possible (Figure 3-2). To assume the prone supported position, the sniper should—

(a) Lie down and place the weapon on a support that allows pointing in the direction of the target. Keep the position as low as possible. (For field-expedient weapon supports, see paragraph 3-1d.)

(b) Remove the nonfiring hand from underneath the fore-end of the weapon by folding the arm underneath the receiver and trigger, grasping the rear sling swivel. This removes any chance of subconsciously trying to exert control over the weapon's natural point of aim. Keep the elbows in a comfortable position that provides the greatest support.

(c) Keep the body in line with the weapon as much as possible-not at an angle. This presents less of a target to the enemy and more body mass to absorb recoil.

(d) Spread legs a comfortable distance apart with the heels on the ground or as close as possible without causing strain.

(2) Prone unsupported position. The prone unsupported position (Figure 3-3) offers another stable firing platform for engaging targets. To assume this position, the sniper faces his target, spreads his feet a comfortable distance apart, and drops to his knees. Using the butt of the rifle as a pivot, the firer rolls onto his nonfiring side. He places the rifle butt in the pocket formed by the firing shoulder, grasps the pistol grip in his firing hand, and lowers the firing elbow to the ground. The rifle rests in the V formed by the thumb and fingers of the nonfiring hand The sniper adjusts the position of his firing elbow until his shoulders are about level, and pulls back firmly on the rifle with both hands. To complete the position, he obtains a stock weld and relaxes, keeping his heels close to the ground.

Self Defense Hand Grip

(3) Kneeling unsupported position. The kneeling unsupported position (Figure 3-4, page 3-6) is assumed quickly. It places the sniper high enough to see over small brush and provides for a stable position.

(a) Place the body at a 45-degree angle to the target.

(b) Kneel and place the right knee on the ground.

(c) Keep the left leg as perpendicular to the ground as possible; sit back on the right heel, placing it as directly under the spinal column as possible. A variation is to turn the toe inward and sit squarely on the right foot.

(d) Grasp the small of the stock of the weapon with the firing hand, and cradle the fore-end of the weapon in a crook formed with the left arm.

(e) Place the butt of the weapon in the pocket of the shoulder, then place the meaty underside of the left elbow on top of the left knee.

(f) Reach under the weapon with the left hand, and lightly grasp the firing arm.

(g) Relax forward and into the support position, using the left shoulder as a contact point. This reduces transmission of the pulsebeat into the sight picture. -

(h) Lean against a tree, building, or vehicle for body support.

Figure 3-4. Kneeling unsupported position

(4) Kneeling, sling supported position. If vegetation presents a problem, the sniper can raise his kneeling position by using the rifle sling. To assume the kneeling, sling supported position, he executes the first three steps for assuming a kneeling unsupported position. With the leather sling mountedto the weapon, the sniper turns the sling one-quarter turn to the left. The lower part of the sling will then form a loop.

(a) Place the left arm (nonfiring) through the loop; pull the sling up the arm and place it on the upper arm between the elbow and shoulder, but not directly over the biceps.

(b) Tighten the sling by sliding the sling keeper against the loop holding the arm.

(c) Rotate the left arm in a clockwise motion around the sling and under the rifle with the sling secured to the upper arm. Place the fore-end of the stock in the V formed by the thumb and forefinger of the left hand. Relax the left arm and hand, let the sling support the weight of the weapon.

(d) Place the butt of the rifle against the right shoulder and place the left elbow on top of the left knee (Figure 3-5). Pull the left hand back along the fore-end of the rifle toward the trigger guard to add to stability.

Sniper The Wind
Figure 3-5. Kneeling, sling supported position.

(5) Standing supported position. The standing supported position is the least steady of the supported positions and should De used only as a last resort (Figure 3-6, page 3-8).

(a) To assume the standing supported position with horizontal support, such as a wall or ledge, the sniper proceeds as follows:

• Locate a solid object for support. Avoid branches as they tend to sway when wind is present.

Form a V with the thumb and forefinger of the nonfiring hand.

Place the nonfiring hand against the support with the fore-end of the weapon resting in the V of the hand. This steadies the weapon and allows quick recovery from recoil.

Then place the butt of the weapon in the pocket of the shoulder.

Then place the butt of the weapon in the pocket of the shoulder.

(b) To use vertical support (Figure 3-7), such as a tree, telephone pole, comer of building, or vehicle, the sniper proceeds as follows:

• Locate stable support. Face the target, then turn 45 degrees to the right of the target, and place the palm of the nonfiring hand at arm's length against the support.

Lock the left arm straight, let the left leg buckle, and place body weight against the nonfiring hand. Keep the trail leg straight.

• Place the fore-end of the weapon in the V formed by extending the thumb of the nonfiring hand.

• Exert more pressure to the rear with the firing hand.

Figure 3-7. Standing supported position (vertical support).

(6) Hawkins position. The Hawkins position (Figure 3-8) is a variation of the prone unsupported position. The sniper uses it when firing from a low bank or a depression in the ground, over a roof, or so forth. It cannot be used on level ground since the muzzle cannot be raised high enough to aim at the target. It is a low-profile position with excellent stability and aids concealment. To assume this position, the sniper uses the weapon's sling and proceeds as follows:

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