Night Techniques

Without night vision devices, the sniper team must depend upon eyesight. Regardless of night brightness, the human eye cannot function at night with daylight precision. For maximum effectiveness, the sniper team must apply the following principles of night vision:

a. Night Adaptation. The sniper team should wear sunglasses or red-lensed goggles in lighted areas before departing on a mission. After departure, the team makes a darkness adaptation and listening halt for 30 minutes.

b. Off-Center Vision. In dim light, an object under direct focus blurs, appears to change, and sometimes fades out entirely. However, when the eyes are focused at different points, about 5 to 10 degrees awav from an object, peripheral vision provides a true picture. This aIlows the light-sensitive portion of the eye, that not used during the day, to be used.

c. Factors Affecting Night Vision. The sniper team has control over the following night vision factors:

(1) Lack of vitamin A impairs night vision. However, an overdose of vitamin A will not improve night vision capability.

(2) Colds, fatigue, narcotics, headaches, smoking, and alcohol reduce night vision.

(3) Exposure to bright light degrades night vision and requires a readaption to darkness.


The sniper team may occasionally have artificial illumination for observing and firing. Examples are artillery illumination fire, campfires, or lighted buildings.

a. Artillery Illumination Fire. The M301A2 illuminating cartridge provides 50,000 candlepower.

b. Campfires. Poorly disciplined enemy soldiers may use campfires, or fires may be created by battlefield damage. These opportunities give the sniper enough illumination for aiming.

c. Lighted Buildings. The sniper can use lighted buildings to eliminate occupants of the building or personnel in the immediate area of the light source.

Section V


Recording the type and location of targets in the area helps the sniper team to determine engageable targets. The sniper team must select key targets that will do the greatest harm to the enemy in a given situation. It must also consider the use of indirect fire on targets. Some targets, due to their size or location, may be better engaged with indirect fire.


To index targets, the sniper team uses the prepared range card for a reference since it can greatly reduce the engagement time. When indexing a target to the sniper, the observer locates a prominent terrain feature near the target. He indicates this feature and any other information to the sniper to assist in finding the target. Information between team members varies with the situation.The observer may sound like an FO giving a call for fire to an FDC depending on the condition of the battlefield and the total number of possible targets from which to choose.

a. Purpose. The sniper team indexes targets for the following reasons:

(1) Sniper teams may occupy an FFP in advance of an attack to locate, index, and record target locations; and to decide on the priority of targets.

(2) Indiscriminate firing may alert more valuable and closer enemy targets.

(3) Engagement of a distant target may result in disclosure of the FFP to a closer enemy.

(4) A system is needed to remember location if several targets are sighted at the same time.

b. Considerations. The sniper team must consider the following factors when indexing targets:

(1) Exposure times. Moving targets may expose themselves for only a short time The sniper team must note the point of disappearance of each target, if possible, before engagement. By doing so, the team may be able to take several targets under fire in rapid succession.

(2) Number of targets. If several targets appear and disappear at the same time, the point of disappearance of each is hard to determine; therefore, sniper teams concentrate on the most important targets.

(3) Spacing/distance between targets. The greater the distance between targets, the harder it is to see their movement. In such cases, the team should locate and engage the nearest targets.

(4) Evacuation of aiming points. Targets that disappear behind good aiming points are easily recorded and remembered, targets with poor aiming points are easily lost. Assuming that two such targets are of equal value and danger, the team should engage the more dangerous aiming point target first.

c. Determination of Location of Hidden Fires. When using the crack-thump method, the team listens for the crack of the round and the thump of the weapon being fired. By using this method, the sniper can obtain both a direction and a distance.

(1) Distance to firer. The time difference between the crack and the thump can be converted into an approximate range. A one-second lapse between the two is about 600 yards with most calibers; a one-half-second lapse is about 300 yards.

(2) Location of firer. By observing in the direction of the thump and near the predetermined range, the sniper team has a good chance of seeing the enemy's muzzle flash or blast from subsequent shots.

(3) LimitationsThe crack-thump method has the following limitations

(a) Isolating the crack and thump is difficult when many shots are being fired.

(b) Mountainous areas, tall buildings, and so forth cause echoes and make this method ineffective.

d. Shot-Hole Analysis. Locating two or more shot holes in trees, walls, dummy heads, and so forth may make it possible to determine the direction of the shots. The team can use the dummy-head pencil method and triangulate on the enemy sniper's position. However, this method only works if all shots come from the same position.


Target selection may be forced upon the sniper team. A target moving rapidly may be lost while obtaining positive identification. The sniper team considers any enemy threatening its position as a high-value target. When selecting key targets, the team must consider the following factors:

a. Threat to the Sniper Team. The sniper team must consider the danger the target presents. This can be an immediate threat, such as an enemy element walking upon its position, or a future threat, such as enemy snipers or dog tracking teams.

b. Probability of First-Round Hit.The sniper team must determine the chances of hitting the target with the first shot by considering the following:

• Distance to the target. Direction and velocity of the wind. Visibility of the target area.

• Amount of the target that is exposed. Amount of time the target is exposed. Speed and direction of target movement.

c. Certainty of Target's Identity. The sniper team must be reasonably certain that the target it is considering is the key target.

d. Target Effect on the Enemy. The sniper team must consider what effect the elimination of the target will have on the enemy's fighting ability It must determine that the target is the one available target that will cause the greatest harm to the enemy.

e. Enemy Reaction to Sniper Fire. The sniper team must consider what the enemy will do once the shot has been fired. The team must be prepared for such actions as immediate suppression by indirect fires and enemy sweeps of the area.

f. Effect on the Overall Mission. The sniper team must consider how the engagement will affect the overall mission. The mission may be one of intelligence gathering for a certain period. Firing will not only alert the enemy to a team's presence, but it may also terminate the mission if the team has to move from its position as a result of the engagement.


Key personnel targets can be identified by actions or mannerisms, by positions within formations, by rank or insignias, and or by equipment being worn or carried. Key targets can also include weapon systems and equipment. Examples of key targets areas follows:

a. Snipers. Snipers are the number one target of a sniper team. The enemy sniper not only poses a threat to friendly forces, but he is also the natural enemy of the sniper. The fleeting nature of a sniper is reason enough to engage him because he may never be seen again.

b. Dog Tracking Teams. Dog tracking teams pose a great threat to sniper teams and other special teams that may be working in the area. It is hard to fool a trained dog. When engaging a dog tracking team, the sniper should engage the dog's handler first. This confuses the dog, and other team members may not be able to control it.

c. Scouts. Scouts are keen observers and provide valuable information about friendly units. This plus their ability to control indirect fires make them dangerous on the battlefield. Scouts must be eliminated.

d. Officers. Officers are another key target of the sniper team. Losing key officers in some forces is such a major disruption to the operation that forces may not be able to coordinate for hours.

e. Noncommissioned Officers. Losing NCOs not only affects the operation of a unit but also affects the morale of lower ranking personnel, f. Vehicle Commanders and Drivers. Many vehicles are rendered useless without a commander or driver.

g. Communications Personnel. In some forces, only highly trained personnel know how to operate various types of radios. Eliminating these personnel can be a serious blow to the enemy's communication network.

h. Weapon Crews. Eliminating weapon crews reduces the amount of fire on friendly troops.

i. Optics on Vehicles. Personnel who are in closed vehicles are limited to viewing through optics. The sniper can blind a vehicle by damaging these optic systems.

j. Communication and Radar Equipment. The right shot in the right place can completely ruin a tactically valuable radar or communication system. Also, only highly trained personnel may attempt to repair these systems in place. Eliminating these personnel may impair the enemy's ability to perform field repair.

k. Weapon Systems. Many high-technology weapons, especially computer-guided systems, can be rendered useless by one well-placed round in the guidance controller of the system.


A sniper team is required to accurately determine distance, to properly adjust elevation on the sniper weapon system, and to prepare topographical sketches or range cards. Because of this, the team has to be skilled in various range estimation techniques.


Three factors affect range estimation: nature of the target, nature of the terrain, and light conditions.

a. Nature of the Target.

(1) An object of regular outline, such as a house, appears closer than one of irregular outline, such as a clump of trees.

(2) A target that contrasts with its background appears to be closer than it actually is.

(3) A partly exposed target appears more distant than it actually is.

b. Nature of the Terrain.

(1) As the observer's eye follows the contour of the terrain, he tends to overestimate distant targets.

(2) Observing over smooth terrain, such as sand, water, or snow, causes the observer to underestimate distant targets.

(3) Looking downhill, the target appears farther away.

(4) Looking uphill, the target appears closer.

c. Light Conditions.

(1) The more clearly a target can be seen, the closer it appears.

(2) When the sun is behind the observer, the target appears to be closer.

(3) When the sun is behind the target, the target is more difficult to see and appears to be farther away.


Sniper teams use range estimation methods to determine distance between their position and the target.

a. Paper-Strip Method. The paper-strip method (Figure 4-17) is useful when determining longer distances (1,000 meters plus). When using this method, the sniper places the edge of a strip of paper on the map and ensures it is long enough to reach between the two points. Then he pencils in a tick mark on the paper at the team position and another at the distant location. He places the paper on the map's bar scale, located at the bottom center of the map, and aligns the left tick mark with the 0 on the scale. Then he reads to the right to the second mark and notes the corresponding distance represented between the two marks.

b. 100-Meter-Unit-of-Measure Method. To use this method (Figure 4-18, page 4-38), the sniper team must be able to visualize a distance of 100 meters on the ground. For ranges up to 500 meters, the team determines the number of 100-meter increments between the two objects it wishes to measure. Beyond 500 meters, it must select a point halfway to the object and determine the number of 100-meter increments to the halfway point, then double it to find the range to the object.

halfway to the object and determine the number of 100-meter increments to the halfway point, then double it to find the range to the object.

Figure 4-18.1OO-meter-untt-of-measure method,

c. Appearance-of-Object Method. This method is a means of determining range by the size and other characteristic details of the object. To use the appearance-of-object method with any degree of accuracy, the sniper team must be familiar with the characteristic details of the objects as they appear at various ranges.

d. Bracketing Method. Using this method, the sniper team assumes that the target is no more than X meters but no less than Y meters away. An average of X and Y will be the estimate of the distance to the target.

e. Range-Card Method. The sniper team an also use a range card to quickly determine ranges throughout the target area. Once a target is seen, the team determines where it is located on the card and then reads the proper range to the target.

f. Mil-Relation Formula. The mil-relation formula is the preferred method of range estimation. This method uses a mil-scale reticle located in the M19 binoculars (Figure 4-19) or in the M3A sniperscope (Figure 4-20). The team must know the target size in inches or meters. Once the target size is known, the team then compares the target size to the mil-scale reticle and uses the following formula:

(To convert inches to meters, multiply the number of inches by .0254.)

(To convert inches to meters, multiply the number of inches by .0254.)

g. Combination Method. In a combat environment, perfect conditions rarely exist. Therefore, only one method of range estimation may not be enough for the team's specific mission. Terrain with much dead space limits the accuracy of the 100-meter method. Poor visibility limits the use of the appearance-of-object method. However, by using a combination of two or more methods to determine an unknown range, an experienced sniper team should arrive at an estimated range close to the true range.


When the sniper team has access to a laser observation set, AN/GVS-5, the set should always be used. It can provide the sniper team range to a specific target with great accuracy. When aiming the laser at a specific target, the sniper should support it much the same as his weapon to ensure accuracy. If the target is too small, aiming the laser at a larger object near the target will suffice (that is, a building, vehicle, tree, or terrain feature.)


If mirage is too heavy to distinguish the bottom of a target, it should be halved.


When the target is estimated to be 70 inches high, divide the height into one-half. Use the following mil-relation formula:

35 inches x .0254 x 1,000 = Range to target in meters Size of target in mils

By using this technique, estimate range to targets that are only partly visible. Such as:

The normal distance from the breastbone to the top of the head is 19 inches.

19 inches x .0254 x 1,000 = Range to target in meters Size of target in mils

Normal height of the human head is 10 inches.

Normal height of the human head is 10 inches.

This example may prove to be of specific use when facing an enemy entrenched in bunkers or in dense vegetation.

a. The sniper team should keep a sniper data book complete with measurements.

• Vehicle dimensions.

• Length of main gun tubes on tanks.

• Lengths/sizes of different weapon systems.

(2) Average height of human targets in area of operation.

(3) Urban environment.

• Average size of doorways.

• Average size of windows.

• Average width of streets and lanes (average width of a paved road in the United States is 10 feet). Height of soda machines.

b. As the sniper team develops a sniper data book, all measurements are converted into constants and computed with different mil readings. An example of this is Table 4-1, which has already been computed for immediate use. This table should be incorporated into the sniper data book

Sniper Mil Relation Formula

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