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Thread: Early history of US Snipers

  1. #1
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    Early history of US Snipers

    Here is an explanation adapted from an article i wrote several months back on the topic. I hope you find it informative....

    The term 'sniper' originally comes from 18th century English gamesmen and British army officers who were able to consistently hit the small, fast, and agile snipe(a European gamebird, very similar to the woodcock). The first recorded use of the word 'sniper' in a military context was penned by an English officer serving in india, in the year 1782.

    The Ghilli suit, the preferred dress of snipers in the field, was originally developed by the wardens of the Scotish Highlands- or Ghilli's, some hundreds of years ago, somewhere about the middle of 16th Century(Depends who you ask).

    Every US sniper makes his own Ghilli suit by hand, and it is one of the most prized possessions a sniper has. We are very proud of our Ghilli's, as each is a one of a kind item that the owner has spent hours and hours crafting many times over to suit his own ideals of camouflage for any given environment.

    The US Sniper first came into being during the period of the Revolutionary war, on 14 June, 1775 when 10 company's of riflemen(remember, almost all weapons were smooth-bore muskets at this time) were authorized by the Continental Congress, and were subsequently used to harass British formations from long range, primarily as skirmishers.
    They were not put to service in numbers until 1776 however, hence my tag line.

    This was also the first time in the history of armed conflict that an offically organized 'sniper' corps was formed and employed. Though they would be known simply as marksmen or sharpshooter s for nearly 100 years to come.

    While the range of the Brown Bess musket(Std British issue) was about 80-100 yds, the Pennsylvania long rifle could reach out to ranges well over 400 yds in the hands of a highly skilled American fronteirsman(600 meters was not unheard of).

    The Pennsylvania long rifle is actually most commonly-but incorrectly- known, as the Kentucky long rifle.
    This is because of the exploits of the Kentucky Volunteer Regiment at the battle of New Orleans, in the year 1815, during the War of 1812, while using the exquisite 5 foot long Pennsylvania rifles.

    They were made by old world craftsman in Pennsylvania, but they were made famous by a bunch of boys from Kentucky.

    The first British General to feel the impact(literally) of a US 'marksman' was General Simon Fraser, commander of British forces at the battle of Saratoga, 1777.
    He was killed by a Pennsylvanian by the name of Tim Murphy, assigned to Morgan's Sharpshooter's, from a range in excess of 300 yards.

    After the Battle of Boston, British General Lord Howe dubbed the Pennsylvania rifle as "The terrible gun of the rebels" in a letter to the King, so effective was the Pennsylvania long rifle in battle.

    To counter the US sharpshooter s, the British formed a company of their own riflemen commanded by Captain Frederick Peterson, of the 70th Regiment Afoot.

    Fittingly, he was killed by a US Sniper at the Battle of King's Mountain, in 1780.
    This would be the Brit's only attempt to counter the US Snipers during the Revolutionary war.

    This same man on the field of battle earlier, at the Battle of Brandywine creek, 1778, had the tremendous good fortune of finding General George Washington right in his sights, but while lining up his shot, Washington turned on his horse and rode off.

    Ferguson later wrote that he could not bring himself to shoot a man in the back, and so history was forever changed.......

    During the American Civil War, the US Sniper became the world's first artillery counter-battery weapon.
    Early artillery tactics- Primarily developed dring the Napoleonic Wars- involved closing to within 300 yards of the enemy, and pouring concentrated cannister fire into his ranks.

    When this tactic was repeated early in the Civil war, the US Snipers, fighting for either the North or South, took to systematicly killing every artilleryman in sight.
    The result of this was to force enemy artilery to set up at much, much greater distances. Even at 700 yards they were not safe from snipers using early telescopic sights.

    The abuse at the hands of enemy sniper's also served to seriously affect the morale of artillery troops throughout the war- on both sides.

    An unwanted side effect of this success from the sniper's point of view was the fact that this made sniper's a favorite target of enemy artillery.

    This is a cat and mouse game that continues to this day- Sniper vs Artilleryman.

    It was the Confederates who first took to using small two man sniper teams, more out of a shortage of suitable British Kerr and Whitworth rifles, then any tactical advantadge or forethought.

    This has also stuck however, as the standard US Sniper team is still two men, to this very day. One shooter, one spotter.

    During the battle for Washington DC, President Abraham Lincoln was almost killed by a Confederate sniper of the 5th Alabama Regiment, but was saved by being heaved to the ground by a Union Officer after a surgeon standing three feet from Lincoln was shot dead through the heart by the unseen shooter. The Reb Sniper had mistaken Lincoln's entourage, inspecting the defenses of Washington, as members of the Union homegaurd, so he did not realize the opportunity he had just missed by shooting the doctor, instead of Lincoln.

    Once again, a US Sniper had nearly rewritten world history with a single shot.....

    It is the ability to engage a single key target with total discrimination from an unseen source that makes the Sniper so reviled on the battlefield- then as today.

    The psychological impact of removing the literal head of the enemy at the moment your forces strike is profound. It leaves the opposing chain of command in confusion, and allows friendly forces to assault their objectives against a disorganized, leaderless enemy.

    Operating independantly of the main body of forces, Sniper's can interdict supply routes, target key individuals or equipment for nuetralization, and wreak havoc with the enemy's morale.

    The legendary USMC Sniper Gunnery Sargeant Carlos Hathcock was a prime example of this. He was so effective in terrifying the VC/NVA in his sector that a huge cash bounty was placed on his head by the North Vietnamese Gov't.

    The same was true for Vasiliy Zaitsev, whose expliots at the Battle of Stalingrad during WWII are almost impossible to believe.

    The most successful US Sniper to date that i know of is US Army Sgt Adelbert F. Waldron III, who is credited with 106 confirmed kills while operating in the Mekong Delta region of South Vietnam.
    He is another guy that was just larger than life in the community.

    During the Raid on Mogadishu in Somalia, 1993, it was two US Army Delta Force Snipers, Sgt's Shughart and Gordon who repeatedly volunteered to go in and secure crash site #2 against a converging crowd of thousands of Somali's.
    After numerous requests they were finally inserted, and defended CWO3 Michael Durant and the bodies of the dead US soldiers there for hours- not minutes as was portrayed in the movie- until they were finally overrun, and killed.

    For their actions Shughart and Gordon became the most recent recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Posthumously.

    I hope i have answered your questions about the origin and early history of the US Sniper teams. And also perhaps why i am so proud- and protective- of the men i served with, and the mission we performed. They were and will always be my brothers.


    --------------------
    Last edited by Bill; 29 Nov 04, at 18:53.

  2. #2
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    Hey great info M21Sniper, thanks it was an enjoyable read.

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    During the American Revolution, The Times carried a notice that told officers to settle their affairs and make their arrangements, due to the American marksmen's prowess and practice of shooting the 'epaulette men' as often as possible.

    Were I a King's officer about to embark for America and had just read that, it would be a long trip over to think about such a thing, and I bet not a few landed in the Colonies with a bit of dread in their hearts.

    Reputation is a weapon, as long as one can maintain a good one in the heart of one's enemies.

    Ghurkas in the Falklands had a mass surrender of Argentine soldiers on their hands one night when it became known to the Argies who they had opposite them.

    I wish I could tell you what the Iraqi moodje thinks about Marine snipers, but I can't because it's against the WAB's rules about profane and vulgar language.

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    Nice read, wow to hit a target at 600 yards ... back in the 1770's, amazing lol.

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    M21,

    Could you walk us through through your expert eyes why you found the Canadian longest shot in history in Afghanistan so difficult to believe?
    Chimo

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    FINALLY! Someone who knows his history! Im so mad at having to tell everyone that 2 snipers were inserted in CS#2, not a BH full of troops!

    Great article, M21!
    ~The only time evil men succed is if good men do nothing

    'I made an airplane out of stone. I always did like stayin home'-Shel Silverstein, Falling Up

    Why are you here?! Because of you my country is in ruins! -Man, Bejing, Famous picure of him standing in front of a line of tanks.

    PROUD MEMBER OF THE RIGHT WING CONSPIRICY!

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    "M21,

    Could you walk us through through your expert eyes why you found the Canadian longest shot in history in Afghanistan so difficult to believe?"

    Honest answer Sir?

    Because i couldn't do it. I don't like to admit that i wasn't the best.

    For the record, that shot was a 1 in a million for most mortal snipers... In honesty, i doubt i'd have even tried it....but then, i guess i'm just NOT as good as the Canuck Corporal.

    More than anything else, a soldier has to know his limitations, and i'd have judged that shot beyond my capabilities, so would not have taken it.

    I'd have called in a TOT arty or mortar barrage instead.
    Last edited by Bill; 01 Dec 04, at 02:26.

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    Thanx Broccoli.

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    "I wish I could tell you what the Iraqi moodje thinks about Marine snipers, but I can't because it's against the WAB's rules about profane and vulgar language."

    Marine and Army snipers both Ma'am.

    There was an Army Cpl in Iraq a few months back that tallied 18(IIRC) confirmeds in one day.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by M21Sniper
    "I wish I could tell you what the Iraqi moodje thinks about Marine snipers, but I can't because it's against the WAB's rules about profane and vulgar language."

    Marine and Army snipers both Ma'am.

    There was an Army Cpl in Iraq a few months back that tallied 18(IIRC) confirmeds in one day.
    No, I wrote what I meant: we get 'em cursin' 'bout the Marines all the dam' time.

    Hey, check this out:
    CheyTac's M-200 rifle is supposedly the longest-ranged rifle in the world. It has literally out-shot its optics (meaning that it can shoot acurately farther than can actually be seen from either the rifle's own optics, or anything a spotter could take into a tactical situation). It's ballistics computer has to render a solution taking into account the coreolis effect, as the bullet flight time could have the Earth's rotation move your target out of the path. God Almighty.

    I got to talk to the manufacturers during the last SOF convention here in Tampa. This thang whoops the livin' hell out of fifty-cals in range, kinetic power, accuracy...virtually every single meaningful parameter. SOCOM is evaluating it, and when I asked if it had been used tactically yet, the comment was, "Yes...but we won't say by whom."

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    " that shot was a 1 in a million for most mortal snipers"
    it was awesome shot; however, keep in mind, it was the third shot he fired. (the afghan didn't notice first two)

    "There was an Army Cpl in Iraq a few months back that tallied 18(IIRC) confirmeds in one day."

    Post that story or ellaborate greatly please.

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    Perhaps they don't curse about the Army snipers because there's no one left to biitch...

    Saw a review on the Chevytac some time back(think it was G&A). Interesting piece- if not a handsome one- but it has limited tactical utility IMO.

    I'm not much into single shot sniper weapons. They leave you high and dry if you find yourself in anything other than your preferred modus operandi.

    The M-82 and M-21/25 both have the capacity to lay serious mutliple target fire in a close range encounter...ie, one you didn't plan.

    That's not a bad thing. Not having that capability can be.

    .50BMG Raufoss Grade A super Match is all the round i've ever felt a need for, and then some.

    You stationed at CENTCOM HQ in tampa now Blue? You sould like intel, but i don't feel a dislike for you like i did all the intel pukes i dealt with when i was active duty...which is most unusual.
    Last edited by Bill; 01 Dec 04, at 07:39.

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    "Post that story or ellaborate greatly please."

    Just something i read during my daily travels throughout the web. I remember he was a corporal, was about six months ago.

    The more i think about it it might've been a jarhead, during the first go round in Fallujah. I think the kid won the bronze star for his actions.

    "it was awesome shot; however, keep in mind, it was the third shot he fired. (the afghan didn't notice first two)"

    One in three still puts him about 999,997 shots ahead of the odds. As i said, i wouldn't have taken the shot. I'd have either called for TACAIR or Arty or let him go.
    Last edited by Bill; 01 Dec 04, at 07:42.

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    Quote Originally Posted by M21Sniper
    Perhaps they don't curse about the Army snipers because there's no one left to biitch...

    Saw a review on the Chevytac some time back(think it was G&A). Interesting piece- if not a handsome one- but it has limited tactical utility IMO.

    I'm not much into single shot sniper weapons. They leave you high and dry if you find yourself in anything other than your preferred modus operandi.

    The M-82 and M-21/25 both have the capacity to lay serious mutliple target fire in a close range encounter...ie, one you didn't plan.

    That's not a bad thing. Not having that capability can be.

    .50BMG Raufoss Grade A super Match is all the round i've ever felt a need for, and then some.

    You stationed at CENTCOM HQ in tampa now Blue? You sould like intel, but i don't feel a dislike for you like i did all the intel pukes i dealt with when i was active duty...which is most unusual.
    Stationed at SOCOM. I am one of NSA's reps here at HAPPYCOM , but I have lots of friends and colleagues at SADCOM (aka CENTCOM). I came here from Ft. Meade, where I worked on Iraq at NSA for three years. Which is why I have so much to say about the matter, and why I tend to lose patience with other folks' particularly ludicrous posts on it.

    You probably don't dislike me because I don't overvalue myself and the work I do. Working here and around the guys that I do will knock humility into you really fast. But then again, I have NEVER considered myself 'the top 10% of the military', which is what we were constantly hearing when I and Lt. Bluesman were linguists (I was Vietnamese, she was Arabic). I think I am a good analyst, but one of the traits I think that makes me good is I've never thought I'm GREAT, too arrogant to listen to another take, and I realize that the nature of intel means NEVER being absolutely sure you know everything with 100% accuracy.

    But some things that I KNOW that I know I will go all the way to the mat for. If I dig in and categorically assert something is this way or that, bet the ranch I have good reason to hold the opinion that I hold, and it won't be because I read it in the NY Times or Dan Rather told me so.

    Oh, and this isn't a single round weapon. It has a magazine to allow the sniper to spread a whole lotta luv.

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    Isn't the second member of a sniper team supposed to provide close protection?

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