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TTAG’s resident war hero Jon Wayne Taylor and I had a long conversation about Chris Kyle one day. Jon revealed that Mr. Kyle was not a particularly good shot. His genius lay in his ability to infiltrate an area without being detected, and remain there, hidden. Camouflage is more than just clothing. It’s knowing where to go, where to stay, how to stay there undetected, when to shoot, when to leave and how not to reveal yourself as you exfiltrate. Hats off to these warriors, who have skills I could never master.

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  1. It’s a good color pattern for the time of year, I’ll give them that. Need something to obstruct the silhouette and shadow, though, or they need to pick better hides.

    • I agree about the colors and the pattern, and it seemed very effective while they were stationary and in their hides, but it did not seem all that effective as soon as they revealed themselves and began to move. That and the bright orange furniture on their AKs was a bit of a problem in regards movement.

    • To be more accurate to my words, I said he wasn’t a particularly outstanding shot amongst his fellow SO snipers, a fact he often pointed out. He was an outstanding marksman, way, way better than I will ever be. But his true genius was being exactly where he was supposed to be, and no one could tell he was there.

    • Think of it like this. For all intents and purposes military sniper’s marksmanship is on par with your typical upper level F-Class competitor. This is eveident by reviewing statistics from F-Class tactical shooting events. Competitors use rifles chambered in military calibers more specifically 5.56 and 7.62×51. The standard for F-Class marksmanship is 1 moa, by that I mean 1 moa all day every single group if you want to run with the pack. All that being said there are plenty of shooters that can in fact shoot with a greater level of accuracy than 1 moa. No, that is not typical of your average gun owner but for people who practice precision marksmanship 1moa is no big deal. One thing that separates snipers and long range competitors from your typical shooter is the knowledge of their weapon’s capabilities and their ammunition’s ballistics for various distances and weather conditions. That takes a lot of shooting and careful data collection. Both the long range competitor and the sniper will be masters of the fundamentals involved in proper body position, breathing, trigger squeeze, and follow through. Some guys are better than others at these things, but that is not all there is to being a sniper.

      Military snipers are indeed fine shots just as the F-Class guys are but the difference is military snipers have to be masters of movement, concealment, and field craft. Being able to hit a postage stamp with a 5 shot group is great, but nobody is trying to kill you at the gun range. The mechanical part of being a sniper or long range competitor is not the whole story with being a sniper. There are plenty of magnificent marksman that are laying in shallow unmarked graves around the world. Guys who can get in and get out alive are the ones that survive the longest and live to tell their stories. I have known 1 sniper in my life well enough to call him a friend. He will be the first to tell you some of the best marksman he ever saw failed to pass sniper school at Fort Benning.

  2. “Jon revealed that Chris was not a particularly good shot”. With his longest kill confirmed at 2,100 yards, I would say that Mr. Kyle was a pretty good shot. Perhaps not the best sniper that ever lived but with his amount of confirmed kills, under pressure, I would consider Mr. Kyle an excellent shot. I read American Sniper and he seemed like he was pretty good under pressure.

    • I won’t enter an irrelevant “pissing contest” on which sniper was better than another.

      However, the bottom line is snipers from all over the world, throughout history, have done what was needed at the time, with the equipment available. They deserve respect for an aspect of military service most of us will never achieve.

      They make due. They make the shot matter.

      • “I won’t enter an irrelevant “pissing contest” on which sniper was better than another. “

        Thank-you for that. Was thinking a similar response was in order.

    • Simo Häyhä was in a league of his own. Also shot with no magnification (no scope allowed him to stay as small as possible; also helped that he was 5’3), absolutely unreal

      • My Grandfather, Georg, was 5′ 4″, and in the German artillery in WW1. He always said “The big guys looked great in parades, but were the first to be killed on the battlefield”.

  3. The best sniper book I have read thus far is Sniper on the Eastern Front: The Memoirs of Sepp Allerberger, Knight’s Cross . Josef “Sepp” Allerberger was the second most successful sniper of the German Wehrmacht and one of the few private soldiers to be honored with the award of the Knight’s Cross.
    The book really gets into the nuts and bolts of being a sniper and he actually would set up several sniper positions and escape routes before engaging the Russians. Sepp actually had a little potty hole in his position and used a Ghillie umbrella to help hide his position. He also explains in detail the intricacies of the German Sniper School.

    • I’ve read that book twice and briefly looked over the unabridged original, “Im Auge des Jägers” because my German isn’t quite good enough for a full read yet. It and Guy Sajer’s “The Forgotten Soldier” are two of the best combat memoirs I’ve read to date. I have yet to find another portrait of war as cold and sometimes nauseatingly brutal as Allerberger’s. Be careful if you decide to pick up the current paperback printing for a second read, it has a 3rd person narration akin to the original, unlike the hard cover I’ve got that’s in 1st person.

      • Not a sniper book, but Blood Red Snow: The Memoirs of a German Soldier on the Eastern Front was pretty much of a gorefest.. For the German soldier fighting under Hitler, keeping a diary was strictly forbidden. So Gunter Koschorrek, a fresh young recruit, wrote his notes on whatever scraps of paper he could find and sewed the pages into the lining of his winter coat. Russian soldiers being mowed down by a quad 20 mm FLAK guns is gory.

        • I read Koschorrek years ago for a term paper in college, so I will probably give it a second try for fun. I’ve gotten through most of the German memoirs out there to be honest. Pick up “Panzer Warfare on the Eastern Front,” a compilation of anecdotes by Hans Schäuffler when you get a chance. Great reading and plenty of laughs during the lighter moments.

      • “It and Guy Sajer’s “The Forgotten Soldier” are two of the best combat memoirs I’ve read to date. I have yet to find another portrait of war as cold and sometimes nauseatingly brutal as Allerberger’s.”

        How is it in comparison to ‘With the Old Breed’ ? (but obviously not cold)…

        • With the Old Breed is also good, but having seen “The Pacific” before reading the book I kind of knew what to expect. There are a couple of moments in Allerberger’s work that really capture the barbarity of the Eastern Front, mainly things he witnessed the Russians do to prisoners. Think actions of the same cruelty as using native Okinawans as human shields or rigging them up as walking suicide bombers as seen in Sledge.

          One other factor separates the two authors. Whereas Sledge became traumatized by his experiences to the point of quitting hunting altogether, Allerberger gets a bit nutty and freely admits he came to enjoy popping off Russians like it was a kid’s game. He also returns from the war totally fine and picks up right where he left off at his apprenticeship.

          Sajer’s “Forgotten Soldier” reads like a finely crafted poem in many places. He largely focuses on what war does to the mind and is enough of a writer that he speaks about it in simple terms, but also without boring you. There was some controversy a while back because Sajer goofed on some details related to units and uniforms and so on, but he later admitted in various letters that these weren’t the intended focus of his book and they were honest mistakes in memory recollection, so it still stands as non-fiction. Pick up both books if you get the chance.

    • Willi Heinrich’s novels are often good reads. I came across him a number of years ago. The movie “Cross Of Iron” was based on his novel of the same name. After every war there’s always a spate of books, sometimes fiction, sometimes fact, sometimes a little of both, that are written by combat veterans. Heinrich’s stories are all based on the German retreat out of Russia which, as a veteran of the 101st Jager Division which suffered 700 percent casualties, he personally experienced.

      In the 1950’s there were uprisings in East Germany that turned into a full-scale revolt. I have no doubt that there were plenty of East front veterans like Heinrich on the streets at the time. When you’ve fought that kind of war, a military occupation isn’t scary at all. We should have furnished them with weapons.

  4. The real skill in sniping is not the shooting but in the fieldcraft. Shooting can be taught, but some level of skill and experience helps.

    Snipers are also used as scouts and recon. In this case their most important weapons will be binoculars and a radio.

    If you are talking about historical badass snipers, don’t forget Billy Sing from the AIF. Not only did he score over 200, but did so with an open-sighted SMLE and would “snap shoot” raising the rifle and firing out to over 500 yards.

    Even Aussies have a few snipers. There was another whose name escapes me who was a terror to the Chinese in the Korean War. It took a mortar strike to wound him enough for him to be sent home.

  5. Two words: tree/bush cancer. It’s not a good idea to get too cozy with trees, stumps, or bushes. Little depressions in the ground with light vegetation surrounding draws the eye less and offers more cover & concealment, and doesn’t look like a weird lump sprouting a rifle.

  6. “Kyle was not a particularly good shot”. I take this to mean compared to other elite snipers. A not-so-good elite sniper is still leagues up from an elite weekend warrior. But in any case the article makes logical sense. No matter how difficult the shot, you can’t have many kills if you get caught after your first kill.

  7. One of those guys moves through the woods like a Cat D8. If there’s a branch, he seems to find it and step on it. I’m guessing he’s not a hunter.

    • I thought so too. My father, who grew up in the woods and hunted to put food on the table as a boy, was utterly silent moving through the woods. That’s a skill, like tracking, that I think you have to be born too. Alas, as a city kid, those aren’t skills I have.

  8. I remember my dads generation, they got home from WW II and Korea and got on with it. But jimminy crickets, every Tom, Dick and Harry that got off a plane in “The Sandbox” fancies himself a personification of death. Or, a “war heroe”.
    Must be the whole Facebook generation thing.

  9. not to brag, but i think id make a good spotter, at least for that camo pattern. i found the 3 guys almost immediately in every scenario. at first i didnt know there were 3 guys, i thought it was just 1. in the 1st scene i found 3 spots that looked off, so i wasnt sure which to choose, then it turns out all 3 were right.

  10. Camo is a matter of not letting someone (the enemy) see what they’re alert against. As such, it’s the art of every hunter.

    I knew a guy who prepared a blind out of huge fallen sections of bark, well before hunting season. When he got to the clear cut where it was located, on the first day of elk season, there were dozens of deer visible. He spent fifteen minutes getting to his blind, not spooking any deer — covering what normally took roughly a half minute. So as the deer drifted away and a band of elk, which would have been alerted if the deer had spooked, moved in, he was ready and waiting.

    Not just a military skill.

  11. Chris Kyle doesn’t need to be a good shot because he lured children in with bits of wire then murdered them at relatively close range.


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