American Rifleman: ' Winning the Sniper War in Iraq'

American Rifleman: ' Winning the Sniper War in Iraq'

This is a discussion on American Rifleman: ' Winning the Sniper War in Iraq' within the Law Enforcement, Military & Homeland Security Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; As featured at American Rifleman: Winning the Sniper War in Iraq A war within a war. By Maj. John L. Plaster, USAR (Ret.) As an ...

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Thread: American Rifleman: ' Winning the Sniper War in Iraq'

  1. #1
    VIP Member Array Janq's Avatar
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    American Rifleman: ' Winning the Sniper War in Iraq'

    As featured at American Rifleman:

    Winning the Sniper War in Iraq
    A war within a war.
    By Maj. John L. Plaster, USAR (Ret.)

    As an American military convoy rumbled along a dusty street in Habbaniyah, Iraq, 50 miles west of Baghdad, a silver van eased to the curb. Preoccupied with operating their heavy trucks, the U.S. Marine drivers didn’t notice the van and its civilian occupants.

    Fortunately the convoy was overwatched by guardian angels: a Marine sniper and his spotter atop a nearby roof. Alerted by his spotter, the Marine marksman shifted his 10X optic to the silver van—and discovered the driver videotaping the convoy while his passenger raised a scoped rifle! As one, the Marine sniper and his spotter fired, shooting dead the cameraman and his sniping partner. By itself this was a dramatic accomplishment, but there was more: Pried from the dead terrorist’s hands was a Marine-issue M40A3 sniper rifle—taken from a Marine sniper killed by insurgents in August 2005. It was now back where it belonged.

    The Habbaniyah engagement was a limited but significant milestone in this unnoticed war-within-a-war, a quiet triumph of skill and courage, strategy and technology, which yielded a victory as great as that of British snipers who wrested domination of the World War I trenches from Germany’s snipers in 1915.

    An Asymmetrical Conflict
    Iraqi military snipers appeared occasionally during the 2003 invasion, but afterward—like the rest of their army—they shed their uniforms and faded away. By the end of that year, some Saddam loyalists and a few al-Qaeda terrorists sometimes sniped at American troops but not in a coordinated way. The following year, however, attacks increased while insurgents concentrated by the thousands in Fallujah, daring the U.S. military to attack their enclave. That November, U.S. Marines and soldiers assaulted Fallujah, teaching a bloody lesson: directly fighting America’s military meant inevitable and total defeat. Thus, al-Qaeda and its allies turned away from direct confrontation to “asymmetric,” or disproportionate, warfare to inflict casualties at low risk. This new strategy involved car bombs and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), along with snipers in considerable numbers.

    The terrorist snipers’ tactics proved as extreme as their philosophy. Unencumbered by international law, insurgent snipers hid themselves in civilian clothes, took cover behind human shields, fired from mosques and escaped in ambulances. With a seemingly endless supply of sniper rifles and thousands of American targets, these hit-and-run terrorists could strike anywhere. American quick-reaction forces rushed to such scenes, but most often the enemy snipers simply dumped their rifles and blended into the neighborhood. They seemed nearly impossible to kill or capture.

    U.S. Sniping Successes
    While insurgent sniper attacks grew, U.S. Army and Marine snipers were proving their own against the insurgents. Marine Sgt. Joshua Clark and Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeff Pursley, for example, observed two vehicles halt at night to plant a bomb inside a junked car. While the insurgents unrolled detonation wires, the American snipers crept forward and fired, forcing several insurgents to flee, capturing one.

    U.S. Army snipers from the 3rd Infantry Division’s “Shadow Team” sniper detachment, led by Staff Sgt. Jim Gilliland, hid for 18 hours near Ramadi to stop IED-planters in a similar fashion, firing just three shots to down three terrorists.

    Another sniper team led by Marine Staff Sgt. Steve Reichert spotted a dead animal just ahead of a Marine patrol, with wires running from its carcass. After alerting his fellow Marines, Reichert turned his .50 BMG Barrett rifle toward an insurgent machine gunner, striking him down at 1,775 yards—more than a full mile.

    In another incident, a Marine sniper rushed to the aid of Marines taking fire from an insurgent concealed behind an automobile. The American sniper fired his heavy Barrett .50-cal. completely through the parked automobile, killing the terrorist.

    In Fallujah, Marine Sgt. John Ethan Place demonstrated skill and technique on par with the best snipers in Marine history. The 22-year-old sniper scored 32 confirmed kills in only 13 days and was awarded the Silver Star.

    Sgt. Herbert Hancock, chief scout-sniper with the 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment and a full-time Texas SWAT police sniper, and his teammate, Cpl. Geoffrey Flowers, spotted two black-robed insurgents manning a 120 mm mortar. Hancock laid his crosshair on one man, dropped him, then ran his bolt and got the second, too. The distance: an impressive 1,050 yards. An even farther long-range shot was fired by Marine Cpl. Matt Orth, who took out a terrorist 1,256 yards away...

    The full article can be found at;

    - Janq
    "Killers who are not deterred by laws against murder are not going to be deterred by laws against guns. " - Robert A. Levy

    "A license to carry a concealed weapon does not make you a free-lance policeman." - Florida Div. of Licensing

  2. #2
    Senior Member Array usmc3169's Avatar
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    the stories are true, the units and dates are in accurate. They should have done better research.

    no mention of some of the greater sniper heroes of the war either... including one that I know personally who took out 36 insurgents over a 12 hour period at ranges up to 1,000 meters..... Good article, had potential to be a GREAT article.
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

  3. #3
    Member Array Angry Bill's Avatar
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    I love sniper stories. I love USA snipers and the service they do for me, a civialian too much tax payer. I wish my tax money went 50% to the Marines, 25% to the Army, and 25% to the Air Force.
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    VIP Member Array dukalmighty's Avatar
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    I watched and tivoed a program on the history channel about snipers and some of the greatest shots,one british sniper killed a guy carrying a machine gun in Afghanistan over 2000 meters away IIRC,they tried to duplicate the shot stateside,but couldn't see the bullet strikes to be able to adjust fire to target
    "Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country,"
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  6. #5
    Distinguished Member Array Colin's Avatar
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    Not British:

    Killing shot made at distance of 2,430 metres
    Stephen Thorne
    Canadian Press
    A world-record killing shot by a Canadian sniper detachment in Afghanistan could never have been made with the ammunition they were issued when they left Edmonton last winter, the triggerman said in a recent interview. The Canadian .50-calibre rounds have a maximum range of between 2,200 and 2,300 metres.

    But the U.S. rounds, they discovered, "fly farther, faster," said Cpl. "Bill", a 26-year-old native of Fogo Island, Nfld.

    The two-man Canadian team, coupled with American Sgt. Zevon Durham of Greenville, S.C., made the kill from 2,430 metres, or nearly 2 1/2 kilometres, on the second shot.

    This feat is the equivalent of standing at the foot of Yonge St. and hitting a target in the intersection of Yonge and Wellesley Sts., just north of College St.

    The first shot blew a bag from the hand of their target, an Al Qaeda fighter walking on a road.

    "He didn't even flinch," said Bill, who spoke on condition that his real name not be used.

    "We made a correction and the next round hit exactly where we wanted it to. Well, a bit to the right."

    The kill, one of more than 20 unofficially accredited to Canadian snipers during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan's Shah-i-Kot Valley, beat the 35-year-old record of 2,500 yards, or 2,250 metres, set by U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock in Duc Pho, South Vietnam.

    Soldier of Fortune magazine estimated the number of kills made by the Canadians after talking to several U.S. soldiers in Kandahar for a cover story in its August edition.

    The snipers themselves will not confirm the figure.

    But judging from accounts given by Canadians involved in the first major coalition offensive of the Afghan war, the figure of at least 20 sounds conservative.

    The 800-strong 3rd battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry is pulling out this month.

    They'll first go through a reintegration process on the Pacific island of Guam before heading home to Edmonton.

    About 100 British Royal Marines, too, wrapped up their last combat mission in Afghanistan yesterday after four months in Afghanistan.

    The five Canadian snipers, outfitted with British desert fatigues and an array of equipment from all over the world, were divided into two detachments that earned the respect of their American brothers-in-arms after helping rescue dozens of paratroopers pinned down by enemy fire.

    The five have been nominated for one of the highest awards given by the United States military - the Bronze Star, two of them with Vs for Valour, marking exceptional bravery.

    Awarding of the American medal, which was to have been done at a ceremony along with other Anaconda veterans in Kandahar in April, has been delayed by Canadian protocol officials.

    But more important to the Canadians are the gestures from their American brethren who - while nearly killing them several times over with "friendly fire" - owe many lives to their shooting skills.

    "They trusted us to do our job, without question," said Master Cpl. "James," a 31-year-old native of Kingsville, Ont., who like Cpl. Bill asked that his identity not be revealed.

    At one point during a series of battles, one of the Canadians was without his rifle. Enemy bullets were hitting the earth all around. Mortars were dropping in front and behind them, some within 10 metres, bracketing their position and getting closer all the time. "They really hammered us," said Bill. He tried to get to their rifles but couldn't. Finally, an American sniper tossed him his rifle and said: "Here, you know how to use this better than I do."

    They held off the enemy until darkness descended and escaped.

    "They were instrumental in helping us achieve our goals out there," said 1st Lieut. Justin Overbaugh, 25, of Missoula, Mont., the soldier who recommended Bill and James for Bronze Stars.

    "They are professionals; they are very good at what they do; they train hard, they are very mature, they are tactically and technically proficient so when it came time to do business, they were on," he said. "If they told me I was going out right now, I'd be begging, kicking, screaming, crying for them to come with us."

    Bill and James said they pulled off several shots from 2,400 metres or more.

    "Shots out that far are 60 per cent skill and 40 per cent luck, or vice versa," said Bill. "Usually, it takes two or three rounds, sometimes five. "Normally, a sniper wouldn't take that many shots, but they were out so far we felt confident they couldn't tell where we were."

    One morning, the two Canadians were set up overlooking a compound when Al Qaeda fighters started "pouring out of buildings like ants." Bill started shooting while James called in a mortar attack, followed by B-52, F-16 and Apache helicopter strikes.

    In a separate incident, Bill and James found themselves looking up at a large dark object screaming out of the sky directly above them - a 220-kilogram American bomb.

    "We hit the deck and covered our heads with our hands," said James. The bomb landed 30 metres away, nose in, and never went off.

    "By the grace of God, it was a dud," said Bill. "It landed 15 metres from the B company (U.S. 101st Airborne Division) trenches. A guy got up, walked out of the trench and kicked the thing."

    Capt. Paul Madej, Operation Enduring Freedom chaplain, who debriefed the Canadians, described them: "The Canadian snipers are professional, well-trained soldiers who walked into harm's way and fulfilled their mission. They represent the best and they have our respect."

    With files from Associated Press

    Killing shot made at distance of 2,430 metres

  7. #6
    VIP Member Array rottkeeper's Avatar
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    My hats off to these men.

    What they do, under the conditions they are under, is truly amazing.
    For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the son of man be. Mathew 24:27

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    Member Array Chris Dawg's Avatar
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    A Barrett .50 will turn cover into concealment

  9. #8
    VIP Member Array oneshot's Avatar
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    The kill, one of more than 20 unofficially accredited to Canadian snipers during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan's Shah-i-Kot Valley, beat the 35-year-old record of 2,500 yards, or 2,250 metres, set by U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock in Duc Pho, South Vietnam.

    Not to take away from their achievement, BUT, Gunney Hathcock was Not using a .50 cal. He was using rem. 700 in 30.06, a much greater achievement I think

    Good post Jang,

    These cowards (the Insurgents) know they would never stand a chance against our soldiers if they fought with conventional warfare tactics, which is why it sickens me to hear these liberal panty waists cry about unfair war practices
    I got no use for them

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  10. #9
    Member Array Angry Bill's Avatar
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    like fighting from a mosque which are off limits to our troops? I Say turn the area into a glass lined parking lot ?
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    VIP Member Array zacii's Avatar
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    Sniping is an art. A mathematical and psychological feat.
    Trust in God and keep your powder dry

    "A heavily armed citizenry is not about overthrowing the government; it is about preventing the government from overthrowing liberty. A people stripped of their right of self defense is defenseless against their own government." -source

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  13. #12
    Senior Member Array kellyII's Avatar
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    I just love reading stories of snipers popping an insurgent and making an unbelievable shot

  14. #13
    OD* is online now
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    Quote Originally Posted by oneshot View Post
    Not to take away from their achievement, BUT, Gunney Hathcock was Not using a .50 cal. He was using rem. 700 in 30.06, a much greater achievement I think
    His shot of 2500+ yards was done with a .50 caliber M2 Browning machine gun. His 700 yard killing shot of a NVA general was made with a Winchester Model 70. Sgt. Chuck Mawhinney (103 confirmed kills) used M40-A1 Remington.
    "The pistol, learn it well, carry it always ..." ~ Jeff Cooper

    "Terrorists: They hated you yesterday, they hate you today, and they will hate you tomorrow.
    End the cycle of hatred, don’t give them a tomorrow."

  15. #14
    VIP Member Array searcher 45's Avatar
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    Good read and good work by our forces.

    Is my thinking right, squad marksman 5.56 on M4 platform, Platoon marksman 7.62x51 on M 14 platform and the 50cal on the Barrett platform at company level and above?
    I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness,
    nor the arrow for its swiftness,
    nor the warrior for his glory.
    I love only that which they defend.
    -J.R.R. Tolkien

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