Sniping is a Singular Skillset with Specialized Tools

Hello! I just read that a fatal shot by 1000yd for a killer is a bad tactical choice, because of all the possible variables (mobility of the target, time [1-2s are needed at this distance, is that right?], weather etc.). What do you think about it?

I don’t agree with the, “bad tactical choice,” angle. I’m honestly not sure where that’s coming from.

If your weapon is a .308 or (worse), a 5.56mm, you don’t have the option at all. Those rounds are not effective at that range. On the other hand, if you have something like a .338 Lapua Magnum or one of the 12.7mm AM rifles, it’s entirely possible you could put someone down at over 1km.

So, is it, “a bad tactical choice?” No, it’s a specific choice. It will be a very difficult shot, but it’s not impossible. This is why dedicated snipers are specialists. It is a singular skillset. Travel time affecting where the target will be is ironically one of the smaller considerations. Being able to predict where someone will be in a little over a second is trivial in comparison to accounting for things like gravity, cross winds, air pressure changes, and the earth’s rotation. All of which become real considerations when you’re putting bullets into targets at extreme ranges.

Hitting targets at over 1km are shots that your average shooter would not be able to make, and very few common rifles are even effective at those ranges. This is, quite literally, why rounds like .338 were developed. To give military snipers a round that could penetrate body armor at 1,000 yards.

So, if your sniper has the skill set, the experience, and the weapon, being able to kill someone at 1,000 yards, and then escape before the enemy can locate where the shot came from, is a very sound option.

Having said that, you will frequently see snipers in fiction making pretty egregious tactical blunders. A couple big ones are snipers setting up in locations that leave them very exposed, and don’t give them enough escape routes. Setting up on rooftops ticks both of these boxes.

If you’re on the roof of a building, you’ve got limited ways down and are visible to anyone who looks up. This is fine for security marksmen, who don’t need to worry about being hunted down if they take a shot, but for an assassin it’s a huge liability. If the responding security group knows they were in that building, and can lock it down before the sniper is outside, they’re trapped.

A shot from a lower floor can be just as effective, but harder to pinpoint, and puts the sniper closer to an escape onto the street.

Now, a sniper rifle is a poor tool for a professional assassin, for reasons that might not be entirely obvious. Rifles, even mass produced ones, are still individual mechanical objects. They have quirks, and these will become more noticeable when you’re using them at extreme ranges. A sniper will spend a lot of time working with their rifle and documenting exactly how it behaves, so they can account for that when the time comes to put a round into someone at over 2km. (Yeah, when we’re talking about the .338 Lapua Magnum, it’s worth remembering this round has a maximum effective range somewhere around 2.7km.)

For a professional assassin (who doesn’t want to have all their hits linked together by police forensics), their firearms are disposable. If you used a gun to kill someone, that bullet is on file somewhere, and it’s time to slag the gun and get a replacement. Obviously, extremely expensive rifles with long acclimation periods are not a good fit for this approach to firearms. Something like a SIG 716 would still run a couple grand, but if you’re only putting a 7.62 round into someone at 500m, it’s a lot easier to build your proficiency to that point, and as a semi-auto rifle, it’s a lot easier to quickly account for errors and idiosyncrasies of the rifle.

But, yeah, if your situation is one where you can set up and wait (possibly for days) until you can take the shot and escape undetected, snipers are a valid tactical option. If you’re asking about getting into close range firefights, these kinds of precision rifles are going to fair much worse.

-Starke

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