Breaking An Engagement

Spec Ops Shooting

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How many rounds does a sniper fire in a single engagement? I'll give you some food for thought.

Ordinarily you can count on only one shot per engagement, not just because your targets will disappear and aggressively react, but a second or third round could very well pinpoint your location. Think about it: your first round surprises the enemy, but they still learn your general direction and distance; a second shot has their every eye and ear turned your way; and a third? Well, it can only raise your insurance premiums.

Your first target is critically important since in most cases it's the only target you'll have. Within a half-second of your shot, the enemy will already have disappeared from view. One-quarter of a second later, they'll be blasting away in hopes of hitting you. Five more seconds and they'll be calling for artillery or mortars. As the rounds begin falling, they'll dispatch a maneuver force to sweep you up.

Don't underestimate the intensity and volume of enemy counterfire. A Soviet-style platoon having 22 AKs and three PK machine guns, even when spraying haphazardly in your direction, packs a lot of firepower. Assuming each man fires one magazine and the machine gunners let loose with only a half-belt apiece, that's still 740 rounds, all ripping your way in probably less than five seconds.

If your hide is even slightly conspicuous—say they guess you're in a particular shadow that's 20 feet deep and 6 feet wide— and you're hunkered down "safely" behind sandbags and firing through only a 6-inch-wide loophole, you're still likely to have big problems. Mathematically, even with them randomly firing into this general area, it means 6.1 rounds will enter that narrow 6-inch loophole and ruin your day. (And that's firing just one magazine apiece and excludes other weapons they'd likely employ, such as AGS-17 grenade launchers or heavy machine guns, not to mention indirect fire.)

On the other hand, if your hide is more than 600 yards away, it becomes very difficult to detect you. It's possible you could catch a sizable enemy unit in the open and, like Carlos Hathcock, the USMC's renowned Vietnam sniper, engage them at leisure for two days from a single hide. Perhaps the enemy's green or demoralized, or it's just a single squad, or the terrain decisively favors you. These are judgment calls.

When you're firing in support of a friendly unit in the attack, the enemy defenders will be so preoccupied with those visible attackers that they'll barely notice your sniper fire. The same is true when you're firing in support of a unit's defense; the enemy is so fixated on other fire and actions that he cannot respond effectively to your shooting.

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