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Spec Ops Shooting

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BASIC UNIFORM: The Marine Corps digital camouflage pattern uniforms are certainly suitable as a sniper's basic field camouflage, as is the Army's woodland pattern or desert three-color Battle Dress Uniform, or BDU. The newer Army Combat Uniform (ACU), however, appears so light colored, at least to me, that it seems best suited for a desert environment. All these uniforms have reinforced knees and elbows and lots of pockets.

GORE-TEX RAINWEAR: It's hard not to be a fan of clothing made from this high-tech material, which is derived from the same Teflon used to line frying pans. Containing millions of pores per square inch, Gore-Tex cloth is actually a membrane that allows your body heat to pass out, but the pores are too tiny to allow water to soak in. A sniper who's comfortable can remain in position much longer than can a wet, miserable man—and if hypothermia sets in, you cannot hold your rifle steady. Gore-Tex as an outer layer also shields you against wind and thus windchill. Available in several weights, the best for field use is the heavy type found on the military's Extreme Cold Weather Clothing System. The only downside is

HIGH-TECH CLOTHING. The civilian-style Gore-Tex jacket (left) is useful, but medium-weight Gore-Tex with Thinsulate liner (center) is handier. Heavyweight Gore-Tex, along with polypro T-shirt and double-layer Polarfleece liner (right), prepares a sniper even for subzero cold. The boots contain a Gore-Tex liner and Thinsulate insulation. (Photo credit Roger Kennedy)

the audible rustle from heavy Gore-Tex, which is not too big a problem since snipers aren't in the business of sentry removal anyhow. Still, if you're concerned about rustle, you can wear BDUs over the Gore-Tex to silcnce it, while a special GoreTex Stealth Suit is available with a soft outer layer.

TORSO INSULATION: Since it contains your heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver, you should take special care to keep your torso warm and insulated. A wool sweater is excellent because wool retains most of its insulation properties even when wet. Also, a Thinsulate jacket liner works well since it provides warmth similar to down, but with much less bulk.

POLYPROPYLENE UNDERWEAR: Polypro is to underwear what Gore-Tex is to outerwear—a high-tech solution to your problems. Because it wicks dampness away from your body, polypro underwear keeps you warm without sweat accumulation and dampness. It works great in combination with Gore-Tex.

HEADGEAR: You should have a soft, jungle-style hat for warm weather because it creates an irregular, difficult-to-detect outline. For cooler temps and night, wear a wool navy-style watch cap. Remember that your body loses about 15 percent of its heat through your head.

GLOVES: Very popular among snipers are military aviator's gloves made from fireproof Nomex and leather. You need only cut off the trigger finger to adapt these snug gloves for sniper use. If you use Nomex gloves—or any other type— you must make a point of wearing them during shooting practice, too.

BOOTS: These are your option, with many types and materials available. Just be sure you don't make the mistake of using lightweight and comfortable boots when you need heavier ones. Police snipers should wear their tac team boots during ordinary uniform duty so they can deploy instantly without changing footgear and so their boots are broken in and comfortable.

NAVIGATION AIDS. While a GPS is useful, a compass is essential for both military arid police snipers.

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COMPASS AND GPS: A sniper team may use three different compasses. A wrist compass is handy for keeping track of your direction and matching landmarks around you to your map. Better precision results from a prismatic compass, and better yet is a military lensatic. A Global Positioning System is even more precise and the fastest way to direct GPS-guided munitions—but if the battery goes out, you'll still need a quality lensatic compass.

REFLECTOR/LUMINOUS TACKS: These tacks can be prepositioned to identify' drop-off or rendezvous points, especially when conducting vehicular infils and exiils in countemarcotics and low-intensity conflict operations.

Signal and Illumination Devices

RADIOS: Voice-activated (VOX) radios leave hands free to aim the rifle and pull the trigger

SIGNAL AND ILLUMINATION AIDS. VOX radios and signal devices are critical tools, but they must be used passively and without detection to be effective.

during hostage rescue countdown shooting. They're made in headset style, as an adapter unit for ordinary police handy-talkies, and some have a microphone built into the ear mike for amazingly compact operation. Stealth/secure radios are preferable but not always available (and if you don't have a spare battery, that's when you'll need one).

SIGNAL MIRROR: Since the signal mirror is our first signal device, it must be emphasized here that such devices are either "passive"—they can be controlled so only a friendly will see it, like our signal mirror—or they're "active" and everyone in the area will notice it, which includes flares and smoke grenades. Signal mirrors come in two sizes, but the important thing is that they're good glass and have a screen hole in the center for aiming at your recipient. They're only usable in daytime with direct sunlight. Mirrors also are used for peeking around comers and over edges to look for a hidden hostile sniper.

sniper unit organization and equipment

GLINT TAPE: This dull black tape (or squares of it) resembles ordinary duct tape and will not rcflect visible light. However, the coded IR light of an AC-130 Spectre gunship makes it brilliantly shine and flash—yet its visible only to those viewing through night vision devices. Glint tape is sewn or glued to helmets and shoulders for instant night recognition.

SIGNAL PANELS: Another passive device for daytime use only, a neon orange panel is highly \isible to aircraft and distant viewers. To make your own, purchase one yard of neon orange ripstop nylon material at a fabric store, then quarter it and tape the edges. For a first-class panel, attach camouflage material to the back. You'll have four panels for about S5 each.

SMOKE GRENADES: Useful only in daylight, a smoke grenade is visible to anyone looking in your direction. They're available as large, military-type smokes spewing lots of smoke or smaller mini smokes you can carry in your pocket that produce less smoke. One more land is white phosphorous (WP), feared for the dangerous flaming fragments it produces but very much appreciated for the instant mushroom burst of white it exudes. The WP, though dangerous, is the best possible smoke to employ in thick jungle.

WHISTLE: A whistle works fine day or night; but it has a very limited range, useful only to signal people near you. But a whistle can be heard farther away than a voice can.

PEN FLARES: These are visible both day and night and, because they burst above trees and horizon, are useful to signal both air and ground forces. However, pen flares bum out quickly and can easily go unnoticed in daylight.

FLASHLIGHTS: Used both to signal and illuminate, flashlights can be made passive by attaching an infrared filter so only someone using a NOD can see them. Each flashlight needs a red filter so it won't degrade night vision. A spotter may use a large flashlight to illuminate a suspect up to 100 yards away for his sniper to engage. Since a large flashlight is clumsy and too easily lost if carried on your vest/webgear, stow- it in your light rucksack.

CHEMLIGHTS AND HOLDER: Chem-

lights come in an amazing variety—a half dozen different colors, about three different light intensities, multiple-hour durations, and as visible or infrared light. Use them to mark routes and boundaries, designate where fields of fire start or end, signal aircraft, and aid in recognition. The nontoxic liquid can even be poured out to mark a surface like a vehicle top. Special chemlight holders are available that can control the amount of light seen and make it directional.

STROBE LIGHT: Generating short bursts of light in the hundreds of thousands of lumens, a strobe can be seen miles away and works great in rural areas but becomes too easily absorbed in the clutter of lights in an urban area. A strobe light primarily is employed to signal from ground to air. But be very cautious when using a strobe around inexperienced helicopter pilots, who can mistake it for hostile muzzle flashes. An infrared filter allows night strobe signaling that's not visible to naked eyes.

PENCIL AND NOTEBOOK: These should be obvious, but it's the obvious things that tend to be forgotten. Keep the notebook in a sealable plastic bag. And recall that a pencil is better for field use than a pen because it can write even on wet paper and won't freeze.

MINT CASSETTE RECORDER: It's difficult to keep notes in darkness, and the option of just remembering until dawn ma}' not be feasible. A mini cassette recorder is an excellent solution, but if you're a police sniper, don't forget that whatever you record can be taken out of context in a future legal action, so keep your verbal notes short and factual.

RECOGNITION AIDS: These include a host of materials and devices—luminous tape, scarves, garters, chemlights, bright lettering on jackets, etc.—used to enable friendlies to instantly recognize other friendlies, which can become complicated by darkness or multiple agencies or units participating in an operation. Depending on the operation, recognition aids may extend to vehicles as well; recall that Allied vehicles in Operation Desert Storm had black-and-white Vs prominently displayed on their tops and sides. Recognition aids could be helpful in some police operations that employ unmarked cars.

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