Military Sniper Target Priorities

Spec Ops Shooting

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One of sniping's biggest illusions is that a sniper engages targets at leisure, for however long he wants, while the enemy cooperatively remains in the open like some splendid shooting gallery. Baloney!

Unless you stumble upon totally green troops or armed imbeciles, they'll vanish less than a second after hearing your first shot, instantly return fire, and do their utmost to kill you. A sniper must weigh his first shot because any subsequent shots will be against an alert enemy staying invisible and shooting back.

Your first shot must be your best, and for that reason you aim it at the most valuable target you can find, possibly even ignoring some initial targets in hopes that a better one will materialize. These are judgment calls based on a clear understanding of which targets are the most important—your priority targets.

Target Priorities

Day or night, in any situation, your top priority always is your enemy counterpart—a bad-guy sniper outfitted with an optically equipped rifle.

The enemy sniper is always priority one because, more so than any other hostile, he has the optics, training, ballistic performance, and perspective to eliminate you. If you're snuffed out, you can hardly accomplish any further sniping engagements; indeed, you will have yielded all local sniping capabilities to the enemy. On the other hand, by preemptively disposing of your foe, you'll be free to dominate the local long-range shooting environment.

Wrapped together with this top priority target is any enemy who can see you and poses a direct threat. Self-defense comes automatically.

Following this category, your priorities are leaders, crew-served weapons crewmen, and critical materiel targets, but not necessarily in that order. You'll have to reshuffle these to fit your situation or to coincide with the plans of the unit you're supporting.

For example, I would urge you to "decapitate" his leadership when the enemy's on the offense, because degrading his coordination and command will decisively affect his attack. When he's in the defense, however, I'd assign priority to crew-served weapons over leaders since the enemy will fight from where he is, and command and control won't affect the outcome nearly so much.

Leaders include both officers and noncommissioned officers, in that order. Understandably, you'd first engage the highest-ranking officer visible.

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