Simply said, the Soviet sniper is the best shot in his platoon, based on an assessment after he arrives at his unit.
Most likely, prior to his induction the sniper was a member of his neighborhood DOSAAF (Voluntary Society of Assistance to the Army, Aviation, and Navy) shooting club and ideally should have been an accomplished competitive rifleman. The Soviet civilian marksmanship training/competition system, which includes DOSAAF, is first-rate, having produced world and Olympic shooting champions.
In addition to having DOSAAF experience, the sniper candidate is "physically fit and hardy with sharp vision and hearing, a good memory and quick reactions," according to Col. R. Minin, "honored master of sport, honored USSR coach in rifle shooting." Experienced hunters, the colonel says, are also of special interest.
After selection, the sniper candidate attends a division-level sniper school with all the candidate snipers from his regiment. This four-week course is conducted twice a year for each regiment, meaning some six division-level cycles per year, or a very steady training program.
At the start of the school, the novice is matched with an experienced sniper who can help coach and train him, presuming there are enough course graduates in his unit and they are available for a refresher sniper course. Apparently, all the soldiers are treated as students by the course cadre, and even the qualified snipers must shoot the final record fire as a kind of recertification. This two-man team exists in training only, not in their unit; it's a "training buddy" kind of relationship.
Out of about 200 hours scheduled training, 88 are devoted to marksmanship, 43 to tactical training, political training for 16 hours, engineer tasks for 10 hours, physical training for 11 hours, land navigation for 9 hours, and various tests 12 hours.
Course content is predictable, with the first week spent on marksmanship fundamentals and an introduction to the SVD. The other weeks are logically divided into general blocks on operations in the defense and offense.
What I've found most interesting in studying the Soviet sniper training program is their concept of marksmanship and their primitive attitude about accuracy. This is quite apparent in their practice and qualification courses of fire.
For example, in both practice and record fires, students almost never shoot more than 700 meters, and the sniper typically has 15 to 30 seconds to locate and engage a target—standards considerably easier than their Western counterparts. And to make target detection simpler, the Soviets fire simulators near the daylight targets and highlight night ones with ER light. Furthermore, in order to pass a go/no-go final record fire, the sniper need only score 50 percent hits! (If fired as a team, 70 percent is needed to pass.) There is no induced stress during firing.
But what I find most surprising is the lackadaisical way tracer and ball ammo are fired interchangeably, even in their qualification shooting. This means the Soviet program does not know or place enough emphasis on precision shooting to appreciate the significant trajectory variances between Soviet Type D 185-grain boat-tai] ball exiting the muzzle at 2,720 fps and T-46 149-grain flatbase tracer, with a muzzle velocity of 2,850 fps. This underscores my earlier point about the Soviet concept being long-range aimed fire, not precision shooting.
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Deer hunting is an interesting thing that reminds you of those golden old ages of 19th centuries, where a handsome hunk well equipped with all hunting material rides on horse searching for his target animal either for the purpose of displaying his masculine powers or for enticing and wooing his lady love.