While Invisible I See and Destroy

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Before concluding dangerously that the Soviet-era sniper is a pushover, recall Vassili Zaitsev at Stalingrad, who killed more than 400 Germans with his sniper rifle. Or how about the naval infantryman Filipp Yakovlevich, who shot 346 of the Reich's warriors in the Caucasus.

The Germans frequently cursed "Slav cunning," as they called the perfectly executed fieldcraft and tactics of their Russian tormentors. This is not far removed from my belief that the best snipers are "close to the earth"—men who feel best in the outdoors and hunt other men with the natural talent that some men display when throwing a baseball or riding a surfboard. With a sizable segment of its society still on farms or roughing it in a Siberian wilderness every bit as untamed as Alaska, Russia has many men close to the earth, and such men don't need the most advanced sniper weapon in the world to engage their quarry.

German Major Koning's 7.92mm Mauser rifle and superb scope certainly were superior to Zaitsev's Mosin-Nagant, but this didn't determine the outcome of their duel. The Soviet army sniper's motto, dating back to World War II, emphasizes fieldcraft, not marksmanship: "While invisible, I see and destroy."

The Soviet sniper could probably apply this "cunning" more often if he were allowed to operate independently as a two-man team. This is not the way Russian snipers are organized, however, and it is not the way they operate, either.

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