marksman rifle

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M76

Yugoslavian sniper rifle chambered in 8mm Mauser. It is basically an enlarged AK action and operates and disassembles like one. Although referred to as a sniper rifle, by most standards it fits the role of a DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle). This particular example is a reweld; the receiver was cut into pieces upon import into the U.S but was welding back together with new receiver sections. Note the correct lightening cuts on the receiver, something that is always incorrect on U.S made M76 receivers. (GRH)

Snipers

“We have been trekking hard all these last days. Heat and dust terrible… We got in a wood and were surrounded by Germans. The Germans are very fond of wood fighting and detail snipers to get up trees. We lost considerably including nine officers.” Letter from Lt. Neville Woodroffe during the Mons Retreat, 1914.

Snipers can trace their lineage to hunters who began using rifled firearms that could fire accurately at longer rangers. In the North American colonies, settlers adapted the rifle to warfare, and riflemen were used as snipers by both sides during the American Revolutionary War, and by the British in the Napoleonic Wars. During the Second Boer War, Boer marksman with accurate Mauser rifles took a heavy toll on regular British forces. In response, the British formed the first professional unit of trained snipers, the Lovat Scouts, using telescopic rifles and wearing camouflage suits. Their commander said of them that they were “half wolf and half jackrabbit.“

A British officer shoots from a camouflaged position.

The trench warfare of the First World War suited the sniper perfectly. At the beginning of the war, sniping was an amateur affair, practiced mostly by officers used to hunting from before the war. Armed with personal hunting rifles, sharpshooters spent their spare time trying to pick off enemy soldiers. Only the Imperial German Army issued out telescopic sites, and soon the trained German snipers developed a fearsome reputation in the Entente armies.

In response, the British and French set about professionalizing their own marksmen. Big-game hunters like Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard worked hard to develop sniper tactics to counter the Germans. All armies set up training schools, and following in the Germans’ wake the British and French began issuing standard-issue scoped rifles. Optics underwent significant development; a major example was the “periscope” rifle that used sloped mirrors to allow soldiers to fire without revealing themselves above the trench parapet.

A British soldier at Gallipoli tries to lure Turkish snipers into firing; his friends don’t seem amused.

As snipers improved in quality, the danger they posed increased. Working in pairs, snipers were expected to memorize the layout of the land in front of them, noticing any subtle change. They wore camouflage and shot from disguised or armored positions to remain safe themselves while they watched for any sudden enemy movement. Even a man who exposed himself for a fraction of a second might become a casualty. The most valuable targets were officers, signalers trying to lay communication lines, and soldiers bringing up rations from field kitchens.

A camouflaged British marksman next to a fake tree he used as a platform.

The sniper war became a daily feature of life on the front line.  Soldiers developed methods to cope. Robert Graves remembered being troubled by one particular German sniper, but he found a response: “Later we secured an elephant-gun that could send a bullet through enemy loopholes and if we failed to locate the loop-hole of a persistent sniper, we tried to dislodge him with a volley of rifle-grenades, or even by ringing up the artillery.”

The randomness of death scared troops. It even created one superstition - never light a cigarette three times from the same match. “The sniper sees the first light, he hones in on the second, and when he sees the third he takes the shot.”

Anzac troops use a periscope rifle on Gallipoli.

Soldiers hated snipers and a captured one could expect no mercy. Nevertheless, sniping had a mental toll of its own. Some treated it like hunting, but others were disturbed by its oddly personal nature. R. A. Chell remembered feeling so during his first try at it:

“After about fifteen minutes quiet watching - with my rifle in a ready position - I saw a capless bald head come up behind the plate. The day was bright and clear and I hadn’t the slightest difficulty in taking a most deliberate aim at the very centre of that bright and shiny plate - but somehow I couldn’t press the trigger: to shoot such a ‘sitter’ so deliberately in cold blood required more real courage than I possessed. After a good look round he went down and I argued with myself about my duty. My bald-headed opponent had been given a very sporting chance and if he were fool enough to come up again I must shoot him unflinchingly. I considered it my duty to be absolutely ready for that contingency. After about two minutes he came up again with added boldness and I did my duty. I had been a marksman before the war and so had no doubt about the instantaneousness of that man’s death. I felt funny for days and the shooting of another German at 'stand-to’ the next morning did nothing to remove those horrid feelings I had.”

4

Whitworth target rifle

Designed in 1858, manufactured in Birmingham, United Kingdom c.1863.
.451(bore)/.475(rifling), hexagonal lead bullet, caplock, single shot.

One of the most sough-after long-distance rifle in both side of the American Civil War, one such rifle was used by a Confederate sniper at the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse to land a hit just below Union Major General John “Uncle John” Sedgwick’s left eye, who himself probably gave us the best last word ever uttered :

“What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line? Why are you dodging like this? They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”

Another Whitworth rifle fitted with a William Malcolm scope.

Roza Shanina | Роза Шанина

Soviet sniper during World War II who was credited with fifty-nine confirmed kills, including twelve soldiers during the Battle of Vilnius. Shanina volunteered for the military after the death of her brother in 1941 and chose to be a marksman on the front line. Praised for her shooting accuracy, Shanina was capable of precisely hitting enemy personnel and making doublets (two target hits by two rounds fired in quick succession).

An Iraqi policeman with a Tabuk designated marksman’s rifle. Built using Zastava Arms designs and machinery sold to Iraq in the mid-70s, the rifle is semi-auto only and is well-liked for being able to perform at the same ranges as the PSL and Dragunov rifles of the same family tree. It is also well-liked for having a near-identical profile to the RPK and M72 weapons and an identical sound signature to AK-variant rifles, making identification of sniper by the enemy far more difficult.

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Only the strongest will survive
Lead me to heaven, when we die
I am the shadow on the wall
I’ll be the one to save us all

- Breaking Benjamin (Blow Me Away)

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//Cayde-6 Reminisces//

Wha–, Oh, you mean this old thing? Not for sale. Not mine to sell, truth be told. This here, this is an old deck of playing cards, pre-Golden Age. No kidding, this is about the oldest, fanciest damn deck of cards on the whole planet.

Here, fine, take a look. Hey now, that’s look, not touch buddy! Just a few of these cards could pay for your next Sparrow. See why? Gold bordering on the edges,  filigree on the backs, the works. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.  Too busy making guns, I guess.

Only been played with a handful of times, since the owner dug 'em out of some rubble in Old Vegas, anyway. He only whipped these bad boys out on very… special…occasions, and only with the closest of friends.

The owner? Guy went by the name of Andal Brask. Y'know,  the Hunter Vanguard before yours truly? You might’ve heard of him. Andal Brask is…was… a bit of a legend.

Hehe, and an idiot. Sly bastard would put money on 'bout anything. Always had something to bet on. Always had a pair of dice in his pocket. Always a deck of cards on his belt.

But more than that, he always had your back. Guy was a hell of a marksman, give him a rifle and he could take the hat off a Knight from across the Hellmouth. Couldn’t tell ya how many times he saved my skin.

I eventually gave him a nickname, “Angel Brask”, on account of him always being the angel over my shoulder with that rifle of his.  I thought it was clever. He hated it. Thought it sounded too sappy. Too…pure…for a sleezy old bastard such as himself.

Can’t help but wonder what he thinks of it now…