Military Life

7 things all troops should know before becoming a sniper

For decades, snipers have been a dominating instrument of warfare striking fear in the heart of their enemies — scoring record kill shots from distances up to two miles away.


With Hollywood tapping into the sniper lifestyle with such films as "American Sniper" and the "Sniper" franchise, many young troops get a misconception of what it's like to be one.

Related: 6 things corpsmen should know before going to the 'Greenside'

So we asked a few veteran snipers what would they want young troops to know before embarking on the intense journey to become a sniper. Here's what they said:

1. It's not like in the movies

Hollywood often showcases a sniper as a single-man force tracking down that perfect location to take that most concealed shot possible.

In modern day, scout sniper teams typically consist of 4-8 man teams consisting of a shooter, spotter, radioman, and additional troops to provide security.

A Scout Sniper team from 3rd Battalion 5th Marines (Darkhorse) during cold weather training in Bridgeport, Ca. (Source: Mark Hamett)

2. Shooting is only a fraction of what a sniper does

A sniper needs to properly plan the mission, insert and quietly maneuver to a well-concealed firing location, stalk his prey, complete the math calculation before firing his weapon accordingly, then safely egress out.

A mission could last days.

3. Have mental conditioning

Being sniper isn't just about being an excellent marksman — although that's important. But when you're in an operational status, a sniper has to overcome many mental constraints like lack of sleep and sometimes limited rations. The teams typically only leave the wire with what supplies they can carry — and that's it.

The teams are usually outnumbered by the enemy and must maintain discipline throughout the mission. If the sniper has a mental breakdown in the field, the mission could be lost.

A scout sniper candidate as he as crawls through a swampy area.

4. Patience is a virtue

Making a mistake because the sniper is in a hurry is unacceptable and can get him killed. A sniper's hyperactive moment could result in death.

5. The selection

Completing sniper indoctrination doesn't guarantee a spot in the platoon. Sniper teams look for the guy who is not only capable of firing that perfect shot but has an outgoing personality. Once a troop is selected, they will go on to the next phase of intense sniper training.

Also Read: 9 things you should know before becoming a Marine infantry officer

6. It's constant training and learning

Battlefield tactics change and evolve based on the environment the shooter is facing. That said, a sniper team must be able to adapt and overcome any situation that presents itself.

If the wind keeps up or the sniper is forced to relocate, he will more than likely have to reconfigure his sight alignment within moments.

A U.S. Army sniper using a Barrett M82.

7. It's not a way out of the infantry

Young troops tend to believe that going through the sniper pipeline is an easy way out of the grunt lifestyle. To outsiders, life in the scout sniper platoons can appear more glamorous because of the modernized gear they train with and operate.

The truth is, that's just additional heavy gear they must haul during their missions.