Outline of Sniper Tactics
"When you've got the best of it, make the most of it." – Mason Malmuth
“Constant gaining and breaking ground in the effort to obtain the distance which suits you best – to get where you are safe and he isn’t.” – Bruce Lee
“Intercepting an attack only works if you are at the fighting measure and he has to take a step forward to touch, thus giving you time to react. If you control distance, you are also controlling time.”
– Tim Tackett
A. Timing. Psychologically, soldiers are weakest immediately after a win.
1. Let them pass gauntlet of tall buildings, then attack from basements.
2. When soldiers are fleeing, you can kill them as fast as you can fire.
3. Victorious soldiers are focused only on raping, looting and sleeping.
4. Let invaders pass by, then attack them from behind after the battle.
B. Position. Select neither a panoramic view nor a tiny loophole.
1. Positions with a wide view are easily identified and targeted early.
2. Positions with a wide view are elevated and thus easily encircled.
3. If you are too hidden, nobody will walk in front of your loophole.
4. If it is hard for the invaders to find you, it is hard for you to scram.
5. There are many semi-concealed hides; quantity makes them obscure.
C. Elevation. Stay in the basement or first floor of most buildings.
1. No Russian vehicle can depress its main gun below -6’.
2. If the ground is frozen, basements will protect one from artillery.
3. The roof and top floors of buildings will be destroyed by artillery.
4. Avoid skyscrapers; they are easily encircled and have solid windows.
5. Apartments and hotels are wider and have windows and balconies.
6. Only go into upper stories if all the nearby buildings are multi-story.
D. Teamwork. Most of the advantages of teams apply only to the invaders.
1. Crew served weapons reduce willful misses by reluctant killers.
2. In static positions (e.g. on a skyscraper) teams have more endurance.
3. Rifles fire sideways and binoculars look forward; it is hard to do both.
4. Two men and a rifle do not fit on a motorcycle, but cars are too slow.
5. For the defenders, mobility is all important and teams are a hindrance.
E. Move. The moment you stop moving is the moment you stop moving.
1. If at all possible, do not get out of your getaway vehicle.
2. Keep a warren of streets behind you. Fire over obstacles like canals.
3. Never climb high into narrow buildings that can be easily encircled.
4. In wide apartments and hotels, mouse-hole between interior rooms.
F. Hug. Move alongside a column of troops 300 to 500 yards from them.
1. Inside 200 yards you are vulnerable to SAWs and RPGs.
2. Outside 600 yards you are vulnerable to artillery and air strikes.
3. Stay in the safety zone; fire when there is an obstacle to shoot over.
G. Surprise. Fire when the invaders are distracted or not expecting a shot.
1. Invader's attacks on buildings are initiated with flash bang grenades.
2. Barrels of ANFO are ineffective weapons but are useful diversions.
3. Never fake randomness. Choose among your options by rolling dice.
H. Illuminate. The battlefield is defined by who can see whom and when.
1. Do not use a light yourself. You see glare and the invaders see you.
2. From 90° away have a helper clamp a light down, turn it on and run.
3. Radar can see mortar shells. Do not use them to launch flares.
4. Deploy flares with small, remote-control rockets.
I. Divide. Engage the invaders when they are crossing a boundary.
1. Fire when half the invaders are inside a building and half outside it.
2. Fire when half the invaders are in open and half in rough terrain.
3. Fire at dawn or dusk when neither infrared nor visible light is optimal.
4. Fire from one unit's area of operation into another's AO.
J. Pin. Your first shot pins the invaders down. Follow-up shots kill them.
1. Aim to break a soldier's pelvis. He cannot run and must be carried.
a. The center of mass (hips, not heart) moves around the least.
b. A .308 at 500 yards will not penetrate the armor over the heart.
c. If cutting the femoral artery does not kill him, just shoot him again.
2. Induce the invaders to hide behind non-bulletproof objects like trees.
a. They will run if engaged in the open and you will only get one shot.
b. They will hide if engaged near trees. Just shoot through each tree.
K. Escape. Trap your pursuers in an apartment complex or cul-de-sac.
1. Park your motorcycle in the living room and fire off the kitchen table.
2. Drive your motorcycle away through narrow pedestrian walkways.
3. Have a helper chain the gates shut to lock the pursuit vehicles in.
4. Change vehicles under overhead cover to lose any airborne pursuit.
5. Anti-tank missiles will not recognize a motorcycle and will fly past it.
L. Sidearm. I recommend the Ruger Mark III.
1. Shoot dirt banks to create dust for wind reading.
2. Low recoil is more important than power against dogs.
3. Silently shoot enemy soldiers who blunder into you.
M. Tall Buildings. The only high ground that the enemy holds.
1. Helicopters will insert snipers and MG on roof, but not guns.
a. Position heavy machine guns to shoot them during insertion.
b. SV-98 7.62 mm sniper rifle is dangerous out to 1000 m.
c. OSV-94 12.7 mm sniper rifle is dangerous out to 1200 m.
d. Kord 12.7 mm heavy machine gun is dangerous out to 2000 m.
e. M-99 76 mm gun unlikely; requires large helicopters to insert.
e. M-99 cannot lower elevation enough to hit close-in targets.
2. Position mortars to shell rooftops of tallest buildings in town.
a. Use the direct-fire version of my mortar fire control software.
b. Define the roof to be ground level so muzzle height is negative.
c. Click here for the formula for the height of office buildings.
d. Fire from downwind of building to maximize accuracy. Note.
e. Reduce powder charge to get an angle of descent > 45°
3. Position incendiaries to burn off rooftop ahead of time.
a. Defending the rooftop from helicopters requires SAMs.
b. Destroying the building requires massive explosives.
c. Best bet is to set the roof on fire before the invasion.
d. Burnt roof provides an unstable platform for guns, MG.
N. Desertion. Men desert to save their wives and children, not themselves.
1. The principle advantage of the invaders is that their families are safe.
2. Never pad troop numbers with married men; have them dig bunkers.
3. Recruit only unmarried men and women to be civilian snipers.
4. Women make better snipers than men because they posture less.
What is the single worst tactic for the civilian sniper? Engaging mounted troops from over 600 yards away by firing down the length (the long axis) of a street. The enemy has cannons that, unlike your deer rifle, really are accurate at that range. Also, they have vehicles that can quickly close in on you with machine guns and grenade launchers, which are very dangerous at close range. Thus, by attempting a shot that you will probably miss, you have given the enemy two can’t-miss opportunities to kill you. Asymmetry is supposed to work the other way around.
This failed sniper action during the U.S. Civil War illustrates how the
single worst tactic described above can lead to the loss of one's entire
Quotations from Timothy Thomas’ paper, Battle for Grozny: “Mobility was the key to success against the slower and heavier Russian force… The Chechen force exploited Russian disorientation by moving behind and parallel to the Russian force once it entered the city’ Chechens used civil defense as well as underground sewage and water tunnels both to flank and to get into the rear of military units… Female snipers were rumored to be fighting for the Chechens… The Chechens fought in a non-traditional way, with rapid mobile units instead of fixed defenses. One key lesson was the importance of the sniper and the RPG gunner, or a combination of the two. For example, snipers were employed to draw fire from a Russian force, and then a Chechen ambush position overlooking the activities of the sniper would open fire on the Russian column fighting the sniper. Additionally, forces could operate successfully in an independent mode.”
Click here to learn about the Aguilar System for Medium-Range
Click here to learn about the First Battle of Grozny and here
to read an overview of urban combat tactics.
These two external links differ from this outline primarily in assuming that the defenders have access to anti-tank missiles. ’Snipers can pin down the supporting infantry while the vehicles are engaged with missiles. ’Also, anti-tank gunners must signal snipers (with flares or smoke) when they disable a vehicle. ’The snipers should use dice to determine which quadrant around the vehicle to snipe from to avoid bunching up. ’The Mongol technique of having horse archers attack and then retreat, staying just ahead of their pursuers while turning to fire over their shoulders, all the while drawing them into an ambush set by concealed lancers, can be duplicated in modern times with motorcycle-mounted snipers in the role of the horse archers and anti-tank gunners in the role of the lancers. ’Mounted Russian troops darkly jest that the initials BMP actually stand for Bratskaya Mogila Pehoty (infantry mass grave) and a combined arms operation of motorcycle-mounted snipers with a dismounted ATGW team is the best way to make it real for them.
Before an invasion, civilian motorcyclists and military tank drivers should practice driving past each other on city streets at high speeds.’ It is not complicated, but many tank drivers are in the habit of steering straight down the yellow line, which won’t do.’ When the enemy comes, they will have many more and better tanks.’ Your only hope is to isolate tank platoons and then overwhelm them with local numerical superiority.’ The enemy officers know this and will give their drivers strict orders to advance slowly and to stay abreast of one another.’ However, if the snipers are flaunting their ability to dodge from building to building while dismounting just long enough to pick off an exposed soldier, and especially if they succeed in shooting a lieutenant so a sergeant must take command, the enemy may become infuriated and attempt to charge the snipers in the hopes of catching them dismounted and machine gunning them.’ The sergeant will initially feel himself quite the hero when he sees fifty motorcyclists running from him like zebras before a lion.’ But then, in the blink of an eye, they will be replaced by a dozen charging tanks and he will find his platoon surrounded and fighting against three-to-one odds. This is called the caracole tactic.
If a house cat can chase a black bear up a tree, you should have no difficulty chasing an infantry army out of your city.
Proper Use of the "Swarming" Tactic
"Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy's unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots." – Sun Tzu
"[Our tactic in Grozny] was to fire at the enemy everywhere without being seen anywhere. The Russians did not know where and who the enemy was. We shot, destroyed, withdrew, went home to sleep, returned to start military actions again. No organization or planning. We were independent hunters."
– Aslan Maskhadov
"We will come at them from all sides, shooting them like partridges." – Ayub Khansultanov
Civilian snipers attempting to defend a city from invasion have a leader only to the extent that such a person has secure lines of communication with his troops. That is to say, civilian snipers are completely leaderless. However, in any city, it is not hard to find someone who aspires to the purple. A fancy uniform, sunglasses (the darker the better) and a few rousing speeches on AM radio goes a long ways towards convincing "Fearless Leader" that he is in charge. This is actually a good thing because the opposition general (who has secure communications and, therefore, really is directing the invasion) can easily be induced into thinking that he has a counterpart.
The opposition general has spent his entire career playing war games against other officers in which both sides had perfectly secure communications (they just moved their pieces around their gameboard or computer screen) and none of their pieces (little squares of cardboard or blips on a computer screen) had any volition of their own. It is impossible for the opposition general to conceive of leaderless snipers. If he cannot identify their leader, his own propaganda people will pin that title on some whacko, just to give a face to their enemy. This is a good thing for the defenders because second guessing someone who does not exist can only lead to error on the part of the invaders.
Bevin Alexander is a good example of someone who is incapable of conceiving of a commander who does not enjoy complete control over every soldier's movements through instantaneous and perfectly secure communications. In How Wars Are Won, pp. 14-15, Alexander writes:
Instant communications combined with great mobility and high flexibility are the keys to the success of swarming tactics. The [U.S.] military calls its integrated information system C4ISR, for "command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance." If carried out properly, small units in constant communication with one another could attack an enemy on all sides simultaneously.
Frankly, this seems a bit impractical. When are they going to find time to fight if they are in constant communication with one another? And what kind of mastermind do they have leading them who can keep all of that information in his head at once? He would have to have a telephone switchboard in front of him that rivals anything that AT&T possesses. Alexander appears to be so enthralled with pilotless drones that he has started to think of every weapon system as a drone. Some weapons must be accompanied by humans because they have more nimble fingers than robots, but Alexander does not expect the humans to, like, think. That's what computers are for.
What Fearless Leader actually accomplishes in his radio speeches is to tell everybody that the invaders have raided a certain location. He may go on to spin all kinds of fanciful strategems for carrying out a counter-attack, and send hundreds of "secret" messages (using the ever popular substitution cipher) giving "orders" to his "troops," but all that really matters is that everybody knows that the invaders have committed themselves to a raid. Then, each civilian sniper independently rolls a six sided die. If they are disciplined, and they must be to trust their fate to chance, they will attack as follows:
|Attack the target from the NW
|Attack the target from the NE
|Attack the target from the SW
|Attack the target from the SE
|Attack the nearest freeway off-ramp from the left
|Attack the nearest freeway off-ramp from the right
The purpose of using dice is to get the civilian snipers to completely surround the target, regardless of local conditions. You can't just tell them to spread out. There must be some mechanism in place that automatically results in the snipers distributing themselves evenly around the target. Unless they roll dice, civilian snipers will invariably do one of three things:
1) They will make a beeline for the target without any attempt to think tactically until they are actually being shot at. The invaders aren't stupid. They knew before the raid began that there was a large residential neighborhood nearby and one or two choke points, like bridges, directly between it and the target. They'll probably have heavy, water cooled machine guns pouring bullets onto those bridges. This is one reason why I advocate civilian snipers being mounted on motorcycles. It only takes a few minutes to make a three mile radius around a target and approach it from the other side. Pedestrians don't have time for that.
2) They will go to a shooting position that seems "optimal," based on general tactical principles. For instance, elsewhere on this website I have suggested firing over a barrier, like a canal, to prevent mounted troops from rushing you. That's good advice if you're the only one in the field and are attacking a target that nobody else is aware of. It's bad advice if 90% of the civilian snipers in town are elbowing each other out of the way to position themselves behind the only canal in the vicinity. The invaders will just drop a bomb on the sniper's "optimal" shooting position.
3) They will neglect to consider the path that the enemy's reinforcements will take. Initial contact with an enemy patrol accomplishes only two things: It pins them down by wounding one or two of them, and it causes them to radio for help. The response to such a call will be impressive. A cop was once shot a few blocks from where I lived, my balcony overlooking a major thoroughfare. His vest stopped the bullet, he shot his assailant a dozen times and then radioed in an “officer down” call. I did not observe this, but I did observe the response. Thirteen patrol cars raced past, all with lights and sirens on. They took up all three lanes of the street, pushing everybody aside. There were probably another thirteen approaching in a similar manner from the other direction. This is why rolls five and six of the die direct the snipers to attack the nearest freeway off-ramp. Far more enemy casualties can be produced by attacking the reinforcements than attacking the patrol that was initially engaged and is now dug in and waiting for those reinforcements.
Unfortunately, a lot of people resist taking counsel from dice. But consider this: Do casino owners sit in their offices thinking up "random" numbers and radioing them down to their croupiers? Of course not. They give them dice. And by so doing they've built seventy story hotels in a desert that, a hundred years ago, could not have supported seventy people. So they must know what they are doing. Yet Alexander, who is gambling with people's lives and not just their money, insists on "constant communication" with his troops. Why does he think that is so important? The casino owner isn't in constant communication with his croupier and yet they get along just fine. In fact, they get along so well largely because they do not have to communicate with each other beyond the bare minimum necessary to run a craps game.
Alexander claims that "If [C4ISR is] carried out properly, small units in constant communication with one another could attack an enemy on all sides simultaneously." Okay. But haven't we just accomplished the same thing in half the time and without any computers? Of course, to ingratiate ourselves to the RAND Corporation (Alexander's employer), we could make our dice out of little cubes of silicon instead of plastic and call them computers. (And if I can sell my computers to the U.S. military for even half what they pay for a hammer, I'll be a rich man.) But whatever they are called, I think rolling dice is more practical than, and accomplishes the same goal as, C4ISR.
Let's look at how a raid works: The invaders form a "500 yard box" around the target by hosing down everything within 250 yards of it with machine gun and rocket fire from the air. Then they stop shooting and drop in shock troops who quickly spread out 250 yards to secure the 500 yard box before the defenders can move back in. The assumption is that the defenders cannot shoot farther than 250 yards. This would be true if they were armed with AKs and RPGs, but practitioners of the Aguilar System for Medium Range Sniping have their rifles zeroed for 300 yards and are capable of making shots out to at least 500 yards.
Sniping against such an opponent is like boxing against someone who is bigger and stronger than you are. Standing in the middle of the ring and slugging it out with him will just get you beaten up, but running around the perimeter is not going to win the match and eventually he'll trap you in a corner. The trick is to stay just inches beyond his reach and keep stepping into his five foot box and punching him in the ribs when he tries to take a breath.
A 700-yard box would require twice as much ammunition to pepper it from the air and twice as many shock troops to secure it (because 350 squared is about twice 250 squared), yet it only requires the defenders to be able to shoot another hundred yards. It is easier for a 300-yard shooter to learn to make 400-yard shots than it is for the invaders to double the number of their gunships and transport helicopters. Thus, I do not foresee the Aguilar System for Medium Range Sniping becoming obsolete anytime soon.
But don't misunderstand me: The fact that you have to get at least 250 yards away from the target does not mean that, the farther away you are, the better. From 0 to 250 yards, there are a couple hundred places a sniper can hide. From 250 to 500 yards, there are only about sixty feasible positions because, while this donut shaped area is three times the size of the inner circle, it is ten times harder to see the target from there because all the buildings and trees get in the way. From 500 yards out, there are only about eight or ten positions elevated enough to allow a view of the target and they are very obvious sniper positions, in the traditional sense of the word, like a clock tower or a skyscraper.
Of course, the existence of sixty feasible positions between 250 and 500 yards assumes that the civilian snipers are spread out evenly around this donut shaped area. If they are all crowded into one quadrant, then there are far fewer than sixty available positions. This is why I recommend that they each roll a die to determine which quadrant they will fire from.
Of the couple hundred hiding places from 0 to 250 yards, none are any good because they will all be peppered with machine gun fire. The eight or ten distant but obvious sniper hides that provide Mr. X-Ring Shooter a chance to strut his stuff, like the clock tower, will immediately be hit with cannon fire or guided missiles. But, of the sixty potential sniper hides between 250 and 500 yards, perhaps a couple dozen will survive, and that's the best odds you're getting in this game.
Notes on Timothy Thomas’ paper, Battle for Grozny: “Clearly, the Chechen plan of defense perceived by Grachev (the three concentric rings) did not appear to be the case in reality… The Chechens, in fact, noted that no such plan existed. Instead, the ‘situation did the organizing.’" This supports my contention that “it is impossible for the opposition general to conceive of leaderless snipers… second-guessing someone who does not exist can only lead to error.” Thomas notes that “the Motorola hand-held radio was the [Chechen’s] primary communications device. There was one radio for every six combatants.” Clearly, these thinly distributed and unencrypted radios were not the source of Chechen strength. Yet Thomas suggests that “it would have been preferable to have one per combatant” and approvingly quotes Igor Korotchenko, who states that it is critical (for the Russians) to increase dramatically the use of special troops and especially electronic warfare units in the combat zone. He advocates creating a total information vacuum by putting remotely controlled portable jammers near guerilla bases. Again, we see that Thomas cannot get the idea out of his head that Maskhadov was using radios to move his fighters around the city like pieces on an Avalon Hill game board. Grachev learned nothing from the “Black Operation” of the previous year and, I suspect, his successors have learned nothing from Grachev’s humiliating defeat except to buy radio jammers, believing that insurgencies can be defeated with a credit card. You can make monkeys out of them by the simple expedient of issuing field commanders dice instead of radios.