Trey Dominick Archives -
June 23rd, 2020 by AmSJ Staff

Three Former Marine Corps Scout Snipers Talk About Their Profession

A while back American Sniper movie was a big hit on the silver screen, we checked in with three former Marine Corps snipers for their thoughts on the profession, how it changed them, America’s deadliest marksman Chris Kyle, and advice for aspiring snipers.

Caylen Wojcik Former 1st Marine Division Scout Sniper School instructor; deployed as a chief sniper during Operation Iraqi Freedom II; over 100 combat missions; severely wounded by enemy rocket fire during Operation Phantom Fury; founded Central Cascade Precision; now with Magpul Dynamics.

Jason Mann Twenty years in the USMC, 11 in a sniper platoon; retired after 20 years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; president of U.S. Marine Corps Scout Sniper Association.

Trey Dominick Joined USMC in 2006; deployed to Afghanistan and twice to Iraq as an infantry assaultman and scout sniper; following honorable discharge, worked for U.S. Embassy in Iraq as a designated defense marksman; currently works for Iron Protection Group in Colorado.

D BRETEAU (former AmSJ Editor) What is your overall insight into the sniper profession, and how did it change you, if at all?

JASON MANN Other than being a proud father to four children, nothing makes me prouder than being able to say I am a Marine and a Marine scout sniper.
jasonmann
CAYLEN WOJCIK My definition of a Marine scout sniper is a Marine highly skilled in fieldcraft and marksmanship who delivers long-range precision fire on selected targets from concealed positions in support of combat operations. Shooting is 10 percent of your purpose, but when you’re called upon to utilize that skill, it becomes 100 percent of your focus. Snipers are a part of a brotherhood, and that brotherhood is a level of selflessness that most will never truly understand. Discipline, self-reliance, teamwork, perseverance and fortitude are just a few things I believe I took with me that have been a great benefit.

TREY DOMINICK It helped me become stronger in stressful situations. I have
learned to take a step back in order to make logical decisions. This process can be used in any aspect of your life.
tdominick
DB Did you ever meet Chris Kyle?

JM I met Chris at SHOT Show several years ago. I just shook his hand and said hello.

CW I did not know Chris Kyle; however, we operated in generally the same area of operations during the same time period. Chris was a SEAL, and he operated primarily in the vicinity of Ramadi, whereas I operated within the vicinity of Fallujah, which was about 45 minutes away.

DB Have you seen American Sniper or read the book, and if so, what were your thoughts on the topic and authenticity?

TD I have read the book twice. I thought it portrayed Chris Kyle’s story very well. I can’t really touch on the authenticity of his story, but from everything I have read about his story and my personal experience as a sniper, I cannot find anything I feel is widely exaggerated. The thing that troubles me most is how there are many people saying his stories are false now that he has passed away.



JM I have not seen the movie. I am apprehensive because another movie
representing Marine scout snipers was horribly done and reflected poorly on us. I have read the book. For many years the roles of snipers were rarely spoken of and there weren’t many books on the subject. But since 9/11 there has been a litany, and most, in my opinion, attempt to glamorize and elevate, which I do not appreciate. The focus should not be on taking a life, but on the makeup of the man, selection,
training, mission preparation and all that goes along with that. The killing of a human being is a very small part, actually. I believe today we are seeing too many seeking their 15 minutes of fame and will do or say just about anything to make that happen. We are seeing a number of persons who misrepresent themselves and their roles, and that lends itself to misinformation and glamorization.

DB What would you say to the general public about the sniper profession? To
those aspiring to the position?

JM The skill sets that scout snipers possess represent the very best in the
American serviceman. These skills deliver disproportionate results on the
battlefield and are a true force multiplier. The enemy truly fears the sniper.

CW I would first ask yourself if you’re ready and willing to do whatever it
takes to get there. Being physically fit isn’t enough, and there’s a huge difference between being physically tough and mentally tough. You’ll endure incredible physical and mental hardships. You’ll be hot, cold, wet, dirty and hungry when no one else
is. You’ll be held to a higher standard, and be expected to do more with less. You’ll be expected to go farther, with heavier weight on your back. You’ll be expected to immerse yourself into dangerous situations with only a very small team to rely on. If you make it, the first time you lay hands on that rifle after you graduate will be a
moment you’ll never forget.

TD Snipers are the calm professionals of the infantry. We are the ones out there making quiet, calculated decisions on the battlefield. To the aspiring I would
say, this isn’t going to be an easy or quick process, so if you really want to be a sniper, just keep with it and know that you will be tested.

DB Anything else to say to our readers?

JM There have been many controversial incidents relating to Marine scout
snipers of late, but the vast majority of activities have been in support of combat operations in a far away country to defend this great nation.

CW Snipers are not mindless, murderous killers. Snipers are selected and trained based upon not only physical strength and aptitude, but on their ability to make sound decisions while immersed in highly stressful scenarios.

by Danielle Breteau AmSJ

Posted in Long Range Tagged with: , , ,

June 19th, 2020 by AmSJ Staff

Story by Frank Jardim

In 1944, the War Department Basic Field Manual FM 21-75, Infantry Scouting, Patrolling and Sniping defined the sniper as “… an expert rifleman, well qualified in scouting, whose duty is to pick off key enemy personnel who expose themselves. By eliminating enemy leaders and harassing the troops, sniping softens the enemy’s resistance and weakens his morale.” That definition remains consistent through the broader history of sniping, before and since, whether the weapon was a crossbow or a high-powered, telescopically sighted rifle.

Lie and wait

A sniper and spotter settling into a concealed position

The sniper is an incredibly efficient fighter, compared to the typical infantryman. Consider that in World War II, American infantry units fired 25,000 rounds to kill just one enemy soldier. By the Korean War, that figure jumped to 50,000 rounds, and the select-fire M14 and M16 infantry rifles of the Vietnam War only seem to have produced more misses, requiring the expenditure of 200,000 rounds to kill one enemy combatant. Nowadays, it’s a quarter million rounds of spraying and praying to kill a single Taliban.

By comparison, on average, a sniper requires only 1.3 bullets to kill an enemy. During the Vietnam War, it was noted on many occasions that a handful of snipers accounted for more enemy killed than the entire infantry battalion (and sometimes even regiment) they were assigned to.

It was the wildly disproportionate contribution of snipers in the Vietnam War that set the stage for the first permanent peacetime sniper training programs. The U.S. Marine Corps set theirs up first at Quantico, Va., in 1977, and the U.S. Army followed suit at Fort Benning, Ga., in 1985. Snipers were finally on the TO&E (Tables of Organization & Equipment) of combat units, which meant they would always be ready for deployment. The rigorous training programs ensured the accumulated knowledge, gained from combat experience, would be preserved and ready when it was needed.

130326-A-DK678-006Another critically important achievement of the USMC Scout Sniper and U.S. Army Sniper Schools was the creation of the U.S. military’s first purpose-built sniper rifles. Again, the USMC led the way with the M40A1 and the U.S. Army followed with the M24 Sniper Weapons System. Both were based on the Remington 700-bolt action rifle, chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. Prior to that, snipers used standard service rifles, specially selected for their accuracy and equipped with telescopic sights or commercial, off-the-shelf sporting rifles, as was the case in the black powder era and the Vietnam War. The upside of using the standard service rifle as the basis for a sniper conversion was complete parts and ordnance maintenance support from the normal supply channels. The downside was that the most accurate service rifles were not nearly as good as the best commercially available hunting rifles. The accuracy of the service rifle was always hampered by hand guards, stacking swivels and bayonet lugs hanging off the barrel – items totally useless to a sniper.

It is ironic that a country built on a tradition of rifle marksmanship took nearly 200 years to formally embrace the sniper, the man that represents the military apex of that long tradition. In each major war, through Vietnam, our armed forces began with no snipers and had to create training programs, usually in the theater of operations, to train them on the spot. Training varied from none to good, but the typical formula that has made many a successful American sniper is a rural background with early and continuous exposure to hunting or competitive, rifle shooting.

It is ironic that a country built on a tradition of rifle marksmanship took nearly 200 years to formally embrace the sniper

Time after time, at the conclusion of the war, the sniper schools were closed and the snipers faded away. The knowledge they gained in the deadly art of hunting men faded away with them and had to be re-taught in the next war. This happened because America’s senior military leaders saw the sniper as a specialist, of small importance compared to the conventional infantry, artillery, cavalry (and later armored) forces who massively outnumbered him. From the general’s point of view, snipers didn’t win wars; huge armies did.

During the American Revolution, volunteers from the frontier colonies took their long rifles to war. No British soldier within 400 yards was safe, and 200-yard, one-shot-kills were common. Riflemen terrorized the British, on the march and in garrison, picking off officers and noncommissioned officers from hidden positions. Without any formal guidance, they were doing exactly the same mission as snipers do today, but the British had far greater respect for them than General George Washington. Slow to load and lacking the capacity for a bayonet, the rifles and the unruly men who wielded them were ill-suited to the linear tactics of the day. General Washington thought the riflemen were more trouble than they were worth and didn’t want them in the Continental Army.

Trey Dominick USMC Scout Sniper

 In the American Civil War, snipers were called sharpshooters and recruited for their marksmanship skill. The percussion-lock rifled musket and minie ball of the period greatly increased accuracy, without sacrificing speed of loading, and made the battlefield a much deadlier place. Some sharpshooters made use of early telescopic sights and many used their personal weapons in battle. The breech-loading Sharps rifle was popular among Union sharpshooters because it could be loaded lying down, behind cover. The standard muzzleloading, rifled musket required the soldier to stand up to load it, thus exposing himself to enemy fire. Confederates favored the British Whitworth rifle, when they could get it. With its unique hexagonal-shaped, fast-twisting bore, instead of conventional cut rifling, it fired a six-sided bullet accurately just over a mile. It was the first military rifle built for long range accuracy. A Confederate sharpshooter, armed with a Whitworth rifle, killed Union General John Sedgwick at the Battle of Spotsylvania from a range of 800 yards.

During WW I, the skill sets and standard operating procedures of our present-day snipers were developed and codified in no-man’s land and the trenches. By that time, the bolt-action rifle reached the pinnacle of its development as an infantry weapon. It had a five- to 10-round magazine and fired a much smaller caliber, high-velocity and aerodynamic bullet, propelled by smokeless powder, up to 3 miles.

Once he had a suitable modern weapon, the scout sniper emerged in a form identical to the present day. Now actually called a sniper, he can engage targets at 1,000 yards with more precision than luck. Whether shooting from behind or in front of friendly lines, he selects his hiding place carefully and uses camouflage to conceal himself and his spotter. He may wait for hours or days to get a shot at his target. When and if he does fire, it is rarely more than a few shots before he must move to avoid detection. (Smokeless powder makes it much more difficult for the enemy to locate his position.)

Sniper rifles are now commonly equipped with telescopic sights. Germany, thanks to their world-renowned optics industry, initially dominated the battlefield by putting 20,000 scoped rifles (some of them civilian hunting rifles) in the hands of its best marksmen. The Allied nations had to play catch up. The United States Army fielded the ungainly 6x magnification prismatic Warner & Swasey scope, mounted on the .30-06 M1903 Springfield Rifle. It looked strange and it was clumsy, but it worked. It had over twice the magnification of most scopes of the day.

PHOTO 3 Military Sniper on a rooftop

The rooftops of the buildings in Iraq and Afghanistan created some of the most intensely-hot shooting platforms which created yet another obstacle for these Snipers

By World War II, telescopic sights improved and rugged, domestically made ones with fair weather resistance, like the 2.5x-power Lyman Alaskan (military M81/M82), were mounted on the standard .30-06 M1 semiautomatic rifle. The old M1903 Springfield, with an improved 10x-power Unertl scope, served the USMC, and the simplified M1903A4, with a 2x-power M73B1 scope was a substitute standard for both services.

In World War II, the United States was almost continuously on the offensive. Both the Japanese and Germans often used snipers, suicidally, to cover their withdrawals and stall the allied advance. The greatest threat to a sniper is another sniper, so U.S. Army infantry platoons commonly designated a scout sniper in the headquarters section to be employed at the commander’s discretion.

Contrary to our image of the American sniper as a lone wolf on the battlefield, they also fought as platoons. When the Marines invaded Betio in the Tarawa Atoll on Nov. 20, 1943, Lt. William D. Hawkins led his platoon of scout snipers on a mission, far in advance of the main forces. They hunted down, and eliminated, enemy machine gunners and snipers to protect the advance of their fellow Marines at the long pier. They fought with grenades and flamethrowers, as well as precision rifle fire. Lt. Hawkins died in the battle, but his ferocity in combat earned him the Medal of Honor.

The snipers role in the Korean War bore similarities to World War I: static lines, an attrition strategy and costly frontal attacks. Once again, the precision contributions of the hastily trained snipers (now equipped with M1D sniper rifles and 2.2x-power M84 scopes) was overshadowed by the mass slaughter wrought by concentrated small arms and artillery fire. Korea was a big war fought in a small place. If machine guns had trouble stopping human-wave attacks used by the Communist Chinese, what could snipers possibly do?

CarlosHathcock

The legendary Carlos Hathcock (left) in Vietnam

By contrast, snipers made undeniably significant contributions in the Vietnam War and all the wars that followed it. The nature and scale of combat changed in a manner that favored the sniper. Vietnam was a big war, but only in the aggregate. It was fought in small engagements over a large area and a long period of time. In this environment, the sniper was on more equal terms with the enemy. Combat actions in Grenada, Beirut, Iraq and Afghanistan were likewise small in scale, compared to the World Wars and Korea.

P57fW

Carlos Hathcock mounted a scope on an M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun and used it to make the longest recorded sniper kill in history.

The superior equipment, training and communication of today’s snipers makes them the deadliest warriors on the battlefield. In Vietnam in 1967, USMC scout sniper legend Carlos Hathcock mounted a scope on an M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun and used it to make the longest recorded sniper kill in history. His 2,286-meter record stood until 2002, when a Canadian sniper broke it by 24 meters in Afghanistan using a MacMillan Tac-50 bolt-action rifle in the same caliber. Hathcock’s improvised, ultralong-range, sniping demonstration was a harbinger of things to come. In 1990 the U.S. Army purchased the .50-caliber BMG M82 Barrett, semiautomatic sniper rifle for use in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in Iraq.

Later it would be standardized as the M107. This rifle was used by Army Ranger Sgt. Bryan Kremer in Iraq, in March 2004, to make the 2,300-meter kill that now stands as the farthest for an American sniper. His was the fourth-longest kill shot in recorded history.

For the record, the credit for the farthest kill goes to British sniper Craig Harrison, who made an incredible 2,475-meter shot with an Accuracy International L115A3 rifle in .338 Lapua Magnum. The .338 Lapua round was designed to outrange the powerful .300 Winchester and extend the sniper’s lethality to 1,600 meters. Chief petty officer Chris Kyle used a McMillan Tac-338 bolt-action rifle in .338 Lapua Magnum to make his farthest kill, at 1,920 meters, against an enemy combatant about to fire an RPG at a passing American convoy.

Army Ranger Sgt. Bryan Kremer made a 2,300-meter kill in Iraq that now stands as the farthest for an American sniper.

In World Wars I and II, American snipers were expected to make 600-yard hits. This was reasonable, in light of the limitations of their service-rifle-based sniper rifles, and the ordinary ball ammunition they had to use. Today’s sniper is expected to hit the target at twice that range. The sniper’s skills remain the same, but his tools have greatly improved. Laser range finders, bipods, high-magnification scopes, night-vision scopes, match-grade ammunition, rugged specialty rifles built to take the abuse of combat and deliver competition accuracy, and excellent, often continuous communication, all contribute to getting the bullet where the sniper needs it to go, with greater accuracy than ever before possible.

The film American Sniper has grossed over $250,000,000 as of this writing, making it the most popular war film in American history. Its themes resonate with the public right now and are sure to generate an increased interest in long-range rifle marksmanship that will serve the cause of freedom well in wars to come. The film tells a slightly fictionalized account of the life of the aforementioned SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, who learned to shoot as a boy in rural Texas, perhaps not unlike our sharpshooters of yore, and became one of the most successful snipers in U.S. military history, saving countless American lives on the battlefield with his shooting ability. AmSJ

Posted in History Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,