Counter-sniper tactics

Counter-sniper tactics
A squad marksman with 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, scans for enemy snipers at the Nineveh ancient ruins in Mosul, Iraq, April 4, 2007.

Counter-sniper tactics involves tactics used by a sniper against another sniper.

The occurrence of sniper warfare has led to the evolution of many counter-sniper tactics in modern military strategies. These aim to reduce the damage caused by a sniper to a fighting force, which can often be harmful to both fighting capabilities and morale.


Reducing the risk of damage

During the stalking phase of his attack a sniper will, if time allows, try to identify high-value targets such as senior officers or senior NCOs. He will do this by closely observing the behavior of the people in front of him. His intention is to identify who is in charge and then prepare to fire at them. It naturally follows that leaders should attempt to blend into the background by avoiding anything that distinguishes them from the most junior soldiers and attracts the interest of a sniper. In order to reduce a sniper's ability to damage the chain of command, doctrine and equipment need to prevent any observable "leadership" behaviors and signs. Insignia, e.g. rank insignia, should be subdued (dark/black as opposed to bright colors), camouflage colors on camouflage, battle-dress identical for all ranks, military servants and rank-based luxuries (like saluting) avoided in forward areas, and commands and instruction should be given discreetly. Additionally, other acts such as looking at maps, using a radio, pointing authoritatively, abstaining from menial tasks and other forms of body language can betray an officer's rank. However, it is important to emphasize that if a sniper cannot identify an officer or NCO, he may then select any person that he has a good chance of hitting.

Valuable assets should be parked in sand-bagged redoubts until they are launched, preventing "anti-materiel" attacks. This is a prudent tactic in any circumstance, as it prevents damage from fragments.

Locating an attacking sniper

Once a sniper attack has occurred, the most difficult task is determining the sniper's location. Because snipers use camouflage, carefully choose their firing positions, and often attack from long distances, they are often able to strike and withdraw without ever being pinpointed. Being aware of the methods snipers use to conceal themselves is also integral to this, as most objects that are usually overlooked are able to function as a snipers' nest. This includes stationary cars that specifically have a hole cut out to allow the sniper a place to shoot out of, the driver functioning as the spotter. It could also include boxes or piles of rubble that one wouldn't generally suspect. Snipers have been getting more and more innovative in their attempts to conceal themselves so places that one wouldn't usually expect to hold a sniper can become suspect.[citation needed]

Sniper vs. Sniper

A friendly sniper is generally the most effective counter-sniper tool. With similar training, knowledge of the surroundings, and equipment, the friendly sniper can offer advice to the squad, enhanced searching capability, and a means to combat the enemy sniper directly. When told what to watch for, the squad can also act as additional eyes and ears for the friendly sniper. Aside from watching over the squad, the friendly sniper also has the option to detach and engage the enemy sniper. Without any outside help from the squad, the respective skills of each sniper play a significant role in determining victory. A sniper duel can frequently distract the enemy sniper from his mission.[citation needed]

  • Triangulation: technique at two or more locations can more accurately identify the position of a sniper at the time of firing.
  • Sound delay ("crack-bang"): The enemy's supersonic bullets produce a sonic boom, creating a "crack" sound as they pass by. If the enemy's bullet speed is known, his range can be estimated by measuring the delay between the bullet's passing and the sound of the rifle shot, then comparing it to a table of values. This is only effective at distances of up to 450 meters; beyond this, the delay continues to increase, but at a rate too small for humans to distinguish accurately. Also, in urban areas, the sound can give inaccurate results because the buildings in the area can relay false sound directions.
  • Detector: The 'sniper detector' system, named Boomerang, was developed through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and can determine the bullet type, trajectory, and point of fire of unknown shooter locations. The system uses microphone sensors to detect both the muzzle blast and the sonic shock wave that emanate from a high-speed bullet. Sensors detect, classify, localize and display the results on a map immediately after the shot. The system sensors are usually mounted on a vehicle. The United States military is also funding a project known as RedOwl, which uses laser and acoustic sensors to determine the exact direction from which a sniper round has been fired. The RedOwl system has been tested on the PackBot robot from iRobot Corporation [1].

Counter-attacking the sniper

Once a sniper's position is known or suspected, other options follow:

  • Artillery: If the sniper's general position can be determined by other means, the area can be bombarded by mortars or artillery. Rockets and even guided missiles are also usable, typically if the sniper has become a major problem and other neutralizing attempts have failed.
  • Smoke screen: In urban settings or other environments with limited movement and fields of view, smoke can be an effective means to screen friendly movement. This can be used either to pass through and escape, or to close in on and eliminate the enemy sniper. Ordinary soldiers can still do damage through smoke by firing randomly or on intuition, but a sniper loses his precision advantage and is far less likely to hit anything with his much lower possible shot volume. A determined enemy, such as an emplaced heavy machine gun, will fire randomly through smoke, so this is a dangerous tactic. It should also be noted that weapons of opportunity may also provide a smoke screen, anything from igniting a car's gas tank, oil drum, or using fragmentation grenades to throw up debris and quickly break line of sight and concentration. Flash-bang (distraction) grenades have a wider blast radius than fragmentation grenades.
  • Rush: Also known as "Close With And Destroy." If the squad is pinned down by sniper fire and taking casualties, the order may be given to rush the sniper's position. If the sniper is too far away for a direct rush, a "rush to cover" can also be used. The squad may take casualties, but with many moving targets and a slow-firing rifle, the losses are usually small compared to holding position and being slowly picked off.
  • Pincer movement: If the sniper's position is known but direct retaliation is not possible, a pair of squads can move through concealment (preferably cover) and drive the sniper toward the group containing the targets. This decreases the chances that the sniper will find a stealthy, quick escape route. A pincer movement attack can be combined with artillery or mortar fire, so long as this is tightly coordinated, i.e. the target area covered by bombardment does not overlap with the movement of the counter-attacking troops. Even if bombardment does not kill or wound the sniper, it may flush him from cover.
  • Basic sniper identification method
  1. The defenders monitor contact. As soon as contact is taken, the defenders try to make sure to take cover. If the defenders are on dismount, they try to make sure cover is the closest and most secure cover possible. If the defenders are mounted, they try to ensure all gunners reduce to "Chin strap defilade" where nothing is showing out of the vehicle but the chin and above. The defenders try to ensure the gunner has proper shielding.
  2. The defenders scan the area to locate the snipers position.
  3. The defenders pop smoke to cover and conceal their position.
  4. The defenders designate the element, close in with the element and destroy the enemy.
  • "Tracking Electronically"
  1. In the Egypt protest during 2011, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks have been used to pin point snipers and warn others of their locations.

See also


  • Plaster, Maj. John (1993). The Ultimate Sniper: An Advanced Training Manual for Military & Police Snipers. Paladin. ISBN 0-87364-704-1. 

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