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October 27, 2007

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Top Guns: Counter Snipers

Think you got what it takes to compete with some of the best shots in the country? Well, before you puff up like a peacock and say “you bet I do!” consider what it really takes to be a top gun. The FNH USA/Leupold Long Range Precision Competition, held annually at Ft. Meade, Maryland, in June, is designed to demonstrate the dedication, teamwork and marksmanship required to compete at this level. Scott Engen, who works for FNH, wrote a fascinating account of the competition, a portion of which is excerpted below. Sniperday46

“Many counter-sniper matches are primarily a test of marksmanship skills. It’s mostly hold ‘em and squeeze ‘em while wearing camo BDUs or a ghillie suit. By contrast, the FNH USA Leupold Long-Range Precision Competition rigorously tests the complete counter-sniper in a team event format. In addition to basic marksmanship, the competition measures the team's skills in range estimation, observation and physical fitness.

“So who are the top guns in the counter-sniper community? In June, 23 of the best counter-sniper teams from several branches of the U.S. military as well as numerous federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the nation were invited to go head to head and muzzle to muzzle to find out. For five grueling days under a blazing Maryland summer sun each of these teams was pushed to the limit, both physically and mentally.” If this is your idea of fun, consider the following:


“Every competition has that one defining event, the ultimate test that separates the great from the merely good. In this case it’s the Obstacle Course and Movement Phase. Many of the competitors have their own pet name for this phase, none of which can be repeated here. Sniperday4154

“This event requires all day to cycle the 23 teams through the course, and those teams drawing an early number run in the cool of the morning and are less spent during the shooting portion than those who must run it in the muggy, oppressive heat of the afternoon.

“Each team is issued a full-size rubber rifle and a rucksack filled with 25 pounds of sand. One member carries the gun, the other gets the ruck, and both items must go across, over or under each obstacle with the competitors.

“At the start signal the clock begins and both team members begin negotiating roughly a half-mile of pure hell: high-stepping through tires, climbing a vertical rope, low crawling through the mud, running across elevated logs, scaling concrete walls, rails and anything else they encounter. No one said this was going to be easy. They hauled an Army Ranger off the course with a busted leg a couple of years ago. At least nobody is shooting at you.

“At the end of the obstacle course the now-winded competitors drop the rubber rifle and ruck, pick up their real rifles for a nice, relaxing half-mile run to the firing range. Then comes the fun part.

“Upon entering the range area, the first team member to set foot on the deck of the shooting house starts the clock for the firing phase. The first shooter has 60 seconds to climb a flight of stairs and get into a firing position on the roof for a 300-yard prone shot. After one minute the target appears and is exposed for just 15 seconds. Adding to the difficulty of the shot is that the distant target is a life-sized photo of a head, flanked closely on both sides by hostage targets that carry a severe point penalty if hit.Sniperday481

“The targets disappear into the pits for 15 seconds after each shot, and the shooter moves some 200 yards downrange through nine more firing points, firing one shot from each. The other team member keeps the shooter informed of the time until the targets appear again, calling out elevation corrections and other encouragement. At 100 yards the second team member takes over and shoots one shot from each of the same 10 positions in reverse order during the retreat. The clock that started back at the obstacle course stops with the last shot fired.”

I’ve shot competitive events, but never anything like this. I don’t think I’d last 5 minutes. To read the complete article, CLICK HERE. And don’t overlook the shooting tips. Though specifically written for tactical shooters, big-game hunters will also benefit.

Slaton White