How Military Snipers Work

A Marine sniper emerges from the water. See more pictures of guns.
Photo courtesy Department of Defense Defense Visual Information Center

For most of us, the word "sniper" evokes some unsettling imagery -- a lone gunman, undetectable, on the hunt. And while military snipers are indeed elite shooters who hide, line up a target in their sights and pull the trigger, there is a lot more to it than that.

When a sniper takes a shot, there are countless variables to consider before squeezing the trigger --- wind speed, wind direction, range, target movement, mirage, light source, temperature, barometric pressure, and that's just the beginning. The work that goes into getting a good position to take a shot is immense. That's why snipers always work in pairs. Surprised? Most people are.


These highly skilled marksmen are often perceived as lone assassins racking up "confirmed kills." In reality, true snipers work for the military and law enforcement agencies and are far more concerned with the number of lives they save than with the ones they take.

Because of the secretive and stealthy nature of the work, not too many people know what's really involved in being a sniper, so we went straight to the source: We interviewed a former U.S. Army Ranger sniper to get the inside information. In the next few sections, we'll go over tools, tricks, and training of these mysterious and deadly warriors.