Longest recorded sniper kills
Reports regarding the longest recorded sniper kills that contain information regarding the shooting distance and the identity of the sniper have been presented to the general public since 1967. Snipers in modern warfare have had a substantial history following the development of long distance weaponry. As weapons, ammunition, and aids to determine ballistic solutions improved, so too did the distance from which a kill could be targeted. In mid-2017 it was reported that an unnamed Canadian special forces operator, based in Iraq, had set a new record of 3,540 m (3,871 yd), beating the record previously held by British Corporal Craig Harrison at 2,475 m (2,707 yd).
Although technology such as electronics have improved, optical equipment such as rangefinders and ballistic calculators have eliminated manual mathematical calculations to determine elevation and windage, the fundamentals of accurate and precise long-range shooting are the same as throughout the history of shooting, and the skill and training of the shooter and his spotter where applicable are the primary factors. Accuracy and precision of ammunition and firearms are also still reliant primarily on human factors and attention to detail in the complex process of producing maximum performance.
The modern method of long-distance sniping (shots over 1.1 kilometres or 0.7 miles) requires intense training and practice. A sniper must have the ability to accurately estimate the various factors that influence a bullet's trajectory and point of impact, such as range to the target, wind direction, wind speed, air density, elevation, and even the Coriolis effect due to the rotation of the Earth. Mistakes in estimation compound over distance and can cause a shot to only injure, or to miss completely. Any given combination of firearm and ammunition will have an associated value, known as the circular error probable (CEP), defined as the radius of a circle whose boundary is expected to contain the impact points of half of the rounds fired.
If the shooter wishes to improve accuracy and precision, wishes to increase range or wishes to do all of these things, the accuracy of "estimates" of external factors must improve accordingly. At extreme ranges, extremely accurate "estimates" are required and even with the most accurate estimates, hitting the target becomes subject to uncontrollable factors. For example, a rifle capable of firing a 1/2 MOA (approximately 1/2" center to center of the two holes furthest apart) 5-round group (often referred to as "grouping") at 100 yards will fire a theoretical 12.5" group at 2,500 yards. Unless the group is centered perfectly on the target at 100 yards, the 2,500-yard group will be centered 25 times the off-center error at 100 yards. This example ignores all other factors and assumes "perfect" no-wind shooting conditions and identical muzzle velocities and ballistic performance for each shot.
USMC Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock's confirmed 2,500-yard kill in Vietnam was primarily due to the enemy soldier stopping his bicycle on the spot Hathcock had fired at while sighting in his Browning M2 heavy machine-gun.
Devices such as laser rangefinders, handheld meteorological measuring equipment, handheld computers, and ballistic-prediction software can contribute to increased accuracy (i.e. reduced CEP), although they rely on proper use and training to realize any advantages. In addition, as instruments of measure, they are subject to accuracy errors and malfunction. Handheld meteorological instruments only measure conditions at the location they are used. Wind direction and speed can vary dramatically along the path of the bullet.
The science of long-range sniping came to fruition in the Vietnam War. Carlos Hathcock held the record from 1967 to 2002 at 2,286 m (2,500 yd). He recorded 93 official kills. After returning to the U.S., Hathcock helped to establish the Marine Corps Scout Sniper School at Quantico, Virginia.
In addition to his success as a USMC Scout-Sniper during multiple deployments to Vietnam, Gunnery Sergeant Hathcock competed in multiple USMC shooting teams. Hathcock also won the 1966 Wimbledon Cup, which is earned by the winner of the U.S. 1,000-yard high-powered rifle National Championship. Even after being severely burned during an attack on an Amtrac on which he was riding and his efforts to rescue other soldiers, and after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Hathcock continued to serve, shoot and instruct. In Vietnam, Hathcock also completed missions involving a "through the scope" shot which killed an enemy sniper specifically hunting him, and a multiple-day solo stalk and kill of an enemy general.
Hathcock's record stood until Canadian Master Corporal Arron Perry of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry beat it with a shot of 2,310 metres. Perry held the title for only a few days, as another man in his unit (Corporal Rob Furlong) beat Perry's distance with a 2,430 m (2,657 yd) shot in March 2002. Perry and Furlong were part of a six-man sniper team during 2002's Operation Anaconda, part of the War in Afghanistan.
Corporal Furlong's record was bested by a British soldier, Corporal of Horse Craig Harrison, of the Blues and Royals, Household Cavalry, who recorded two 2,475 m (2,707 yd) shots (confirmed by GPS) in November 2009, also during the War in Afghanistan, in which he hit two Taliban insurgents consecutively. Harrison killed the two Taliban machine gunners with shots that took the 8.59 mm rounds almost five seconds to hit their targets, which were 900 metres (1,000 yd) beyond the L115A3 sniper rifle’s recommended range. A third shot took out the insurgents' machine gun. The rifle used was made by Accuracy International.
In June 2017, an unnamed sniper of Canada's special forces Unit Joint Task Force 2 surpassed the 2009 record by over a kilometre, with a 3,540 m (3,871 yd) shot in the Iraqi Civil War. As with the previous two Canadian records, a McMillan Tac-50 with Hornady A-MAX .50 (.50 BMG) ammunition was used.
Confirmed kills 1,250 m (1,367 yd) or greater
This list is not exhaustive, as such data is generally not tracked nor managed under any official procedure. For example, the Canadian Army 2002 sniper team that saw two soldiers (Arron Perry/2,310 m and Rob Furlong/2,430 m) set consecutive new records, also made a number of kills at 1,500 m that are not counted here. The list also shows that, in some cases, an armed force command may choose to withhold the name of the actual sniper for security reasons. The United Nations Security Forces, such as in the Balkans, also had one American sniper (name withheld) attributed with a 1,271-metre shot.
While not on the list due to the range being less than the minimum distance used to compile it, Hathcock's second-longest confirmed kill was 1,200 yards (1,100 m) using a "standard" USMC sniper rifle chambered in .30-06 Springfield. At the time of Hathcock's service, snipers had essentially been eliminated from the USMC, and its sniper rifles were a hodgepodge mix of commercial Remington 700 and Winchester Model 70 rifles chambered for multiple cartridges. The major challenge for Hathcock and other scout-snipers was improving the performance and reliability of their rifles and ammunition.
- During the Vietnam War Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills of North Vietnamese Army and Viet-Cong personnel. During the Vietnam War, kills had to be confirmed by an acting third party, who had to be an officer, besides the sniper's spotter. Hathcock himself estimated that he had killed 300 or more enemy personnel during his time in Vietnam.
- Longest confirmed kill using 14.5×114 mm ammunition
- Serving as part of the UN Force Intervention Brigade
- Christopher Scott "Chris" Kyle (April 8, 1974 – February 2, 2013) was a United States Navy SEAL who claimed to be the most lethal sniper in American military history with 160 "confirmed" kills out of 255 claimed kills. This figure has been corroborated by the Department of Defense, U.S. Special Operations Command, and the U.S. Navy Special Warfare Command.
- Longest confirmed kill using 12.7 mm multi-purpose ammunition
- Officially adopted as a United States military bolt-action rifle on June 19, 1903, and issued to soldiers in WWI. The A4 was a sniper variant modified to accept a scope
- Longest confirmed kill with a 7.62×51mm NATO chambered rifle
- History of sniping
- Francis Pegahmagabow, a Canadian sniper with 378 confirmed kills, the highest in World War I
- Simo Häyhä, a Finnish sniper who, using a standard iron-sighted bolt-action rifle, recorded the highest number of confirmed kills in any major war (505 or 542)
- Vasily Zaytsev, a Soviet sniper who amassed 225 kills during the Battle of Stalingrad
- Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a Soviet sniper during World War II, credited with 309 kills, and regarded as the most successful female sniper in history
- SSG Adelbert Waldron, an American sniper who has the highest number of confirmed kills for American snipers during the Vietnam War (109)
- Fife 2017
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