Military

World's longest sniper kill - 2.47km twice!

World's longest sniper kill - ...
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The sniper is without doubt the most feared combatant in any theater of war, the best of whom have an array of skills far beyond simply being able to hit human targets at a distance. Snipers are the most cost effective way of killing the enemy.

Individual snipers routinely account for more kills than entire battalions operating in the same place at the same time, hit the target almost every time, and each bullet costs around €2.

What's more, snipers inflict a psychological terror on an enemy force that restricts its ability to operate effectively – when elite snipers are operating, they are invisible close up, and can strike from enormous distance, so nowhere is safe.

Indeed, an elite sniper's skills cannot be assessed with a single measurement, so the “longest confirmed kill” record stands as the pseudo world championship for military combat riflemen, and as of now there's a new outright champion - using an Accuracy International L115A3, British Corporal Craig Harrison killed two Taliban with consecutive shots at a distance of 2.47 kilometres (8120 ft) in Helmand Province, Afghanistan last November (2009). He then fired a third shot and hit the Taliban's PKM machinegun in perhaps the most prodigious feat of marksmanship in military history.

If you're wondering why it took so long for Harrison's kill to be made public, (it was made last November and only became commonly known in the last few days), understand that the publicity such a feat brings may not necessarily be wanted, or healthy, particularly if you are still "in theater". Harrison, who also survived a bullet passing through his helmet, and two broken arms from an IED explosion, has now finished his tour of duty and the story can be told.

The previous longest kill by Canadian Army Corporal Rob Furlong had been spoken of by soldiers in hushed tones for five years before it fell upon the ears of a reporter and become public knowledge and his name revealed.

Harrison's feat is clearly the stuff of legend.

The previous record holder - Furlong - killed an al-Qaeda fighter from 2.43 km during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2002. Furlong's shot was also legendary – he made military history. There would not be any military personnel in the world who would not be aware of Furlong's feat, and subsequently Harrison's, and who would not measure that distance off towards the horizon every day when they are in a combat zone.

Harrison bested it TWICE – with consecutive shots – then fired at and hit the much smaller target of the gun the Taliban had been carrying. This is completely without parallel in military history.

The rifle used by Furlong for his previous record was the “Big Mac”, the McMillan Bros Tac-50 used by Canadian Special Forces and the best .50 sniper rifle in the world.

Like Juan Manuel Fangio's car, Valentino Rossi's motorcycle or Sir Donald Bradman's bat, a varying proportion of the glory should also go to the champion's tool of choice – for snipers, the tool of choice is critical, with Harrison using an Accuracy International L115A3 Long-Range rifle – a rifle originally developed by an Olympic gold medalist target shooter which we wrote up two years ago in an article entitled – the best sniper rifle in the world.

Craig Harrison's AI L115A3 cost the British Ministry of Defence GBP23,000 (US$34,000), weighs 6.8 kilograms, and fires an 8.59mm bullet which is heavier than the 7.62mm round of the previous L96 model and hence less likely to be deflected over extremely long ranges. The L115A3 has a five-round magazine, enabling the sniper to fire five rounds rapidly, though that would almost never happen.

The L115A3 has an adjustable cheek piece to comfortably align the shooter's eye with scope, and a folding stock so the rifle can be more easily carried in a backpack.

It comes with an adjustable bi-pod stand and a suppressor to reduce the flash and noise of the gun – once the enemy knows where a sniper is, he too becomes a target – and a scope, in this case a 25 X magnification S&B 5-25x56 day scope.

In extremely skilled hands, the L115A3 can hit a human-sized target from 1400 meters (even at that range, it hits harder than a .44 Magnum does in the same room), which means Harrison's shots put him in almost superhuman company, as he almost doubled that distance, in combat, and killed a first then second Taliban with consecutive shots, then took a third shot at the PKM machinegun they unfortunate pair had been carrying with the intention of disabling it – the gun was hit but damage could not be assessed.

Firing one bullet with that accuracy over more than a mile and half, has never been recorded previously – Harrison did it three times running. Though the bullet leaves the barrel at three times the speed of sound, it still takes more than two and a half seconds to travel that distance. Though the day was clear and still and in thin mountain air, Harrison still had to aim six feet higher than the targets, and two feet to the left to allow for the gentlest of breezes and bullet fall.

While Harrison's feat is perhaps the most prodigious in the history of military marksmanship, the most common way of assessing the effectiveness of a sniper is the number of "kills" and by that measure, Finland's Simo Häyhä was the most deadly sniper in history.

During just 100 days of the Winter War (1939–1940), between Finland and the Soviet Union, Häyhä was credited with 505 confirmed kills of Soviet soldiers - that's five a day. He worked in white camouflage in temperatures between −40 and −20 degrees Celsius, and amassed the greatest sniper tally in history.

Besides his sniper kills he was credited with 200 from a Suomi KP/31 Submachine gun, topping off his total confirmed kills at 705.

If the world of the military sniper is intriguing to you, I can suggest an excellent new book on the subject written by Hans Halberstadt entitled “Trigger Men” I just spent seven and a half hours listening to the audio book though, go figure, exactly the same book is much cheaper in printed form, despite the cost of paper and printing and binding and schlepping and postage.

The book more than adequately kept my brain busy during an international flight and covers the exploits of the modern sniper with hours of anecdotes from Iraq and other recent wars. Halberstadt spoke with some of the most revered names in sniping history to put the book together – names such as Carlos Hathcock II, who recorded 93 kills, including one of 2.29 kilometers during the Vietnam war, and Sgt James Gilliland, who also pulled off one of the most remarkable kill shots ever recorded in a strong breeze. The role of the sniper has changed, and this book explains why.

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60 comments
DemonDuck
I\'m always so thrilled to read about our efficient killing machines. Why I bet that a consumer version of this sniper rifle would be a big hit.
Hey maybe we could have a reality based TV show where contestants try to make difficult kill shots....
robinyatesuk2003
three hits in one target zone,, WOW ! proves it was not just a lucky shot
Mickey
I don\'t think that killing people from a long distance is cause for celebration. It may be necessary, but killing people is always tragic.
Iman Azol
Wow. Some serious hype here.
The primary utility of a sniper is intelligence gathering--infiltration, scopes, radios and sat phones means lots of information for tactical planning. Killing is secondary, but useful if the opportunity presents itself, and doesn\'t hinder intelligence.
And no, they don\'t \"routinely\" kill more troops than entire battalions. Most snipers will have one or two kills in their entire career.
Gonzalo Villouta Stengl
Thank you very much for this information.
I was wondering if you could also provide updated information of cost effective top nuclear weapons?
I think, with all my respect, you should restrict your technology screen update to peace, wealth and sustainability oriented developments. We need urgently a shortcut to live in a better worl. So, please help the world, not the contrary.
THIS IS A WORLDWIDE DEMAND !!!!!
Got it ?
HOPEFULLY.
mhenriday
Wonderful to see Gizmag celebrating murder in a foreign country - keep up the good work !...
Henri
Dread Zontar
Hats off to the snipers mentioned here for their prowess.
That being said, my sentimental favourite and personal \'Greatest of Them All\' is SIno Hayha of Finland.
The fellow\'s credited with something like 500 confirmed kills and another 40-odd if unconfirmed ones are added. He\'s also credited with a couple 100 more, but those were machine-gun ones.
Even more amazing, he did this:
- in less than 100 days (!!!); - during the 1939-40 Winter War against the Red Army when it invaded Finland; - in minus 20 to minus 40 degree weather; - on days where the Sun was up for short hours; - he used 1930-40s technology ... and he used METAL sights rather than telescopic ones because the latter might reflect light that would reveal him to the enemy; - to make him invisible as possible, he\'d breathe out through his mouth, which he filled with snow ... the snow would prevent his breath from condensing outside of him and revealing his position.
Plus, he took a shot to the face and survived! Now, THAT is ONE tough farm boy!
Hail, Finland, HAIL! And viva Simo Hayha!
And no, I'm not Finnish.
Facebook User
I see noting exciting about a man that shots two other men, enemies or not.
Stein
I easily see why this accomplishment is fascinating. The level of skill is impressing. The setting is severe, whatever definition of that word is used. The feeling of \"showing them bad guys\" something. And a lot more related thoughts.
But I assume that the guy who did achieve these extremely difficult kills, will think the attitude in this article is rather sickening. He\'s been in serious danger many times. He will have had PLENTY of time in bad places, contemplating the value of life, his own and any others. He will have thought about the possibility of roles being reversed, and that being as justified, and as real. Situations when reality in its gravest form is very close, make people realize a lot...
Treating kills as some sort of sports achievement, is very wrong. This piece of text is highly disrespectful of the situation. I would guess that Corporal Craig Harrison, given the chance, would like to slap the writer in the face, like you do when a kid has behaved really offensively, but mostly not meant badly. I think the writer has just not thought properly about it.
I see this type of writing a byproduct of a culture I dislike. It seems as this culture has a strong following in the US. The National Rifle Association, NRA, seems to be one breeding ground for extremely soft brains. I hope someone is offended by that. But more strongly I hope the writer was just sloppy with his style, and that the resemblance with people who think philosophy is a clothing brand, was a mishap.
Just to emphasise: I do not try to say that this topic should not be covered in Gizmag. But with such a serious and sensitive topic, a writer with a better sense of reality, and of what he\'s discussing, should be used. The mentioned killings did not take place in \"Star Wars\" or \"Avatar\". They were real killings. Yes shooting them probably was right, but that really is a choice between very bad and even worse. The two dead had parents, and probably kids and more. Many people now suffer. Most likely Corporal Craig Harrison is one of them. You never forget a kill. This is probably why it took so long to reach the public. None implied wanted this type of attention.
Seeing a war scene makes sure you know it\'s nowhere near a sport, an adventure or heroism. No winners. All loose. It\'s a very bad hell. Only that. Please remember this, out of respect for people involved, and out of respect for what type of attitudes can be tolerated in our society. Treating killings as sports is just NOT tolerable.
Biggles
Anyone watching Thai TV on any channel from 11th to about 15th April could witness a flag waving street protestor in the middle of a crowd being hit in the head by a sniper and the devastating effect thereof. Its one thing to read a book about it but another to see this actually happen in front of your eyes in your home. We were told later that the rifle used was from Israel and said to cost $150,000 with specialist training an extra cost. Also a photo in the local Thai paper recently shows a soldier on a pedestrian overpass sprawled behind a sniper rifle along with a spotter man checking targets below . I cannot identify if the weapon was one of those mentioned here.