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June 03, 2004

Gratuitous Gun Pics

INFANTRY: Long Range Sniping and Thin Air

June 3, 2004: When the .50 caliber (12.7mm) sniper rifle was introduced in the 1980s, it was expected that records for the longest range sniper shot would regularly be broken. That finally happened, in Afghanistan on March 2-1, 2002. A team of Canadian snipers (Master Corporal Graham Ragsdale, Master Corporal Arron Perry and Corporal Dennis Eason of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry), using the .50 caliber MacMillan Tac-50 sniper rifle, got at least one kill at 2,400 meters. There were several others at ranges nearly as long.

The previous record had been 2,250 meters, set by U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock in Duc Pho, South Vietnam in 1967. The Hathcock shot was also made with a .50 caliber weapon, but this was not the modern .50 caliber sniper rifle, but a standard M-1 .50 caliber machine-gun with a scope on it. The previous records, many with poor documentation, with 7.62mm caliber sniper rifles, rarely exceeded a thousand meters. Technically, the 12.7mm sniper rifle is only accurate enough for consistent hits at up to about 1,800 meters.

Carlos Hathcock

The Canadians, and all modern snipers, use custom built rifles and ammo for their work. Hathcock had another disadvantage, he was firing in hot and humid Vietnam, while the Canadians were firing in the thin (at 11,000 feet) and cold air of Afghanistan. The hot, humid lowland air provides more resistance, and distortion, for a bullet. With that in mind, Hathcock always insisted that the shot was as much luck as skill. The Canadian shots were all skill, as they killed nearly two dozen Taliban and al Qaeda fighters at ranges of around 2,000 meters.

Before the specially made .50 caliber sniper rifles came along, the standard sniper rifle was 7.62mm (.30 caliber), with a standard effective range of 800 meters (although shots out to 1,000 meters were not unknown). The .50 caliber sniper rifle doubled those ranges, and then some. U.S. troops in Iraq are using .50 caliber sniper rifles, but are not getting as much opportunity to make really long distance shots because most of the operations are in flat areas.

I can't resist a little fun here... the PPCLI are also known as Princess Patti's Completely Lost Infantry...

This is probably a good point to bring up this little tidbit, too:

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper wants to give Canada's armed forces a $1.2-billion per year and bring troop levels up to 80,000.

Harper's defence package would see the number of troops skyrocket from the current 52,400. The Conservative plan also gives Parliament the right to authorize the deployment of troops to combat and peacekeeping zones, a decision cabinet members currently make.

While the state of Canada's military has yet to emerge as a major election issue, funding shortfalls and the aging equipment used by troops have been the focus of much debate in recent years.

Last week, Harper said the Liberals have put the lives of Canadian troops at risk by not funding the armed forces at levels that can afford appropriate equipment. In particular, the Iltis jeeps used in Afghanistan have been blamed for not protecting Canadians from mine accidents.

"We don't want to go over the top and start pointing the fingers at particular individuals and saying they are guilty for deaths, but hopefully as political figures we'll take our responsibilities towards citizens, towards our troops seriously," Harper said.

Just as we're having trouble with troop fatigue meeting our current commitments, so too have the Canadians. Not that this will provide immediate relief - the time between authorizing an increase, and accessing, training, and integrating those troops is about two years, especially if you are standing up units, not just filling out existing units.

Of course, as the thoughtful contributor of this little tid-bit pointed out:

Sweat it! We're going to be #15 no longer; #14 here we come!

Hat tip: Strategy Page, and JMH!

John | Permalink | Comments (7) | Gun Pics
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