The More Things Change…

Donald Sensing has an interesting piece up concerning the lessons learned from the war in Iraq.

Lesson One: Infantry rifle combat distances unchanged since World War I

Long range marksmanship has its place, but in combat it’s still up close and personal, apparently. According to this Strategy Page piece:

The role of snipers is changing. There are still, “one shot, one kill and get out” situations. But often the sniper is concealed in friendly territory and facing multiple targets that all need prompt attention. This has made semiautomatic sniper rifles like the SR25, and refurbished (and upgraded for better accuracy) M-14s popular with many combat snipers. Sniping ranges are often quite short, making a slightly less accurate (than a bolt action sniper rifle) SR25 popular. For this kind of shooting, every round does not have to hit within a inch of the cross hairs. Two or three inches will do if you are aiming for the trunk, and not the head, and at 200-300 meters, a trained sniper can do this with a high quality semi-automatic like the SR25, and do it quickly enough to make a difference. “Semi-automatic sniping” is becoming more popular with troops who have not gone through extensive sniper training. It’s becoming more common to have one or two men per squad trained as designated sharpshooters. They are selected for their natural skill at shooting, given some additional training and a better scope for their M-16, and trained to be, well, the squad sharpshooter. It’s also more common to equip all combat troops with some kind of scope for their M-16, and make available night vision and heat sensing scopes as well. All of this comes from the basic idea that better trained troops mean soldiers who have more practice with their infantry weapons. More skill means more can be done with additional equipment like scopes. So far, this approach seems to be working. And it should, because during both World War I and II, years of combat brought out thousands of natural snipers, who made it dangerous to stick your head out when too close to the enemy. With the introduction of the 12.7mm sniper rifle in the 1980s, it became possible to hit someone two miles away. It’s dangerous out there. If you’re the one with most of the snipers, that’s just the way you want it.

So even most “sniping” is done at relatively close range. Those incidents where extreme-range shots are taken are very, very rare.

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