Many people have the misconception that a sniper is a shooter only, dedicated to making that one well-placed shot on target when most needed by his country, unit commander or police force. The reality is that a sniper is a bit of a statistician, an information gatherer and finally a shooter. To illustrate this, a sniper may lay in position for days, gathering intelligence, noting troop movements or terrorist activities. He may never get a shot. But he will always record what he sees. Details as simple as "02 Aug., '99, 11:45am. saw a soldier with a green tube across back - tube approximate length, 30 inches" may have great meaning to an intelligence officer. It may point to the fact that said enemy troops have anti-tank capability in the form of light anti-tank weapons. For a police sniper, information gathering is equally important as his pre-assault observations may dictate how an entry team is to tackle the threat. Simply noting with which hand a criminal is holding his gun may lend a slight tactical advantage to the response team. The police sniper has the ability, with his optics, to see avenues and actions not immediately apparent to the SRT waiting to storm a hostage situation. A well-trained sniper is as much an observer as he is a shooter. He provides over-watch and real time intelligence to the rest of the team.
Information gathering does not stop at intelligence and observation, for a sniper is also a shooter. He must know his rifle's idiosyncrasies at least as well as he knows those of his spouse or child. A sniper must to be able to walk into a new and life-threatening situation, lay down behind his rifle and assure a first round hit. This requires a level of familiarity with his equipment that the average shooter may not possess. This skill is neither magic nor mythical. It is the end result of endless hours of training and meticulous record keeping. To this end, every sniper develops a data book in which he records the minutia of his trade for future reference. It is his shooting bible. Found within this book is all the information required to allow the shooter to take aim, in most any condition, and expect the first round to impact within a reasonable proximity of his point of aim. That information is not gotten easily. It has been compiled over a great period of personal time and recorded for future use.
Sniper Data Books come in many varieties. Some are simple and contain only pertinent rifle data, elevation tables (come-ups), windage correction tables and recorded data from field fire practice. At the other extreme, some books are miniature instruction manuals for sniping. These are useful but a bit confusing in the field as one appreciates having the needed data NOW without a lot of paging and searching. In the middle, you will find data books that include other items like observation logs, range cards, and various tables for determining what a bullet will do under certain atmospheric conditions. The subject of this review is a book I would consider somewhere in-between the extremes. It is strictly a data book, but it also includes observation logs and range cards.
The T.R.G.T. Sniper Data Book is marketed by T.R.G.T.-L.L.P. of Littleton, Colorado. It measures 5.5" x 8.5" and is made of Rite in the Rain all weather writing paper by Darling Corp. The T.R.G.T. book has 13 sections consisting of the following page titles: General data, Cold Bore Data, Zero Data, Bullseye Target Data, Stationary Target Data (known Distance), Unknown Distance Data with Range cards, Moving Target Lead summery, Moving Target Data, Target Dimensions, Observation log, a field sketch section, Range Cards, and finally the all-important barrel log for recording total shots fired.
The outer cover is a heavy-duty vinyl plastic in Olive Drab and the binding is spiral bound. The binding is spring metal. Generally, data books are bound in either three-ring binders which tend to lose pages easily, plastic spiral binding or spring metal binding. The binding of the T.R.G.T. is excellent. You will not lose pages easily even when the book is wet. Nor will the binding slip out of the slotted pages as can happen with a plastic spiral binding. The only down side of this method of binding is that to remove a page from the book it must be torn free. You cannot easily replace it. Every binding method is a trade-off. With the invention of the copy machine, an officer will hopefully never have reason to physically remove a page from this book, but if he must he will not be putting it back. This might only be an issue if he wished to provide a range card or page from the observation log to his superiors or teammates. This scenario notwithstanding, the binding on the T.R.G.T. book is the best way to go for real field use.
The Rite in the Rain pages have a slightly waxy feel. To test out how well these work, I submerged a torn-out page in the sink for a few seconds. When removed, the water simply ran off the page and it actually felt dry to the touch. I immediately wrote on it with a pen and the paper performed as if dry. The water actually beaded up just like it does on a freshly waxed car. Wanting to pursue this further, I completely submerged the paper in the sink for 15-plus seconds. When I removed it, the paper finally felt wet to the touch as would be expected. I could not get a pen to leave a good trace but this is probably a function of water on the pen tip. Pencil could be immediately used as normal. After wiping the pen point dry, I was able to get weak ink traces - enough to leave a mark, but not a highly visible one. This second test is extreme and even in a downpour one will generally not get a data book completely soaked through. But I wanted to test the limit of this neat invention. After several minutes I could write with a pen normally. Rite in the Rain paper will not provide you with miracles in the wet outdoors, but it is 100% better than normal bond.
The layout of the book is well thought out with the rifle data at the front. You will most likely need to add tabs to each section to quickly access them. This is a simple matter of cutting some masking tape or more sturdy adhesive material and affixing it to the beginning of each data section for easy access. Just fold it over upon itself, making sure you have about an 8th of an inch on each side of the new section page. Without the tabs, you can rely on the large bold text provided on the lower portion of each page, but this will take longer.
The rifle data section is pretty standard. There are conversion tables, windage charts, zero charts, angle fire formulas and ballistic tables for the .308 caliber M118, M118LR, M852 and M80 rounds. You can use the M852 table if you shoot the Federal GM 168 grain loading and the M118LR table should be close to the Federal GM2 175 grain loading. As always, you will have to make up your own tables for your rifle and exact load, but the provided tables will get you on paper out to 1000 yards. You will also find useful target size tables. These provide ranges for targets from 6" to 72" and when used with a mil-dot telescope will give you a quick reference for targets from .2 mils all the way up to 10 mils in height. This section also has a primer on leads and estimating wind velocity.
One of the most useful things I found in the data book was the section on Cold Bore shots. The layout is excellent, allowing you to accrue data over the long term. Using these pages will allow you to track your CBS as the barrel wears and as temperature and elevation changes. Columns are provided for recording important data for each shot: weather, ammo, elevation. The grid pattern of the illustrated target will allow you to easily see how each shot performed on different days and conditions. There are provisions for 50 such shots to be recorded. An active shooter will use this section up quickly if he is mindful and records his data religiously. I might have liked to see a few more pages devoted to this but frankly, you can garner quite a bit of data in 50 visits to the range! On the back of each CBS page is a Remarks page. The uses are obvious and this was a nice afterthought.
The Zero Data pages which include, for the purposes of this article, the Known Distance (KD) and Unknown Distance (UKD) pages, comprise most of the remainder of the book. They are fairly standard in format and easily understood. On the back of the UKD pages you will find range cards -- a most useful tool for both the competitor and the police/military shooter. Once filled out, you will always have a reference for that area of operations even if the targets are moved or move of their own volition.
There is a section on Target dimensions that will allow the user to record these vital measurements for future reference. This is very important when a shooter is placed in a situation requiring ranging on targets of unknown distance. The layman's idea of a sniper taking a bead on a human target and ranging him with his mil-dot scope does not take into account that said target may be a bee bopping, running or a barely visible individual. Live targets do not exactly sit still like a steel bullseye waiting for you to use your nifty ranging system on them. The reality is that most shooters prefer to pre-range an area and make up a range card based on their observations. Only then when a target appears can they quickly and easily make a snap shot if required. It can happen the Hollywood way, but if you have an area pre-ranged, your odds of a first-round hit are much higher. The Target Dimension section is provided so you can keep a record of common objects you might find in your area of operation -- bricks, windows, trash cans, vehicles. All can be entered into this section for quick reference.
The final section of the data book comprises an observation log, field sketch pages and extra range cards. I personally prefer these items to be in a separate book but the logic of having them all together in one book is sound. Less to carry, less to lose. Most of all, everything is easily accessed and you always know where it is. My own reasoning for separate booklets is less logical. When in a separate book, these pages can be removed when asked for by instructors or superiors without a care. I do not feel bad about ripping a page out of a cheap Xeroxed copy of a standard military observation log that I made on my own, but I would kind of loathe ripping anything out of this data book!
In the very back of the book is one of the most important and probably most neglected sections of ANY data book on the market - The Barrel Log. Here you record the total number of shots you have fired through the current barrel of your rifle. I know of few civilians who keep this kind of data. It should be mandatory for police and military snipers. If not mandatory, it is at least a good idea. When your barrel starts to go, you will know why if you check the log and see you have 3500 rounds out the tube. Another reviewer of this data book made a good point. If you have an accurate record to present to your superiors, it is more likely you will be able to push for a new barrel when the time comes. Just saying, "it's all shot up, sir" won't cut it if you cannot show how many rounds have been fired. I feel that a barrel log can also be used as a diagnostic tool. If the rifle starts to show abnormal behavior, you always have a reference to how far you are into its life cycle. If you KNOW you only have 150 rounds out and things start going south, you can at least eliminate a few obvious reasons for the decrease in accuracy. Throat wear for example. If you do not have a clue as to how many rounds you have fired, you will have to start from scratch in your diagnostic. Further, you are better able to keep track of accuracy with a barrel log. My rifle, for instance, exhibited a marked increase in accuracy after 350 rounds. The barrel finally settled in and smoothed out. Cleaning was easier. It was interesting to me personally to note at what point in the barrel's life this happened. It will be interesting to note how the barrel changes as the round count builds. Without the log, this is left to a guess at best.
A case can be made that like a ghillie suit, the best data book is the one you make for yourself after months of study and field practice. But like the ghillie suit, some folks have neither the time nor the knowledge to create a decent book. No book can do it all but the T.R.G.T. book comes dangerously close. It is not an instruction manual on long-range shooting, thank God. Humping such a book around would simply suck. T.R.G.T. made a straight forward data book for recording your rifle data. If you want an education, go buy a manual. The Sniper Data Book is, on the other hand, a perfectly sized booklet, able to withstand most weather and chock full of the basic data you need. Adding your own observations on your personal rifle will make the book an excellent resource for future use.
My only complaints, if you can call them that, is the lack of tabs for the sections (easily remedied at home) and the lack of grids behind the illustrated targets. Are grids needed? Frankly no, I just prefer them. The only other item I would like to see changed is the section on bullseye targets. There are a wealth of data books for the high power shooter that are better made to serve that crowd and their particular needs. I felt that the pages provided for straight bullseye shooting were needless as this is a Sniper Data book and the typical user will be tactical shooting competitors and real snipers. Give me a grid and let me draw my own targets in this section. Of course, this too is a minor thing. You can just draw right over the bullseye.
In closing, Sniper Country highly recommends the T.R.G.T.-L.L.P. Sniper Data Book. A year ago I commented on the Duty Roster that I was thinking of producing a data book for our visitors. After seeing this product, I have little reason to pursue this endeavor. This book has all you need.
T.R.G.T.-L.L.P. can be contacted:
Via their website
Or their snail-mail address:
T.R.G.T.-L.L.P.Or by email.
P.O. Box 471
Littleton, CO 80160