This is a high-level overview of the different U.S. sniper training courses available today. In the US military, snipers are individuals who successfully completed a formal course either in the US Army Sniper School, USMC Scout Sniper Basic Course, or the US Army Special Operations Target Interdiction Course. Snipers are highly trained to be assigned to a scout-sniper team, which is distinct from the main unit. The exact designation and organization of snipers are unit-dependent.
Snipers possess special abilities and undergo specialized training to employ a range of techniques that enable them to engage calculated and highly accurate fire against a long range. To become a sniper requires developing basic infantry skills to a degree of perfection.
United States Army Sniper Course
Active duty soldiers can enroll for the seven week U.S. Army Sniper course. It aims to educate soldiers to be adaptive, critical, and creative while being fully-equipped tactical, technical, and logistical skills needed to serve in an effective sniper team. It also prepares potential snipers to have a solid understanding of individual and team responsibilities and duties.
This course teaches selected individuals in the necessary skills that enable them to perform accurate long range fire and to be able to collect relevant battlefield intelligence. They are trained in fieldcraft, advanced camouflage and concealed movement, range estimation, target detection in varying light and weather conditions, terrain operation, how to prepare intelligence reports, know the reporting procedures, sniper tactics, marksmanship, known and unknown distance firing, and combat orders to be able to accomplish a mission without compromise.
Individuals will undergo a comprehension evaluation of prerequisites to be able to quality for training.
USMC Scout Sniper
The United States Marine Corps (USMC) sniper course is an eight week solid introductory program and is a way to select the best who are capable of earning the USMC SS qualification. The Marine Corps produces the greatest snipers globally and these individuals are those who have skin in the game. They possess the fundamentals of good marksmanship. The purpose of the USMC sniper course is to train Marines in the understanding of all of what is required of a sniper who serves in a battalion or Reconnaissance unit. The course focuses on the essence of sniper field skills, the technical and tactical fundamentals of marksmanship, and in operation planning.
The sniper course specifically trains Marines to use the M40 series, the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System, and the M107 Scoped Rifle. This sniper course concludes with an all-inclusive field exercise that assesses the Marine’s capability to carry out every single duty required of sniper.
The duration of the training course delves into land navigation, surveillance, known and unknown distance marksmanship, target engagement with limited visibility, call for fire, mission planning, high frequency communications, and patrolling for surveillance and reconnaissance.
Before starting training, Marines needs to score at least 235 on a physical fitness test because training and being an active sniper is physically demanding. To qualify as a sniper, there are a number of training and readiness events that the Marine has to show proficiency in.
Special Operations Target Interdiction Course (SOTIC)
SOTIC concentrates on supporting the Army’s Special Forces and is a more intensive course than the USMC sniper training. Entrants are mature with a strong foundation in basic marksmanship. Sergeants and company sergeants major scrutinize and select soldiers to attend the course if they show ability in marksmanship skills and core competencies.
The Special Forces sniper is a three month course that requires tactical and technological proficiency in duties, information gather, optics, hardware, and communications. The course structure includes a range of advanced techniques using specialized weapons to acquire and engage stationary and moving targets during the day and at night, in both rural and urban settings while under extreme pressure.
They need to be skilled in surveillance, reconnaissance, stalking, and climbing techniques, and they should be able to gather and manage information, and operate a tactical communication center. Training also demonstrates how to conduct close-target reconnaissance, and vehicle-reconnaissance tactics, and how to operate manned and unmanned sites. They learn how to plan for time-sensitive sniper operations and learn how to shoot from aerial platforms. After training, exams are written, and the individual has to gain a minimum score in order to graduate.
This is a mentally and physically challenging course that demands the very best from the sharpest thinkers and shooters.
Naval Special Warfare (or SEAL) sniper course
The SEAL sniper course is one of top courses in the world for sniper training, which spans a three month period. Specific detail on the training is classified but on a high-level will consist of intel gathering and communication skills, fieldcraft, stalking, marksmanship, advanced ballistics, and training in mental management. The intensity and length of training sets this course apart from the others and graduates are trained to work as individual snipers. SEAL snipers can make quick assessments without needing a spotter.
What One Thing Makes a Professional Sniper?
Being a good sniper is not just about being a good shooter. It requires patience, discipline, and a range of technical, physical, and critical thinking skills. However, a lot comes down to ballistics. Knowing everything there is to know about the make up of a bullet, what affects flight, direction, and how to accurately estimate range without equipment are the top skills that separate highly-skilled snipers from good shooters.
The level of training is designed to put the sniper in every conceivable situation so he/she can utilize their capabilities for the best possible outcome. Training is designed to augment the sniper’s value in a unit that ensures the survival of the individual and his team in dangerous combat situations.
To compare, at 300 meters the average soldier will typically shoot and hit a man-sized target 10 percent of the time with an M16A2 rifle. Graduate snipers however are expected to hit their targets 90 percent of the time from 600 meters with an M24 Sniper Weapon System.
Just goes to show that a sniper needs to be highly trained in fieldcraft and long-range rifle marksmanship to effectively engage with the least amount of risk.