British Military Snipers


In an age with increased assault rifle ranges, hover-mobile armoured forces and ubiquitous sensor coverage, many commentators do not see a role for specialized snipers. Not so in the British Army and Royal Marines, where the skills of the sniper are still highly valued. Their capability to disrupt the enemy's command and control with a single well placed shot is invaluable and the ability of a single sniper pair to hold up entire enemy companies is well documented. Combined with their ability to call in indirect fire and to observe the enemy in secrecy and at close quarters, the sniper is a highly valuable resource in any unit.


5. The use of snipers and sharpshooters against Kafers in the defensive role requires both thought and re-training of such personnel. The traditional use of snipers deployed forward of the MDP in an attritional role, delaying and disrupting the enemy should be avoided. This only alerts the Kafers and makes them much more formidable when they finally reach the MDP. Instead snipers should be used to cover likely routes of infiltration into the defences which we know will be used by an aware Kafer enemy.

6. The use of sniper pairs in operations independent of the Company Group in all phases of operations can prove very rewarding. Using either direct fire or indirect fire on call they can degrade a Kafer band with relative impunity. Selected sniper pairs from the Battle Group were used in this manner in OA Isabelle and scored impressively. On operations such as these snipers must be provided with QRF support. Training on general and local tracking techniques should also be implemented.

7. Regardless of snipers and sharpshooters, the standards of marksmanship in battalions preparing for counter-Kafer operations must be of a high standard across the board. Independent assessments should be undertaken (preferably by Infantry Weapons Corps personnel) and remedial action taken. The close combat battle against the Kafer is won by precision in the firefight, not volume.

Extract from After Action Report on Operation Light Blue 00 - FOREX Aurora, Eta Bootis System. Compiled by Captain R K Cooper, Master Sniper, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment


Test Week
Employment & Tasking
Role Playing


The basic Sniper course is run centrally by the Joint Sniper Training Establishment (JSTE) or 'Sniper School' based alongside the School of Infantry's Tactics Wing at Sennybridge in Wales. In order to be considered for the course the candidate must normally be a sharpshooter within his parent unit and be considered suitable by the Master Sniper and Senior Sniper Instructor. This usually means that snipers are experienced infantry soldiers with on average 5 years of service, although sometimes exceptional young soldiers are accepted. Instructional ability and the capability to pass on the sniper training are also considered important.

The majority of the training is undertaken on local training areas, covering temperate and urban sniping. On successful completion of the course a further four week course can be undertaken which covers sniper employment within a range of different environments and is mostly conducted abroad. There are two versions of the Sniper course. The general one run by members of the Army's Infantry Weapons Corps and taken by members of the Army, RAF Regiment and RN Brigade. The Royal Marines, long the leading agency in British sniping, run their own specific course which covers much the same ground.

JSTE also runs the Sniper Commanders course which produces Master Snipers and Senior Sniper Instructors for all of the services. Other courses include those for Territorial Army snipers and one for police marksman (one Metropolitan Police SO13 officer is on permanent secondment to help administer this syllabus). JSTE is also responsible for the trailing of new equipment and weapons and the development of UK Sniper doctrine. It maintains close liaison with UK Special Forces and is responsible for the maintenance of links with foreign centers of excellence such as the USMC Scout Sniper Instructor School at Quantico. Lastly personnel from JSTE are on secondment with Britain's colonial militaries. JSTE is run by a Major of the Royal Marines with an equally ranked IWC deputy.

The Course

Sniper courses run for 6 weeks. The first week is largely taken up with testing to eliminate personnel who do not have the aptitude to be a sniper. Some highly recommended sharpshooters prove unsuitable on every course, sniping is as much about temperament as simple shooting skills. This first week involves rifle range, basic stalks and navigation.

Naturally the course involves a great deal of range work and a large proportion of the shoots are undertaken using the highly visceral Mark 8 targets. The course is notable for the high percentage of shoots done on real, rather than simulated ranges (although sim ranges are available to the students to do extra practise). Throughout the course the students will fire thousands of rounds from a variety of shooting positions and be expected to maintain the highest standards in day and night shoots.

The second week introduces basic sniper skills such as hide construction, and the ghillie suit. The ghillie suit is provided to each sniper, modern sensors make it necessary to have the suits constructed to defeat detection methods. Snipers do learn how to add camouflage to the outside of the suit. Similarly OP's and hides must be capable of defeating modern sensors.

Week 3 through 5 is taken up with training on: target recognition, observation and recording, communications procedures, mortar and artillery forward observer training, and basic forward air controller techniques. During this period intermediate training stalks are undertaken with the approach, observation and the shoot tested.

Most of the students on the course are already up to speed on many of these skills but JSTE pushes the candidates as hard as possible holding them up to excellent standards. Pressure is applied increasingly throughout the course with both day and night stalks being tested. The complete saturation of the training area with sensors mean that no short cuts can be taken and the student is constantly under scrutiny.

The test week

Week 6 is the final test week, and perhaps the only major difference between the British Army and RM courses. It tests the whole range of the sniper's skills with stress being placed on observation and forward observation skills. However no matter how impressively a candidate performs on these tests they can still fail unless they successfully complete the final stalks.

The final test is a 2000 metre approach until within 200 metres of the observers (to simulate a stalk up to an outpost followed by a shoot to a target 2000-3000 metres ‘deep’). Sniper instructors equipped with visual and multi-spectral sensors observing the designated stalking zone. They also have access to a number of designated remote sensors covering the approach route, most of these are marked on the student's map but some are unmarked but placed according to typical doctrine. An aware student will not be caught out by these, and most successfully reach the outpost.

The sniper has to observe the instructors for a 20 minute period. Neutral sniper instructors, known as walkers, are coached onto suspected sniper positions via one way communications. The instructors have two attempts to detect the sniper. The walker will not assist the observer in any way, with the observer having to direct the walker to place his hand on the suspected sniper. After the 20 minute period, the observer will instruct the walker to move to within 10 metres of the sniper position. The observer will then monitor the area, again attempting to walk the neutral observer onto the sniper position. Again after a set time period the observer will instruct the walker to point directly at the sniper position. The sniper fails if the observer can detect them. If not the observer will hold up a letter or number on a board, to prove they have line of sight to the observer. The sniper then must fire a blank round, if observed at this stage they also fail. The sniper rifle sight will record the shot, the walker will check the range and wind setting. If all is well, the sniper passes.

An Army sniper is awarded the coveted sniper qualification badge, crossed rifles with the letter ‘S’ on the left arm of the dress uniform. A RM sniper has the same badge and the Platoon Weapons 3 (PW3) qualification. The ultimate difference between the courses is the RM allow one attempt, the Army two successful stalks out of three in the final test.



In spite of their reputation for rifle marksmanship over the years, the use of snipers by the British has been somewhat stop-start. More often not their employment has been determined by individual battalion commanders rather than national doctrine. However the sniper revival in British forces has been firmly rooted since the mid-22nd century, partly as a result of the low troop densities caused by colonial soldiering.

The Royal Marines introduced a system of having a designated sharpshooter in every section. Although the sharpshooter was usually a qualified marksman he was also given training in sniping and counter-sniping techniques by the unit's snipers. More importantly a soldier achieving sharpshooter status would receive a pay bonus which added roughly 10% to his wage. This alone spurred interest and prestige in becoming a sharpshooter.

Most of the sharpshooters were retained with their companies and 'double hatted', the most talented would be brought into the Commando's Sniper Section. They would then be primed to go onto more advanced courses. This system is still in place and has spread throughout the British forces.

Virtually every infantry battalion and RM commando has an integral Sniper Section attached to its Support Company. The Section is composed of 8 sniper pairs and is led by a Master Sniper (if the unit has enough officers) and a Senior Sniper Instructor (WO2). In peacetime the sniper section usually operates as a small arms skill-at-arms cadre promoting general marksmanship standards within the unit as well as conducting sniper and sharpshooter training. Each company in the battalion has 9 sharpshooters and hold enough equipment to support 3 sniper pairs (one from each platoon) should the Company's OC require snipers to complete his mission.

Snipers are also be found in brigade and divisional close recce units. In these units, such as the Royal Marines' newly organised 41 Commando, snipers are present in larger numbers than a traditional battalion. UK Special Forces also make use of sniper weapons, equipment and techniques although they are rarely used as traditional battlefield snipers, but more in the counter-terrorist role.

The role of snipers in the RAF Regiment and RN Brigade is usually a static, mainly defensive one. A squadron or company will normally have two sniper pairs in addition to sharpshooters. It should be noted that every RM company has at least one Platoon Weapons 1 (PW1) qualified sergeant in its ranks who is a fully qualified sniper in addition to his job as a Troop Sergeant. RM sharpshooters have consistently proved to be of a higher standard than their Army colleagues, although some regiments such as the Royal Irish Rangers and Gurkhas have fine records.


Employment and Tasking

British snipers, like most others, work in pairs. The shooter is equipped with an accurate long barrel gauss rifle (and a pistol or PDW backup), the spotter a standard issue rifle. It is usual for the least experienced soldier to be the shooter and the more experienced to act as the spotter and commander. In Royal Marines units these roles are reversed, with the shooter being more experienced and responsible for tactical decisions as well as taking the shots.

The pair are equipped with a passive observation sensor, standard navigation and communications equipment in addition to their personal equipment. The pair usually deploy for a 48 hour period, inserted and extracted at night, to prevent fatigue. Between missions they rest and are not employed for other tasks.

The tasking of snipers is governed by several principles. Chief amongst them is that they should not be given tasks other forces can achieve. Control should be exercised at the highest possible level to insure proper co-ordination and task allocation. The basic unit for sniper operations is the sniper pair, but for prolonged tasks two pairs can be combined to increase longevity. Lastly all snipers when deployed should be supported by indirect fire or friendly forces and preferably both. It is important to give snipers loosely phrased, mission command style orders, in order to make best use of their initiative and flexibility. Usually snipers are given a defined geographical area from which to work known as a 'Sniper Box', which cuts down on 'blue-on-blue' risks.

The Master Sniper and Senior Sniper Instructor control tasking of the snipers from the battalion Fire Planning Cell and work in conjunction with the Patrol Master and Intelligence Officer. Members of the Sniper Section are usually employed on Battle Group tasks but can be delegated to the companies. A company's sharpshooters are usually tasked by the Company Second in Command, in conjunction with the Master Sniper, and are rarely passed up to battalion. The tasking process is usually very deliberate, including lots of planning time as once committed it is very difficult to pull snipers out of the field and re-task them.

On the defensive, sniper pairs are normally employed from camouflaged hides forward of the main line of defence but within artillery range, and equipped with 3D terrain navigation equipment. This shows all terrain in line of sight with ranges available at the click of a button, negating the need for active ranging systems. Alternatively they can be deployed as part of a covering force.

In this phase of operations snipers can prove useful in disrupting enemy command and control elements, as well as destroying both human and unmanned recce assets. Snipers are uniquely placed to kill key enemy personnel such as artillery or mortar observers or combat engineer commanders surveying friendly defences. Also important is the economy of force mission covering flanks and the rear of the defensive position, as well as covering landing zones and infiltration routes. Lastly the role of snipers in bolstering the recce screen and surveillance matrix should not be overlooked, not should the capacity of snipers in deceiving the enemy.

On the offensive, teams use Hawker hover scooters, or are transported by close reconnaissance teams in light vehicles, either Hover Rovers or Craufurds. In this phase of operations snipers can neutralise key enemy weapons such as anti-tank teams and personnel. They can also infiltrate through the enemy position to penetrate to the rear of the F Echelon and act as cut-offs, an especially useful role against an enemy with a delaying mission.

At the tactical level, in direct support of a battalion, snipers will overwatch the immediate objective in advance of any assault. In the Brigade level, snipers are employed well forward of the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA, frontlines), but still within artillery range. Which for some Divisional Recce Group troops with access to heavy artillery support can be up to 100km behind the lines.

Despite the communications and ability to call in indirect fire strikes, British snipers are just that. They will employ their skills to provide information back to higher HQ, then selectively eliminate specialist personnel such as unit commanders, comms operators, heavy weapons crews and exposed communications, sensor, light vehicles, fuel and supply units and so on. In higher intensity combat, sniper pairs would be integrated into an observation and defence plan involving direct and indirect assets. This includes the use of remote, emplaced missiles to attack vehicles and aircraft.

In operations against the Kafers the employment of snipers changes in subtle ways. They normally operate much closer to the main defensive position when on the back foot. The use of snipers deep in the enemy operational areas on autonomous missions proved to be viable and of high value against the enemy. The sniper's concealment and observation capabilities mean they can operate in rear areas with very little chance of being spotted by the enemy. This constant stream of human intelligence is very useful, and the opportunity to kill senior Kafer commanders has arisen, and been taken, on several occasions.



Sniper pairs are equipped with a large array of small devices specific to their role. Combined with their own personal equipment this amounts to a substantial load. Consequently they often operate with minimal personal comforts, a British sniper quickly gets used to being cold and wet.

Sniper rifles

Gauss rifles are making somewhat of a comeback post Central Asian War. The earlier laser rifles used in the sniper role were found to be too easy to detect, rendering the sniper very vulnerable to counter-fire. The sniper of 2300 uses a long barrel gauss rifle firing ceramic rounds (virtually impossible to detect on radar), and employs acoustic baffles to defeat counter sniper techniques.

Rockwell L341A2 "Ranger" Sniper Rifle, The current British issue sniper rifle, replacing the Rockwell L272 "Starlight" laser that had been the British Army's stopgap since 2286.

Type: 8mm Gauss Sniper Rifle, Country: UK, Wgt: 7kg, Length: 110cm (Bulk = 4), Action: SA, Ammunition: 8x33 flechette, Muzzle Vel: 1600mps (290mps), Magazine: 10 round disposable box with internal cell, Magazine Wt: 0.7kg, ROF: 1, Aimed Fire Rng: 1600m (250m), DP Val=3.4 (1.4), Price: Lv870 (Lv4 for a disposable loaded magazine)

Enfield L142A3 Gauss Assault Rifle, this is the current British service rifle. It is a short effective weapon with integral Image Intensifier (with Thermal and Nightsight options) and a Gyrostabiliser. It fires the standard 4.5mm ESA flechette but if FAM-90 magazines are used its performance is reduced (to that of a FAM-90) due to the lower battery charge. The A3 is specially modified for sniper work and is silenced (with selectable muzzle velocity) and has a lightweight bipod supplementing the gyro. Sharpshooters are issued with the standard section weapon.

Type: 4.5 mm Gauss Rifle with 30mm GL, Country: Britain, Wt: 4.2 kg, Length: 64cm (Bulk = 1), Action: Single Shots or Bursts, Ammunition: 4.5x20mm flechette, Muzzle Velocity: 1750mps (290 mps), Magazine: 60 rnd box magazine with integral power cell, Mag Wt: 0.2 kg, ROF: 4, Aimed Fire Rng: 960m, Area Fire Burst: 10 ( AFV = 1), Area Fire Rng: 480m (xxx m) DP Val: 0.7 (0.X), Price: Lv 445 (Lv2 per disposable magazine)


For the covert sniper role laser receivers and thermal detection systems have made the laser sniper rifle somewhat unpopular since the late stages of the Central Asian War. Still used by some forces, especially in the squad level designated marksman/sharpshooter role (a soldier armed with a ‘sniper rifle’ without the specialised sniper training).


The heavier rifles are used for the so called ‘anti-material rifle’ role against exposed sensors, light vehicles and so on at extended ranges. Laser guided rounds are used for some of the longer ranges. Most British battalions will have a small number of these weapons to be issued when required. The Royal Engineers also have some of these weapons to quickly destroy small unexploded ordnance, although its personnel are not trained snipers.

Use FTE-10 stats with a Homing Value of 8 out to 2800 metres and 3 out to 5600 metres.

Infantry Rifle

For close range work (under 600 metres), standard rifles are used, especially for fighting in build up areas. The short target exposure times is made up by the higher rifle rate of fire. Typically noise suppressors are fitted.

Ghille Suit

Although visually little changed from its ancient 20th Century ancestor the modern ghillie (named for the Highland gamekeepers whose skills in fieldcraft were appropriated by the British Army in WW1) suit is a highly advanced piece of kit. It includes elements for defeating visual, thermal and electromagnetic detection.

Weight: 10 kg Signature: -6


The spotter carries a standard manpack tight beam communications system of the type normally carried by the platoon signaler. A powerful set it also includes rudimentary EW and ESM systems aiding the sniper pair in tracking down enemy HQ elements as well as in providing a limited deception capability. Each sniper is also equipped with a lightweight TISS (Tactical Integrated Soldier System) headset and radio, the latter is rarely used, the pair normally communicate with hand signals, except for in emergencies or to tie in with troops on the ground.


Passive Observation Sensor, was briefly known as ‘piece of shite’, until the bugs were worked out. Can record still or motion imagery, and download to HQ via the comms. When interfaced with the TISS and TRS notations and labels can be swiftly added increasing the value of the imagery. However snipers still train with paper and pencil sketches.


Terrain Reference System, utilized with the POS and comms to provide the team with passive ranging information and call in fire strikes from mortars, artillery and aircraft. This unit is part of Black Arrow's Damocles artillery information system and is also carried by dedicated Forward Observation personnel.

Light Counter Sniper sensor

Embedded in most frontline infantry are acoustic and laser detection equipment. This equipment has a sensor range of 1000 metres. All modern infantry soldiers are equipped with this equipment, which forms part of the TISS system in British service.

Medium Counter Sniper sensor

A tripod mounted unit covering a 120 degree arc, with a range of 5000 metres. An area of interest in a 30 degree arc can be scanned with a +2 bonus.

Heavy Counter Sniper sensor

Basically a series of the medium sensors networked, providing targeting information to light artillery and defending troops.

Sniper Co-ordination System

A brief-case size system which when opened has a screen and control system. The screenshots are from up to 6 snipers which send the videofeed constantly. The sniper takes first pressure on the trigger, which sends a signal, lighting a screen border around their screen shot. When the commander has the required number of valid sight pictures, they send the go signal via a deadman's trigger. This in turn lights up a green light in the snipers sight picture. The sniper is then cleared to take the shot. Usually a piece of counter-terrorist kit, the SCC is used in certain circumstances as an intelligence gathering tool in peacekeeping operations. It is not standard British Army issue to regular infantry snipers.



Snipers are fun to role-play, but not so fun to be on the receiving end. Depending on the mission, you would observe a target or area of terrain and report to higher HQ, call in fire strikes, then eliminate individuals.

British sniper character generation require few changes to the standard Ground Military career:

Add to Primary Skills: Stealth
Add to Related Skills: Imaging, Security Systems

The addition of the stealth skill is obvious, this is stalking and avoiding being detected. The Imaging is due to the amount of work with image recording equipment. British Snipers are taught the basics of breaking and entering for operations in built up areas, hence the Security System skill.

50% of British snipers are considered Veteran and 50% Elite NPC. However in all cases they have Stealth and Combat Rifleman as one level higher:

Veteran sniper with Combat Rifleman 3, Stealth 3, other skills at 2.
Elite sniper with Combat Rifleman 4, Stealth 4, other skills at 3.

All military snipers can choose to select any hit location, such as the head, upper torso, etc at one task difficulty greater than normal at effective range or greater (no penalty at close range). If the sniper misses the designated location, but rolls under the next highest hit number roll a D6 on the table below if at close or effective range (use standard table at long or extreme range). Due the accurate match rounds snipers use and the specialised training, they roll a D6 for potential wound and hit location.

For Torso shots use this table:

  1. Head
  2. Upper Torso
  3. Torso
  4. Torso
  5. Right arm
  6. Left arm

For head shots use this table:

  1. Miss
  2. Miss
  3. Miss
  4. Head
  5. Upper Torso
  6. Torso

An elite British sniper equipped with the British L342A1, is attempting a head shot at a range of 1200 metres. This is usually a Routine task, but increases to Difficult. The shot will hit the head on a 6+, failing this hits the target on 2+ using the table above. The natural 1 is a miss. At a close range of 600, the task is Routine. The round hits the head on 2+. A natural 1 is a miss.



Sniper. Mark Spicer (Salamander Books, 2001)
Stalk and Kill: The Sniper Experience. Adrian Gilbert (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1997)
Bryn Monnery’s British Rifles:



'There will always be the need for effective rifle marksmanship, and the sniper is the apex of all infantry skills, and used properly he should be an asset in war, and an enormous training asset in peace.'

Unnamed British Paratroop Officer 1990's (Gilbert)

Copyright 2009, Peter Grining and D Hebditch