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MilitaryIAmA former US Army sniper AMA

May 13th 2016 by 2nd_shot • 42 Questions • 79 Points

I'm a former US Army sniper, I served in the 82nd Airborne Division and was deployed to Afghanistan. I also run a somewhat popular Instagram page under the user name 2nd_shot_correction

Got questions? Send it!

http://imgur.com/iya5DFI

EDIT: I'm driving right now but I'll continue to answer question when I get a chance.

EDIT 2: I'm back.

Q:

Current Army cadet here. What would you say is the best quality in a young officer?

A:

Listening to their Plt Sgt


Q:

It seems that Snipers are generally required to spend a very long periods of time (days) in fixed positions.
I can imagine threats anywhere from Ants, Wasps, Scorpions, Poisonous snakes to being stepped on by an enemy soldier

What concerned you most while in the field? How did you deal with these things in general?

A:

In training yes, nothing overly concerning but bugs were always the most annoying. Thermacell's are lifesavers though and they don't give off too much of a scent!

In combat we never operated alone, always with a larger not very sneaky force so there wasn't any concern about being compromised as everyone knew we were there anyway.


Q:

Follow-up question and forgive me for asking... When you are "on target" how do handle needing to pee etc?
I can't imagine you can just stand up (or squat).

A:

Roll to one side, unzip and let 'er rip. Although if you were in an extremely precarious position you'd just piss in your pants. If you're going to be there for a few days though you'd typically be in a "hide site" usually dug into the ground, in that case you piss and shit in empty MRE bags which is pretty disgusting but you gotta do what you gotta do.


Q:

Best officer you served under vs worst?

A:

Best: Aggressive but not reckless, tactically and technically competent. Lead from the front and truly cared about and got to know those under his command. Was more afraid of letting us down than letting his superiors down.

Worst: Risk averse, borderline incompetent when it came to infantry tactics. Arrogant and saw those under his command as a burden. Wouldn't hesitate to throw his soldiers under the bus to appease higher.


Q:

Thanks for your answer. Trying to decide between going enlisted next year or trying to go the officer route.

A:

Good luck with your decision. Food for thought: some of the best officers I served under were enlisted first.


Q:

How often did you shoot before enlisting? I've heard some of the best shooters are ones who join the military without ever shooting before because they learn how to shoot correctly in training and don't develop bad habits from shooting as a child.

A:

That is true, I didn't do much serious footing before I enlisted, just plink at the range and duck hunt.


Q:

Have you read any of the (relatively) recent novels written by American military snipers? For example, Jarhead or American Sniper.

What are your thoughts on them? Any parts you didn't you like? (And yes I realize that the two books I picked are very different in terms of content and "politics".)

A:

I tried to read American Sniper but couldn't finish it. Absolute garbage.

Jarhead is spot on, one of my favorites.


Q:

What made American Sniper so bad?

A:

It read like self inflating propaganda. I have no doubt he was a good sniper and put a lot of bad dudes in the ground but I wasn't a fan of the book or the movie so I'll leave it at that.


Q:

That is pretty awesome! Thank you so much for answering :D♥

A:

No problem.


Q:

Hello, thanks for doing this AMA.

How did your family handle you being gone and in an active combat zone? What are your plans now that you're deployment is over? Why should someone join the military? Thank You

A:

They weren't thrilled but a lot of how they handle it is dictated by how you present it to them. I never used my family as an outlet to vent while deployed and I was able to stay in pretty regular contact with them so I think that alleviated a lot of the stress.

Now that I'm out I'm a full student and actually looking into getting back in haha. Maybe not back on active duty but I loved my job and I do miss it.

I'm not one to say what people should or shouldn't do but I think a lot of people don't realize how much the military has to offer. Not everyone is on the frontlines directly in combat. You could be a 18 year old kid fresh off the street and join the military and within 4 years you can have a technical skill set such as communications systems, a free ride to college and a healthy savings account. Not to mention the Military allows you to grow up and be out on your own while still providing somewhat of a safety net. It can have very positive influence on peoples lives if you take advantage of what it has to offer.


Q:

Thank you for taking the time to answer.

I agree that it can take a person of the street and offer him something, but maybe at the same time it can also take away from him. Talking about PTSD mainly. What do you think about the psychological effects it can have?

A:

Right but like I said, there are plenty of jobs in the military that can damn near guarantee that you will never even sniff combat.

As far as PTSD I think there's a negative stigma that's been undeservingly attached to it. I have it, my friends have it, in fact I don't know if anyone can serve in a war zone and not have it but it doesn't manifest itself the same way in everyone. I don't have fits of rage or flashbacks that over take reality but every once in a while a certain sound or sight will quicken my heartbeat for a second but then I snap back, kind of laugh to myself about it and move on. What eats at a lot of guys myself included is if you could have done something better and that can be a real bitch to deal with but having a strong healthy mindset and outlook on things and being able to accept the past for what it is are really the only way to deal with that.


Q:

What was the life @ the base like? Did you have accesss to all or most of the comodities like you have at home? Could you shed some insight onto 'life on camp'?

Thanks again, great AMA.

A:

No problem.

I assume you're talking about while deployed?

It really depends on where you were at. The larger bases like Bagram and Kandahar had pretty much everything you could want. Permanent structures, pizza hut, whatever. Most of the fobs had a chow hall with good food, a barber shop, small px, gym, and mwr. Out at the smaller outposts you'd be lucky to get a hot meal and relied on either supplies getting brought in by helicopter or ground convoy.

Down time on base was pretty relaxed, you eat as much food as you can, work out, watch movie and maintain your weapons and equipment. My spotter and I would do a lot of dry fire with our rifles and get to the range as often as we could, trying to stay busy and not get too complacent. Being snipers we didn't have to pull tower guard so that was a huge plus.


Q:

Favorite Rifle?

A:

Tough question, probably the xm2010 but the m110 is awesome because it's more practical in the way snipers are employed now days. I can say for sure that the Barrett is my least favorite though.


Q:

Why least favorite?

A:

It's not a precision rifle, it's heavy and it loves to malfunction.


Q:

What do you think about new 'linux-powered' rifles?

A:

I don't have any experience with them but like with most things technology will only get you so far.


Q:

From your personal experience, what are the best ways to improve your focus and concentration? And all other skills that a sniper needs?

A:

KIM's games, constantly do exercises do challenge your brain and be more aware of your surroundings.


Q:

I have a couple of questions– 1) What was your opinion of the film the American Sniper and how Chris Kyle was portrayed/some of the criticisms of the film? 2) As someone who's served in the Armed Forces, who do you think would make the best Commander in Chief?

A:

I thought the movie sucked and I thought the book sucked. Both made me raise my eyebrows multiple times but I never knew Chris Kyle and he put a lot of bad dudes in the ground so I'll leave it at that.

Commander in chief? Mad Dog Mattis.


Q:

Hi there,

Did you have any personal interaction with any allied foreign forces (U.K, Australia) whilst serving overseas? Did you get on?

A:

No Aussies or Brits, a lot of Czech's though. They were good dudes and had their shit together.


Q:

I know I'm a bit late, but I would love to know, how has killing someone affected you personally? I do not mean this in an offensive way, but am genuinely curious.

A:

It honestly hasn't, but I was never in a situation where it wasn't a clear cut decision.


Q:

Do you think that that is because of a quality that you personally have, or do you think that everyone is able to do be unaffected by killing if they want to be.

A:

I don't really know, I guess I just simplify it to its either me and my friends or them. I'm not a psychopath I realize that they are human beings and have people that love and care about them but at that time and place it's irrelevant, they're trying to kill us and we try to kill them. You can what if every situation to death but it really just boils down to that.


Q:

Especially in hindsight, there is a very colorful nature to war, even if a lot of the time those colors are black and red.

I just wanted to say that that is a great comparison. Thank you.

A lot of that is just being an adrenaline junkie

While this certainly plays a part, I also imagine the sense of purpose, the sense of importance being an important aspect, kind of like how /u/2nd_shot said it. The feeling that every choice you make can be a matter of life and death. That also corresponds with the podcasts I listened to. Jocko tells that when he was deployed he would wake up every morning, and his first thought would be: what is the enemy doing? What can I do today, to gain the advantage.

Searching that feeling of importance is not a bad thing, and I can definitely see why someone would chase that. I'll just have to find that feeling some other way. Like you, I wouldn't make for a great soldier. I think too much.

A:

Perhaps that's why the podcasts of Jocko Willink are so fascinating to me. He says that his time being deployed was the best time of his life, and that he would go back in a heartbeat. You can hear almost hear the yearning in his voice. I can't understand that, but I'm trying to.

I've thought a lot about this and this is the conclusion I've come to. Being in combat is in a way the most "free" I've ever felt. You have a mission and you're soley focused on that. There are no lines at the grocery store, no speed traps, no mundane bullshit, you are either on a mission/patrol or prepping for the next one. All of the excess is stripped away, You eat, patrol, sleep, workout rinse and repeat. Couple that with the feeling of being shot at, blowing things up and the whole sense of organized chaos and it becomes a very addicting thing.


Q:

Did you ever have anyone fire on your position?

Ever get in a sniper duel?

A:

Yes, once my spotter and I climbed on top of a very exposed rooftop (that was a very bad decision looking back on it) and he ended up having a round graze his side and I took a piece of a round that skipped up in front of me in the hand.

No.


Q:

How much do sniper movies resemble the reality of what you do?

What is the biggest misconception about snipers?

A:

Very little.

That we're a little "off" sniper's are completely rational and healthy, in fact you have to pass a psych evaluation before going to sniper school.


Q:

Now you're out, what are your plans for the future.

How do you transfer your skills across to a civilan job?

Do you spend time at the range, or are you trying to put your old job behind you?

Any plans to write a book about your experiances?

A:

Going to school currently but also looking at getting back in to the military at least part time.

Hard to do literally unless you go into instructing or pmc work but there are a lot of life lessons that I learned that will always stick with me and that I think have made me a better person.

Sure do, I love shooting it's therapeutic. Only downside is it's not cheap when you're paying for the ammo with your own money!

Nope.


Q:

Couple of questions

I see in movies and documentaries that snipers usually work with a spotter. Are the spotters trained snipers as well? Or are the two people trained specifically for just their role of shooting vs spotting and calculating adjustments.

How much of time during missions did you actually spend in a combat situation (actually having to shoot)? Was most of your time just spent observing and waiting?

In American sniper, the depiction of what the sniper can see through his scope is a very accurate picture of the target. Is that usually the case or is it more often that the target is blurred and just a small blip in the overall view.

A:

Yes, spotters are trained snipers and generally they are the more experienced sniper on the team because it is a very difficult job. You both practice shooting and spotting however.

Observing and waiting greatly outweighed actually shooting. Combat is long periods of drawn out boredom punctuated by short bursts of extreme excitement.

Fairly accurate, through our high power optics you can clearly make peoples faces out. In fact a lot of the time while observing we would take picture of everyone we saw then pass them up to our intelligence shop to see if any were high value targets.


Q:

What is the best was to prepare to be a sniper. It's what I've wanted to do all my life. I'm a good shot and I'm physically in great shape. Is there anything else I'm missing?

A:

Be in good shape and use common sense and you can do just about anything you want in the military.


Q:

what all were you allowed to do with your issued rifles to set them up for yourself? glass bedding the action, polish/honing trigger plates, and why did you make these modifications? 168SMK's or 175's? what optics did you prefer, and why? busted my left knee in 05 at sandhill three weeks before turning blue, got a med board, but im getting into long range shooting with my cousin who was also a sniper, he deployed to afghan with 1ID, and i like to show him up on the range, any other pointers?

A:

The extent of personalization was creating cheek welds haha we didn't mess with the internals, that's a no no in the army. 175gr in the m110 190gr in the xm2010 although they're rolling out a new 220gr bullet for the .300 win mags that's supposed to be pretty slick. As far as pointers just commit to an absolute mastery to the fundamentals of marksmanship, that's the easy part. Range estimation, calling wind and making good 2nd shot corrections is what will really help but that stuff is only learned by getting out there and doing it.


Q:

already built up a .308 on a howa action, trying to determine what else to do to it that i havent yet, dont think the .308 would do well with a 220gr bullet. do you know if your actions were glass bedded to their stocks? do you know the twist rate of the barrels? already working on fundamentals, sight picture, breathing, squeeze not pull... getting there on range estimation and wind. i can pretty easily hang with my cousin on short stuff, 500 and under, but i want to get out to 1000 and ive never done that. anyway, i'll look into 175 and 190's for my next set of loads, thanks

A:

Our bolt guns were in a modular chassis system with a free float barrel. Both the gas and bolt guns had 1:10 barrel twist. Keep in mind the 190gr and the 220gr were both .300 win mag, I'd stick to 175gr smk for .308


Q:

Hi 2nd_shot, your post has been removed because:

Your post has been removed because it lacks adequate proof.

Unfortunately, the links or photos you've posted could have been posted by anyone, and they don't prove that you are the person doing the AMA. Your proof needs to be something that connects the fact that you're doing an AMA with your identity. This could be something like a photo of you showing what you're doing the AMA about with a sign that has your username and the date. It could also be documents (partially redacted if desired) with a note that has the username and the date.

Here's a link to the section of our wiki that discusses proof.

Please let us know when the proof has been added by replying here and we'll put the post back up. Cheers!

Please contact the mods if you need further assistance

A:

Submitted further proof via message to the mods, just waiting to hear back if that will suffice. Thanks


Q:

How come technology like that's made by TrackingPoint (http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/01/17000-linux-powered-rifle-brings-auto-aim-to-the-real-world/) doesn't seem to be used by Snipers in the field yet?

A:

Because there's a whole lot of variables that come into play during combat that the technology can't account for yet.


Q:

Is there any interaction between you (both you individually, and you as a professional collective) and weapons manufacturers for rifles? If so how does that work? Is it a formal up-and-down-the-chain style thing or can you contact particular engineers casually and just shoot the breeze?

A:

Good question, we can call them up and get technical advice and they're more than happy to help us out but it's not like we have a sales rep stopping by every so often.


Q:

I've always wondered: would hitting a stationary target from a vehicle at highway speeds be near impossible?

A:

Not impossible but difficult. You'd be better off using a low powered optic and firing multiple rounds.


Q:

Have you ever used SR25, and what are the differences between m110 and SR25? They seem to be pretty similar. Thanks!

A:

Yes, not much really. I don't think the sr25 has Bambi controls but I may be wrong. The M110 is a whole kit suppressor and optic included and was built to meet the Army SASS requirements but nothing is really functionally different.


Q:

Is the work of a sniper being automated? Can it be? I am thinking you setup a sniper rifle, but then instead of the sniper looking thru the scope the video feed is transmitted to a remote location. And the operator at the other end of that video feed pulls the trigger. Or the sniper illuminates the target somehow and the shot is fired from elsewhere.

A:

Maybe in certain settings such as a static location but I don't think we'll ever be completely replaced.


Q:

A lot of people seem to get their view of American snipers from things like the Call of Duty 4 Chernobyl sniper section and things like that - how does your reality compare? What is the main thing you'd say to people who have played modern video games' interpretation of your profession?

A:

Well the point of video games is to entertain you. You won't always get to take a shot and observing areas for long periods of time isn't very entertaining. There's a lot of leg work that's has to be done before you actually pull the trigger and it isn't glamorous.


Q:

Thanks for taking time here (not to mention serving for the country!!). I have a couple questions.

I want to get a rifle, and I really dig Mosin Nagant M91 and M91/30. People I've talked to at the mosin subreddit have tried to turn me away from this as a first gun thinking I wouldn't enjoy something of that caliber (I've fired 12 gauge shotguns and love these, but otherwise just hand guns or lower power shotguns).

a) do you think that's decent advice? i plan to find/try one at a range to see for myself, so i suppose i don't need a suggestion, just wonder whether you think that advice has any merit.

b) are there (better?) modern alternatives that will hold up over time like the mosin nagants you'd suggest looking into (i'm not really looking for a collectable, just a solid bolt action long range rifle)?

Finally, I'm really interested in snipers in military, and usually think of behind enemy lines type scenarios. Were your missions/duties as a sniper involved with other infantry or out on your own (presumably with a spotter)? Did you have to do things like lay low for extended times to keep stealth, use wilderness survival strategies, etc.?

A:

I recommend a Remington 700 for most people die to the fact that it has a ton of aftermarket support and is very modular.

Yes, we always worked with other infantry, our job is to support them.


Q:

Ever had the chance to read any books on Carlos Hathcock?

A:

I haven't but he was an interesting dude I should do that.


Q:

What was the hardest thing for you to learn during your sniper training and how long did it take you to reach that moment of "oh, I completely get it now!"?

A:

Range estimation and calling wind are pretty difficult to become good at, but practice makes perfect and I got pretty good at it by the end of sniper school.


Q:

How did it feel thinking you were so badass in the 82nd?

A:

I didn't but I served with some guys that were, and had been through some real tough deployments.


Q:

You start out in the 82nd, or pick up Airborne later in your career?

A:

I got an airborne contract coming in, I was a Bragg baby.


Q:

Ever hang out at /r/army?

A:

Not really I mostly just read, I'll have to check it out though.


Q:

Interesting AMA, thanks.

What do you think of sniper movies, is there a 'realistic' movie out there? What do you think of films like "Enemy at the Gates (2001)"?

A:

The movie closest to reality that I've seen is Jarhead.