Army looking to double sniper school output

Time to go SNIPER! (subscription only)

Army Times:

Army Sniper School is considering doubling the number of classes it teaches per year. Four years ago, the sniper training course at Fort Benning, Ga., was churning out about eight rotations annually, producing 250 to 290 snipers a year. But the urban battlefields of Iraq and a push to turn battalion sniper sections into platoons has sniper instructors preparing to teach twice as many classes per year, said Sgt. 1st Class Steve Penix, chief instructor at Benning’s sniper course.

Training and Doctrine Command “is telling us we need to be running 13 to 19 classes per year,” he said.

Snipers and designated marksmen are doing a lot of the work in Iraq and Afghanistan these days, and the Army wants to ramp up the numbers available for the “Long War”. In addition, requirements are increasing as the number of maneuver brigades expands to 42 from 33 and sniper platoons (with between 20 and 30 men each) are being considered.

In addition to traditional snipers, the “designated marksman” has become a mainstay in Army units. These are soldiers who are often sniper qualified but not serving specifically in a sniper section. They provide longer-range support to the squad and counter-sniper work if required. Oftentimes we see these designated marksmen armed with M-14s, as its 7.62 round has far more range and power than the 5.56 of the M16/M4.

In addition to greatly expanding the number of sniper school classes, the Army is considering lengthening each class from five to six weeks. This would allow additional topics, including pistol training, XM110 training, and foreign sniper weapon training.

The XM110 is a 7.62 semi-auto sniper rifle based upon the Mk11 Mod0 rifle used by the Navy SEALs. Murdoc intends to do a write-up of this X weapon very soon.

Regarding foreign sniper weapons, the article relates this story:

The new focus was prompted by a 3rd Infantry Division account in which a soldier was forced to use an enemy sniper weapon to engage a sniper, Penix said.

The unit was disposing of a cache of enemy weapons “when they started receiving sniper fire,” Penix said. “They didn’t have snipers with them, but one of their guys was sniper-qualified. He went down to the cache, found an SVD and loaded up and started doing countersniper work.”

Members of the unit said they didn’t know if they killed the sniper, but “they quit taking sniper fire,” Penix said, describing how a soldier who is sniper-qualified but not in a sniper slot can become a sniper quickly, if need be.


  1. This is an interesting development. Could be a quicker way to get excellent marksmen in the field rapidly would be have a marksman only course, rather than a sniper coure. The latter requires an exceedingly high quality of fieldcraft- I’ve (not) seen snipers at training and those guys are like ghosts. That’s a very special skill- and one that a designated marksman doesn’t really require. Seems to me like a lot of guys could get qualified on a marksman course who couldn’t cut it as a sniper.

  2. In each Infantry squad there is a Designated Marksman (DM). He is a regular squad member who is trained to use a scoped rifle, usually a M-16 with a 4x ACOG sight or an M-14 with a traditional scope. His main purpose is to provide the squad with an extended range in combat operations. In built up areas, such as Baghdad, opening fire with machineguns is not a viable option. In these cases the command may still authorize the DM to take a well aimed shot. Army Snipers are assigned either as part of the Scout Platoon in a Mechanized Infantry Battalion, or as two-man teams with each Light Infantry Company. Snipers differ greatly in skills than DM’s. The two key differences are, that Snipers are trained to operate in small (often two-man) teams in the field, away from the main forces. They do this by the use of concealment and stealth. The second key difference is in their equipment, which includes higher powered optics, thermal sights, night vision scopes, secured radios, and rifles of far greater accuracy, not availible to DM’s. To protect the squads DM’s are employed. To actively hunt down the enemy and gather battlefield intelligence, Snipers are the best in the business. Sgt.U.S.ARMY, Infantry Sniper, Iraq Combat Veteran