Posted: 10/30/2014 9:26:47 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 10/30/2014 9:27:46 AM EDT by captrichardson]
I was very fortunate to be able to attend the Int Sniper Comp at Ft Benning last week. Nothing like 5 days of hanging out with some of the best Sniper Teams in the world, the staff of the US Army Sniper School, and many other great people such as the vendors who supported the match.
This competition has been running since 2001 at Ft Benning, GA and includes Sniper Teams from the US Military, International Military, and Law Enforcement.
NOTE! - this year all teams were placed into the same class and were required to run a .308/7.62mm weapons system. That could include a Bolt Action or Semi-Auto rifle.
The teams this year included:
Event #1 - Forgot My Ammo / Winner - Team 38: USASOC
This was a timed stress shoot where the competitors had to run from the 75 yard line to the 100 yard line, retrieve a single round from their partner, run back to the 75 yard line, and fire a round from a bipod supported prone position at a 1" circle. Timing on this worked out to be less than a minute for each shot.
Key Takeaways - Marksmanship Fundamentals! Doesn't sound like a hard drill, but when your heart rate is pounding, many shooters didn't hit more than 50%. Also showed the true capability of the Weapon Systems, with some systems (M110s) being at or just over 1 MOA capable, which made it very challenging.
Event #2 - Night COP Defense / Winner - Team 38: USASOC
This was a timed UKD (Unknown Distance) event, and a night shoot. Competitors had to engage E Type Silhouettes at varying ranges from inside the Conex Cont Building. The targets were heated, and were very visual through any thermal optic.
Key Takeaways - You can't shoot what you can't find or range! Some of the teams never got off a shot, and some of the teams had zero hits. Thermal Optics were a huge advantage in terms of locating the targets, however the issue then became the ability to range them. IR/Image Intensifiers were adequate, as long as they had enough active IR lighting to flood the area and reach the long range targets. Best case scenario was a spotter locating, ranging, and designating the targets (laser or IR) for the shooter. This event really showed who had the gear and training to operate in the dark, and who didn't.
Event #3 - AMU Pistol / Winner - Team 38: USASOC
In usual tradition, this competition also tested the sidearm/pistol skills of the shooters. There were a number of target types used to include moving and reactive targets at various ranges.
Key Takeaways - it's not always just about the long range shots, you also have to be able to defend yourself at close range. You could easily tell the shooters who had previous experience with moving and reactive targets, and those that were only used to shooting at static targets.
Event #4 - Know Your Limits / Winner - Team 38: USASOC
This was a timed stress event that required shooters to engage a number of steel targets at various ranges. They started at one position on one set of targets, and then had to move to another position for another set of targets. The final set of steel targets at 500 yards started with an E Type Silhouette and then transitioned down in size to a 8" circle. The shooters had to start with the largest target (about 3 MOA) and work in sequence down to the smallest target (about 1 MOA). They could stop at any point, but if they took a shot and missed, they got zero points.
Key Takeaways - per the title, you must "know your limits". This event stressed knowing the capability of both yourself as a shooter, and your weapons system. The movement and time limits placed enough stress on the shooters to impact their shooting capability, the key was to know what you could do under those levels of stress. The various target sizes forced the shooters to know what they could actually hit.
Event #5 - Day COP Defense / Winner - Team 36: 101st ABN DIV
This was basically event #2 shot in the daylight, with UKD E Type Steel Silhouettes at various ranges out to close to 1,000 yards. Competitors had to engage the targets in a numbered sequence, from positions within the Conex Cont Building, under a given timeframe.
Key Takeaways - This event is the bread & butter of counter sniper work. Working as a team, the shooters had to locate the target, range it, shoot it, correct for misses, and reengage until hit. The first issue encountered by a number of teams was getting accurate ranges on the targets past 500-600 yards. The teams with high end gear like Vectronix had no issues, but teams with lesser quality LRFs were struggling. The second issue encountered was dealing with the wind on the long range shots, especially given that everyone was shooting a .308 round! The final issue was calling misses. Given the targets were set in grass & foliage, it was very difficult to see any splash from a miss. The teams that did the best were the ones where the spotter was positioned to catch trace, or the ones who would intentionally put a round into a visible dirt area to see a splash that they could correct off of.
Event #6 - Day Movers / Winner - Team 4: 3rd IN DIV
This event was a typically mover scenario. There were a number of targets (Cardboard E Type Silhouettes on sticks, walked from in the target pits) that were presented to include HVT (high value), shoot, and no shoot. The shooters had to engage these targets from a number of different shooting positions at a number of different ranges. They started at the farthest range, fired for a given time, ran to the next position, fired at the next series of timed targets.
Key Takeaways - It was very evident which teams had trained on moving targets, and which had NOT! Given this was a timed event with very limited target exposure times, many shooters struggled greatly with making very quick shots on the targets. This was also a key event for communication and team work between the two shooters, with them splitting the targets to insure they were not duplicating efforts as a single hit was all that was required/counted on each target. The unusual shooting positions also created an issue for a number of the teams who you could tell were used to only shooting from the prone. I also saw issues with shooting fundamentals, triggers being jumped/jerked as the shooters rushed to try and engage the targets, a lack of follow through especially when using a tracking shooting technique.
Event #7 - Night Movers / Team 5: 10th MTN DIV
This was basically a repeat of the day event.
Key Takeaways - Like event #2, it was very evident who had the training and equipment to shoot in the dark! What was different with this event was that the targets (Cardboard E Type Silhouette) did not have any real heat signature, so you were actually at a disadvantage if you were relying on thermal sights. If you have never tried this type of shooting, there are simply no words to describe it!
Event #8 - Night into Day Stalk / Team 16: 1st Special Forces Group
This was your typical move from Point A to Point B and get into a good firing position on a HVT all without being seen by the "bad guys".
Key Takeaways - this event was reported to be the deciding event for the competition. There were a large number of teams that were eliminated and come up with zero points on this event. Just like the stalks in the actual Sniper School, this is a skill set that takes a lot of both skill & luck, and if you don't have it all, it is very easy to fail. All of the usual issues associated with stalking were seen here. Poor camouflage, not enough, wrong types, wrong colors, shiny areas, etc. Movement that was to fast or deliberate. Picking a poor path of travel that was either too difficult to navigate or too exposed. Noise Discipline.
Event #9 - Last Chance/Target Interdiction / Team 16: 1st Special Forces Group
This event was a combination of engaging long range rifle targets, and then transitioning to a sidearm/pistol to engage close range targets.
Key Takeaways - Once again it was very evident who had trained on moving and reactive targets!
1st Place: Team 16: 1st Special Forces Group / SFC Travis Croy & SSG Rudolph Gonsior
2nd Place: Team 30: 3rd Special Forces Group / SFC Terry Grower & SFC Neil Hudspeth
3rd Place: Team 38: USASOC / MSG Sean Wiseman & SSG Stephen McAuley
4th Place and Top International: Team 10: United Kingdom / CPL Daniel Stanton & CPL Robert Nichols
5th Place and Top Conventional Army: Team 5: 10th Mountain Div / SSG Andrew Duncan & SGT Karch Chancellor
6th Place and Top Law Enforcement: Team 32: Department of Justice / Paul Tobias & Chris Kovacik
7th Place and Top Marine Corps: Team 25: USMC Pendleton / SGT Patrick Trujillo & SGT Steven Curry
8th Place and Top National Guard: Team 20: Warrior Training Center / SSG Robert Summers and SSG Joshua Cavalier
9th Place: Team 26: USMC ITC / SGT Matt Preuss & SGT Kyle Mihalecz
10th Place Team 17: 6th RTB / SSG Justin Anderson & SSG Michael Davenport
Rifles - Per above, they were all .308/7.62mm systems, and included both bolt and semi-auto. I saw most of the usual suspects, M110 (most common), LaRue OBR, M40, AICS. There were also a number of custom builds, and I saw a number of Remington MSRs for the first time.
Optics - Leupold (most common), S&B, and Nightforce.
LRFs - Vectronix (most common), Bushnell, Swarovski
NV Gear - I saw about every type of Thermal & IR system on the market there.
It was obvious that some competitors have been watching and/or participating in the PRS, as I saw a lot of items commonly used in those matches. This included:
Bag & Pillow Supports
Wiebad Bags & Supports
High End Bipod & Tripod Setups
Alamo Four Star
Also have to mention the very cool or hot targets from Caliente
I am sure that I am leaving things out, so if anyone has any specific questions, fire away and I will do my best to answer them as I can.
Final Note! At the end of the competition, during the awards banquet, the Army Sniper Association dedicated the Fallen Sniper Memorial at the Infantry Museum Memorial Walk of Honor.
I don't push charity on anyone, but if you have a moment please check out the ASA Fallen Sniper Memorial Fund. SSG Caban's brother, who is also an active duty soldier was present, and thanked everyone for their efforts in supporting fallen snipers.
ASA Fallen Sniper
Thanks for an awesome writeup!
Outstanding and thank you very much for posting.
I was curious if you could comment on the choice of optics, specifically for the m110. I have not seen the standard LP Mk 4 (or the PR/TT- USMC) in any of the pictures thus far.
Optics were actually all over the place from issue scopes straight out of the Arms Room, to personal civilian scopes bought and supplied by the shooters.
Mark 4 3.5-10x40 M3
Mark 4 6.5-20x50 M5
Mark 6 3-18x44,
Mark 8 3.5-24x56,
NXS 3.5-15x50 F1
Schmidt & Bender
PM LP/2 3-12x50
I would say that would cover about 95% of the scopes there.
I would say 90% of the M110s were equipped with one version of the Leupold scopes. Most of the original M3 scopes had been replaced/upgraded.
Anymore specific questions, let me know.
Once again, I really appreciate you taking the time to respond.
If I may indulge you one more time, can I ask what rifles the top 5 teams were using? I am going to go out on a limb and posit some version of the SASS, but that's of course presumptive.
Actually the SOCOM teams were not running M110s. Their rigs were:
Bolt Guns - Remington MSR, Custom Surgeon Build
Semi Autos - JP LRR-07, LaRue OBR
UK, I am not 100% sure, but I think that it was AI Bolt Guns, and LMT Semi-Autos
The Regular Army team was running M110s.
I really appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions.
It is very interesting that top placement went mostly to the bolt guns this year...