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The Importance of the Sniper's Spotter/Observer
A note from Vern about this article:

"It isn't often that I find something about rifles and shooting really worth quoting. When I do I want to share it for the benefit of the entire community.

This article is a valuable piece of information. Many novice marksmen believe they understand what it takes to become a sniper. They view the occupation as a "one man show" in which their skills and talents are called upon exclusively. The reality is that there was never an effective sniper without an equally (or perhaps even more so) effective and talented spotter.

This article is a start at describing this important relationship, and the life and death decisions that sniper TEAMS face in any day's work.
--Vernon Harrison

This article is reprinted with permission by the author; Thomas Bruner.
CVT thanks him for sharing this material with our students and visitors.

The importance of the sniper's spotter/observer in the role of military and law enforcement sniping is underestimated.

Most know what the sniper does; he puts the cross hairs where they should be and pulls the trigger, but many do not understand the role of the spotter/observer.

Snipers generally go out in teams. One member of the team is the shooter; the other is the spotter. It is a team effort to put that shot in the right place down range. The spotter is an integral part of that team. He is also a trained sniper.

The spotter has a variety of responsibilities. He locates and talks the shooter into the target. He does the calculations for the elevations, windage and holds for moving targets. He makes sketches; range cards and identifies targets. He prioritizes selected targets. He estimates the range to each target and confirms it with the shooter. He

The spotter determines the temperature, humidity and angle of the shot before giving the proper scope adjustments to the shooter. After the shooter makes the shot, he calls it, telling the sniper the impact of the round.

The spotter must know how to look through a scope and read mirage. He must know how to determine the angle of the mirage and the wind speed. He must be able to follow the trace of a bullet through the air to determine the impact.

If the shooter misses, the spotter will give the adjustment to the scope or tell the shooter where to hold to deliver a second shot. The spotter is responsible for the team's security.

The spotter shoulders an automatic weapon adding firepower. During movement, he will lead the team and fire in defense of the team. He is in control of communications and the radio. If needed, he will call in artillery or air strikes on selected targets. The spotter defends the FFP (final firing position). He must understand map coordinates and how to use a GPS (global positioning system).

If needed, both the shooter and the spotter participate in the building of a hide. Once in the hide, the spotter will observe sectors with binoculars or a spotting scope. Sometimes both sniper and spotter will observe depending on the mission or AO (area of operation). Usually, only the spotter will observe.

The sniper and the spotter will reverse roles on an average of every half-hour. This gives each a chance to rest, because constantly observing through binoculars causes eye fatigue.

The spotter may also be required to set and operate a diversionary device to draw the attention of the enemy away from the team's position.

Police sniper teams operate much like military sniper teams, and the police spotter performs similar tasks to the military spotter. Most police sniper situations involve a hostage and/or providing security for an entry team. In both these situations, the spotter is critical. Both members of the team should have their own sniper weapon, as there is liability if they both use the same weapon.

The spotter/observer will take notes and give real time information to the CP (command post). Both spotter and sniper may also be required to shoot simultaneously.

Because of budget restraints, many police departments have only one sniper for each location. It is better to have two snipers in the same location with one acting as a spotter, because police snipers are the first on the scene and the last to go home. They may be there, looking at a hostage situation, for extremely long periods of time.

Below is a summary the responsibilities of the spotter/observer:
- Assists sniper with equipment
- Leads in march and fires defensively
- Follows while stalking
- Observes sector with binoculars or spotting scope; detects targets indicators
- Estimates range; collaborates with sniper
- Vectors and coordinates other teams
- Does the calculation to make the shot
- Sketches and makes range cards
- Talks sniper into target
- Identifies target priorities
- Operates diversionary devices
- Estimates wind
- Times wind and tells sniper when to fire
- Observes and reports bullet impact
- Handles communication and operates radio
- Records information
- Helps build hide
Relieves sniper
- Supplies security for sniper
- Adds fire power

A sniper can become extremely tired when he is alone in such a situation. This could lead to a bad shot and liability. As with military teams, each member will switch off to give the other a rest.

Officers that are in charge of snipers should never underestimate the value of having two man teams, or the role of the sniper's spotter/observer.
�2006 All Rights Reserved.
All content is the property of CVT © 2008.
Gallery - Vern and his students at work on the rifle range.
What Qualities Make a Good Sniper?
The Importance of the Snipers' Spotter/Observer