"Reach out and touch someone"
-unoffical sniper motto.
A sniper is a soldier (or other professional) who uses a long-range weapon (almost always a rifle of some kind) to deliver precisely targeted attacks from a concealed position or other location that is difficult to reach or target. Other roles for the sniper include reconnaissance, close observation and forward control of fire support, all of which use his characteristics and skill set to a similar degree. The role of the sniper in locating and eliminating enemy snipers should also not be overlooked, since in many cases this will prove to be the most effective solution.
Properly employed a sniper can tie down dozens or even hundreds of men and still remove key enemy personnel as required - important targets would include enemy leaders and key specialists (intelligence staff, interpreters, pilots, engineer officers etc..) and, if the sniper is equipped with an anti-material rifle key pieces of equipment such as signals nodes, radars and landed aircraft can also be neutralised. Sniper fire can also prove extremely demoralising, especially to inexperienced or poorly trained troops and those overly reliant on a small number of leadership figures.
A sniper is - or should be - an expert in camouflage, observation and fieldcraft1 as well as a master of his weapon of choice (normally a bolt action or semi-automatic rifle). Useful personal characteristics include strong self reliance, patience and the ability to kill scientifically and with detachment. The manufacture and use of the ghillie suit is a key skill set for the modern sniper, although he should also be entirely competent without one.
In many cases snipers work in pairs with one as the "shooter" and the second as a "spotter", locating targets and assessing effect of fire with a high specification viewing device. Doctrine varies concerning the armament of sniper/spotter pairs - in some cases both will be identically armed and vary only in their role, in others they may carry differing types of sniper rifle (e.g. an anti-personnel and an anti-material rifle) or the spotter may carry a less precise weapon (for example an assault rifle) and be responsible for local defence of the team. Those equipped with sniper rifles will usually carry an additional backup firearm - typically a pistol or some species of carbine - for close range self defence.
Snipers can also be effectively deployed in helicopters (in low intensity conflicts or for police work). A sharpshooter who is part of a team (such as an infantry section) is not generally considered to be a sniper - the term designated marksman is often used. True sniping is done alone or in pairs.
Game and Story Use
- One well-hidden and extremely patient sniper can hold down a much larger unit for hours.
- Conversely, hunting down a sniper could well be a task for a small unit of disposable misfits … or PCs as they are known outside O-groups.
- Can be a very good background for a PC with good stealth and weapons skills - or generally anyone who could benefit from a sniper's skills package.
- For more theatrical treatments, snipers can also perform cinematic feats of arms such as cutting ropes with bullets, shooting a weapon out of someone's hand and punching a hole in a spoon. Bringing down low flying aircraft may also be an option.
- The "covering fire" stunt from Last of the Mohicans falls somewhere in between - broadly feasible in principle, but more of a stretch considering the weapons of the period.