ᔥ American Rifleman
It takes skill, discipline and dedication to consistently shoot the X-ring on targets. It takes a whole lot more to consistently slot bad guys that can also shoot back.
Six years ago, while fighting raged in Iraq’s cities, I heard that American snipers were racking up phenomenal numbers of kills, possibly overtaking the Vietnam War records of U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock (93), Marine Sgt. Chuck Mawhinney (103) and Army Staff Sgt. Adelbert Waldron (109). The rumor was true.
America’s new record sniper recently stepped from the shadows with publication of his combat memoir, “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.” During four tours in Iraq, former U.S. Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle logged 160 confirmed kills and almost twice that many “probables.”
I spoke with Chief Kyle, a veteran of the West Coast-based SEAL Team 3, and learned that, surprisingly, he doesn’t like to swim and has little enthusiasm for parachuting—but he loves to shoot. Since shouldering his first Daisy BB gun during his boyhood in Odessa, Texas, to the .300 Win. Mag. rifle he most often used in Iraq, shooting has been his favorite pastime. Still he would have to attend the three-month SEAL Sniper School in order to develop mastery of the skills necessary to ply his trade.
That is a whole lot of dead bad guys…but somethimes they shoot back:
Kyle usually worked with, or in support of, conventional U.S. Marine and Army forces, providing covering fire as they advanced into insurgent-held neighborhoods in areas such as Fallujah, Ramadi and Baghdad’s Sadr City. Typically his 16-man SEAL platoon seized “commanding terrain,” often the tallest building in a neighborhood, even if that meant infiltrating ahead of U.S. forces. Because most Iraqi buildings stood only one or two stories high, from a four-story building the platoon snipers were able to dominate an area. The SEAL platoon went in with plenty of firepower: machine guns, grenade launchers, shoulder-fired rockets and lots of ammunition. “What’s not understood,” Kyle explained, “is that in an urban area, after that first shot, you’re not going to sneak anywhere—you’d better be ready to fight. When you go into a city, there’s no moving. You’re defending. At times we were really stuck out there; it left us hanging but those guys needed our support. We were in danger, but so be it.” Twice Chief Kyle was hit by enemy bullets—luckily absorbed by his body armor—and shaken by several nearby IEDs.
And his preferred weapons and ammunition?
From these elevated perches, he exploited the great reach of his favorite rifle, a custom-built Remington Model 700 bolt-action chambered in .300 Win. Mag. During his final tour his favorite rifle became a .338 Lapua Mag., which offered great reach and impressive barrier penetration.
Like a golfer picking the best club for a given situation, SEAL snipers could select among a variety of rifles that best fit their tactical setting. For long-range precision Kyle brought his bolt-action .300 Win. Mag.; for closer-range shooting, when quick follow-on shots were likely, he had a 7.62×51 mm NATO Mk 11, the Navy’s version of the semi-automatic Stoner SR-25; and for assaults, he had a short-barreled 5.56×45 mm NATO rifle similar to the Colt M4 Carbine. Only during his final tour did he have a .338 Lapua Mag. bolt-action. His standard .300 Win. Mag. load was a 190-grain match round manufactured by Black Hills Ammunition, which also loaded the 77-grain, 5.56 mm ammunition he fired. He fed his semi-automatic 7.62 mm rifle with 175-grain, M118 Long Range ammunition loaded by Federal.