Sniper training with experienced instructors of the Special Forces command

Sniper training for all units of the Croatian Armed Forces is a responsibility of the Special Forces Command

Sniper training for all units of the Croatian Armed Forces is a responsibility of the Special Forces Command. The “Hrvatski vojnik” magazine team visited the trainees and the instructors of the Special Forces Command in a training range just before the six-week training, prior to the final testing. The trainees come from various units, but only the best complete it.

Long periods spent waiting in one place and observing, effective camouflage and masking, precision, specificity and important tasks assigned, operation behind the enemy lines require high psychological and physical, moral and other abilities, which is due attention is attached to selection and training.

The first step is selection of candidates for snipers. The entry tests and selection are very strict and take two days to screen the best candidates. The instructor team underline physical fitness as the most important criterion, followed by psychological testing by the standards set for snipers. The efforts placed on snipers during combat missions necessitate top prepared soldiers and precise shooters, and mental stamina and stable personality. The candidates, who will already have some skills, take the precise shooting trials and the testing of quick and detailed perception and memory.

The candidates who pass the entry test take a two-week in-class training , during which they familiarise with important subjects such as military topography, camouflage, movement and concealment, sniper tactics and equipment, calculation and shooting on the simulator. After that they hone the skills and procedures outdoor in the training range for four weeks.

Before they get to the shooting range and take the sniper rifle in their hands under expert guidance of an instructor, they will build upon and upgrade their existing knowledge and learn about the essentials of precision shooting.  The candidates practice on simulator the procedures they will later apply in the shooting range. They learn about the weapon, the optics, the important facts such as range estimation, calculation and other parameters that affect shooting.

The next 4-week phase is conducted outdoor, in the shooting range. The trainees get familiarised with a number of elements and sniper tactics (the choice of the firing position, target spotting, concealment, map reading, the use of compass and GPS, survival in the extended periods of duty and shooting from snipers, first at shorter distances up to the maximum effective range, against mobile and fixed targets, in day and night conditions.

The trainees are perfectly concealed and hardly discernible and blended with the grass in autumn, and conduct the planned daily shooting round. We only hear the echo of the bullets hitting the metal targets.

They shot from the maximum effective range.

The trainees fire from the maximum effective distance. They practice in pairs and take turns shooting and adjusting shots, every now and then instructors tour the pairs to issue instructions. “Shooter ready!” exclaim one pair after another. The next sound we hear is the metal target sound. The shooting is conducted first at day time, then at night time.  

We were impressed by the trainees’ precise shooting and creative camouflage procedures. Though each soldier has to have concealment skills and make himself invisible in the battlefield, concealment is of particular importance for snipers in all procedures – from movement and arrival ad stay at the firing position and leaving after the task. Snipers have to stay protected from enemy view at all times and fully blend with the environment, and also mind to conceal the reflection from the metal parts of the sniper rifle and from the optical sight.

Snipers are often left to their own devices in the field, and survival is an essential part of their training (procuring food and water, creating a bivouac shelter, survival in extreme conditions, and protection from pursuit and removing traces).

The training prepares the candidates for autonomous operation in the field, assesses the motivation and focusses on the task and checks the necessary physical abilities and, finally, the ability for long-distance precise shooting.

Shooting is practiced from small distances, and later from ever longer distances to the maximum effective range of the weapon.

The longer the distance, the bigger the precision challenges. The instructors stress that calm hand and a sharp eye are the essential, but not everything. The precision I s impacted by weather conditions, wind, humidity, temperature. Snipers are expected to acquire the shooting technique (the posture, aiming, pulling the trigger in ideal conditions) and in the advanced phase they were left in adverse conditions, with the same objective – a precise shot.

One of the instructors says wind is the biggest obstacle to long-range shooting, but there is a remedy to that. Snipers need to recognise the wind, the direction and speed relying on very few technical aids, as they are less reliable or useless in the field

“If you feel the space around you and you observe it carefully, you can discern many things in the nature with your own senses. Formulas and calculations can cover everything. The trainees are instructed to rely fully on themselves and determine the parameters necessary for a precise hit without additional aids and devices. They make their own ballistic tables which help them eliminate the external influences and which they carry with themselves all the time as an indispensable tool.  

The training comprises several rounds of testing, each testing the attained level of competence; and candidates who fail drop out from the training. The first testing closes the in-class part. The successful candidates take precise a selection shooting test, while the final capability test combines all practiced skills and the candidates recreate a mock situation in the field and execute tasks practiced during the overall training.  

The experiences from the previous training cycles show that candidates dropped out mainly for failing at the precision shooting test, as snipers are expected to hit the target with the first shot. The instructors are convinced that the present group will be successful, given the high motivation.

After completing the training each participant receives the sniper badge, a symbol of belonging to a special group of soldiers, and the same that was first awarded in 1994 at the NCO Guards Specialist Training Centre at Šepurine, where the training incepted.

The instructors point out that upon returning to the operational units the trainees need to build upon the acquired skills, upgrade shooting and continue practicing as it is the only path towards becoming a proficient sniper.

Croatian version:

Snajperska obuka s iskusnim instruktorima ZSS-a