A Canadian special forces sniper just abolished a world record for the longest-ever successful shot on record. In Iraq, the sniper hit an ISIS militant from more than 2 miles away, with the bullet flying in the air under 10 seconds before hitting its target.
It’s quite the feat. The sniper had to account for the wind, the angle, the light, and because of the long distance, even the Earth’s curve. The kill was verified by video and other data.
It appears the unnamed sniper, a male, isn’t Canada’s only great marksman. Three of the top five longest confirmed kill shots were conducted by a member of the Canadian military. (The other two were by a Brit and an American.)
To understand why America’s Northern neighbors are so deadly from afar, and how a shot like that can be pulled off, I spoke with Canadian Army Warrant Officer Oliver Cromwell. He’s a sniper who has served in the Canadian military for 19 years.
We agreed not to discuss his experience in potential lethal action during his duties.
The following transcript was lighted edited for length and clarity.
How long do you train before being deployed as snipers?
You have to take a basic sniper course. But before you can take a basic sniper course, you need to take a basic reconnaissance course.
There’s three phases of the sniper community. A basic sniper, a sniper detachment commander, and then there’s the advanced sniper. And each one of those courses vary in their length. They vary between eight and 10 weeks for each of the courses strictly concentrating on that one qualification.
How often do you train at that the 2-mile distance? Do you train from further away?
We don’t necessarily train to shoot at a range that long. There’s a lot of margin of error that can go into a shot that far. We don’t like to take a shot that has that much margin of error.
So generally we try to get a lot closer if we can. If the mission calls for it to have to take a shot, we try to get as close as we can while still maintaining safety and security, of course.
Can you just describe how difficult a shot like that actually is?
A shot like that is extremely hard. It’s extremely difficult. There’s a lot of factors to consider. The time of flight for a shot that long — because a bullet only travels so far. The elevation of both the shooter themselves as well as the target.
The windage. Wind is the biggest factor that we have to consider because it’s hard to tell how many times it’s going to change directions over the distance between the shooter and the target.
And we consider very much the pressure. There’s a lot of factors to consider. It even comes down to the shooting platform that we’re shooting from. You could be shooting from a window ledge or you could be shooting from walk space or a tree.
In your mind, with a successful shot like that: How much of it was skill and how much of it was luck?
It’s about 90 percent skill and about 10 percent luck, or 95 percent skill and 5 percent luck. Our guys are very skilled. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of experience to do it.
The spotter is the number two to the shooter. That spotter is doing the majority of the work to be honest with you. It doesn’t take much to pull a trigger. You just have to maintain the marksmanship principles that we practiced and that we have honed into our very being from the day we joined the military.
Marksmanship principles are key. And as long as the shooter is using the marksmanship principles and applies the correct information onto the scope, the spotter is the one that brings the shooter onto the target.
How important is the spotter to the shooter? What are the hardships of the spotter to do his or her work?
The spotter, in my opinion, is vital. For me, I find after 400 or 500 meters, it’s entirely up to the spotter.
As long as the shooter maintains the marksmanship principles and maintains the point of aim and pulls the trigger the same way they always do, everything is the same as always for the shooter.
The only variable is what’s going on, the situation around the shooter. And that’s all dictated by the spotter. The spotter tells the shooter what to put on the scope. The spotter tells the shooter what the wind is like. The spotter tells the shooter where the round hit if the first round happens to be a miss or whatever.
The spotter has a more powerful scope than the shooter does on the rifle. With our spotting scopes, we’re able to see where the bullet’s going a lot better than the shooter themselves can see.
What do you think the conditions were that a shot from that far away had to be taken?
Well, if I was to use my own power of deduction and if the rules of engagement were followed, I would have to assume that there was a threat.
They were probably on an over-watch team and to ensure the safety and security of a certain area or a certain personnel, or what not. And they ended up having to take a shot that required them to shoot that distance.
Do you happen to know the person who took the shot?
I don’t, actually. I have no idea who it was yet. I’m excited to find out and see if I know the person, to see if he came from our regiment or not.
Regardless, I’m very proud of it being a Canadian. I mean, I have no doubt that we’re at the top of our class only because of our technological abilities and our skill sets. Like I said, our training plan is designed to make snipers the best they can be. We’re masters of our craft. And I look forward to finding out who it was.
If you were talking to an American sniper right now, what would you say to them?
I would say “good luck” because you know they’re going to try to do the same thing — or beat it.