As the first to fire, I started by lasing the range. I then consulted my 3x5-inch ballistic notecard, and mentally adjusted for wind drift, ambient temperature and up/down angle to fine-tune my target knobs. My first shot struck solidly, demonstrating that classic ballistic computations remain true and trustworthy.
Next to fire was Reichert, who, like me, had a bolt-action .338 Lapua Mag.—his a Desert Tactical Arm bullpup and mine a Savage Model 110 BA chassis rifle. Unlike me, however, Reichert noted the lased range, the ambient temperature, the wind’s direction and velocity, our elevation, the up/down angle to the target, and then his barrel length and his scope height above the bore, tapping all this data into a handheld computer, which instantly yielded target knob settings. His first shot was very close but a miss.
Had my ballistic notecard triumphed over Reichert’s computer? Hardly. Once the Marine sniper vet input a correction for that first shot, he was “on,” and he never missed thereafter, and I mean never, no matter the distance or up/down angle. His shooting was phenomenal.
As Reichert had demonstrated, and Gilliland and Furlong as well, today’s best snipers are scientifically minded as well as superb shooters, exploiting technology to the maximum to eliminate threats at ever-greater distances. This is what brought us together—their state-of-the-art techniques and knowledge—to film an instructional DVD for Paladin Press entitled “Ultimate Sniper III.” Not only were they a pleasure to work with, but they proved pure professionals, with no egos or false humility, just a shared enthusiasm for shooting and perfecting their craft.
Jim Gilliland’s insight on powder temperature is an excellent example. In Iraq he learned to “cook” his rounds—that is, to set cartridges in direct sunlight to raise the powder temperature and boost muzzle velocity, thereby stretching his range. But he learned that trick after his record 7.62 mm shot, which was recently recreated for a History Channel documentary. While his infantry unit advanced through Ramadi, an insurgent hotbed in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle, Gilliland’s sniper team covered them from a rooftop. Suddenly his radio crackled, reporting that an enemy sniper had just shot an American soldier. In a fourth-floor hospital window some 12 blocks away, his spotter detected the sniper—it was 1,375 yards, far beyond the typical range of Gilliland’s rifle. But there wasn’t time to rush down to the street, sprint three blocks and climb another building. It was a desperate situation; he had to fire immediately before another American was hit. Applying all the dope he knew about his 7.62 mm NATO cartridge’s 175-grain bullet, he cranked his Leupold M3A scope’s elevation to the maximum, then held over as best he could estimate, squeezed—and dropped the SVD-armed insurgent sniper. It was the longest-range 7.62 mm kill in Iraq or Afghanistan. Later, Gilliland learned that the insurgent sniper had killed a close friend of his, a fellow unit sergeant.
The new DVD includes enemy sniper ruses and ruthlessness, to which Gilliland can attest. “Enemy soldiers have no morality, no ethics,” he noted. “They have never heard of the Geneva Convention, they will never comply with its content.” He illustrated that, recalling a night his sniper team secretly surveilled an often used improvised explosive device (IED) site. Acting as the spotter, in the darkness he observed a burqa-clad woman loitering in a nearby alleyway. Eventually she left the shadows for the empty road and began digging where a previous IED had been concealed, obviously to plant a fresh one. While Gilliland spotted, his teammate ended her effort with one shot. With the coming of daylight Gilliland dreaded checking the woman’s body and the civilian outrage it might incite. Imagine his relief, then, when he found that the burqa-clad “woman” sported a full-length beard.