Sniper shot that took out an insurgent killer from three quarters of a mile



Toby Harnden in Ramadi
(Filed: 01/01/2006)

Gazing through the telescopic sight of his M24 rifle, Staff Sgt Jim Gilliland, leader of Shadow sniper team, fixed his eye on the Iraqi insurgent who had just killed an American soldier.

His quarry stood nonchalantly in the fourth-floor bay window of a hospital in battle-torn Ramadi, still clasping a long-barrelled Kalashnikov. Instinctively allowing for wind speed and bullet drop, Shadow's commander aimed 12 feet high.

Click to enlarge A single shot hit the Iraqi in the chest and killed him instantly. It had been fired from a range of 1,250 metres, well beyond the capacity of the powerful Leupold sight, accurate to 1,000 metres.

"I believe it is the longest confirmed kill in Iraq with a 7.62mm rifle," said Staff Sgt Gilliland, 28, who hunted squirrels in Double Springs, Alabama from the age of five before progressing to deer - and then people.

"He was visible only from the waist up. It was a one in a million shot. I could probably shoot a whole box of ammunition and never hit him again."

Later that day, Staff Sgt Gilliland found out that the dead soldier was Staff Sgt Jason Benford, 30, a good friend.
The insurgent was one of between 55 and 65 he estimates that he has shot dead in less than five months, putting him within striking distance of sniper legends such as Carlos Hathcock, who recorded 93 confirmed kills in Vietnam. One of his men, Specialist Aaron Arnold, 22, of Medway, Ohio, has chalked up a similar tally.

"It was elating, but only afterwards," said Staff Sgt Gilliland, recalling the September 27 shot. "At the time, there was no high-fiving. You've got troops under fire, taking casualties and you're not thinking about anything other than finding a target and putting it down. Every shot is for the betterment of our cause."

All told, the 10-strong Shadow sniper team, attached to Task Force 2/69, has killed just under 200 in the same period and emerged as the US Army's secret weapon in Ramadi against the threat of the hidden Improvised Explosive Device (IED) or roadside bomb - the insurgency's deadliest tactic.

Above the spot from which Staff Sgt Gilliland took his record shot, in a room at the top of a bombed-out observation post which is code-named Hotel and known jokingly to soldiers as the Ramadi Inn, are daubed "Kill Them All" and "Kill Like you Mean it".
On another wall are scrawled the words of Senator John McCain: "America is great not because of what she has done for herself but because of what she has done for others."

The juxtaposition of macho slogans and noble political rhetoric encapsulates the dirty, dangerous and often callous job the sniper has to carry out as an integral part of a campaign ultimately being waged to help the Iraqi people.

With masterful understatement, Lt Col Robert Roggeman, the Task Force 2/69 commander, conceded: "The romantic in me is disappointed with the reception we've received in Ramadi," a town of 400,000 on the banks of the Euphrates where graffiti boasts, with more than a degree of accuracy: "This is the graveyard of the Americans".

"We're the outsiders, the infidels," he said. "Every time somebody goes out that main gate he might not come back. It's still a running gun battle."

Highly effective though they are, he worries about the burden his snipers have to bear. "It's a very God-like role. They have the power of life and death that, if not held in check, can run out of control. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

"Every shot has to be measured against the Rules of Engagement [ROE], positive identification and proportionality."

Staff Sgt Gilliland explains that his Shadow team operates at the "borderlines" of the ROE, making snap judgements about whether a figure in the crosshairs is an insurgent or not.

"Hunters give their animals respect," he said, spitting out a mouthful of chewing tobacco. "If you have no respect for what you do you're not going to be very good or you're going to make a mistake. We try to give the benefit of the doubt.

"You've got to live with it. It's on your conscience. It's something you've got to carry away with you. And if you shoot somebody just walking down the street, then that's probably going to haunt you."

Although killing with a single shot carries an enormous cachet within the sniper world, their most successful engagements have involved the shooting a up to 10 members of a single IED team.

"The one-shot-one-kill thing is one of beauty but killing all the bad dudes is even more attractive," said Staff Sgt Gilliland, whose motto is "Move fast, shoot straight and leave the rest to the counsellors in 10 years" and signs off his e-mails with "silent souls make.308 holes".

Whether Shadow team's work will ultimately make a difference in Iraq is open to question. No matter how many insurgents they shoot, there seems no shortage of recruits to plant bombs.

Col John Gronski, the overall United States commander in Ramadi, said there could not be a military solution. "You could spend years putting snipers out and killing IED emplacers and at the political level it would make no difference." As they prepare to leave Iraq, however, Staff Sgt Gilliland and his men hope that they have bought a little more time for the country's politicians to fix peace and stability in their sights.
When I was skimming the forum, I was thinking of seeing some unbelievable stuff, but this guy is legendary. It reminds me of the time my uncles friend shot a cow from half a Kilometer away, get this, with a musket.
was thinking of seeing some unbelievable stuff, but this guy is legendary. It reminds me of the time my uncles friend shot a cow from half a Kilometer away, get this, with a musket.
No offense to your uncles friend but with a musket at that range, luck is more important a factor than anything else. Are you sure you dont mean just a muzzle loader?
Rabs said:
No offense to your uncles friend but with a musket at that range, luck is more important a factor than anything else. Are you sure you dont mean just a muzzle loader?

I remember it how i put it, i was very young but my uncles friend still has the rifle in his house, and yes, i agree that it was a lucky shot. I didn't mean to make him out to be anything more than average.
impressive indeed.. and accurate measurments as well...

and he was lucky too.. but am sure he can do it again, he just dont want to admit it lol
I think any sniper is amazing. The skill and computation it takes to make an accurate hit at any extended distance... just amazing. That is why I hope to become one. I find the proffession to be among the most impressive and difficult, not to mention every other aspect they have to master.
Axis Trooper said:
When I was skimming the forum, I was thinking of seeing some unbelievable stuff, but this guy is legendary. It reminds me of the time my uncles friend shot a cow from half a Kilometer away, get this, with a musket.

Poor cow.
What is really impressive about this shot is that it was done with a .308 not a 50cal, now that's skill.
^^^ I thought that.

I also thought how glad i was that I invested properly in a Leupold & Stevens scope. It was difficult to find, but worth it.

I can't imagine the skill it takes to make windage and elevation adjustments during a fire fight. I suspect it becomes a "flow" moment - i.e. just natural.
Thats pretty amazimg but its not the farthest kill, I'm sure everyone allready knew that.The Top three longest kills are made by two Canadians and an American Marine.
August 7, 2002; A Canadian sniper in Afghanistan has been confirmed as hitting an enemy soldier at a range of 2,310 meters, the longest recorded and confirmed sniper shot in history. The previous record of 2,250 meters was set by US Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock in Vietnam in 1967. The Canadian sniper was at an altitude of 8,500 feet and the target, across a valley, was at 9,000 feet. Canadian sniper units often operated in support of US infantry units, which were grateful for their help. The record lasted only one day, until a second Canadian sniper hit an enemy soldier at 2,400 meters. The Canadian snipers were firing special ..50-caliber McMillan tactical rifles, which are bolt-action weapons with five-round magazines. The Canadian snipers were the only Canadian troops operating without helmets or flak jackets as they had too much other equipment to carry. Each three-man team had one sniper rifle, three standard rifles (Canadian C7s), one of them with a 203mm grenade launcher.

either way anyone that can shoot as good as these guy scares the crap out of me. Good thing their on our side.
I once read the the Walther SA 2000 was designed to shoot accurate up to 2500 meters. But that is theory.... Has anybody shot this rifle before and can confirm it's accuracy?

My "shot of the century" was hitting a cast iron bell (approx. 1 ft) at 500 meters with a 1852 Lee Enfield front loader. The rifle had a .58 cal and shot a huge slug. Mine got jammed while reloading and when I was ready to fire I was one of the last on the range and lots of people watching. I carefully aimed at my target at a 100 meters, fired and hit the bloody bell at 500. It was ridiculously out of aim, but people only heard the solid and loud clang of the slug hitting the bell. I rarely got more compliments on my fine shooting skills as that day. And of course I never told them where I was aiming at...... Why spoil a perfect moment? :)
The WA 2000 was a limited production rifle that was designed from scratch to be the most accurate semi-automatic sniper rifle in existance, and they may well have accomplished that role. It was dropped from production when it became apparent that the asking price of the rifle was too high, and no law enforcement agencies (the presumed clients) simply could not afford it. AFAIK, there were no military sales.
At the time, the claim that it was the most accurate semi-auto may well have been true, and it porbably still is. Nonetheless, the rifle is limited by the fact that it was produced in only three calibres, 7.62mm NATO, 7.5mm Swiss and .300 Winchester Magnum. While they were the best calibres at the time, they have been surpassed by the .338 Lapua round, which has far better performance, particularly at long range. Nonetheless, it must always be remembered that the rifle is only half of the equation. The best sniper in the world could take that rifle and not hit the broadside of a barn. Give him back his own rifle and BOOM! Bullseye.

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