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Reevaluate Yourself As A Police Sniper

It is easy and (unfortunately) all too common for many in the law enforcement profession to “let themselves go.”  As we mature into our career, complacency (remember that item on the list of Ten Deadly Errors?) sets in if we let it.  While that’s bad for every law enforcement professional, it’s absolutely unacceptable for those of us who perform special operations.  As a SWAT Sniper we are the most unique of that special group and we cannot allow or accept that complacency.  Here’s a list of ten items you can examine – and regularly REexamine – in your personal world to avoid becoming complacent.

  1. Are you the cream of the crop? You should be the ‘Go To’ guy on your team when it comes to fundamentals of marksmanship and weapons qualification. Do you struggle with positional shooting or do you know exactly how and what position you will assume in the prone, sitting, kneeling and standing? Can you teach your peers how to make themselves better shooters? Do you know how to analyze a shooter and give constructive criticism and keep the personality issues out?  Many snipers excel with the precision rifle and carbine but are disproportionately weaker on pistol performance. Police snipers should strive to be the best shooters on pistol, carbine and precision rifle consistently and not just be a one hit wonder. 
  2. Sniper selection. What are your team’s requirements to be a police sniper? Are there any different requirements than that of a regular team member? Not everyone is cut out to be a police sniper. There are certain characteristics that are important for this position. The days of forcing someone to do this role are over with. An individual who has no desire in the craft and is merely filling a role on the team is doing a disservice to the entire team. Hold your snipers to a higher standard, but also select individuals that are self-motivated and want to be the best and don’t have to be prodded to do so.
  3. Who sets up training? Is the same person tasked with setting up sniper training over and over? Does tenure on your team equate to ‘it’s your right?’ Do you set up the training most of the time and get left out of training yourself?  You must stay active in the craft. If you zero check and spend the rest of the time running training and not being an active participant, then how do you expect to stay on top of your skill sets? Check yourself and ask, “how much training have I taken part of in the last six months?” Bottom line you must rotate the training responsibilities.
  4. Get off the flat range. Train where you will fight. This most likely will not occur at your gun range. Don’t expect someone else to get training sites. Invest in quality bullet traps and live fire in your city to replicate real life scenarios. Remember you have precision rifles and you know their capabilities. Sell to you chain of command what you want to do. Don’t settle for ‘No.’
  5. Inbred Training. How often as a sniper team do you seek outside instructors to bring in? We sometimes suffer from the mentality that we really are that good and that no one else has much additional to offer to us. Well, “you know it’s worked this long so far and we have gotten by with no issues,” is bad policy. One of the major realities is lack of money. Your training budget is already spent or spending thousands to bring in an instructor for snipers is not high on the list. If you want to make yourself better, at some point in your career you will have to spend your own money.
  6. Poor Physical Conditioning. I am not a door kicker anymore, so I’ve let my physical conditioning go down. More so than the rest, snipers need to be in the best conditioning of anyone on the team. We get our equipment on a callout and usually go by ourselves until another sniper links up with us. We take a lot of kit and must be able to move efficiently and operate independently. Are you no longer self-motivated? Are you content with mediocrity? Remember mediocrity attacks excellence!
  7. Outdated Weapons Systems and Kit.  The quality of precision semi-automatic rifles being produced has improved quite dramatically in the past decade. To the point that some shoot on par with quality bolt rifles. Be open minded to semi-auto rifles. If you operate with a bolt rifle with an internal magazine that holds 4 and 1 in the chamber, you are behind the curve. At the very least, modify the feeding system to accept either a 5 or 10 round box magazine. The battles that the future holds for us and our teams will be here eventually and you need think big and not small. 
  8. No Value on Operations. How long does it take you to get out of your trunk on a callout? If you and your team both arrive on a callout location around the same time and the assaulters have kitted up and are walking past you that should be a clue. Are you habitually one of the last persons to get your kit and head towards the target? You may one day find you are not only late to the battle, but may also miss the war due to your lack of preparedness. Sometimes there may not be much to report on a target, but if you find yourselves only checking in on the radio to report your location, then something may be wrong with your intelligence reporting. Paint the picture for your team and command and control. Once in position, does the armored vehicle take you out of the operation? Perhaps communicating with the assaulters as they drive to the target and working out a compromised position that is beneficial to both should be an option. If you do not have a clear field of fire because of the APC, then relocate your position so you can benefit your team and the operation.  Don’t argue; bring it up in the debrief.
  9. Reluctance to Reveal Weaknesses. Pride can be a dangerous trait in our business if it interferes with the success of the operation. Check your egos at home. We operate in a team environment and realize it’s not all about us. Do you fear revealing areas that you need to work on? Don’t be afraid of what others on the team may think of you. I’ve rarely seen any team member get criticized for trying to get better and making mistakes along the way. Set up competitions at the range between the snipers and push each other to get better and perform on demand. Attend sniper only or SWAT team competitions. These competitions will make you better at what you do in real life.  
  10. Create New Sniper Skill Sets. Are your skills limited to the common mom and pop callout? Have you ever trained and fired from vehicle hides? Have you sought out training to be more of an asset for the team on buy-bust operations or warrant service? Have you ever thought of providing sniper over watch at major events? You have no one else to blame but yourself if you find your sniper capabilities are limited to the most common callouts. Seek out new areas to benefit your team and be of value of operations.