Sniper rifles invoke a sense of instant dread because of the swiftness with which it can kill. This is not surprising since the main objective of sniper rifles is “one shot, one kill”! To be able to use these rifles one has to be specially trained so that one can aim with deadly accuracy and kill in one shot. The aim of sniper rifles is to destroy any target at extended ranges with as little ammunition as possible. In the case of these rifles the targets are usually people like an armed criminal, terrorist, enemy soldiers or heads of countries.
The range of sniper rifles extends from hundred meters or less (as in police-terrorists encounters) to one kilometer or more (as in special or military operations). A few specialist sniper rifles like the large caliber ones are used for the purpose of rendering targets such as radar cabins, parked aircrafts or jeeps useless or to destroy them completely.
The early such rifles were either the standard army rifles which were chosen for their accuracy or hunting rifles which were bought privately. Military sniper rifles are still developed from standard rifles in a few countries. A military unit chooses some rifles for their precision and accuracy and then adapts them into snipers by adding bipods, scope mounts and adjustable stocks. Many times sniper rifles were made to exact specifications of the marksman clients because commercial or service rifles lacked those features wanted by the clients. The majority of the rifles though were modified from the existing commercial or hunting ones.
Sniper rifles are normally of three types: military sniper rifles, police/law enforcement sniper rifles and special purpose sniper rifles.
There are many rules and regulations for a sniper rifle to qualify as a military rifle. Military sniper rifles have to be precisely accurate and must have effective range. They also should not be too heavy because they have to be carried by snipers for long hours along with ammunition and other military things. The ability to operate perfectly and dependably in any type of weather is a must. They must also be maintenance-free with hundreds of rounds being fired without having to be cleaned up and with the same accuracy even in the most inclement of weathers. Another feature of military sniper rifles which is essential is that they must be easy to repair in field conditions. Back up iron sights are absolutely necessary in case there is a telescopic breakage.
Military sniper rifles have to use military ammunition available to troops which conforms to international war treaties. The standard army cartridges are used in military sniper rifles. Even in military sniper rifles there are sub categories: one is the sniper rifle itself which aims at long-distance targets and the other is the ‘designated marksman rifles’ which are used for the purpose of giving the line troops correct fire support. The former ones are usually bolt action ones while the latter ones are designed to give maximum fire. Bolt action is required fro accuracy and the designated marksman rifles are semi-automatic rifles. The Russian SVD or the German G3ZF or MSG-90 is semi-automatic designated marksman rifle.
The police/law enforcement sniper rifles require a greater degree of accuracy as in counter-terror scenarios where it is imperative to hit a particular part of the body of the terrorist along with actually killing him. In encounters, the enemy cannot be left wounded. The degree of accuracy is also required for shorter distances as the enemy maybe within 300 meters or even less distance. Precise shots (usually only one) are preferred so as to give the suspect less chance of getting away. This requires total precision and accuracy and there is no room for mistakes even in the worst of weathers. There is no rule for a particular type of cartridge to be used so these rifles can use any type of ammunition which the said department wants or can afford. Totally adaptable stocks and screws which are unsuitable for military rifles are perfectly fine for these encounter rifles since they are carried to exactly where the action is in some cases.
The special purpose rifles can be categorized into two types: the large-caliber rifles which are used for ultra-long range sniping and rendering material objects useless or completely destroying them; the second one is the silenced rifles used for covert operations. The large-caliber rifles normally use heavy duty ammunition and they can shoot up to 1500 meters and above. This of course also depends upon the size of the target and how good or bad the ammunition is. The ammunition used for general purpose machine guns is normally not very good for precise accuracy but they are improving. Covert operations require utmost silence and these silenced sniper rifles are equipped with a silencer which is either integral or removable so as to not make any noise. The ammunition is also the subsonic type which may lessen the distance range but it ensures total silence. Combining both the elements, the silencer sniper rifle gives out an absolute silent gunshot which cannot be heard even at a distance of 100-200 meters at nighttime and maybe even 30-50 meters if their is a lot of other noise.
The sniper goes back a long time ever since the rifle was invented and the styling and functioning of the two are quite similar. The sniper rifle has been an integral part of the army for nearly a hundred years now and with advancing technology has only got more efficient. In recent times, .50 caliber round have been fielded by sniper rifles which are capable of penetrating even engine blocks. Sniper rifles are the best for exact accuracy and marksmanship. This is of vital importance because sniper rifles are generally used in very tight situations where a single fire can make or mar the situation.
Sniper rifles are thus extremely deadly weapons and they are reserved for highly crucial operations where every aim counts and accuracy is the key factor.