There is a good five-part series of videos on the history of sniping and marksmanship skills for snipers entitled “Sniper – One Shot, One Kill” available for free on YouTube.
Some choice cuts from these videos:
To keep their marksmanship instructors abreast in the latest advances in the shooting science and technique, by the 1910’s the Marines were fielding competitive shooting teams in National shooting matches.
The Marines realized they needed snipers of their own and needed them right away. A young Captain named Bob Russell was tasked with forming a sniper platoon, but in 1965 no official course of instruction for sniping existed in the Marine Corps.
The only officer with recent experience in this subject area was then-Captain Jim Land, a member of the Marine Corps shooting team attached to the Marksmanship Training Unit in Quantico, Virginia.
Land had gone through a sniper course at a Marine base in Hawaii and been a competitive shooter a few years earlier. His instructor was Chief Warrant Officer Arthur Terry. Gunner Terry had served in World War II and Korea, had been a sniper, and was a competitive shooter with the Marine Corps.
“Captain Russell had sent me a letter and asked me for the material we had developed in Hawaii to use as the basis for the Third Marine Division Scout/Sniper School. I sent him my course syllabus and lesson plans and my copy of ‘A Rifleman Went to War.'”
In September 1966 Captain Jim Land arrived in Vietnam. He had come specifically to train and organize Scout/Snipers for the First Marine Division which would soon replace the Third Marine Division near Da Nang.
Land faced a number of challenges. Like Bob Russel before him he was left to his own resources in acquiring equipment and personnel for his new sniper platoon.
“I had no guns, no instructors, I never had an office. But the one thing I did have was that I knew the location of just about every Distinguished Marksmen in Vietnam.” Distinguished Marksmen were top scoring marksmanship team competitors. One such marksman, who was assigned as a military policeman, was Carlos Norman Hathcock.
Hathcock had also attended the same sniper course as Land had in Hawaii five years earlier and had won the Wimbledon Cup.
Hathcock and Land received their initial sniper schooling from Gunner Arthur Terry and his cadre.
More history on this program:
The Marines and Army still have the competitive shooting teams that originally developed this skill set, however, these marksmanship Events and Instructor-Competitors are under constant criticism, sometimes by the very student-novices graduating sniper schools!
To a skilled marksman, snipers who excessively criticize competitive shooting endeavors are obviously novice shooters who are unaware of their own history. However, so very few military and law enforcement personnel are worthy of the title Riflemen, including those in the sniping community. It is nice to see this history made available and presented to the masses.