- US Army Special Operations Command hosted its annual international sniper competition in March.
- The competition includes US and foreign military snipers as well as law-enforcement marksmen.
- Since beginning in 2004, it has become one of the best ways to test those sharpshooters' skills.
Every year, sharpshooters from around the world gather in North Carolina for one of the most exclusive military sniper competitions.
US Army Special Operations Command's international sniper competition brings together sniper teams from special-operations and conventional units as well as law-enforcement agencies from dozens of countries.
Snipers are an essential part of every military. They can take out valuable targets at long ranges and conduct reconnaissance in hard-to-reach areas. The international sniper competition, which began in 2004, has become one of the best ways to test the skills of those marksmen.
Best of the best
Twenty-one sniper teams took part in the annual competition's 13th iteration, traveling to the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in March. This year's version consisted of a series of events that challenged the two-man teams.
The four-day event had 23 scenarios to evaluate the teams' ability to work together seamlessly as shooter and spotter with speed and accuracy against targets from multiple distances in different simulated operational environments.
The events tested the snipers' long-, medium-, and short-range marksmanship capabilities using all manners of weapons, including sniper rifles, carbines, and pistols.
In general, the competition aims to provide a diverse set of simulated operational conditions that reflect the realities of a modern, interactive battlefield.
"The sniper teams face lanes that force them to maneuver over and around obstacles to establish a firing position and make engagement on a target. In other lanes, they might have to be in a static position while other challenges that make it hard are presented, like targets that move behind obstacles," said Col. Matthew Tucker, commanding officer of the Army's 2nd Special Warfare Training Group, which hosted the competition.
The results are in
First place went to the US Army Special Operations Command team — the generic name may mean it was composed of members of Delta Force, a secretive unit the Army rarely acknowledges.
Second place went to a team of French SAS commandos. The US Army National Guard's 20th Special Forces Group took the final spot on the podium. A team of Marine Raider sniper instructors was fourth, and a team from the Kommando Spezialkräfte, a German tier-one military special-operations unit, came in fifth.
Units from across the US special-operations community participated, including almost all the Army's Green Beret units, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and SEAL Team 1. Several other countries' militaries sent teams, including Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, Ireland, and Italy.
In addition to the military participants, the law-enforcement contingent included a US Coast Guard team, which came in 13th, and a team from the US Secret Service, which placed 19th.
An important event
This year's sniper competition was particularly relevant in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The event brought together several NATO allies and reinforced unit-level relationships.
All the international teams taking part were from Europe, "and we currently face a common threat there that harkens back to the Cold War," Tucker said, according to Army Times. "So this has been a great opportunity for us, this year, to improve the interoperability that will be required of all of us to meet treaty obligations with NATO as well as with other allies."
The sniper competition is a competition, and the teams take it seriously — some more seriously than others — "but we should remember that whoever wins doesn't mean that suddenly that is the best unit" in the special-operations world, a retired Delta Force operator, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they continue to work with the government, told Insider.
"On the flip side, that also doesn't mean that the units that come up second, third, or last are bad units," the retired operator added.
The sniper competition offers participants the opportunity to learn from one another and for units to share their tactics, techniques, and procedures, the retired operator said. That may be one of the most important aspects of the event.
"Let's say, a sniper team for X unit might have deployed to Africa and they have mastered the marksmanship dynamics in extremely hot environments. That knowledge can be passed through such competitions and proliferate [within] the force," the retired operator said.
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.