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Sniper: You're Either Effective Or Dead

Angelini Talks Gaming With DEVGRU Operator Craig Sawyer
By

Tom's Hardware: I think all gamers remember the Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare scene where you're a sniper in the top floor of a building in Chernobyl. As a real U.S. Navy SEAL sniper, how accurate is this experience?

Craig Sawyer: For me, this was a huge leap forward in the realism department. I first saw it in Iraq. I came back into the team room and some of the guys were playing that scene with the sniper shot. I watched them trying to hold the crosshairs into the wind and get the shot to impact where they intended. I was hooked! As a real sniper, you must locate your target, identify it, determine its range, evaluate the atmospheric conditions, ballistic data, and then make adjustments for those variables accordingly to plot a final firing solution.

In a game, forcing you to contend with all of those factors would likely be too arduous. For a training simulator, though, it would be awesome.

Tom’s Hardware: In multi-player games today, there are always a couple of clowns that gamers call "campers," hiding and picking off other players without getting into the fray. It's particularly satisfying to sneak up on a camper and knife them from behind. How do real expert snipers like you deal with counter-sniper operations? How good are enemy snipers? Are they better characterized as shooters who hide?

Craig Sawyer: I've seen a wide range in capability from enemy snipers over the years. Most were probably just regular guys desperately trying to make use of a sniper rifle in a combat situation. Occasionally, though, I've encountered those who were local experts, or professionals brought in from elsewhere to do the job.

The most interesting "Sniper vs. Sniper" campaign I'll speak about involved the Serbian and Muslim snipers in Sarajevo as that conflict cooled. The situation was very unique because they had been contesting the same turf from the same positions for years. I made it a personal project to go through every one of the sniper hides there, both Muslim and Serb, to learn how the game was played. What I learned fascinated me. They obviously figured some things out after engaging the same snipers across areas like Jewish Cemetery for such a prolonged period.

One of the sniper hides Craig scouted in SarajevoOne of the sniper hides Craig scouted in Sarajevo

They set up their hides differently than anywhere else I had seen, and I came away with a wealth of information from the study I conducted there. One of the strangest aspects of that conflict was the discovery that some wealthy Europeans were taking short vacations to join in, getting involved as snipers, and then returning to their lives just a few days later.

"Sniper Alley" was a stretch of sidewalk in downtown Sarajevo where even the women who were just shopping couldn't escape incoming sniper fire. It was an ugly campaign. Even young school children are angry over things that happened 400 years ago there. So, with hatred passed down from one generation to the next, the fighting was uniquely savage in several ways. It's not every day you see mass graves and the other dark aspects of war. I thought the film Shot Through the Heart captured the overall feel for the brand of horror that came out during that conflict.

Jewish cemetary in Sarajevo, where snipers engaged each otherJewish cemetary in Sarajevo, where snipers engaged each other

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  • 8 Hide
    jaquith , November 15, 2012 5:28 AM
    Very interesting article and special thanks to Craig Sawyer!

    Quote:
    We did not pursue questions that would violate OPSEC

    Yeah, we wouldn't want another MoH overreaction.

    Quote:
    The lack of a fatigue factor, even in fairly realistic first-person shooters, has always bothered me. Most titles allow you to sprint briefly before slowing down to a run, but you’re able to shoot, jump, and then, seconds later, sprint again. Is this something that needs to change in the next generation of games, or would "the real thing" be a total turn-off for a gamer?

    Try Paintball. Otherwise VR with electric shock. Either way, IMO very few want total or close to realism in gaming other than theatrics. Listen, I've been shot by a 22mm that grazed off my knee taking-off a piece of meat -- getting welted-up from paintball's or electric shock is a cake walk.

    Personally, I'm far from a SEAL (really far) but I like my guns, and my Glock 19 with a LaserMax will make folks think twice about leaving in a home invasion - it's there as fast as I can reach. The POF-USA P308-12-MRR 7.62mm NATO is indeed sweet and ain't cheap; just what every 'deer' hunter needs.

  • 4 Hide
    Pawessum16 , November 15, 2012 5:54 AM
    Correction on page 2:
    Quote:

    Tom's Hardware: I think all gamers remember the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 scene where you're a sniper in the top floor of a building in Chernobyl. As a real U.S. Navy SEAL sniper, how accurate is this experience?

    I remember that so well that I know for a fact that it happened in the original Modern Warfare, ie COD4: Modern Warfare.....before they stopped the numbering.
    And after finishing reading the article, I'd like to add that it was pretty great. To someone like me who doesn't know a thing about real world combat, it was very insightful, and Sawyer made some good points about the direction of the gaming industry in regards to shooters.
  • 6 Hide
    Chewie , November 15, 2012 6:49 AM
    Accuracy's my biggest problem with Crysis, to this day. I especially remember a point early in the first game where I like to lie down in the grass and take out the Norks manning MG emplacements that just can't seem to see me. The problem was, with the Assault Scope I was taking 3 or 4 shots to get a head shot on these guys. The reticle covered the whole head! I checked the range range with the visor, or binocs, or whatever, and got a range of 80m!
    Now, I'm no sniper dude, but I can get multiple 2 inch 5 round groups at 200 metres with the Steyr AUG, and that has a 1.5x optical scope. Also, no cool crysis suit to help. So at 80m, firing from prone, you bet your arse I can pick which eye to take out. But not in Crysis. Most of the other stuff about that group of games is cool, but the accuracy issue drives me nuts every time.
  • 7 Hide
    army_ant7 , November 15, 2012 7:19 AM
    Quote:
    Tom’s Hardware: What is Sleep, Eat, and Lift?

    Craig Sawyer: Hey! Are you punking me, man!? Hah.
    Chris, I bet you were making your prayers and cringing already while he was saying that. :lol: 
    I'm kidding of course. :p  But I know I would, knowing that guy could snap my neck with one hand! :lol: 

    That aside, a great read! I thank you and Mr. Sawyer there. :D  I giggled at the thought of how ridiculous the things we do in games are, and imagined it in real life. Seeing those CoD (and others) commercials would make think they're silly now albeit still cool. :lol: 
  • 7 Hide
    blackmagnum , November 15, 2012 9:12 AM
    He could run for governor of California...
  • 9 Hide
    US_Ranger , November 15, 2012 9:58 AM
    Good article. I especially liked the part about posers. That shit always bothers me and I've run into my fair share of them as well.

    Sua Sponte Craig, good luck in your new endeavors.
  • 6 Hide
    mapesdhs , November 15, 2012 10:42 AM

    Thankyou so much for this article Chris! The most interesting piece I've read on any site for
    a long time.

    Best wishes & respect to Craig and all his colleagues.

    Ian.

  • 1 Hide
    happyballz , November 15, 2012 12:22 PM
    ChewieAccuracy's my biggest problem with Crysis, to this day. I especially remember a point early in the first game where I like to lie down in the grass and take out the Norks manning MG emplacements that just can't seem to see me. The problem was, with the Assault Scope I was taking 3 or 4 shots to get a head shot on these guys. The reticle covered the whole head! I checked the range range with the visor, or binocs, or whatever, and got a range of 80m!Now, I'm no sniper dude, but I can get multiple 2 inch 5 round groups at 200 metres with the Steyr AUG, and that has a 1.5x optical scope. Also, no cool crysis suit to help. So at 80m, firing from prone, you bet your arse I can pick which eye to take out. But not in Crysis. Most of the other stuff about that group of games is cool, but the accuracy issue drives me nuts every time.


    I personally participate in bolt-action rifle competitions up to 1000yards but...AUG A’s 1.5x optical scope with 2 inch groups at 200m? You better have used a fully locked bench rest for that...AKA you were just pressing the trigger and the bench was holding aim. Otherwise I really doubt your "consistent" 5 round groups; I have used A1's reticle 1.5x scope before, and after 100-150 yards the "donut" reticle covers too much to know where the true center is. So you either very lucky repeatedly or are over exaggerating a bit.
  • 4 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , November 15, 2012 12:56 PM
    happyballzSo you either very lucky repeatedly or are over exaggerating a bit.


    Or he has practiced lots and lots more than you
  • 2 Hide
    stevelord , November 15, 2012 12:59 PM
    One of my favorite experts on Top Shot. Can't wait till the next season (which has been filming since September I believe.)
  • 5 Hide
    rebel1280 , November 15, 2012 1:09 PM
    Awesome article and i was just thinking that the articles on TH were getting kind of lame last week. Very good points and helps me sleep better at night knowing dudes like this are doing things to protect our country and make it fun to play our favorite games!
  • -8 Hide
    Usersname , November 15, 2012 1:54 PM
    Can you make murder more glamorous?
  • 4 Hide
    mapesdhs , November 15, 2012 2:00 PM

    usersnameCan you make murder more glamorous?


    Sure, have Cameron Diaz be the one holding the guns and taking out the bad guys :D 

    Ian.

  • 0 Hide
    Chewie , November 15, 2012 2:05 PM
    happyballzI personally participate in bolt-action rifle competitions up to 1000yards but...AUG A’s 1.5x optical scope with 2 inch groups at 200m? You better have used a fully locked bench rest for that...AKA you were just pressing the trigger and the bench was holding aim. Otherwise I really doubt your "consistent" 5 round groups; I have used A1's reticle 1.5x scope before, and after 100-150 yards the "donut" reticle covers too much to know where the true center is. So you either very lucky repeatedly or are over exaggerating a bit.


    This was when I was 18, during basic training. And it wasn't every day, like clock work, or something. But I could get 2 inch groups of 5 rounds. and repeat it. I remember the corporal telling me, "Slow down, aim your shots", then the target slid back up with one cardboard circle showing multiple rounds in that area. The corporal said, "I don't know where your other rounds went" and then on the second or third round of the next group the cardboard circle flew off somewhere. I seem to recall that the donut reticle had a cross in it that helped. Maybe not the A1 you were using?
    As I said, not everyday, but I could repeat it. At least enough to make the instructor stop bugging me about shooting too fast. I'm told by an american friend that it does usually require sandbags, and is refered to as 2 MOA, which is at the limits of accuracy for that rifle. Hell, maybe I should have gone on to the Infantry instead of the Ordnance Corps.
    Probably couldn't do the same thing now, but I'm sure I could get a head shot on a slow moving target at 200m, let alone 80!
  • 1 Hide
    Onus , November 15, 2012 2:23 PM
    Very interesting article. What FPS would he recommend to someone thinking about "testing" the genre?

    I'm just a civilian maggot, although my father and brother are former USMC.
    Thanks, Craig, for sticking your neck out for the rest of us. It matters, and some of us will never forget it.
  • 8 Hide
    Yuka , November 15, 2012 3:03 PM
    One hell of an interview, Mr Chris!

    Kudos to the Tom's team for getting this piece together and also thanks to Mr. Craig for letting this happen.

    Cheers!
  • 7 Hide
    f-14 , November 15, 2012 5:10 PM
    how in the hell did you land this guy for an interview Chris?

    this was better reporting than i have seen televised 90% of the time.
  • 1 Hide
    Th_Redman , November 15, 2012 5:52 PM
    Amazing article Chris...like some of the previous commentors posted...best gaming article in a long time. Pure kudos to Craig for his expertise, insights etc. The one question that I would've liked to read that Chris would've asked Craig at the conclusion of this great article is..."What video game that has been created would you say is the most realistic, in terms of what you have gone through, in your military life?"
  • 3 Hide
    garrettm , November 15, 2012 8:23 PM
    One of the best articles I have read in a long time. Thanks to Craig for your amazing service to our country! A real American bada$$
  • 2 Hide
    tweakbz , November 16, 2012 3:39 AM
    From one active Sailor to a salty, retired, SEAL:

    HOOYAH!

    Excellent read! Thank you for your incredible service, Craig. I'm honored to say that I'm in the Navy when we have outstanding Sailors such as yourself.

    I only wish we had more hardworking and motivated folks =\
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