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Angelini Talks Gaming With DEVGRU Operator Craig Sawyer

Sniper: You're Either Effective Or Dead

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 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 other
  • jaquith
    Very interesting article and special thanks to Craig Sawyer!

    We did not pursue questions that would violate OPSEC
    Yeah, we wouldn't want another MoH overreaction.

    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.
    Reply
  • Pawessum16
    Correction on page 2:
    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.
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  • Chewie
    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.
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  • army_ant7
    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:
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  • blackmagnum
    He could run for governor of California...
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  • US_Ranger
    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.
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  • mapesdhs
    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.

    Reply
  • happyballz
    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.
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  • mayankleoboy1
    happyballzSo you either very lucky repeatedly or are over exaggerating a bit.
    Or he has practiced lots and lots more than you
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  • stevelord
    One of my favorite experts on Top Shot. Can't wait till the next season (which has been filming since September I believe.)
    Reply