Marksman/Observer Team (Tips)
thanks to Bender

Unit Organization

The marksman/observer team consists of two men, both fully qualified marksmen. In order to function effectively, however, one will shoot (the marksman) while the other watches the objective (the observer). These two will rotate duties on a regular basis during a engagement.

Compatibility, a readiness to share, and a willingness to rotate duties are necessary qualities of the marksman/observer team members. The member with the most experience should be in charge, but his primary task is to educate his partner and elevate his skills on a par with his own so they can rotate jobs completely yet suffer no decline in compatibility.

Duties and Responsibilities:

Marksman / Observer

1. Writes Operations Order Obtains and prepares any special gear
2. Coordinates with other units Leads in normal movement
3. Leads in stalking movement Follows in stalking movement
4. Follows observer in normal movement Shares in the construction of the "hide"
5. Selects "hide" location Draws sketches and range cards
6. Detects and announces targets Shares range estimates with marksman
7. Adjusts scope for wind, range and angle Identifies targets by priority
8. Shares range estimates with observer Estimates wind
9. Decides engagement priorities Backs up marksman’s shot
10. Engages human and material targets Operates radio
11. Records information
12. Coordinates other teams
13. Operates diversionary devices
Due to liability, police snipers do not rotate weapons. Each marksman/observer should have a rifle assigned exclusively to himself. The marksmen/observers must also rotate/rest/share, or they won’t be able to last during a long-term engagement. Most marksman shots are fired only after all viable options have been expended.

Marksman/Observer Selection

What does one look for in Marksman/Observer candidates? Being a good sniper involves three main skills – marksmanship, fieldcraft, and tactics. The candidate should have experience, interest, or a demonstrated aptitude within at least one of these areas. Training will round out the other two remaining skills.


When it comes to marksmanship, the candidate should be at least an expert rifleman. He had better like shooting, because to hone and maintain sniper-level skills he must shoot frequently. The candidate should have an interest in firearms and technical subjects beyond the common layman, a natural curiosity about things like ballistics, bullets, and optics.

Hunting experience is especially useful because the sniper candidate already will have learned the consequences of inaccuracy or sluggish reflexes.


Fieldcraft includes skills such as wind estimation, camouflage, and observation. Hunters of elusive game can become excellent snipers. Bowhunters are also excellent candidates. Sportsman also learn to read the weather, see tracks in a natural setting, understand field maps, observe live game, and move to avoid being seen.


An appreciation for tactics can only be developed through their study and application. Snipers must take the survival tactics that have been learned in basic training, police school and range training and build on it in a way that will benefit field operations. Extracurricular study of military tactics is also advantageous and is encouraged for all candidates. The sniper’s ability to hide from and deceive the enemy is paramount to a successful mission.

Sniper Operations:

Overall Mission of the Cover Element

1. Establish an inner perimeter to contain the threat. Containing the threat to one location will hopefully expedite its resolution and prevent additional persons from hindering or becoming involved in the operation.
2. Cover the movement of the entry team. The inner perimeter personnel provide security for the entry team as they move into position for an entry should an entry become necessary.
3. Provide intelligence attained to assist the tactical team in their primary goal of saving lives. While on the perimeter you become the eyes and ears for the tactical team as they conduct their planning elsewhere. Any information regarding the situation, activity, descriptions, etc. should be passed forward to assist in planning and decision making.

Tactical Considerations of the Cover Element

Equipment – All items necessary for prolonged operations should be taken into positions upon initial employment. Consider the time and effort spent moving into the area undetected, then having to leave the area to get something which was forgotten. The more movement, the greater the chance of detection.

Radios – Ensure extra batteries are available. Also have frequencies and call-signs for all necessary communications during the operation.

Night observation devices – Ideal for some situations. Extra batteries are a priority.


Cover and concealment – The shortest route may not be the best route. Use terrain and/or existing structures for protection

Avoid detection – We never know what effect our presence may have on a suspect. If it might have an adverse effect, don’t be seen.

Suspect (enemy) vs. Sector – Both members of the team must be aware of their priorities when the suspect is in the sights.

Sniper’s responsibility – The sniper will maintain target acquisition on the greatest threat.

Observer’s responsibility – The observer will monitor other suspect(s) or hostage(s), movement of the entry team, and the rest of the sector.

Planning and Tactical Setup:

Avenues of Approach

Once the Sniper Teams have been assigned or chosen their position, they must then consider routes that will take them to that location.

The following is a list of those considerations:

1. Avoid moving directly through or on the subjects position
2. Utilize terrain that offers good cover and concealment. Cover is protection from small arms fire. Concealment is protection from subject observation.
3. Use terrain which will allow you movement during the hours of darkness. Try to avoid rocky areas or areas of heavy vegetation.
4. Don’t automatically dismiss difficult terrain. This may be your best choice of approach in terms of cover and concealment. Especially during daylight movement.
5. Avoid silhouetting yourself. Stay off skyline and low on rooftops.
6. Avoid areas that may afford the subject a field of fire on you. Such as open, flat areas, (i.e. open fields or playgrounds).
7. Stay within the perimeter. This will prevent contact with locals and the media.
8. Plan an alternate approach in the event that your primary cannot be navigated.


You need to keep in mind who could be watching you. Two ways that you can be detected are:

a. Direct Observation, and Indirect Observation
b. Direct Observation

In order for the subject to shoot you, they must have an idea of where you are. The subject may have access to binoculars or other sight enhancing items. A telephoto lens on a camera will work well.

Indirect Observation

Television - This will be a media event, so cameras will be out.

Night Vision - Hope that you subject does not have access to this technology.

Smell - The subject may detect your odor, so don’t wear cologne.

Sound - Remember that the subject can hear you approaching if your noise discipline is poor.

Concealment and Cover

The best way to avoid detection is by utilizing concealment and cover. There are six factors which will give you protection from subject observation.

They are:

Shape - From any distance your outline will give you away. Change you shape to match that of your surroundings.

Shadow - Stay in the shadows and don’t allow your own to be seen. When it comes to your position, only you and your shadow should know.

Shine (or texture) - Beware of smooth surfaces such as watches, weapon barrel, glasses. Smooth surfaces are areas that reflect light.

Color - Blend in with your surroundings. Bright colors attract unwanted attention.

Position or Setting - When choosing your position, make it appear as though nothing is out of the ordinary.

Movement - Motion naturally attracts the eye. Even a little movement at an inopportune time will warrant attention.

Rules for Day Movement

1. Movement must be slow and well planned.
2. Avoid disturbing animals such as dogs and birds.
3. Take advantage of noise such as wind, rain, or vehicles moving.
4. Cross roads which provide the most cover and/or concealment. Use ditches and woodlines. Attempt to minimize the amount of time you are in the open.

Rules for Night Movement

a. Move by bounds. Stop, listen, then move again.
b. Take advantage of other noises.
c. Avoid running. This causes noise and increases anxiety.
d. Preserve night vision. Don’t look at lights.
e. Avoid silhouetting..
f. Avoid dry brush and tape loose equipment.