Weapons and Kit

Sniper School: All About Their Kit And Weapons

Forces News gained special access to the British Army's marksman training programme in Wiltshire - the Specialist Weapons School

Watch: how many snipers can you spot?

This was the moment that 16 trained snipers faced stringent tests in their bid to become instructors on the British Army's marksman ‘sniper school’ training programme at Warminster camp.

The Specialist Weapons School hones the skills of personnel which define them as dedicated marksmen, trained in the art of observation, reconnaissance, camouflage and concealment.

With exclusive access, Forces News followed their progress over 10 weeks at the Wiltshire base and found out all about their kit, during training in 2019.

What Weapons Do Snipers Carry?

The 338 sniper rifle is the vital firearm for any sniper and is the primary weapon system for long-range shooting.

The troops use an 8.59mm calibre rifle which has a magazine of five rounds and can accurately hit targets from 900 metres away and "harass" up to 1,500 metres.

Depending on the shot and the skill of the shooter, the rifle can fire further, according to one sniper. 

The rifle is accompanied by a Schmidt & Bender scope, which has a zoom of 5x-25x.

A Stick Sniper Shooting Sight is fitted onto the 338 Sniper Rifle.
A Stick Sniper Shooting Sight is fitted onto the 338 sniper rifle.

The second weapon carried by a sniper is an SA80, another primary weapon system used by all snipers. It is designed for anti-ambush drills and small-range combat.

The sharpshooter rifle is another long-range weapon, used by Sniper No.2, also referred to as the 'spotter'.

It is a 7.62mm calibre rifle and is accurate from 600 metres to 900 metres.

The sharpshooter is used in tandem with the sniper rifle and is designed for firing at targets at distances beyond the SA80's range.

Snipers also use a 9mm calibre General Service Pistol, which is carried in rural and urban areas.

It can be used in confined spaces, such as "roof or loft clearance drills", according to one instructor. 

The pistol has a shorter range than the SA80, making it perfect for close-distance combat. 

General Service Pistol 250919 CREDIT BFBS
The General Service Pistol is designed to be used in confined spaces.


Snipers also use a wide range of technology to perfect their deadly precision. 

All snipers carry binoculars - its 6x magnification details means it can identify clothes and bunker positions.

The spotting scope, which sits on top of a tripod, is a more powerful version of the binoculars and can spot targets at an even further distance.

It can zoom in on distances of up to 1,000 metres and is used to confirm an enemy before firing a shot, making it a key piece of kit for long-range shooting. 

The Kestral 5700 may look like a mobile phone from the noughties but it is, in fact, an extremely powerful piece of kit. It holds all the internal ballistic data of a sniper weapon system - testing elevation, windage, as well as wind speed and pressure.

One instructor told Forces News the Kestral 5700 is "critical for snipers as it assists them in all variables and conditions before taking any shots".

Laser Range Finder 250919 CREDIT BFBS
The laser rangefinder is capable of measuring distance up to 1,500 metres.

For shooting at night, the snipers carry two scopes. 

The Stick Sniper Shooting Sight is a thermal sight which can be fitted onto the end of a weapon system. It is used to assist the sniper to identify and engage targets at a distance of 600 metres all while under the cover of darkness.

The Simrad Night Sight is also used for night operations, described by one sniper as an "image intensifying piece of equipment" which can identify targets up to 400 metres away.

Then there is the laser rangefinder, which is used to assist snipers in lasing targets up to 1,500m and can be extended depending on weather conditions.

But what about their kit?

Drag Bag

It is vital for survival but difficult to manoeuvre. Weighing 10kg and holding key supplies, it is primarily used in the art of stalking, getting into an enemy position without being seen.

Knowing and using the ground beneath them is key - any wrong move could give them away.

Snipers carrying drag bags 230919 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
The sniper drag bags weigh 10kg each and hold key supplies.

One of the trainees told Forces News: "Movement with the drag bag is no small task, in the drag bag is always either going to be your 338 sniper rifle itself, or your secondary weapon system. 

"You're never not going to have a weapon in it.

"Also, on top of that, you've got your water, food, spare ammunition, the optics, if you're moving into a night op you're gonna have your night sights, thermal sights, spare batteries, spare kit - it gets heavy.

"I don't think there's ever going to be a war, battle, an arena where snipers aren't going to be either that key ISTAR asset or that striking asset."

Ghillie Suits

Each sniper has to make and maintain his own ghillie suit, a type of camouflage clothing designed to blend in with natural surroundings, and help troops hide from the enemy.

They use a lot of their spare time getting it to a high standard.

These vital skills help define a sniper from the rest.

Sniper with camouflage in the field 230919 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Ghillie suits are a type of camouglage clothing that blend in with natural surroundings.

One of the marksmen said: "There's various ways you can make a ghillie suit - it's important to get right because obviously you need to stay concealed from the enemy and not to be seen.

"You can have various numbers of ghillie suits - you can have a ghillie suit for the winter, ghillie suit for the summer.

"When you go into a new habitat, it's important that you get the natural foliage around that habitat, put it into your ghillie suit so you blend into the natural surroundings."

* This is an edited version of an article first published in 2019.