Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What type of scope must I own to use your system?

Your scope must have a mil-dot reticule and 0.25 MOA adjustments that can be turned with your fingers. 0.125 MOA adjustments will also work but are not recommended. 0.1 milliradian adjustments will NOT work because my system has you memorize windage information in minutes of angle.

The following features are recommended but are not essential: 1" tube, 40mm objective, fixed 10X, a sunshade and an illuminated reticule.

30mm tubes give one more adjustment, but that is only needed for very long shots and Aguilar System shooters are not firing that far. A 50mm objective is clearer but it causes the scope to sit too high on the rifle for comfortable prone shooting. Variable power scopes are bigger and heavier and can cause misses if one forgets to dial them up to their highest power before using the mil-dots for range estimation. Adjustable objectives elliminate parallax, but this is only a problem at short ranges, particularly for .22RF silhouette competition, and is unneeded by snipers. A 40mm sunshade elliminates the possibility of the enemy seeing the sun reflecting off your scope, but any sunshade is a big improvement over having no sunshade at all.

See my Review of Tactical Scopes under $400 Review of Tactical Scopes under $400

Q: You recommend a mil/MOA scope, but is not mil/mil more logical? It offends my Teutonic sense of order to have different units of measurement on the reticule and the dials!

When I started this business ten years ago, all American and Japanese scopes were mil/MOA; only expensive German scopes were mil/mil and almost nobody outside the German military used them. But now every major manufacturer is offering this choice, so it is worthwhile revisiting my decision to design my flash cards around mil/MOA scopes. Note that my Android app works with both types of scopes.

The advantage of mil/mil scopes is that, when making long shots that are beyond the adjustment range of a 1” tube, one can hold on a dot and then dial in the rest. For instance, suppose one is required to make a 7.3 milliradian elevation adjustment off a 300-meter zero and one knows that there is just not that much adjustment in a 1” tube. So one holds on the fourth mil-dot and dials in 3.3 mils.

The obvious reply is: If it is your business to make such long shots – and who actually is in this business? – then why do you own a scope with a 1” tube? The reality is that the 7.62 NATO is certainly not capable of firing past 600 meters, and the tiny minority who has purchased a .300 Win. Mag. or a .338 Lapua should have had enough money left over to buy a scope with a 30 mm tube. The scope I recommend actually is 30 mm, though this is not why I recommend it.

For us mere mortals who must content ourselves with shots within 600 meters, expedient shots are taken by holding on a dot and precise shots are taken by dialing in the entire elevation adjustment and then holding on the crosshairs. I compete in 500-yard tactical matches with a .30-06 and have tried it both ways: leaving the scope dialed in for its standard 300-yard zero and holding on the second mil-dot, or dialing in for 500 yards and holding on the crosshairs. The latter technique works a lot better – as evidenced by my scores – because the dot obscures the target.

Thus, for precision shooting using scopes with 30 mm tubes, it does not matter whether they are mil/MOA or mil/mil because the sniper is reading a number off his Android and, as long as he is not confused about units, either unit will work. But, for expedient shooting, 76” is the magic number for snipers in Eastern Europe. There are a lot of Russian military vehicles that are this tall, which I have pictures of on my instruction page, not to mention the ubiquitous lightboxes that dot the streets of Kyiv. In the West, the glass part of the glass-and-aluminum door found on every storefront is 76” high.All commercial steel doors everywhere are 80” high and you can just subtract a ¼ mil from their measure and then use the chart for 76” targets.

Conveniently, there is a very easy mnemonic for memorizing the holdover and windage for ranging off a 76” target: The windage in MOA for a 10 mph wind is two more than the holdover in mils. This assumes a 300-yard zero for any non-magnum rifle except the 7.62 NATO, which gets a 300-meter zero. If you just learn to identify a 0, 5, 10 or 15 mph crosswind and then memorize the following chart, you are set for almost all of urban combat:

Target Holdover Windage
7 Mils 0 Mils 2 MOA
6 ½
5 1 3
4 2 4

This mnemonic alone makes it worthwhile to buy a mil/MOA scope. Even for those who own rifles capable of precision shooting, expedient shooting is the majority of your work – you are a soldier, not an assassin – and you should buy equipment that makes this work as easy as possible.

Q: Do I tack the cards to the wall and look at them through my rifle scope? How far back do I stand?
A: No. You hold the cards in your hand and look at them through a transparent plastic card with a mil-dot reticule printed on it. After measuring an object (like a car or door) of known height, you say how much holdover and windage you would give a target at that location. Then you turn the card over in your hand to see if your answer matches what is printed on the back. It is just like the animation on the home page.

This is the same way that people learn vocabulary when studying a foreign language. Since speed is important, you should shuffle the cards and then time yourself on a stopwatch to see if you can go through the entire pack at an average pace of five seconds per card.

The cards are labeled "marksman," "sharpshooter," "expert" or "master." I recommend that you omit the expert- and master-level cards from the pack until you have gotten the hang of the Aguilar System for Medium-Range Sniping. Then add the expert-level cards to your pack. Do not add the master-level cards unless you actually are a master shot, as determined by the military or the NRA. There is no point memorizing holdover and windage for targets that you do not have the skill to hit.
Q: You say that the Aguilar system works for any "non-magnum bolt-action or semi-automatic deer rifle larger than .22 caliber." That description includes a lot of different rifles. Don't they all have unique ballistics? Which one do you recommend?

Yes, the Aguilar system works for every rifle in that category though, for small-caliber rifles like the .243 Win. or the 25-06 Rem., one must pick the heaviest available bullet. The following chart is from Federal’s free downloadable ballistics software:

The .260 Remington works fine with the Aguilar System; it is not shown because the software can only print six graphs at a time. In fact, the .260 has exactly the right trajectory for the Aguilar System for Medium-Range Sniping, though the wind drift is less than my flashcards are calibrated for. Reduced wind drift is a good thing and is easily adjusted for by identifying a 12 mph wind with what the flash cards call a 10 mph wind. The .260 is short-action, which makes for a smaller and lighter rifle, and has less recoil than other rifles with worse ballistics. In a word, it is the ideal cartridge for the designated marksman.

The .25-06 Remington (not shown) is almost too flat-shooting to be modeled by my system. Depending on exactly which cartridge you are using, you may want to dial in three MOA elevation for each mil-dot of holdover recommended by the Aguilar System.

Click here to read more about the .308 Winchester, aka the 7.62 NATO.

Q: What if I handload ammunition and do not know my downrange ballistics? How can I tell if the Aguilar System will work for me?

For my system's advice on windage to work, you must choose a heavy bullet with a high ballistic coefficient. Do not use lightweight varmint bullets. Use the heaviest bullet that can be chambered smoothly with the bolt. If you have to insert the cartridge with your fingers, it is not going to work in combat.

Carefully zero your rifle for 300 yards. Set your elevation dial to read "zero" and then re-zero your rifle for 600 yards. If your elevation dial now reads between nine and ten MOA, the Aguilar System will work for you. Don't forget to dial it back to the 300-yard zero.

If your 600-yard adjustment is less than nine MOA, my system will still work for expedient shooting. But, for more accuracy, rather than holding over on the mil-dots, you should dial in three MOA for each milliradian of holdover that my system calls for.

If your 600-yard adjustment is a lot less than nine MOA, then you are either loading dangerously hot ammunition or your rifle is just too powerful to be consided a "deer rifle."
Q: I own a sniper rifle and use long, heavy bullets, which have a higher ballistic coefficient than the hunting bullets that the Aguilar System is calibrated for. Does the Aguilar System work for me?


In the graph of a lot of different rifles, it is clear that the .308 Winchester has the worst ballistics of any high-power rifle. And the entry in that chart is for the .308 with 150-grain bullets, which are flatter shooting than the 168- or 175-grain bullets commonly used by snipers.

But this is easy to correct for: Just sight your .308 sniper rifle with 168- or 175-grain bullets at 300 meters instead of 300 yards. If you are American or English and only have access to a 300-yard range, then add 0.75 MOA to your elevation dial after sighting in at 300 yards and before zeroing the dial. Adding 0.75 MOA at 300 yards is the same thing as sighting in at 300 meters (328 yards).

At 300 yards, you will be 0.75 MOA high, but that is only 2.4", which is not a great miss. The glass part of a glass-and-aluminum storefront door (76") that subtends five mils is 422 yards away and here you are 0.1 MOA high, which is only 0.4" off. Similarly, a garage door (84") that subtends 5.5 mils is 424 yards away and here you are dead on. These are very typical of urban combat shots where you range off of a house or business at a T-intersection two to three blocks away. So, basically, you sacrificed a couple of inches at 300 yards in exchange for being dead-on at 424 yards.

Owners of .308 sniper rifles should remember that the flash cards are intended to help one with fast shots taken in five to ten seconds of locating the target and without putting one’s rifle down or taking one’s eyes off the target. If you want more accuracy than described above, then buy my Mil-Dot One-Step.

Q: I own a rifle with a long barrel, which gives it a higher muzzle velocity even when using factory ammo. Does the Aguilar System work for me?

A: I chronographed 175-grain Federal Match ammunition fired through a 34” barrel and it was 2700 f.p.s., a hundred f.p.s. faster than it is through a 24” barrel. I dial in 6.5 MOA when using this rifle in 500 yard matches. Holding on the second mil-dot as the Aguilar System advises would be 6.88 MOA. A difference of two inches at 500 yards is negligible.

Q: I own a varmint rifle, which shoots flatter than a deer rifle but is more affected by the wind. Also, I cannot practice holding over on a mil-dot as I would in combat because the dot completely covers the gopher. Does the Aguilar System work for me?

A: Varmint shooters sometimes use their rifles during deer season and the ammunition manufactures accomodate them by offering heavier, less-fragile bullets in their caliber. If such ammunition is available for your rifle, you can use the Aguilar System without modification. Such bullets are fairly blunt but, starting out at higher muzzle velocities, they will have dropped about as much as more typical bullets at the 500- or 600-yard line.

If you insist on going to war with a dedicated varmint rifle like the 220 Swift or 22-250 Remington, dial in three MOA elevation for each mil-dot of holdover recommended by the Aguilar System. A milliradian is 3.44 MOA so, by rounding down, you take into account the flatter trajectory of your rifle and you can hold on the crosshairs as you have become used to doing. You will have to use your own knowledge of wind drift, however, as a 52-grain bullet just doesn’t buck the wind the way a 168-grain bullet does.

Q: I own a magnum rifle. Will the Aguilar System for Medium Range Sniping work for me?

A: Yes, but only if you choose your ammunition carefully. I had to say “non-magnum bolt-action or semi-automatic deer rifle” in the instructions because the word “magnum” includes everything from the 7mm Remington Magnum, which is only slightly more powerful than a typical deer rifle, to the 458 Winchester Magnum, which is used on cape buffalo. The following charts (from Federal’s free downloadable ballistics software) compare some popular magnum rifles to the 270 Winchester. All the examples use the Nosler AccuBond bullet – obviously, one cannot use the Bear Claw or similar dangerous-game bullets for sniping. For all of these rifles except the .338 Win. Mag., my system will work for expedient shooting but, for more accuracy, rather than holding over on the mil-dots, you should dial in three MOA for each milliradian of holdover that my system calls for.

Q: I am planning a sniper operation and would like to arrange to have a full moon low on the horizon and directly behind me. How can I determine the location of the moon in such detail?

A: First, go here to find the UTC offset for your area of operation, that is, how many hours must be added to or subtracted from Greenwich Mean Time to get the local time. Then go here and input the UTC offset and the month you are planning for. Pan the map until your area of operation comes into view and click on it.

For each day of the month, there is a graph that shows the position of the moon for each of the 24 hours in the day. For the moon to be visible it must be above the horizon (zero altitude) and it must be night time, about 19 to 5 in military time. How high the moon is above the horizon is given by its vertical position on the graph and its compass angle is given by its horizontal position on the graph.

An enemy soldier will consider it very bad luck indeed if he happens to visit the latrine at the exact hour in which you are lying in the grass a quarter of a mile away with a full moon directly behind you and ten degrees above the horizon. But such coincidences are usually more the result of careful planning than of luck.
Q: Professional snipers and well-heeled civilians have a laser range-finder and a Leupold Mark IV scope with yardage, not MOA, printed on the elevation dial. Doesn’t that make the mil-dot reticule obsolete?

A: Without the laser range-finder, the Mark IV scope is useless because it requires measuring the target, putting the rifle down, turning on your flashlight to use your Mildot Master and then picking up the rifle again to try to find the target. An Aguilar System shooter could have gotten that shot off in five seconds without ever having to put his rifle down.

Laser range-finders have become de rigueur among professional snipers, but that is only because Iraqi tanks were all destroyed in the first few days of both Gulf Wars. I remind them that Saddam Hussein was a military moron. There is no evidence that the Chinese or the Iranians are led by idiots, however, and U.S. snipers must assume that, in the event of war with either country, there will be night-vision-equipped enemy tanks on the battlefield throughout at least the first half of the war. (Hezbollah fought the Israelis for a month and never lost the ability to launch anti-tank missiles in the dark.) If a sniper turns on his laser range-finder in the presense of such weapons, he isn’t going to get to see the second half of the war.

Note that laser range finders can safely be used during the daytime. Night-vision optics can see their 1064nm Nd:YAG laser but can also see much of the visible spectrum, 400-700nm, and thus are damaged by sunlight. FLIR is far outside the visible spectrum and thus can be used day or night, provided that the ambient temperature is lower than body temperature, but cannot see 1064nm lasers, which are only barely outside the visible spectrum.  Nevertheless, it is not prudent to train exclusively for daytime combat, since most fighting initiated by the enemy will be at night.
Q: What is different between the tactics that you teach and those taught by the Army Sniper School?

A: In a word, I assume that the enemy has armor and helicopters.  Army snipers simply find the tallest building in town, have a Blackhawk insert them on the roof and plink at anyone carrying any type of a weapon, usually an AK, lamenting the fact that they are not allowed to shoot those with cell phones, whom they suspect are forward observers for the enemy’s mortar gunners.  If you suggest that a Hind might strafe their rooftop, a Nona might shell it or a Shilka might shoot back at them, they just give you a blank look.  Hind?  Nona?  Shilka?  What do these words mean?  Or perhaps they are vaguely aware that these are enemy vehicles that were destroyed by the Air Force long before any snipers were sent forward.  In contrast, I assume that there are Hinds overhead, Nonas and Shilkas (as well as T-90s, BMP-3s, BTR-80s, etc.) on the ground and that the only vehicles your side possesses are motorcycles.

This French sniper is demonstrating typical Western tactics; tactics that obviously only work in the complete absence of enemy vehicles and guns. Pray for them if they are ever called on to fight a real army.

Q: I lead a peasant army in an impoverished third-world country. I cannot afford laser rangefinders or even new rifles. (I buy mismatched secondhand deer rifles at American gun shows.) My troops cannot speak English or evaluate even simple mathematical formulas. None of them know how long a yard is. For that matter, most of them are a bit hazy on how long a meter is. Can the Aguilar System help me train them?

A: Absolutely! The Aguilar System works for any non-magnum deer rifle, so it is not necessary to have matched rifles. Hawke HK 4034 scopes with mil-dot reticules are inexpensive and can be purchased on the internet. All Western scopes have dials calibrated in fractions of minutes of angle. If you use Eastern scopes with dials calibrated in tenths of a mil, my system will work for holdover but not windage.

No familiarity with yards or meters is required, as the snipers will directly convert the apparent size of an object (in mills) into holdover (in mills) without ever learning the distance to the target, in any measuring system. The officer who zeroes the rifles must be able to measure 300 yards, however, though pacing off 324 strides (350 strides if he’s under 1.6m tall) on level ground is close enough. If he is sighting the rifles in at a 300-meter range, he should have them hit six centimeters below the point of aim.

Each card ranks the difficulty of its shot as marksman-, sharpshooter-, expert- or master-level. These are American (specifically, NRA) terms which mean, basically, easy, medium, hard and masterful. You must also translate “holdover,” “windage,” “mills,” and “M.O.A.” There is additional material on topics like shooting at moving targets, but its translation is not necessary to use the cards.

Q: I read in Snipershide's website that you said the Leupold Mark IV is "useless" and recommend those el cheapo BSA scopes instead. Is that true? Incidentally, I don't think they meant the term "Ass Hat" in a complimentary way. (2010 Update: I now recommend the Bushnell ET1040 Elite Tactical, which is a better scope than the BSA at the same low price.)

A: Criticizing their beloved Mark IV is not the way to endear oneself to the guys at Sniper’s Hide. However, I never said the Mark IV was useless. I said a $180 BSA with an illuminated mil-dot reticule is better than a non-illuminated $450 Leupold VX-II “tactical” scope and I stand by that assessment. The $1800 Mark IV is better than both, as is to be expected from optics costing ten times as much. But my typical customer, leading his peasant army in that impoverished third-world country, cannot afford the Mark IV.

A $520 off-the-shelf deer rifle with a $180 BSA is effective out to about 650 yards. A $2500 "tactical" rifle with an $1800 Mark IV is effective out to about 1000 yards, but only if the sniper is accompanied by a spotter equipped with a $1000 spotting scope and a $300 laser rangefinder.

Suppose a third-world "strongman" gets a wild hair up his ass and decides to invade his neighbor. Both countries have a $560,000 budget for equipping their snipers. Emulating the rich Americans, the strongman fields 100
two-man sniper teams, each capable of occasionally making a 1000-yard shot. Knowing that they need elevated positions to even be able to see 1000 yards away and that they do not have the support of the people and cannot hide in private homes anyway, they must take only static positions on the rooftops of tall buildings.

The defender fields 800 snipers (actually, designated marksmen) capable of quickly and accurately engaging targets from 200 to 650 yards away before jumping on their motorcycles and moving to a new location. Since they have the support of the people, they can hide their bikes inside people’s houses, fire their rifles out the windows when a target presents itself and then scram. (The motorcycles are privately owned, so their cost is not included in the $560,000 budget.)

You tell me: In fast-paced urban combat, which side is going to win? The 800 highly mobile defenders using the system I advocate? Or the 100 stationary attackers using the system Sniper’s Hide advocates? I think the answer is obvious. "Quantity," as Stalin said, "has a quality of its own."

Q: Some guy on the Daily Paul forum is bad-mouthing you. He calls himself "MW" and claims to be a sniper instructor with 24 years of experience. What's your take on this?

A: If MW is a sniper instructor, then I’m an astronaut.
  1. "Tip: for those who might encounter this thing [an M113], or one like it, the tracks, behind the second wheel, are a vulnerability if you need to 'negotiate' with it."

    Obviously, if you approach an APC with a piece of plumbing pipe, the soldiers surrounding it are going to take your pipe away from you and shove it up your ass. MW is a sniper instructor with 24 years of experience? Hmm’. He sounds more like a 12-year-old boy with an extensive collection of GI Joe comic books.

  2. "The adjustments for the .223 is much more than the 30-06, and if you were to use the .223 milling for it, you would fire a spoiler- a clear miss of the vital zone’ The .223 drops 48.5 inches (9.3 MOA or 2.7 mils) at [500 yards] with a 300 yard zero using basic 55gr. Spitzer from the average sporting goods store. The 30-06 drops only 34.7 inches (6.6 MOA or 1.9 mils) at that range with a 300 yard zero using 180gr. Trophy Bond."

    The 180-grain Trophy Bond .30-06 ammunition is premium hunting ammunition made by Federal, which cost $25 a box. MW purposefully compared this to no-name .223 ammunition"crap costing about $5 a box. I clearly state that snipers are expected to buy premium ammunition with as little wind drift as possible"if you buy crap, it’s not my fault when you miss.

    Federal sells premium .223 varmint ammunition which uses a full-metal-jacket bullet, similar to military ammunition. Its trajectory out to 600 yards never varies from that of their 180-grain Trophy Bonded .30-06 ammunition by more than an inch. The following chart is from Federal’s free downloadable ballistics software:

    A little 55-grain .223 bullet has over 150% as much wind drift as a big 180-grain .30-06 bullet, however, and it was because of wind drift, not holdover, that I specifically excluded .22 caliber rifles from my definition of "deer rifle." Also, with about a fifth the residual energy of the .30-06 at 600 yards, .223 bullets are not really capable of killing anybody out there. This is why I state that my system is for a "non-magnum bolt-action deer rifle larger than .22 caliber."

    Only someone purposefully trying to obfuscate would pretend that he doesn’t know the difference between an AR-15 and a non-magnum bolt-action deer rifle larger than .22 caliber. Anybody who has competed in the National Match competition (200, 300 and 600 yards) with an M1 and an AR-15 would know that both rifles use the same elevation adjustments but require significantly different wind drift adjustments. By his ignorance of this basic fact, MW makes it clear that he has no experience competing with either rifle.

  3. "[Aguilar's] flashcards have HUGE ballistic flaws in them as well as subtending problems with the Mil-Dots."

    MW doesn't even own a set of flashcards, so how could he possibly know if there were flaws in them? He based this groundless accusation on one example, the pop quiz that I posted on the Daily Paul. Very well. Let's look at this example, using MW's own .30-06 ballistics:

    A M113 APC sits 533 yards away. It is 72" tall, so it measures 3.75 milliradians. MW writes, "The 30-06 drops only 34.7 inches (6.6 MOA or 1.9 mils) at [500 yards] with a 300 yard zero using 180gr. Trophy Bond, a popular hunting round found in most stores." Since 533 yards is slightly farther than 500 yards, he would need slightly more than 1.9 milliradians holdover. Like two milliradians holdover?

    Golly, gee whiz! That is exactly the answer that I gave to my pop quiz: I said, "hold on the second mil-dot." I can rebut Mister "24 Years of Experience’ with his own ballistics data!

  4. "The bullet weight, BC, sectional density and MV all play a key role in determining the trajectory. Your cards over-simplify the matter. They also do not take under account parallax adjustment which will spoil the mil reading and point of aim, they do not take under account the mirage, light conditions which can create a wash out, and it does not take under account other environmental conditions such as conflicting winds due to terrain."

    MW forgot to mention humidity and the rotation of the Earth"and what about sunspots?

    He is over-thinking the problem. We're not trying to put a man on the moon here. We're just trying to whack someone a quarter of a mile away. I clearly state on my home page:

    "While no help with Hathcockian cross-valley shots, the Aguilar System is ideally suited to fast-paced urban combat within 600m."

    Like his previous attempt to obfuscate by pretending that an AR-15 is a sniper rifle, he is now obfuscating by pretending that urban snipers spend all their time lining up 1000-yard shots. No they don't. While such shooting is great for impressing one's buddies, it is not what wins wars.

    An infatuation with making long shots is the surest route to getting killed in urban combat. MW’s desire to impress his buddies will lead him to make tactical blunders like climbing up on the roof of a building or engaging mounted troops by firing down a long straight street. In the former case, he will get trapped up there and, in the latter case, they will rush him. MW thought that his buddies would be impressed with a 1000-yard shot? How impressed are they now that his head is on a stake in the enemy's camp? And his $2500 tactical rifle with its $1800 Mark IV scope is now in the hands of an enemy sniper who knows how to use it"use it for killing, not for grandstanding.

In my Outline of Sniper Tactics, I write:

F) Hug. Move alongside a column of troops 300 to 500 yards from them.
  1. Inside 200 yards you are vulnerable to machine guns and RPGs.
  2. Outside 600 yards you are vulnerable to artillery and air strikes.
  3. Stay in the safety zone; fire when there is an obstacle to shoot over.
There is absolutely no reason to engage the enemy from farther away than 600 yards and you will do just fine staying within 500 yards. If you are farther away than that, not only is it hard to hit your shots, but you are in grave danger of getting shelled.

Inside 600 yards there is no need to spend half an hour "doping" a shot. Estimate the wind to the nearest five mph (2.5 mph for experts), hold over on the nearest mil-dot (half mil-dot for experts), and fire the damned shot!

Q: Is there a single guiding principle to armed conflict? What one aspect of combat is essential to victory and, if control of it is lost, ensures defeat in spite of all other advantages?


Distance. Fight at a distance where your weapon is effective and your opponents’ are ineffective and you can prevail against overwhelming odds, shatteringly-powerful weapons and tack-driving accuracy. That is really all there is to it.

Consider a short, stocky man boxing with a tall, skinny man; or one with a knife against one with a club; or one with an Uzi against one with a Ruger 10-22; or a BRDM crew against a Javelin missile team. What determines the outcome in each case? Distance and nothing else.

Even when the belligerents’ weapons are comparable, maneuver accomplishes nothing but to maintain control of distance. If three muggers armed with knives form a skirmish line and you, armed with a knife also, move laterally to attack their flank, what are you doing? You are controlling distance – you close with one while keeping the other two outside of their weapons’ range until you are done cutting the first one.

A deer rifle is most effective at ranges of 300 to 500 yards. If civilians never close within the 200-yard maximum range of machine guns and RPGs or stand off farther than the 600-yard minimum range of artillery and air strikes, they can defeat even professional infantry. But lose control of distance for even an instant and defeat is imminent. This is why motorcycles are so important to civilian snipers; distances can change in a matter of seconds and only a motorcycle is fast enough to close in on or withdraw from enemy troops.

What is the single worst tactic for the civilian sniper? Engaging mounted troops from over 600 yards away by firing down the length (the long axis) of a street. The enemy has cannons that, unlike your deer rifle, really are accurate at that range. Also, they have vehicles that can quickly close in on you with machine guns and grenade launchers, which are very dangerous at close range. Thus, by attempting a shot that you will probably miss, you have given the enemy two can’t miss opportunities to kill you. Asymmetry is supposed to work the other way around.

Consider Bruce Lee, here describing “economical footwork,” which he calls the essence of Jeet Kune Do:

“The maintaining of the proper fighting distance has a decisive effect on the outcome of fighting. Constant gaining and breaking ground in the effort to obtain the distance which suits you best – to get where you are safe and he isn’t.”

Take it from Bruce. Whether you are fighting with fists and feet, assault rifles and sniper rifles or cannons and mortars, tactics can be summed up in a single sentence: Get where you are safe and he isn’t.


Q: Do you know of any recent examples of maneuver warfare ? Please give examples illustrating both Eastern and Western military doctrine.


First, we must define maneuver warfare. Here I state that distance is the single guiding principle of armed conflict and I quote Bruce Lee:

The maintaining of the proper fighting distance has a decisive effect on the outcome of fighting. Constant gaining and breaking ground in the effort to obtain the distance which suits you best - to get where you are safe and he isn’t.”.

This can be done with comparable weapons - Lee had the same body type as those he fought - but in armed conflict it is usually disparate weapons that inspire one to maneuver. The LPO-97 is not familiar to most U.S. soldiers - I could find no English-language descriptions of the weapon - though it is as widely distributed in the Red Army as the M203 is in the U.S. Army. When confronted with an unfamiliar weapon, our single guiding principle leads us to ask, at what distance is it best employed and at what distance is it ineffective?

LPO-97 Thermobaric Grenade Launcher
The M203 is a single-shot weapon, loaded one at a time through the muzzle; the LPO-97 has a pump shotgun type of action with three rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber. Also, the M203 fires high explosive 40 mm grenades, while the LPO-97 fires thermobaric 43 mm grenades. If one does not fire into the wind, this allows one to use the weapon at ranges too close for high explosives and too close to have time to reload the single-shot M203.

In contrast to the LPO-97, the M203 has very tall flip-up sights calibrated in increments of 25 yards out to 400 yards. It is like a very low-power mortar that requires line of sight on the target. Because it takes almost ten seconds for the grenade to arrive on distant targets, it is possible for a soldier with an M16/M203 to fire a grenade and then get his rifle to his shoulder and be ready to fire before the grenade hits. The problem with this is that it is only one little grenade, that such a high trajectory is highly affected by the wind, and that the M16 is not effective at 400 yards, in spite of the fact that Marines qualify on a 500-yard target range.

But let us here see how the Russians use their LPO-97 at the close ranges it is designed for. When seizing the old terminal building at Donetsk Airport (DAP), the Russians used demolition charges to puncture walls and then rapidly fired four thermobaric grenades through it. This is a classic example of maneuver warfare - get where you are safe and the other fellow is not - and is a tactic unknown in Western literature on Close Quarters Battle, CQB.

Our M203 does not work for this purpose because its grenades are not thermobaric and, if the wall is just gypsum board, high explosive grenades cannot be detonated on the other side while thermobaric grenades can be. If the walls are sturdy enough to protect one from M203 grenades - as they were at DAP - the single-shot M203 is too slow. In the time it takes you to operate a muzzle loader, the Russians would have stuck an LPO-97 through your hole and pumped four thermobaric grenades back at you. Anyway, American soldiers trained in CQB do not routinely carry demolition charges designed for puncturing small holes in walls. Even if they did, they have nothing except conventional grenades to push through the hole.

Military officers in the West speak highly of maneuver warfare, by which they mean FFFF, but I am unaware of any recent examples of them practicing what they preach. Mostly their patrols just blunder about until the enemy ambushes them and then they call in a Predator drone strike on the ambushers. But the Afghans possess no guns (The technical use of the term gun means a direct-fire weapon strictly larger than 12.7 mm; it amazes me how many U.S. combat veterans refer to the AK as a gun.) and their only vehicle has long ears and brays. Killing such primitive people one at a time with four-million dollar drones that each carry only two Hellfire missiles is like spending thousands of dollars on a fly-fishing trip when the grocery store actually has a whole case of frozen fish. It is sport. If we were really at war with Afghanistan, we would have just killed them all and been done with it.

Q: My group is primarily armed with deer rifles. But we occasionally capture or are given a heavy machine gun, ATGW or mortar. What can you tell me about combined arms tactics?


Heavy machine guns and ATGWs are both direct-fire weapons that are capable of destroying small armored vehicles such as the BRDM.  Let tanks pass by; almost no weapon available to civilians can take out a T-90.  The BMP-2 or BMP-3 are iffy, depending on the caliber of machine gun or model of ATGW.

The primary role of designated marksmen is to lure vehicles into range of heavy direct-fire weapons.

The principle difference between machine guns and ATGWs is that the former works best when enfilading a column of vehicles and the latter works best when defilading them.  Thus, there are two basic ambushes with direct-fire heavy weapons. 

If you have a machine gun, have your designated marksmen pin down a patrol, aiming to wound rather than kill, where there is a bottleneck between them and the bulk of their forces.  Radioing that they are pinned down by snipers and have wounded will produce an emotional response among their comrades, who will rush through the bottleneck where they can be enfiladed.  A freeway exit ramp is ideal because it also has the advantage of a reverse slope defense, as the drivers cannot see wreckage on the ramp until they have already committed themselves to driving down it.

If you have ATGW, have a small group of designated marksmen fire on a group of enemy vehicles and then immediately flee on their motorcycles.  This will induce the vehicles to pursue the bikers, hoping to get line of sight on them so they can be killed with vehicle-mounted machine guns.  Motorcycles are much faster than armored vehicles, so the bikers must purposefully drive slow enough not to leave their pursuit behind.  As the pursuing vehicles spread out with the faster ones in the lead, the motorcycles should drive past the ATGW guys, who will all fire simultaneously on the column as it passes.

The principle thing one needs to know about ATGW is that they travel slowly towards their target.  Vehicles respond by turning their turret towards the missile and hosing down the place where it came from, as most missiles require the operator to hold his sights on the vehicle until his missile hits.  If the operator is killed by machine gun fire before his missile arrives, it will miss.  Fire-and-forget missiles are immune to this defense, but they are very expensive and it is unlikely that civilians can obtain them.  Also, just because one's missile has the capability of hitting targets from thousands of yards away, it is not necessarily a good idea to fire from that distance.  Heavy machine guns and cannons are also effective at thousands of yards and the more time the missile is in the air, the more time the vehicle gunner has to shoot at the person who launched it.  The closer you are, the better, though missiles have a minimum distance before they arm themselves, so be sure that you are at least that far away.

Mortars are indirect-fire weapons and their use is very different than the two ambushes outlined above.  Mortars are effective against enemy that are clumped together while deer rifles are effective against enemy that are spread out.  So use them simultaneously to present the enemy with a dilemma on whether to spread out or not.  Never attempt to mortar a fort.  You will be outnumbered (they have many mortars inside that fort) and theirs are vastly more accurate than yours, especially if they have radar that can see incoming mortar shells.  The primary target for mortars is the ZSU-23-4.  It is very dangerous to snipers in tall buildings, but the water jackets of its machine guns are vulnerable, so you should attempt to mortar a Shilka whenever you see one.  Machine gunning a Shilka may also damage its water jackets but, as they are both direct-fire weapons, this presents the problem that I have so often warned against, of challenging someone to a duel who has a similar but better weapon than you have.

Click here for a quiz on how to set an ambush.

Q: At several forums, discussants have cited the Wikipedia article on the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, stating that it has a 1000-meter effective range and claiming that this is a rebuttal to your hugging tactic. How do you respond?


Wikipedia is just pasting in information from the manufacturer’s advertisement. In reality, 5.56 NATO ammunition has less energy at 1000 meters than a sub-sonic .22RF bullet has at the muzzle. Anyway, the chance of actually hitting anything at that range is negligible. If we are going to take Wikipedia as an authority on infantry weapons, a better quotation is this one: “A SAW is used to provide suppressive fire for an infantry squad or section.” Clearly, the idea of a M249 gunner and a sniper having a dual is absurd – that is not what the M249 is designed for – and the Russian RPK is even less accurate. Regarding the Russians’ RPG-7, the most common weapon one will encounter on a modern battlefield, Wikipedia writes, “Accurate firing is difficult at ranges over 300 meters and with the RPG-7 the phrase ‘the closer the better’ is always true.  During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the mujahedeen tended to use the weapon at ranges of less than 80 meters.” While nowhere on the battlefield is perfectly safe, one must play the odds. I insist: “Move alongside a column of troops 300 to 500 yards from them. Inside 200 yards you are vulnerable to SAWs and RPGs. Outside 600 yards you are vulnerable to artillery and air strikes. Stay in the safety zone; fire when there is an obstacle to shoot over.”

Q: What is the maximum effective range of modern infantry rifles in combat? I know that you have warned against climbing to the top of the only tall building in a neighborhood or firing down the long axis of a major street, but I still want to know the maximum effective range of my weapon.

A: Competition is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for claiming to be proficient in combat. If you can produce no scorecard from a shooting match, then you certainly have no right to claim to have this ability in combat. Combat is just a tad more distracting – all those explosions, you know. Also, in combat, you do not get to see where your misses went. The enemy soldier runs off and you don't know if you missed him on the left or the right. In competition you can “chase the spotter” by seeing where your last shot hit and dialing over by that much. Aguilar System shooters should zero their rifles for 300 yards and practice at 300-yard public ranges using Shoot-N-C targets. But before claiming that, because they have holdover and windage information out to 600 yards, they are proficient out there, they should compete in at least one 600-yard match. Save the scorecard – somebody may ask to see it.

Competition is only relevant if you, personally, were the one competing. From the fact that you have heard of some wonder boy who got a high score at 1000 yards on a still day, it does not logically follow that you can do this at 1000 yards yourself, just because you own the same brand of rifle. And, finally, I might point out that the 1000-yard bull is 44” in diameter. Winning a match means that you were better than everybody else that day, which is not exactly the same thing as “hitting a man-sized target.” This would imply hitting the X-ring. Generally, everybody is getting 10-ring and 9-ring hits and the one with the fewest 9-ring hits is the winner. The X-ring is only there for breaking ties and it is rare for anybody, including the winner, to hit it more than 25% of the time.

Having said all that, I will assume that a bolt-action rifle is capable of shooting a one-inch group at 100 yards in still conditions and a semi-automatic rifle a 1.5” group. Also, I will assume that the shooter is capable of reading the wind in 2.5 mph increments. All of the bolt-action rifles listed above have less than 32” of wind drift at 600 yards in a 10 mph crosswind. Since crosswinds significantly higher than 10 mph are considered unfavorable, we will assume that the worst-case scenario is that the shooter estimates the wind speed at 10 mph and it is actually either 8.75 or 11.25 mph. Thus, the shooter's inability to read the wind in finer increments than 2.5 mph has resulted in a four-inch miss.

Furthermore, if the intrinsic accuracy of the rifle and of the shooter's ability to hold it steady results in a 1” group at 100 yards in still conditions, then that is another three inches in addition to the four caused by wind-reading error. Seven inches off is typically a miss, but this is the worst case scenario. Thus, in winds not much greater than 10 mph, the majority of shots taken with a rifle that groups one inch at 100 yards in still conditions by a shooter with 2.5-mph-increment wind-reading skills will hit a man-sized target at 600 yards.

At 500 yards an AR-15 firing 77-grain bullets has 28” of wind drift in a 10 mph crosswind. Thus, we will assume that the worst-case scenario is that the shooter estimates the wind speed at 10 mph and it is actually either 8.75 or 11.25 mph, resulting in a 3.5” miss. If the intrinsic accuracy of the rifle and of the shooter's ability to hold it steady results in a 1.5” group at 100 yards in still conditions, then that is another 3.75” inches, resulting in a miss of 7.25”.

Thus, in terms of practical accuracy, the maximum effective range of a non-magnum bolt-action rifle larger than .22 caliber is 600 yards. The maximum effective range of a heavy-barrel, accurized AR-15 is 500 yards. But there is also the matter of lethality to consider. At 500 yards a 77-grain 5.56mm bullet has 466 foot-pounds of energy, between one third and one half that of the bolt-action rifles we considered. Charlie Cutshaw (2009, p.53) writes:
As long as the velocity is 2,400 fps or above, when the bullet strikes flesh, the spin degrades almost instantly and the bullet tries to turn 180° to go base forward, literally exploding at the cannelure due to centrifugal forces, and it typically causes a fist-sized permanent wound cavity... Once the 2,400 fps threshold is crossed the 5.56mm bullet no longer has the potential for “explosive” results and the wounds are more akin to a .22WMR. With the M16 having a full 20-inch length barrel, this threshold is crossed at about 200 meters [219 yards], give or take a few meters.
Gabriel Suarez has even more pessimistic data on the lethality of the 5.56 NATO and cites the U.S. Army Wound Ballistics Lab as his source.

But the heavier 77-grain bullets used by people trying to turn the AR-15s into sniper rifles are slower and cross Cutshaw's threshold at about 140 yards. Even inches from the muzzle they do not exceed Suarez’s more restrictive velocity requirements. Also, they do not feed well through an AR-15 or an M-16 action. For these reasons, I would not recommend that people think of their AR-15 as a 500-yard sniper rifle. Instead, they should zero their scope at 100 yards and use the rifle in support of a squad of snipers all equipped with non-magnum bolt-action rifles larger than .22 caliber. When they lay shoulder-to-shoulder in preparation for an ambush, the AR guy should lie in the opposite direction to cover their rear. Also, since an AR-15 can fire as fast as three bolt-action rifles, the AR guy and the snipers should leapfrog each other when retreating, alternately firing on their pursuers.


I review a sniper school which advertises that, for only a few thousand dollars, they will teach you to fire an AR-15 at 900 yards. Such a fantastic display of marksmanship would actually require reading the wind in half mph increments and firing an AR-15 that is capable of 0.95” groups at 100 yards in still conditions. Bullshit!!!

Sniper Info forum is like the followers of a faith healer except, instead of them all claiming to have been cured of their diseases, they claim that, after playing soldier for three days in the desert, they have all suddenly started hitting man-sized targets over a half a mile away with a rifle that most people zero at 100 yards.

If you question this claim you get a barrage of insults and bold talk of 900- and even 1200-yard shots. But the one thing that absolutely nobody offers is a scorecard from a 1000-yard match that they entered with an AR-15. Ben Avery Shooting Facility is only five miles away and holds 1000-yard F-class matches every month, but they have no record of any of these guys having ever entered with an AR-15.



Cutshaw, Charlie. 2009. "Desert Warfare Manstoppers." Special Weapons for Military and Police. December 2009: 52-54

Q: What pistol do you recommend that I use for self defense? Do you recommend any drills to train for a pistol fight?
A: Whenever you need a pistol, there is always one available. Step forward with your right foot, reach out with your left hand and take your opponent’s pistol away from him. That is definitely the one I would recommend you use for self-defense.

The drill is to stand in front of a heavy punching bag holding an empty pistol in your left hand by the barrel with the butt forwards as though you just pulled it out of your opponent’s right hand. Strike the bag with right hooks as hard and as fast as you can while simultaneously bringing the pistol behind your left hip to protect it from your opponent’s grasp. Turn it around muzzle forward; try not to drop it. When you’ve got a good grip, rotate your right foot clockwise around your left until you are square with your opponent. (The previous maneuver probably brought you into a very defensive sideways stance.) Throw a left cross to the stomach area, striking the muzzle into the punching bag and pulling the trigger. Tuck your chin into your left shoulder when you throw this punch and raise your right hand to block any counter punch.

Q: Do you have any advice for preppers?
A: On my economics site I have written about whether the collapse of the dollar is inevitable and will not go into that here. However, as a ballistician, I can offer the following advice: Buy a .22 Magnum rifle. Under match conditions, the .22 Long Rifle firing subsonic ammunition is the most accurate of the rimfire rifles because it has less wind drift. (The same rifle with supersonic ammunition has more wind drift and its bullet is disturbed by crossing the sound barrier.) But, under field conditions, the .22 Magnum is more accurate because, though it has slightly more wind drift, one can ignore elevation and just focus on the wind.

Install an inexpensive scope (no tactical features) with high rings so you do not have to duck your head when standing upright. Zero your rifle at 100 yards with 40-grain FMJ bullets. The bullet rises through the line of sight at 25 yards (the right distance for shooting a deer if you know exactly where the heart is), peaks at 1.2” above the line of sight at 50 yards and then drops to 1.2” below the line of sight at 115 yards. Thus, you can ignore elevation out to 115 yards, which is the greatest distance for which the chart below provides windage information.

When walking around town, observe a sign or post ahead and ask yourself how far away it is, to the nearest ten paces. Then count your paces as you walk to it as a test of your ability to estimate ranges. If you do this every time you walk anywhere, you will quickly learn to estimate ranges just by triangulating with your eyes.

The following chart gives the number of inches to hold into a ten mph crosswind at the following distances, in paces. With practice, one can learn to read the wind in five mph increments and scale the windage information accordingly.

Inches 2 3 4 5 6 7
Paces 60,70 80 90 100 110 120

If you memorize this chart and practice estimating ranges and reading the wind, you can routinely shoot rabbits at twice the maximum effective range of the typical prepper who has a .22 Long Rifle loaded with supersonic ammunition and no knowledge of ballistics.

2014 Edit: Because of the shortage of .22RF ammunition, many preppers have purchased .17 HMR rifles. This cartridge is flatter shooting and less affected by wind than the .22 Magnum, but only powerful enough to reliably kill rabbits out to about 75 m. It is not necessary to estimate range to the nearest ten paces. Zero your rifle and practice at 50 m; learn to recognize 30 m and 70 m. At 50 m, a 10 mph crosswind results in 1” of deflection; at 30 m, ½” deflection; and at 70 m, 2” deflection.

After all these questions about how to fight, let us not forget the horrors perpetrated by those whom we prepare to fight.