Using painstakingly researched firsthand narratives, this detailed and graphic examination of one of the most difficult and dangerous of military skills considers the origins of military sniping from the American Revolution to the 20th century's most modern and dangerous sniper of photos National author publicity.
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Military insiders would do well to eyeball this stalwart survey of an important yet understudied martial art. British historian Gilbert (Sniper: The World of Combat Sniping, 1995) begins with the American Revolution, works his way through major and minor wars, and concludes by pondering the role of snipers in present-day Bosnia. He writes, for example, of the Kentucky long rifle, which with its longer barrel and smaller bore became the best hunting weapon of its time (with a marksmanship potential highly prized by a nation of hardy, dead-eye hunters). British regulars, on the other hand, burdened with their inaccurate ``Brown Bess'' muskets, suffered heavily from canny, mobile American sharpshooters; Gilbert opines that the gap separating war and hunting can at times be a small one. He has interviewed many combat sniper veterans and ably researched memoirs of past wars. To hear him tell it, the ideal candidate for snipership is lonely but patient, meticulously observant, and highly self-disciplined--with an impeccable knowledge of fieldcraft and nerves of steel--who can conceal and camouflage himself, as well as stalk and shoot. Trained snipers, he points out, also make excellent advance scouts, artillery spotters, and intelligence gatherers; by virtue of their training, they can save the lives of comrades and raise the morale of their unit while warding off large-scale enemy attacks. Some soldiers may perform well in the heat of battle, where the objective is to rout, face-to-face, an enemy who otherwise would slay them. Yet the very same soldiers, as Gilbert notes, might not kill an enemy quite so sanguinely at a distance--a subtle moral nuance. An expert treatise on a martial specialty, though repetitive of the author's previous work. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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