A good sniper can damage morale by taking out key personnel. They can stop a unit in its tracks. But the following ten are more than good snipers; they are great snipers. They are among the best of the best. They are the American Heroes Channel's Top Ten Snipers.
10: Navy SEAL Snipers
After pirates failed to seize his ship, Maersk Alabama captain Richard Phillips gave himself over to the hijackers in order to ensure the safety of his crew.
For days the pirates kept Captain Phillips in a lifeboat as they attempted to negotiate with the U.S. Navy. But eventually the lifeboat ran out of gas and the pirates agreed to let the U.S. Navy attach a tow line from the USS Bainbridge to the lifeboat.
It was a fatal mistake.
The move allowed three Navy SEAL snipers to take position on the fantail of the USS Bainbridge - just 75 feet away from the pirates.
Seasick and agitated, the pirates became more aggressive. Commanders on the scene worried that the Captain Phillip's life was inimminent danger and gave the snipers the go ahead: Kill the pirates to save the captain's life.
The seals had to choreograph simultaneous shots to take down the three pirates without killing the captain. The snipers were perched aboard a ship moving in the ocean â€¦their targets werein a bobbing lifeboat and there was only one chance to get it right.
The snipers locked onto the heads of two pirates in the cab window. But they were unsure of the third pirate's position. The third sniper waits for a visual.
Once he gets it, they can all fire. Then, an opportunity: Seasick, the third pirate pokes his head out of the lifeboat window.
The third seal communicates - target acquired. All three snipers take their shots.
9: Rob Furlong
An angry viewer once berated us for not highlighting the achievements of the Canadian military. Shame on us. But the sniper who comes in at No. 9 would have earned his spot even if not for the viewer mail.
Canadian Cpl. Rob Furlong (not pictured here) is responsible for the farthest sniper kill ever recorded. He took out a man in an al-Qaeda mortar nest from 2,430 meters away. That's just over 1.5 miles.
Not bad for a Canadian, eh?
8: Chuck Mawhinney
Not even his wife knew that Chuck Mawhinney (not pictured here) was one of the U.S. Marine Corps' top snipers in Vietnam, before a buddy wrote a book highlighting Mawhinney's service.
The book,Dear Mom: A Sniper's Vietnam, brought to light Mawhinney's record of 103 confirmed kills in Vietnam, with 213 more unconfirmed. It's a gruesome record, one that Mawhinney was not in a hurry to claim, figuring that no one would be interested.
Mawhinney left Vietnam in 1969, after 16 months as a sniper, when a chaplain thought Mawhinney might have been suffering from combat fatigue. After a short stint as a rifle instructor at Camp Pendleton, Mawhinney left the Marines and returned home to rural Oregon.
"I just did what I was trained to do," he told The Standard. "I was in-country a long time in a very hot area. I didn't do anything special." Yeah, right. Thanks, Chuck. You're still on the top ten list.
7: Revolutionary War Snipers
It's not out of line to say that the United States owes its independence to a sniper.
No, really. Here's how the history played out.
The Battle of Saratoga was a turning point in the Revolutionary War. And one of the major turning points in the battle was when sniper Timothy Murphy shot and killed Gen. Simon Fraser of the British army on Oct. 7, 1777.
Murphy, a rifleman in Morgan's Kentucky Riflemen, hit Gen. Fraser at a distance of about 500 yards using one of the famous long-barreled Kentucky rifles.
The United States owes its independence to yet another sniper -- not because of a well-placed shot, but because of a shot not taken.
During the Battle of Brandywine, only a few months before Murphy killed Fraser, Capt. Patrick Ferguson, had a tall, distinguished American officer in his iron rifle sights. The officer had his back to Ferguson, and the sniper thought it would be ungentlemanly to take the shot.
Only later did Ferguson learn that George Washington had been on the battlefield that day.
6: Vasily Zaytsev
Several of the snipers in our top 10 have been portrayed in movies, or had characters based on them, but none more famously than Vasily Zaytsev, whose record was the basis of the 2001 movie Enemy at the Gates.
You know you've made your mark on history when a famously good-looking actor, like Jude Law, plays you in the movie about your life.
Too bad the duel at the center of the movie was fiction.
Scholars and hobbyists alike have tried to puzzle out whether the duel between the ace Russian sniper and an equally regarded German rifleman ever took place. Records are spotty and conventional wisdom is that the Russian press invented the duel as a propaganda tool. They needn't have bothered.
Zaytsev's record speaks for itself: 149 confirmed kills, with an unconfirmed tally that may be as high as 400. \\
5: Lyudmila Pavlichenko
When Russian sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko was interviewed by Time magazine in 1942, she derided the American media.
"One reporter even criticized the length of the skirt of my uniform, saying that in America women wear shorter skirts and besides my uniform made me look fat, " she said.
The length of skirt probably didn't matter to the 309 Nazi soldiers Pavlichenko is credited with killing, or to the many Russians she inspired with her bravery and skill.
According to the Financial Times, Pavlichenko was born July 12, 1916, in southern Ukraine and she was a tomboy from the start. Forget playing with dolls, Pavlichenko wanted to hunt sparrows with a catapult; of course she was better at it than most of the boys her age.
When Germany declared war on Russia in 1941, Pavlichenko wanted to fight. But once she got to the front, it wasn't as easy as she thought it would be.
"I knew my task was to shoot human beings," she recalled in a Russian paper. "In theory that was fine, but I knew that the real thing would be completely different." She was right.
Even though Pavlichenko could see the enemy from where she was crouched during her first day on the battlefield, she couldn't bring herself to fire.
But that all changed when a German shot a young Russian soldier set up near Pavlichenko. "He was such a nice, happy boy," she said. "And he was killed just next to me. After that, nothing could stop me."
4: Francis Pegahmagabow
The exploits and accomplishments of World War I sniper Francis Pegahmagabow read like something out of a comic book or summer blockbuster movie.
Pegahmagabow, an Ojibwa warrior who fought with the Canadians in battles like those at Mount Sorrel, Passchendaele and The Scarpe, is credited with 378 kills as a sniper.
As if that wasn't enough, he was also awarded medals for running messages through heavy enemy fire, for directing a crucial relief effort when his commanding officer was incapacitated and for running through enemy fire to get more ammo when his unit was running low.
The Toronto Star suggests that Pegahmagabow applied the skills he honed during his childhood on the Shawanaga reserve on Georgian Bay to the war, but historian Tim Cook has another theory why Pegahmagabow and other native Canadians joined the war effort and fought so hard overseas. "They felt that their sacrifice (would) earn them a right to perhaps push for more rights in society," Cook said.
Not so for Pegahmagabow. Though he was a hero among his fellow soldiers in Europe, he was virtually forgotten once he returned home to Canada.
3: Adelbert F. Waldron III
Try searching for the United States' top sniper and you get a couple of names. Carlos Hathcock; a legend, but he doesn't have the most confirmed kills. Charles Benjamin "Chuck" Mawhinney; a talented sniper no doubt, but he's not top gun either.
The real deal? Staff Sgt. Adelbert F. Waldron III. He's the one of the most successful U.S. snipers ever, with 109 confirmed kills.
A passage from Inside the Crosshairs: Snipers in Vietnam, by Col. Michael Lee Lanning, describes just how good a shot Waldron was: "One afternoon he was riding along the Mekong River on a Tango boat when an enemy sniper on shore pecked away at the boat. While everyone else on board strained to find the antagonist, who was firing from the shoreline over 900 meters away, Sergeant Waldron took up his sniper rifle and picked off the Vietcong out of the top of a coconut tree with one shot (this from a moving platform). Such was the capability of our best sniper."
Waldron is one of the few people who have been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross twice, once each for separate actions in 1969.
He died in 1995 and is buried in California.
2: Simo HÃ¤yÃ¤
Finn Simo Häyä may be one of the most successful snipers ever. But don't feel too bad if you're never heard of him. Almost unknown outside his home country, Häyä used his skills during a war that most American school kids never study.
When the Russians invaded Finland during the 1939-40 Winter War, Häyä hid himself in the snow and killed more than 500 Russians in a short three-month period. He was known as the "White Death."
He took his shots the old-fashioned way, without laser sights or .50-caliber ammo. All Häyä had were his senses and an iron-sighted, bolt-action standard rifle.
In the end Finland lost the Winter War, but it was no real victory for Russia. The Finns lost 22,830 men compared to 126,875 Russians, who had an invading force 1.5 million strong.
As one Red Army general recalled, "We gained 22,000 square miles of territory. Just enough to bury our dead."
1: Carlos Hathcock
Even though he doesn't hold the records for most confirmed kills or longest shot, the legend of Carlos Hathcock endures. He's the Elvis of snipers, the Yeager; he's Yoda.
The highest award the Marines give for marksmanship is named after Hathcock; so is a shooting range at Camp LeJeune, N.C. In Washington, D.C. a Marine Corps library was dedicated in his honor. And a Virginia Civil Air Patrol unit decided to name themselves after Hathcock.
Hathcock, sometimes called White Feather because of the feather he wore in his hat, joined the Marines at 17. It didn't take the Corps long to realize that the dirt-poor kid from Arkansas was a gifted shot. He qualified as an expert rifleman while still in boot camp and began to win prestigious shooting competitions almost right away. But the military had more in mind for Hathcock than just winning cups; he was sent to Vietnam in 1966.
Hathcock volunteered for so many missions during his two tours of duty, that, according to the Los Angeles Times, his commanding officers had to restrict him to quarters to make him rest.
"It was the stalk that I enjoyed," he once told the Washington Post. "Pitting yourself against another human being. There was no second place in Vietnam -- second place was a body bag. Everybody was scared and those that weren't are liars. But you can let that work for you. It makes you more alert, keener, and that's how it got for me. It made me be the best."
And he was the best. Hathcock had 93 confirmed kills during his two tours of duty; the actual count may be higher. Hathcock's unconfirmed kills are believed to be in the 100s. Nevertheless, his confirmed tally was so high that North Vietnam once put a bounty of $30,000 on his head.
In the end, no bounty or enemy sniper could take down Carlos Hathcock. He died in 1999, at age 57, felled after a battle with multiple sclerosis.