An amazing, if grisly, feat continues to resonate after a report in Thursday's Globe and Mail of Toronto. The newspaper, quoting military sources, says a Canadian sniper in Iraq killed an ISIS militant from the mind-boggling distance of 3,540 meters, or 2.2 miles. The Canadian military has not confirmed what would be the longest kill shot by a sniper in history, but the story has in the meantime drawn attention to something else: the remarkable prowess of Canadian snipers in general. Some coverage:
- The training: If confirmed, that means the sniper record has been broken four times in the last 15 years, three of those times by Canadians, notes Maclean's magazine. One reason, it says, is because Canadian snipers "are not simply taught to hit their targets." The training goes beyond their shooting duties, making sure they're able to "design and run complex operations" if necessary. "That in itself may not make them better snipers but the gestalt of sniper-training and command-thinking combined could explain their skill."
- Long history: The CBC examines the history of Canada's military marksmanship, noting that Cpl. Francis Pegahmagabow of the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion had 378 kills, making him deadliest sniper of World War I. A military historian says the skill carried into WWII. "The best snipers were usually country boys who knew how to hunt."
- Official statement: The Canadian military has not confirmed the kill, but it did confirm the shot. "A member of the Joint Task Force 2 successfully hit a target from 3,540 meters," it says in an email to NPR, adding that it won't divulge further details for troop safety.
- Really? The Globe and Mail says the shot was verified by video and data, but that hasn't emerged yet, and some are skeptical. The Washington Post talks to former US snipers who say that even seeing a human target would be difficult from that distance, even with advanced scopes. A theory floated by a former Marine shooter: "A spotter with an advanced optical device was able to verbally walk the sniper onto the target and correct his aim.”
- Yes: Canadian Cpl. Rob Furlong, who once held the record himself at 2,430 meters, counters the skeptics: “It’s not an impossible distance,” he says. “So to the naysayers I would just say, this can be done.” It's a "hell of a shot," adds former Canadian sniper Jody Mitic, who was written a book called, of course, Unflinching: The Making of a Canadian Sniper.
- A critic: In a post at Stuff.co.nz, John Edens thinks the shot was possible, given high-tech gizmos to account for everything from wind speed to the curvature of the earth. Plus, the gun used, a McMillan TAC-50 rifle, employs a 50-caliber bullet the size of a "large cigar." His beef, though, is with media coverage that he thinks glorifies war. "It's an achievement to a point, but it's not really one humanity should be proud of."
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