Musical chairs of modern sniping Part 2

Musical chairs of modern sniping Part 2

Vorobiev was a member of the elite Soviet Spetsnaz in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He's a U.S. citizen now and conducts training courses that draw on his special forces training. He'll have a new installment every Wednesday.


The Soviet armed forces used both semi-automatic and bolt-action sniper rifles during World War II. In fact, two of most heralded Soviet snipers, Lyudmila Pavlyuchenko with 372 confirmed kills and Vasiliy Zaytsev with 242, used the semi-automatic SVT-40 and the bolt-action Mosin 91/30 respectively. Pavlyuchenko favored the SVT for its rate of fire.

At the same time, the Soviet military used separate sniper units operating independently. They were utilized as reinforcements in the rear of fronts where conventional forces were in jeopardy. The USSR trained 500,000 snipers during World War II. Many Soviet women excelled as snipers. Talk about women in combat!


I recently visited the Russian Armed Forces Museum in Moscow (www.armymuseum.ru), where I had a chance to see Pavlyuchenko's M91/30 sniper rifle that she fought with before switching to an SVT.


Today many so-called specialists keep dividing sniper tactics and deployment into two categories the ComBloc (read somewhat accurate semi-automatic rifle) and Western (highly accurized bolt-action rifle for ghillie-suit wearing professionals).

I can see where the confusion comes from. With adoption of a dynamic warfare doctrine, the Soviets quickly forgot the wealth of knowledge from the sniping experience of World War II. Motorized infantry units supported by tactical nukes rolling over the plains of Europe did not seem to require snipers.

But as doctrine changes, so do the tactics. Several localized conflicts and border skirmishes highlighted the need for a precision instrument: a sniper rifle. Hence enter the SVD.

During World War II, the Soviets utilized both the semi-automatic SVT-40 and bolt-action Mosin M91/30rifles. The Germans pressed the SVT into service.

Lyudmila Pavlyuchenko was the most efficient Soviet sniper of World War II, with 372 confirmed kills.  Here she is with her SVT-40 sniper, a long, heavy gun.

Another heralded Soviet sniper, Vasiliy Zaytsev, recorded more than 240 confirmed kills, many in Stalingrad, with his Mosin M91/30 sniper rifle.

Lyudmila Pavlyuchenko's M91/30 Sniper rifle in the Central Museum of Russian Armed Forces. She used this rifle up until 1942 before switching to an SVT.

This rifle belonged to Sasha Shlyakhova. She scored 69 kills before she was killed in action in 1944 in Latvia. The display has 69 spent cases she collected, representing 69 Nazi lives — a morbid reminder of the sniper's gruesome job.

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