A Canadian sniper has reportedly shot dead an Islamic State terrorist from the astonishing distance of 3,450 metres – more than two miles away.
The astonishing feat of marksmanship took place within the last month "in Iraq", according to the Toronto Globe and Mail.
A "military source" – almost certainly the Canadian armed forces press office – told the paper: "Hard data on this. It isn't an opinion. It isn't an approximation. There is a second location with eyes on with all the right equipment to capture exactly what the shot was."
The rifle used by the unnamed sharpshooter and his observer was a McMillan Tac-50 firing a .50" Browning Machine Gun round, one of the largest cartridges commonly used in shoulder-fired small arms. In Canadian service the rifle has the designation C15A1, being an upgrade from the original C15 as supplied with a fibreglass stock.
Previously the world record for the longest kill shot was held by a British soldier, Corporal of Horse Craig Harrison of the Blues and Royals. CoH Harrison took nine shots to find the range to his target, after which he killed two Taliban machine gunners at a distance of 2,475m with a British Accuracy International L115A3 chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum. It is certain that the Canadian sniper also took more than one shot to get on target.
Thanks to the incredibly long distance for the shot, the sniper's target would have heard the boom of the round being fired approximately a tenth of a second after it hit, with the sound wave reaching him 9.88 seconds after the shot was fired.
Though details on the precise specs of the C15 rifle are surprisingly tricky to find, the factory Tac-50 is supplied with a 29" barrel.
Let's turn up the boffinry!
Doing some quick'n'dirty exterior ballistics calculations courtesy of this handy online calculator, which may or may not be entirely inaccurate – extreme long range small arms ballistics is a bit of a hit-or-miss affair (ho ho) – we can do some number-crunching on the unnamed Canuck's record-breaking shot.
Making the assumptions that the sniper was using US military M33 ball ammunition with a 647 grain bullet (nearly 42g), and with the average temperature, altitude and humidity data for Baghdad at the beginning of June (30oC, 34 metres and 21 per cent humidity, respectively) entered into the calculator, a notional muzzle velocity of 3,000ft per second, and a scope height of an inch and a half over the centre of the bore, we can estimate that a range of 3,750yds – near enough the 3,773yds at which the shot was taken – the sniper had to correct his sights and aim off by more than 12 thousand inches, or 327 arc-minutes of angle, to compensate for the drop of his bullet over such a great distance. The bullet was in the air for 9.7 seconds.
In plain English, the sniper had to point his rifle at a spot slightly higher than London’s Shard skyscraper, which measures 310 metres to its tip, in order to hit his mark. None of this takes into account the wind speeds across that distance, which are liable to push the bullet all over the place, or the Coriolis effect, or even the Earth’s curvature.
People trying to hit extreme long-range targets for fun on a flat range where nobody's shooting back or liable to do other accuracy-impairing things, like take cover or call in airstrikes against you, seriously struggle even with highly customised equipment. Although a team of American enthusiasts managed to shoot a static range target at 4,500yds last year, they were trying to hit a 45" bullseye on an eight foot square board – not a man trying to harm others. They scored just four hits over two days.
Whoever the unnamed Canadian sniper is, he's certainly made his mark in both sniping and long-range precision shooting history – and, hopefully, made the world a tiny bit safer in the process. ®
Your correspondent knows a thing or two about long-range target shooting out to 1,000yds with a .308" Win Target Rifle, as defined by the NRA of the UK. Extreme long-range shooting with larger cartridges isn't something I've done much of, so if you think I'm wrong above, weigh into the comments section and show your working.