Key Point: In taking their record-breaking shot, the Canadian sniper team had to consider all of these factors—merely misjudging one would have caused a clean miss—and it is an incredible testament to their skill that they were successful.
In mid-2017, the sniping community was rocked by incredible news: a Canadian sniper team operating in the Middle East had made a successful kill at a distance of more than two miles. The team, deployed to fight the Islamic State, killed an ISIS fighter at a distance of 3,871 yards. The shot was a record breaker and more than a thousand yards farther than the previous world record. The shot, which bordered on the impossible, was made only slightly less so by the skill of the snipers involved.
On June 22, 2017 the Globe and Mail reported that two snipers assigned to Joint Task Force 2, Canada’s elite special forces unit, had shot an Islamic State fighter in Iraq at a distance of 3,540 meters, or 3,871 yards. The sniper team was stationed on top of a highrise building when it took the shot, which took almost ten seconds to reach its target. The sniper and his spotter had used a McMillan TAC-50 .50 heavy caliber sniper rifle. According to the Globe and Mail, the kill was verified by video “and other data.”
To understand the complexity of the shot, it’s best to start with a sniper maxim: sniping is weaponized math. Although a .50 caliber sniper rifle bullet can fly as far as five miles, a host of factors including gravity, wind speed and direction, altitude, barometric pressure, humidity and even the Coriolis Effect act upon the bullet as it travels. Even worse, these effects increase the farther the bullet travels. A successful sniper team operating at extreme distances must do its best to predict exactly how these factors will affect the bullet and calculate how to get the bullet back onto target.