Snipers date back ages, however their first widespread documented use is in the Revolutionary War. Frontiersmen who spent significant time with their rifles could fashion a weapon that was accurate up to 300 yards. Many officers of the British army were taken down by the Kentucky Rifle, or Long Rifle, because of its accuracy at a distance. Snipers were now very capable battlefield instruments, and they will play a significant role in all future wars. The first real sniper training could be attributed to Russia in the 1930s, however that could also be called elite training of regular battle troops. It was less sniper training and more camouflage and marksmanship of the common soldier. Germany in World War II was the pioneer in training snipers, and they often picked off U.S. green troops. Russian and Japanese snipers were significant role players as well. Russia was famous for training women and Japan was famous for hiding in tropical rain forests. The U.S. army never trained snipers in peacetime until after the Vietnam War, when snipers proved that they were a battlefield necessity.
Occasionally, with all of the troops in all of the wars fought since the modern gun, a legendary sniper will stand out. Here are the stories of Cydro's top 5.
Number 5: Lyudmila Pavlichenko
Yes, a woman.
So the story of how Ms. Pavlichenko started embedding lead into German soldiers is rather interesting. At first, she couldn't bring herself to do it. On her first day on the battlefield she had numerous German soldiers in her sights but couldn't bring herself to fire because of the looks on their faces.
Then the twist that ultimately doomed 309 German soldiers. The young Russian next to her was killed, and then "after that, nothing could stop me." She killed two German soldiers that day.
So how did this woman learn to shoot? By joining a shooting club in Kiev at the age of 14. While most little girls are starting to flirt with boys at that age, she was learning how to kill. She even joined the army before women were even accepted.
She killed 187 soldiers at the battle of Odessa, and 257 during the rest of the war. Not to mention she also killed 36 enemy snipers (one of whom already amassed 500 kills.) All of this was after she had already attained her master's degree at the University of Kiev. She later became a historian (probably one of the most badass in history.)
Number 4: Josef Allerberger and Matthäus Hetzenauer
Introducing probably the most famous German sniper of WWII, Josef Allerberger, and his accomplice Matthäus Hetzenauer. This Nazi duo made a significant impact during the war.
Josef was a normal front line soldier until he got injured at the Battle of Stavropol. While he was recuperating, he decided to play around with a captured Soviet Mosin Nagant 91/30 rifle. This practice would lead him to want to practice on real targets, and he did.
He soon went Soviet-hunting and killed 27 Soviet troops before his commanders sent him off to sniper training (German sniper training was the best in WWII). There he learned to hide behind a camouflaged umbrella, all the while shooting whatever he wanted with a German K98.
He also met a fellow Austrian, Matthäus Hetzenauer. Allerberger would rack up a total of 257 confirmed kills, while Matthäus Hetzenauer racked up 345 all on the Eastern Front. That made their combined total 602 confirmed kills. It was reported that they would often cover each others' line of fire along with the other snipers of the 3rd Mountain Division. Also, Josef hated female Russian snipers like #5 Pavlichenko: he killed approximately 38 of them.
Matthäus Hetzenauer would eventually be captured, but survived the war and lived until 2004. Josef (Sepp) Allerberger would follow his dad's footsteps and become a carpenter. He was probably one of the most badass carpenters in history. He only recently died in 2010.
#3: The American White Feather
Who is the most famous American sniper? Carlos Hathcock. While his kill total (93 confirmed, 300 estimated) remains small relative to the others on the list, he still deserves a spot at #3. Why?
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- He won all the major prestigious shooting championships in the United States.
- He survived the war with a white feather on his hat on every mission but one, and a $30,000 bounty on his head (normal bounties were $8-2000, according to Wikipedia). The North Vietnamese would go on specific missions just for him.
- He later commanded a troop of snipers. He also basically taught the United States how to teach sniping by being a key adviser at the Marine Scout Sniper school, all while suffering from extreme pain.
- He pulled seven marines off of a flaming half-track after being hit by an anti-tank mine. He was seriously injured while doing it, too.
- He attached a scope to an M2 browning machine gun, a crazy idea, and recorded the longest confirmed kill in history (2,500 yards) that stood until recently in 2002 when it was broken in the deserts of Afghanistan
- He crawled 1,500 meters to a North Vietnamese base on a mission that he did not know the details of beforehand. He watched the compound for days, surveying the behavior of everyone inside. He then, with one shot, killed the general of the compound with a literal shot to the heart. Then he evaded detection for a few days, with search parties coming within feet of stepping on him. He later regretted it because of the fervent subsequent attacks that the North Vietnamese had on Americans in the area.
Carlos Hathcock was a sniper at heart. As a boy growing up, he would sit and watch trees until a squirrel or rabbit would show up. He then could feed his family which was rather torn. Carlos' parents divorced at a young age in Arkansas. However, he managed to trade what he had for a BB gun at the local shop. He loved stalking other animals and men. He would request all of the missions that he could possibly try to execute, sometimes going after snipers that were trying to go after him. In fact, his commanders would send American soldiers to find him after he was out killing for so long.
His life after the war was a sad story. His wife almost left him, he suffered from depression, and he was in constant pain from multiple sclerosis. He was a firm believer that there was no thrill like hunting another man, and he had trouble finding anything like it. Eventually he picked up the hobby of shark fishing. It was the hunt, not the killing, that he always enjoyed. He died in 1999.
Number 2: Ivan Sidorenko
College wasn't exciting enough for Ivan, so he dropped out and joined the army.
The mortar team he was conscripted to wasn't exciting enough for him, so he began hunting the enemy in his free time. One by one, German soldiers fell with accurate shots coming from the same Mosin-Nagantrifle. What did the Germans do? Deployed an army of snipers to the area.
What did the Russians do? Well, Ivan's kill total grew at a fast rate and his commanders started noticing. Soon after, they started asking him to train other men too. Ivan began to take men one by one out on missions with him.
The experienced well trained German snipers all failed to take out Ivan and his team of snipers. The result? The Russian 1st Baltic Front had a steep psychological advantage on its German enemy, and fought one of the more decisive campaigns of the war.
All in all, he earned the number two spot on this list by achieving the rank of major (highest of any sniper) and training 250 snipers by himself. Not to mention the extremely impressive kill total of 542.
Number 1: the Legendary Simo Häyhä (The White Death)
Wait, he's from Finland?
Yes, and he and his comrades gave one hell of a fight against the invading Soviets. Despite being outrageously outnumbered in every category, the Finnish made the Soviet's life hell in 1939-1940. Check out the casuality list on the Wikipedia page.
He was a hero among heroes. Simo Häyhä was 5'3" and a farmer from Finland. He was a killing machine. Over the course of 100 days during the Winter War he sat in trees and behind snow and sniped Russians with iron sights. He preferred iron sights to a scope because he believed the scope exposed him too much. He must have not been exposed at all.
After killing dozens of Soviets, they devised missions just to kill him. They ended up coming so close to him that he would have to spray all of them with his sub-machine gun. He killed 150 of them just with a sub-machine gun. After a couple of failed missions to kill him, they sent in a team of counter snipers. He killed them all. Oh yeah, and this was all in weather that was 20-40 degrees below zero.
So the Soviets decided to artillery strike the hell out of the general vicinity that he was in. Shrapnel from these strikes struck his coat, but that didn't stop him.
Eventually after killing 706 Soviets, a bullet struck Simo in the head.
Did that stop him? No, two weeks later he was out of the hospital despite "half of his face" being blown off. He lived to be 96, dying in 2002.
The legend of "The White Death" is forever immortalized in history. Some of his comrades claim that he killed even more than 706 people. After all, it was probably easy to lose track since he has the most kills of any foot soldier in recorded history.
A list of snipers that almost made the list:
- Mikhail Surkov
- Billy Sing
- I.R. Premasiri (Nero)
- Timothy Kellner
- Semen Nomokonov
A few quick legendary sniper shots:
- Ivan Sidorenko took out three tractors and one tank with incendiary bullets.
- Carlos Hathcock quickly turned and shot a sniper through the sniper's own scope at long range after seeing the sunlight reflect off of his scope. This also means the sniper was looking directly at him.
- The longest range recorded for a sniper kill currently stands at 2,475 m (2,707 yd) and was achieved by CoH Craig Harrison, a sniper from the Household Cavalry of the British Army. It was accomplished in an engagement in November 2009 in which two stationary Taliban machine gunners were killed south of Musa Qala in Helmand Province in Afghanistan with two consecutive shots by CoH Harrison using an Accuracy International L115A3 Long Range Rifle chambered in a .338 Lapua Magnum.
- Steve Reichert reportedly shot and killed 3 insurgents with one shot through a brick wall. This was immediately after shooting a machine gunner from a distance of a mile.
eee on February 15, 2018:
that was interesting
Shaitan1 on December 21, 2017:
It always amazes me that when Soviet snipers are mentioned it's immediately ''propaganda and number boosting''. That mainly comes from angry Americans or Germans.
God forbid you speak something against Chris Kyle or Carlos Hathcock, you get an artillery barrage of insults. The thing is they had the best snipers in the world at that time, get over it.
Flieger on December 26, 2016:
We've got Finlands Simo Hayha listed as #1 sniper of all time with 706 kills on Soviet troops. The article states that he has the most kills of any foot soldier in recorded history. It also states that he machine gunned 150 of the people he killed. That's not sniping them now, is it? So if you want to include people who get machine gunned, then you'd have to give first place to Heinrich Severloh, who on June 6, 1944 machine gunned and killed over 2000 Americans troops on Omaha Beach as they exited their landing crafts with his MG-42 in only 9 hours. Now that's causing some carnage. When he ran out of the 12000 rounds of belt fed ammo he had for his MG-42, he switched to the 400 rounds he had for his K98. Look it up on Wikipedia. Americans of course don't want to admit losing that many troops to just one man, so they try to downplay the numbers, even though they themselves dubbed him the butcher of Omaha Beach. They also claim he only had one barrel change. Ya think? The MG-42 spits out 1200-1800 rpm, depending on which model you had. At that rate of fire, barrels had to be changed out for cooling about every 250 rounds or risk ruining that barrel, and knowing only too well that the coming engagement would be a hefty one, a one barrel changeout scenario is ludicrous, especially given that he was only 1 of 25 in that MG nest.
Robert Sacchi on September 26, 2015:
A very interesting and informative article. Thank you very much.
HoosierUSMC on July 12, 2015:
Carlos Hathcock most certainly deserves to be on this list. Even if you discounted his accomplishments, he deserves to be here just for the fact that without him and the Sniper School he was responsible for establishing...there would be no true snipers, such as we have today. I am proud to say I served in the USMC with Carlos at Quantico.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on June 04, 2015:
This was a great hub about the greatest snipers in all time. I remember reading about Lyudmila in a book by Stephen Hunter last summer. I believe Chris Kyle should be added to the list, too. Nice work! Voted up!
TK on December 24, 2014:
I am sorry, this is my last comment. I am not trying to bring a bad light to Chris Kyle. It's just frustrating that he is celebrating this war. I can understand because some of the things we did over there I will never speak a word of them to anyone until the day I die. Maybe he had the same demons and he covered them with embellishments. So Chris Kyle was a hero in that he was fooled into doing something that in the end turned out to be wrong; and his heroism is present by dealing with it the way he did. I am just saying that the things we did over there are not to be celebrated. It was so lopsided that I would never rank myself among the heroes of WWI or WWII. They fought for their countries and against a formidable adversary. There were times that I wondered if there were actually even terrorists because so many of them were lightly armed if armed at all. I hope Chris Kyle can rest in peace.
TK on December 24, 2014:
Not only was Chris Kyle a liar but popping civilians during an occupation is a lot different than facing actual armed forces. I know this will probably be deleted because the truth is frowned upon, but I was over there in Iraq; I saw the "drop weapons", I saw mothers and children being killed.
TK on December 22, 2014:
Chris Kyle? The habitual liar? How is he a legendary sniper? His 160 confirmed doesn't come close to some of those on your list. Hathcock belongs on that list more than Kyle. Vasily Zeytsev was a tool of Soviet Propaganda. They inflated his numbers and embellished his stories for a moral boost to Soviet troops. This makes him as credible as Kyle.
ANURA FR SRI LANKA on July 07, 2014:
ARE THERE LYUDMILA PAVLICHENKO'S RELATIONS IN RUSSIA OR UKRAINE?.
Blake Atkinson (author) from Kentucky on December 12, 2013:
Chris Kyle would definitely qualify as a legendary sniper, and his autobiography is a good read. This was one of the first hubs I ever wrote, and at that time Chris wasn't as famous.
Look for a hub soon with him in it.
Georgia on December 06, 2013:
Mikko on October 27, 2013:
Simo Häyhä did not sit in trees shooting russians. Russian propaganda wrote that crooked finnish snipers was shooting from trees. But perhaps that was good that they wrote that, so the russians would only look at trees for snipers. :)
sam johnstone on August 31, 2013:
a worthy note would be Sgt Clive Hulme VC who killed 33 German snipers (and other Germans) in the battle for Crete in 4 days.
There was some talk after the war that Hulme should be stripped of his Victoria Cross as he was disguised as a German Paratrooper at the time of making his kills.
Jason on April 11, 2013:
Just for the record, Zeitsev had 242 confirmed kills for the entire war. Not sure why Craig, or anyone else would think he shot 6000.
Blake Atkinson (author) from Kentucky on April 10, 2013:
Thanks Robert. I apologize for that slip. Quite embarrassing--I did have it correct in some places, I promise I knew he fought in the Vietnam War!
Jim J. on April 10, 2013:
I agree with Robert. Carlos Hathcock never fought in Korea, nor did he ever kill any North Koreans. Also the claim by Craig that Zeitsev killed 6000 soldiers is just simply wrong. No sniper has ever gotten any number even remotely close to that!
Robert on April 09, 2013:
Correction needs to be made to article: Carlos Hathcock killed North Vietnamese, not North Koreans!
Correction to commentator Craig: Vasily Zeitsev did not shoot/kill 6000 German soldiers by wars end. That was a really factually inaccurate statement! Do a little research.
Graham Lee from Lancashire. England. on March 12, 2013:
Hi cydro. Really interesting hub. A really good read, presentation is top class. Research really shows.
Blake Atkinson (author) from Kentucky on February 23, 2013:
Gerald Walford: I looked back and a couple weren't. They are now though.
To address the merit of this list: I'd like to admit that after looking back that there are many more names out there that could be considered top 5.
It seems that the most controversial name is Carlos Hathcock. My reasoning behind the placement of Mr. Hathcock was that, while killing less, he seemed to have accomplished more individual missions than the others. I also wanted to diversify the nationalities.
Regardless, I feel like all five have stories that should be told. There are many more top sniper lists out there on the internet that are different than mine.
gerald walford on February 16, 2013:
are your photo's public domain?
Duke on October 20, 2012:
White feather is the whackiest of the top5, he has no business there @ all!
craig on September 12, 2012:
i'm amazed to see Vasily zeitsev is not on the list given that he killed more than 300 germans at the battle of stalingrad alone, whilst running a sniper training school and under going numerous hardships (read notes of a sniper) and by the end of ww2 he had racked up 6000 kills, he won hero of the soviet union. I am amazed to see Simo Häyhä at number one given that most of his kills were un-confirmed and it is now thought that "his work" was carried out by more than one sniper, i am also amazed to see the white feather given that he only had 93 confirmed kills, there are many other snipers who deserve top place.
aethelthryth from American Southwest on September 07, 2012:
I read from someone (I think it was Captain, later Major General, Fred Haynes) that on Iwo Jima what were commonly called "Japanese snipers" there were not snipers, just regular riflemen who had good cover and also a very target-rich environment.
So it is interesting to read about what can be done by someone who really knows how to shoot.
daryl2007 on July 14, 2011:
Very interesting hub I like it!!! I also love sniper rifles and stories... Good hub my friend!!! Here is one which is about to become an excellent Sniper or how to become a marksman. https://hubpages.com/education/Tips-to-improve-you...
Ilana Moore on June 20, 2011:
Glad I can give you a boost :) and I completely agree. There SHOULD be more movies about snipers. It's the kind of edge-of-your-seat thing that really gets you going! One day...
Blake Atkinson (author) from Kentucky on June 19, 2011:
Marlon C, I agree. Enemy at the Gates is one of my favorite movies though. I feel like there should be more movies about snipers, just because it involves so much suspense. Maybe that's just me.
Ilana, thanks for that nice comment. That comment probably is one of my favorite I've ever received haha.
Ilana Moore on June 18, 2011:
How do you find the coolest topics to write about! Great article, thanks for the history lesson too :)
MarlonC on June 17, 2011:
Whoa-ho-hoa!! These are the sort of stories that Enemy at the Gates should have told. Voting up, natch.