Out of Nowhere: A History of the Military Sniper
By Martin Pegler
Hardcover in dustjacket, 333 pages, well-illustrated, notes, and index
Published by Osprey Publishing, October 2004
Dimensions: 7.9 x 1.3 x 10.3 inches
Ever since the first human hurled the first rock mankind has placed a premium on those who could aim a projectile accurately at the longest possible range. Any group which could damage their enemies before their enemies could damage them enjoyed a significantly higher probability of not only defeating their opposition but also living to fight another day themselves. The sling, the spear, and the bow were eventually replaced by the firearm in the 1500s, but early firearms were inaccurate, unreliable (especially in wet weather), and slow to reload. The standard military tactic was to overcome the limitations of the single musket by gathering dozens or even hundreds of soldiers together and firing in volleys against similar masses of opposing soldiers, the volleys often being followed by a charge with the bayonet.
Not all muskets or musketeers were created the same, and some were much better at hitting their targets than others. Shooting competitions were organized which helped disseminate both knowledge and technical advances. It was soon realized that individual sharpshooters could be a useful augmentation to the massed fire of standard military formations and the concept of the specialized sniper was born.
This book traces the evolution of the military sniper from the first employments during the 1500s to today. A major part of the history is devoted to the technological development of the rifle, and later the telescopic sight as improvements in accuracy extended the range of the rifle past the limitations of open sights. The author describes the evolution of the equipment well, and many of the illustrations focus on the different weapons, optics, and ammunition. The tactical employment of sniper teams and their tactics are detailed, as well as the counter-sniping role. Throughout the author has related accounts of how snipers were used in various conflicts and utilized anecdotal descriptions from the actual combatants when available.
This is a good primer on the history of military sniping, being well-written and well organized. It does not bog down in excessive technical descriptions of the weapons and optics involved, but highlights the evolution of the weapons in a logical manner. The use of first-person accounts keeps the narrative interesting and keeps the reader looking forward to the next page. An excellent book which I can recommend to anyone interested in the topic.