Throughout World War I, snipers were often used in the trenches in an effort to take out enemy soldiers as their heads peered over the top of the opposing trench. At the start of WW I, only Germany issued scoped rifles to their troops. The effectiveness of the German snipers resulted in their reputation – which was due in part to their training, but also due to the high-quality lenses manufactured by the Germans - as the deadliest and most efficient sharp shooters during the war. The lack of Russian counter-parts, also allowed their specially trained snipers to execute their kills with no danger of a sniper counterpart.
As success of the German snipers spread, the British Army opted to begin its own training school, dedicated specifically to sniper training. Major Hesketh-Prichard founded and headed up this first school and is credited with developing a number of sniping techniques, including spotting scopes, working in pairs and developing observational skills.
Sniper Rifles of WWI
Though rifles were used throughout the infantry, they were a critical component for a sniper. Below is a list of some of the more common rifles used by snipers throughout World War I:
- German Mauser Gewehr 98 – In service from 1898 - 1935
- British Pattern 1914 Enfield – Designed 1914-15 – declared obsolete in 1947
- British Lee-Enfield SMLE Mk III – SMLE: 1907 – present day
- US M1903 Springfield – US issue 1905 - 1937
- Russian M1891 Mosin-Nagant – 1891 – present day
Sniper rifles in WW I were noted for their range and accuracy. However, despite the sophistication of the weaponry, they were not a substitute for the training, dedication and marksmanship of the sniper. The history of the sniper dates back as far as the American Revolutionary War, and their story continues on to present day. Snipers have been an integral part of wars throughout history – World War I snipers are no exception.