A sniper is an infantryman specially trained in the art of camouflage and long-distance shooting. The sniper trade is very small, and very selective. Only the Regular Force employs snipers; reserve soldiers do not receive sniper training.
In order to be considered for the Sniper Course you need:
- to be employed in the Regular Force as an Infantryman (MOC 031)
- to have successfully completed the Recce Patrolman Course
- to have been selected by the Reconnaissance Platoon and your Chain of Command
- to have passed the Pre-Sniper Course
Upon graduation, about 1/3 of fully trained snipers in the Canadian Army are actually employed in that role.
The term sniper originated in the British Army in 1824, though the origins of same go back to the 1770s. The verb "snipe" was used by British soldiers in India to refer to shooting from a hidden location - an allusion to hunting the game bird "snipe". Those skilled in this type of shooting became referred to as "snipers" and the term was made an official military term.
Other terms have been used in history, for example "skirmishers" in the American Civil War performed similar duties, deploying individually on the flanks of moving formations.
In the First World War, Canada adopted the practice of using snipers armed with accurate rifles and precision optics to deploy as individuals or in two-man teams to fire at targets of opportunity. In the Second World War, each Canadian infantry battalion had a Scout and Sniper Platoon, where snipers were not just trained marksmen but also scouts who collected information for the battalion's Intelligence Section.
- In the last few decades the term 'sniper' has been used rather loosely, especially by media in association with police precision riflemen, those responsible for assassination, any shooting from all but the shortest range in war, and any criminal equipped with a rifle in a civil context. This has rather expanded the general understanding of the meaning of the term. It has also given the term 'sniper' mixed connotations. Alternative terms are usually more specific, especially for police snipers such as "counter-sniper", "precision marksman", "tactical marksman", "sharpshooter" or "precision shooter", some of which have also been used for a long time.
- Several notable snipers served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force including Henry "Ducky" Norwest of the 50th Battalion, CEF who recorded 115 kills in three years of service in the First World War.
- Corporal Rob Furlong of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry made the longest-ever recorded and confirmed sniper kill in history. While serving in Afghanistan during Operation Anaconda in 2002, Furlong shot and killed an opposing combatant soldier from a distance of 2,430 metres (1.5 miles) with a McMillan Tac-50.1
- Friscolanti, Michael, "We were abandoned", Maclean's, Rogers Publishing, 15 May 2006, pp. 18-25.