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A Review of "Shooter" the autobio of the "Top-Ranked Marine Sniper"

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by hillbilly, Oct 2, 2005.

  1. hillbilly

    hillbilly Senior Member

    Jul 10, 2003
    I bought "Shooter" (ISBN-0-312-33685-1) at a used bookstore yesterday and read it all by about 12:30 this morning.

    Including the Epilogue, it's 293 pages.

    Here's what you get in this book about and partially by Gunnery Sgt Jack Coughlin and mostly by Donald A. Davis.

    You get a bit about his life, a sub-plot about his divorce woven into the story, classic combat buddy stories, a bit about an incompetent officer, and whole lot of shooting and whacking in Iraq. There's a little bit of shooting in Mogadishu, but mostly in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    His buddy was the guy who had the old-style Iraqi flag that was put over the face of the Saddam statue right after the American flag at Firdos Square.

    Coughlin and his buddy were also some of the first US troops interviewed right after that statue came down.

    Here's what you don't get.

    If you are looking to learn anything about the actual nuts and bolts of sniping, forget it.

    This book is for laymen, and written as such. You will not get anything at all about ballistics or mil dot ranging formulas or how to read wind, or anything at all remotely technical.

    One thing you will learn is something you probably already know.......that the US military is always preparing to fight the last war, not the next war.

    Coughlin speaks to his idea of Mobile Sniper Strike Teams, which he actually got to put into use in Iraq mostly due to a whole chain of accidents and misfortunes of war.

    Coughlin points out that at the beginning of the Iraq war, US sniper doctrine was essentially that from the Vietnam war.....snipers hiding in holes, snipers never exposing themselves to enemy fire, snipers doing mostly recon and a little shooting, snipers measuring their progress in inches, not yards.

    Coughlin was really hacked off that the big brass think-tank types saw snipers as "support troops" with very limited use on a modern battlefield, and did everything he could to change their minds.

    In Iraq, Coughlin put snipers on wheels. He figured out a way to build a prone position atop a Humvee, and basically was a sniper who could travel at 60 mph and who could go anywhere he was needed.

    He even shot from the hood of the Humvee, breaking all sniper rules about concealment and not exposing himself to fire.

    In the final assault on Baghdad, he assembled his Mobile Sniper Strike Team and they would race ahead of the main assault, usually with only enough Marine riflemen with them to secure the ground floor of a building.

    The Marine riflemen would clear and secure the building, and then Coughlin and his snipers would race to the roof, set up, and whack every single bad guy they could put a scope on. When the main body of armor reached a point near their position, they would race out of the building, jump back into their vehicles, and roar ahead again.

    They were not slow, stealthy or camoflagued. They did not stalk and wait for hours and hours to take one well-placed shot at one high-value target. They were fast, aggressive, out on the edge, and they shot a whole bunch, usually hitting and killing whomever they shot at.

    They were "sniping" in almost an exaggerated designated marksman role ut ahead of the main attack, not assigned to a rifle squad, and they were a lot more precise and accurate than a designated marksman ever would be.

    To be honest, his idea didn't strike me as "revolutionary" (pardon the approaching unintentional pun) because this type of use of skilled marskmen saw lots and lots of use during the American Revolution......riflemen either out ahead of the main body, or on the sides, whacking British officers and every other target of opportunity they could put a front sight on.

    But the effect on the enemy caused by skilled riflemen who can kill from what seem unreal distances was the same on the Baathists and fedayeen as it was on the British in the late 1770s....whole units were paralyzed, confusion and fear took control, widespread demoralization seeped into every hole.

    Funny, ain't it? There really isn't anything new under the sun.

    But, an overall good read. Check it out.

  2. mpthole

    mpthole Participating Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Thanks for posting that review. :cool:
  3. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Dec 19, 2002
    Thanks for the review. It sounds like its about a rifleman who is on the cutting edge and not the traditional stalk & kill. Nothing wrong with it his techniques, but adaptability is essential to survival and effectiveness. In a prolonged war, like what we're in now, it returns from fast and mobile to stalk & kill. While his tactics of shooting from atop a Humvee or hood of a Humvee still has applications, it's when we're approaching a hostile stronghold but not when we're already in a street fight.
  4. Buzztail

    Buzztail Member

    Apr 6, 2005
    Tallahassee, FL
    I finished the book last week, and was left with pretty much the same impression as you. I enjoyed it for what it was, but don't look for anything about how to dope wind, or read mirage.
    Great book, well writen from a snipers point of view
  5. RnR

    RnR New Member

    Jul 6, 2005
    MI, USA
    Nice job.

    And dare I say - we need more book reviews!
  6. The Grand Inquisitor

    The Grand Inquisitor Active Member

    Jul 5, 2004
    Iowa City, IA
    His idea is pretty much the Soviet way of utilizing snipers (or designated marksmen as they called them). I think having a mobile unit of marksmen is a huge advantage, but...what do I know.
  7. lysander

    lysander Active Member

    Mar 23, 2005
    Tactics vs. Doctrine vs. Strategy...one is not the other.

    I am now interested to read this book if only to get an understanding of how Coughlin and Davis employed this new twist on an old theme as a useful tactic in Iraq.

    Speaking as an armchair commando...methinks that this particular set of battlefield tactics would not be wise against an army with more competent training and equipment. Its one thing to race a group of expensively trained and equipped snipers into an FO to shoot up a bunch of uncoordinated, poorly equipped and hopelessly outgunned 'insurgents'; and another thing all together to race those same troops into that same building...only to have the building smashed by an artillery or air strike. :uhoh:

    But then again...I've never raced to an FO to shoot up insurgents.
  8. shooten

    shooten Member

    Jan 15, 2003
    I just finished it too. Your review is right on target, so to speak. It was a good, quick read. I hope that there aren't too many Officer Bob's out there. He was a walking cluster flop. I thought his wife was one cold _____.

  9. czhen

    czhen Member

    Jun 10, 2003

    I bougth two weeks ago and waiting for free time to read. College & FT job keep out of fun.

  10. Jeeper

    Jeeper Participating Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    Mesa, AZ
    That was my take also. Then again that is probably why he implemented the technique. He knew his enemy.

    I liked the book a lot. Sat down and read it in one evening
  11. Vagabond

    Vagabond New Member

    Sep 15, 2005
    I finished it a couple of weeks ago...

    and I was not as impressed by the book as some. I thank him for his service, but I really wish I could get my $25 back. The content is mediocre. I wanted more details and less retribution. I got the impression that it was a tool for repaying a staff officer for disagreements, repaying his ex-wife for being an ex, pointing out his own achievements and crediting himself for a "new" tactical idea. Gee how original is that? An NCO that is pissed at an officer, that's a stretch. And I wonder how many of the grunts working for him thought he was an "Officer Bob"? And making your ex look bad- that never happens does it? And his new idea, except for the technology used, IS exactly what the colonials did to the British (as pointed out in another post), new idea indeed. By the time I finished it I was happy to put it down. I was hoping for more and I was very disappointed. "Petty payback" in too many chapters. It hurt the book. There were some good parts, but overall I'd say wait for the paperback, if at all.

    For a better book, but not the best, try "13 Cent Killers" by John J. Culbertson. JJ was also in combat (in Viet Nam), and he tells the stories better. A little less posturing (though some existed) and a lot more details and many more exploits. AND it's in paperback. JJ has no love for the M16 as issued by the USMC (and some don't know there was a difference from the beginning with the US Army version as issued). Can't say I blame him based on his experience though.

    For good reading on the craft (in a Viet Nam setting), the best I have managed to read so far was by Ed Kugler, titled "Dead Center". Ed was a grunt in the Dominican Republic when we sent in the Marines and went to Nam where he was trained as a sniper/scout at Phu Bai.
    More details of the tools and training, details of missions and results and an easy read. Hard for me to put that one down. Interestingly, the "mobile" sniper concept was employed by Force Recon way back then, but it was a different level of tech in the implementation - they walked. Kugler is careful to point out that he was attached to Recon, but wasn't in Recon - read the book it is explained there. Some interesting comments on the .308 vs the '06 from the user stand point - a must read.

    There were also a couple about Hathcock, by his "official" biographer, and shooters should read them, most probably have. I will try to find my copies to get the specifics though and post the titles here.

    "Free Advice is worth the price you pay.." - Tim McGraw, "Can't Tell Me Nothin"
  12. hillbilly

    hillbilly Senior Member

    Jul 10, 2003
    You paid how much for this book?

    I shelled out $2 (two American dollars) for it in a used bookstore in Fort Smith, AR. A quck check of the back cover reveals the original retail sticker for $24.95.

    I love used bookstores.

  13. jason10mm

    jason10mm Member

    Aug 5, 2003
    Savannah, Georgia
    I bought it used as well and enjoyed it. Oddly enough, seeing Hollywood movies like the "Sniper" series and video games has made me forget how the Army views snipers. The concept of a forward deployed rapidly moving sniper is a given to any FPS shooter, but the top brass is 3 decades behind...

    I did enjoy most of the stories. Wasn't the story about the firefight next to the palm tree grove featured in "Shootout"? Seems familiar, but I don't remember the names in the show.

    As for the effectiveness of the mobile sniper against a "well trained" force, the author developed the concept while playing the OPFOR against the US military. While it works against insurgents and irregular troops, it also apparently works against hi-tech forces as well, at least in an urban setting where you can't just level the place.

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