By David Reed

You must first select an area for your kill zone. The area you select should make success likely. You will base your decision on the probability that the target will appear in this area during the period of time you are there. You must select a primary and at least one alternate hide. Roads, bridges, rivers, and fields all offer good visibility.


Cover is the protection the site affords from fire. It may or may not be wise to expend a lot of effort on overhead cover when none is available naturally. The more time spent in the area digging and cutting the more you will be exposed to enemy detection and fire. You must be very careful to avoid detection. 18" of dirt will protect you from direct light weapons fire. However, when an enemy machine gunner is whittling away at that 18", it won't seem like much. The idea is to get the hell out of there before that happens.

Wooden frame housing or single layer cinder blocks or bricks will not stop direct rifle fire or close range pistol fire. A machine gun will tear them to pieces. If your hide is inside a building you may use sandbags as a barricade inside the house, or dig a position through the floor and into the ground. This will be next to impossible if the structure is on a concrete slab. If the building is raised, and the structure is strong enough, the building itself will provide overhead cover from RPG's or thrown grenades. Mortar or artillery is a different matter. These will devastate the building, collapsing the structure on top of you. You must get out before heavy weapons are brought to bear. This goes for almost any position you choose. You should use anything available to provide cover, and choose the best cover available that fills other essential requirements.

If you do not have sandbags, or the time to fill them, use dirt, logs, timbers, bricks, or anything else you can find.


Concealment is what keeps you from being seen. It is not necessarily cover. A bush will hide you, but it will not stop a bullet. Use whatever is available. Do not cut bushes from the area of your hide. If all of the bushes have been cut down and piled up in one spot your hide will be too obvious. Gather materials distant from your hide if you need them. Gather carefully so that people traveling through the area will not see the cuttings, otherwise they will know that "someone" has been there gathering camouflage for a position.

Personal camouflage is essential at all times. You must achieve two things, break up your outline and blend in. You break up your outline by creating shadows where they should not be and highlighting places that should be in shadow. You can also do this by wearing materials that obscure the outline of your body, face, hands, etc.

From the time we are first born we know what a face is. It is the first thing newborns sees when their eyes open. By the time a person is 4 years old they can see facial patterns in clouds and their closet at night! It is the one feature that is most recognizable to anyone. When applying camouflage stick or civilian creams use the dark tones on raised facial features and the light tones on recessed (reverse shadows), but run areas together across your face on a diagonal. You don't want a perfect reversal because it will still look like a face!

When using vegetation for camouflage, use very short branches. Long branches and grasses move in an exaggerated fashion when you make slight movements. Choose vegetation that blends in to the area you are hiding in.

Try to select a place for your hide that provides natural concealment, then augment it as necessary. It is impossible to shoot near or after darkness without your muzzle flash being seen. Any high powered rifle puts out a tremendous muzzle flash. Be careful to position yourself in a way that minimizes the angle at which the flash can be seen. This usually means keeping the muzzle well back of whatever you are shooting out of. Strategically located branches will help.

The sun can be used as camouflage during certain times of the day. When the sun is to your back and at an angle of 15 - 45 degrees to the targets' eyes, anything on the horizon under the sun is difficult to see. If there is light colored earth, white paint, windows, strategically located cars (windshields), the glare can work in your favor depending on the location of the sun, even if it is in your eyes! Careful analysis of site placement and timing is necessary for this to work.

Whatever you do, do not select the most prominent terrain feature for your hide. These areas will always be scrutinized. If the enemy is fired upon, he will return fire to these features first. See the section below titled "Look of your hide" for more on this subject.

Selecting a hide in a built up area (towns, cities, etc.) requires some additional work. NEVER shoot from windows unless you have too. If you must, then position yourself against the back wall of the room. NEVER stick the barrel of the rifle out of the window. Close to the window you can be seen from a much wider angle than you can if you are well back into the room. What is better, in a wood frame house, is to cut a hole through the wall eight inches above floor level. Make the hole large enough to see the kill zone from a spot four feet or more back from the wall. If the building is somewhat dilapidated, make a few more holes in the wall to shoot from. This will provide the enemy more choices when he is trying to decide where the fire is coming from. It also helps to disguise the hole as "just another hole in that 'ole building over there".

If height is necessary, do not climb up on the roof unless necessary. In a house type structure, go into the attic area and build a platform or stand which will elevate you. Cut a hole in the roof and dislodge the shingles. From the front so it will look like a roof in a state of disrepair. Dislodge a few other shingles at different heights and NOT equally spaced to achieve an effect like that of the multiple wall holes described above. If you must use the roof, position yourself by a chimney or other protrusion so that you are not silhouetted against the sky or background.

The concept of a silhouette is important. Always consider what you will look like against the background. You should try to blend in.

Better yet, get below ground in a position under a raised floor structure. Make use of the supports or stairs as cover/concealment. If you are using a weapon with a back blast area (LAW, 90mm Recoilless, RPG, etc.) make sure that you are not in an enclosed area or the blast may incapacitate you!

Route of Ingress

This is the route you will take to get to your hide. In rural areas, this route should not take you through your own kill zone. In addition to the sign you will leave when passing through, someone else may also think that this is a good spot to shoot!. A few words on sign -- don't leave any! A good woodsman leaves nothing behind, including footprints. You must always be aware of where you step. Pick a route where the ground is firm and covered by grass, leaves, etc. I have used burlap to obscure my tracks. Tie the burlap around your foot gear. Remember different armies may have different tread designs. Burlap will keep your prints unrecognizable.

On really soft ground, it will be apparent that a lone "someone" has walked through this area. A good tracker can tell when you were there.

Tracking Tips

  • What has the weather been like recently?
  • When did the sun rise?
  • Was there a dew fall?
  • Look towards the sun when studying tracks, you will see the shadows better.
  • Footprints in soft ground will begin to deteriorate around the edges within 2 hours depending on the humidity, sunlight, and breeze.
  • When it's very humid, the ground moist, and shaded, the edges of a track will not begin to crumble for at least eight hours.
  • If the ground is shaded until 11:00 a.m. (when the sun rises over the surrounding trees), then the sunlight will not begin to affect tracks until then.
  • If the wind is very calm and has been since the previous evening then little affect from wind will be evident.
  • Wind will blow debris into the track and increase the drying rate around the edges.
  • The depth of the tracks and length of the stride can indicate the weight of the load carried and the physical strength of the person who made them.
  • People carrying a load will take shorter steps than those without.
  • Tired people will 'meander', break more brush, drag their feet, etc.
  • The direction of travel is pretty obvious, and when tracks can't be seen, the direction that brush or twigs have been broken in will indicate the direction of travel.
  • Every boy scout knows the "walking backwards" trick. It is impossible to walk backwards and put the heel of your foot down first. If tracks show toes hitting first, then look at the stride. Long stride, toes hitting hard, dirt thrown forwards and back means the person was running. Short stride -- was the person tip-toeing or trying to walk backwards, backwards tracks will look unnatural, sort of a wobble or stagger to them.
  • By measuring a three foot section of trail, and counting the number of tracks within it, an estimate can be made of the size of the party who made the tracks. In a three foot piece of trail, a few people may make two tracks, those who step down at the very edge will probably step again near the other edge, people who step down near the middle will step again out side of the section. Count the tracks close to one edge, each of these is a person. Count the tracks near the middle, each of these is a person. Add them up and you will have a close approximation of the size of the patrol. Don't be fooled by tracks made at different times on a often traveled trail.
  • Discipline can be judged by debris dropped by along the way. Cigarette butts, candy wrappers, etc., all tell a story.
  • Paper will yellow and fade at a certain rate depending on sunlight and rain.
  • The moisture evident in the scar left when a branch breaks can indicate how long ago that branch was broken.
  • A small green branch will be moist for 24 hours, as it dries it will become sticky from sap secretions (depending on the variety/species). After a while the sap will harden.
  • Women tend to walk more pigeon toed than men.
  • The feces of a person can be examined to determine diet. The feces of a person who lives on beans and rice will smell different from the feces of a person who eats hamburgers, pizzas, LURP's, or c-rats. A pile of feces is a gold mine of information to a tracker. The wetness, settling, decay, maggot growth, etc. are all indicators of age.
  • When the trail goes over hard ground look carefully at small pebbles. When dislodged there will be a small depression in the ground (the hole they were in). The pebble will be dark on one side where it was in the hole. If the dark side is damp then you know that the pebble was dislodged recently. Consider rain, dew, sunlight, and wind.
  • Leaves should be dark underneath in the same way. Leaves that have lain on the ground for a few days will have discolored grass underneath, if not, then the leaf has fallen very recently. This applies to anything laying on the ground, robbed of sunlight, the grass underneath will die.
  • People who spend their lives in the outdoors are very attuned to these things and can tell a lot about the person who left the sign. Never assume your enemy is stupid. Always assume that he is smart, clever, cunning, rational, and clear of mind, body, and spirit.

You want to be able to approach your hide unseen, and in a manner that no one will cross your trail while you are there.


After you have spent a few weeks in the out of doors, where there are no usually smells of habitation, your nose will become more sensitive to foreign odors. Your enemy's will too. People who live in remote, tribal conditions can smell much better than people who are bombarded by odors 24 hours a day. The detergent used to wash clothes, deodorant, chewing tobacco, a bar of soap, open containers of food, etc. all have odd smells to a person who does not use them. No they still can't smell as well as most animals, but they can smell you as far as 20? yards. Not strong, but enough for them to know you are around. Leave these items home when you are on patrol. Your body secrets different odors depending on what you eat and drink. A defense attorney will tell his client not to drink the night before the client has to take the stand under cross examination. The opposing attorney can sense when they are on a subject that makes you nervous. (body language as well but this isn't about trial prep). The best solution is to eat nothing but indigenous foods for at least 48 hours prior to your mission. You are better off eating only indigenous foods when out on patrol. This will help you conceal your odor, change your feces and urine also.

Route of Egress

This is your escape route. You must be able to get up and get out quickly without being detected. You must NEVER use the same route out that you used to go in. If your trail was picked up, someone could be following it or lying in ambush for your return. Always assume that you are being followed.

Never travel in a straight line or a predictable zig zag. Change your route often enough so that no one can review your course over a period of time and predict where you are going. If you have fired your rifle, you will not have time to circle and study your trail. If you have not, this is a good thing to do. When thinking this through, consider that you are alone. You MUST NOT GET CAUGHT, you do not have the firepower to fight the enemy. You must avoid contact at all costs. Remember discipline? No matter how tempted you may be, do NOT hazard confrontations without thinking about the consequences.

View or look of the site from the kill zone.

Consider this -- you are walking through a relatively flat landscape with low to medium height bushes and a few small trees. To your right you notice a slight rise in the ground with two large trees. Suddenly blood and brains fly out of the head of the man in front of you as you hear the CRACCCKKKK of a bullet. You hit the ground, where are you looking? Where are you going to shoot first? More than likely, you and everyone with you will pour a large volume of fire at that rise and those two trees.

Envision a similar scenario in a town, with low houses and buildings except one six story job right up the street. Top it off with about thirty closed windows in the building and one open window on the fifth floor. The same thing happens -- what will you do? NEVER use a "likely" spot. Lee Harvey Oswald made a pretty good choice when he picked that building.

NOTE -- Many people have duplicated the conditions of the JFK assassination and proven that a good rifleman could make the same shots. Many conspiracy theorists point to some statement by an "expert" who claimed that nobody could fire an old Mannlicher-Carcano that fast. Whoever made that statement was just full of crap.

Two or three years ago at a shooting match in Ohio (?) the organizers recreated this scenario with a tower, moving target, and an old Mannlicher-Carcano with a cheap scope. Practically everyone who entered the match did just as well as Oswald and several did better. The top shooter was left-handed -- just like Oswald! Others point to the fact that Oswald was only an average marksman while in the Marines. So what? The only record on my DD 214 regarding shooting skill was the "Marksman" score I shot in basic training. That was the first time I qualified. I did it with an abused basic training issue M16. There is no record of the many times I shot "expert" or of my "advanced marksmanship training" , as the Army refers to it -- hehehe! A real sniper shoots his best under pressure or when he's shooting with a purpose. The sight picture becomes a part of you, connected to your brain, and there is no way you are going to miss. END NOTE


Ideally you will have at least two people watching your rear while you are in your hide. These men must be capable woodsmen. They may take point and/or pull rear security while you are en-route to/from your hide. They will cover you while you concentrate on the mission.

Actions at the Objective (Other miscellaneous stuff)

People who have their "shit together" do not litter, masturbate, eat, sleep, or otherwise screw-off while at the objective. Litter tells a story and is indicative of the discipline/professionalism of the person in question. As the primary shooter, you have the responsibility of the mission in your hands. You must select people who complement your efforts and can perform with a high degree of professionalism.

You must not talk unless it is necessary and then only in a whisper. It is better to use signals for all communication. If you must eat in your hide make sure that you do not leave litter on the ground. Do not scatter your equipment about. Everything not in use must be packed and ready to run with at all times. A spotting scope, rifle, notepad, and pencil are the only things you need to have ready.

Careful notes should be kept referencing all sign that you cross and everything that you see or hear. When you set up your position you will make a preliminary scan of the area to make certain you have not been seen. You should then check your coordinates by using resection with your compass and map. Every terrain feature in or near the kill zone should be noted. Check the range to each and note it. After all ranges have been determined, go back and calculate any scope adjustments necessary for each range. Determine the right combination of minimum scope adjustment and hold for each range.

After I prepare my range card and I'm satisfied with my position I begin a methodical search of the area. I use a pattern because it gives me something to do and it keeps me from missing an area.

I begin from the left edge of the area at maximum range and slowly sweep to the right and then back, decreasing the range until I'm looking at the area close to my hide. DO NOT neglect the zone close to your hide. It is very easy to become complacent and assume that there is no one close to you. You naturally assume that if there was someone there you would see them. That is only true if the person approaching stumbles, makes a loud noise, or is talking to someone. I have been in many situations where people suddenly appeared very close to me.

Humans do not have super hearing. It is easy to walk closely to someone in the woods without them hearing you. This is especially true when a wind is blowing or it is raining. When selecting your hide, try to pick a place that will provide an early warning of someone's approach. Dry leaves that crunch, thick vines, logs, or other obstacles that someone would have to cross. Usually people will go around obstacles it because it is easier.

If they suspect you are there you are in trouble. If your target is a valuable leader it is possible security forces will sweep the area before he travels through it. They will look in all the likely spots. If it is night then they can use infrared equipment that will detect your body heat. This equipment can be hand held or mounted on a vehicle or aircraft. You will need something to protect you from this and a good hole will do the trick. You must have a lid covered with dirt and camouflage to pull over you when the security forces pass by. A good shrub with intact root ball works well. When an aircraft is involved you must be very quick to do this before they can spot your movement. Remember this, air personnel will only spot you if there is a heat differential or if you move. During daylight the worst thing you can do is move. Freeze, don't move, wait until the aircraft passes. A spider hole is excellent cover and concealment. It must be positioned on high ground to provide good visibility. This bush will die and must be replaced. Pick a variety (if there is one) which is naturally dry looking. You will have to experiment with the vegetation in the area to determine which plant looks live the longest. Preserving the root ball will help keep the plant fresh. Dig the hole deep enough so that you don't have to bend to hide. Leave a step that will raise you up to shooting level. You must hide the dirt from the hole. Don't leave it in a pile nearby. Isolated piles of dirt look suspicious, whether you cover them with leaves or not. A nearby stream will wash the dirt away, but be careful not to leave tracks or fresh dirt near the bank. Also, if you dig into the side of a small rise, you may be able to disguise the dirt as part of the rise. Then you won't have to tromp around the area of your hide, leaving sign.

A Word of Warning

You've seen all sorts of clever tricks used in movies and on TV that provide some devious trap or ruse that leads someone to their death. Keep it simple. Don't waste time with diabolic schemes. Use common sense instead.

One trick I've seen with several variations is this -- To set a trap, the hunter leaves a small interesting object or clue that the hunted spots, he stops, picks up, looks around, then proceeds in the desired direction, right into a trap. What would happen in the movie if the "hunted" spotted the object, acted as if he didn't see it, walked past out of sight, then stopped and looked for the hiding place the hunter was using, and surprised the hunter from behind? People who write movie scripts do not have a secret source advising them on these things. They dream it up and make it work on screen. ANY sign you leave WILL be used to track you down and kill you.

Another one is where the hunted hides under the water and breathes through a reed. This can work, but depending on the diameter of the reed, it better not be more than 6" long. Otherwise the tube fills up with your exhaled breath and you try to breathe the same air over and over again. The worst time to discover this is when someone is standing 4 feet away and looking for you! Have you ever tried to breathe through a straw? You don't have to be under the water to test it, or hiding in fear of your life.

Smart soldiers will follow tracks, but they might send out security elements to their right and left flanks just in case you double back to ambush them. If they suspect an ambush, as in the case where sign looks too obvious or planted, they will determine the most likely spots for your hide, then circle around to surprise you. They won't come diddy bopping down the trail following tracks.

A note about dogs: Sprinkle cayenne powder around the area in a circle around your hide, this will keep away animals. If you must run, sprinkle some behind you every so often. Not just where you walk but on the bushes to the right and left of your path. Hounds don't have to sniff the ground where you walked unless the trail is several hours old. They "wind" you. Nose up, they run towards your scent that is in the air and clinging to things you came close to. As they run, you want them to kick up and breathe the pepper. That will put them out of action long enough to put some distance between you and them. A good trail dog can follow a trail over 24 hours old!

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