Craig Harrison, otherwise known as the current Guinness World Records holder of the longest confirmed kill, has recently come out with his account of his time in the service, “The Longest Kill”. I first learned about it at SHOT while talking to him at the Accuracy International booth. Then it was supposed to come out on February 2nd in the United States, and I have since bought it and read a good portion of it. If you are interested in military snipers, long range shooting, and the affect this has on these snipers, I would absolutely recommend it as a necessary addition to the genre of military snipers. As a side note, about 60 of these books were released to the public along with a complete kit set up and Accuracy International rifle for around $12,000 at SHOT. All had been sold by then.
However, what I think is most amazing about the book, is the fact that Harrison is writing more for his mates, and what it means to go through his service time, especially feeling like he was thrown away at the end, despite his twenty odd years of service. As a veteran of Afghanistan myself (and being at some of the places mentioned in the book, such as Camp Bastion), it especially pained me to read it, knowing full well some of the aftereffects of the things he went through. Soon after he got back to England from his last deployment, a reporter broke the news with his confirmed kill at 2,475 meters, and he and his family were placed under an awful amount of stress from the public, and even were almost the victim of a plan to capture and kill him from Al Qaeda. Due to this, they had to relocate their living accommodations multiple times, live in anonymous quarters, change schools, his wife was fired from her job because her boss considered her too much in “the public eye”. All this led Craig to almost commit suicide, multiple times. Not only for everything he was being put through, but for what his family was being put through. On top of this, he was dealing with a unit leadership that didn’t seem to care, and an MoD that couldn’t seem to bother. In this interview with BBC, you can really see how shaken up he gets, just talking about what he has been through.
As shooters, as students of the gun, I think we tend to get extremely mixed up in the physical and mechanical details. The size of the scope, the caliber of the cartridge, the weight of the bipod. But all too often we leave out the human aspect, especially when it comes to the study of long range shooting in war. If for anything else, read this book to see what Harrison has to say about that. I don’t think any other publicly acclaimed sniper has really come out in the way that Harrison has to say about the emotional toll of killing. Not Carlos Hathcock, Chuck Mawhinney, or the Russian Vasily Zaytsev.
And if anything, Harrisons attitude to the longest of his kills is completely professional, even when I was talking to him in person. He treats it as being part of the job, it wasn’t something that was fun or glamorous, but something that was necessary. Indeed, when the reporter who caused so much trouble for him talked to him in person, Harrison kept trying to talk about the guys in his section who were with him. The reporter kept trying to pester him with, “You’re the guy who has the longest kill right?”, and Harrison would reply “Yes, so what? Talk to the guys in the next tent, they’ve got some stories you should hear about what we went through”.
The Longest Kill by Craig Harrison is available on Amazon for $15.84.
There might be some who believe that this record was broken in 2012 by an Australian sniper team, also in Afghanistan. I’ll say a couple things about why I don’t buy it. For one, the report came out in the Australian Daily Telegraph, which is essentially a socialite tabloid if you look at what else is reported through it. In addition, there have been multiple reiterations of a British sniper team saving the day through eliminating a Daesh suicide bomber, by shooting the bombs on the guys body. When I say multiple reiterations of this story, we can trace similar stories, all on tabloids going back to 2012 or so. Whether or not either of these events happened is in my opinion, up for debate. They might have happened, but I assume the rumor mill must have spun its wheels for both. The second point I want to make is that the rifles used by the supposedly Australian story are Barrett M82A1s. Nothing against Barrett, but Barrett rifles aren’t considered sniper rifles by the Marine Corps, because a factory rifle doesn’t hold 1 MOA, it holds 3. That means, at the distances they reported it, almost 3,000 meters, the rifle would ONLY have been physically capable of holding a group 120 inches in diameter, under perfect conditions. In other words, the rifle could have a chance at getting a round to impact within 10 feet of the point of aim, while a human being is only 6 feet. In addition, Soldier Systems Daily published an excellent review of the simple math involved in this distance, showing that working through the Mil come ups, and adjustments, it would be far too much for what the Australians had at that distance. Now there is a shot that was made at 3,800 yards in the United States, but that was with a rifle tailored to shooting at that distance, with handloaded rounds, and a 200 MOA base, which was also custom made for that rifle. None of what the shooting team did in the US, would have been able to be replicated by a military sniper team, which doesn’t dedicate itself to world records.