Extreme marksmanship has been a part of war ever since firearms became the tools of choice. There are just some people who can do things with a rifle that others cannot.
The following list contains what we believe to be the 10 deadliest snipers of all time. The list may not be ordered based on the number of confirmed kills or the longest shots made, but by taking into account an entire career.
10. Senior Sergeant Roza Shanina, Soviet Red Army
Shanina was one of the more well known female snipers in history. She joined the Soviet Army after her brother was killed in 1941. As a marksman she amassed 59 confirmed kills in her very short career. She rose to command the 1st Sniper Platoon (184th Rifle Division). She was awarded the Orders of Glory and Medal of Courage. She was killed while shielding a commanding officer during an artillery attack at the young age of 20.
9. Sergeant Fyodor Okhlopkov, Soviet Red Army
Okhlopkov is credited as being one of the most effective Soviet snipers during World War II. He is credited with 429 kills. His service earned him the Hero of the Soviet Union in 1965 as well as an Order of Lenin. Okhlopkov was initially passed over for these awards due to his ethnicity.
8. Billy Dixon, American Civilian
Billy Dixon is one of only eight American civilians to receive the Medal of Honor. Dixon helped found the Adobe Walls settlement in Texas during his time as a buffalo hunter. When the settlement was attacked by hundreds of Native Americans, Dixon ended the battle by using a borrowed .50-90 Sharps rifle to shoot and kill the chief of the attackers nearly a mile away. Dixon took three rounds to make the shot and later acknowledged it was a “scratch shot”. However, that didn’t stop the rest of the country from naming it “The Shot of the Century”.
Following his time as a hunter, Dixon became a civilian Army Scout. During this time, Dixon and four Army Cavalrymen were surrounded during the Battle of Buffalo Wallow. Dixon’s sustained, accurate rifle fire held the enemy off for three days until weather forced them to end their attack. For his actions during this battle he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Dixon’s total kill count during the battles is unknown.
7. Major Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Soviet Red Army
Major Pavlichenko is regarded as the most successful female sniper in history with 309 confirmed kills. Pavlichenko was a 24 year old university student when Germany invaded Russia in World War II. She was one of the first sets of citizens to volunteer for service and specifically requested infantry service. She refused an offer to become a nurse. Due to her accuracy with a rifle she became one of the first 2,000 female snipers in the Soviet Union. She was one of only 500 to survive the war.
6. Staff Sergeant Adelbert Waldron, United States Army
Waldron served in the Vietnam War and racked up 109 confirmed kills, the most of any marksman during the conflict. According to Sniper: Master of Terrain, Technology, And Timing, He Is A Hunter Of Human, Adrian Gilbert:
One afternoon he was riding along the Mekong River on a Tango boat when an enemy sniper on shore pecked away at the boat. While everyone else on board strained to find the antagonist, who was firing from the shoreline over 900 meters away, Sergeant Waldron took up his sniper rifle and picked off the Vietcong out of the top of a coconut tree with one shot (this from a moving platform). Such was the capability of our best sniper.
5. Master Corporal Rob Furlong, Canadian Forces
Furlong, for a time, held the record for the longest confirmed sniper kill in military history at 2,657 yd. According to Wikipedia:
In March 2002, Furlong participated in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan’s Shah-i-Kot Valley. His sniper team included MCpl. Graham Ragsdale (Team Commander), MCpl. Tim McMeekin, MCpl. Arron Perry, and Cpl. Dennis Eason. A group of three Al-Qaeda fighters were moving into a mountainside position when Furlong took aim with his Long Range Sniper Weapon (LRSW), a .50-caliber McMillan Brothers Tac-50 rifle, loaded with Hornady A-MAX 750 gr very-low-drag bullets. He began firing at a fighter carrying an RPK machine gun. Furlong’s first shot missed and his second shot hit the knapsack on the target’s back. The third struck the target’s torso, killing him. The distance was measured as 2,430 m (2,657 yd). With a muzzle speed of 823 m/s (2,700 ft/s), each shot reached the target almost four seconds after Furlong fired. This became the longest sniper kill in history at the time, surpassing the previous record set by his teammate, Master-Corporal Arron Perry, by 120 m (130 yd).
4. Captain Vasily Zaytsev, Soviet Red Army
Zaytsev took part in one of the most iconic sniper battles of all time – The Battle of Stalingrad. During that battle, Zaytsev racked up 225 of his 400+ confirmed kills. This includes the killing of 11 enemy snipers which earned him lasting acclaim. Many of Zaytsev’s kills are credited at distances of greater than 1,000 meters. He often used a standard Mosin-Nagant rifle during battle. For his service, Zaytsev was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union award as well as the Four Orders of Lenin award.
3. Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle, United States Navy SEAL
No list of the deadliest snipers in history would be complete without Chris Kyle. Kyle is credited with being the deadliest sniper in United States history with 160 confirmed kills and numerous other unconfirmed kills. He received two Silver Star Medals, five Bronze Star Medals, one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. Kyle wrote a bestselling autobiography, American Sniper, which was later turned into one of the top grossing films of all time. Kyle, along with his friend Chad Littlefield were shot and killed by Eddie Ray Routh at a shooting range in 2013.
2. Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Norman Hathcock, United States Marines
Carlos Hathcock is regarded as one of the most prolific US snipers in history. While his kill count isn’t as high as Kyle’s and his shot distance may not be the longest ever recorded, Hathcock is considered the best sniper in US history, even by Kyle, who once said “I had more kills, but that doesn’t mean I’m better than (Hathcock) is. I was just put into a position where I had more opportunities. I definitely cheated. I used a ballistic computer that tells me everything to do. So, I was just a monkey on a gun.”
Hathcock once rigged an optic to an M2 machine gun and used it to record a confirmed kill at 2,500 yd, which is still the 5th longest confirmed sniper kill in history. Hathcock amassed 93 confirmed kills during the Vietnam War.
1. Second Lieutenant Simo Häyhä, Finnish Army
Simo Häyhä is the single most successful sniper in military history. Nicknamed the “White Death” for his totally white camouflage and eerie white mask he wore in combat, the Finnish marksman amassed at least 505 confirmed sniper kills during the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union. He recorded an additional 200 kills with a submachine gun. More amazingly, Häyhä recorded all of his sniper kills without using an optic. His Mosin–Nagant rifle was equipped only with iron sights. Häyhä died of old age in 2002, living to the age of 96.