Ukrainian snipers prefer Western rifles over big leafy ghillie suits.

Ukrainian snipers prefer Western rifles over big leafy ghillie suits.

Ukrainian Snipers: Unconventional Tactics and Western Weapons

Ukraine’s snipers have had to adapt their strategies on the battlefield, eschewing traditional Western sniping gear in favor of unconventional tactics. While snipers in Western countries often rely on ghillie suits for camouflage, Ukrainian snipers have found them to be more of a hindrance than an asset. Instead, they have turned to lighter alternatives that offer enhanced concealment against modern surveillance technologies.

The use of ghillie suits, leafy camouflage outfits crafted using jute, strips of cloth, and actual vegetation, is widespread among snipers in the West. These suits help snipers blend into their surroundings and remain unseen by the enemy. However, in Ukraine, snipers find ghillie suits cumbersome to carry over long distances, especially when navigating through muddy and wet terrain. Moreover, the constant threat of drones overhead makes ghillie suits a liability. If a drone were to spot a sniper wearing a ghillie suit, it would immediately draw attention to their mission and make them a high-priority target.

Instead of ghillie suits, Ukrainian snipers have adopted lighter alternatives that can be easily enhanced with materials to improve concealment against thermal sensors and night-vision systems. These alternatives offer better adaptability to the local environment while still providing snipers with the essential camouflage they need to remain undetected.

There might be differences between the sniper tactics used by Ukraine and the West, but one thing they have in common is their preference for high-quality rifles. Ukrainian snipers have shown a fondness for rifles made by Canada, Finland, and the United States. One such rifle is the Canadian-made Cadex Defence CX-33 TAC series rifle chambered in .338 Lapua Magnum caliber. This rifle quickly gained popularity among Ukrainian snipers during the early days of the war.

Finnish-made SAKO TRG rifles and the US-made Barrett MRAD rifles are also highly regarded by Ukrainian snipers. Both rifles are chambered in .338 and .308, making them versatile options for engagement. The .338 caliber is particularly favored for engaging human targets, while the heavier .50 caliber rifles are better suited for targeting vehicles.

The shift to these Western rifles came at the expense of the Soviet/Russian-made SVD “Dragunov” sniper rifles, which were discarded when the more advanced Western weapons became available.

What makes the story of Ukrainian snipers even more remarkable is the fact that all three snipers interviewed were civilians volunteering to defend Ukraine when Russia invaded in February 2022. Prior to the war, these men held regular jobs in retail, auto parts, and camping equipment, and long-range shooting was simply a hobby. However, when their country needed them, they answered the call and joined the fight to defend Kyiv against Russian aggression. Since then, they have been deployed to the eastern front lines with NATO sniper rifles and thermal sights, where they have unfortunately been wounded in combat.

The evolution of Ukrainian snipers’ tactics and their preference for Western weapons highlight the resilience and adaptability of the Ukrainian armed forces. Despite unconventional approaches and limited resources, Ukrainian snipers continue to demonstrate their effectiveness on the battlefield. Their bravery and dedication serve as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the Ukrainian people in the face of adversity.

Ukrainian servicemen attend the handover ceremony of small arms for snipers at the Training Center of the National Guard near the village of Novi Petrivtsi in Kiev, Ukraine on March 18, 2016. Image

A Ukrainian sniper with the 28th Brigade moves to a fighting position facing Russian troops that were 250 meters away in a frontline trench on March 05, 2023 outside of Bakhmut, Ukraine. Image