Book Review- Snipercraft: Laying the Groundwork for a Career as a Sniper, by John C. Simpson


112 Pages


1.) Marksmanship Fundamentals
2.) Positions
3.) The Minute of Angle
4.) Reading Your Scope Knobs
5.) Live-Fire Practice
Appendix 1: Rifle Maintenance
Appendix 2: Ballistics

First of all, you may be wondering who John Simpson is, and how I ended up buying his book. During my time off from the blog I spent more time than usual reading and researching about shooting and rifle work in general. One of the tangents I explored was sniping. There’s no shortage of books on sniping, but most of it turns out to be regurgitated military manuals or made up fluff. When you get down to the meat of the subject, the people who have been in the community working and training, a name that comes up repeatedly is John Simpson.

John started out his career as a sniper in the Army, and taught his first military sniper school course in 1985. He taught his first law enforcement sniper class in 1986. He continues to teach snipers and to write about sniping and marksmanship. My impression is that a good deal of the current doctrine employed by snipers is in some measure related to John’s efforts.

I had the pleasure of meeting John during a trip recently and can tell you that I don’t recall ever having met anyone with a more encyclopedic knowledge of rifle shooting, especially when it comes to the history of it. One of his sayings, to paraphrase, is if you want to learn a new idea read an old book. He was also the author of a phrase I ended up borrowing for my goal statement, the phrase being “non-cooperative targets” (things that exercise their own will to avoid cooperating in your efforts to shoot them). The nice thing about talking to John is that the most minor question will trigger an avalanche of knowledge. I’m not much of a talker so I appreciate people who can easily carry on an interesting conversation with just the right kind of prodding. If you ever have the opportunity to talk to John, my advice is to have a notebook handy.

John’s other obvious niche is that of a walking BS detector. I don’t think he necessarily has to try to do this, but from what I can tell he’s the type of person who listens and reads with some kind of filter that gets triggered, and he seems to feel compelled to bring questionable assertions or claims out under the light of reason, and will mercilessly destroy (figuratively, I think) those that don’t pass the BS test. He has another book, Sniper’s Notebook, that is a little hard to get your hands on, but is in large part an effort to challenge a lot of the junk science that gets thrown around as shooting gospel. I was able to procure a copy of that book, and it reinforced some things for me so much as to spur me to the direction I am on now. That book was pretty huge for me.

The current item of examination is John’s latest book, Snipercraft. The book came about due to the wide range of marksmanship experience levels of police snipers showing up to John’s classes for their initial sniper training. Some of them show up with newly issued rifles and not much of a clue how to use the things. Snipercraft was written to bring these folks up to speed so they can spend their training time learning to actually do the work they need to do instead of getting stuck on prerequisite type knowledge.

Why another marksmanship book when others, such as Pete’s excellent Shooter’s Guide to Rifle Marksmanship are already available? The difference between the books begins with the purpose behind them. While Pete is an experienced hunter and competitor, John’s experience is in sniping. The form of the books follows their intended function. A lot of the material is the same, as shooting positions tend to be pretty much standardized at this point.

The differences in John’s book are in the details, and are purpose driven. The act of pressing the trigger is described differently than most other books on marksmanship, and the reason behind that difference is explained. As a side note, John is probably the most well-informed living person on a practice called flash recognition (you could think of it as high speed seeing). He knows a lot about how vision works, the point here being that he explains why it’s a bad idea to close one’s eyes when checking natural point of aim, and how to do it instead.

The scope of the book is well-defined. This is not a rifle shooting bible type book along the lines of Jack O’Connor or Townsend Whelen. The intent is to get someone ready for sniper school, and that is what it does rather efficiently. Instead of long, flowery descriptions of minor points on technique (like I might write), the descriptions are simple and to the point, using bullet points when appropriate. The technical information in the book is precisely and accurately described. He’s been teaching long enough to know exactly what a person needs to know before advanced training begins.

If you would like a look into the nuts and bolts of marksmanship as it’s taught to snipers, I suggest you get a copy. It’s only available through Paladin Press. After shipping it cost me about $20.

11 thoughts on “Book Review- Snipercraft: Laying the Groundwork for a Career as a Sniper, by John C. Simpson

  1. Dear John,
    I cannot find where to buy a copy of Snipercraft by John C Simpson. I am an instructor in training for “project Appleseed” and am really interested in the marksmanship area of NPOA and not closing your eyes to help you find NPOA. Can you help me on this or tell me where I can purchase John’s book Snipercraft?
    Thank you,
    Al Wirta 425 422 3068 Sultan, Wa. 98294

  2. I had the honor and privilege of working with John during my career in US Army Special Forces. I met no one who knew more about marksmanship than John. He knows the technical side, the tactical side, field craft and has the unique ability to teach effectively, from novelist to expert, John can increase a sniper’s ability to engage targets. And I would have to agree with John having a BS detector…he called me on several issues…and I learned something every time.

  3. I’ve known and worked with John from our early SFQC days on, some 36 years ago. It’s rare that you encounter an individual that possess zen quality shooting and teaching skills tempered with a high degree of discipline… that John is a master of.
    “Hats off to You” old friend!! BTW… I WILL get a copy of your book, if you suitably autograph it for me. Chris

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