Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sniper Rifles For Anti Piracy?

We have dealt with the requests of many different shipping companies, and have always tried to cater to the desires of the shipping company. It is frequent that companies request firearms for their transits through the Gulf of Aden and the east Coast of Africa. Firearms are not impossible to supply, however it can be difficult and our company will not supply firearms illegally obtained.

That being said, we are getting requests now to provide "SNIPER" rifles on board merchant vessels for their transits.

I do believe in trying to accommodate the client as much as possible, but I also believe that providing a proper service is of the utmost importance. Part of that service is to give expert advice to the shipping company and alternative solutions for them to consider. However, advice and solutions need to be based on experience and a sound security doctrine that is proven in the domain.

The request of the "sniper" rifle really had me baffled. The client not only requested the sniper rifle, but insisted that they want a sniper rifle on all future transits.

So the question is, what is a sniper rifle?
Is it the caliber?
Is it the configuration of the weapon?
Is it automatic, bolt action or semi automatic?

Actually the answer to that is that none of the above are relevant. What the client does not understand, is a "SNIPER RIFLE" is a "SNIPER RIFLE" only if you have a "SNIPER" operating the rifle. without the 'qualified sniper' you have nothing more than a rifle.

When request such as this come across, we attempt to provide the client with factual information that is based on experience. As a qualified Urban Sniper, I may have some knowledge and experience to base the advice. There has been endless debate in the maritime security realm when it comes to armed vs unarmed security, lethal vs less lethal and non lethal approaches. However, the 'sniper rifle' concept has to take the Darwin Award.

We all know the success of the Navy Seal Sniper's in regards to the Maersk Alabama incident. However, not only are these guys trained specifically for that incident, but the shooting took place at about 30 to 40 meters away, in absolute flat seas, without either vessel underway.

If you are to consider being under attack by pirates, the vessel is to go to full speed and take evasive maneuvering. With the movement of the vessel, pitch, roll, yaw and of course its speed, added to the fact that the pirate skiff is also at speed and maneuvering, the sniper rifle option is about the worst option out there. You would not be able to have any effectiveness whatsoever. I don't know how any educated, experienced security contractor would advise a ship company to have sniper rifles as their defense.

Obviously this is a case where either the security contractor knows nothing about maritime security, or the shipping company management is watching too many movies. Or maybe a combination of both.


  1. I'm considering the M1A/M21 system for our yacht, and am debating the pros and cons of a scoped or un-scoped weapon. It seems like an unscoped weapon would be more versatile for some of the reasons you state above. I have heard of yachtsmen having piracy deterrence success in the Caribbean with the Barrett M82A1 system.

  2. i was wondering if anyone did have experance of using large calibre weapons (.50) say to act as a deterant rather than deal with it when it gets to the ship?