The Complete .50-Caliber Sniper Course
Hard Target Interdiction
Dean Michaelis

(Buy from

2 October 2004
By Scott (not Powers)

Paladin Press, Boulder Colorado
ISBN 1-58160-068-2
First Published: 2000

Although this book is almost five years old, I recently recognized that it had not been reviewed for the Sniper Country (SC) site. So, I reread my copy and decided to offer a review for new participants to SC, as well as old salts who might be looking to get into .50BMG shooting or very long-range (VLR) shooting. This review will provide a detailed overview of what the book offers as well as a few of the things I have learned while becoming more adept at shooting the big .50 and its use in the hard target interdiction (HTI) environment. If readers and Webmasters here think this is useful, I will submit further articles reviewing long range and HTI weapons as well as the associated kit needed to perform in this very unforgiving shooting environment.

I would consider Dean's book a graduate level course for the police and/or military sniper because of the extensive use of ballistics calculations and shot planning needed in the HTI/VLR environment. For HTI/VLR we are talking shots in the 1500+ yard range out to as far as your optics will let you see. The book is the first public manual that provides shooters a very detailed description of the process and planning factors needed to make these shots factors including the Coriolis Effect, air pressure, humidity, altitude ammo temp, etc. While some of these factors are well known and taught to military snipers, their effects are small out to the 800 1000 yard range. These factors are greatly magnified once you are trying to hit a distant object at 1600 yards or so, and even more critical past the 2K mark.

The opening chapters begin with an Army/SOF centric history of HTI and guns and gear involved with HTI, which is expected given the author's previous service in Army SOF and his participation in the Special Operations Target Interdiction Course (SOTIC). It is the most detailed history of HTI development that I know of, and offers far more information than the .50BMG sniping chapter in John Plaster's "The Ultimate Sniper". Two chapters are then devoted to care and maintenance of the rifles and equipment. The book then goes into what I consider the real substance of the work eight detailed chapters on correcting for environmental conditions, estimating range, calculating long range shots, training the shooter and a detailed overview of the HTI/VLR environment and application of fire for HTI. The last three chapters cover field skills, target analysis and ammunition issues.

As of this writing, readers will not find this level of detail and emphasis on shot planning and correction for meteorological and environmental(MET/ENV) conditions in any other publicly published books or manuals on the market. With the information provided in this manual and lots (and I do mean LOTS) of practice and training, shooters will be able to accurately calculate their shots for conditions anywhere in the world. Obviously its always better to zero your weapon system in your actual operational conditions, but this book will get you close if you cannot afford to do so. The system and shot calculation worksheets provided in the book allow a shooter to figure out where he will be placing shots after he zeroed his system at sea level in Summer, and then has to make an accurate shot at 6K feet in the snow. While this knowledge is crucial to the SOF HTI operator, it also applies to civilian long-range shooters as well as hunters who may be chasing game in varying climates and elevations.

My only complaint is that the quality of the photos in the book itself are sometimes a bit poor some photos look as if they were taken with a lower resolution digital camera and then blown up to size for publication. That said, the quality of the photos does not inhibit the reader from understanding the information that the author is trying to present. The author presents the information in a logical manner, and easily transitions between topics. The five appendices of the book contain reproducible forms for shooters as well as an excellent (although dated) program of instruction (POI) for training shooters to perform in the HTI/VLR shooting environment.

I strongly recommend this book to any operational sniper military or law enforcement as well as anyone interested in long range shooting regardless of caliber of gun they use. Although the title and information presented is geared towards the .50BMG, the shot planning and corrections for MET/ENV conditions apply to smaller rounds as well - .338 Lapua, .408 Cheyenne, the .30 cal Remington Ultra-Magnums, .50 wildcats, etc. Although statistics show that a LEO sniper will probably not take a shot past 200 yards, the information in this book is useful to show how MET/ENV conditions affect shooting the differences are far easier to see at longer ranges, but some factors such as ammo temperature still can be seen at closer ranges. The book should be required reading for all military snipers, particularly for SOF slotted shooters who may be called upon to perform HTI operations.

I found this book to be incredibly useful; not only for calculating long range shots, but also for discussing the differences between shooting smaller rifles and .50BMG. I have owned and shot .50BMG rifles since 1993, but this book improved my performance immensely I no longer "muscle" the gun and now understand why muscling the shot will always result in a big miss. Other useful nuggets include how to set up a 50BMG as well as things to look for when purchasing or receiving a previously used rifle. Because the nuggets of information are scattered throughout the book, I also recommend the book for the .50BMG FCSA shooter particularly folks who are competing in the bipod-only class. Even though these shooters are only (only!!) shooting at 1000 yds, this book has a wealth of information to get you set up correctly and not waste valuable time and ammo learning the differences between .50BMG's and your .308 tactical rifle. I have applied the information presented in the book and my shooting skill with my .338 Lapua and .300WM guns also improved. In short the book can help you at long range regardless of whether you have a .50BMG or something smaller.

In closing, I wish this book was written back when I first started shooting .50BMG rifles as it would have saved me a lot of time, effort, money, and aggravation. If you are even just thinking about getting a 50BMG system you need to buy this book. If you are a SOF slotted shooter you must read this book, and if you are a LEO sniper the book will open your eyes to the intricacies involved in shooting at targets waaay out there. There is not a more detailed and useful book regarding long range shooting (let alone HTI operations) on the market the book is worth every penny and I highly recommend it.

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