Criminal Minds Wiki

The scope of Colin Bramwell's Nemesis Arms Vanquish after a mass murder at a Plaza in "Final Shot".

A sniper is a person who is skilled enough at marksmanship to hit targets at very long distances. They often work from concealed or elevated positions in order to remain unseen.


The key to sniping is accuracy, which applies to both the weapon and the shooter. The weapon should be able to consistently place shots within high tolerances. The sniper, in turn, must utilize the weapon to accurately place shots under varying conditions.

A sniper must have the ability to accurately estimate the various factors that influence a bullet's trajectory and point of impact such as: range to the target, wind direction, wind velocity, altitude and elevation of the sniper and the target and ambient temperature. Mistakes in estimation compound over distance and can decrease lethality or cause a shot to miss completely.

Snipers zero their weapons at a target range or in the field. This is the process of adjusting the scope so that the bullet's points-of-impact is at the point-of-aim (centre of scope or scope's cross-hairs) for a specific distance. A rifle and telescope should retain its zero as long as possible under all conditions to reduce the need to re-zero during missions.


The major components of a sniper's equipment include a sniper rifle, ammunition, suppressor, camouflage, and/or a ghillie suit. Some foreign military snipers will also have a supply of Diazepam on hand. The drug, a minor tranquilizer, helps to relieve tremors that may compromise aiming ability.

Shot Placement

Shot placement varies considerably with the type of sniper being discussed. Military snipers, who generally do not engage targets at less than 300 m. (330 yds.), usually attempt body shots, aiming at the chest area. These shots depend on tissue damage, organ trauma, and blood loss to make the kill.


A Military sniper.

Snipers can target personnel or materiel, but most often they target the most important enemy personnel such as officers or specialists (e.g. communications operators) so as to cause maximum disruption to enemy operations. Other personnel they might target include those who pose an immediate threat to the sniper, like dog handlers, who are often employed in a search for snipers.

A sniper identifies officers by their appearance and behavior such as symbols of rank, talking to radio operators, sitting as a passenger in a car, having military servants, binoculars/map cases or talking and moving position more frequently. If possible, snipers shoot in descending order by rank, or if rank is unavailable, they shoot to disrupt communications.


Match ammo.

Snipers often use what's called match ammo; that is, packs of ammo made from the same batch of material, on the same day, by the same person, on the same machine. This ensures that all slugs will have the same exact behavior when fired, thus making them more accurate without any adjustments between shots.

Typology and Motivations of Criminal Snipers

  1. Power - They're power seekers who crave absolute power over either their victims, the community, the institutions, or them all.
  2. Thrill - They're psychopaths/sociopaths who kill their victims from a long distance as a recreational activity, thus filling the "void" represented by their unsatisfying life.
  3. Assassination/Hit - They're either assassins or hitmen who choose to kill their targeted victim from a distance, usually as a matter of convenience.
  4. Mission-Oriented - They're usually politically-motivated offenders, such as Joseph Paul Franklin and John Ausonius.
  5. Psychotic - They are mentally impaired offenders, who kill due to a mental illness (e.g. schizophrenia or psychosis or delusions of grandeur) such as Lee Harvey Oswald.
  6. Atypical - They defy classification. This category includes rampage killers such as Charles Whitman and Stephen Paddock.

On Criminal Minds

Snipers can appear as law enforcement specialists (as in the case of SWAT) or as criminals. When a sniper is a criminal, he or she is sometimes referred to as a L.D.S.K. (Long Distance Serial Killer).


The following non-criminal characters took the position of a sniper.


Criminal snipers featured on the show.

Sniper Rifles featured on Criminal Minds

All sniper rifles (or guns used for sniping purposes used on the show.

Real-Life Criminal Snipers