Top 10 Deadliest Snipers Of All Time
Silent, hidden, and maybe even a little romantic; Welcome to the world of snipers, among the most feared soldiers in modern war. In this installment, we count down the deadliest snipers in history--and, boy, are these snipers deadly, some counting hundreds of kills in less than a year. That's impressive...and possibly a little disturbing.
With a nickname of “White Death,” who else could you imagine taking the No. 1 spot on this list? Simo Häyhä was a Finnish marksman who came to fame during the Winter War of 1939 and ‘40. In this war, Soviet forces invaded Finland in an effort to seize some disputed territory. The Soviet army expected a quick and easy victory, but instead found a skilled and dedicated adversary in the Finns. Simo Häyhä may not have the household name status of Chris Kyle, but he probably should with a confirmed total of 505 kills, though some historians contend that number being closer to 550. That’s an impressive feat, but keep this in mind: Häyhä scored those kills without the use of a scope and within a period of only 100 days. Häyhä’s service ended when he was injured by enemy fire in the spring of 1940. The bullet left him partially disfigured, requiring years of recuperation. While his military service was cut short, Häyhä went on to live a long and happy life, dying in 2002 at the age of 96.
The Soviet Union’s most celebrated sharpshooter, Ivan Sidorenko scored an estimated 500 kills during World War II. Sidorenko first gained prominence aiding in the defense of Moscow in 1941. By 1943, he was on the offensive, helping to lift the two-and-a-half-year siege of Leningrad, modern-day St. Petersburg, in 1944. Sidorenko’s achievements made him a valuable target for German forces–and a potential liability for Soviet morale. After an injury in the Baltic region in 1944, the Soviet High Command withdrew Sidorenko from the front and officially honored him as a Hero of the Soviet Union. After the war, Sidorenko became a miner in the Ural Mountains because what other better way to honor your countries most valuable military sniper.
Here we thought the U.S.’s neighbors to the north were supposed to be nice, giving, and harmless. That is clearly not the case with Francis Pegahmagabow, a Canadian soldier of indigenous descent who became the country’s deadliest sniper. A member of the Ojibwa in Ontario, Pegahmagabow enlisted during World War I, eventually deploying with the 1st Canadian Division and arriving in France in early 1915. Talking about going into the maelstrom; Pegahmagabow fought in the Western Front’s most gruesome battles, including Ypres, the Somme, and Passchendaele, ending the war with an impressive 378 kills. After the war, Pegahmagabow went on to become a local chief and an activist for Canada’s indigenous population. Not bad for a man who killed the equivalent of an infantry battalion. He must have obtained all of his training from killing all of those bears.
It’s estimated that almost one million women served in the Red Army during World War II. Many of them became fearsome, decorated soldiers. Lyudmila Pavlichenko was one of those soldiers, becoming the Red Army’s top female sniper with 309 kills. Much of that kill count came during the epic battles for the Ukrainian port cities of Odessa and Sevastopol. Pavlichenko became a wartime heroine and something of an international celebrity, nicknamed “Lady Death” by the Western media. She toured the United States as a goodwill ambassador, even becoming friends with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Behind the charm lay a fearsome woman who, at one point, criticized a fellow sniper for putting a dying German out of his misery, claiming the enemy did not deserve the convenience of a quick death. Pavlichenko, who died in the ‘70s, has since become the subject of a Russian bio-pic–which is funny, given that she was Ukrainian, and we all know how much goodwill there is between Russians and Ukrainians.
Matthäus Hetzenauer was another German veteran of the Eastern Front, serving alongside Sepp Allerberger in the German 3rd Mountain Division. While serving in the East, Hetzenauer scored 345 confirmed kills, including one shot at the incredible distance of 1,100 meters or 3,600 feet. Hetzenauer’s amazing career earned him the Knight’s Cross–and the utter contempt of the Soviet Red Army. When the German line collapsed late in the war, Hetzenauer became one of the reported 3 million German POWs imprisoned in the Soviet Union.The sniper spent five years in an internment camp, finally returning to Austria in 1950. So much for the glory of Hitler’s Thousand-Year Reich.
Craig Harrison is a British marksman who, as of 2015, holds the record for farthest sniper kill ever recorded. Harrison was a member of Britain’s Blues and Royals Cavalry Regiment, having joined the service at the tender age of 16. In 2009, while serving in the Afghan province of Helmand, Harrison killed two Taliban gunners from a distance of 2,475 meters, equal to one and a half miles. Harrison beat out an earlier record of 2,430 meters set by Canadian Rob Furlong in 2002; but it hasn’t all been glorious for Harrison, who left the military in 2014. The former sniper struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and suffered deteriorating relations with his unit. He has since authored a book titled The Longest Kill and seems to be on the mend. We foresee a movie, or at least an ultra-low-budget BBC mini-series in the works.
Josef ‘Sepp’ Allerberger
It’s hard to praise Hitler’s Reich, but there’s no denying that Nazi Germany fielded very skilled soldiers in World War II. One of those soldiers was Josef “Sepp” Allerberger. Allerberger hailed from a small village in Austria and was recruited into the German 3rd Mountain Division early in the war. In 1943, Allerberger was sent east to battle the Soviet Red Army on the war’s most notorious front, a place where temperatures plummeted to -40 degrees Celsius. Despite facing a numerically superior foe and dealing with diminishing resources, Allerberger managed to score 257 confirmed kills. For his service, the German High Command awarded Allerberger with the prestigious Knight’s Cross. After the war, Allerberger took on the humble life of a carpenter, eventually dying in quiet retirement in 2010 at the ripe old age of 85.
William “Billy” Sing was an Australian sniper who served during the carnage that was World War I. Sing gained distinction during the brutal Gallipoli Campaign, fighting from the spring of 1915 to early 1916. It was during that battle that Sing scored over 200 confirmed kills of Turkish soldiers. The Turks responded by unleashing their top sniper, known only as “Abdul the Terrible.” The Turkish sharpshooter succeeded in injuring Sing, but the Aussie recovered to later take down the Turkish ace–or so the story goes. Besides being one of the top snipers in history, Sing–the son of a Chinese father and an Australian mother–also had the unusual distinction of being one of the few multiracial soldiers in the Australian ranks. Much like Nicolas Cage’s career, things didn’t end up well for Billy Sing. He went through a short, disastrous marriage right after the war, struggled financially during the 1920s and ‘30s, and died in poverty in 1943–right in the middle of another World War.
Chris Kyle needs little introduction, given his status as the United States’ most famous sniper ever. He was the author of a best-selling autobiography and the subject of a hit film directed by Clint Eastwood. Enlisting in the Navy SEALs in 1999, Kyle spent much of his service in Iraq, where he received the nickname “the Devil of Ramadi”–Ramadi being the site where he made his most famous kill, that of an armed woman, baby in hand, trying to deliver an explosive to nearby marines. Kyle would go on to achieve more than 160 confirmed kills, becoming the deadliest sniper in American history. The famed sharpshooter left the military in 2009, only to be murdered in 2013 by a fellow war vet. Kyle’s death saw as much conflict as his life, with activists and commentators condemning the man as a bigoted psychopath. To add more fecal to the fan, former wrestler and noted conspiracy theorist Jesse Ventura sued the Kyle family for libel, winning nearly $2 million in 2014.
Zhang Taofang is China’s most celebrated marksman, having scored, depending on the source, between 71 and 214 kills during his tour of service in the Korean War using just his rifle’s iron sights. The impressive thing here is that Zhang reportedly scored those kills in just 32 days. Zhang’s achievement came amid a struggle between Chinese and United Nations forces for control of a strategic hill. The battle occurred in the final months of the Korean War, with the UN making a last-ditch effort to secure the area from communist forces. Zhang, a member of the 214th Regiment of the People’s Liberation Army, was tasked with holding the hill–which he did in incredible fashion, picking off the attacking UN troops en masse. Zhang helped keep the hill as a part of North Korea, solidifying him as one of history’s most deadly snipers.