In certain scenarios, it is highly advantageous to direct multiple shooters to engage different targets (or the same targets) simultaneously. This tactic is often referred to as a “command fire” and is one of the most difficult sniper techniques to master especially true when you have more than one moving target.
There exists very few documented tactics out there on how to perform it and in the real world even a handful of neat toys have been invented to increase a team’s odds. Let’s look at it like a room clearing …only in an extremely condensed time frame. During a room clearing, everyone ultimately knows what needs to be done and pretty much agrees on what to do from room to room. Once you’re stacked up and “execute” is called, each person gives their performance — only, how well your team handles the inevitable improvisation is what ultimately counts.
Similarly, the nature of a command fire can be anything from the most calculated surgical procedures to off-the-cuff-A-Team theatrics and still succeed. The best course of action is to outline your plan just enough so that as it unfolds you’ve ensured all prior training, teamwork, and the established shared reality can overcome any variation. There are no bonus points for precisely executed failures.
The controlled scenario
While it is feasible for a spotter on one team to try to coordinate his own shooter and a shooter on another team, this is not as reliable as leveraging a third party in the equation. Because the spotter has responsibilities to his own shooter, he is naturally biased and can’t do anything about it. A functioning spotter usually complicates a command fire, but if that’s all you have it’s better than one of your shooters managing the shot.
The best structure for a command fire is to utilize a platoon-level unit leader or at best a Sniper Employment Officer (SEO) — an experienced field leader familiar with the mission objectives as well as the capability and personality of each sniper team. The SEO assumes the role of an indirect spotter externally located from all FPs, and may or may not even have eyes on each sniper team or target. The SEO’s first goal is to synchronize the intelligence and information between all teams and with other leaders as the scene develops. As an observer and not a participant, his unbiased perspective on the AO means he is in a prime position to reflect on ideas, relay decisions, and coordinate support should a team become compromised. For this reason, the SEO should have basic spotting equipment of his own and a small security team to act as quick reaction force (QRF) or access to direct close air support (CAS).
At the best opportunity, the SEO orchestrates the firing of each shooter using the sniper/spotter dialogue in the same way a conductor pieces together a symphony. A command fire is never going to be perfect and only has to be close. This tactic is the best choice for a controlled, SWAT-style environment. You don’t have to give the SEO a formal title or position. Just apply the concept of a third party to provide all shooters with best timing.
The ad hoc scenario
For most players — predominantly those who are not members of an organized gaming community or who prefer to play more dynamic missions — the controlled scenario is scarce. After all, it is an ever-changing battlefield and chances are high that the mission isn’t sniper team-centric, meaning your team likely won’t have all the resources and time. As stated earlier, your team’s combined “improv performance” is what will either make it or break it. In this next scenario, we’ll deal only in pragmatic and adaptable steps, trying to weigh in on a more technical solution for a highly volatile stage.
No matter what roles your team consists of (i.e., two spotters and one sniper, two snipers and one marksman), this method can always be applied. Each shooter should be within the effective range of their rifle, at a distance they’re comfortable making the shot.
SITUATION: 3 snipers discover a camp guarded by 3 enemies who are currently unaware of your presence. We offer a simple checklist to give your team the highest probability of success during a command fire in virtually any setting:
most movement > least visible > furthest distance
Sniper 2: “Sniper 2 ready.”
Sniper 3: “Sniper 3 ready.”
Sniper 1: “Shot in 3, 2, 1, …”
*all snipers fire at the tempo of a silent 0*
Remember when preparing a command fire, the distance each shooter is to the target will affect the time to target of each projectile. For the rounds to arrive simultaneously you may have to plan for a staggered firing order; that is, each shooter breaks their trigger at a specifically calculated time different from one another. How awesome is that to imagine!
Ballistic data such as the speed of the bullet and an accurate distance to target are necessary for the team to execute a command fire cleanly. Also, remember the insurmountable effect that lag will have on your comms while performing such a tight maneuver. This, along with the variable of the game’s engine to process the ballistics, makes a command fire most unreliable for most situations except in practice.
Final considerations for a command fire
A command fire feels awesome to perform and it’s the most efficient use of the element of surprise on a battlefield. But, it’s akin to one person trying to put a thread through the eye of a needle held by another person — the play call is rarely going to work well the first time and especially when you need it to. If the objective doesn’t demand such a display of timed-precision and performance, stick to a familiar plan with fewer variables. Plan for your environment and make more unknowns known.
If an enemy technical is bearing down fast on the flank of a squad and the situation necessitates ugly action that’s cobbled together …start a countdown and make it happen! The ability of your team to operate with a high success rate anywhere within this spectrum exudes true mastery of the craft. Decisive action is just as crucial as the most patiently taken shot. Ensuring the success of the mission always comes first.