The Sniper Who Killed Taliban Machine Gunners from 8,120 Feet Away
Craig Harrison, a Corporal of the Horse and a member of the elite British Household Cavalry unit holds the record for achieving the longest kill shot ever recorded in the history of warfare.
Harrison's 2475-meter shot saved the lives of fellow soldiers, while on convoy protection duty in Afghanistan in November 2009.
He was in the well behind their convoy when a Taliban machine gun crew manned by two men started shooting at the vanguard. An ambush was upon them, and it was a well-planned one it seems. The insurgents were using Soviet PKM machine gun, capable of piercing through vehicles.
Several of the convoy's 4×4 Jackal vehicles sustained heavy fire. Harrison’s Jackal was more than a kilometer behind, so he jumped off and stationed himself in a nearby building from which he could snipe without being noticed. Harrison took his driver with him, to serve as a spotter, even though the soldier wasn’t exactly trained for such operations.
Also, what Harrison had in mind had never been done before. It was going to be rocket science.
Just to make it clear, the Taliban were about 1500 feet out of the maximum range of his weapon. So, the odds of hitting anything smaller than a tank weren’t exactly in his favor. Nevertheless, he decided to take the shot and calculated wind speed and all other factors that could influence the trajectory of the bullet.
He was forced to aim at a spot about 400 feet above his targets that were not only well out of his range but weren’t also exactly static throughout the battle.
The difference of 400 feet is an equivalent of a 40-story building, and that was how much Harrison needed to fire well above the heads of his targets, if the shot has to be done right.
He made the calculations in record time, counting the gravity and muzzle velocity loss, while under the pressure of losing his own life, or the lives of his men.
The first shot hit the machine gunner was shot in his abdomen. The second shot, achieved with minimal adjustment, was fatal for the other crewman. To make sure that nobody uses that PKM again, Harrison shot it too, rendering it to pieces with a single high caliber bullet.
It took approximately 3 seconds for each bullet to reach its target, which furthermore illustrates just how far the targets were. In an interview, Harrison recalled that he had to wait about six seconds to acknowledge if the shot was successful.
The ambush was successfully repelled and the convoy reached safety.
His tour of duty in 2009 includes around 20 more confirmed kills. He was wounded several times during his service, but these injuries never influenced his actions ― it is recorded that each time he was wounded, he was contributing to the fight as well as he could. He never backed down and demonstrated extreme bravery in the face of battle.
Even though Craig Harrison is considered a war hero, he appeared in media showing his disappointment in the Army and talking about his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Ministry of Defense paid Harrison 100,000 pounds because they revealed his identity to the media against his own will, thus putting him at the risk of being kidnapped by the Al Qaeda, who had more than enough reasons to put a bounty on his head. He was placed on permanent sick leave and discharged in 2014. After his discharge, he stated:
“I joined when I was 16 and since all of this has happened I felt abandoned, absolutely abandoned by my regiment. … I spent 22 years loyal to that regiment, putting my life on the line doing tours, and they just hung me out to dry. My trust in people, the armed forces — it’s gone.”
Harrison served the Armed forces from 1991 to 2014. Military service this long left permanent scars on the sniper’s psyche. In an interview conducted by the BBC, Harrison stated that he constantly sees the faces of those he killed, which is a common disorder for snipers.
Craig Harrison wrote a book about his war experience, titled “The Longest Kill”, where he stated, among other things, that he was driven to the brink of suicide by his PTSD disorder.