Sharpshooting: Three of the Best Shots in History
The year was 1874, and 20 buffalo hunters were attacked by hundreds of Comanche, Cheyenne and Kiowa warriors. The small group was surrounded way out in the Texas panhandle, with nowhere to run and with only one option: fight. And fight they did.
According to the book Life and Adventures of ‘Billy’ Dixon by Richard Ely, one of the men who witnessed the sight described it as such: “Hundreds of warriors, the flower of the fighting men of the southwestern Plains tribes, mounted upon their finest horses, armed with guns and lances, and carrying heavy shields of thick buffalo hide, were coming like the wind… Behind this headlong charging host stretched the Plains, on whose horizon the rising sun was lifting its morning fires. The warriors seemed to emerge from this glowing background.”
A three-day battle ensued and the skilled marksmen managed to hold off the warriors, killing hundreds. As the natives regrouped on a distant hilltop, 24-year-old Billy Dixon picked up an 1874 .50-90 Sharps. He used his peep sight to hone in on one of the silhouettes and fired, dropping the warrior from his horse. Even before the report had settled, Dixon had unknowingly etched himself into history for making one of the greatest shots ever witnessed. The official distance after it was surveyed by the Army: 1,538 yards (9/10 of a mile). Needless to say, the remaining warriors high-tailed it out of there thanks to Dixon’s sharpshooting skills.
Fast forward nearly a century to Vietnam in the late 1960s, where Adelbert “Bert” Waldron III became the most accomplished U.S. sniper during the entire war. He was credited with 109 confirmed kills using the M-21 SWS, a semi-automatic sniper rifle adaptation of the M14 chambered for the 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge.
Waldron was stationed near the Mekong Delta, where he patrolled the various rivers of the area. While his numbers alone are impressive enough, it’s one shot that really underscores his skill. Waldron spotted an NVA soldier while he was perched on a Tango Boat on the river. Although the boat was moving, the sergeant steadied himself and fired, killing the enemy combatant at a distance of 900 yards. After his tour in Vietnam, Waldron was awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Star, a Presidential Unit Citation, and two Distinguished Service Crosses.
Just this year in Iraq, a Canadian sniper made headlines for the longest fatal shot in world history at a distance of 2.2 miles. Due to security reasons, officials didn’t release the name of the soldier, though we know he was part of the special forces team with Canada’s Joint Task Force 2. He used a McMillan TAC-50, a .50-caliber weapon, the largest shoulder-fired firearm in the world. The shot dispatched an ISIS fighter and was credited with foiling an insurgent operation.
Such a shot involves several factors to pull it off, such as correctly calculating the distance, wind, atmospheric conditions and the speed of the earth’s rotation at their latitude. Let that last one sink in for a second. The bullet was in the air for under 10 seconds in total, but the shot will forever be etched into history.