Camouflage the Art of Non-Existing

For those who do not believe they will ever be confronted with a scenario of having to use camouflage to hunt an enemy, about 98% of us, use the techniques which we’ll explore for a more practical purpose. Turkey hunting! Man those birds can see everything! We’re not only talking turkey, any prey we hunt will immediately disappear if they see you before you see them. I will tilt the techniques towards the survival mode of protecting your family against a hostile force, but hunting to provide food is just as much a survival technique as any. Camouflage the art of non-existing is indeed an art-form.

Camouflage is historically one of the basic weapons of war. It can mean the difference between a successful or unsuccessful mission, which means the difference between life and death for the sniper team. Camouflage measures are extremely important since the team cannot afford to be detected moving alone, or as part of another element. People believe a sniper only trains in marksmanship, which is far from the truth. Marksmanship training teaches the sniper to hit a target, but a knowledge of camouflage teaches him how to avoid becoming a target.

A good sniper must be proficient in camouflaging.

Memorizing Target Indicators

To become proficient in camouflage, the sniper team must first understand target indicators. Target indicators are anything a soldier does or fails to do that could result in detection. A sniper team must know and understand target indication not only to move undetected, but also to detect enemy movement. Target indicators are sound, movement, improper camouflage, disturbance of wildlife, and odors.


  • Most noticeable during hours of daylight.
  • The human eye is automatically attracted to movement.
  • Quick or jerky movement will be detected faster than slow movement.


  • Most noticeable during hours of darkness, because our hearing becomes more acute as our eyesight lessens.
  • Caused by movement, equipment rattling, or talking.
  • Small noises may be dismissed as natural, but talking will not. No animal on earth talks except a human.

Improper camouflage:

  • Anything that Shines, including your skin.
  • Outline. Standing alone against a blank background like a horizon.
  • Contrast with the background. Wearing green in a snowy background.
  • Bright flashlights or lights at all.

Disturbance of wildlife:

  • Birds suddenly flying away.
  • Sudden stop of animal noises.
  • Animals being frightened.


  • Cooking.
  • Smoking.
  • Soap and lotions.
  • Insect repellents.

These, or any combination of these items must raise an immediate red flag.

Basic Methods of Camouflage

The sniper team can utilize three basic methods of camouflage. It may use one of these methods or a combination of all three to accomplish its objective. The three basic methods a sniper team can use are hiding, blending, and deceiving.Hiding is used to conceal the body from observation by lying behind thick vegetation or other object large enough to completely conceal the team.
Blending is used to match personal camouflage with the surrounding area to a point where the sniper cannot be seen. For instance in tall grasses.

Deceiving is used to fool the enemy into false conclusions about the location of the sniper team. Such as setting up 4 feet inside the room and shooting through a window.

Types of Camouflage

The two types of camouflage that the sniper team can use are natural and artificial.

Natural camouflage is vegetation or materials that are native to the given area. The sniper augments his appearance by using natural camouflage. For example, you don’t use green foliage in a desert.

Artificial camouflage is any material or substance that is produced for the purpose of coloring or covering something in order to conceal it. Camouflage sticks or face paints are used to cover all exposed areas of skin such as face, hands, and the back of the neck. The parts of the face that form shadows should be lightened, and the parts that shine should be darkened. Your exposed skin will glow in the moonlight. The three types of camouflage patterns the sniper team uses are:

  • Striping is used when in heavily wooded areas and leafy vegetation is scarce.
  • Blotching is used when an area is thick with leafy vegetation.
  • Combination is used when you are moving through changing terrain and is considered the best all round camouflage.

Jack of all Trades

A sniper must alter his appearance to blend into whatever terrain and conditions he finds himself in. Examples of these changes are:

  1. Snow areas. Blending of colors is more effective than texture camouflage in snowy areas. In areas with heavy snow or in wooded areas with trees covered with snow, a full white camouflage suit should be worn. In areas with snow on the ground but not on the trees, white trousers with green and brown tops should be worn. One must keep in mind how they are camouflaged in order to not expose themselves.
  2. Desert areas. In sandy desert areas that have little vegetation, the blending of tan and brown colors is important. In these areas, the sniper team must make full use of the terrain and the vegetation that is available to remain unnoticed.
  3. Jungle areas. In jungle areas, textured camouflage, contrasting colors, and natural vegetation must be used.
  4. Urban areas. In urban areas, the sniper team’s camouflage should be a blended color (shades of gray usually work best). Textured camouflage is not as important in these environments.

The sniper must be camouflage conscious from the time he departs on a mission until he returns. He must constantly use the terrain, vegetation, and shadows to remain undetected as he moves. There is no more a dangerous time during the mission than when he returns to a friendly area. Fatigue and undue haste may override caution and planning. He must never lose sight that he was in enemy territory when hunting, therefore, the enemy may be in his territory.

Proper Cover and Concealment Techniques

The proper understanding and application of the principles of cover and concealment used with the proper application of camouflage can protect the sniper from enemy observation and attack.

Cover is defined as a natural or artificial protection from the fire of enemy weapons. Natural cover (ravines, hollows, reverse slopes) and artificial cover (fighting positions, trenches, walls) protect the sniper team from flat trajectory fires and partly protect it from high-angle fires. Even the smallest depression in the ground may provide some cover when the sniper needs it most. A 8-inch depression, properly used, may provide just enough cover to save the sniper from enemy fire. It must become second nature for a sniper to always look for and take advantage of all the cover that the terrain provides, and as he moves choose routes that place obstacles between him and the enemy.

Concealment is natural or artificial protection from enemy observation. The surroundings may provide natural concealment that needs no change before use (bushes, grass, and shadows). The sniper creates artificial concealment from materials such as burlap and camouflage nets, or it can move natural materials (bushes, leaves, and grass) from their original location. However, the sniper must always consider the effects of the change of terrain on the concealment provided by both natural and artificial materials. A single pile of leaves stands out like a beacon. The principles of concealment include the following:

  1. Avoid unnecessary movement. Remain still–movement attracts attention. The position of the sniper team is concealed when the team remains still, but the sniper’s position is easily detected when the team moves. Movement against a stationary background makes the team stand out clearly. When the team must change positions, it moves carefully over a concealed route to a new position, preferably during limited visibility. Snipers move inches at a time, slowly and cautiously, always scanning ahead for the next position.
  2. Use all available concealment. Available concealment includes the following:
    1. Background is important. The sniper must blend with it to prevent detection. The trees, bushes, grass, earth, and man-made structures that form the background vary in color and appearance. This makes it possible for the team to blend with them. The team selects trees or bushes to blend with the uniform and to absorb the figure outline. Snipers must always assume they are under observation.
    2. Shadows. The sniper in the open stands out clearly, but the sniper in the shadows is difficult to see. Shadows exist under most conditions, day and night. A sniper should never fire from the edge of a wood line; it should fire from a position inside the wood line (in the shade or shadows provided by the tree tops). Don’t give away your position.
  3. Stay low to observe. A low silhouette makes it difficult for the enemy to see a sniper, therefore, always observe from a crouch, a squat, or a prone position.
  4. Avoid shiny reflections. Reflection of light on a shiny surface instantly attracts attention and can be seen from great distances. The sniper uncovers his rifle scope only when indexing and aiming at a target. He uses optics cautiously in bright sunshine because of the reflections they cause. Some things in the movies actually do happen.
  5. Avoid sky-lining. Figures on the skyline can be seen from a great distance, even at night, because a dark outline stands out against the lighter sky. The silhouette formed by the body makes a good target. Never cross or stand on a hill with the sky at your back.
  6. Alter familiar outlines. Military equipment and the human body are familiar outlines to the enemy. The sniper team alters or disguises these revealing shapes by using the ghillie suit or outer smock that is covered with irregular patterns of garnish. The team must alter its outline from the head to the soles of the boots.
  7. Observe noise discipline. Noise, such as talking, can be picked up by enemy patrols or observation posts. The sniper team silences gear before a mission so that it makes no sound when the team walks or runs.

The Rules of Movement While Camouflaged

A sniper team’s mission and method of employment are unique and differ in many ways from those of the infantry squad. The most noticeable differences is the movement technique used by the sniper, as movement must not be detected or even suspected by the enemy. Because of this challenge, a sniper must master individual sniper movement techniques.

  • When moving, the sniper should always remember, his life will depend on it, the following rules:
  • Always assume the area is under enemy observation.
  • Move slowly. A sniper counts his movement progress by feet and inches.
  • Do not cause overhead movement of trees, bushes, or tall grasses by rubbing against them.
  • Plan every movement and move in segments of the route at a time.
  • Stop, look, and listen often.
  • Move during disturbances such as gunfire, explosions, aircraft noise, wind, or anything that will distract the enemy’s attention or conceal the team’s movement.

Individual Movement Techniques

The individual movement techniques used by the sniper team are designed to allow movement without being detected. These movement techniques are sniper low crawl, medium crawl, high crawl, hand-and-knees crawl, and walking.

  • Sniper Low Crawl. The sniper low crawl is used when concealment is extremely limited, when close to the enemy, or when occupying a firing position.
  • Medium Crawl. The medium crawl is used when concealment is limited and the team needs to move faster-than the sniper low crawl allows. The medium crawl is similar to the infantryman’s low crawl.
  • High Crawl. The high crawl is used when concealment is limited but high enough to allow the sniper to raise his body off the ground. The high crawl is similar to the infantry high crawl.
  • Hand-and-knees Crawl. The hand-and-knees crawl is used when some concealment is available and the sniper team needs to move faster than the medium crawl.
  • Walking. Walking is used when there is good concealment, it is not likely the enemy is close, and speed is required.

Route Selection

Before moving an inch the sniper must select his routes of travel, the sniper team must remember its strengths and weaknesses. The following guidelines should be used when selecting routes:

  • Avoid known enemy positions and obstacles.
  • Seek terrain that offers the best cover and concealment.
  • Take advantage of difficult terrain (swamps, dense woods, and so forth).
  •  Do not use trails, roads, or footpaths.
  • Avoid built-up or populated areas.
  • Avoid areas of heavy enemy guerrilla activity.

When the sniper team moves, it must always assume its area is under enemy observation. Because of this and the size of the team with the small amount of firepower it has, the team uses only one type of formation–the sniper movement formation. Characteristics of the formation are as follows:

  • The observer is the point man; the sniper follows.
  • The observer’s sector of security is 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock; the sniper’s sector of security is 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock (overlapping).
  • Visual contact must be maintained even when lying on the ground.
  • An interval of no more than 20 meters is maintained.
  • The sniper reacts to the point man’s actions.
  • The team leader designates the movement techniques and routes used.
  • The team leader designates rally points.

A sniper team must never become decisively engaged with the enemy. The team must rehearse immediate action drills to the extent that they become a natural and immediate reaction should it make unexpected contact with the enemy. Examples of such actions are as follows:

  • Visual contact. If the sniper team sees the enemy and the enemy does not see the team, it freezes. If the team has time, it will do the following:
  • Assume the best covered and concealed position.
  • Remain in position until the enemy has passed.

NOTE: The team will not initiate contact. If the sniper team is spotted the mission is a failure. The enemy will quickly overrun their position by sheer numbers.

  • Ambush. In an ambush, the sniper team’s objective is to break contact immediately. One example of this involves performing the following:
  • The observer delivers rapid fire on the enemy.
  • The sniper throws smoke grenades between the observer and the enemy.
  • The sniper delivers well-aimed shots at the most threatening targets until smoke covers the area.
  • The observer then throws fragmentation grenades and withdraws toward the sniper, ensuring he does not mask the sniper’s fire.
  • The team moves to a location where the enemy cannot observe or place direct fire on it.
  • If contact cannot be broken, the sniper calls for indirect fires or a security element (if attached).
  • If team members get separated, they should return to the next-to-last designated en route rally point.

The skills required to be a sniper and/or spotter are becoming clearer now and they are immense. No militia or self taught sniper is expected to accomplish what a trained team is capable of performing, but learning bits and pieces of what makes a sniper team so effective, can only lead to you learning how to increase your skills.