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In movies and television, it is possible for an extremely good shot to fire a bullet through the scope of a sniper's rifle
, with the bullet ending up in the unlucky shooter's eye
. In fact, this is the traditional way to end a Sniper Duel
. Especially in regards to a ridiculously skilled professional, this will only add to their badass legend as having Improbable Aiming Skills
In sniper training they are
specifically taught to target an opposing sniper through a lens glare. As a result, there are also anti-reflective "kill flash" covers for scopes specifically to prevent scope glint.
Still, it is very unlikely as the bullet has to travel straight down the length of the scope without being deflected by one of the lenses, in which case it will exit through the side at an angle. This is especially true with modern high-quality scopes (which have more than just two lenses and also tend to be filled with heavier-than-air gasses); the one confirmed and one reputed real-life case of this happening each had the victim using a simpler World War II
-vintage scope. What makes it even less plausible is that the position of the scope and gravity means that you have to aim a few inches above your target (the bullet falls a bit and the scope is always 2-3 inches above the barrel).
That's not to say it's a bad idea; if you hit the scope, you've almost completely disabled that sniper. And if you miss, what's right behind the scope?
Ultimately, in order to make this shot the opposing sniper has to be pretty much looking at you in the first place...
See the MythBusters
example below for their testing of this trope
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- In an episode of Trigun Vash does one better and counter-snipes a sniper down the barrel of his own gun — thus destroying the weapon without hurting the sniper. Too bad the sniper is a fanatic who promptly pulls out a sidearm and shoots himself.
- A variant appears in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. In the episode POKER FACE, the Major fires a shot down Saitou's scope, blinding him with shards of the lens without killing him. It's implied that this event never actually happened, since when Saitou finishes telling the story, someone calls him out on stealing the plot of a movie. But the ending of the episode hints that maybe it was true after all. Or at least the Tachikomas think so.
- In Solid State Society Saitou hacks into an assassin's cybernetic eye to find out about his position. He then overrides the assassin's view with his own, showing him a scope aimed at his head. The assassin is not impressed though, and both of them unsuccessfully try a genuine Scope Snipe. This also ties in to the Stand Alone Complex episode and its maybe-a-flashback, as Saitou is now using the sniper rifle that the Major was depicted as having shot him with.
- In Tower of God, Rak does this to Lebin. Though like Vash, he aims for the barrel, not the scope. With his giant javelin.
- In one of the openings for Lupin III Jigen does this to an assassin.
- In Detective Conan ally Shuichi Akai managed to do this to stop Man in Black Gin from killing Conan and Kogoro Mouri. Unfortunately, Gin reacted fast enough to survive with only a scar.
- Also done by resident sniper and war veteran Rudra in Viper's Creed episode 5.
- The French opening of City Hunter shows the hero doing it.
- Frequent in Jormungand thanks to the team's crack snipers, Lehm and Lutz. For example, Lutz easily snipes an opposing sniper in Iraq when the Excalibur PMC attempts to set up an ambush.
- One issue of Marvel's G.I. Joe comic has a character initiate a sniper's duel toward the end of the story. Predictably, the Nazi-like bad guy loses.
- Almost subverted in the IDW sequel, where Stalker snipes the Cobra sniper's spotter though the lens of his binoculars.
- In Preacher, an ex-Spetsnaz bodyguard almost pulls this off against someone trying to snipe his principal. Careful inspection of the panel in question will show the sniper being shot in the middle of his forehead, not his eye. Also, there's no damage to the scope.
- In one of The Ultimates annuals, Nick Fury did this to a guy- with the stipulation that the guy had been provided with one of two specially modified prototype sniper rifles whose bullets were intangible between when they left the barrel and when they hit flesh. In a pretty awesome moment, Fury explains to his dead victim that he had the other one. Chekhov's Gun indeed.
- Wallace manages this in the Sin City yarn Hell and Back: A Sin City Love Story. With a semi-automatic handgun, no less. Hand Waved in that he's an ex-navy SEAL.
- The first The Punisher story in The Nam depicts Frank Castle as a sniper in Vietnam. The entire two-part story is plagiarized verbatim from Carlos Hathcock's experience, including the Scope Snipe finale.
- Happens in Æon Flux.
- Barry Pepper's Bible quoting sniper from Saving Private Ryan saves his pinned-down unit by nailing a Nazi sharpshooter clean through his scope.
- The Hero from The Good, the Bad, the Weird manages one with a Winchester rifle.
- In Eraser one of the (kinda) good guys is aiming at one of the railgun-toting baddies. Said baddie notices this, proceeds to aim his railgun through the super-sophisticated computerised x-ray scope, but just before he fires the "good" guy's bullet goes through the scope and right in his eye. Meanwhile, the "good" guy's buddies are talking about how terrible of a shot he is. They shut up after that.
- Sniper (1993). The protagonist is being stalked through the Panamanian jungle by a former student, now working for the rebels. After leaving his sleeping partner as bait, he puts a bullet through his opponent's Draganov rifle scope.
- It happens in each of the sequels as well, possibly making the titular sniper the only marksman in reality or fiction with three scope snipes. This is especially ridiculous in the third movie, where he didn't have time to do a carefully aimed shot against the sniper attacking him while he tried to snipe someone else.
- Shooter (2007). The protagonist kills one of the counter-snipers in the mountaintop scene this way.
- RoboCop 2 features a pistol shot (albeit one hell of a pistol, and computer aided) through a sniper scope.
- Averted, ironically enough, in sniper-centric Enemy at the Gates. Despite the film being based around a sniper duel and featuring a supporting cast of other snipers - a number of whom are killed in spectacular fashion - no one is shot through the scope.
- Mr. Anderson does it in Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia.
- The Profiler episode "Shoot to Kill".
- MythBusters declared such shots to be impossible outside of a Million-to-One Chance after frequent attempts to recreate the shot under the best of circumstances. Though in their original experiment they used a modern style scope that was very narrow and had six lenses for calibration. In a retest, they used an archaic Vietnam-era scope that was wider and had fewer lenses (which was specifically the Carlos Hathcock legend), and an armor piercing bullet, it was indeed, very possible, and extremely lethal. Hathcock was always very plain about admitting that it was a lucky shot, since he saw a glint of sunlight on the VietCong sniper's scope lens and aimed above that.
- The final episode of Walker, Texas Ranger has Chuck Norris did this to the Big Bad, though he dodged just in time to avoid getting hit in the eye.
- In the U.S. Army Rangers vs. North Korean Special Forces episode of Deadliest Warrior, the Rangers representative pulls this off in the sniper test. Unlike the more cinematic examples on this page, the bullet goes diagonally through the walls of the scope rather than straight down the lenses.
- Arrow: Oliver does this by accident against Deadshot, who wears a sniper scope over his eye in this continuity. Oliver takes cover behind a wall and Deadshot pins him down with gunfire. Oliver fires an arrow around the corner without aiming and the firing suddenly cuts off. He goes to see what happened and finds Deadshot's corpse with an arrow sticking out of his aiming lens.
- In the Supernatural episode "Devil May Care" (S09, Ep02), Sam fires a shot with his handgun that shatters the scope of a sniper on the roof.
- In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, during the boss fight against The End, you can spot him by the glare off his sniper scope. Unfortunately, he can spot you the same way - and even more unfortunately, he can also spot you by glare off your binoculars, even though they have special lens covers designed to prevent this.
- This is possible, though unlikely, in Sniper Elite V2 (you're more likely to get a bog-standard headshot if you try). It's also possible to snipe an opponent down the barrel of the rifle.
- In the Team Fortress 2 promotional video "The Sound of Medicine", Sniper takes an arrow to the eye from his robotic counterpart straight through the scope of his rifle.
- Happens in the final season of Rose Guns Days, when Rose and Wayne are Pinned Down by a sniper at the entrance of a hotel. Then Leo uses the bullet hole in one of the entrance's glasses and a parasol to determine Keith's position, and snipes his scope with the rifle he picked up. Keith manages to move his head out of the way at the last moment though.
- Butters is doing one through a pair of binoculars in the South Park episode Going Native. With a golf ball, no less.
- Some accounts from the Battle of Stalingrad have Vasily Zaytsev, the USSR's top sniper, performing this shot on the top German sniper of the war. Although the scope in question supposedly sits in a Russian museum, the story must be taken with a grain of salt; the Russian government calls the sniper "Major Konig", Zeitzev's biography calls him "Heinz Thorvald", and the Germans say neither man existed.
- The real-life example that inspired the MythBusters episode involved Marine sniper Carlos Hathcock, a legend in the sniping community. In a real-life subversion of the trope, Hathcock's shot was an admitted fluke: he was tracking a Vietnamese sniper who was hunting him and, just before the light faded for the day, caught a glint where he figured the enemy was likely to be, and fired a "What the hell" shot to see what would happen. Frequently an enemy sniper would only see and aim for the glint of sunlight off of the scope's glass, and the only reason that the shot was even possible was that the enemy sniper in question had Hathcock right in his sights. If Hathcock hadn't gotten on the trigger before the enemy, the enemy would have had him, as his skill as a sniper was comparable to that of Hathcock himself.
- Falling halfway between this and its super trope, Israeli General Moshe Dayan got his trademark Eyepatch of Power while conducting reconnaissance in Vichy France-controlled Syria during World War II: a French sniper shot him through one side of his binoculars. The binoculars' bulk probably saved his life, although the glass and the bullet left his eye a mess.
- Figuratively, this is what fighter planes that specialize in anti-radar duty (known as "Wild Weasels" in the US Air Force) do: they hunt down the radar installations used to coordinate enemy anti-air defenses. And it's just as dangerous for the pilots as it is for snipers, as those radars could easily end up aiming those anti-air assets at them.
- Frequently, they were. A number of older anti-radar weapons would "ride" the radar beam back to the target, which would require the pilots to have the radar locked onto them or at least pointing at them. A common tactic in Vietnam for the Wild Weasels was for a two-aircraft pair to have one plane fly high and deliberately draw the air defenses' attention, while the second plane fires an anti-radar missile at the installation. This would be roughly akin to a sniper using his spotter as bait. More modern anti-radar missiles have both significantly longer range, higher speed and the ability to home in on a radar from the side rather than need to approach head-on (due to even the best radars "leaking" some excess radiation in directions other than where they're actually looking), making a "Wild Weasel" mission at least theoretically a lot less dangerous.
- Simo "White Death" Häyhä accomplished this in the Winter War. Notably, he didn't use a sniper scope, since he thought that raising his head to look into the scope would make him a bigger target, and to avoid glare. In the forested battlefields of the winter war, sniping distance was rarely longer than 450 meters (around 1500 feet), and using iron sights to snipe worked quite well for him, since he was credited with 505 kills at the end of the war.
- He was nearly a victim of such a shot himself (except he couldn't be shot through his scope as he did not use one), since he was shot in the face by a Russian sniper. Incredibly, he killed the enemy sniper and lived on for decades after the war.