in fiction are thrilling because of the natural tension that is created when two Badasses
face down each other at short range, with deadly weapons, intent to kill, and nervous bystanders watching with fear and anticipation
. Anything can happen... and then it does, exploding into action, and then they end with a very final conclusion.
A Sniper Duel takes the tension in this trope and plays it Up to Eleven
. Instead of facing off at close range with small handguns, the duelists may be miles apart wielding high-power rifles
. Both may be masters of camouflage and/or deception. Sniper duels in fiction can last days or weeks, as each tries to draw the other into a vulnerable position but conceal their own, and often end with a single shot
. If The Squad
is caught out in the open by an enemy sniper, often their only chance of salvation is a sniper from their team, who will be the only member with the ability to save the day.
Sniper duels are common in war movies where they add a personal touch to the often impersonal combat between people who've never met before and are just fighting for their countries:
snipers get a close up view of their targets before killing them, and this fact often makes it personal
for the teammates of the person who just got shot by an unseen assailant.
Sometimes the duel is used to highlight the differences between a protagonist and antagonist, where one is a Cold Sniper
and the other is a Friendly Sniper
. The characters often possess Improbable Aiming Skills
and the fight may end with a headshot
and for truly Badass
characters, a Scope Snipe
. Genre Savvy Combat Pragmatists
who lack either the skill, equipment or patience to engage in a Sniper Duel may instead avert it
by calling in an airstrike
or artillery strike.
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Anime and Manga
- Happens in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex during a Flashback to Saito's backstory. The snipers' aims are enhanced by satellite calibration.
- Golgo 13 has been in a few of these.
- Subverted in the fourth episode of Desert Punk: Kanta is attacked by an enemy sniper and is happy to get to put the sniper rifle he'd spent a large amount of his previous missions earnings on. Said rifle is rendered inoperable by enemy fire the instant he takes aim, forcing him make due with his shotgun for the rest of the battle.
- Jojos Bizarre Adventure features a variation on this in Part 4. On one side is Jotaro and Josuke standing out in the open, with two stands capable of launching bullets at lethal velocities with their fingers. On the other is a stand-wielding rat hiding in the grass with an artillery stand that fires flesh-melting darts. The conflict plays out much like a sniper duel anyway, due to the former trying to suss out the location of the latter, who has to avoid giving itself away.
- Holding the Zero, a novel by Gerald Seymour, goes into some detail on the history of sniping. A British civilian marksman goes to help a Kurdish rebellion again Saddam's government, and finds himself up against an Iraqi sniper.
- In the Gaunt's Ghosts novel Sabbat Martyr, one of the Chaos assassins sent to kill the eponymous Imperial saint. Gaunt instructs his own top sniper, "Mad" Larkin, to keep an eye out for sneak attacks. Naturally, they end up in a duel with one another, although with a twist — the Chaos marksman is trying to outguess Larkin and stay out of his line of fire long enough to draw a bead on the Saint instead of taking him out directly. He actually manages it, and lines up a shot while out of Larkin's field of view. Fortunately, Larkin wasn't trying to go one on one; he had distracted the Chaos soldier from the Ghosts' other elite sniper, Jessi Banda, who shoots him dead Justin Time.
- James Thayer's White Star is centered around Owen Gray, an ex-Marine sniper who suffered from PTSD in Vietnam after shooting and killing what he believed was a fellow American sniper. In reality he shot and badly wounded the book's main antagonist, Nikolai Trusov, a Russian who was intent on killing the famous 'White Star,' Gray's nickname among the Vietcong. The finale of the book involves a tense sniper duel in a woodland area, including multiple tricks and traps both men employ to draw the other out into the open.
- Bones Season 6 is essentially a year-long duel of Friendly Sniper Atoner Booth versus his Cold Sniper Mentor Broadsky:
- Booth foils one of Broadsky's assassination attempts by shooting his rifle, as he couldn't get a clear shot at Broadsky himself.
- Their final hide and go seek sniper showdown is not only of their skills but their philosophies. Booth has pursued Broadsky to his base of operations, a dockyard maze of shipping containers where Broadsky is not only intimately familiar with the territory but armed with a customized precision rifle that insanely outperforms Booth's FBI-approved mass-production longarm. But Booth has Bones and the squints, who figure out that as a result of the previous encounter, Broadsky's right hand is broken, therefore he can only rest the gun barrel on his arm and is incapable of gripping the barrel and aiming downwards. Booth thus goes against his training and stays on the ground, while Broadsky follows that training, takes the high ground, and is left wide open when Booth shoots his other hand before he can change cover, taking Broadsky alive.
- "One Shot Kill", an episode of the short-lived Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, had this between Mick Rawson and a sniper-trained unsub. But instead of Mick shooting him, Sam Cooper managed to sneak up behind the unsub and put a gun to his head.
- Happens in "Field of Fire", a seventh-season episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, using rifles that teleport the bullet a few centimeters from their target and scanners that look through walls.
- One of the achievements in Minecraft is called "Sniper Duel", and is awarded for shooting a skeleton from 50 blocks of distance. It's actually easier than it sounds, since most monsters can't detect players beyond 16 blocks of distance.
- Similarily, Skyrim features a lot of sniper dueling, particularly of the spotter-vs-ace variety; you can snipe enemies from a very long distance while sneaking, and they'll spend precious aiming time trying to figure out if you exist. Yeah, it's that kind of game. Unfortunately, once spotted, the enemy bowmen will proceed to go CRAZY PRECISE nuts with their ebony-grade arrows. Enemy mages also have unusually precise elemental attacks and have cone attacks that go long distances and clip through walls, so you'll need to dodge those.
- Happens in Call of Duty: World At War, where you need to face off against a German sniper under the guidance of Sergeant Reznov, a former sniper who lost his index finger early in the siege of Stalingrad and couldn't do the shooting himself. The enemy sniper will use decoys to try and get you to waste shots, and can easily kill you if you aren't quick.
- Also common in multiplayer across the series, as per Team Fortress 2 below: due to the incredible potency of sniper rifles compared to other weapons, snipers will usually prioritize enemy snipers as targets to try and keep those weapons away from teammates that can't easily retaliate.
- Practically a hallmark of the Metal Gear series, including:
- Not one, but two sniper duels against Sniper Wolf in Metal Gear Solid.
- A long, drawn out battle spanning three maps against The End in Metal Gear Solid 3, which eventually turns into a literal test of endurance, as The End will only use tranquilizer darts in the battle and refuses to kill you outright. The duel may be bypassed by sniping The End before it or waiting for him to die of old age.
- And finally, the battle against Crying Wolf (and her squad of FROGs) in Metal Gear Solid 4, although her being equipped with a railgun and a powered dog-suit ups the odds in her favour a little bit. An additional twist is provided by Crying Wolf's keen sense of smell, which puts the player at a disadvantage when attacking from upwind. For bonus brownie points, the battle also takes place on the same snowfield as the second battle with Sniper Wolf in Metal Gear Solid.
- Tends to happen by merit of player judgment in Team Fortress 2, where the majority of snipers tend to think their primary targets are other snipers. This strategy has been criticized for making the Sniper class almost totally redundant and contributing very little to the team.
- Not that there is anything wrong with protecting allies by taking out enemy snipers as a sniper. But when they focus entirely on sniping each other, it becomes pointless. 2fort and Turbine are maps infamous for this (and a few other things), since both teams have opposite balconies perfect for sniping connected near-directly to their spawn rooms. These balconies have no areas of cover which protect you from the other balcony and still have a clear shot at the floor below, and the only enemies who are likely to stand on the balconies for extended periods of time are other snipers. Most of the strategically important parts of the maps are enclosed areas where snipers are at a disadvantage... so snipers on these maps never do anything but duel each other.
- This behavior is somewhat justified. Enemy snipers will Shoot the Medic First and are difficult for most classes to take out- but when they use their scopes they move very slowly and have limited vision, making them extremely vulnerable to you. Also, the enemy sniper is usually aware of this, and will shoot you if you try to focus on anybody else.
- Parts of Halo 2 and later games in the series can play out like this, with plasma rifle-armed Jackals sniping at you, and you sniping right back. Unfortunately The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard — they don't have the limited ammunition that you do, and they can draw a bead on you the moment you stick your head out. It's sometimes possible to run up closer and splat the snipers with close-range fire, but that's risky, especially at higher difficulty levels where they can one-shot you.
- Commandos 3 : Destination Berlin features a duel in Stalingrad between the playable sniper and a German sniper, in a Shout-Out to Enemy at the Gates.
- The fight against Grunfeld Bach in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines can be this, since he behaves like a regular sniper, shooting and running away from the player, who in all likelihood has acquired a decent sniper rifle by this point.
- Dark Pit in Kid Icarus: Uprising hides out in two of four locations during his featured chapter, and one of those features him atop a mountain, with a staff (the game's Boom Stick equivalent of a rifle) that carries a wicked range. Naturally, you can pack a staff of your own and snipe him right back.
- It tends to happen annoyingly often in Xenonauts if both sides are unwilling to leave their cover. This is actually a poor tactic on the player's part, since aliens have unlimited ammo...
- Happens at the end of Rose Guns Days Season 3, when Keith has to spot the sniper who shot Stella's adoptive son Yūji and shoots everyone who tries to help. He only finds him after Stella (actually the sniper's true target) goes out and sacrifices herself.
- Vasily Zaytsev, on whom the film Enemy at the Gates was very loosely based, pulled this off quite a few times.
- In Sarajavo during the recent war, one mercenary training a band of Croat snipers made it the business of his "class" to eliminate a Serbian sniper that had a weird taste for shooting civilians. They finally got him.
- In Vietnam, legendary Marine Corps sniper Carlos Hathcock was once hunting another sniper. Hathcock was sighting through his rifle scope, when he saw light glint off metal some distance away, and he fired at it. When he approached, it was learned that he had shot the other sniper— right through the guy's own rifle scope, killing him instantly. According to Hathcock, the other sniper must have been looking at him at the same time, and if Hathcock had been any slower on the trigger, he'd have been dead.
- Hathcock had other engagements involving enemy snipers. One of then ended via an recoilless-rifle shell to the Vietnamese sniper's general position (it did the trick), and another involved dozens of enemy snipers and an artillery strike. Hathcock only plays fair when he has to.
- In the Gallipoli campaign of WWI there was a half-Chinese Australian sniper by the name of Billy Sing, who had 150 confirmed kills. He was so deadly that the Turks assigned a champion sniper specifically to eliminate him. This Turkish sniper was able to track him down, and was preparing to shoot, but Billy's spotter had already seen him, and Billy shot first.
- In the trenches of WWII, many snipers from both sides reportedly sniped each other (and other soldiers) for sport.
- Snipers are often put on missions where their only job is to counter other snipers. However, if a sniper is discovered, generally the unit won't be sending off their best marksman to duke it out man on man. They will be calling artillery strikes.
- Standard Secret Service protection for the President of the US (and the equivalent by other agencies for other leaders) typically involve snipers specifically looking out for a hostile shooter.
- The legendary Simo Häyhä engaged in 'duels' with entire teams of counter-snipers, eliminating all of them. In the end, he was removed from the war after dueling another sniper, where he was shot in the head, which he survived, before he killed his attacker.