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Sniper Duel

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"Nothing personal, mate. I'm just better."
The Sniper, Team Fortress 2, after winning a duel like this

Duels 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. Instead of facing off at close range with small handguns, the duelists may be hundreds of yards or even over a mile 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. Note that this is partially Truth in Television, because, as it turns out, the best way to counter a hostile sniper is often times a friendly one, though both sides would probably field more than just a single sniper if they could, so in reality it's more likely to be a sniper team deathmatch instead.

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 two factions (possibly a hero and a villain), 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. 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. A Sniper Scope Glint from either combatant's rifles can give them away and often results in one of the snipers getting killed.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Subverted in the fourth episode of Desert Punk: Kanta is attacked by an enemy sniper and is eager to put to use 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.
  • In Fire Force Takehisa Hinawa of Fire Force Company 8 has a tense ranged duel with the White Clad Archer in an abandoned subway.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex:
  • In Golden Kamuy, Ogata was engaged in a sniper duel. It mostly conformed to the trope, as it was primarily a battle of wits and source for tension.
  • Golgo 13 has been in a few of these, which he often wins, being one of the most skilled and prolific sniper assassins in fiction.
  • JoJo's 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. Their deadly opponent threatening to melt them into blobs of flesh on the other side? A small rat, which also happens to be a Stand user whose Stand can shoot flesh-melting darts from afar. 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.
  • In Rebuild World, during an early stage of The Siege of Akira's Home Base in the slums, he surveys the surrounding territory from the rooftop. He notices several hostile agents surveying at the same time, giving him fearful or hateful reactions, until some start shooting at him at the edge of his rifle's effective range. He dodges one of the bullets and starts blowing off the heads of the scouts and opportunists. In the middle of this, Togami (who's visiting his gang) calls out to him for something, and Akira lightly replies that he's testing out his new equipment, which makes Togami think he now realizes why so many people want Akira dead.
  • In Shiroi Majo, the titular White Witch Simo Häyhä had a duel with the Red Witch sent by the Russians in the last volume.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted early in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (IDW). Cobra has sent a sniper team to kill Stalker, who's already out in the field. When both he and the Cobra sniper take out each other's spotter, it seems ripe for this. Instead the Cobra trooper sneaks around and tries to confront him at close range.
  • In the Green Lantern story arc The Sinestro Corps War Green Lantern John Steward engages in a sniper duel with Sinestro Corps member Bedovian. What makes this different from other examples is that they're both using sniper rifles made with their respective power rings, and they're sniping at each other from three entire space sectors away.

  • In American Sniper, Chris Kyle and his Arch-Enemy Mustafa try to kill each other by sniping throughout the film and have a climactic long-range duel at the end. Mustafa is not only shooting American soldiers, he's after Kyle for the $180K bounty on his head, while Kyle is after Mustafa for shooting two of his fellow SEALs.
  • Enemy at the Gates is all about a duel in the ruins of Stalingrad between an aristocratic, merciless German sniper and a drafted Russian soldier who learned shooting hunting with his grandfather as a child.
  • The Fellowship of the Ring: While taking the stairs to the Bridge of Khazad-Dum, the Fellowship starts taking fire from goblin archers in the galleries on the other walls. Aragorn and Legolas return fire with their own bows and kill several.
  • One of the set-pieces in The Hurt Locker is built around a sniper duel between the EOD team and faceless insurgents. Even when the American soldiers succeed in killing their opponents, they have to wait around for hours continuing to watch the enemy bunker to be sure that the other guys are really dead.
  • The Living Daylights opens with one, but Bond quickly realises that the girl on the other side isn't a sniper at all -"didn't know one end of a rifle from the other", as he put it- and refuses to kill her. He instead pulls his shot slightly, not quite blasting the rifle out of her hands but trashing the gun and only causing her a minor injury.
  • Mystery Road ends with two in rapid succession (with the victor of the first duel then having to take on a second enemy) when both the Big Bad and a pair of cops bring hunting rifles to the climatic shootout. In both duels, The two snipers take turns firing at each other, with each adjusting his sights as he sees where his shot hits, and with the first one to correctly zero in destined to be the winner.
  • There was a sniper duel partway through Saving Private Ryan between the Southern-Fried Private and a German sniper. By the end of the film, it was clear nothing the Germans had could kill him except a much bigger gun.
  • Happens at least once in each of the five Sniper movies.
  • Subverted in the Ukrainian film Sniper The White Raven: After establishing the sniping skills of our hero Raven and his Russian enemy Seryi, Seryi and his team are tracked down to a chemical factory. Raven's team snipe Seryi's team ... and Raven goes in with a silenced pistol to finish the job ... and stabs Seryi to death.
  • The climax of the action film Undercover vs. Undercover has Action Girl Eva dueling Dark Action Girl Susan, facing each other with sniper rifles, Eva on ground level while Susan on a platform a few hundred meters above. Eva, remembering her sniper training that "A sniper gauges the distance using their senses instead of sight", instantly broke out of cover with her eyes closed, and fires a shot towards Susan's position - nailing Susan in the forehead.
  • In The Wall (2017), two American soldiers patrolling the deserts of Iraq find themselves attacked by a sniper. Hiding behind an old crumbling wall, they spend the rest of the movie trying to figure out where he is so they can fight back.
  • Wonder Woman (2017): Subverted. When the team gets pinned down by a German sniper hiding in the church tower, it seems like this will happen with the team's sniper Charlie. Unfortunately, Charlie freezes up from PTSD and is unable to take the shot. Fortunately, Steve remembers an Amazon using a shield as a platform to leap behind some Germans, and has Sameer and Chief lift a large metal panel for Diana to leap off it into the tower.

  • 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 Just in Time.
  • 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.
  • An assortment of Stephen Hunter's novels and characters have notably done this, perhaps best shown in his long running Old Soldier Bob Lee Swagger. An interesting case from the novel I, Sniper being when he went against four trained snipers armed with years of experience from the war on terror as well as a new smart-rifle system capable of challenging his skill as the third best sniper from the Vietnam war. Sending the enemy into a valley, they tried to set up a flank on his position using both an expert sniper team and a stealth insertion for close range support. The only issue with their plan came when they realized just how good Stealth Expert Swagger was when he seemed to appear out of thin air in the middle of the valley, right next to the hidden support mook and had his recently acquired friend, the best sniper of the Vietnam war, take out the sniper team on the opposite side of the valley. The trained professionals and veterans who had spent the last few hours looking for any sign of a sniper and found nothing. Because with some things, older is better when Taught by Experience
  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 Container Maze 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.
  • FBI: Most Wanted: "Invisible" climaxes with a duel between Lt. Weitzen, who is picking off FBI agents from his hide, while Clinton scans the scene through his sight, looking for anything which will allow him to get a fix on Weitzen's position.
  • Mashin Sentai Kiramager episode 39 has the Big Bad Yodon decide to take on the Kiramagers himself in the form of his Cold Sniper persona Shadon, whose bullets turn victims into balls of mud. The fight comes down to a duel between Shadon and the Kiramager's own sharpshooter Tametomo after he picks off all the other Kiramagers. Tametomo manages to destroy Shadon's scope with a Scope Snipe early on to force him to attack from closer range and eventually is able to outsmart and destroy Shadon, forcing Yodon to retreat.
  • An episode of NCIS ends with Gibbs using his sniper skills to take out another sniper who's about to assassinate someone.
  • The 2015 NBC TV series The Player has one in the episode "L.A. Takedown."
  • 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.


    Video Games 
  • Invoked in BioShock Infinite. First time you encounter a sniper, Elizabeth finds a sniper rifle and tosses it to you (though you don't need to take it).
  • 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.
  • At an early stage of the siege of Alcazar in COD 2 Spanish Civil War Mod, the player is ordered to shoot a Republican sniper hiding among the rooftops of the city buildings surrounding the fortress. Somewhat subverted, since neither of them uses scoped rifles and both sides of the conflict didn’t have specialised snipers in their ranks.
  • 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 last mission of History Civil War: Secret Missions has the player, a Union marksman, taking out Confederate snipers in the ruins of Vicksburg. What makes this mission special from other similar missions in its genre is the fact that since this is an American Civil War game, the players are armed only with mid-19th century weapons.
  • The infamous custom Counter-Strike map "awp_map" throws out the intended mission-based gameplay out the window and pits the two teams against each other on a giant, walled-in field with nothing but AWP sniper rifles and cylinders for cover.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: 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.
  • Final Fantasy Type-0 features an optional mission on a New Game Plus that involves fighting a boss while being attacked by a sniper. Once the boss is down, Trey gets out his bow.
  • The Combine Snipers in Half-Life 2 are, ironically, immune to your sniper weapon (a crossbow) and most firearms. However, you can duel them with the RPG to great effect.
  • Parts of Halo games, especially Halo 2, can play out like this, with beam 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 on higher difficulties 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.
  • 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.
  • Medal of Honor: Allied Assault: In the mission "Sniper's Last Stand", Lt. Mike Powell has to make his way through the shelled-out ruins of Landeneau, France, which is crawling with German snipers.
  • 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: Snake Eater, 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.
    • The battle against Crying Wolf (and her squad of FROGs) in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, 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.
    • And finally, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has a sniper fight against Quiet that you will probably wander into unintentionally (and without a sniper rifle). Good thing you can order one while hiding from her. Later on the game you will have to battle against four enemy snipers at the same time, each one of whom is just as deadly as Quiet.
  • Minion Masters: If both Masters have sniper in their decks, this can happen.
  • Happens in the background lore for Overwatch. Ana Amari, the Second Commander of Overwatch and a fantastic sniper, lost a duel against an almost supernaturally skilled Talon sniper. While she could have won and had the sniper in sight, she hesitated when she recognized the shooter as the wife of another Overwatch agent, and, due to light issues with PTSD, couldn't bring herself to end the job. She got better, though.
    • Actual sniper duels rarely happens in actual gameplay. The best characters to take care of snipers tend to be fast and mobile harassers or assassins, not other snipers. As Tracer demonstrates in Alive against Widowmaker (aforementioned Talon sniper). Widowmaker does get some call out lines referring to this trope, however. On spotting an enemy sniper, she may say, "Sniper. Leave this to me." On scoring a kill on an enemy sniper, she may say, "Heh. Amateur."
  • Happens in Rogue Trooper
  • Silent Scope is a series of video games dedicated to sniping, and there are modes for sniper duels with an element of hide and seek.
  • The Sniper Elite series, natch. There's often at least one enemy sniper in each level trying to do to you what you're doing to his comrades. You're free to engage at range and go for a Scope Snipe... or sneak into their vantage point and backstab them, if you're feeling crafty.
    • Multiplayer matches zig-zag this to hell and back, with up to 12 players possessing the same arsenal they have in singleplayer. Players will often find themselves with a single nemesis after one headshot too many, but it's just as likely that an entire team will be waiting to gun someone down. Free-for-alls can get particularly tense, shifting between individual duels and large-scale Mexican Standoffs depending on how many people are scoping each other out at a given time.
  • Team Fortress 2: the Sniper class is a good counter to other Snipers, and a good Sniper can be a major roadblock, so those tend to happen from time to time. However, some maps (mostly Capture the Flag ones) have dedicated Sniper balconies on both sides of the map, which can result in the Snipers focusing on dueling the opposing Snipers and nothing besides that.
  • Valkyria Chronicles has a potential called "Sniper Killer", unique to Cezary Regard, that makes him ideal for facing off against other snipers; with this potential, he can inflict additional damage against enemy snipers.
  • 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.
  • Happens, with good reason, in the frontlines of Verdun. Since most of the maps are pretty open, and there are scoped rifle troopers on both sides, it takes some fancy shooting to take out the enemy sniper before he makes you buy the farm. End result is that there can be a surprising number of Scope Snipe kills.
  • In the XCOM: Enemy Unknown expansion Enemy Within, you can get an achievement through killing an EXALT sniper with one of your own snipers.
  • 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...

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • 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. The Russian military did get smart (or just plain terrified) enough to try using an artillery strike instead. And even that didn't kill him. 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. He went into a coma after that, and by the time he woke up the war was over, probably because the Russians shit themselves at the thought of having to deal with him again.
  • Lyudmila Pavlichenko engaged in at least 36 sniper duels, all of which she won through sheer persistence. Probably the most famous examples were one she dragged out for about 3 days, and her first duel where she embedded herself in briars, leaving herself exposed to the Russian winter for hours on end until her opponent grew impatient.


Video Example(s):


Shooting in the forest

Magnum manages to take out a hired assassin after Xavier uses himself as bait to get the man to fire at him. This happened during a sniper standoff.

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