Opinion Editorial

 

THE IMPOSSIBLE SHOT

 

 By James Strauss

Not long ago, in a war torn part of the Middle East, two competing shooters (also known as snipers) sought the record for the longest-range sniper kill of all time. Such a record can never be publically acknowledged, so why an underground record is even sought, is a subject for later writing. But suffice it to say that both the U.S. sniper, and the Canadian sniper, located on different battlefields, used their specialized rifles to shoot at targets (humans) over two thousand yards away. They shot single bullets from the ends of their rifle barrels at targets little more than the size of a medicine ball, almost a mile and a half away. The Canadian won, or so his ‘spotter’ claimed. You see, these days, snipers have a partner who looks through a telescope to verify whether the fired bullet actually hits and kills its target.

The story of the longest shot in combat history reverberates through time. Since human being’s have possessed weaponry allowing them to reach beyond the limiting distance of their arms to do damage, or impact other things beyond their reach, the competition for who’s the best at it has gone on. And this contest for making the longest shot is truly analogous for the rest of the human condition on planet earth. There is no real winner, and no real holder of the record for the longest shot. There is only the appearance of those ephemeral titles. Some say that the U.S. Army operates the finest artillery school in the world and there’s little doubt of that, what with the Army’s overwhelming budget, and its ability to draw upon any and every group of ballistics experts. Ballistics is what they call the science of studying moving projectiles. Ballistics is what they teach at the Army school of artillery.

What relevance does any of this have to life as we know it?

It’s relevant simply because making an accurate shot from a modern rifle out to a range beyond two thousand yards, and hitting a target so small, is about as likely as winning the lottery. That the shots taken at this range are accepted as being valid, based only upon the word of an accompanying spotter, is so far beyond likely that the mere discussion of it (secretly, of course, as the school is an Army school), would cause any group of ballistics experts to quietly smile, if not outright laugh. When one considers that shooting a small projectile that distance requires pointing the weapon’s barrel so far up into the air (think of having to aim over a twenty-five story building, located at a distance of half a mile) and then gambling on the winds in between, and higher in the atmosphere, where the bullet must travel. You can understand the challenge. Ballistic science holds that making that kind of shot is so rarely effective, it’s not worth wasting the bullet attempting it.

But the new record of well over two thousand yards is in the record books. What reasons might explain why such records are allegedly made, or even kept? Advertising such impossible shots might encourage the ‘enemy’ to be reduced to hiding out further from the opposing force. There seems to be a certain positive combat logic to that reasoning. Another, more likely reason, is that the shooter and his or her spotter became famous for making the shot. Fake heroism is much preferable to the real thing, because there’s no risk involved. All snipers in combat, whether making impossible shots or not, face little risk compared to other ground troops because when they shoot at the enemy they seldom, if ever, get shot at in return. The final reason why such impossible records are annotated, and then published, is to enhance the image of power of those groups or governments that the shooter represents.

‘Make believe’ is such a huge, overwhelming, determinant in how human life plays out (in all cultures,) that it is difficult to describe. Before humans could build a space craft to circle the earth, or go to the moon and beyond, they first had to believe that the bright lights in the night sky were not little sparkling images put there by strange unknowable gods, but rather had to discover that those lights were spherical planets, revolving around a fiercely hot and distant sun. The same is true about everyday life. Humans get up and go to work. In order to continue going to work, humans need to be motivated, as work is necessary for human survival. So humans must often ‘make believe’ that working for someone else is a good thing; that positive results are either happening, or very likely to happen. Without ‘make believe’ the misery of daily life can be overwhelming. Without believing that one is going to make enough money to pay the bills, buy food, maintain shelter, heat, and so on, belief in the likelihood that those things will happen can lower almost to the point of being unsurvivable. It could even be argued that humans need ‘make believe’ to survive.

‘Make believe’ resonates with humans. Advertising is so effective because it is all about make believe. Coke is not about living happily; it’s about drinking a hugely overpriced version of sugar water. Paying for water put into special bottles would be patently ridiculous, since even better quality water can be gotten free from any water tap, except for the power of make believe (and a small bit of convenience). Whether ‘make believe’ is better than reality cannot be argued, because for humans ‘make believe’ is so entwined with reality, that it cannot ever be separated. Even in physics the ‘observer effect’ has been determined to be instrumental in divining conclusions about the origin and existence of all matter in the universe. The ‘observer effect’ is nothing more or less than humans looking at something and thinking about it. The ‘observer effect’ is a phrase that is every bit synonymous with ‘make believe.’

Has the longest sniper shot yet been made? No, and it never will be. There will always be a newer record, as long as there are humans living to attempt one, observe one, or to make one up. Humans always run faster over time, fly higher, go deeper, and improve as they progress. There is no shot that will ever be ‘the farthest’. The important thing to consider, however, is not the ballistics behind the shot, but taking the shot in the first place.
Take the shot.
Whether you set a record, or even hit the target, is not nearly as important (or real) as taking the shot in the first place.
Take the impossible shot.

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