There are a number of law enforcement units that value skill with a long-range rifle and many methods for becoming a highly competent marksman. One can join the U.S. Armed Forces and attempt to join one of their elite sniper units, but, of course, this is dependent upon pre-existing talent, which may be natural, or the result of prior training. There is the option of developing marksmanship skills through a private shooting academy. Many of these programs have courses that have been based on FBI standards and techniques. Finally, there is the option of gaining skill through long hours of trial and error shooting.
Any of these methods would serve as ample preparation for a career in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but pure shooting skill is only one of a set of skills and characteristics necessary to join one of the FBI’s elite SWAT or Hostage Rescue Teams. FBI Snipers who join these teams must demonstrate their ability to work independently and in collaboration with a diverse team of highly qualified tactical officers. Snipers must also display the leadership skills that are required in this critical position since FBI Snipers are often the first to move into an operational area and typically provide instructions for the positioning and activation of tactical assets and personnel.
Joining the Federal Bureau of Investigation
The initial step in becoming a FBI sniper is to join the Bureau as a Special Agent. The basic qualifications include:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be between 23 and 37 years old
- Possess a four year college degree
- Possess a valid state driver’s license
- Have served as a professional for at least three years
Applicants who meet these qualifications must successfully pass a series of exams at a designated FBI facility. An interview and written test may be involved. If approved, the candidate must pass a physical fitness test, background check, medical exam and drug test.
Once offered a position, a candidate must enter a training program at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA. Entering Special Agents are assigned to one of five divisions.
- Directorate of Intelligence
- Criminal Investigative
Following at least 21 weeks of training, the candidate is designated a Special Agent and assigned to a Field Office, where he/she must serve for at least two years.
Sniper Candidacy and Marine Corps Scout Sniper Training
Following this two year period, a Special Agent may volunteer for the two week selection course to join FBI SWAT or the elite Hostage Rescue Team. Every field office has its own SWAT team which is composed of Special Agents who serve in the field as FBI personnel and only take up the SWAT designation when training or assigned a SWAT mission. HRT personnel do not serve as field officers and dedicate their professional careers to training and mission deployments. The FBI only supports about a hundred HRT personnel.
Special Agents who demonstrate exceptional skill in marksmanship may seek entry into one of these select units if they can outcompete other candidates during the screening process, which is extremely rigorous. Only those candidates who can maintain self-control and the highest levels of professional competency under the most extreme situations are selected.
Those candidates who win a position on these teams and are assigned to a sniper/observer team are sent to the Marine Corps Scout Sniper Course. This 12.5 week training program was recently extended from its prior duration of 10 weeks to include more field and stalking training. This rigorous program covers a variety of topics within two phases:
- Marksmanship and Basic Field Craft
- Unknown Distance and Stalking
FBI Snipers then enter the integration phase with their units, in which they engage in intensive training and simulations in order to gain an almost instinctive understanding of team member behavior.