Corporal Matt Hughes, a crack shot with the Royal Marines, was ordered to take out an Iraqi who was holding back an important advance during a fierce fight. The sharpshooter pulled off the incredible feat of expert marksmanship by gauging the wind speed precisely so his bullet could reach its target.
It was during 2003 when Hughes’ 7.62-caliber round from his L96 sniper rifle curved 56 feet in the air before instantly killing the Iraqi when it struck him in the chest.
There was another Royal Marines sniper seated next to Hughes who pulled off an identical shot at the same moment killing a second Iraqi. Hughes, of the Marines’ Spearhead Brigade Patrol Troop, said he knew he only had one shot and the angle had to be perfect.
He said it was extremely hot and the wind was blowing strongly from left to right as the snipers made their way to a vantage point just about 860 meters from their target.
He said he saw that he had the opportunity for a clear shot at his target, who thought he was still in a secure position and didn’t realize that his chest and head were exposed.
He was holding a rifle he had been using to fire at Marines and was wearing his green Iraqi uniform. Letting his training take over, Hughes got into perfect sniper position quickly, but calmly.
He explained a set pattern is followed, with parts of their bodies being put in the position while using a strict order. After getting in place, they relax and practice controlled breathing while focusing on the target alone.
Matt was working alongside his sniper partner, Corporal Sam Hughes, who fixed his site on the target as well. The pair then worked to calculate the trajectory of the bullet by studying the heat haze movement along with the dust.
Sam told Matt he needed to fire 17 meters to the target’s left for the bullet to bend properly in the wind and then take him out. Matt said he made the proper adjustments to his site and with each click he made, his aim was offset by one meter for every 1,000 meters.
He explained that the Iraqi target didn’t move and stayed in his crosshairs of his sight the entire time. HE said it was obvious that the target believed he was safe from attack. He said a Royal Marine sniper who was on the ground beside Matt fired at an Iraqi located a few feet away from Matt’s target at the same time.
Both enemy troops then fell dead at the exact same moment. This enabled British troops to secure the Al Faw peninsula, which was vital. Sam said he saw Matt’s man drop through his scope and was sure he couldn’t have survived. The other man that was hit by the second sniper spun around, flung backwards, and then was hit by the bullet.
Matt said they were the first Marines in Abu al Khasib and as soon as they reached the heart of town they were under fire. He said as soon as the corner was turned in the Land Rover there were bullets flying over their heads and they were confronted by three men wearing civilian clothing and carrying AK47 rifles.
He said it was either his life or those three men, so he grabbed his SA80 assault rifle and took aim at the center man, firing a 40-mm grenade from his rifle’s launcher from 130 feet hitting him in the middle of his body. His two partners surrendered right away.