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Saving Private Ryan - Sniper: Left-Handed or Right?
Not sure about this one, folks. The sniper can be seen firing a right-handed rifle left-handed, meaning that he has to reach over to pull the bolt back. Not too much of an error there... maybe they didn't issue left handed rifles and he was out of luck. However, if you watch when he is toting around the rifle, like when walking with it, he carries it right handed. Not very convenient if you are surprised by the enemy and have to change hands!!!
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Rated 3.1/10 (61 ratings) Your opinion?
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Contributed By: Phreak on 06-07-2001 and Reviewed By: Webmaster
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Du Nomad writes:
In WWII, the US didn't have any kind of dedicated sniper training program. Many times, soldiers became "snipers" when a Sergeant walked up to them, handed them a bolt action rifle and said "You're a sniper." Since just about all of the "sniper" rifles used by Americans in WWII were nothing more than over-the-counter sporting rifles, I doubt seriously that anyone had a left-hander. As for him carrying it right handed, that could be a slip (probably is). But, it could also be simply because ALL soldiers were trained the same (marching, carrying firearms, etc.) and so when walking he resorted to "habit" and carried his rifle the way he was trained. Maybe he could shoot right handed, but was steadier left handed so that's how he shot when sniping . . .
26 of 38 found this helpful. Did you? Yes
bucky54901 writes:
its completely believible that he fires his gun left handed. i have done a bit of rifelry, and i also shoot left-handed, even though i am right-handed. i fire lefty because i am left-eye dominant, so if i don't use my left eye, my aim is off. also when i carry my rifle, i carry it right handed.
13 of 16 found this helpful. Did you? Yes
Scout449 writes:
As to the M1903 Springfield sniping rifle, it was made at the United States Armory at Springfield, Massachussetts, not the modern private company in Illinois. As to shooting from the left - in my training in the 1960's, all troops were taught to fire from the right shoulder, since the operating rod ("cocking handle") was on the right side (as it is on the sniper rifle). The sniper could have decided to shoot from the left on his own, however.
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MattTheBrave writes:
ok first off du nomad....the sniper rifles werent over the counter. they were springfield 1903 sniper rifles.. and they came from the United States Army Springfield armory in Illinios.
8 of 14 found this helpful. Did you? Yes
NeoWeird writes:
It's not a slip up at all. When our military branches were first formed they were unique and individual of themselves. They had their own uniforms, armaments, medals, ranks, etc. We have since started to standardize all equipment in all branches of the military and firearms are no different. Soldiers are not generally allowed to pick their weapons, and even carrying personally owned firearms is heavily regulated and requires permission from their C.O. No in the times of WWII things were a bit more lax, but standard GI equipment was just that - standard. Right and left handed you were issued the same rifle and were trained as right handed. This goes beyond just making everything uniform, but also has safety implications as well - it would be quite difficult to remain under cover and manipulate a bolt if you had to stand up to cycle your weapon at the same time as the person next to you and there wasn't enough room to do so because you were both maneuvering arms between the two of you. The 1903A3 Sniper rifle was NOT an over the counter sporting rifle. It was made by several manufacturers including the U.S. Springfield Armory (were it was also designed, thus the nickname of 'Springfield' even though its name is in fact the .30 Cal. Rifle of 1903 - A3 derives from 'Advanced model #3' denoting that there are three prior variations before it), Remington Arms Co, Smith & Corona, etc. Rifles were test fired at their respected factories to ensure function and those that inhibited superior accuracy were taken out of factory production to be specially built up as marksman's rifles, and those marksman's rifles that exhibited superior accuracy to marksman's rifles were even further separated to be sniper rifles. This was mainly due to machining practices of the day be inadequate for exacting tolerances which equates to superior accuracy. So when one particular rifle was 'lucky' enough or made by someone quite skilled, it was set aside to become one of these special rifles. Metal quality, barrel uniformity, etc also played major parts in the rifle's accuracy as well. Back to the "slip up", as said earlier soldiers were trained to march in a particular fashion to maintain discipline and order. Assuming he is in fact left handed it could very well be that he was moving in the way he was trained (they are actually in formation, it's just not a parade formation). Many shooters whom I know who are left handed will shoot right handed, swap hands as they drop the rifle from their shoulder, cycle the action with their left hand, and then re-shoulder the weapon with their right hand. This is especially true on full-automatic, semi-automatic, and bolt action guns as the cycling action or bolt handle can be quite painful if not dangerous when firing the weapon with it shouldered on your left side. The particular scene you are referring to, in the bell tower, is pretty straight forward. He is shooting from his left shoulder, just like every other time in the movie. He is a left handed sniper with a right handed weapon. Training of the day, and still so today, was that you did not remove your sights off your target; instead you kept eye contact and manipulate the action of the weapon with your hand. The most comfortable, easiest, fastest, and most accurate is to use your dominant hand which is almost always the most dexterous. Since it is right handed he has to reach over the action of the weapon and cycle the bolt with his support hand. It's actually the natural and normal thing to do.
3 of 4 found this helpful. Did you? Yes
Scout449 writes:
The sniper did indeed fire his rifle left-handed, but he probably developed this style on his own. In the days before the M-16, American army rifles had their bolt handles (Krag, M1903, M1917) or operating rod handle (M-1, M-14) on the right, so all troops were taught to shoot from the right shoulder. As you could see in the film, he had a bit of trouble manipulating the bolt by reaching over the scope with his left hand.
3 of 5 found this helpful. Did you? Yes
carvell86 writes:
they don't issue left handed weapons in the army, even now, in Iraq our 17 (platoon sergeants) driver was a lefty and got a righty M4
0 of 0 found this helpful. Did you? Yes
Phreak writes:
It's amazing how everyone missed the entire point. Regardless of where the rifles came from (who cares -- not the point of this thread), is he left or right handed? He walks around with it holding it right-handed, and but fires left? Sure, he could have been ambidextrous, but it's war -- would you switch hands for fun?
3 of 12 found this helpful. Did you? Yes

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