Throughout the history of wars, snipers have been recognized as the most critical components of battlefields due to their unique abilities to eliminate enemy personals without being seen. From the era of the first world war to the present day, the skillset of snipers has been heavily relied on to inflict damage to enemies. The primary performance indicator of snipers is the total number of confirmed kills. According to this criterion, the world's best snipers are distinguished below.
Simo Häyhä was born on 17 December 1905 in a farming family of Rautjarvi, Finland. At 21, he joined the Finnish Voluntary Militia, aka the White Guard, where he won numerous shooting competitions in the Viipuri province.
During the war between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939, Häyhä shot 505 Red Army soldiers in less than 100 days amidst harsh temperature as low as -40 degrees. Due to his incredible performance in combat, he earned the dread nickname "White Death."
Häyhä's weapon of choice was his trusty SAKO M/28-30 with iron sights. He was known for his strategy of using snow to conceal himself while also keeping his rifle balanced. He also kept bits of snow on his tongue while holding his breath and taking aim.
The White Death was severely wounded by an armor-piercing bullet that went through his left jaw, shot by a Red Army soldier in the same battle that Häyhä had his confirmed 505 kills. A national hero, Häyhä passed away in 2002 at age 96, in a veteran's nursing home in Hamina.
Fyodor Okhlopkov was born in 1908 in the village of Krest-Khaldzhay, Russia, and grew up to become a Soviet sniper serving in the Red Army during WWII. Okhlopkov was joined in the military by his brother, whose life was soon lost in combat, causing Okhlopkov to swear vengeance and become a frontline soldier and sniper.
He amassed a record of 429 enemy kills, securing the second-largest confirmed kills by sniper. Conducting surveillance and reconnaissance operations alone was his modus operandi and he survived twelve gunshots in his military career, with the twelfth being the worst, hospitalizing him for months. He was awarded the Order of Lenin for bravery in June 1965 and died on 28 May 1968.
Francis Pagahmagabow was a Canadian snipper born on 9 March 1891 in Ontario. In the early days of his military career, he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1914 and later served with the 23rd Canadian Regiment.
Pagahmagabow fought in WWI, in which he was credited with 378 enemy kills. A sharp strategic commander, he also led troops in August 1918 during the Battle of the Scarpe, in which his company ran low on ammo and he braved the "No Man's Land" to snatch supplies off dead troops. He then pressed on with his unit, capturing over 300 enemy troops alive.
Carlos HathcockCarlos Hathcock was an American Marine sniper born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1942. He participated in the Vietnam War, where he dropped 93 soldiers in only a few days.
Hathcock acquired his sharpshooting skills at an early age thanks to his family relying on hunting for food. His childhood dream was to serve the military and he signed up with the USMC at the tender age of 17. He won the prestigious Wimbledon Cup for long-range shooting in 1965 and holds a confirmed kill count of 93 plus ~300 unconfirmed.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko, aka "Lady Death," served the Soviet Union Red Army during WWII as the first deadliest female sniper in history, with 309 confirmed kills under her belt. Born in Bila Tserkva, now Ukraine, in July 1916, she joined a local shooting club at a young age, where she demonstrated an aptitude for sharpshooting.
Pavlichenko was highly educated, holding a master's in History from Kiev University. She volunteered for military service during Operation Barbarossa and the invasion of Soviet territory by the Nazis. After refusing nursing service she instead chose sniper training and was assigned to the 25th Riffle Division.
Pavlichenko trained with Mosin-Nagant bolt action and shot her first two enemies near Belyayevka, following 187 kills in two months while fighting in Odessa. She was severely wounded by mortar fire in June 1942 and forced to withdraw from combat.