SHREVEPORT, La - Being a sniper is all about precision, patience and technology.
Things like wind and humidity can change the trajectory of a bullet in a flash. That’s why being a sniper may be regarding but it takes a lot of training and a lot of practice. But two Shreveport firemen, found their passion shooting rifles for the National Guard.
Staff Sgt. Benjamin Cotten and Sgt. Allen Smith won first place in the Winston P. Wilson National Sniper Championship. They started shooting as a hobby without knowing they were aiming at a blue ribbon.
Cotten still asks himself, “How we won? Maybe by accident.”
And Smith said, "Honestly we were hoping for like a top 10 finish.”
They train with a 6.5mm Creedmoor and a 6mm Dasher. They do their work at a practice range at distances up to 1,000 yards.
The bullets can travel as fast 2,900 feet per second. That’s just under 2,000 miles per hour, faster than the speed of sound.
Smith and Cotten went to the competition to “stay in the game."
“We mostly just went to get a feel for the competition as a form of training for the guys. We wanted to keep people going every year. That way everyone can kind of stay up on some of the new stuff coming around in the sniper community," explained Cotton
They outshot 44 other snipers and brought home the Chief 50 Marksmanship Badge.
Hard work pays off; this dynamic duo hits the range at least three times a week to sharpen their skills and learn from mistakes.
“It felt good to have validation that a lot of the training that we’ve been doing on our on and with our unit actually did work whenever we hit the metal," said Cotton.
And they are inseparable, like yin and yang.
“He’s definitely the strongest partner that i could have for something like this. I wouldn’t want to go without him," said Smith.
So why are they so good together? Because they have history --16 years of it.
Smith explained how they met: “We know each other. We know each other’s weaknesses, we know what to say and what not to say. So, it gave us a leg up with the fact that we work together so much.”
Being together since high school has led them to become the best sharp shooters in the National Guard.
When it comes to precision shooting, the sniper has to trust their spotter. The spotter is the one who tells the sniper what to do, taking under consideration distance, wind, humidity and other factors.
“If you don’t have a spotter that you trust or if you just don’t listen to him, i don’t think you are going to be very successful," said Smith.
And now they are training to compete internationally.
“I don’t really mostly go to competitions to win; i like to learn. Every mistake that you make is a lesson you can apply. And it’s better to learn mistakes in a competition than in Afghanistan of Iraq," said Cotton.
For now, they are keeping their eyes on the prize. The international competition will be held in Georgia in April.
Also, this duo is going to England to compete in the Tri-Service International Sniper Competition in September. They will be one of only two teams representing the National Guard.