Last time I blogged at Colonial Quills, I was talking about George Washington took advantage of the new rifled barrels to scare the wits out of the English, who thought every American to be an expert marksman. And indeed, we changed the rules of warfare by “sniping” British officers.

But of course, that wasn’t a word yet.

Photo by JJ Harrison

Sniper dates from 1824, and it comes from snipe hunting. These birds were considered a quite challenging target for even expert shooters, and so snipe hunting was a sport that was a way to prove your skill. The hunter would hide himself and rarely employed dogs, which was the norm in other bird-shooting. So the hunter himself became known as a sniper.
Before this, sharpshooter was used…but not for long before. It dates only from 1800 and is a translation of the German Scharfschütze.
Before that…well, it wasn’t really needed all that much, because there just weren’t any until rifling came on the scene. 😉 So in the 30ish years when guns were suddenly more accurate but before these words were created for it, they just called them “expert marksmen.” =)
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