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Duels in fiction are thrilling because of the natural tension that is created when two Badasses face down each other at short range, with deadly weapons, intent to kill, and nervous bystanders watching with fear and anticipation. Anything can happen... and then it does, exploding into action, and then they end with a very final conclusion.

A Sniper Duel takes the tension in this trope and plays it Up to Eleven. Instead of facing off at close range with small handguns, the duelists may be miles apart wielding high-power rifles. Both may be masters of camouflage and/or deception. Sniper duels in fiction can last days or weeks, as each tries to draw the other into a vulnerable position but conceal their own, and often end with single shot. If The Squad is caught out in the open by an enemy sniper, often their only chance of salvation is a friendly sniper, who will be the only member of the team with the ability to save the day.

Sniper duels are common in war movies where they add a personal touch to the often impersonal combat between people who've never met before and are just fighting for their countries: snipers get a close up view of their targets before killing them, and this fact often makes it personal for the teammates of the person who just got shot by an unseen assailant.

Sometimes the duel is used to highlight the differences between a protagonist and antagonist, where one is a Cold Sniper and the other is a Friendly Sniper. The characters often possess Improbable Aiming Skills and the fight may end with a headshot and for truly Badass characters, a Scope Snipe. Genre Savvy combat pragamatists who lack either the skill or equipment to engage in a Sniper Duel may instead avert it by calling in an airstrike or artillery strike.

Examples of Sniper Duel include:

Anime and Manga



  • Holding the Zero, a novel by Gerald Seymour, goes into some detail on the history of sniping. A British civilian crack shot goes to help a Kurdish rebellion again Saddam's government, and finds himself up against an Iraqi sniper.
  • In the Gaunt's Ghosts novel Sabbat Martyr, one of the Chaos assassins sent to kill the eponymous Imperial saint. Gaunt instructs his own top sniper, "Mad" Larkin, to keep an eye out for sneak attacks. Naturally, they end up in a duel with one another, although with a twist — the Chaos marksman is trying to outguess Larkin and stay out of his line of fire long enough to draw a bead on the Saint instead of taking him out directly. He actually manages it, and lines up a shot while out of Larkin's field of view. Fortunately, Larkin wasn't trying to go one on one; he had distracted the Chaos soldier from the Ghosts' other elite sniper, Jessi Banda, who shoots him dead Just in Time.

Live Action TV

  • Booth versus Broadsky to foil the latter's assassination attempt in an episode of Bones. Booth can't get a clear shot on Broadsky, so he shoots the rifle instead.
  • "One Shot Kill", an episode of the short-lived Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, had this between Mick Rawson and a sniper-trained unsub. But instead of Mick shooting him, Sam Cooper managed to sneak up behind the unsub and put a gun to his head.

Video Games

  • Happens in Call of Duty: World At War, where you need to face off against a German sniper under the guidance of Sergeant Reznov, who lost his index and middle fingers and couldn't do the shooting himself. The enemy sniper will use decoys to try and get you to waste shots, and can easily kill you if you aren't quick.
  • Practically a hallmark of the Metal Gear series, including:
    • Not one, but two sniper duels against Sniper Wolf in Metal Gear Solid.
    • A long, drawn out battle spanning three maps against The End in Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater, which eventually turns into a literal test of endurance, as The End will only use tranquilizer darts in the battle and refuses to kill you outright.
      • There is an alternate way to win this duel - If you save the game while fighting The End, Snake will go to sleep. If you reload the game a week later (or change the Play Station 2's clock), The End will have died of natural causes - to be expected since he's over a hundred years old. You can also snipe him immediately after a certain cutscene - when you get to the area where Snake would normally fight him, you'll fight a squad of flunkies instead.
    • And finally, the battle against Crying Wolf (and her squad of FROGs) in Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots, although her being equipped with a railgun and a powered dog-suit ups the odds in her favour a little bit. For bonus brownie points, the battle also takes place on the same snowfield as the second battle with Sniper Wolf in Metal Gear Solid.
  • Tends to happen by merit of player judgment in Team Fortress 2, where the majority of snipers tend to think their primary targets are other snipers. This strategy has been criticized for making the Sniper class almost totally redundant and contributing very little to the team.
    • Not that there is anything wrong with protecting allies by taking out enemy snipers as a sniper. But when they focus entirely on sniping each other, it becomes pointless. 2fort is a map infamous for this (and a few other things), since both teams have opposite balconies perfect for sniping directly connected to the respawn rooms.
      • 2fort is also infamous because the balconies only really give players a clear shot at the other balconies... and the only enemies who are likely to stand on the balconies for extended periods of time are other snipers. Most of the strategically important parts of the map are enclosed areas where snipers are at a disadvantage... so snipers on that map never do anything but Sniper Duel.
    • This behavior is somewhat justified. Enemy snipers WILL Shoot the Medic First and are difficult for most classes to take out- but when they use their scopes they move very slowly and have limited vision, making them extremely vulnerable to you. Also, the enemy sniper is usually aware of this, and will shoot you if you try to focus on anybody else.
  • Part of the second level of Halo 2 can play out like this, with plasma rifle-armed Jackals sniping at you and the Marines, and you sniping right back. (The other option is to run up closer and splat the snipers with close-range fire, but that's risky.)
  • Commandos 3 : Destination Berlin features a duel in Stalingrad between the playable sniper and a German sniper, in a Shout-Out to Enemy at the Gates.

Real Life

  • Vasily Zaytsev, on whom the film Enemy at the Gates was very loosely based, pulled this off quite a few times.
  • In Sarajavo during the recent war, one mercenary training a band of Croat snipers made it the business of his "class" to eliminate a Serbian sniper that had a weird taste for shooting civilians. They finally got him.
  • In Vietnam, legendary Marine Corps sniper Carlos Hathcock was once hunting another sniper. Hathcock was sighting through his rifle scope, when he saw light glint off metal some distance away, and he fired at it. When he approached, it was learned that he had shot the other sniper-- right through the guy's own rifle scope, killing him instantly. According to Hathcock, the other sniper must have been looking at him at the same time, and if Hathcock had been any slower on the trigger, he'd have been dead.
    • Hathcock had other engagements involving enemy snipers. One of then ended via an anti tank missile to the Vietnamese sniper's general position (it did the trick), and another involved dozens of enemy snipers and an artillery strike. Hathcock only plays fair when he has to.
  • In the Gallipoli campaign of WWI there was a half-Chinese Australian sniper by the name of Billy Sing, who had 150 confirmed kills. He was so deadly that the Turks assigned a champion sniper specifically to eliminate him. This Turkish sniper was able to track him down, and was preparing to shoot, but Billy's spotter had already seen him, and Billy shot first.
  • In the trenches of WWII, many snipers from both sides reportedly sniped each other (and other soldiers) for sport.
  • Snipers are often put on missions where there only job is to counter other snipers. However, it a sniper is discovered, generally the unit won't be sending off their best marksman to duke it out man on man, but instead will be calling artillery strikes.