“Sniper” breast badge that replaced obsolete “Sniper of the RKKA” pre-war badge was instituted on May 21, 1942 by Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the highest legislative body of the Soviet Union. The document was titled “On Institution of “Sniper”, “Excellent Machine Gunner”, “Excellent Mortar Man”, “Excellent Artilleryman”, “Excellent Tankman”, “Excellent Submariner”, “Excellent Torpedoist” Breast Badges”. The Decree was announced in the armed forces of the USSR by the Order of the People’s Commissariat of the Navy No.110 of May 25, 1942 and by the Order of the People’s Commissar of Defense No.166 of May 28, 1942.
According to the Decree, the badge was introduced “as a reward for particularly distinguished riflemen (…) from among private military personnel and junior commanders of the Red Army, the Navy and the NKVD [People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs] troops”. Statute of above-mentioned breast badges that was instituted by the same Decree stipulated that those pretending to be decorated with the “Sniper” badge had to “set regularly brilliant examples of:
- Excellent skills in handling of personal fire arms (…) and other hardware as well as proficiency in its use in combat and defeating enemy troops;
- Fast opening of fire and accurate deadly firing aimed at open and camouflaged enemy targets;
- Camouflage of his own self as well as of hardware (…);
- Protection of personal weapons (…) in every field conditions;
- Safeguarding of personal fire arms in combat (…)”.
The right to award “Sniper” badge was granted to brigade commanders and above as well as to other commanding officers equal in rank. List of decorated personnel was announced by the order of the day issued in brigades, divisions, army corps, armies and equal units. Decoration with the badge was entered into the soldier’s, seaman’s or junior commander’s ID book.
Come 1947, status of the badge has suffered a slight decline in comparison with the war years, and since then it was presented in the name of the Minister of the Armed Forces, unlike previous decorations that were made in the name of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The Order of June 05, 1948 stipulated decoration with the badge to be entered into service books of active personnel and into military records book upon discharge from the army.
Although no award documents were officially introduced to be presented together with the badge, various certificates were nevertheless issued semi-officially. Some of those documents were filled in hand, some are found being filled out with a typewriter, while certain pieces were even printed in typography.
The badge had a shape of a decorative shield with wide border superimposed on a gilt oak wreath each part of which being tied with two ribbons. Inner part of a shield was covered with ruby red enamel, while border bore 13 symmetrically placed dots imitating rivets. Upper portion of a shield border had decorative pattern.
Ruby red enameled circular medallion bearing gilt sickle and hammer emblem was situated on an upper part of the shield. Early pieces were two-piece badges with sickle and hammer being attached with prongs, while late badges were seamless. Medallion was bordered with white enameled wide rim with gilt edges. Inscription “Sniper” in capital gilt letters was running in semi-circle in the upper part of a rim, while small gilt five-point star was situated at the bottom. Six gilt dots, three on each side, separated inscription from star. However, post-1953 badges had only two dots, one on each side. Two crossed gilt Mosin M1891/30 “3-line” (7,62 mm) caliber rifles were placed at the bottom of the shield. The left rifle had fixed bayonet, and the right one represented sniper rifle without bayonet but equipped with scope. “Sniper” badges had no serial numbers neither on reverse nor on nuts.
“Sniper” badges were manufactured of brass with application of white and ruby red enamel and further silver plating or oxidation of shield border.
The badge measuring 46x37 mm (as stipulated in the official description) was worn on the right side of the breast and was attached to the uniform with a screw and round nut. The latter bore manufacturer’s mark.
Due to the mass production of the decoration within fifteen years, from 1942 until 1957 by numerous manufacturers, many varieties of the badge are known to exist. Thus, “Sniper” badges differed in size (44-47x35-38 mm); pattern of crossed rifles at the bottom; presence or absence of the bayonet on the right rifle (the former is much more rare); number of rivets on shield border (eleven or thirteen); shield border finish (silver plating on early pieces and oxidation on late ones); medallion diameter; shades of the red enamel. It’s worth recalling here that pre-1953 badges had six gilt dots on medallion rim, while post-1953 pieces only two; early decorations were two-piece badges with separate sickle and hammer emblem attached with prongs, whereas late pieces were seamless.