“Sniper of the RKKA” breast badge was initially introduced by the Order of the People’s Commissar for Defense of the USSR Kliment Voroshilov No.2 of January 10, 1937 together with “Regulations for training of snipers in rifle units”. The latter ordered training of riflemen snipers and machine gunner snipers to be organized within special commands in each infantry regiment. Those who stood all the tests successfully were to be awarded with the “Sniper” badge by the order of military district troops (army) commander. However, those Regulations never described design of that badge, the only info provided was that excellent riflemen and machine gunners qualified for it.
Come 1938, the Order of the People’s Commissar for Defense of the USSR No.138 of May 21, 1938 annulled the previous Order and described statute and design of the badge in detail. Training of snipers was performed according to the newly introduced Course of Fire Training for Riflemen Snipers (CFTS-38). Those who showed excellent results in initial program of shooting a sniper rifle were qualified as “sniper candidates”. Training of riflemen snipers was performed throughout the whole academic year in companies and in squadrons for mounted units, as well as during special short-term musters in separate regimental detachments (20 days in winter and 40 days in summer). Sniper candidates who stood all the tests successfully at the end of the academic year were awarded a “sniper” title with the right to wear qualification breast badge.
Special decoration for RKKA snipers and their commanding officers was introduced on initiative of Comandarm (commander of the army) of the second rank Alexander Sedyakin (26.11.1893-29.07.1938), head of the RKKA Ground Forces Combat Training Department. The newly introduced badge was conceived as a replacement for “Voroshilov Sharpshooter” badge that was instituted by OSOAVIAKhIM (Society of Assistance to Defense and Aviation-Chemical Construction of the USSR), powerful militarized organization, and presented to Red Army and Red Fleet servicemen.
“Sniper of the RKKA” badge was presented to Red army soldiers and commanding officers of the RKKA who passed sniper training, stood all the tests and were awarded a “sniper” title. The badge was also issued to unit commanders who score a considerable success in sniper training of their personnel and showed sniper skills themselves.
The badge was awarded by orders of military councils of military districts or armies. Decoration together with award document was presented to distinguished soldiers and commanding officers during solemn ceremonies in conjunction with revolutionary and military holidays. Decorations were announced by orders of a day.
Design of the “Sniper of the RKKA” badge largely combined main features of two widely popular civilian badges issued by OSOAVIAKhIM, namely “Sniper of the OSOAVIAKhIM” and “Voroshilov Sharpshooter”.
Thus, the badge had a shape of a white enameled round shooting target with large black enameled bull’s eye, the former being embroidered with silvered laurel wreath and topped with red enameled five-point star bearing sickle and hammer symbol in its centre. Silvered figure of a standing soldier shooting a sniper rifle was superimposed on a target. Semi-circular inscription “Sniper” executed in capital letters was placed at the upper portion of the target. Horizontal hexagonal plate bearing an abbreviation “RKKA” was situated at the bottom of the badge. The badge with a counter-relief reverse was attached to the tunic with a screw measuring 2,7-3,3 mm in diameter and ca.14 mm in length and a round nut.
Two main variants of the badge are known to exist, differing in color of enamel applied to the lower hexagonal plate. Although Order No.138 described the latter as “white enameled”, such badges are extremely rare, not to say unique. In fact, only one badge of that type was currently seen being sold at the Russian “Coins and Medals” auction. Nearly all the badges sport red enameled plate. Generally common red enameled “Sniper of the RKKA” badges differ in the degree of counter relief intensity on reverse.
Initially badges were manufactured at Leningrad Mint, since 1938 up to the beginning of the Great Patriotic War 141,209 pieces were minted there. Nuts measuring 18 mm in diameter bore manufacturer’s marks, either “Мондвор” (1938-1940) or “Монетный двор” (1940-1941), both standing for “Mint”. Serial number of the badge is found at the lower part of each nut. Another known manufacturer of the badge was the Moscow Hardware Plant. Those badges bore “Худ-мет Мос метиз” (“Art-metal Mos Hardware”) mark on nuts.
“Sniper of the RKKA” breast badge was made of yellow colored alloy, i.e. brass or bronze with application of three colored enamel – white, red and black. Wreath and figure of a soldier were silvered. Badges measured 42,9-44 mm in height, 36,9-38,2 mm in width and weighed 14,6-18,8 g.
Initially the badge was worn above the left breast pocket of a tunic. However, according to the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR that was announced with the Order of the People’s Commissariat of Defense No.240 of June 21, 1943, “Sniper of the RKKA” as well as all the other badges since that date had to be attached to the opposite part of the tunic and would be worn to the left or below state awards.
“Sniper of the RKKA” was manufactured and awarded from the middle of 1938 until the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. At initial stages of the war these badges were either not presented at all or were issued in extremely limited numbers only. Since the middle of 1942 Red army snipers were decorated with the “Sniper” badge that was introduced by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of May 21, 1942.