Sniper and Bowling

There was a post on Japundit about a TV show in which a sniper fired a round into some bowling pins, trying to hit a strike with only one bullet. I wanted to try and track down the show, 'cause it sounded like a cool clip to watch. Well, I found it (with the help of my girlfriend).

The show is called トリビアの泉 or "toribia no izumi" or "Fountain of Trivia". Now in North America, a "Trivia Show" is a show in which contestants are asked questions concerning mostly useless and obscure pieces of information, and the contestants compete to guess at the correct answer. That's not what this show is about.

In this show, they just dish out useless (but arguably interesting) snippets of information, one after the other. There's a panel of "judges" who pound on a button depending on how impressed they are by that factoid. If they don't press the button at all, the meter reads 0, and they are presumably completely unimpressed. The maximum score each judge can provide is 20, and there are 5 judges, so every trivia has a score from 0 to 100.

Viewers at home can submit trivia via letters or e-mail, and the best one wins the "Golden Brain" award, and approximately $100. There's also something called "Seed of Trivia", where all you need to do is just submit a question, and if the staff of the show find it interesting, they'll research and find the answer for you. That's what this sniper thing was.

YouTube link to the video clip. (open this link in a new window, so you can keep reading the rest of this blog as it plays; I explain what's going on for those of you who don't understand Japanese.)

When you watch the clip, you'll see two hosts. They say they're about to show the "Seed of Trivia", and then a computer animation plays in which a giant seed rolls around. When that ends, the hosts are back, and they're reading the fan-submitted the letter. The letter basically says (paraphrased): "I've just started bowling, and I'm having trouble getting the strikes. I was wondering if a sniper could hit a strike by firing a single bullet into the pins". The laughs then laugh about the absurdity of this question and debate about whether it would be possible. The guy with sunglasses says it's not, but the guy with prescription glasses says they found one particularly skilled sniper.

Then a short movie clip plays in and a narrator explains what sniping is, and what bowling is, just in case you didn't already know. Then you see a guy on a laptop. They sent out e-mails asking various secret contacts if they knew of any sniper who would undertake this mission. Snipers from various countries (Korea, France, etc.) refused, but one sniper from Russia agreed.

So they flew to Russia to meet up with the sniper. At the agreed upon point, the sniper calls them on the cell phone and instructs them to move to a different location. So they go there to some abandonned building, and one of the guy comments that there's a chance they might all get assassinated here.

Finally, the sniper shows up and introduces himself as "Alexander". They ask him 3 questions. "Do you think you'll get the bowling strike?", to which he says he's confident. "Can you take off the mask?" to which he replies no, a sniper never reveals his face. "Why can't you show this mask", to which he replies "Don't ask again."

Then the narrator says that according to Russian law, you are not allowed to fire a firearm except in a shooting range, so the staff set up a bowling alley inside the shooting range, following the specs of 18.2meters from the line to the pins. The sniper is using a Mauser M98 and 7.62mm rounds. The bullet is 1/30th the size of the bowling ball.

So finally, the sniper enters the bowling alley and starts setting up. The sniper has to follow all the rules of bowling, which include wearing bowling shoes when stepping on the floor. The narrator then says smoking seems to be a ritual for this sniper before he takes a shot. If Metal Gear Solid thought me anything, the nicotine reduces the jitter in your hands. Then the sniper takes the shot.

The sniper hits nine, and then makes a big show of using special equipment to sight in on the last pin. But come on, it's a freaking 18 meters away. If you can't hit the last pin at 18 meters, you don't deserve the title of "sniper". This makes me think that the sniper was more into showmanship than anything else. I wonder why they didn't let him try again with another set of 10.

Anyway, they then ask the sniper to try to get a strike with an actual bowling ball, and he does.

Back at the studio, they check out the pin and note that the sniper fired a little to the right of center. They also mention that this was a very expensive project that took several months to complete, and that kids should not try this at home.

Then they give the "blossom rating", which shows how impressed the founder of this show was with this piece of trivia. This trivia receives the "Full Blossom", which is the highest award possible (for what it's worth, though, EVERY "Seed of Trivia" I've seen received the Full Blossom rating).

Finally, they show an URL you can go to to submit your own "Seed of Trivia" question.

Coincidentally I've been doing a lot of research into bowling these last few days because I've been working on a bowling game. When a professional bowler gets the strike, she usually does not do so by rolling the ball in a straight line right into the center pin. Rather, she will throw the ball to the right of center (or left, if she's left handed). The ball slides (contrast this will "rolls") along the lane for a short distance, and then starts rolling due to friction. When it starts rolling, the spin the bowler has placed on the ball kicks in, and the ball will suddenly hook inwards. So the center pin, and the pin just behind to the right, are struck from the right by a ball traveling leftwards, ideally right through the whole set of 10 pins.

It's very difficult to accurately simulate the physics of a bowling ball, because the mass distribution in the ball is non-uniform. Professional bowlers will buy bowling balls with various cores. Some cores are designed to enhance the hook, while others are designed to dampen it, depending on what the natural hook of the bowler is. These cores are also usually not sphereically symmetrical, and thus can cause the ball to behave in very surprising ways! Here are some links to images of bowling ball cores, along with the effects on hook: the Dyno-Thane Sniper Vendetta, the ABS Absolution, the Lane Master Kong, etc.

I've also been doing research on snipers; not because I'm making a game about snipers, but just for my own curiosity. Many people confuse the terms "sniper" and "marksman", but the titles have two very different associated roles in most military organizations. A marksman is simply someone who is very accurate with a rifle, and usually every squad will have a marksman as one of the members of the squad. A sniper, however, must not only be skilled with a rifle, but also intelligent. A sniper is often privee to top secret information, and may serve as a forward scout, gathering more intelligence, and in strategy assassinations of key figures, or destruction of enemy materials (e.g. satellite dishes, communication centers, mortar launchers, artilery, fuel supplies, etc.) A sniper will usually have training in stealth and field craft, whereas a marksman would tend to stick with his squad, which may involve tanks, where stealth is largely useless.

The world record for longest kill (at time of writing) was made by Canadian major corporal Arron Perry in Afghanistan. The target was at a distance of 2430 meters, which means that the bullet was flying through the air for 4 seconds before it hit its target, and dropped 44.5 meters due to gravity. The sniper had to aim 44.5 meters ABOVE his target, had to compensate for wind, and if the target was moving at the time, he had to lead the target by 4 seconds (i.e. aim ahead of the target, and try to guess where the target would be 4 seconds into the future).

In hostage situations, snipers usually no longer try to fire the weapon out of the assailant's hand. The problem with this is that it often causes the weapon to accidentally discharge, potentially harming the hostage. Now, a sniper will fire into the head of the hostage-holder, in an attempt to kill. But SIMPLY taking a headhot is not sufficient! A sniper must study human biology, and be aware of which part of the brain is responsible for motor control of the arm in which the weapon being held, and fire directly at that region. I.e. the sniper will fire at two different points depending on whether the hostage-holder is holding a weapon in the right hand or the left hand.

As I mentioned before, whereas a marksman is a "grunt" who is skilled with his weapon, a sniper has to be intelligent, and able to make decisions on his own, without the supervision of a squad leader.

I'll give an anecdote to give you an idea of the intelligence required to be a sniper. This sniper was instructed to assassinate an entire travelling enemy squad. The sniper lay in waiting at an ambush point until the squad showed up. The sniper could identify who the leader was by their body movements. In the field, the leaders intentionally wear the same uniforms as the grunts, so as not to make them such obvious targets for snipers, but human psychology usually gives them away.

The sniper fired two shots in quick succession. The first shot when into the leader's hips, immobilizing him. Then, as the leader as collapsing to the ground, the second shot when into the lower jaw, shattering it, to prevent the leader from being able to give orders.

Why didn't the sniper just kill the leader, you ask? If he had done that, the rest of the squad would have run for cover. Instead, the leader is on the ground, screaming in pain, but unable to make intelligeable sounds. So the rest of the squad rushed around the leader to try to protect him. That's when the sniper switched to an automatic weapon and just sprayed the area, killing everyone.

E-mail this story to a friend.
, , , , ...
1. Ringohime said:

First of all, you have only seen two episodes of trivia shows, so don't make a statement that might give people wrong impressions about the facts. Indeed it's pretty rare for Seed of Trivia to receive full blossom.

Second of all, they set up the whole bowling shoes, binoculars and stuff just for laugh, not because of rule, or because he really needed them.

Posted on Tue March 14th, 2006, 12:28 AM EST acknowledged
2. Nebu Pookins said:

When I said the sniper "has to" follow all the bowling rules, I meant "The crew probably asked him to follow the bowling rules as much as possible. He could have refused, but if he was an ass about it, there was a chance the whole segment could have been cancelled. Or perhaps the crew would go ahead and let him shoot without the bowling shoes. It was not made clear from the video clip how the sniper felt about being assigned this unconvential task, but his smile and good humour leads me to believe he is willing to play along."

I also wanted to mention in the post, but had forgotten, that the whole "hook" thing that's done in normal bowling was what made me curious as to whether it's really possible to get the strike with a single round, as you can't "hook" the bullet (AFAIK).

I think if a sniper had taken the challenge seriously, he might have done some more research before hand, perhaps consulting with a physicists and trying different targets on a computer model to try and see where he would have to shoot to get all ten pins. Then he'd practice a few times on actual pins, and once it became second nature to him, then he'd accept the assignment.

I also figure that the sniper wouldn't use a typical FMJ round, but probably a hollow point (a tip which expands on impact), or possibly even a slug (basically a bullet with a flat tip, instead of a pointy tip), to try and transfer as much energy to the pin as possible, rather than just penetrating it.

Since the hired gun may have been "playing along", I didn't want to pass too much judgement on him right away, but the idea that he hadn't prepared leads me to believe he may have been a marksman rather than a sniper (as defined above). In his defense though, I'm sure lots of people confuse the two terms, so when someone posts a "Help Wanted" ad for a sniper, probably lots of marksmen take a look anyway, as a marksman may suffice for the job described in the ad.

Posted on Tue March 14th, 2006, 9:06 AM EST acknowledged
3. Leafy Person said:
I clicked on your link but YouTube said: This video has been removed due to terms of use violation.
Posted on Wed March 15th, 2006, 3:27 PM EST acknowledged
4. Nebu Pookins said:
I clicked on your link but YouTube said: This video has been removed due to terms of use violation.

Yeah, sorry about that. Apparently, YouTube doesn't allow you to host video clips from television shows. I don't know where else to put it. Google Video has a similar restriction.

Posted on Thu March 16th, 2006, 9:27 PM EST acknowledged

You must be logged in to post comments.

Sites linking to this post: