Serial killers who used long range rifles to kill

Have there been any?

Does this count?
D.C. sniper attacks

Or the one in arizona?

Charles Whitman, the University of Texas tower shooter in 1966 used hunting rifles as a primary weapon. He was one of the first American spree killers of that type and quite proficient in lots of different types of firearms (a brain tumor may have been the driver behind his violent and erratic behavior even before the attack). His main tactic was sniping with hunting rifles from the tower. I honestly don’t know why more spree killers don’t use them. Hunting rifles are designed to kill human sized things at long ranges and they do it well if you know how to shoot.

In the U.S., this seems to be the first significant occurrence:1966 University of Texas clock tower shooting.

Ninjaed, I see.

Does Whitman fit the current definition of serial killer? I think the definition includes “killings take place over more than a month” and “significant gaps between the killings.”

The xamples given are of mass shootings. Serial killers usually kill one at a time over a long period.

I would include every person mentioned on this page.


I used the more correct term “spree killer” for Whitman but I am not sure what the OP is looking for in hindsight. People confuse “serial killer” and “spree killer” frequently.

The D.C. area snipers were serial killers. They targeted seemingly random people from the large trunk of an old car that had small holes drilled for sighting and firing while remaining concealed and mobile. They were very hard to catch for that reason. Whitman was a spree killer. He just wanted to target as many people as possible in as a short time frame as he could.

It is lucky that their aren’t very many sniper level serial killers because they would be very hard to catch. It is basically just hunting people like deer from a long distance. With some sense and decent concealment, nobody is even going to be able to tell exactly where the shots are coming from until it is much too late.

Yes, spree killer != serial killer

Robert Hansen was the latter.

What is meant by “long range rifle” though? All rifles are long range, unless it means you are trying to discount execution-style killings.

All rifles are not the same. They vary wildly in every detail. Some are more powerful than others. Some have a longer effective range. Or a faster rate of fire. Or a larger magazine. Etc. A modern sniper rifle is !- a “cowboy action shooting” carbine. The former being effective at ranges well over a half a mile, and the latter being good out to about 150 yards. And there are hundreds, if not thousands, of variants between those extremes.

The DC snipers seem to stradle the categories - They never took more than a couple targets at a time, spaced out over weeks. Not your traditional serial killers, but rather more prolonged than a typical ‘spree’ killing, too.

The single most popular hunting rifle in the United States, the Remington 70 / 700 family, are also routinely used as military and police sniper rifles. With relatively modest investment, they can be legitmate “1000 meter” rifles - one can be built for under US$1000.00.

On the other hand, you are HIGHLY unlikely to get a Model 94 chambered in .30-30 to purposefully hit anything over 500 meters, and realistically, unlikely to hit at over 300 meters.

Okay, almost all modern centerfire rifles are capable of being “sniper” rifles in skilled hands. As in, for most of us, the user is the limiting factor. But aside from quality and price of mods and accessories, a $200 Ruger in .308 is not qualitatively different from a .308 “tactical” military sniper rifle.

Cowboy action is mostly, if not all, pistol caliber carbines, along with revolvers and shotguns, so not typically categorized as rifles.

Looks like the DC snipers don’t count according to Wikipedia because “officially” their spree was 3 weeks and it needs to be at least a month.

Whitman technically did his killings in two locations (his wife and mother at home). I think still he would be a mass murderer but not a spree or serial killer.

Wikipedia is wrong. They were serial killers.

Okay. But this is GQ, so why?

I imagine that part of the reason killers of whatever ilk, other than paid ones, don’t really want to remain anonymous. What’s the point, if you can’t brag about it or see the gory details, or whatever it is that made you want to do it in the first place.

DC sniper didn’t seriously expect not to be caught and so he was caught in a short time. It was his game to see how long it takes to be caught, but the more risky the better…

Not sure that its the actual duration of the killing period - why does one more week flip it over ? Well that just means they were caught before the required duration… Its more to do with the psychology of it.
Perhaps spree means ‘the end of days’… a goodbye message., and ‘serial killer’ means intends to keep on keeping on … with normal life too .

Again, a bit of an over-generalization. Make that “Many” and you’re closer to correct.

Kind of right - and kind of wrong. The right accessories (Read: $$$) can give a middling marksman an extended reach, and some rifles simply CANNOT maintain a tight angle - Many “Tactical” rifles are 2 or even the 3 minute-of-angle (MoA) guns. If you’re looking for anything like marksmanship, 1 MoA is the generally-accepted minimum level of mechanical capability. No matter how good a shot you are, and no matter how many accessories you buy, you can’t make an imprecise rifle into a sniper’s weapon.

Price and maker are not any guarantee of precision (or lack thereof).

The BATFE would disagree. Pistol-Caliber Carbines are most certainly rifles.

That also dimississes a wide range of lever-action rifles in full-up rifle calibers which are popular in the CAA crowd. .45-70, .50-100, etc. are very definately full-fat rifle cartridges, and quite capable of dropping a bison or bull moose, but are still in the category I’d loosely refer to as “Brush Guns” - heavy, relatively slow bullets that follow rather looping trajectories.

Minute-of-Angle (MoA) is roughly one inch of deviation at one hundred yards. That’s not quite exactly right, but as a working approximation, it’s close enough.

Why limit yourself, mike? Why not indict every soldier in every war since the invention of the rifled musket (circa 1850)?

To quote Rudyard Kipling

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, 'ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of 'eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of 'eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

A serial killer is typically a person who murders three or more people, with the murders taking place over more than a month and including a significant break between them. Different authorities apply different criteria when designating serial killers, while most set a threshold of three murders, others extend it to four or lessen it to two.