Military Wiki
Charles Benjamin Mawhinney
Nickname Chuck
Born 1949 (age 72–73)
Place of birth Lakeview, Oregon
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1967–1970
Rank Sergeant
Unit 5th Marine Regiment HQ
Scout Sniper Platoon
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Other work U.S. Forest Service, Public speaker

Charles Benjamin "Chuck" Mawhinney (born 1949) is an Oregon-born American who served in the United States Marine Corps as a sniper during the Vietnam War. He holds the record for the most confirmed kills by a USMC sniper, having recorded 103 confirmed kills and 216 "probable kills" in his 16 months of action.[1]

Service in the Vietnam War

Mawhinney, the son of a World War II Marine Corps veteran, was an avid hunter in his youth. He graduated from high school in June 1967 and joined the U.S. Marine Corps later that year—after the deer season. He spent 16 months in Vietnam, starting in early 1968.[1]

On Valentine's Day 1969, Mawhinney encountered an enemy platoon and killed 16 North Vietnamese Army soldiers with head shots from his M14 rifle.[1]

"It was the ultimate hunting trip: a man hunting another man who was hunting me," Mawhinney told the Los Angeles Times.[1] "Don't talk to me about hunting lions or elephants; they don't fight back with rifles and scopes. I just loved it." Mawhinney sought to change the public perception about snipers, who he maintains save lives by sapping the enemy's will to fight. "My rules of engagement were simple: If they had a weapon, they were going down. Except for an NVA paymaster I hit at 900 yards, everyone I killed had a weapon," he said. Mawhinney's one regret was the one that got away. "I can't help thinking about how many people that he may have killed later, how many of my friends, how many Marines. He [messed] up and he deserved to die. That still bothers me."[1]

After a chaplain declared him "combat fatigued", Mawhinney returned to the states and served briefly as a marksmanship instructor at Camp Pendleton.

Civilian life and recognition

After leaving the Marine Corps in 1970, Mawhinney returned home to Lakeview, Oregon, married, and worked for the U.S. Forest Service until his retirement in the late 1990s.

Mawhinney told no one about his service as a sniper, not even his wife.[2] For more than two decades, his accomplishments as a sniper were almost entirely unknown—even Mawhinney himself did not know how his record compared to his peers.[1]

Mawhinney's M40-A1 rifle is on display in the National Museum of the Marine Corps[3]

In 1991, Mawhinney was thrust into the limelight when his exploits were recounted by fellow Marine sniper and author Joseph Ward in his book, Dear Mom: A Sniper's Vietnam.[4][5] In it, Ward credited Mawhinney with 101 confirmed kills. This was controversial at the time,[6] as it was generally believed that the 93 confirmed kills by the legendary Carlos Hathcock was more than any other American sniper. However, subsequent research showed that US Army sniper Adelbert Waldron actually held the record, with 109 confirmed kills. Mawhinney's documented total was found to be 103 confirmed kills, with an additional 216 "probable kills". A third Marine Corps sniper, Eric R. England, had 98 confirmed kills. Mawhinney was then recognized as the USMC sniper with the most confirmed kills, and the second most of any US service member.

After the revelation of his extraordinary record as a sniper, Mawhinney slowly increased his public profile. Following his retirement from the Forest Service, he began speaking at conventions and public events and attending national sniper shooting competitions.[7] Mawhinney is a spokesman for Strider Knives, which produces a knife bearing his signature on the blade.[8] One of these knives is awarded to the top graduate of each class from the USMC Scout Sniper School in Camp Pendleton, CA. As of 2015, Mawhinney continues to speak to classes of professional snipers in training.

One of the rifles he used in Vietnam is displayed in the Vietnam Gallery of the National Museum of the Marine Corps,[3] where it has been shown since its opening in 2006.[9]

An “astounding” shot by Mawhinney has been recreated for the History Channel special, “Sniper: The Anatomy of the Kill”.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Perry, Tony (2000-01-22). "A Sniper at Peace With His Duties". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-04-16. 
  2. "Top Ten Snipers: 8. Chuck Mawhinney". Discovery. Retrieved 2011-04-16. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "M-40 Sniper Rifle". National Museum of the Marine Corps Iconic Artifacts. National Museum of the Marine Corps. Retrieved 2007-02-04. 
  4. Ward, Joseph T. (1991). Dear Mom: A Sniper's Vietnam. 91-91988: Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-8041-0853-6. 
  5. Winter, LCpl Christian B. (April–June 2005). "Legendary Marine Recounts Life as Sniper". Marines Magazine. USMC. p. 35. Retrieved 2011-04-16. 
  6. Smith, Clint (January 2004). "Of myths and legends - Ranging Shots". Guns Magazine. Retrieved 2011-04-16. 
  7. Richard Garcia (2005-05-19). "2005 Idaho Sniper Championships". Retrieved 2011-04-16.  (Includes photos of Mawhinney at the competition.)
  9. Smith, Leff (2006-11-11). "A Salute to Duty and Sacrifice". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-04-16. 
  10. Baines, Christofer P. (2010-10-25). "Sniper's Prodigy Evades Limelight". Marines Magazine. USMC. Retrieved 2011-04-16. 
  • Kirchner, Paul (2009). More of the Deadliest Men Who Ever Lived. Boulder, CO: Paladin Press. pp. 189–201. ISBN 978-1-58160-690-4. 

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