Trading Like A Sniper – What It Really Means
About three days ago, I was given an interesting question by a student. They asked the following;
“Out of curiosity, how many trades do you take in a month? Is it like sniper trades, as in one trade a week or so?”
After reading the question, I realized they had a confused assumption about what it actually means to trade like a sniper. There have been all kinds of articles written around this vein, such as trade like a sniper, not a machine gunner. It should be known that if there are machine gunner traders out there, they are HFT’s. And FYI – the top HFT firms are making millions, but I digress.
There seems to be this confusion trading like a sniper means you only trade a few times a week, perhaps even a handful a month. This is furthered by the idea of only trading on higher time frames, such as the daily and 4hr charts. But this is highly inaccurate of what it means to trade like a sniper.
Now, before we get into the subject and how it has nothing to do with time frames, I’d like to share a few interesting facts about snipers.
Most snipers going through training will fire 1000’s of rounds. This is referred to as their ‘rounds down range‘ training. General estimates are about 1800-2000 rounds over a 35 day period. If you do the math, that’s about 50+ shots per day every day for 35 days straight.
Now try and bridge the gap for the daily chart trader that only does 2-3 trades per week, maybe 5-6 per month. At that pace, a daily chart trader doing 10 trades per month on average would have to trade for +180 months (or 15 years) before they accumulate the same amount of basic training a typical sniper does in 35 days.
There is a reason in sniper training you do so many shots in a day. Because shooting only 2-3 per week doesn’t build your skill set. In fact, for 99.99% of all skill based endeavors, executing something only 2-3x per week will not build your skill set. Trading is no exception.
You cannot fire three shots in a week and expect to be proficient. You cannot do three free throws and expect to be a good free throw shooter. Why would you ever expect this to be the same for trading? However, doing something over and over again dozens of times a day does build your skill set.
Keep in mind, a sniper doesn’t just do their 2000 rounds and stop shooting from there. They continually train day in-day out to sharpen their skill, shooting dozens of times per day. Thus, before a sniper will ever be given that chance to make a single shot in a real world situation, they will have taken thousands of shots prior. Food for thought.
Sometimes you will have to pull the trigger quite often as a sniper. Some examples of famous snipers in history;
1) Simo Hayha – had 505 confirmed sniper kills in the Winter War, which lasted only 100 days. Do the math: 505 kills over 100 days = 5.5 kills per day. Obviously quite active on a daily basis.
2) Vasily Zaytsev – over 225 kills over a 5 week period during the Battle of Stalingrad: 225 kills / 35 days = 6.42 kills per day. Again, quite active on a daily basis.
3) Clive Hulme – Fought in the Battle of Crete (11 days), and is credited with 33 confirmed kills (of German Snipers!): 33 /11 days = 3 per day.
What does all this mean? When engaged in an active environment, they can and will pull the trigger many times.
Translating This to Trading
Anyone who is properly trained will find several high quality signals a day. Only someone who is improperly trained will be unable to trade below the 4hr or 1hr charts.
This idea of only trading on the higher time frames to be a sniper trader is a confused logic. If you have setups according to your system, you pull the trigger – period. If that happens 1x / day, or 10x / day, its irrelevant. And do you really think bank traders are being paid to sit on their hands all day to only trade 2-3x per week? Do you think prop-traders are only pulling the trigger a few times throughout the week? In what fantasy-land does that world exist?
I consider myself a ‘sniper’ in terms of trading. I observe, I stalk, I study my targets, and when the opportunity arises, I pull the trigger. On average, this happens to me 3-5x per day, sometimes over 10 trades in a really active day.
If you are actively engaging multiple markets, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be finding several high probability setups every day. Even if you just focused on forex, across the most liquid pairs daily, you could easily trade several times per day.
The ‘Noise’ Argument
One thing commonly heard from the trade like a sniper camp is anything below the 1hr chart is just ‘noise‘. I have one thing to say to this;
Put me in some strange country on a busy street where everyone is speaking a foreign language. Most of what I will hear will be ‘noise’. Now give me 6 months to learn that language, and it will no longer be ‘noise’, but a conversation full of information.
What is the difference between the noise I heard earlier, and the conversations I clearly hear later? Training. What seemed like ‘noise’ on that 30m or 5m chart will start to sound like a conversation – one you can translate.
You will not become a ‘sniper’ if you are only pulling the trigger 2-3x per week. To become one (or a highly trained individual at anything), it takes thousands of reps. And it should be known snipers become less accurate the longer the distance.
The ‘sniper’ difference comes down to training. If you do trade on the daily/4hr TF’s only, there are ways to accelerate your learning curve. So consider alternative methods to building your skill set.
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