In the Ural Mountains of Russia, a young Vasily Zaytsev honed his skill as a marksman by shooting at deer and wolves. His prowess as a sniper first revealed itself at age 12 with an impressive feat: a wolf dead by a single rifle shot.
After attending construction school and some accounting classes, Zaytsev served in the Soviet Navy as chief petty officer. When the Germans invaded, he transferred to the Army as senior warrant officer and volunteered to go to the front lines.
Zaytsev’s tactic of covering one vast area from three points, with a sniper and a scout at each outpost, is still in use today. During the Battle of Stalingrad, he killed 225 German soldiers and 11 enemy snipers.
He won at least 16 medals or honors for his service in the war, and the rifle he used in Stalingrad is in the Volgograd Museum of Defense.
Zaytsev died on December 15, 1991, ten days before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He lives on in pop culture, however. Actor Jude Law portrayed Zaytsev in the 2001 film Enemy at the Gates, and the video game Destiny pays tribute to Zaytsev and his Soviet-era rifle.