After a failed attempt to launch the format in the north east, I headed down to West Midlands Airsoft to give it a try on their debut event.
VSR, Leaf suit and webbing from the event.
Skirmish sniping will only take you so far. For the most part, it’s objective driven chaos (not on any sites part, I must add), dragging the sniper into bad positions and engaging unnecessarily. Sniper Ops is where you test yourself to the limit, operating against other sniper teams which means you really do need to keep your head down and be very aware of your concealment in the environment. To challenge us further, a full skirmish day would be taking place over the top of us. Not enough? A paintball skirmish too (separately), which gave us a lot more obstacles; they were all instructed to engage us if seen…
After camping in the local woods the night before, we got to the site and kitted up fast – snipers needed to be out and deployed before the skirmishers hit the site – which was a shame because the safe zone at West Midlands is extremely good and I wish I had time to chat to staff and players. But we had work to do.
The primary aim of a Sniper Ops event is the location of navigation points (“Navs”) by pairs of snipers, while being hunted by a counter sniper (and on this one, two lots of skirmishers at their local – we didn’t even have knowledge of the site). Ammo is extremely limited to 20 shots for the rifle and 20 in a pistol, to prevent the game being a firefight. Every shot needs to be carefully chosen and teaches restraint and discipline. 3 points are awarded per nav, 1 point per kill, and 1 point per player extraction – in the final hour of play, snipers need to get to an extraction point, in this case a helicopter (an actual helicopter!)
We were given coloured plastic plates to hang from trees at locations chosen from set points on a map. 3 navs plus one dummy location where there was nothing, to keep the opposition guessing. The aim was to record which coloured plate was at each location, although alternatively codes could be written on the navs. While navigating between these points, we had to be alert to any noise or movement that could have been other sniper operatives, skirmishers, or local wildlife. This really makes you aware of just how much noise you make while moving, how visible you can be despite a good suit, and how much kit you shouldn’t be carrying, and I’ll probably be adjusting my loadout later as a result.
The vegetation at West Midlands Airsoft is extremely thick, dominated by rhododendron bushes and very difficult to move through at all. The bulk of the day for myself and my partner was spent face to the floor, dragging ourselves across the dirt as slowly and quietly as we could. It’s far removed from playing as some kind of squad marksman at a skirmish, and still different to a real sniper role as taught on sniper courses. What you do get is perhaps the optimal use of a sniper within an airsoft field; learning to stay hidden even at extremely close distances, having full awareness of what’s going on around you, making decisions to keep yourself alive, and carefully selecting kills that don’t give you away, and hit first time. By the end, half of my camouflage had gone after getting caught or dragged along the ground. We were soaked through from rain and puddles, but thankful for what we’d learned along the way. The result was less important, and all players were happy to critique each other’s equipment and tactics, which helps more in the long run.
I’d recommend it to anyone who actually wants to work on their sniper skills, rather than just adding a bolt action to the wall display, and I will try to get more Sniper Ops events organised – drop me a message on Instagram (stipwarne) or Facebook (Stip Warne). In the next couple of blogs, I’ll share some tips from the experience and go through my loadout.