As I write, it’s Christmas eve and like hell am I watching Santa films. Whilst enjoying a bottle of wine, I thought I’d reflect on 2018 in the world of airsoft sniping. And why I can’t wait to see 2019.
I think on the whole, as a community, it’s been an absolute disaster, particularly through social media. There are a few big groups within sniping here in Europe, although we lost much larger ones. I don’t know if it’s a case of different groups catering for different “styles” being that we all build ghillie suits (or camouflage systems depending on your preferences) and want to learn how to perfect our rifles, or whether some groups are more like fanbases for rival personalities or teams, but there’s been a whole lot of unnecessary shit flying about between some of the mouthpieces of these masses. Although the die hard followers have joined in the furore in an attempt to garner likes for their (sharing of) opinions, the rest of us have looked on with a degree of embarrassment while the playground spats between groups have elevated from name calling, whining, playing victim and reporting, to YouTube videos and hate groups, to rather more shocking escalations outside of Facebook that are probably best kept private. Unfortunately for the majority it has put some of our speciality retailers (upon which we all rely) under undue stress and affected sales as rivals used the Facebook reporting option to close down business pages, which affects people’s income. There’s no justification at all for that. Facebook already looks down on airsoft as a whole and all we’ve done is give them more ammunition, if you’ll pardon the pun. There’s nothing to be gained from any of it, certainly its not going to boost sales elsewhere of bbs, suits or awkwardly shaped springer bullpups. We’ve had genuinely good innovators ripped off with copycat designs by other companies. 3D printing has good uses, but often ill intent to plagiarise.
Aside from that, for anyone on the outside looking in, our community must look ridiculous and unwelcoming. 2018 has seen less of the tutorial videos that help us all out, or YouTube series of skillful gameplay. Instead we have to suffer the negatives, like endless cheater videos (yes we all know it happens anyway; infuriating as it is it’s not an attraction), bedroom nazis then whining on for an hour thinking they’re doing good in the world, and sponsored sales videos. I’ll be brutally honest, I hate gameplay videos at the best of times. Much of it now is far too heavily edited, making it difficult to watch, and aimed at less analytical minds who just want to watch people being shot in the head. Which gives other players on the receiving end an opportunity to complain about it afterwards (inside MED, aimed at a part of my body I didn’t agree to first, full auto with that bolt action, don’t like the brand of ammo etc etc). And bluntly airsoft game videos really don’t translate the experience of playing very well; they fail to capture the atmosphere and we’re left with a very toyish and amateur looking hobby.
Our groups are toxic, refusing to answer questions “because we had it eight months and four days ago and rather than answer I’d prefer to waste energy telling you that instead of scrolling past”. People, fellow players and snipers, are banned left right and centre rather than welcomed for their input; provided the input isn’t trolling or just being a dick. It’s lot of shit we’ve dropped on ourselves this year and I hope that in 2019 there’s a change for the better.
I also hope that people next year, who pay to go and get shot, stop whining about getting shot, whether it be in the head, hand (fuck knuckle hits), or wherever. The argument of “don’t aim for the head unless its all you can see” is invalid – either it’s OK to headshot or it isn’t, you can’t select different circumstances. Me? I prefer being shot in the head to anywhere else on my body. It has the most protection and hurts least.
There are far bigger obstacles to overcome together, rather than squabbling amongst ourselves. One of my other interests outside of airsoft is gaming, and a recent conversation with a friend revolved around the modern “pay-to-win” culture which has left us struggling to compete online without spending money. I guess airsoft is slowly veering down that route now. Paintball and speedsoft are leaving their mark, and although I don’t disagree with either discipline, there is a greater concept of winning and losing, such that amidst our skirmishes now there’s a definite feeling of “I have to win”, resulting in a lot more cheating because the result somehow matters, and a lot more investment in kit with the belief that it does make you a better player. HPA systems, expensive internal upgrades, mag-emptying rates of fire, real steel clothing and equipment perhaps needs justified by a seemingly better performance, delivering that win at all costs, or simply being used to hurt other players with hot guns or unnecessary weight of fire. Us, with our single shot bolt action rifles, are put at a great disadvantage and with nobody seeing where that single shot came from, see less hits taken when nobody is there to witness.
There have been some positives online too though. I’ve been welcomed into some really good sniper communities, hidden from prying eyes, where in smaller and uninfluenced groups there’s been an incredible amount of respect and good advice, which shows there is still hope. I’ve had hundreds of great messenger conversations with players across the world who have dropped by for a friendly chat and learned so much from them and hopefully shared good ideas back again. I’ve met lots of people with good, new ideas, ready to challenge the old order or simply a fresh look at old problems.
From these more positive communities, I’ve been able to organise a series of Sniper weekend events at a massive woodland site in the North West of England, that will hopefully be a serious alternative to the current calendar, and that’s one of my big projects for 2019. There will be no winners or losers, or patches or badges. There will be no pass or fail, where you get measured up against veteran players before being able to join their ranks. These events will include a full spectrum of activities and short games designed to help you figure out what you need to improve on, and get you the help to get to that level. They will give you the opportunity to improve the level of your game and take that back to your next skirmish, and that will hopefully prove more valuable than a title or token. It’s not something led by me, but everyone who attends (and there are some very experienced players), to help assess each other and provide solutions, be it rifle tech or camouflage or gameplay. As mentioned, it’s a weekend away so there will be some camping involved and a chance to chat around the campfire. I guess it fills a void between Sunday skirmishes and “elite” level games. There are no costs other than the site; it isn’t a business opportunity, nobody is charging for knowledge or the upkeep of any association.
I’ve had a really good year with the blog too. Had some good responses to things, especially the vsr silencing guide to level the playing field against gas gun snobs (it doesn’t really level it though. Spring is more consistent in all weathers but hey). It’s getting up to 5,000 visits a month and I really hope at least one person finds something useful each month. Although I don’t have brands chucking freebies at me to review, I’ll keep showcasing anything I find that’s worth having, and happily criticise anything I get hold of that’s a waste. Joys of independence.
I’ve been watching a couple of guys at my local, who live very close to me, taking up sniping and developing week by week. I’ve avoided mentioning names in this blog because there are too many to add, but you two know who you are. I’ve watched one who turned up only a matter of weeks ago with a very basic rifle and cheap leaf suit, but outplayed everyone on site, lasting for hours undetected and being a pain in the arse for any opposition. What I noticed was that, without a top end rifle and suit to rely on, this guy had to rely on himself instead. Impeccable positioning, working harder to stay hidden and having to work harder with his rifle was inspiring, and perhaps an important lesson for all of us who have perhaps got a little complacent.
Outside of sniping, I finished the year playing for England vs Scotland at Catterick, which was a cqb weekend and I freely admit I did enjoy the change of pace, and learning to operate as part of a unit (which I don’t get much practice at). It won’t replace the love of bolt action rifles, or sneaking around sites, but I’d like to do a bit more purely to gain some skills so you may well see me with an m4 more often. Even snipers can’t live in isolation. Thank you to the Norvern Monkeys for the trip away, BD and Dirty Dog Airsoft for the regular exercise at skirmish, and my hidden guys for all your help.