On days off I spend hours on end looking through pictures of ghillie suits, leaf suits, camouflaged rifles and webbing setups. There are now thousands of airsoft snipers posting pics on social media. A lot of them now are taken indoors and in poor light so it is sometimes hard to judge their effectiveness in the environment. But there’s a few things I’ve noticed with this explosion of ghillie making.
Firstly, there are some incredibly good suit makers out there. Experienced players I’ve followed for years, like James Bailey, Ghillie One, Lee Wade, Snake and Brad Naus, through the Hunteering and Sniper Ops groups. The experience shows in the guys that have been doing this for years and know how to put a suit together and get it right for their site. There are some guys who have watched and learned and done it really well, and then there are lots of players who buy leaf suits and glue thousands of cheap leaves on it and hope to emulate the masters. What there is a lack of is adaptation to their local environment, instead copying others in the hope that it works. In short, a leaf suit isn’t a solution to everything. And it has it’s drawbacks.
As an example, my regular site is predominantly grass, although the snipers there have to play in the treeline and bushes for most games. We have to try and match both terrains, which means a leaf suit in the grass stands out as a big brown blob of the wrong vegetation. Traditional jute grass suits then catch on all the brambles and branches and result in being caught on everything. We mix and match leaves with raffia; I have a leaf suit base with a raffia grass effect viper hood to throw over the top.
So what makes an effective suit? I was invited to join a sniper group on Facebook and one of the early threads had a comment from the group admin that colour didn’t matter on the suit, it was all about the decoration which would disrupt the shape. I left.
I think the most important thing to get right first is matching the colours, something I’ve struggled with myself because leaf suits are always far too dark and highlight me in dead grass (need almost a multicam colour pallette). If you can match the colours, you’re hidden. A bit of decoration on your suit at that point will help break up the shape, but won’t do all the camo for you. It’s a bit like running US M81 woodland in the desert, or strolling through a grassy field in desert DPM. As much as you believe in the pattern, and see people online using it, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you.
Followers of Ghillie One on Instagram or Facebook will notice how much he uses spray paint on his suits first to match the colours to his environment. Another Facebook page worth a look is Le Covert Sartorialist. He has excellent videos on getting the colour right, and even without anything added on, his suit disappears.
The next point is Usability. Some suits I see are so heavily laden with leaves, ivy and artificial plants that it must be nigh on impossible to have a good field of vision, clear hearing or breathability. I know in the past I’ve used a little too much raffia and ribbon on my rifle and head area that in wind, it all blows up into my face or in front of the scope. Some players will say just to keep adding more and more vegetation, but there should be a limit before it starts to impair your ability to play.
Mixing and matching camo is an old practice but not often seen with full leaf suits, which when you look at them, are made from the same pattern material repeated all over. We tend to go for the all-in-one look, presenting ourselves as one big mass. I was going to say uniform, but obviously most suits are very randomly decorated. However, humans cast a distinctive outline and from a distance, using the same pattern all over will highlight that 2×1 profile. Having a different pattern or texture pants splits that into two less human 1×1 blocks, cutting the player in half. It may be worth considering just running BDU bottoms which may survive crawling through undergrowth better than fragile leaf suits.
On the subject of breaking things up, another consideration is the rifle. I saw yesterday on Instagram a very experienced player with a superb leaf suit posing in the woods with his (tanaka?) rifle, which had been taped using a roll of camo tape. As nice as the stuff is, its uniform across the length of the rifle and was lighter in colour than the suit, which highlighted a long, rifle shaped object. It would be a better idea to split the rifle in half, with a dark hal and a light half, to disguise that distinct silhouette.
Sticking with the rifle, given that it’s often the thing you see first on a sniper, make sure you disguise any perfect circles such as the tip of the barrel or silencer, use cloth to cover the end of the scope (but cut a hole in it… ) and try to disrupt the straight edges of the barrel as much as possible. A nod to my mate Snake – he used some sort of brown putty to mould the barrel into a branch looking object. Also, regarding the tape. I do like tape because no matter what brand of “matt” paint I’ve tried, they all reflect light and give a sheen to the rifle, which stands out. I’ve used the wtareproof Jack Pyke style tape and it’s a good pattern, but still a little bright in the light. I’ve preferred cloth camo tape in the past but the patterns aren’t as good and the cloth doesn’t take paint very well. I’ve got a solution though which I’ll post up in the next few weeks..
Other observations; boots. Boots are a giveaway. If you’re going to play sniper, don’t be afraid to customise your boots like you would your suit. If they’re brown, use some tan spray paint. If they’re tan, some splashes of dark brown. INCLUDING THE Soles (don’ rely on them being muddy all the time. Just to break it up. Hoods on suits are good because you can move your head without causing the whole head shape to move (movement is bad remember). But be wary of the shadows cause by the recesses either side of the head. You’ll need extra hanging material to fill that space in. Watch for bare skin – try to use long baselayers underneath and make sure to craft your goggles to cover around the eyes. Add material to goggle straps too because most of them unfortunately are black.
Oh and flat, dyed leaves. Flat leaves are awful. There’s a guide in this blog somewhere on Crafting Leaves – get a candle out and melt them into shapes. Please.
And with all that, I guess I’d better start all my kit again. Again.