A few months back, I got together with a few other players in the north to organise a new kind of sniper weekend event. Hosted by Raw War Airsoft Cumbria over the weekend of 9/10th Feb 2019, Sniperworks One was our test run at doing something a bit different…
There are, of course, a few different sniper-specific events held around the country during the year. From military training days (huge respect, but not always tailored to airsoft), to established elite series. We just felt that none offered us what we really wanted, and most sadly are caught up in a whirlwind of negativity and finger pointing these days, fuelled by keyboard warriors desperate for attention. Firstly, we needed to get away from all that crap and back to the game we love. Secondly, we wanted something that covered every aspect of being a sniper, back to basics, and from the ground up. The works.
Sniperworks as a project needed to tick more boxes than the others. It isn’t a competition for cheap badges, or fuel for YouTube channels. It’s a community driven learning experience for snipers of all ability levels, where we can get together with like minded players and draw on everyone’s experience to help coach each other. An opportunity to share tech tips, camouflage ideas and tactics, to take home afterwards and apply to our games, whether they be skirmish days or milsim events, to help all our participants improve their game, which is worth far more in the long run. A facebook group to stay in touch afterwards. And all without membership fees or entry requirements. An airsoft sniper school.
Before I get into the event report itself though, I really need to talk about the site…
RAW WAR AIRSOFT CUMBRIA
Situated near Aspatria, Cumbria, Raw War is an absolute hidden gem of an airsoft site, rarely heard from online, and this was my first ever visit despite living fairly locally. Conversations at the annual England vs Scotland game between a couple of us from the North East, and Raw regulars in the North West, led to us being given permission to use the site for a weekend to see what we could do. It didn’t disappoint.
It’s a mix of deciduous and pine woodland, offering plenty of sniper cover across very varied terrain, without too much low vegetation to obstruct shooting and moving. Everywhere you look are ditches and ridges to hide in or behind, fallen trees, and man made structures. The site has been built by the players over the course of the last decade (alternating game weekends with build weekends), and there are really solidly built huts, towers and buildings spread evenly across the terrain, giving plenty of scope for different games and objectives. There is an open space through the middle, with a D-Day landing style setup for practicing beach assaults, and a central base with a tower in the centre of it which is a great observation point. Honestly, if I had a sheet of paper, I don’t think I could design a better or more balanced airsoft site than this. It has everything, and plenty for us snipers to work with.
Beyond the environment though, what makes this site special are the people there. It is run by Crash and Ernie, two really good guys with a wealth of knowledge about airsoft, plenty of playing experience, and a genuine interest in delivering a good player experience. From arrival, they spent the whole weekend with us, including camping overnight (insurance reasons having staff on site), and the few of us that stayed shared an excellent evening with them discussing everything from games to gun tech, kit to pyro. A genuine pleasure, cut short by the cold and a pressing need to get wrapped up in sleeping bags.
Then there are the players. Myself and sniper buddy Aiden have played alongside a few of these guys in the past for England vs Scotland, and the site is run in a similar style. There’s no skirmish action as such, but a battlesim every game day, where these players practice rather than play. The buildings are built to allow them to train for building clearance at Catterick. The timed objectives keep them on the move. Everyone (bar ourselves) has radios. It’s like a community project rather than a business, striving to work together to ready themselves for that one big event. Despite some of us being outsiders, we were made to feel very welcome by everyone. Questions were answered, advice shared. And honesty abounded. One of the most frustrating aspects of being an airsoft sniper is watching down the scope as your shot hits a target, only to be ignored, requiring multiple follow up shots. Not so here. Every hit was immediately honoured; hand up and medic shouted. You just don’t see that enough these days.
There are many sites I read about now that see snipers as a problem. Some ban ghillie suits, in whole or in part. Some look to increase MED, or limit the power or weight of bb used. Few places seem to understand the role or allow us to play it. Not so at Raw; the locals seem genuinely intrigued and willing to take on the challenge of having snipers loose on their field. It helps them improve themselves and adds another dimension to their game. They don’t complain about it, they step up. It’s been a privilege to play alongside such a high standard of player, and to enjoy such good sportsmanship. That in itself is worth a trip here. And the feedback after Sniperworks from both owners and players is that they’re very happy to have us there too, which is a great feeling, and we hope to make it as regular as we can.
THE SNIPERWORKS EVENT
Myself and regular sniper buddy Aiden arrived onto site early on Friday evening, in almost hurricane conditions, and pitched tents in the shelter of the briefing room inside the safe zone. It was pitch black, and not good conditions to go for a walk in, so we decided just to bunker down for the night and discuss kit, and the day ahead.
SATURDAY – SNIPERWORKS ONE (Test Day)
Saturday morning saw little change in the weather at first, and we weren’t sure if anyone would make the trip. But slowly, the players arrived. Local players Jordan Tedham, Peter Simpson (who made this all happen and took up a role as photographer on the Saturday for us), Andrew Twigg, Kyle Cullen and AJ Reay, and then myself and Aiden Elliot from the North East, joined by Andy Makin of Point6 and Lawrence Newman from the Midlands, who both had experience of sniper events. Peter took the newcomers for a site walk on the morning, to get a feel for the layout and have a good look around. It was an impressive walk. The site has 13 “bases” spread across it, and our Saturday game plan was to try and utilise these as a way to explore the site and see how it played, using 8 snipers in 4 pairs :
We decided to stick with players we knew, assuming the experience would counter the local site knowledge, although we were later proved wrong on that. Know your environment!
The game was a simple King of the Hill style game involving clipboards. 5 were placed randomly in buildings by Peter, and the objective was to locate them and write the names and time of the pair entering. Players score points in 10 minute blocks, depending on how long they are held for, up to a maximum of 30 mins, to prevent any being forgotten about and left for the rest of the day. Points are also awarded for kills. So the general idea is that our snipers have to navigate the full site, recon the buildings to make sure it is safe to enter, then write the information on the clipboard. At that point, they have to choose whether to start moving to the next one to claim more points, or sit and secure the one they’ve just scored for the maximum 30 minutes. Meanwhile, 3 other sniper pairs are stalking the site looking for them and the other targets, so it means the players are constantly on the move, trying to stay hidden, and scanning for opponents. It worked out to be a little fast paced, especially the local players who raced from objective to objective, knowing the routes to take inbetween points, and knowing where familiar faces would be. The score at the end of the day was largely irrelevant however; the bigger picture was to take a good look at the site for future events and the Saturday day games will change accordingly. We got a good look at the environment for camouflage purposes, and had plenty of time before and after the game to show rifles and kit to each other, and share ideas.
The overnight camp is a really nice way to finish the day, but unfortunately the weather is still very cold and we have bouts of rain and hail, so it’s a case of setting tents up before dark, securing kit and then dropping back to the briefing area with Crash and Ernie for food (locally sourced pizza and American MRE’s…) and social. In future events, the camp will be an opportunity to talk in depth about what we’ve learned on the Saturday, ready for day two, and to look at and try out camp kit – the other side to airsoft weekenders.
SUNDAY – RAW WAR BATTLESIM
Day two presents a different challenge to the Sniperworks players. We join in with Raw’s battlesim. It’s a full day event rather than separate games, with a break for lunch. Two teams, playing to a high standard, compete to hold objectives at set times, scoring for holding them. Our snipers are given the freedom to operate as a separate entity for the day, to provide an added challenge to the game. We were there to be a thorn in the side, moving around the play and taking pot shots at players where we can, to keep them busy on two fronts. From the Sniperworks perspective, it means that we can take what we have learned on the Saturday and apply it to a battlefield situation on the Sunday. I’ve always felt that at standard skirmish days across the country, the snipers get pulled around very quickly in games, chasing flags and defending bombs etc. We rarely get a chance to step back and think about what we’re doing, or capable of doing, and this two day approach means we effectively get a classroom type session on one day before being able to play in a much bigger game which gives us the freedom to play the sniper role properly, with time to move between positions, adjust suits, and set ambushes.
Personally, I only score 8 kills on the Sunday, instead Aiden and I concentrate on staying hidden, having about 30 opportunities to actually reach out and touch people, but showing the restraint not to pull the trigger. This is probably the biggest skill as a sniper; not revealing yourself to the enemy. We could have simply got involved in a mass shootout, but with both teams having radios, we’d have been hunted down pretty quickly and without automatic weapons, we’d be heavily outgunned. It’s about playing to your strengths, which we’ve been testing out. In addition to that, we both now have a much clearer idea of what work needs done on our suits to blend in even better for the next event. I don’t take a single shot, remaining unseen, until 2:45pm, where with a pounding headache from dehydration, I go looking for a bit of action as an excuse to head back to the safezone to get all my headgear off and sit down for the last hour before packing up. It sounds boring, but if you can get the hide and seek skills down, the rest is easy.
The reaction afterwards from both Raw and Sniperworks suggests this has been a big success. Both parties I think have gained a lot from it . We’ll be running another one soon and would love to see more people there – the bigger the knowledge pool, the better. At only £30 for the full weekend, it’s an incredibly good deal compared to most weekenders and if you’re not a sniper, at least go and try this site out anyway for their game days. I’ll be keeping everyone up to date with future events, as well as doing a few more blogs on it so people can get a feel for what we’re doing. Any questions, just ask here, on Facebook, or Instagram.