Observations from Sniperworks One

It’s fair to say that Sniperworks One went really well for all parties involved. It’s also been a very interesting learning experience for us all and we’ve had plenty to talk about as a result. Even personally, as a sniper of plenty of experience at a variety of events, this has been a learning curve, especially as an organiser where I’ve spent a lot of time watching the other snipers and seeing how they’ve interacted with the environment as much as I’ve been playing. For this blog, I thought I’d summarise a few points from the many hours of discussion in the hope that future Sniperworks players might pick up some tips.

1. SNIPER WEAPONS – OK, in the past I’ve always maintained that a primary is a primary, and a secondary is just the backup. I have a very well tuned VSR capable of hitting big ranges, and in skirmishes I do play at range, using that advantage. The pistol is just for emergencies, for when I fuck it up and players get too close. At Sniperworks, due to the denser woodland and big MED (30M), the VSR was difficult to use. Most engagements were 1-50m, and my leaky mk23 mags stopped me from a lot of easy kills. So I would say the range is going to be the last consideration now. A rifle capable of accurate shots at 70m is more than enough, and a reliable secondary is a top priority. As much as I’d hate to agree with mk23 fanatics, you could do this entire weekend with just a good pistol (There you go Andy Makin, I said it). Stealth is also important  and getting those weapons running quietly is a big advantage.

During the weekend, we had rain, snow and a touch of sun. As per earlier blogs, I wouldn’t swap my spring rifle for a gas or hpa one at all. Refilling or having leaks or other issues is an extra hassle, especially when you’re out all weekend.

Another consideration, which I’ve touched on before, is bb weight, especially in dense woodland where wind is less of a problem. I ran 0.45, which is what my rifle is set up for for more open sites. But I hate the travel time on heavier bb’s. Opportunities to take shots are rare, and fleeting. Waiting 3 seconds for a hit can make all the difference. And for those who argue that heavier weights are less affected by vegetation – if my shot hits a twig on the way through, it doesn’t matter whether its a 0.20 or a 0.50, it’s going to alter course. More testing needed but I might test out some 0.36 for the next one.

2. GETTING CAMO RIGHT – Unless you live under a rock, leaf suits and crafting guides are everywhere and we had some really good leaf suits on show over the weekend, as well as capes and hood setups. Sneaky leaves galore, everything put together as you’d see in several expert ghillie building groups on fb or Instagram. The thing that we immediately noticed with all our suits, was that despite all the effort on textures and decoration, they were all far too vibrant for the environment.

The leaf suits we love so much are a bit too dark. The effect at all ranges was that you had a dark brown, human sized lump which was pretty noticeable. Sneaky leaves come across as very bright highlights in the environment too, for all their following. I took along a grassy hood, made from excellently grass coloured raffia, just to test as a headpiece. Even that seemed to colourful. I know some players will be thinking “yeah, but the environment changes throughout the year”, and yes that’s correct, but aside from strong greens in summer, which can be added, I’d say the suits need to be paler, with more washed out colours, so as to be less noticeable. If you look at ghillie building guides online regarding leaf suits, most people immediately wash them in dark brown dye, or dust them with dark brown krylon, to “dull them down”. But then that’s accentuating the problem, in this part of the world at least. Brown fabric dye isn’t the same as dirty, weathered brown. There were a few occasions where I might have missed some players, not that I could shoot them, but the strongly coloured suits just caught the eye.

Once I figure out a solution to this, I’ll post up. Definitely need some lighter brown suits on the market though. Having said that, and I was very critical of my own suit, there were plenty of situations where I managed to avoid detection despite players being less than a metre away, in one case having two milsim players shooting over the top of me without realising, simply by staying still and making slow movements.

3. MOVEMENT WILL ALWAYS BETRAY YOUR CAMOUFLAGE – Be careful with where you move and how you move. Although it’s easier navigating the site by walking down all the paths and roads side by side, it’ll get you spotted quickly. Myself and Aiden as a pair would bound across the site; one going first, maybe 20m or so, before stopping  going to ground and assessing the area. Once we were sure it was safe, a quick hand signal would get the next person bounding another 20m ahead.

Get low when you can, out of people’s sight lines. Use cover to hide your movements if possible. As a sniper, it’s not a case of trying to rush and take positions as quickly as possible. The skill is in moving around without being seen, and never try to shortcut. Make it a habit that you get into and it’ll become second nature as you play.

Slow, steady, stealthy.

Avoid sunlight. The light and the shadows caused by the sun will show your movement up even more than normal.

And plan your routes. I’ve recently seen an event promotion video lately of a sniper laid flat in a field, painstakingly dragging himself across the grass to approach a target building. Initially you’d look at it and think “well played”, but in the background is a hedgerow that would have shielded the players movement. The movement of the grass will also give you away if anyone is watching that direction. Assess your surroundings and look at where you need to get to before you move, then look at the cover on offer to get there. We rapidly closed an enemy down by using some old paintball barricades to shield the running. Transitioning rapidly can help as long as you’re not being watched, keep the opposition guessing your whereabouts.

4. AVOID OBVIOUS POSITIONS – Don’t look for perfect firing positions (the sort of position you’d pop a machine gun nest into to cover an area). Like an opening in the trees or a high position on a ridge. You don’t want to be somewhere where people would guess you’d be. You’re a sniper, not a machine gunner. Mass killing isn’t the game, staying undetected while taking pot shots is. Laying flat on the ground by a tuft of grass, or in a depression, will give you a small amount of cover and a lot of players will look around at head height or for positions behind walls. Another good one is at the base of a tree. Use the tree to cover your body and hide reloads, but get flat. Some experienced snipers will talk about “tree cancer” – hiding by trees. But that’s standing next to one and looking like an odd growth on a tree trunk (hence cancer).

5. DON’T RESTRICT YOUR SENSES – Eyesight and hearing are way more valuable than having a really nicely decorated pair of mesh goggles to hide them. The same goes for the rifle scope – make sure you can see through them clearly and cut veg out if you have to. Be aware of any “floaty” artificial veg around the eyes (raffia, ribbons etc) that can get in the way if the wind picks up. Ribbon is especially prone to getting in your way.

Hearing as well is vital to your situational awareness. I’ve gone as far as to cut holes in my leaf balaclava to allow sound in. You need to be able to hear footsteps clearly, as well as distant weapons firing and also your own impact on the environment.

Big, highly decorated headpieces look great but don’t let that take priority over being able to play. There’s a lot more to staying hidden than just camouflage.

I wish I had recorded it all tbh, would have made excellent podcast material. Hope it gives you some ideas, and if you can make the next Sniperworks event, get yourselves along!

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