What is the best airsoft sniper rifle? The eternal question. I’m going to put the case forward for the VSR platform. Anyone who knows me from social media will recognise the hashtag above. It’s not just a love of the rifle though, I do have reasons for recommending it and I thought I might as well explain in full here, as well as comparing it to some of the other popular models out there.
It’s actually a Cyma cm701. Better externals, was replacing all the internals anyway and the rifle with three mags costs less than an SRS piston. It has a Swiss Arms over barrel silencer – it’s not a G-spec.
There’s a lot of criticism now of this most venerable of platforms from people who have found newer platforms, peddled to the masses by YouTubers, influencers and retailers who broadcast every time a new shipment comes in like the arrival of royalty. But yet, for all the fancy polymer stocks, branding, adverts and supposed improvements, there is still little in the way of noticeable improvement in performance and for each new rifle released, the first question is still, almost always, “is it as good as a fully tuned VSR?”.
That performance has been the benchmark for years. The one that the rest couldn’t beat. The expectation of what a top rifle should deliver. And even if, after some barely scientific field tests, it has finally been beaten on performance by something exceptional, it’s still clearly among the very best rifles available. Yes, it does require work out of the box, especially the cheaper clone models. But remember that the rifles that were presented to us as already upgraded out of the box (SRS and SSG24 in particular) have already grown a catalogue of upgrade options, which makes you question how good they really were out of the box in the first place, and why they cost so much. Consider that the cheaper VSR clones are available from as little as £50 and can be upgraded, it does make you wonder. But, the advertising game is strong these days and it shows with huge numbers of people jumping on whatever the latest bandwagon is. So let me counter a few of the more common arguments against the VSR and present my case for it.
1. It needs upgraded to be any good
As above, most rifles do. A lot of the expense to be fair is upgrading the power, especially in the original Marui VSR models. Newer clones, like the WELL and Cyma versions, usually come in at around 450fps stock which is absolutely fine, especially given how little you pay for the rifle. A good barrel and hop setup is the difference between a bad rifle, and a really good one, regardless of what retailers might try and sell you otherwise. Thankfully, the range of VSR upgrade parts dwarfs every other sniper rifle platform yet invented, and means if something breaks, you’re not going to have to spend days trawling Google trying to find a replacement. This versatility and availability of parts is a massive plus. Yes, you do have to learn how your rifle works but I believe any sniper worth his salt will need to be able to understand his rifle anyway. And it’s not like we need to worry about gearboxes, mosfets and motors anyway. It is very simple.
2. It feels like a toy!
Yup. The VSR is very lightweight compared to some other platforms and some people don’t like the feel of it.
But that’s great. Why would you want to carry around a heavy weapon all weekend when you don’t have to? One of the biggest advantages we have compared to most other players is that snipers can run very light; we don’t need loads of ammo, mags, webbing and pyro. Done right, a sniper will be moving from shooting position to shooting position quickly and quietly, so as to stay out of sight and maintain the element of surprise. Additionally, if you’re out in the field for an extended period of time (basically, if things are going well), it’s less cumbersome.
If you want a solid feeling gun, one that is less toyish, get one made of machined steel and fill the stock with concrete. But personally, I wouldn’t give up even a slight competitive advantage just for “feels”.
You want weight? Get one of these. And take the bipod with you.
3. It’s too long
Women will never say that. Neither should a sniper. Especially anyone that falls into both categories. It’s not like you’re going to be doing cqb with it, and it’s not as big as a dragunov. If it really bothers you, get a G-spec. The advantage of extra length though is more apparent when you’re hiding behind vegetation – the barrel can protrude through the vegetation whilst keeping you hidden behind it. A trick the shorter rifles can’t do, because you’ll have the barrel finishing in the vegetation and shots clipping it.
4. It doesn’t look very tacticool
It’s true that the VSR is quite a simple, basic rifle. It’s based loosely on the Remington 700, which holds similar standing in the real steel world. But that’s what makes it so good at what it does. It’s very comfortable to hold, natural to anyone who grew up shooting air rifles, shotguns or even playing with sticks as toys guns as kids. This simplicity makes it much easier to manoeuvre around on the field. Unlike the SRS, which has a bolt that you need to pull up into your armpit by the way, it has no protruding pistol grip, mag or monopod that can get caught on undergrowth, or stop you getting prone properly, and this is for me the best feature about it, regardless of performance. It lets me get my position just right. And that can make the difference between being spotted, and staying hidden.
Look at that low profile. Think about how annoying it is trying to get dug into a low firing position with an M4 or an AK. Prone positions make us a much smaller target, and a less noticeable one. Sometimes you might find a branch in the way, or a gap between rocks, and need to get your rifle to rest on something. There are no obstructions, nothing stopping you setting it up exactly where you need it. Genius.
Also, yes it’s less realistic but those VSR mags really are a work of art. So small, you can carry them anywhere, and don’t require massive bulky pouches to carry them in – you can fit them into pistol pouches or a stock pouch on the back of the rifle for quick access (SRS mags anyone?). The 55 round mags are no bigger, and don’t stick out of the rifle, maintaining that streamlined shape while improving your ammo capacity.
Note, for anyone who has seen pics of my VSR before, the bipod is only on in the house when I’m working on it, at the range, or just taking pics. It’s generally unnecessary in the field because I don’t sit there like a machine gun emplacement. It’s also quicker to aim if you pick up a target in another direction.
It’s also a lot easier to apply camo tape to…
5. My favourite YouTuber doesn’t use it
Chances are they did until there was a need to promote something else for whatever personal gain. And I bet they would happily go back. My favourite YouTuber is fat but that doesn’t mean I’m going to start eating crap just to look like him.
Be yourself, don’t try and become someone else. It won’t make them come round to your house and autograph your butt cheeks.
6. It’s not as quiet as an SRS
I’d love to know where this rumour started. I’m sure it spawned from YouTube, and was one of the early selling points of the SRS which drew a lot of people in.
So, recently the guys at Sniperworks got right on it, got hold of a professional decibel meter, at 5cm from the barrel, and took it to the field to do some proper testing and throw up some numbers to compare;
Mk23 – 74-75 decibels
SRS – 74-75 decibels
VSR – 71-72 decibels
All were upgraded, the rifles with airbraked pistons etc, and pretty quiet as you can see if you know what a mk23 sounds like, so a very interesting and some might think surprising result (although I’m sure my VSR can go quieter than that but I wasn’t available for the experiment). A quiet rifle is essential. You don’t want anyone hearing where that shot came from.
7. A ****** is way better
Tanaka – The closest rival? It has more range, and legendary reputation. But shooting a human sized target at 120m on a range and landing 1/10 shots on target IS NOT THE SAME as hitting an actual human target who is moving around during a game, and you need to hit first time. Unfortunately with greater range comes greater travel time, and as spectacular as long shots are, they’re rare and any honest sniper will tell you theres a lot of luck involved. Range isn’t a sniper’s priority, accuracy is. If you can hit a human sized target 10/10 times at 60m, you’ll be successful. Be decisive. Make every shot count.
Also, running on gas means fluctuations in temperature will give fluctuations in performance, and switching gases to compensate will do the same. Having to carry gas is an extra inconvenience and as you run out, your shots will start dropping, potentially at a crucial moment. A spring VSR will hit exactly the same shot whether it’s summer or winter.
Every. Single. Time.
And protruding mags.
And its pretty rare, I’m sure some people are hoarding them…
A mk23 – Yes Brad, I’ll include the mk23. Just for you. Gas issues, as above, and for precision I’d prefer a weapon I can aim using two hands and be able to look through a scope.
No carbine kits, stop pretending it’s a rifle. It’s a secondary, not a primary and yes I do carry one anyway.
Check out onmymk by the way, excellent resource for secondary weapon perfection.
SRS – probably bashed it enough, but the armpit pull is awful and probably designed by an ape. The mags are huge, it is short but sits high which stops you hugging the dirt, it’s heavy, looks like a spring action bullpup aeg and WHY THE HELL WOULD ANYONE DESIGN AN OPEN BOLT? I don’t want a rifle that allows dirt straight into the workings and whoever did that needs shot. Yes, people have made mods now but it’s still not exactly sealed. Also, I’ve shot one but not reloaded, if you’re prone can you drop the mag out while keeping it on target or do you have to tilt it at angles to get it out?
All about the ergonomics fail. But it’s good on the range. And empties your wallet pretty quickly.
SSG24 – I remember seeing posts about people waiting up to a year to get one delivered. It’s a nice design, I do like the m24 but for an expensive out of the box rifle, it doesn’t half need some upgrades and seems to still have as many issues as any other rifle. Thankfully, Nov will sell you a solution. I think it comes with his patch as well if you want to replace your own. And I think it says “SNIPER” on it, in case nobody realises. Brilliant.
It is really noisy as well. And you can build one from an A&K m24 for less than half the price. See the Sniper Mechanic guide. I’m not hating on Novritsch here, its the product.
HPA DMR – I don’t want to have to carry an air tank with me for starters, and there are times when being attached to your rifle via some kind of hosepipe like a budget ghostbuster that ran through a surplus store is a problem. Spring bolt actions don’t need refills either, although I don’t know how long a tank lasts, I’d rather not find out in the middle of a weekend game. For the same reason, I’ve never been tempted to HPA my VSR either. I guess ergonomics and usability will depend on the gun you use.
Yes, they are quiet and you can hit lots of follow up shots (if you miss often) but a lot of issues I’ve had with hpa users are unfortunately borne from the minority who adjust the power levels after chrono to basically cheat, and I’d rather stay away from all that.
L96 – much less common these days. I actually started with a WELL MB05. Less upgrade parts and a bit bulky, the worst ones however are the ones with the proper mags that have feed ramps. It’s a little extra thing to go wrong.
Ares Striker – 🤔 Yeah, I’ll give you that. If they make more parts for it, and if it grows in popularity they will. Not quite as good performance wise, but it might get there one day. It does 55rd mags too, which, err, stick out a bit and are a bit bigger to carry.
And to summarise…
The VSR is old, it’s pretty basic looking, and it’s not in fashion any more which is probably why it has so many detractors at the moment. But it’s like the M14 – the US army still uses it because it does its job and it does it well.
An excellent performance coupled with massive upgrade potential and DIY mods, at a very low price compared to the other platforms, why wouldn’t you?
The VSR isn’t a good looking wall hanger of a gun that you’d apply loads of filters to and plaster all over Instagram, although I do. And sure, you can’t go bursting into a safe zone and expect it to turn heads as you show it off. Nor is it being promoted by YouTubers and snapped up by legions of drooling fans. It may even be beaten on the shooting range, although I doubt anything will beat it in the field. It’s a tool. The sleek, lightweight tool we need to be effective in a game.
But it’s been a staple of most snipers for years for a reason.
It just works. Which allows the sniper to get on with their work.