Apologies for the break in Thinkings, as you may have noticed I’ve been busy writing a big Ghillie Guide which I hope helps a lot of people who are starting the sniper role, or are having issues with their camouflage and are just looking for ideas. The aim is to get my entire knowledge and experience down where its accessible to all; I hate players who try and either keep things to themselves, or charge for the information. Community is essential.
Anyway, rather than looking outwards for this week at what’s going on in the world of airsoft sniping, I’m going to be looking inwards and sharing what I’ve been up to the last few weeks and what’s in the pipeline for early next year.
First up, as winter draws in, it’s prep time for Stirling Airsoft’s England vs Scotland. It’s not as a sniper, but I do love being part of a team for big games and it’s always nice being away with friends.
I’ve been a part of the England team for a few years now and there are previous articles on the experience elsewhere in the blog. It might sound stupid, but prep usually begins about three months in advance for my team and another from the North that makes up the bulk of the England team. The main reason for the prep time, is because a lot of us don’t play too regularly and there’s a lot of tech work to be done.
(no, they’re not sniper rifles and i do find all these batteries and wires extremely confusing. Top two are being fixed for a friend and teammate)
Most of us will run the same kit we ran the year before, maybe with a few additions, but it always evolves and we’re always looking at what worked and what didn’t from the previous year. It’s a good mindset to keep improving despite winning, and in airsoft that invariably means kit. Here’s how I’m setting up this year…
1. THE GAME
The game is set in a town built and used by the British Army for training. It consists of around 50 buildings and they form the bulk of the objectives. The game lasts a full weekend, aside from a welcome uninterrupted sleep on the night from 11-6. At the start, we’re given a map with all the buildings numbered, and on the reverse is a list of objectives hour by hour, usually two or three buildings and occasionally a side objective. On the hour, if you completely control the specified building, you score the points. If it’s contested, half points to each team. What this means is that there’s no breaks in play, no patrolling or downtime. It’s fast paced, highly competitive and you have to be able to keep it up all weekend with and against players of a very high standard.
Oh yeah, and it’s in December and this part of the UK is a magnet for shit weather. So do all that while soaking wet and freezing cold. And half of it is done in the dark.
2. THE WEAPONS
I’ve tried running the VSR in previous years but with little success. Although there’s opportunities to pick enemy players off here and there, set up from window positions, it’s unfortunately not really doing much for the team in terms of scoring points. It’s cqb, and needs weight of fire and throwing yourself at objectives.
Gas guns don’t do well in the cold, so I’ll be packing aeg’s from the collection. My primary is a boneyard Classic Army M15a4 that I picked up earlier in the year.
Inside was held together by sellotape (no joke, not electrical tape) and the whole thing looked pretty battered, and as you can see had been loosely set up like a Black Hawk Down era rifle. I do love BHD, and saw an advantage in running a very basic carry handle style M4 after a wet event in the summer left me wiping optics every ten seconds to be able to aim. I’ve swapped the chunky M4 handguard for a real steel XM177 version because it’s slimmer. It’ll be carried on a two point sling and have a torch fitted with tape, and that’s probably all I’ll do with it. I don’t need extra weight or gadgets. Still work to do internally but I’ll do more of a feature on it once that work is done.
Last year, the weather really got to my regular cqb M4 and I was very thankful to have a backup gun until it dried out.
It suffers from low power (about 270-280) but is fine for close quarters, and is ready to go, as is my 416, which was my very first airsoft gun.
Also ready to go, but there’s another I’ve got on the table that will go instead IF I can fix the internals in time. Meet the MC51…
In real steel terms, after the successful Iranian Embassy siege, the SAS demanded a 7.62mm version of the mp5. From what I read, it was dropped as a project due to excessive recoil, but images exist from the SFSG operating MC51’s in the Afghanistan conflict. Old school cool, and with a retractable stock, its ideal for the loadout.
I won’t be carrying a pistol because gas, and because its an extra thing to worry about.
3. THE LOADOUT
For this one, we’re playing (loosely) desert forces, so lots of multicam and bits of tan, AOR1 etc.
Last year, for the 25th anniversary of the events of Black Hawk Down (I’m a big fan), myself and Sniper buddy Aiden – callsign Bubba – decided to don US tricolor desert shirts as a tribute. In the summer, we reinforced this with a Black Hawk Down themed event run by Stirling, and this year will be mixing it up with a Task Force Black inspired kit. I love the slighter older modern kit from the 90’s and early 2000’s before everyone adopted multicam based kits. Bubba is a real Task Force Black enthusiast and his kit is as authentic as you can get. As a budget player, I’m bodging together something similar without spending on details. Surplus kit from this era is available cheaply and frankly the real steel is much more rugged than all the plastic-heavy clone airsofter gear on the market.
Bubba rocking his TFB kit. Note the L119a1 – it’s a beautiful rifle he’s spent ages getting right. He says it’s “probably more of a heavier loadout that can be worn for long games. The plate carrier design means you can keep lots of kit on a low profile. Although most of it is for looks, it can be an effective rifleman like setup for longer games (England vs Scotland)”.
I’ve always maintained that webbing and load bearing will make or break your loadout. You need to be able to carry what you need, somewhere you can get to it, but too much will weigh you down. Bubba has persuaded me to get a genuine Blackhawk Helivest, as used by special forces during the Task Force Black era. Its a light plate carrier without any side molle, so you can move your arms more freely and you still get plenty of carrying capacity. In previous years I’ve run a lightweight chest rig, which has been amazing, but leaves you without much capacity to reload etc in the field. I wanted something I can add pouches onto the back of, for extra ammo and pyro without being forced to return to the safe zone to resupply.
Four mags should be enough to get me through most encounters and has been enough for previous years. Communications are a big part of any successful team, so I’ll be running a baofeng uv82, which is programmable and can switch between two channels at the flick of a switch on, the back of the vest, along with a supply of water. The only other things I’ll be taking apart from ammo supplies on the rear, will be a torch and pyro on the front and the map in a flyye arm pouch. I figure as long as I can keep ammo going into the gun, I can keep fighting.
There are a lot of tight spaces to get through, so a belt rig will be a last resort, and likely just a belt with a dump pouch on it. I have a Kombat UK dump pouch with useful side pockets for carrying flashbangs – superb bit of kit and the best dump pouch I’ve had.
Multicam pants with a tricolor acu-cut shirt complete the kit, and one tip from previous experiences is to carry spare sets of gloves – it’s a pain trying to do everything with cold wet gloves on. Dry gloves can make a big difference. And always pack a microfibre towel in your safe zone bag to help keep yourself a bit drier and a bit warmer.
Beyond this game, I’ll be using the experience to work on a sniper/recon loadout to work alongside big teams at weekend events, rather than running solo. Being able to operate stealthily behind enemy lines, providing intel and being able to engage in guerilla warfare. It’s something different…
Getting back to pure sniping, I’m planning a new camouflage system based on a set of flecktarn BDU’s instead of a leaf suit. Leaf suits are good but a little too delicate for some situations. The lightweight leaves are usually set in straight lines and the pattern is sometimes a little too repetitive. Along with some of the other Sniperworks team, I’ll be looking at Haloscreen and cotton techniques for a more versatile suit.
Rifle wise, I still believe a slightly lighter weight than 0.45 will improve shooting. The super heavy bb’s we use at the moment take forever to reach a target, especially if it’s moving. I know there are a lot of groups out there chasing 100m+ shots but the reality is that in combat, your target will be long gone by the time the bb gets there. Its fine for target shooting, but not as useful during a game. The emphasis should be on movement and closing the distance down while remaining hidden. Hopefully after Christmas I can get down to some serious range testing.
Out of interest, if anyone has anything useful (airsoft related) planned as a Christmas present I’d love to hear about it in the comments.