2019 has drawn to a close and in the last blog (link), I talked about a few ideas myself and the Sniperworks team are looking at for 2020. And it’s not just to keep busy.
The Airsoft field, in my time in the game, has changed dramatically. Once upon a time, gun upgrades weren’t really a thing. For most players, airsoft was probably closer to reenactment; loadouts were generally copied from real world units, and the weapon was simply bought to match the outfit. An accessory. The weapon had much less of an impact, it was team play and good tactics that got you through. In recent years however the upgrade market has exploded, as have companies who have grown to satisfy the kit needs of airsoft players alongside real world applications. It’s big business, and gives us a lot more choice in terms of load bearing, accessorising our rigs, greater access to a greater range of camouflages, and a host of useful performance enhancing gadgets to give us the edge in combat. Or so the adverts say.
I’ll come back to weapons in a sec, but all this choice of kit I think has taken away the team aspect of the game, where most players were on an equal footing and needing more players to gain an advantage, and instead we’ve witnessed the dawn of the individual. Every aspect of his kit tailored to his own needs. Every detail designed to make him faster, more efficient, and more deadly. The ability to buy ability almost, through carrying multi shot grenades, night vision devices, high speed magazine access, and an array of lights and lasers. Multiple cameras positioned to capture all the action to show off on YouTube later to millions of adoring fans. Though there are still teams, and some damn good ones too, I think a lot of players on the field are out there to make themselves look good, either by the kit they’ve bought (and clinging onto the site photographer), or by playing rambo in game and trying to take whole teams on by themselves and hoping that other players believe their stories about it in the safe zone afterwards.
The modern day airsofter can be a total asshat. So how do we set ourselves up against them?
Compared to the other players, our sniper kit has remained largely unchanged. We have our trusty bolt actions, one shot at a time, a pistol and our camouflage to keep us hidden. Although the camouflage has evolved a lot and we do have lots of shiny new rifle parts (and a bigger selection of rifles), the performance still hasn’t evolved as much.
Our opponents have the advantage of mosfets now, allowing for lightning quick trigger response. HPA systems have in some cases been married to high capacity box or drum mags, allowing the player to hose down entire treelines in seconds. Advancements in hop units and hop rubbers are now giving some players ranges that are getting close to what used to be thought of as sniper ranges. There are plenty of good videos by the likes of Tu Lam and Travis Haley that look into the dynamics and biomechanics of running assault rifles, setting up more efficient loadouts to maximise it, and improving technique which is well worth a watch, and it’s interesting to see how they go about analysing their performance – do we even have a sniper equivalent?.
So, we’re facing a lot more firepower, smarter individual play and now seeing our own advantages reduced by advancements in technology; we’ve always been at the upper limit in terms of effective range* but now everyone else is catching up.
*Yes, some people are lobbing shots out to 120m on occasion, and it’s interesting to watch, but not as useful to play at those ranges in most games because it’s too inconsistent and the flight time is too much unless your target is going to sit and pose for you.
As a sniper, it’s more important than ever to play to our strengths, and I’m afraid range just isn’t one of them, as much as we’d like it to be. Our game is stealth. Hit and run. Lightweight setups that let us get into places others don’t go, working alone or in small groups. The shot nobody sees, disappearing into the terrain and reappearing unexpectedly somewhere else. Being smart about our shot choices instead of being trigger happy and cracking off headshots for YouTube afterwards. You’ve got to be much smarter than your opponent who has fire superiority. A lot of aeg players tend to be noisy, ill disciplined and less aware of their surroundings. Which means you need to be exactly the opposite.
At time of writing, unusually, I’m watching a film. It’s called Robin Hood, the 2018 version. The main character begins as a soldier with very little in the way of bow skills, fresh from war, but is taught to use a smaller bow, carrying multiple arrows in his weak hand for faster reloads, and to shoot more efficiently. He has his long coat cut down so that it doesn’t catch on things, and changes his style to become a thief, a far cry from a crusading Knight. It’s an OK film if you get chance to watch, but interesting seeing Robin Hood learn to adapt his kit and fighting style to become more effective. It’s the same sort of approach that legendary Finnish sniper Simo Hayha had and something I’ll definitely be looking at in the next few months – don’t just accept what you see “famous” airsoft snipers doing. Analyse your game, every game, and improve on it. For example, I run a leaf balaclava. Very common these days. Heavily camouflaged as you’d expect, same as most guys are using. But it does get in the way of my senses a bit, with things flapping down in front of my eyes when there’s wind, hearing a little limited because I wear a mesh mask too, so it’ll be getting changed because sometimes I miss things in game.
One last thing to finish on, while there’s still some wine left in the bottle and I remember. Sniper vs Spotter.
I see quite a few snipers now running in pairs, one carrying a bolt action and one as a spotter, although maybe not quite in the military sense. It’s usually someone with a fully automatic weapon, able to perform tasks that the bolt action can’t, like being able to engage multiple targets and without an MED. Great, because it gives the pairing an extra capability and more all round ability.
However, as I’ve said often in response to posts about starting out as a sniper in airsoft.
It’s not harder being a sniper, it’s just different. Different players suit different roles. Sniper isn’t an unlock or a difficulty level.
There’s always the guy who says to start with an aeg, flick it to semi and see how you go in case you don’t like it. But I think then you end up being less focused because you have the extra firepower (even if the gun is on semi, the switch is there) and will naturally end up making decisions that you wouldn’t with just a bolt action rifle. Kind of makes you too bold or too confident. The second issue would be noise – I know you can dampen it down a bit but repeated shots will give your position away eventually. And thirdly, most importantly, I believe both snipers in a pair – which is a very good idea – should have exactly the same capability in case one gets shot and heads back to respawn. Don’t confuse your role, master it. Jack of all trades, master of none as the saying goes…