New year, New webbing. I couldn’t find a fridge magnet with that on unfortunately. A recent shopping trip out with my sniper buddy Aiden though led to some new ideas for load bearing.
Surplus shopping by the way. Obviously. And it was a couple of hours walk to get to a good one, so we had plenty of time to discuss new ideas.
We have rifles, we have camouflage. And huge amounts of information on both. What I find makes or breaks your loadout though is the load bearing and there’s very little information on that other than belt orders, which I despise for the impracticality for the sniper role. Although most airsoft players love the look of a fully kitted up plate carrier, as a sniper you have a whole different set of requirements. Weight and size are key considerations, and you need something that works when you’re dragging yourself through the mud. In the past I’ve gone with chest rigs, and my Dutch army rig which has been great for most events. But with Aiden recently (i’m tagging his Instagram here because it’s genuinely cool af), I’ve been rethinking some core ideas around load bearing for both sniping and running an AEG at the England vs Scotland games.
Here’s my idea;
There are things you need in a hurry, and things you don’t.
Genius, eh?. OK, nothing groundbreaking. On the AEG front I’m looking at switching a lot of stuff into a backpack, rather than run a belt rig. Things you don’t need quickly, like food/water/spare ammo/extra pyro, but that you will need on you in case your primary stuff runs out. Obviously, if you can picture me with an AEG setup…
Myself, Aiden and a man called Snowe…
3 mags in the rig, one in the gun is my usual load. That’s 480rds. Being a sniper, the full auto switch is unnatural and I don’t use it. Most firefights last a couple of minutes and I can do that on one mag until one of us dies. I’ll carry pyro in a utility pouch on the front, and a radio somewhere. I can breach, shoot and communicate with my team and that’s generally all I need to do, so it’s nothing complicated and as streamlined as possible so that everything I need to do I can do quickly. The rest of it I’m going to call RESUPPLY. Regardless of the event you’re at, no matter how hardcore it feels, you will also get a few minutes here and there where you’re doing absolutely nothing. Having supplies in a backpack means I can quickly take it off, get the speedloader out and RESUPPLY my mags, pyro if need be, and maybe take on some food or water. The whole front of the rig then gets resupplied and reset ready to go again, without adding bulk or extra pouches that just get in the way – how many times at skirmishes have you seen very well kitted out players searching through lots of pouches trying to remember where they put stuff? Or having to access somewhere difficult for something they need quickly in the middle of a firefight, because they didn’t resupply when they had the chance?
In sniper terms then, I’ll go back to the last Sniperworks event for a typical weekend loadout. I used ONE rifle mag of 20rds, and that was it. Perhaps for different games, I might need two or three. But here’s the thing – as a sniper, do you need to do rapid mag changes during a firefight? Do you even get into a firefight? It’s rare, unless you’ve really messed up. The one thing I do find is that apart from skirmish events, I do spend a lot of time out in the field and there’s usually stuff like food and water that I leave back in the safe zone, usually because it’s too bulky to fit into my rig. I need to RESUPPLY myself after long periods out in the woods. And yes, occasionally, I might need to reload a mag.
Aiden and I are both keen collectors of military kit, if you’ve seen his Callsign Bubba instagram, it’s a treasure trove of British and American bits and pieces. As I’ve always said, surplus is much cheaper than airsoft kit and more robust, and I don’t know why more players don’t use it. Originally hunting down some desert DPM, we had a thought about a cheap backpack as a solution. Most military backpacks though fall into two categories. Old surplus, which is usually a bit big, to carry lots of big old kit in. And the modern tactical stuff, where you pay a hell of a lot more to get it covered in Molle and have velcro for patches. We needed to find an alternative and started racking our brains. Then we had an idea. The DPM rocket pack…
Here’s a British DPM bergen. Fine rucksack, very tough and very well designed. This is my lovely present from a teammate. The two side pouches you can see detach on zips in case you want to travel light(er) but they also have quite a few clips attached. There’s a reason for this and it’s clever.
Another old British Army item you’ll often find on ebay is the DPM yoke, which is the harness to the old PLCE belt type webbing set. These two items are designed to fit together to make a small backpack. The two bergen side pouches actually zip together, then clip to the harness, for a kind of double bag. Great, but a bit big for what we need. Luckily, it also works with one side pouch too.
Here’s what I found in the bargain bin at the surplus store. A yoke for £3, which is always useful. And for £2, a very battered and sorry looking old bergen side pouch. Yes, it has a hole in the lid, and a couple of buckles were broken so I’m going to have to make some minor repairs, but for the price it’s ideal. I can camouflage the pouch anyway when I build my new suit, which will plug the hole and cover up the desert paint job (Historical fact. The SAS in the first Gulf War, being short on decent desert kit, simply grabbed a paintbrush and used the sand coloured paints being used on vehicles to help camouflage their dpm and green kit. Love a bit of creativity. I’m guessing this pouch has been somewhere similar).
It only has one compartment, but that’s fine, and it’s zipped round which means I can easily open it with gloves on, and its sealed all the way so nothing drops out on the move.
The yoke has a couple of loops on the shoulder where I can mount a small pouch, such as a pistol mag pouch, for a couple of rifle mags – remember everything must be accessible from a prone position (personal rule). Mags are probably the only thing I’d ever need quickly, if anything. Radio can go in the backpack, wired through the yoke and up to a headset so the wires are nice and tidy, and once unhooked off the ear everything comes off as one with the backpack. I have nothing obstructing my arms or chest which is perfect for crawling, the only sticking point is the pistol and where to put it.
Thankfully, the rocket pack has a chest strap. It sits comfortably at about elbow height across the chest. I remember once having a Miltec rig and noticing how poor the molle loops were and thinking that I could have stitched that myself. Using the excess of webbing straps provided, I’m going to try and cut a strip off and sew it on to make some molle loops. Single loop molle belts are in fashion at the moment, and although it won’t sit super securely, I can mount a viper universal holster on for my mk23 without too much of a problem.
Any bigger or longer events requiring more equipment, and I can simply add a chest rig to the front or whatever else is required. But on the whole, without a need to carry lots of big bulky mags, or enough pyro to do a decent New Year’s fireworks display, that’s pretty much it for a day’s play. Everything is stowed out of the way of crawling and shooting, that bergen pouch is pretty big anyway and even has loops on the front to attach more stuff if need be, which I might look at.
That’s the plan, obviously I’ll cover the build in more detail when I do it. Improvisation is a key skill for the sniper, and you’ve got to learn to adapt your kit to your needs. This goes for camouflage, load bearing and the rifle, and it’s not just a case of accepting what well known players use, or believing adverts on social media. This setup isn’t expensive, isn’t endorsed by any kind of shooting celebrity, and doesn’t come in atacs ix. It just needs you to be willing to put a bit of work in, which is what makes a good sniper.
If anyone has any suggestions on developing this idea further, I’d love to hear them in the comments.