Range – why it really doesn’t matter

Yep. A sniper blog about why that added range actually counts for very little. Think it’s all about being able to hit further than the others? Is being an airsoft sniper actually anything like a real sniper at all or does it need a different name?

Well, maybe. The dictionary definition of a sniper (depending on which dictionary you have) is :

“A sniper is someone who shoots at people from a hidden position”

No mention of long range at all. So that’s a good start. Actually, it’s a nice, simple definition of the role. Our game is all about taking people out without them seeing us.

The perception of range being an advantage probably comes from airsoft snipers being permitted much higher powered weapons than regular players, giving them something the other players don’t have, but how practical or useful is it in the field?

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If we were to start in the safe zone at a practice range using two players, let’s have Player A with a reasonably upgraded VSR sniper rifle, and imagine it hits a target at around 85m, and Player B who has an upgraded, flat hopped M4 that can deliver full auto at up to 60m. Our sniper, Player A, has a 25m advantage here on the practice range and can hit targets further away. Excellent.

However, due to the extra power, the site imposes a 25m Minimum Engagement Distance (MED) on sniper rifles. So the actual usable range is about the same, 60m. Player A has to carry a sidearm to cover that first 25m.

In the field, our two players are on opposite teams and find themselves advancing towards each other in a straight line. To help in this example, let’s say there’s a 100m measuring tape inbetween the two players. Clearly, the sniper can engage first, and Player B therefore needs to close that 25m disadvantage down quickly before his M4 can start returning fire, hoping he isn’t shot out first because even if he runs like Usain Bolt it’s a few seconds and certainly long enough for the sniper to get a couple of shots off first. Advantage Player A.

If the sniper were to pursue some upgrades, and spend a few hundred dollars on serious upgrades to get that rifle shooting 95m, then yes the range advantage is increased, perhaps allowing the sniper to take an extra couple of shots or just have a bit more time to line shots up, and seriously improving the chances of hitting the target before they can return fire.

But this is an airsoft game, not the Battle of Waterloo. It’s never a case of advancing in a straight line towards an enemy you can see, with ranges marked out so you know what you can hit and what you can’t. It’s a very dynamic environment where players will appear and disappear from all angles, at all ranges. You could have someone pop up 30m to your right from behind cover, or have another on your left at 86m, not that you’d know what the distance was anyway. Having an opportunity where you have a player in that 25m “advantage” range you have is going to be rare. You could even have wind that reduces your range and increases your opponents.

Beyond that, most sites simply won’t have open spaces where you can shoot at your weapons maximum range. If there are big open spaces, it’s likely that most players aren’t going to be stupid enough to run out into it anyway; most airsofters will be looking for cover. In heavily wooded outdoor sites favoured by ghillie snipers, the presence of trees and vegetation might mean you can only see 50m in any given direction anyway unless you can swerve shots around trees and obstacles.

As much as YouTube sniper videos would love us to believe that every shot is a headshot at 100m, in practice around 90% of sniper kills will likely be between 30-60m.

There’s another huge problem with long range shots too – time to target, or the flight time of a bb. At longer ranges, it’ll take a couple of seconds for the bb to travel and that’s more than enough time for the target to move, continue running, turn around or dive back into cover. Unfortunately, targets will rarely stay still for you. Especially during fast paced skirmish games – players just aren’t patient enough and will always be on the move and in unpredictable ways. The chance of the bb travelling that distance and hitting are reduced. At shorter ranges, there is less time for the target to move before your shot impacts.

Basically, due to all the variables and other factors involved, the further away your target, the lower the chance to hit. Much better to learn to manoeuvre closer, stay hidden, and deliver that accurate shot that your opponent has no chance to avoid, than to try a risky lob shot at 90m hoping that everything falls in your favour.

Even playing sniper vs sniper events, which are at a much slower pace, most engagements are at around 40-60m. Sometimes I do wonder if the extra range is worth it given that you then have an MED which requires reaching for a sidearm when you have danger close, which can give you away.

If you are building a rifle, focus on the accuracy and consistency (shot to shot fps) rather than simply upping the power to get more range. Get a good quality bucking and barrel combination, and practice. Yes, there are setups out there that can hit up to 120m+, maybe 1 in 10 shots, on a practice range, using range finders, lasers and adjustable scope mounts to measure the lob correctly, but that’s totally different to the reality of shooting moving targets in a highly unpredictable game situation.

Range? Don’t count on it.

4 thoughts on “Range – why it really doesn’t matter

  1. Jungle's Airsoft Blog says:

    Very good to read this, I thought the same, my DMR and Sniper rifles had been gathering dust even before covid19, by my reckoning, my 420fps DMR reaches 70m but has a 20 med = 50m usable range, my 500fps bolt action has 80m range but 30m med =50m usable range, if I run my flat hopped AEG’s with 0.3g Longbow BBs I can engage from 0m-65m and not need to carry a sidearm+ mags.

    I gain 15m of usable range and lose 2kg off my belt kit, add to that most sites these days rarely have 80m+ sight lines but plenty of buildings/features to clear and I feel my sniping is better done with an AEG.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dr. BBs says:

    I would have to agree. However I do really enjoy using bolt action rifles but in all reality I can sometimes be more effective with a AEG or my Tippmann M4, both of which are shooting 0.28g BBs.

    Like

  3. Rafal G says:

    Nice article, but I won’t agree that MED reduced effective range. It only affects min range, not max.
    I play with 3J VSR (got rid of uncomfy SRS) and have many kills at about 80-90m.
    Still I agree that positioning, remaining hidden, skill to move undetected are most important. As well as experience when to shoot and when to prevent from shooting – this is when I die most often. I shoot 1st guy I see and next one can shorten distance quickly and spray me with BBs of his assault riffle.
    In general range doesn’t matter as you wrote. Consistency and accuracy are in fact more important, to me as well as an optic. I prefer playing with 4-5 magnification, but I like to have clear and bright picture in my scope. Eye relief is also very important, to be able to watch with 2 eyes, then be able to quickly aim with main one.

    Like

    1. stipwarn says:

      Hi Rafal,

      Some very good points there, pleased to hear I’m not the only one who finds the SRS uncomfortable to shoot! What I meant by the reduced effective range is obviously losing the ability to shoot inside MED, which takes 20-25m off your “kill zone” to put it another way, which is still a reduction whether at the near end or far end of the shot. And yes, skill, positioning and shot selection are way more important than an expensive rifle. Can’t buy experience 😉 Great to hear from you though!

      Like

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