An article about ammo, ammo management, magazine management and basically making sure that something comes out of the barrel when you pull the trigger, because you’ve got to make that one shot count.
As you would imagine, this is going to be based on the VSR platform but applies to all bolt action sniper rifles. If you’ve been playing airsoft for any length of time, or watch war films etc, you’ll no doubt be familiar with the efforts of assault rifle users to be able to drop an empty magazine out of the gun and get a fresh one in there as quickly as possible. It’s a well practiced art form, with some spending hours perfecting the arm movement, enhanced with quick release polymer mag pouches. In a close quarters environment, speed is as key as being able to keep pouring bb’s onto the enemy players until you hit one – this is why high rate of fire builds and rapid trigger responses are important. (To compensate for a lack of skill and ability).
For a sniper however, a quick movement from a concealed position could be the fatal error that leads to being spotted and removed from the game. Our game is all about being as smooth and as clinical as possible, keeping movement to a minimum and staying out of sight. During play, the only real actions we need to work on are
- Cycling the bolt
- Changing the mag
The first one we do when people aren’t looking in our direction, taking time between shots. The second one is a little more difficult to judge because we don’t often keep count of how many shots have been fired, and is a bigger action requiring more movement. So how do you go about managing your ammo to try and streamline the process?
One of the (many) great things about the VSR platform that lends it so beautifully to sniping is that the mags are so small and easy to carry, compared to the big, clunky SRS or Tanaka m700 mags, and a few other platforms follow suit with the compact mag style, such as the M24 and L96. Standard VSR mags carry about 20rds, but also available for very little are the 50rd Action Army or 55rd Cyma versions (both linked) which nearly triples your capacity and reduces the amount of reloads required. Play style will dictate how many mags you need, but I’ve done days and full weekend events on less than 20 shots. On a more active day, three 55rd mags are more than enough. I mark my 55rd mags so that I know what I’m using…
Another thing worth looking into for this style of sniper magazine are pull tabs (link here). Usually 3D printed, these give you something to get hold of when changing the mag, without being too obtrusive and ruining the flat profile that is so useful for getting into more compact positions. Don’t be tempted to drill a hole and pull some cord through to make a loop – this is just asking to snag on everything and rip the mag out or get you stuck on something.
In terms of pouches, quick access pouches like the open-top bungee ones above are a very bad idea when you’re crawling through the dirt. Getting any dirt onto the exposed bb at the top of the mag is going to then put dirt into your gun and really start messing things up – this can lead to jams, and the next shot could result in bb’s shattering into the jammed one causing all sorts of problems inside your gun and putting you out of action. My mag pouch is always a closed type, with a clip fastening (not Spanish clips, definitely not velcro…). This is a Dutch Army double M4 DPM pouch, which is great because it comes with a plastic divider that securely holds up to 4 VSR mags. Or, more commonly, three plus a speedloader. Old school surplus mag pouches do a much better job of keeping things clean than the modern stuff.
It could even go into an admin or utility pouch to be fair, because this reserve stuff isn’t needed immediately – as a sniper, nothing is really needed that quickly; access what you need away from the action. I’ll link this one I found on Amazon because it looks really handy as a one-for-all sniper pouch. Obviously the Krylon can come out to dull it down and camouflage it better.
The quickest pouch I’ve found to access when i really need a quick reload is a buttstock pouch (link here).
This is my primary reload point. It’s about as close to the magwell of the gun that you’ll ever get, so the movement from pouch to gun is as short as possible. Reduce movement = increase stealth. These don’t cost a lot, are zip opening which is easy to do with gloves on, and quiet. Avoid the ones with the big padded bits on the top – this will just elevate your head meaning you may have to add a scope riser or high scope rings, and you want to keep as low profile as possible. Unless you’re not taking hits, you’ll never need to reload twice in a hurry; the one “emergency” mag is enough for that phase of play.
And this is how I manage my ammo in a game –
- Before the game – One 55rd mag into the gun, spare mags and a FULL speedloader into the reserve pouch (non-full speedloader will rattle and create noise). I carry a small plastic bag in my radio pouch. Just because there’s space.
- During contact – Engage targets. If it’s a lengthy firefight, or I’m not hit out, this could use up to 30 bb’s. Also if it’s windy. Wind is stupid. If I had the stock 20rd VSR mag, I’d probably have to change it so the 50/55’s are extremely helpful.
- After contact – regardless of how much I’ve shot, as soon as nobody is around (or I move to better cover), the first mag is swapped for the primary reload in the buttstock pouch. If I have a second engagement of 30rds, then I’m not having to reload because I’ve already made sure I’ve got a full mag back in the gun. Should the new mag run out and I have to perform a quick reload, the partially used one in the buttstock still has a few rounds left in to get me out of trouble. IF time and opportunity permits, the used one in the buttstock swaps back into the spares pouch so that I have a full one in the gun and a full one in the buttstock, so that I’ve managed to fully reload myself.
- Inbetween contacts – as a sniper, there are always moments where you drift away from the action and are able to take a couple of minutes out. If I’ve used a few mags during the game, especially if some are empty, the speedloader comes out to reload the spares and make sure everything is topped back up. This means the gun is reloaded, the primary mag is reloaded, and everything in the rig is reloaded. Any leftover bb’s are then ejected from the speedloader into the plastic bag to reduce noise, but still keep some spare ammo on the off chance I’m slaughtering thousands of players.
Generally, this gets me through most game days. If it’s a standard skirmish day, or a sniper vs sniper type event, the speedloader isn’t needed because I’m not some trigger happy YouTuber desperate for scopecam footage (or what some like to call “content”).
If you only have one shot, make sure there’s a shot there. As before, keep the magazines clean, make sure you clean your barrel regularly to prevent any jams (dust can get in through the open end of the barrel remember). And always use high quality ammo like Longbow, Geoffs or Hotshots
(all linked). Cheap nasty ammo can break apart in the gun.