This isn’t one of those compilation YouTube videos, don’t worry. What I want to do with this article is highlight a lot of common mistakes, both with kit selection, camouflage, and tactics, as opposed to all the articles online about how to do things right. It should be equally as useful to talk about what people do wrong as well. Down the years, I’ve watched plenty of snipers both online and especially in the field, where I’m happy to sit with the finger off the trigger and just observe what they do and how they do it (for educational purposes only, I’m not some kind of creep). Especially with camouflage where obviously you can’t look at yourself, but you can see how other snipers’ kit works in an environment and learn from it.
NOT CAMOUFLAGING THE GUN – It doesn’t matter how much you paid for it or how cool it looks, leaving the rifle in jet black or whatever solid colour it comes in will get you spotted in no time – that long black barrel poking out from the vegetation is an easy target for anyone looking for a sniper. If you’re going to use camouflage, use it on everything. Which leads to…
NOT CAMOUFLAGING ALL YOUR KIT EITHER – Straps, boots, gloves. Everything, especially things with a smooth, flat surface. At the very least, use some spray paint, if possible add some fabric tape or 3D camouflage too. Hide everything. also, things like straps present very clean, straight lines. Get rid of as many as you can, or make wraps and covers for things you can’t bear to do. But…
DON’T OVERDO IT WITH VEGETATION – Artificial or otherwise. Too much makes the suit etc too busy, too much on the head and face area inhibits vision and hearing which you rely on far more than your camouflage to stay out of trouble, and looks out of place if you use the wrong stuff. I’ve seen plenty of snipers go crazy on ebay and buy loads of random artificial plants, that aren’t present in their environment, and just attach them all over the place. Also pay attention to which way round they’ll be on your suit, and be careful how and where you attach them. Like…
FERNS – Not just ferns to be fair, but they’re a good example people are familiar with. Quite often you’ll see them on suits, attached at the base of the fern leaf. Looks great (although far too many people use them in environments where there aren’t actually any ferns) but there’s a bigger problem – movement. This big green leafy thing, anchored at the bottom, is usually left free to wave around in the air. I recall doing a sniper event once against a very good sniper, who I’ll not name. He made some noise nearby so I was alert and trying to spot him through some very thick woodland. A fern leaf on the side of his head started waving around as he looked for me, and of his suit that was actually the only thing I could see, the rest of it was really good. Aimed for the waving plant, cracked him straight in the head. Wavy protruding things are bad, because no player stays perfectly still, and they’ll highlight you more easily.
MATT PAINT ON SMOOTH SURFACES – Like a gun, even though it says “matt effect”, will still leave a shiny, unnatural surface because it’s smooth anyway. Tape is a great alternative, if you get the fabric stuff, or make a wrap of some sort.
NATURAL RAFFIA – I’ve said many times, to many people who ask me about materials, that raffia is God’s gift to snipers. It’s fantastic stuff, but don’t be fooled by the description “natural” – that natural coloured raffia looks bright white out in the environment. Dye it with tea and coffee at least (link to the Point6 video on that), or something stronger. Don’t leave it uncoloured!
SNEAKY LEAVES – Awful, oddly coloured, uniform leaves. Yes they can be spray painted, but they’re still not as great as some people make out. Especialy those bright yellow ones. Jesus. Better to make your own. In fact…
LEAVES EVERYWHERE IN GENERAL -Your environment is likely quite varied. Dressing as a massive pile of maple leaves isn’t always going to be the best camouflage. There’s a great reliance now on leaf suits with yet more leaves added to them – it’s not a one-for-all, “out of the box” solution.
DYEING YOUR LEAF SUIT BROWN WITH IDYE POLY – IDye poly is one of those dyes you need a big metal pot for, and you boil it all together with your suit in the pan. The biggest issue is the very uniform, dark brown finish you get all over the suit. Now, up close in photos of ghillie suits on the forest floor, it doesn’t look too bad. At a distance though, being uniformly one colour effectively draws a (dark brown) human outline for people to see. Although some suits do have a detailed pattern on them, like realtree or North Mountain, at a distance this pattern is so small and detailed that it blurs into one colour. Ideally you want a bigger pattern that helps break up the human outline into big shapes; think US woodland pattern. Also be very careful not to dye things too dark. Hand dyeing, assuming you’re as crap at it as I am, gives you a really uneven, blotchy finish. Nature is dirty – always remember that.
KIT AND WEAPON FAILS
MASSIVE SCOPES ON RIFLES – A bigger scope doesn’t give you a bigger picture, or necessarily a clearer/better image. What it does give you is a big, round black circle on the front of your kit. Profile is important. If you’re familiar with the story of Simo Hayha (Finnish sniper from ww2, deadliest in history and with good reason), you’ll know that he used an old reliable Moisin Nagant rifle with no scope. Just the iron sights. There’s a lesson there, although a scope does make our job a bit easier. Just don’t go overboard with it, you’ll only be shooting up to 100m. Variable zoom scopes are unnecessary say a lot of snipers, but there’s a use sometimes in being able to zoom in to observe targets far beyond shooting range, without the need to carry binoculars.
BELT ORDERS – Yes, according to games like Battlefield, and Novritsch/Cleanshot videos, snipers usually run belt rigs. The problem with belt rigs though is that if you’re prone, its a big arm movement to a location you can’t see (without taking your eyes off the target) to grab anything. Not that snipers need much, but when you do, make it easy to access and easy to get out of a pouch.
CARRYING FAR TOO MUCH – The name of the game is staying hidden, moving around unseen and putting single rounds into people. Learn to master that before you decide to expand your loadout with an automatic weapon, an array of grenades, climbing harness, multiple cameras, an axe, full camping equipment, laser rangefinders, a crossbow, tripwires, a mortar, grenade launcher, selfie stick, camping stove, 85 litre rucksack, spare boots and a bomb disposal advice. Run light, keep it simple, stick to just what you need to hit people with bb’s.
TORCHES AND LASERS – No.
SLINGS – Contentious point. Yes, they make the gun easier to carry. But ideally, not knowing what’s around the next corner, the weapon is probably better being in your hands. A sling is just another strap to camouflage, and can have a nasty habit of catching on branches when you move, generating a lot of noise and movement. There are also times when it’s an advantage not being attached to your rifle too. Rifle too heavy? Get a lighter one. Or work out or something…
SETTING UP IN POPULAR AREAS – I know at least one well known YouTube sniper who seems to have a nasty habit of laying up next to commonly used paths, relying on his suit for camouflage to get footage of people getting up close to him so you can marvel at his leaf suit (usually has a sale link underneath). Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, although that bit is edited out. Put yourself in places where you’re engaging at at least site MED (20-25m), so as not to be a dickhead shooting people too close, but also to give you an escape route to safety if need be, and also to increase your chances of not being spotted. If you’re going to hide in all the obvious places, expect a lot of walks back to respawn or waits for medics.
SHOOTING EVERYTHING THAT MOVES – Trigger discipline and shot selection are important. A lot of players get excited as soon as they see an enemy player and stick the corsshairs on to take an immediate shot. Airsoft players rarely move around alone however, and if your shot is seen you can expect a wave of full auto plastic in your direction pretty quickly. Take time to assess your targets, wait until they’re not facing you (and neither are their friends) as well as waiting until they’re moving less before taking the shot. A rushed shot, for example on a moving target, that is missed means creating movement to load another shot and giving them a second chance to spot you. Being a good sniper isn’t just about kills, it’s about staying alive too. A really great example is this video by Caferacing (link here), who sets up a hide onto an enemy position – note how many times he has players in his sights vs how many times he actually takes a shot, and which way they’re facing.
STANDING UP -Yeah, I know you have to stand up at times, I mean while shooting. Combat 101 – make yourself as small a target as possible. Also, players standing tend to move more than those who are in a stable, resting position such as crouching or prone.
GOING FOR OBJECTIVES – Most objectives in games require a team effort to seize; it’s not really the preserve of a solo warrior. Going towards objectives is predictable – the objective location is usually known and a location players are expected to move towards. It’s almost a trap. Don’t play the game, play the players.
HEADSHOTS – Given the choice, aim centre mass, not for the head. You want to increase your chances of scoring a hit. Everything reveolves around the body (arms, legs, head), the body itself doesn’t move much and is an easier kill than trying to hit something a quarter of the size. It’s not a question of ethics, it’s a question of efficiency.
PLAYING DMR – Not playing with a DMR, being one. Designated marksman, not so much dressing as a rifle. Attaching yourself to a squad as some kind of sharpshooter. The range advantage isn’t as much as you might think, so you’re not actually adding much to the squad. What they’re taking from you however does make a difference. Your stealth. Moving around with a noisy squad, who’ll likely be calling out to you and pointing to targets they want engaged is probably going to highlight where you are quite quickly. A designated marksman and a sniper are two very different things, which is why there’s usually some hostility when DMR users jump into sniper groups on Facebook.
TELLING PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR SHOTS – Don’t. Don’t tell them when you hit them, don’t tell them where from because you don’t want to give away your positions for future games. Instead, after games when everyone is in the safezone chatting about how great they were, ask questions of them. Ask where they went, how they got to their objectives and make a mental note yourself for next time. Knowledge is power. Don’t give it away. Just be proud of your own achievements. Likewise, if you film everything and stick it on YouTube to show people how you operate… Well that’s your own stupid fault.
Thats probably a good point to leave it on, especially if you just scrolled to the bottom. I might add to this list next time I’m out and see something that makes me face-palm and think “for f***’s sake”. Yes, it’s Sober October and the lack of beer is making me ratty but I hope this list is useful. As important as it is to learn good technique, it’s also important to recognise bad.