I’m writing this for one person in particular, but if you’re new to it, this might be of interest too. What do you need and what does it take to get to the top?
Thankfully, it’s nothing to do with social media, followers, sponsors or subscribers. It isn’t something you can buy, so your wallet doesn’t limit you at all. I think the most important thing is a will to be the best. That determination to want to do better every single week, every single game, every single shot.
Don’t wish, do. Learn. And do again.
I wouldn’t even go so far as to say it comes down to any kind of natural ability; more so practice, experience and above all, understanding. Its not a role where you buy kit one week and have success with it the following week. It’s an evolutionary process, never completely finished, and will fill in your spare time.
The first and most important thing I would say you need is an analytical mind, especially when choosing your equipment. One that sees past all the sales posts and influencer advice, one that understands needs rather than wants, functionality over style. The ability to critique your own work with the aim of making it better. Not being afraid to make mistakes but then learning to evaluate the lessons learned from them.
Most new snipers immediately look to the rifle as the measure of their ability. They want something that hits laser accurate shots out to 100m and that will win them every engagement – not true. You don’t dictate the ranges you’re engaging at, the enemy and the terrain do. It’s normally well within 100m before you notice them or they get into a position where you have a chance to take a shot. The rifle is just a tool. Treat it like one, choose something practical, simple and effective that does what you need it to do WITHOUT suffering technical failures every game. A reliable gun is a must if you aim to be able to go out and stay out. Forget the attraction of gas guns in cooler climates, or automatic weapons for extra kills. The skill is not in a high body count, but in staying alive and staying hidden. It’s not a fast paced, run and gun role. So look to your defences first – camouflage and technique.
On the camouflage front, it’s not a case of just sticking cheap Chinese maple leaves all over a leaf suit and assuming that’ll work. It does, but that’s the most basic level of camouflage. I’ll admit, I’ve been there but quickly got fed up of the limitations of a leaf suit. I subscribed to the church of Haloscreen and the teachings of Le Covert and Theyma. Find them on Facebook. Learn to understand camouflage properly. How colours interact with the environment, how light affects the materials you use, morphological issues, reflectance, macro (big) and micro (small) camouflage patterns. There’s a lot more to it than just looking like a pile of leaves. Take lots of pictures of the sort of environment you’re working in. Find a suitable base camouflage and modify the colours and pattern using spray paint.
Get the base right before you start adding stuff everywhere. Yes, it’s a bit more work but far more effective and rewarding. I know plenty of us have spent a lot of time and money on leaf suits and undoubtedly there will be people reading this now who will disagree, but it’s a higher level of understanding of camouflage. Take your suit out as you build it, don’t rely on following a video in your kitchen and expecting it to turn out great (video is probably filmed in a completely different environment anyway). Test, test, test.
Technique comes down to getting good information from good sources, practice, and evaluation. The good sources are hard to find these days. Everyone seems to have a YouTube channel and will promote their own style with nice graphics and overlays, but learn to be critical of what you watch. Look for mistakes, look for improvements. Don’t just accept what you’re being told. I saw one popular video of a well known guy telling people prone was bad, and crouching better because you can react to things quickly. Surely crouching is a bigger target, brings the sniper up to eye level, and the “quick reactions” amount to quick, eye-catching movement. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast (Black Hawk Down bonus features dvd – worth a watch).
I know experience takes time, there are tactical guides in the relevant sections here with my own experiences and ideas which I would hope are helpful and speed things up, but you still need to put these ideas into practice and see how they work.
If your aim is simply to try and mimic some famous youtuber, open a channel, film headshots and win over gear sponsors, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. You’ll always be limited in what you do, and will spend too much time worrying about cameras to be 100% effective. Do it because you want to learn, and improve. Because you want to develop skills, and be an effective opponent. Judge yourself, harshly if need be, and don’t do it for the attention of others.
A sniper should never be the focus of attention.