What is the best starter sniper rifle?

This week I’ve seen so many posts on various different Facebook groups from new players asking what the best gun is to start sniping with. Not as a long term project, but a dirt cheap, out of the box rifle just to try the role out. Something that, if you don’t enjoy it, it’s not a big loss.

Superb question. Lots of responses, both helpful and unhelpful (mainly from non-snipers…), and I thought I’d give my own input here. As usual, there’s a crowd of presumably cqb players “advising” not to get a sniper rifle, because it’ll need hundreds spent on it in upgrades and you’ll have a bad time, you’ll hate it etc. To be honest, if I started out airsoft indoors, in one of these awful, limiting plywood “arenas”, I’d have quit a long time ago. So it works both ways.

As I’ve said before, playing as a sniper isn’t any more difficult, it’s just different. A lot of cqb players think it’s difficult because they’re not willing to learn anything about it. It’s great to see new players wanting to give the sniper life a go, and it isn’t the bottomless money pit some people try to make out. The reality is quite different.

Let’s assume you have a small budget. In the UK, it’s very easy to get hold of a stock rifle for between £50-£90 from Taiwangun.com. Nothing flashy, an M24 or R700 type rifle which will be good enough to get you started. Grab a cheap scope from ebay for £20. It’s not a huge outlay, but certainly one that could stay with you all the way through because they’re platforms with plenty of upgrade and spare parts available, and provide a decent base to build on. Here are a handful that I’d personally consider as a starter gun;

Present this to most people and straight away they’ll tell you it’s crap and needs upgrading because all stock rifles are. What they’ll go for is something silky smooth (nice but not necessary), as powerful and as accurate as possible, hitting out to 90m+.

Here’s the thing they miss – being out on the field playing a game of airsoft is nothing like doing target shooting on the range (where most people “judge” the performance of the rifle). There’s absolutely no way your target is going to sit still for you at a measured range of 90m. Enemy players might appear at 40m to your left, 60m to your right, 35m ahead of you or wherever. What you need to learn and accept is that range means very little, fps means very little and it’s not going to make you a good sniper anyway, although to be fair most stock rifles come in at around 430-470fps anyway so you’re not really lacking. Being a good sniper is all about learning to hide and take sneaky pot shots at people, even at normal aeg ranges. If your stock rifle is only hitting 60m, learn to stalk closer to your target – that’s something you do need to get good at. Make use of the cover around you to stay hidden from view and hit them when they least expect it. It’s also important to learn your rifle, how it shoots etc, so you improve your chances of hitting the target first time (crucial).

If you want to boost performance, a simple and inexpensive bucking swap makes a big difference. So too does maintaining a nice clean barrel. In terms of hop upgrades, many of the VSR compatible rifles have improved hop arms, usually around £10, that will eliminate a lot of problems. I know this is straying away from the idea of picking up a stock rifle, but these aren’t costly upgrades. Don’t worry about the power and getting it as close to 500fps as possible, all you’re doing then is making the rifle noisy and increasing the strain on the stock parts. 500fps on 0.20 can put it over the legal joule limit anyway once you switch to heavier ammo. As a rough guide, mine is 465fps on 0.20 which puts it a fraction under the joules limit.

Obviously for £50, we’re not going to expect amazing quality internals. The bolt pull won’t be that smooth. Yes, it could be better but that’s not a problem when you start out. The trigger unit could be stronger, but it’ll hold and will fire the gun when you pull the trigger (which is kind of all you need it to do). It won’t launch super heavy ammo great distances, but it will fire a bb at the target so you can get some practice in. It might be a bit twangy when you fire it, but for £50 all in it’s to be expected really. There are lots of nice, shiny CNC parts available but again really not necessary for starting out, despite what retailers, manufacturers and influencers might try and tell you.

What you will get is something just to get started with. Knowing how to use it and get the most out of it makes all the difference, not how much you spent on the rifle. Some of the nicest rifles I’ve had my hands on (other people’s builds) have had surprisingly little internal work done to them, and although they might not have that extra 10-20m range, have been more than effective in the field, albeit because they’ve been in the right hands too.

If you are just starting out, here’s a selection of useful guides that should help you out;

If you want more advice, a good place to ask is the Sniperworks group on Facebook (link here). It’s always better to ask questions in the right group, where you’ll get better answers. Good luck, and if you’re still stuck or want to know more, shoot me a pm on Facebook or Instagram.

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