Mission : Critical

If there’s one thing I’ve been thankful for down the years, it’s people telling me stuff is shit. Whether it’s been in reviews, through social media, or just out in the field, knowing what works and what doesn’t is critical to being a good sniper, depending on what your goals are of course.

Airsoft is many things to many different people. Some enjoy the social aspect, with festivals here in the UK now focusing on excessive drinking, live music, stalls, and a little bit of airsoft thrown in. Milsims exist for those who really want to roleplay and have an experience as close to real combat as possible. Paintballers have brought their fast paced tournament play in the guise of speedsoft. And there are those looking to exploit online platforms for fame and fortune, though occasionally at the expense of decency, but it’s up to them what they’re willing to sacrifice for it.

I think when I first started out sniping, my goal was to be the best sniper at my local site. Lowly ambitions, but I was a brand new player and I’ve gradually raised them. Airsoft for me is an escape from the daily grind, and an opportunity to do something completely different. And I wanted to get good at it. It’s a bit like playing a guitar; you want to learn how to play a tune, for example, not just sit there and randomly twang it. Or a chef that learns to boil an egg, but then goes no further. So I went full tilt into it. I’ve read books, watched countless hours (months?) of video footage, made books worth of notes. I’ve spoken to those who came before, and asked as many questions as I could. Every game day, I’d look back and figure out what I did well, and what needed improving. Rather than stagnate in front of a TV during free time, I’ve kept trying to better myself, because why wouldn’t you?

A good pilot is compelled to evaluate what’s happened, so he can apply what he’s learned – Viper, Top Gun

A second pair of eyes, on any project, will always look at things from a different angle, seeing things that you don’t. As long as they’re honest enough to point things out to you. I’ve been lucky with sniper buddies like Bubba, Point6, and Jordan, who I’ve been able to show things to and they’ve come back with either their opinions, or more valuably, their experiences. Each has their own speciality, for example Jordan is the Sniperworks tech guy, and he’ll happily throw a ton of expletives my way if I pick up a product that is shit, or doesn’t work, or that he’s had trouble with. Bubba will look at my suit in an environment and shake his head if something isn’t right. Point6 has a wealth of information around materials and camouflage techniques. I’ve said before that a sniper buddy is absolutely the most valuable thing in your armoury. If you read any real steel sniper books, critical thinking and constant analysis is what keeps them at the top of their profession. You’ve always got to be looking for improvements, whether it’s kit that hasn’t quite worked the way you need it to, or a mistake you made during a game, and be honest about it. No point trying to mask problems and pretend it’s all fine.

Knowledge comes with time and experience

In my earlier days, I was always respectful enough to listen to the more veteran players of the day, trying to learn from them, and valuing their opinions about things I had no knowledge of, or their opinions about my own setups. I had to take on board the criticism, to progress, and was very grateful to receive it. Either you go through endless trial and error yourself, at great cost, or you network with other players to learn from their time and experiences, to supplement your own, or to save time and waste. I used to love the tutorial style videos on YouTube, before we all became drooling simpletons watching bb’s hit people down scope cams.

This may all sound like common sense, and if it does I’m pleased, but in recent weeks on Facebook I’ve been told that the “newer generation” don’t really appreciate being told anything negative. That in some cases, I’m drawing complaints from people who want me to agree with their opinions instead. To create a fluffy bunny world where everyone says “great job, you’re doing ace!”, with a massive thumbs up and gold stars for all. Creating “positive energy” and being supportive. It’s got me thinking about how one should approach others in this increasingly tetchy and sensitive world.

And the response from here, I’m afraid, is a middle finger to all that. I’m not being a dick to people and trying to start arguments by the way, far from it, but I can’t simply go round praising every new product that hits the market, jumping on all the bandwagons and throwing rainbows everywhere. If it works, it works, if it doesn’t it doesn’t. If people ask “what do you think of my suit”, and it’s garbage and will end up getting them spotted by enemy players, it helps that person more to point it out to them. If they’re getting excited by a new rifle component that you know has a fault, save them some money and say something. It’s just honesty. That’s not to say plough more money into things, and I’m not here to plug the latest releases either. Often, the cheapest ideas with some thought process behind them are far superior. I do detest things for sniping that are marked as an “off the shelf solution” at a high price point. There aren’t any shortcuts you can buy. You get out what you put in, be it a little or a lot.

The goal of this blog from day one was just to help others out by sharing that experience and challenging norms. It was written for one person (and still is), but I’m pleased its found traction and has been useful to so many other people too. I’ve never had any negative feedback, so as far as I’m concerned it’s reaching the right people. I have absolutely no interest in the numbers of likes and followers it creates, because that makes absolutely no difference to me when I step onto an airsoft field. It’s not a business or a means of generating income, or an attempt at finding some kind of fame, so I’ve no interest in changing my approach or myself to try and be accommodating for a larger audience. I don’t lose an income if it goes back down to one person reading it.

But if you do, and it’s helped you even just a little, then that’s great and was worth doing.

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