This is probably the hottest topic on any airsoft sniper forum; many players see the rifle as the most important part of the kit and without ploughing money into it, they’ll fail as a sniper. Indeed, the (incorrect) advice given by those who think they know best, is that sniping is expensive and should be avoided because the rifle will need a lot of investment to make it “competitive”. It’s a great example of how bad advice, repeated often enough, becomes accepted as good advice. Thankfully, if you’re reading this and are looking to start sniping, or upgrading your rifle, the reality is quite different.
I’ve not done a lot in terms of tech guides, my interests lean more towards the tactics and camouflage aspects of sniping, but it’s an inescapable part of the role and I do tinker with my rifle quite a lot. In addition, I do get sent a lot of parts to test out too, so it’s about time I covered the subject from top to bottom.I’ll cover bolt action spring rifles in this guide for a few reasons; they’re cheap, easy to work with, and require no “fuel” to run which makes them better for longer events. It’ll be largely VSR based, being the most commonly used rifles, but also because it’s the only platform I would feel qualified to talk about. HOWEVER a lot of the principles remain the same across a lot of rifle platforms so a good chunk of this will still apply if you run something different.
The best place to start is probably to assess what is required from your rifle first. Unlike all these testers on YouTube videos who review rifles and gauge their performance on a range in controlled conditions, we’re using them in the field. This makes a big difference to the expectations and requirements of the rifle. It isn’t a target rifle, like a biathlon rifle. It’s not real steel shooting where we’re working at 1000m+ ranges. In fact, chasing the maximum possible range shouldn’t even be a consideration, and that’s a key point.
Assume you play in a woodland area, and you’ve spent £500 on upgrade parts to get your rifle hitting a plate carrier at 95 metres. In a game, players aren’t going to appear in your crosshairs at 95m. Due to vegetation, trees and buildings, they’ll appear at 70m, 40m, 10m, 50m and everything inbetween. You have absolutely no way of knowing that. Yes your upgraded rifle might be able to hit all those and reach beyond that, and you may well be practiced enough on the range to hit that 95m first time, but there’s another problem. Flight time. At that sort of range, your bb is going to take around 4 secs to hit the target. Yes, your static target may sit still that long for you, but a player very likely will not. In addition, environmental effects such as wind, humidity and even airflow around trees and buildings will have more time to take effect. Longer shots reduce your chances of hitting, and although nice when you do pull them off, will involve a few practice shots first, increasing the chances of you giving yourself away to enemy players. Additionally, as covered in the tactics section, a lot of these players will have fully automatic weapons that may well be hitting close to your maximum range anyway (I’m not saying they cheat and run hot guns, might just be amazing advances in technology, but that’s the reality and we deal with real situations).
It might seem a bit of a harsh introduction, but it’s important to dispel that myth that you should be chasing power and range first. The most important thing in an airsoft sniper rifle is consistency. Having the second shot follow the same path as the first, hitting in a predictable place (where your crosshairs are). Consistency leads to accuracy. Reliability should be next, knowing that a bb will indeed come out of the barrel every time you pull the trigger, and not have you back in the safe zone trying to figure out what is going wrong. A rifle that will simply run and run (much like US forces continuing to use the M14 rifle despite it being first issued in 1959 – it’s reliable and does the job well). I’d much rather knock together a cheap budget build that can hit consistently at 70m, than spend a lot extra just to gain an extra 20m that i’d rarely use in the field anyway.
In terms of parts throughout this guide, I know by the time I’ve published there will be more shiny new bits and pieces released, and perhaps in the future some stuff will be discontinued, so I’ll try and keep it as generic as possible, because a lot of principles remain the sameeven if the parts change, but maybe throw in some stuff I’ve used personally that have worked well or that has stood the test of time. Obviously there’s no way to buy and test everything that comes onto the market, and although I’ve been very well supported by retailers such as Longbow and Skirmshop (thanks guys), it’s still far too much even for successful businesses to supply and test all the parts. Do research them, but don’t watch videos or read reviews by manufacturers or paid influencers, because they’ll almost always be strongly biased. Find people who have had some experience, ask on forums or Facebook groups, or at your local site.
Tech work may seem daunting, but I’ve always thought that every sniper should be able to confidently strip and clean their rifle as a minimum, and given the fairly simple nature of spring guns, it’s well worth being able to do simple mods, install upgrades and perform maintenance yourself, to save time and money if nothing else. There are thousands of disassembly and “how to” guides on YouTube if you’re ever in doubt.
Anyway, on with the show. With these rifles, I’ve always thought about the internals in two parts – power, and accuracy.
- POWER – Obviously the spring behind it, but also stuff like the trigger which has to hold and release it, the piston, spring guide, and the cylinder which holds it all in.
- ACCURACY – Is dictated by the hop and barrel. The front end of the rifle, to look at it that way. How the hop effect is applied to the bb will ultimately dictate the overall performance.
This guide will break down into sections: