Busting the myth that you need to spend a fortune on an airsoft sniper rifle for it to be any good. And why the performance of the rifle and the performance of the shooter are not connected.
It’s a question I’ve been asked at site a few times in the last month, and seems to eternally crop up in forums and on social media. The short answer here is not a lot, and I know that will go against what all the manufacturers and retailers will tell you (business, obviously), and that inevitably seeps through their “fanbases” to become the accepted truth. This is how airsoft works these days. As a sniper of some repute, I get to have a go with A LOT of people’s rifles, usually because they broke, but also just to try out.
When it comes to choosing a base, the most important thing is likely the shape and model of the gun, which is where it’s probably best to try a few out either in a shop or on site first. I tried GSG’s Tac-41, which shot fine, but was a bit short for my longer arms and the ergonomics weren’t quite right for me, although she loves it. Having a gun that fits and feels right to you is important, but the remember the price tag doesn’t relate to performance and “out of the box” means nothing either.
I’ve had Well L96’s that have shot better than very expensively upgraded Tac-41’s and SRS’s, which although beautifully engineered do come with problems as much as the cheap rifles do. But the promos don’t tell you that bit. I’ve shot HPA, gas, spring, old and new, and even carbine kits for pistols. Do any of them stand out as being exceptionally good?
No, not really. And that’s testing on a range, and there needs to be an important point made here first – shooting on a range is not the same as shooting players in game. It never will be. The range could be a static target at 100m that you’re trying to hit repeatedly in a very controlled environment. In most games, your average shot is going to be 30-50m, making range much less important than people think. I had a conversation yesterday with my sniper buddy who was peeved by an AEG player stating they could hit 50m but needed more range, to which he retorted “just move closer then!”. It’s the same logic for snipers, and it comes with an important added bonus – less time to target.
Long shots take a few seconds to hit, meaning your carefully lined up target will have ducked back behind the tree by then. Closer shots, without getting inside MED YouTuber style, mean a much higher chance of landing that decisive hit and taking that player out of the game, and that’s what we want. So, how do you get that off a cheap gun without buying all the shiny bits?
It is, as airsoft is, all about the hop.
What you want is to send a bb over a straight hop rubber patch to put enough backspin on, then send it down a clean barrel towards the target. That’s about as much as you can strip a rifle back to. Everything else is just supporting or powering that action. And we want the whole thing to be consistent, no air leaks in the system, but PTFE tape can solve a lot of that. A consistent rifle is going to hit the crosshairs every time, and that’s worth ten times more than 50m extra range because it means you don’t miss. And having a good, solid hop arm and nub that puts pressure on the hop up patch without wobbling around.
A good hop rubber is a must, but thankfully they’re a dirt cheap upgrade. If you can get a bb to load every time, and hit the same place even at just 50m, then you’re onto a winner. Softer rubbers (50/60 degree hardness) will give more grip and more hop effect, although be less durable. More details in the Rifle Upgrading section.
The next biggest thing to get right is simply having your scope lined up correctly. Its surprising how many aren’t level, or arent even looking in the same direction the bb is travelling, leading to player thinking a bb didn’t even fire because they didn’t see it come out. If you can’t get the crosshairs and the shot lined up, nothing will hit the target and unfortunately for a lot of players, rather than diagnose the problems they’ll say “this is a shit rifle” or “it needs upgraded” which becomes a money pit.
In the days before all these shiny upgrade parts appeared, the old airsoft sniper forum (treasure trove of really good information) fixed problems using DIY mods, with materials from hardware stores and a few basic tools. A lot of these are still very valid and it’s a much better source of knowledge than sponsored Facebook groups.
That’s pretty much it, although basic, and it’ll get you up and running for next to nothing cost wise. Any rifle can be improved if you know what you’re doing, and you have the confidence to do it.