Training and Culture

“Do you think you could train someone to be a good sniper in a day?”

Always get good questions around campfires

A question from around a campfire a few months back. I dismissed it as “no chance” during the conversation, but it’s been on my mind since. Assuming you’ve got a new player who has never even used a bolt action before, how far can you go in a few hours? I’ve said on many forums that sniping is a question of mindset, not difficulty. It’s about how you see the game, or how the battlefield is unfolding to think of it that way. A CQB player with an assault rifle is going to think of it much differently; usually a case of “I’ll run here, then there, and brrrrrtttt full auto everyone”, unless they’ve had their own training at that. It likely stems from film or gaming influences, or possibly previous military experience, as to how they think and react in game. It’s exactly the same for us snipers – we just do it differently.

In one day, it’d certainly be possible to run alongside a new player. Point out where to go, what to be looking for, and how to operate the rifle (and give them a link to this article to read on rifle expectations). A few pointers on personal camouflage as you observe them in the environment, and a look at your own kit to demonstrate it. But I stick to my original answer of “no chance”.

It’s a start. It’s the same with any skill though, you need to keep practising. Outside of sniping, I’ve seen a lot of CQB players down the years, and I can tell you there’s a huge difference between those who turn up every other skirmish day for a laugh, and watching Stirling Airsoft’s Zulu and Sabre teams capturing a building. You can see those who take it seriously and practice, and those who just do it for game day. Now, I’m not saying there’s anything at all wrong with turning up for airsoft just to have a laugh with your friends – we’ve all had a rough few years and after a long week at work there’s nothing better than hanging out with friends. Many are into airsoft now purely for entertainment reasons, which is fine. But if your ambition is to improve your skill level, then you need a lot more than just a day at skirmish learning from someone.

Physical training is one thing, and something anyone can do on game days. If you read the link to the article about rifle expectations above, I talk about how I sometimes disappear out of games to a quiet part of the site just for some practice, usually to test out the scores of upgrade parts I get sent out which means the rifle setup is constantly changing. But that’s another article. I don’t think there’s necessarily a “best practice” as a sniper in the same way a CQB player might have a set technique for breaching a doorway for example. Snipers need to be very flexible (literally) and able to react and work around what’s going on in the game. A decent level of fitness helps, but I find that 90% of being a sniper is probably done off the field – mental training. Keeping yourself in the right mindset helps because there’s less pausing to think during the game, it becomes instinct.

Yes, those ghillie suits are going to take time. And that’s a hobby in itself, filling in quiet afternoons or an evening with a bit of music on and sitting attaching raffia over a nice cold beer. I might be alone in this, but I do sit and think about all other aspects of sniping whenever I have some free time. I talk to a great variety of players, manufacturers, retailers and people from similar hobbies each week. I read books about stalking, camouflage, tracking and real steel sniper guides. I’ve started taking walks in the local woods to sit and watch a herd of deer in a ghillie, just because it’s pretty cool to practice against very alert targets. It’s at this point I think sniping goes beyond training. It’s a culture that expands far beyond the game day itself.

There’s miles more to being an airsoft sniper than just picking up your gun on Saturday night, slapping a few bits in a bag and turning up the next day. The world of camouflage is far bigger than leaf suits and packs of dyed cotton, and there’s a lot of knowledge around airsoft rifles and shooting techniques. There are hundreds of useful books from other areas like hunting, wildlife photography and camping and survival that you can pull good information from. Obsessive? Maybe. But it beats watching reality TV, gardening, or sitting looking at the wallpaper. Might as well use time for something useful.

Away from the popular Facebook groups, thousands strong, pushing likes and adverts for influencers and those looking for an audience, I’ve been gathering a team to help develop this culture. Having support helps massively; the team has a range of experience on every aspect from gun tech to camouflage, across different countries and environments. Quieter players, more studious in their approach, focused on bettering themselves and their equipment. Everyone has knowledge and everyone is able to bring something to the table, and we all then take freely from the table. It’s totally different dynamic to social media groups and provides a much more productive environment than simply reading “X has released a new video, go check it out!” or “my new product X is now available, go buy it!”.

Yeah, playing as a big mass of snipers in a game is a bad idea. Go alone. But off the field, go together. A sniper team like this, although not playing together at a site (we do meet up occasionally), is a great way to develop. Always on hand to answer questions and offer opinions, give advice on your latest camouflage system, figure out how to fix your guns and gear, and share links to useful kit without having to wait until game day to find someone in the safezone. You get out what you put in.

Sniper is Life.

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