Further Sniper Skills

Want to go further than just turning up to a site in your ghillie, rifle in hand, with your little cameras rolling? Of course you do, because otherwise it’d get stagnant fast. What related skills is it worth the sniper learning? The team has just been looking at a non-airsoft hide and seek event that is cropping up across the UK which sees people completing tasks in the woods while evading a hunter force, and the pictures show the hunter force in some god awful realtree effect yowie suits. Entertaining for a day out I guess, would probably attract some little alpha male types looking to add a medal to their bedroom wall. It did spark the question though and I’m stuck on a train right now, so it’s worth a blog.

Beyond being able to shoot a bolt action, and having a knowledge of camouflage, but not at the expense of, there are a lot of additional skills that can enhance your abilities if you have time to learn them. And the key there is time – don’t sacrifice your basics.

I think first of all, communication skills go a very long way. As a local event organiser says, “the team that talks is the team that wins”. Although you may well be out there playing solo in the field, actually being able to link up with your team, or at least listen in to radio communications, gives you a lot of useful information on your team’s position, as well as the enemy position, and how the game is flowing in regards to objectives. Yet, I can count on one finger the number of sites I’ve been to where a team is all unified on a radio frequency. It’s horrifically overlooked. And yes, I’ve seen all the operators with comtac headsets and throat mics but none of them seem able to think outside their own little squad.

To link up with other radios and radio channels, requires a radio that can be programmed to other channels. The best recommendation I have is the Baofeng UV82, a cheap but reliable radio that allows you to tune into two channels, so you can keep your squad on one and the wider team on another and receive both channels which is a godsend in bigger games. There are plenty of accessories available for it too, from extended batteries for bigger games to whip aerials, dual PTT options and plenty of headsets. I run a cheap fist mic on the shoulder which has a jack plug allowing a single d-ring earpiece so that the whole world doesn’t have to listen in on your conversations.

As well as having the radio, it’s worth knowing how to use one as well, to prevent endless drivelling punctuated with lots of ‘ummms’ and awkward pauses. Remember other players may have urgent information to pass on so keep the radio frequency as clear as possible, and keep messages short and to the point. Avoid unnecessary callsign too – far too much time is lost trying to remember people’s special radio nicknames. In case radios go down, learn a few hand signals too – enough to get by with the basics. There are also times you might not be able to talk down the radio as well. Hand signals are a bit like a map and compass – a backup to more modern technology that never fails.

Camping, the art of survival and bushcraft, is something I’ve covered a few times partly because it’s my other main hobby, but also because I think there’s a relevance to snipers who play multi-day events and have a need to go out and stay out without having to hug the car park for comfort. It’s not a case of going to skirmish, managing to spear a bear with a homemade spear for lunch, and drinking your own urine, but are you able and equipped to set up a small stealth camp in a corner of the site, and stay hydrated and fed to remain undetected out in the field?

The activity day I alluded to at the start is open to all ages from 5-75, where, as I understand it, they will form into teams in large woodland areas to be given tasks to complete by the staff, while a hunter force tries to find them. The hunter force has no idea where or what the tasks are, and it’s a bit playground but would be an interesting idea to play on the hunter force to develop decision making and teamwork (obviously there are no guns involved). There would be a lot of learning to creep up on targets stealthily, which plays into the camouflage skills well (camouflage isn’t just what you’re wearing, it’s how you’re using the terrain as well) and that leads me onto the next skill.

Tracking. It’s something I started reading up on before Covid19 hit, from several online sources and this book. My thinking was, if I’m in an area which is used only once a week, there should be signs I can pick up on that would tell me if other players have been in the area. It’s all about awareness and being able to read signs (“spoor”), and is useful for counter-sniping. Already I’m seeing areas where enemy snipers have recently crawled and it’s been an interesting thing to learn. I’m a long way from mastering the complete art but having an insight into being able to read your environment better than the opposition.

CQB is an important skill. Anyone who follows me on social media will probably see more photos of me in a cqb environment than out with a ghillie sniping. Partly because it’s good fun with friends, but also because it’s interesting to see things from the other side, as it were. Especially up against other snipers. Seeing what mistakes they make and relating that back to your own game, learning what gives snipers away and how to counter an engagement with fully automatic rifles. It’s perhaps not something you needed to get good at, but it is something to keep on top of. Side note – I avoid photos as a sniper as much as possible.

Fitness is important, as it is to most airsofters but snipers in particular have this reputation for being lazy campers. Quite the opposite; snipers have to travel much further and across much more uneven terrain, so being flexible and having good stamina is a big help. Strength perhaps less so, as we’ve less weight to carry around without needing plate carriers, helmets etc. A little bit of running can go a long way.

Often in the real world, we see snipers drawing landscapes, measuring distances and doing complex ballistic-related maths. It’s not necessarily something that would benefit the airsoft sniper though, being that we’re operating at much closer ranges and spending much less time on observation than it takes to even roughly draw a picture. In terms of reconnaissance, the radio skills and live updates to the rest of the team are more useful than written information gathered over the course of a few days. So I wouldn’t look at art classes or anything…

What do people think? Are there any other useful skills that you could add to your sniper skillset?

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