The Airsoft Rifleman

Airsoft has (d?)evolved into a fantastically varied experience compared to where it was as recently as ten years ago. The safe zone is awash with all sorts of different characters, from paintball influenced speedsofters to milsim operators, bedroom YouTube warriors, pink mandalorians, gamers wearing cat ears, hawaiian shirts and animal onesies. It’s a far more casual affair for the most part, and I’m not going to disagree with any of the above. But it’ll help paint a picture…

In addition to the varied costumes on sites, the advances in technology mean that weapons are no longer just a case of matching any old AEG to your reenactment kit and leaving it at that. The boom in social media profiles means that many players hit the field either;

A) Wanting to be something special

B) Wanting to at least look like something special in the photos, or

C) Thinking they’re something special

I’m writing this at the moment with a big event on the horizon at my local site. 100+ per side, green team vs black team for a day long game. Immediately there are plenty of conversations sparking up on both sides about tactics and plenty of bravado over bringing game changing weapon systems. Sniper rifles, DMR’s, mortars, grenade launchers, miniguns, dual wielded pistols, dual wielded SMG’s, a western revolver that allegedly will outrange a sniper rifle, pulse rifles, rates of fire so high the motor will melt in the first two hours, thermal scopes…

The list goes on. Everyone is desperate to fulfil some special role on the field. And yet, from experience most of these will likely be over-teched and ripe for failure, or simply won’t be the game changing tool that the owners think they’ve paid for. Because airsoft comes down to tactics more than it does equipment. And the only opponent, as a sniper, that I actually worry about coming up against is the humble, bog standard, grunt style Rifleman. Especially if they have friends.


The Rifleman is the basic building block of every force (in airsoft terms). With an assault rifle and a handful of mags, they’re flexible enough to take objectives, guard VIP’s, defend bases, even perform reconnaissance roles but with more firepower than a sniper. They’re the main punch of every attack (sorry LMG guys) and the dogged wall in every defence. The ones who run light are a nightmare to go up against, unencumbered by bulky or heavy loads, they can navigate spaces quicker and more easily than the operator wannabes, and close you down before you can counter. Think guerilla tactics done right. Simple but highly effective. And organised if they’re part of a team (I don’t mean just walking around the site together, I mean covering each other like a Greek phalanx giving the enemy few angles to attack). The problem with a lot of specialist roles in airsoft is that they need complemented with something else to patch up their weaknesses, ie the DMR needs some full auto support, the artillery and medics need protection, the loud bossy one with the tactical knowledge of dried dog shit just needs a slap etc. The Rifleman even if all others around them are gone is still perfectly well equipped to execute any mission.

At the very top of the game, I’ve played at Stirling milsim events and witnessed their in-house Sabre and Zulu teams rip through occupied buildings like a cheap pair of trousers with a hole in the crotch. With speed, aggression and teamwork they’re not something you want to be on the receiving end of. Sniper buddy Bubba is the only guy I’ve seen come close, holding off a whole team in a trench network once with his L119, of which videos exist, but he’s a professionally trained soldier so the skills and drills are there…

And yet, they’re a diminishing sight on game days. Players now I guess are looking for more dramatic “hero moments” in games. Far too many think that buying a ton of high spec parts for their m4 and trying to crank it up to maximum bb spewing capacity will compensate for their lack of movement skills by simply out-shooting the enemy, and feeding issues or parts compatability sharp puts a dent in those ambitions. Miniguns and LMG’s can certainly spray out plastic but are cumbersome and some seem to have more issues than a mk23 on a cold day. The DMR – well, it just can’t full auto and despite the best claims, is still 100fps and some precision short of a bolt action.

I quickly learned playing for England that although sniping is fun, every sniper on that team is one body less to do the grunt work of securing an objective (though not totally without use). If ten turn up out of 100 players, that’s a 10% hit to your chances of overwhelming an enemy position with an aggressive push. If half your players are trying to perform special roles, that’s only half your team available to do what needs done to secure victory. Not saying they won’t help, but they come with all sorts of limitations.

That’s about as basic as it gets…

A Rifleman with a radio is perhaps the ultimate battlefield asset. Multiplied if working as part of a rehearsed team. Thinking about it, it’s not often (where I play anyway) that you notice actual teams any more. Very rarely do we now see a group all kitted out in the same camouflage hitting the field as a unit. And by unit, I mean working together and covering each other. That’s what makes a good airsofter – fire and manoeuvre, and communication. Not a Gate Titan.

In terms of planning effective loadouts, as I’ve mentioned in many sniper blogs a reliable gun is worth more than one that can burst fire or leave your mags empty in 0.3 secs (not a good situation btw). Hitting targets largely relies on you getting the shot in before they see you. Fight light, fight right. Don’t carry anything that isn’t essential. If something is there “just in case” there’s always a way to work without it. Anyone who was at Ai500 Operation Titan at the Sandpit will tell you the difference it makes being weighed down by plate carriers and helmets, especially if you’re trying to impress with weighted training plates. Always plan on having to crawl through a ditch if necessary and ensure your gear allows you to do that. A lot of big face mask setups affect your peripheral vision or cheek weld on the gun too, as cool as it might look with rainbow lenses and something the size of a motorcycle helmet on your face. There’s a great lesson at the end of the film 300 about encumberance, which I’ll link here. Probably not get another chance to drop 300 into an airsoft blog.

Grunts are cool. Be more grunt. And with that, it’s time for a new loadout 🤔

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