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Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: North Delta, BC (Greater Vancouver)
New to airsoft? Wanna be a "SNIPER"? Please read this!
This is so common with new players/noobs, I figured it deserves its own thread.
A mass of new players who enter airsoft, have a glorified view of snipers/sharpshooters, and automatically gravitate towards this role on the airsoft field. The truth is, sniping and airsoft have a complicated and/or troubled relationship. Here is what you need to know about sniping as a new player/airsofter.
I'm new to airsoft, is a sniper role a good idea?: No, not really. Sorry to dash your hopes, or to discourage you, but please consider all of the following. Most new players who jump into a snipers role, end up hating it. In fact, the percentage of which who regret doing it versus the few that it has worked out for is staggering by comparison. This is a very common problem, and usually ends in one of two outcomes. First, the player realizes that sniping is hard, expensive, ineffective, boring as hell, etc, etc, and ends up selling their sniper rifle at a considerable loss. Second, many others realize that they will never be able to either afford or have the skill to snipe, get discouraged, and end up turned off of airsoft. These are really two places a new airsofter does not want to go. Don't believe me? Read on.
What is sniping like on the airsoft field?: The short answer here is "very boring". Airsoft more or less is a fast paced combat game, loosely based off of military gear and tactics; however, not everything translates over well from real life into the sport, and sniping is no exception. Sniper rifles are limited to the same basic physics as any other device that flings a 6mm BB, but has made, in most cases, less technological advancements. As a sniper, you are not a front line fighter, as your gun is more cumbersome and less mobile. Most new players who start off sniping, get bored, frustrated, and end up moving on to something else, and often taking a hit on their sniper rifle while trying to sell it.
Will I make a big difference as a sniper?: In most cases, No you will not. Due to the limited amount of adversity your weapon has, you can go from moderately effective, to absolutely useless very fast. A very experienced and/or talented player, "may" be able to take on a recon style role, defend a position, or act as over watch and support for his team. Now, take that same guy and move him into a CQB/CQC situation or an assault, and he no longer of relative use. Sniping in airsoft is nothing like it is in Call of Duty, and you "will not" end up a hero and looking like Mark Whalberg or Tom Berenger.
Is sniping in airsoft difficult?: Yes, very. An airsoft sniper has only one shot, and it is extremely effected by wind, distance, and targets remaining relatively still. Because you do not have a volley of BB's to help you adjust your shot, and sniping usually takes place at some kind of a distance, you will have to really know what you are doing. If you shoot and miss your target, they may be alerted to your presence and will run you over with automatic fire. Shooting at a group has the similar effect, even if you get one of them, the others will quickly zero in on your position.
Sniper rifles shoot better than other guns, right?: Nope! A 6mm BB coupled with FPS limits, environmental issues, gravity, and other basic physics has the same properties when shot out of any platform. Several fields allow for snipers to play with a slightly elevated FPS to make them more useful, and to integrate them into the game. This does not mean you will have a massive distance advantage, and in many cases can give you no advantage. BB flight, as far as the gun goes, is mostly effected by hop-up spin, air seal and air cushion (or gas release), properties of your barrel, and and FPS versus BB weight. So in essence, the only advantage you recieve is the ability to run a heavier BB, which may give you more stability in flight over a longer period of time and/or distance. This in no way means that your BB will still be accurate, or even reach its target. All things in your sniper rifle must be appropriately in balance, and sniper rifles "need" this at all times to even be considered, versus an easily maneuverable and more ergonomic gun, that has semi and automatic fire modes.
Can I use a semi automatic?: Yes and no. Yes, you can use a semi automatic as a sniper weapon if you want, but no you will not receive the snipers FPS boost. A semi automatic, or even a gun that is pinned to disable fully automatic is still inappropriate as a sniper platform with a boosted FPS. Take for example a Systema PTW, arguably the best platform on the market. Now give it a DMR (designated marksman rifle) setup, throw a scope on it, and call it a sniper. These guns have such a solid trigger response, you can actually send a volley of BB's down range with that feel of full auto, but have more power and accuracy when they are in semi auto mode. Now imagine a guy who calls himself a sniper, running at you with a hail of BB's, and a higher FPS than you're allowed to run. It doesn't sound smart, does it? For these reasons and others, most fields limit boosted snipers to BA (bolt action) guns only. If you do not know, this means that on the rear of the gun there is a bolt that you draw all the way back and forward again to load one BB into the breach, and ready it to fire. Repeat process for every BB.
I'm naturally sneaky, so that will help, right? Yes it will, and no you're not. Most new players overestimate their abilities, and have to spend the same amount of time as the rest of us to figure out where they fit in. Being sneaky is a small fraction of the puzzle. True sniper movement is very very slow, over any length of distance. Even in a ghillie suit, sniper veil, or high end tactical camouflage, you are still limited to your environment, and how adept your enemies are. Remember, most moderately experienced airsofters have spent every weekend training their brain to search for pattern, movement, and camo in their surroundings. Even the most disruptive camo patterns has its limitations, and this is what we do every weekend and every game. Remember, even your opponents with their automatics, will be wearing high end camo as well; at least in most cases. Even ex-military or ex-paintball players can have some trouble adapting to airsoft, as they have to re-learn things, as they see new and unique dynamics.
Can I run a big sniper rifle like an Intervention, or a Barret?: Yes you can, but no you shouldn't. Big, bulky, and harder to maneuver guns may look cooler, but make you easier to spot, and are less efficient. Big fancy sniper rifles in airsoft usually suffer from a number of different problems; size and maneuverability for starters, proprietary parts, which can translate into lack of available upgrades, they are very expensive by comparison, and length does not always translate into accuracy. If you were playing hockey, and you were a forward, would you want a goalie stick carved out of steel? It may look cool, but only hanging on your wall. They also make airsoft mini-guns, but you will not likely see an assault player running around with this 40 pound mass over a solid M4 platform.
My budget is limited, should I buy a clone?: While clones usually take the upgrade parts of their original design counterparts, they usually are asking for trouble. The reason they are cheaper, is that they are made cheaper, and by companies that haven't spent the years of care and R&D to get to where they are. You are likely to find that the cheap guns do not have the exact same tolerances, and therefore may yield different effects once fully upgraded. There have been cases of some clones turning out well, as they are near to the same as the original, but these are few and far between, and even so, may not last as long. We've already talked about what an investment these guns can be, you may as well start out right. It is important to realize that companies that make upgrade parts, such as PDI and Laylax, make parts for guns they like, and have faith in. People aren't going to come over to your dilapidated and smelly old shack to hang out, just because you bought a new leather couch. Nor would that leather couch company use your living room as an ad to sell said couch. Bad analogy? Too bad, it works!
What is a cheap sniper rifle, that's also accurate?: There's not one. Most sniper weapons out of the box, will only shoot true for under 100 feet or so depending on many factors. Many cheap or clone companies try to draw players in by advertising a higher FPS. Essentially, what they have done is made a cheaper version of another gun that will not have the same tolerances you need, and put a larger spring in it. Power and speed is only a small fraction of what is needed for an effective sniper weapon. Even high end sniper platforms, "will need" a host of upgrades to be accurate at any sort of distance, in many cases the entire internal structure needs replacement and/or modification. Cheap and or proprietary sniper platforms may also lack the available upgrades needed, and then you are stuck with what you buy. Think of it this way; we've already touched on the fact that high end and appropriate upgrades may be needed to even get the gun field ready, so as it will be an investment no matter what, why cheap out on the most important part, the base gun?
What kind of upgrades should I look for?: A lot. Basically, and even in a spring powered sniper platform, everything is inter connected. If you replace the spring with a stronger one, that puts tension on trigger sears, and the cylinder (bolt and piston), so both of those will need replacement, or they will fail under the tension of the bigger spring. The sears put higher tension on the trigger mechanism, so you will run into one of two problems; the trigger will break under the expanded tension, or it will be very difficult to pull the trigger with more force pushed up against the sears. Now you've replaced the trigger with a engineered one, the spring for more power, and the cylinder set, pushing you well into the hundreds of dollars. Now the front end. The hop-up is likely the most important part of the assembly, and may need replacement depending on which brand of gun you buy, but the nub or bucking "will" need replacement. Next is the inner barrel, and this is likely the single most complex part of the upgrade procedure. For every gun, bore width, quality, and barrel length will play a part in the balance of performance. As we are talking about a sniper platform, you will likely need to buy the best on the market, within reason of course, but may also be the most expensive. Barrels are the single most disputed upgrade part in any airsoft gun, as different gun types yield varied results from all the types available. I cannot guarantee which part of the science has the most effect, but you will need to find the best one that works for you and your gun. After all the big parts are in place, you will need other parts to help with things from stability, to pieces that make your gun more quiet. Items like barrel spacers, silencers, adapters, scopes, bi-pods, magazines, and heavy weight BB's can all add up very quickly. In upgrades alone, I mentioned somewhere between $500 - $1200 worth, not including the stock gun, but all platforms are different. All of these upgrades will need to be installed perfectly, and have regular maintenance to ensure weapon performance.
What sniper rifles are best?: Essentially the old school spring platforms such as Tokyo Marui VSR, and the Maruzen APS-II are the most effective, as they are tried and tested, and have the best and most varied host of upgrades available. Newer systems like the Classic Army M24 are cheaper, and starting to make a name for themselves, but fewer have been confirmed to be as effective as the prior. Some players may gravitate towards wanting a gas system, as they usually have a more realistic feel, and/or have a good potential to be great. Gas systems have a bunch of unique complications, and even as an assault weapon are never suggested for new players. Gas systems can have a wild FPS swing due to temperature change, and because they don't have the same FPS loss or gain due to switching to a different weight of BB, they are chronographed with the BB they will be using instead of 0.20g BB's such as spring or electric systems. Imagine for a moment, it's very hot out, and your gas sniper rifle is shooting much higher than usual, and it chronographed too hot (too much FPS) for the field your playing. Now you try to change your gas pressure valve, if you gun even has one, or change BB weight. How do you think that will effect your guns precise sniper performance? probably not too well. You hop-up, scope, etc may all have to be wildly adjusted to compensate, and that is very difficult to do mid game. Gas rifles also tend to be more expensive for an even semi-reliable model, and so are their upgrades, if there even is any. Gas magazines for example for anything from pistols, to automatics, to sniper rifles can be anywhere from $40 - $80 a piece.
I've got the time and money, can I run my gun now?: Probably not, unfortunately. Many fields that allow hot sniper weapons, also have a host of rules to compensate for the higher FPS; a minimum engagement distance for starters. Due to the higher FPS, most fields require snipers not to engage a target within 50 feet or less, as to negate injury. This means you will likely want a reliable secondary or sidearm to defend yourself when enemy forces move in. Another big roadblock, is referred to as "sniper certification", which means that only snipers that have taken a course that is recognized by your field are allowed to run a higher FPS gun. In other cases, it can be limited to well known and experienced players only to the local scene.
What else can I do to help with sniping?: Not much. There are a few tricks of the trade to help though, and several threads on ASC that explain everything from shooting a sniper weapon, to upgrades, to custom modifications. For starters, I'd recommend making your gun silent. With the assistance of a damper, silencer, and/or air brake, your spring platform will actually be pretty darn quiet. Play around with FPS, hop-up, barrels, and BB weight. It is of the utmost importance to find a happy balance which can maximize your guns potential. Figure out what airsoft is to you. Are you ever planning on attending events, or playing at a large field? Then maybe your cheap as hell springer wont do it for you. Many younger players try to justify their insatiable need to snipe by explaining how they will only ever play with their small group of friends, or how everyone else gun sucks, so who cares. Whatever your reason(s), try to think about what you want out of the sport, versus what you want right now.
Is there a decent alternative to sniping?: Hell yes! Been waiting for a positive? Here it is. There are many roles in airsoft, and a sniper or support style has a home. As the best rounded weapons and most effective are your primary assault, many players build a DMR (designated marksman rifle) platform. Usually tuned to maximize distance and accuracy, and have their hop-ups set for long. A DMR is a good balance between a marksman, and a front line fighter, while remaining very good at both. DMR usually consist of full length variants of weapons such as the M16, modified for long range elimination, spotting, and stealth, versus in your face quick attack. Another alternative in a support role is an LMG (light machine gun) such as a M60 or M249. Although these can be heavier than most other guns, a properly tuned LMG is a terror to behold. Imagine raining a hellfire of BB's at your target while your squad moves up, unopposed. These can be some of the more "fun" ways to play if done right, and will likely satisfy your itch to be different.
I'm taking this seriously, but still want to snipe. What now?: Well, here's the reasonable run down. Airsoft is a very versatile sport, and depending on where you play, how you play, and who you play with, your experience may be any number of things. I have been in airsoft for nearly a decade, and I am just now wading into the snipers world. I played for many years with a DMR platform, and loved it. One thing I have realized, is that snipers, unless they are absolutely crack, are usually useless. It is important to be effective for your team, and be adaptable for any situation. With this in mind, myself and most other experienced players would likely suggest the following. For starters, get yourself a reliable AEG (automatic electric gun), and upgrade and outfit it as needed to play. Next work on obtaining some decent gear, so you can feel effective, and carry all your equipment appropriately for whatever games you play. After you have a solid start, then you can do your sniper project on the side, but will always have a versatile load out, and a reliable gun to fall back on. Not only will you be guaranteed to have fun, but you can also be effective all the time.
I hope this helps any fledgling airsofters, or airsoft snipers.
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Last edited by Ricochet; September 26th, 2013 at 01:10..