The Airsoft Sniper: What it is and What it isn’t

Let’s imagine you are a sniper in an airsoft game. Partnered with your spotter, you are given a near impossible task: Take out the enemy commander.  You decide to attempt this while the commander is still in his base and you need to do so as quickly as possible. Study of the local terrain leads you to shows you a quick approach that also gives you good cover and an excellent place to fire from. Everything is set. The game begins and you both move out, following a small trail. Suddenly you hear a twig snap; enemy in sight! You slowly lower yourself to the ground and your ghillie suit blends in perfectly with the surrounding terrain. You watch as a full squad walks within spitting distance from you and your spotter, never suspecting you are there. Once they pass, you continue your approach to the enemy base, quickly maneuvering into position and get eyes on your target. A couple minutes later the commander walks out from his bunker, giving you a clear shot. Breathe out, squeeze the trigger, and release. A perfect goggle hit! The enemy base erupts into chaos, and you sneak off into the woods never to be seen again.

Sounds glorious, doesn’t it? Well, I hate to burst your bubble but without serious training and dedication, this isn’t going to happen, in airsoft or in real life. Military snipers have been glamorized in recent film and other media, but the reality is that it’s  a very difficult position and is often quite dull. It takes so much time to master the field craft and fine tune the weapon, which in the airsoft world most snipers are not willing to do. Also, snipers are very rarely given targets to “take out” and are usually employed in reconnaissance operations (That’s code for crawling long distances and laying still for long periods of time – dull, I tell ya). More often than not, if you are following in the footsteps of real snipers, only your commanding officer will ever know where you were and what you did. Below are some common misconceptions pertaining to snipers, followed by some recommendations for those who desire to become one.

The ghillie suit has quite a few misconceptions surrounding it. The ghillie is designed to break up the human outline because our eyes are naturally drawn to them. Building your ghillie with the colors in your area of operations and adding local foliage is crucial to making it blend. This is why store bought ghillies are not
very effective. They are the correct general color and yes, they break up your outline, but they are easy to see to the trained eye because they may  not have the correct shades of your area and rarely have natural foliage added to them. Even when they are blended well, if you move you defeats the purpose of a ghillie suit! Ghillie suits only work if you’re stationary. Finally, ghillies are heavy and very hot (And even more so for store bought ones)! Just like animal fur, they trap immense amounts of heat, so they should only be worn when absolutely necessary in summer conditions. My recommendation? Start with a boonie hat covered in ghillie or a stalker suit as seen at right. These are better suited to the fast-paced battles of airsoft and give ample concealment when you take up a concealed position. For more information on ghillie construction, check this article.

In Urban Environments snipers rarely ever wear ghillie suits and instead fire from inside buildings through windows and small holes in walls

Sniper Rifles shoot hundreds of meters farther than the standard infantry rifle in the real world. In airsoft, they only shoot a few hundred feet farther. Now, while this is still a significant advantage, a lone sniper or sniper/spotter team is no match for a well trained infantry squad- even in open terrain. First, something you may not know is that sniper rifles are limited to bolt action. This means you have to make your shots count because you may not get another one. No supression, no walking your shots in. You need to know all of your rifle’s little tendencies at range and the only way to do this is shoot it extensively. Secondly, simply putting the most expensive parts in a sniper rifle will not make it the best. In airsoft, gun mechanisms have many tiny quirks that take time and experience to understand. Finally, what you need is consistency in FPS between shots, not necessarily max FPS. Consistency means your BBs will fly the same every shot, enabling you to adjust your windage and elevation more reliably.

Sniper-friendly missions are few and far between in airsoft. It takes a large amount of time (often an hour or more) to stealthily get into a position and the fast pace of most games does not sync well with this. Also, the close range that most battles are fought due to terrain means that the camouflage snipers rely on plays less of a role. If you are able to maneuver in the airsoft battle space, you are likely to come upon squad and multiple squad sized units, but are you equipped to dispatch them?

Don’t get me wrong: snipers can be valuable assets when they know their role and play it well. That said, I would consider a senior player who’s willing to get dirty and doesn’t care if he kills a single person in the game to be a good sniper candidate. No offence to the newer players at all, but unless you have prior training you aren’t going to be an effective sniper- and you won’t have a good time doing so. It’s best to leave this position to the experienced.

So, are you a new guy with the goal of being a sniper? Great! We need more good snipers in airsoft! Barely any understand their role and play it successfully. This article is in no way designed to discourage you from being a sniper! That said, most airsoft players I polled recommend starting your airsoft career as a rifleman. Understanding the basics and how to move and operate as part of a unit is primarily what you need to master in order to be effective on your own (or with a partner). Begin by mastering your rifleman weapon, navigation, radio communication and staying concealed. Learn from real snipers and devour as much information as you can about field craft and rifle upgrades. Then when you are ready, begin building your rifle and ghillie.

The Designated Marksman is a great role to step into if you are considering becoming a sniper. It is not as dedicated and enables you to still run with your squad while taking some of the longer range duties of the sniper. That said, a good DMR is not cheap but neither is a good sniper rifle. My last thought is play a day in the other roles (support gunner, grenadier, etc) if you get the chance. You might just find you like one of them better. I thought i was a designated marksman for life. Now I am a support gunner. Above all, have fun out there!