The Sad Truth About Airsoft Sniper Rifles
Short and Sweet
Many new Airsofters are very excited about Airsoft sniper rifles. What's the sad truth? In short, Airsoft sniping is difficult and not as glorious as the sniping you see in movies and video games.
Find out about more about what to expect from Airsoft sniping and the training required to get the most out of it. What makes me qualified to talk on the subject? I read books on sniping and applied those techniques to Airsoft. I own a sniper rifle and play very sneakily. In the end, I just have a scope on my primary AEG and love it.
Real Life Sniping
A real life sniper would only engage his targets when he has a ballistic advantage (over 400 meters of open terrain in between him and the target). The sniper would take his shot from a well-concealed and fortified FFP (final firing position).
This approach accomplishes two things:
- The enemy cannot effectively return fire,
- The enemy cannot charge the sniper's position due to the risk of heavy casualties.
Real life snipers also operate with a spotter and get in position long before the enemy passes along the potential line of drift.
10 Reasons Airsoft Sniping is tougher than it seems
When you bring an Airsoft sniper rifle to an Airsoft field, you are facing many challenges:
- You are not exempt from the game's rules and usually cannot insert before the game to find a good position. This causes you to rush in with the rest of your team. Ever tried running in Ghille? Not fun!
- Airsoft fields have large amounts of full cover that you cannot shoot through. This makes airsoft a lot harder than the real life sniping.
- Even the thinnest cover can deflect Airsoft BBs - leaves, small twigs, and dense forest undergrowth cause your shots to miss. This is true regardless of BB weight, and is especially insidious in the fall when a "clear" shot hits an invisible wall of twigs in mid-flight.
- Stock Airsoft sniper rifles do not have the accuracy required for sniping. Unless you spend $300-$700 on professional upgrades, you will not achieve good accuracy
- You rarely have the ballistic advantage that a real sniper seeks - you barely have 60 feet of range on your opponents. A lot of fields limit sniper rifles to 450-500 FPS with 0.2 gram BB. I've never seen a field that allowed hotter rifles.
- Hop-up ballistics mean that your shot's trajectory is not a simple flat line. Instead, the backspin on the BB causes it to go up at the end of the trajectory before sharply dropping. This means you are frequently overshooting your target at the extreme end of your range.
- Typically you don't have a clear line of sight on potential enemy lines of drift. Most Airsoft fields have too much cover to allow for clear 250 feet shots. Believe me, I've been there.
- People have difficulty calling single hits, as they are accustomed to being pelted with multiple shots from AEGs. They might mistake a single shot that hit their gear from 250 feet for a pine cone falling on them or some such. There's simply not enough impact at range to convince them they have been hit.
- Other players can easily suppress you. A typical spring Airsoft Sniper rifle is around 15 pounds and is not designed for taking snap shots.
- Finally, most would be "snipers" don't have the patience to play as a sniper. Missing hours of gameplay as you wait for that one shot that may miss turns a lot of people off the Airsoft sniper role.
An Airsoft Sniper Rifle
Airsoft Sniper Rifle Varieties
There are three types of sniper rifles on the market today, not just the UTG L96 AWP, which people might recognize from Counter Strike (this is why I got mine. : )
- Airsoft Spring Sniper Rifles. These are souped-up versions of spring rifles and usually feature a top rail mount for a scope. The above mentioned UTG L96 comes with about 450 FPS with 0.2s out of the box with medium accuracy. Putting in a tighter spring may make it really hard to pull on the bolt and will reduce your rate of fire. Younger players may struggle to pull the heavier bolt
- Airsoft Gas Sniper Rifles. These use compressed gas, stored in a magazine or a detachable tank to propel BBs (similar to paintball guns). Sniper rifles with an external gas tank are more accurate, as it is easier to adjust hop-up and get a consistent muzzle velocity. Sniper rifles with gas magazines feature varying velocity. In most cases, you still have to pull on the bolt in between each shot.
- Airsoft Electric Sniper Rifles. There are a lot of "electric sniper rifles" sold out there, but they are pretty much just single-shot AEGs with smaller magazines. Getting an AEG to fire at 450-500 FPS requires a lot of mechanical wizardry and constant maintenance. It is tough and very expensive ($500-$600).
Scoped Rifle— Designated Marksman
Ways you can try Airsoft Sniping for free
- Check out an airsoft sniper rifle for free! Get out to an Airsoft skirmish or scenario game and walk around. Someone at such games always has a sniper rifle (just look for a Ghille suit). Talk to that person and ask to check out the airsoft sniper rifle and shoot it. This is easy - people love to showcase their Airsoft weaponry.
- If someone shows you a spring sniper rifle, try pulling the bolt while prone. You should feel comfortable that you can pull this bolt many times during a game from all kinds of positions.
The middle ground - Airsoft designated marksman rifles and scoped AEGs
If you have the pleasure of playing an airsoft woodland game, and your vision is not perfect, you would have experienced the uncertainty caused by enemy camouflage. Are you shooting at a log or at someone's foot? What is that behind a bush - is it a boonie hat or a branch?
These questions will cause you to hesitate to fire, as you don't want to give up your position by shooting at inanimate objects. as
Mounting a scope gives you a tremendous advantage over players who do not use scopes, as it eliminates guesswork and helps you:
- Distinguish players from inanimate objects at over 150 feet
- Enhance the tracer-like effect of white BBs, because you see where you land. With a scope, you can see if your shots are falling short or overshooting due to hopup ballistics. (Normally, you would have trouble seeing where your shots land at over 150 feet. )
Mounting a scope gives you a tremendous advantage over players who do not use scopes
Picking the right Airsoft scope
Unlike a real gun which experiences violent recoil during shooting, airsoft guns experience weak vibration due to gearbox operation. This means that even cheap knockoff scopes can provide decent performance when properly secured. Here are the things to look for when picking a scope.
Eye Relief - at least 2 inches
Beware! There are thousands of types of cheap hunting scopes designed for rifles and crossbows which are not suitable for airsoft! Why? Because with airsoft you always use eye protection, putting extra distance between you and the scope's eye piece. This distance is called "eye relief" and is extremely important.
You won't be able to see comfortably through a scope that has short eye relief. If the eye relief is too small (less than 2 inches as in cheap scopes) you will see a penny sized viewing hole hovering in front of your goggles.
You need at least 2 inches of eye relief for comfortable, immersive picture while wearing goggles. Most likely cheap spring bolt action sniper rifles come with a very cheap scope which works fine without goggles, but has to be replaced if you want to use the gun in a real game where eye protection is required.
Magnification and Lens Diameter
I recommend a 3x-4x magnification scopes for airsoft, as they offer great target acquisition advantage and are easy to use. I find that lens diameter greater than 32mm (4x32 scope) starts to look weird. Higher magnification scopes, like 12x50, are too powerful for airsoft and are typically too tall to mount using standard mounting rings.
Having taller scope increases your overall profile (AEG + Scope + magazine), causing you to be easier to hit while prone. It also decreases your ergonomics. I recommend using "short" mags on scoped AEGs - these reduce your profile when shooting from prone positions.
Real steel rifles experience recoil and do not have tracers - in this case reticle designs can help you line up your shots and estimate target's size / speed. Airsoft BBs fly sufficiently slow, as a result, you can see where your white or even brown BBs land. This reduces the need for intricate reticle design. The simplest, thinnest cross would do, as your eyes follow the BB in flight, turning it into a tracer.
The ideal place to mount a magnified scope is on top of a picatinny rail on the gun's handguard. This allows you to comfortably look through the scope. Some of the more custom guns suitable as DMR do not have a top rail, but instead have a rail on top of handguard. These are more suitable for mounting red dot sights. It might be hard to look through a scope mounted on a handguard, as your goggles would get in the way.
I find that illuminated red dot scopes without magnification are fun for CQB and indoor games, but the dot is too bright and big for using outdoors. You want a magnified scope with a illuminated reticle or even a night vision scope for low light conditions and woodland games.