My Opinions on Airsoft Sniping
This is one I wanted to write, however much it may make me look like some sort of opinionated, elitst prick. I'm very open about my stance on a lot of things, as I am a strong advocate of free speech and believe everyone is entitled to their own opinions.
I eluded to my thoughts in my last post about upgrading the gearbox in my m14. I'll warn you here that I get pretty heavily into my opinions; my pretty strong opinions on this topic. I'll start by saying that I believe everyone should play how they want to and should ignore the opinions of others, like me, who may disapprove. At the end of the day, it's your hobby and you should engage with it however you want to. If someone's opinions are opposing to yours, that's fine; it's the nature of free speech and our own humanity.
So, on the topic of upgrading my m14, despite how much I hated doing it, I still did it myself. Why would I put myself through such trials and tribulations? Why would I do something I actively did not enjoy?
It's all down to how I view sniping in airsoft.
"But Tariq, you're building a DMR with the m14. It's not a sniper rifle," I hear you say. In my opinion, the distinction between DMR and sniper rifle is more in the role they play in airsoft. Furthermore, it is largely dictated by the rifle used. The m14 would be considered a DMR and not a sniper rifle, however the m21 was a sniper rifle used by the US Army for many years. Really, the main difference and where you could argue that it is a DMR is on the airsoft power limits, hence I called the series "building the ultimate airsoft DMR". I could have upgraded it to fire at 2.3J, though I didn't want to have to mess around with a delay mosfet to fit into the sniper category for power. Anyway, power isn't the best way to dictate range or accuracy in airsoft; it's all about the hop up these days. More power only helps by allowing you to better use heavier BBs, in my opinion, which allows them to hold onto the kinetic energy for longer.
The reason why I forced myself to open up the m14 and do the upgrades myself, my view on sniping in airsoft, was down to my opinion that airsoft snipers should upgrade their rifles from their base platform, tweaking it to their specific needs and getting to know how their rifle works at the basest level. Perhaps it's because I'm old fashioned, having started airsoft just over 13 years ago, but I view this as a rite of passage, however stupid that may sound, into airsoft sniping. It's like how in the military, a sniper has to be top notch at all the things a rifleman has to do, I believe in airsoft a sniper should at least have a good amount of experience with a normal AEG so they know how the game works and how the different variables affect where your shots are going.
Anecdotally, I think this comes from how sniping was when I first joined the hobby. You didn't have these rifles of today that come with all the upgrades you need out of the box, you had to buy the base, which was usually a TM VSR10 or JG BAR10 as a springer or a KJW m700 or Tanaka rifle for gas, then upgrade it yourself with aftermarket parts. Every sniper had to do this, leading to every airsoft sniper knowing their rifles inside and out. When I was still in the UK as a teenager, I was on a team with two snipers who did exactly this, upgrading their chosen base rifle to match their exact needs. Then, when I moved to Spain, where I befriended a large variety of different aisofters, including two German airsoft techs who used gas KJW m700s that they had painstakingly crafted to match their exact needs in a rifle. The common ground in both of these examples was that back in these days, airsoft snipers were known to be good at what they did; they had a reputation. Furthermore, ghillie suit wearing snipers were few and far between, as the ones who did use one had to craft their own from base materials, again to suit their own needs and the colour palette of their home site or country.
This is one of the main reasons why I hate the Novritsch rifles and why I also somewhat dislike the Silverback SRS rifles. Anyone can pick up a Novritsch rifle and have a fully upgraded rifle out of the box, making the hard work of those of us who take the time to tune our own rifles look a bit pointless. Combine that with the more prevalent services of airsoft techs and now it becomes a case of if you have enough money, anyone can be an airsoft sniper. Additionally, with the huge availability of ready made leaf suits and the misleading effect that I think a lot of airsoft sniping Youtube channels have, it creates a fictitious paradigm of airsoft snipers demolishing whole teams from unseen positions on a regular basis, when airsoft sniping is rarely so glamourous. I will always remember how one of the German guys I used to airsoft with in Spain put airsoft sniping: "It's not how many you hit. It's how you hit them."
Simply put, what I see nowadays are an absolute tonne of airsoft snipers with no idea how to properly use their kit, which diminishes the outside perception of the role. More importantly, you get a lot of newer airsoft snipers who have no idea on how to gauge distance and therefore often break their MED, firing at targets at 10 - 15m away when the MED is 30m; this is dangerous and is something that will lead to injury, not to mention it's painful being on the receving end of a high powered shot at close range. I will often find myself looking at teams of 30 airsofters, with an excess of 6 or 7 snipers, sometimes even hitting 10+, which is excessive to say the least. I can't fault the site either, as when I look at the other team it can be seen to be of similar numbers. Then, getting out into the game area, I will often see these snipers acting like they are just using an AEG, giving up all the advantages that using a sniper rifle gives them.
This is one of the reasons I have stepped away from my VSR in favour of my new m14. Back when I first started, power was important when it came to range. Hop up was still important, but we didn't have nearly the same level of hop up technology as we do today. A VSR upgraded to 500fps on .2s with a hard VSR hop up rubber was king, however these days we have the invention of flat hops and r-hops, giving lower power AEGs a far greater effective range than what used to be common. I will be conducting a more in-depth range and accuracy test once the current Covid situation is over and my local site re-opens, but differences in power are now not as important, meaning my m14 will likely shoot to a similar level of accuracy and range as my VSR. However, the increased rate of fire afforded by semi-automatic over bolt action will give far greater flexibility than a couple of metres extra range. Also, it's the ultimate anti-sniper gun, so where I find bolt action rifles being less effective due to the much higher numbers you see fielded these days, my m14 only gets more effective due to these increased bolt actions on the field as they are ideal targets.
I still love airsoft sniping and I believe everyone should play how they wish to; everyone's enjoyment of the hobby should come first and foremost. I just think that sniping should require a little bit of effort to get into. I will continue to hone my own craft, my feelings on having to upgrade your own rifle have only grown stronger with the more commercially available upgraded rifles, sidearms and leaf suits. While it will sound incredibly big headed, I don't see any sniper who buys a pre-upgraded sniper rifle and sidearm as a proper sniper. I simply don't respect it. This is my opinion. Spring snipers and gas pistols are so easy to upgrade, and information about which parts are good is so readily available. I asked so many questions of so many people when upgrading my rifle and I feel I learned a lot in the process and became a far more well-rounded airsofter in the process.
If people want to buy pre-upgraded rifles, I won't stop them or tell them that they're "not doing airsoft right". I will always advise people to go for a base platform and then upgrade it themselves if asked, but I won't be as emphatic has I have been in this article. This was merely me airing my thoughts and strong, personal opinions. However, they are just that. Personal opinions. How I view the hobby from my own eyes. It's one of the things I love about airsoft; everyone can engage with it how they like, whether it's historical, milsim, speedsoft, re-enactment, role playing or just regular skirmishing; woodland, urban or CQB; pistol primary, assault, sniper, designated marksman; AR-15, AK, m14, r700, HK416, SVD, mp5, p90... There are so many different ways to engage with the hobby. There is so much variety.
Figure I'll end it on that. I've gone on long enough. Whether you agree or disagree, I hope I at least showed you my perspective on a specific aspect of the hobby.