• Tariq Slee-Egeler

The Merits of Different Airsoft Sniping Systems

I was writing an article about the new bolt action rifle I'm building and I came to realise I never put my thoughts to paper (or e-paper) on the different types of airsoft sniper rifle. I've spoken about the differences in style of play between sniper, DMR and traditional rifleman, but as I primarily fulfil the sniper role in airsoft, I figured I should go into a bit more detail regarding the different types of airsoft sniper rifle you can field. Really, it goes into three categories: spring, gas and electric.


I'll also assess these based on the following scores:

  • Reliability - Will it let you down?

  • Consistency - Shot to shot consistency in power

  • Cost - How affordable it is (spoiler alert, sniping is expensive)

  • Ease of Teching - How easy it is to work on or upgrade

  • Ease of Use - How easy it is to use in the field

  • Stealth - How quiet it is (important for snipers!)


Spring

Reliability: 5 / 5

Consistency: 4 / 5

Cost: 2.5 / 5

Ease of Teching: 5 / 5

Ease of Use: 2 / 5

Stealth: 4 / 5


Perhaps the most common and reliable of all sniper platforms, we look at spring powered guns. It is with good reason these platforms are the cornerstone of airsoft sniping as they're incredibly reliable, very consistent and wonderfully easy to work on. In addition, while still expensive, these are often the cheapest sniper rifles to upgrade to the level of performance you will want out of your rifle. Some even come at a healthy muzzle energy out of the box, like the Cyma cm701 or JG BAR-10 meaning you only need to pick up the barrel and hop upgrades. Give me £200 and I'll build a very nice, very effective VSR based sniper rifle.


Spring powered rifles work by compressing a compression coil spring, then releasing it when the trigger is pulled to force a piston forward, creating the air pressure that shoots the BB from the barrel. There are no environmental issues with spring sniper rifles beyond if it's incredibly cold your hop rubber can freeze a little. A spring rifle, outside of fairly extreme climates, will always perform the same, as it's just a spring compressing and forcing a piston forward.


The downside is the ease of use. While it will always work, the bolt pull can be a bit of an effort when you're going all day and potentially longer if you're at a specific event or a milsim. The more powerful springs require more force to fully compress, so it's not as much of an issue with a 1J setup, however with the 2.3J springs it takes a bit of strength to pull. Also, it's relatively loud. Yes, it's far quieter than a gas blowback pistol or an AEG and yes you can upgrade it to be very quiet, but it's a lot more work and without it there is a fairly noticeable clunk as the piston shoots forward and impacts with the cylinder head, even with sorbo pads.


Overall, spring is what I would recommend anyone looking to get into sniping and is a platform that you can use from the start of your sniping experience all the way through to the end. Spring sniper rifles are a fantastic option and, honestly, I would rate them as overall the best. Top notch consistency and reliability is what you want in a sniper rifle.


Gas/HPA


Gas: Reliability: 2 / 5

Consistency: 2 / 5

Cost: 2 / 5

Ease of Teching: 4 / 5

Ease of Use: 3 / 5

Stealth: 5 / 5


HPA:

Reliability: 3 / 5

Consistency: 4 / 5

Cost: 1 / 5

Ease of Teching: 3 / 5

Ease of Use: 3 / 5

Stealth: 5 / 5


A bit more complex than the inner workings of spring rifles, gas snipers see more usage in warmer climates where temperature is less of an issue. While I've lumped them into the same category due to their similar workings, HPA and gas have different strengths and weaknesses.


The biggest plus for gas and HPA is just how silent the action is. Pulling the bolt back is effortless and all it really does is load the BB. Then the trigger pull has very little in terms of moving parts, as it merely triggers the gas or HPA to push the BB out. The system is incredibly silent and often doesn't even need a suppressor, allowing you to run a slightly shorter rifle if you don't want to work on internally suppressing the barrel. As stealth is so important for sniping, I rate this as pretty important.


In terms of usage, they're also incredibly easy. You either put gas or a CO2 bulb in the mag, or connect up the line to your regulator and tank for HPA and you're ready to go. It's a little daunting at first, but it's not too difficult to work with. However, I've put reliability and consistency a bit lower because your rifle power will fluctuate with the temperature if you're using gas and you'll have to run a line to a tank that you'll have to carry around for HPA. Moreover, when gas or HPA starts running low, the power suffers as well, meaning consistency isn't the best toward the end of a tank. However, this is easy to remedy by just carrying additional CO2 bulbs or a bottle of gas, but HPA will need you to head back to the safe zone if they have the facilities) or drop the rifle entirely for the day if you can't refill it. Also, they tend to cost more as in the long run you're going to be shelling out for gas or HPA refills in addition to BBs and other consumables needed to play the game.


Electric

Reliability: 4 / 5

Consistency: 4 / 5

Cost: 3 / 5

Ease of Teching: 3 / 5

Ease of Use: 5 / 5

Stealth: 3 / 5


Some people are going to say to me "oh, but that isn't a sniper. That's a DMR!" and I'll say to them "that's where you're wrong!"


See, the difference between a sniper and a DMR depends on how you look at it. Mechanically, a sniper rifle is typically bolt action and goes to 2.32 joules (in the UK at least), where a DMR is typically semi-auto and goes to 1.64 joules. However, I like to look at it from a practical perspective. In terms of gameplay, the only difference between a sniper and a DMR is how they operate. I will still classify myself as a sniper when running my m14, for example, because the way I play doesn't change.


So with that out of the way, what are the benefits of using this platform? The biggest plus comes in the form of how easy they are to use. With a bolt action rifle, you have to be careful about the shots you do take. There is an emphasis on stealth because generally if people know where you are, you get overrun as your rate of fire, even with an effortless gas bolt pull, is not high enough to fend off a bunch of angry AEG users. However, with an electric platform, you have the rate of fire and the ammo capacity afforded by even low-cap magazines gives you incredible staying power. Suddenly, those AEG rushers can't so easily overrun your position because you can return fire with a decent amount of BBs that are probably heavy weight and flying harder and further.


Also, due to the battery operated nature, these rifles will be fairly consistent as long as you're being sensible with your batteries. Personally, I run one lipo before lunch, then switch to my other one after lunch and I've never even come close to running low. Most of the time when I storage charge them, they have to actually discharge! Correctly set up, these rifles can put out a lot more fire than a bolt action at a largely similar range.


The biggest drawback to me comes in the stealth aspect. As I said earlier, sniping requires a lot of stealth and these rifles are louder than HPA or spring, as the gearbox does make that telltale sound when you pull the trigger and all those moving parts... well... move. However, I gave a 3 / 5 because you're locked to semi-auto; firing semi-auto is far less noticeable than full auto.


A further drawback is the tech required. Now, you can get some of the clone guns that already fire at 420fps or 1.6J, in which case the upgrades are easy, but for a lot of AEGs you need to delve into the gearbox to upgrade the power, which is a lot harder than delving into a gas or spring gun in my opinion. I still have nightmares about my m14 and its V7 gearbox. All those springy bits...


However, if one comes at already 420fps or 1.6J, then they are a very easy and usually fairly cheap platform to upgrade.


Overall thoughts?


There's a reason I own one of each type. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. A spring powered rifle won't let you down. A gas rifle will perform high with a bit more maintenance and attention to gas reserves. An electric rifle will allow you to put out a lot more fire. They all have their place and can all work as airsoft sniper rifles. It's just about what's important to you. For me, I'll be using my gas and electric rifles more than my springer, because I'll either be aiming for maximum stealth or I'll be aiming to hold ground from a concealed position. Spring is a fantastic backup weapon, but to me I just prefer the other types primarily.


Honestly, I like all systems, but now I want to get another DMR AEG and HPA it... And that's a lot of airsoft acronyms.


I guess that's going on the list of "things I'm not going to do for a while because expensive". There's always 2021.

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