Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An Introduction to Airsoft "Snipering"

It was requested awhile ago that I discuss the finer points of sniping in the Airsoft realm. Well, I'll cover a few things to get you pointed in the right direction.

- First up: The Difference between a Sniper and a Sniper Rifle -
- (Yes.  There IS a difference) -

A sniper = a person (see below) who operates a sniper rifle, wears a ghillie suit on occasion, and infiltrates enemy lines undetected to relay intel back to command, oftentimes not firing a single shot. 

A sniper rifle (see below) = a tool in which the sniper (see above) uses to accomplish a task, like the new Echo1 ASR here. 

Please do not refer to sniper rifles as just simply a, "sniper."  You sound lazy, like a noob, and in some cases, a lazy noob. 

- Spring vs. Gas rifles -
The two most common types of bolt-action Airsoft sniper rifles are either Spring- or Gas/HPA-powered.  There are advantages and disadvantages to each.  Let's talk briefly about them.

Spring rifles have the advantage when it comes to shot-to-shot power consistency on most days since ambient temperatures do not affect spring rifles like they do their gas counterparts.  Therefore, spring rifles like the UTG Master Sniper Rifle (below left) or the Echo1 ASR (below right) are probably going to be the way to go in regions where colder temperatures prevail for most of the year.

However, the downside when it comes to high-powered spring rifles is the amount of strength required to cycle the bolt between shots.  Because the spring tension is so heavy, it can be fairly difficult to quickly rack the bolt and it also makes it difficult to cycle without making a lot of movement, especially when lying prone, as many snipers like to do in-game.  In this regard, gas rifles like the KJW M700P (Police Version) are going to have the advantage.

Gas rifles tend to have a bit less of a muzzle report as well, which helps to reduce the possibility of giving away your position on the field when you take a shot.   

The good news about both spring rifles and gas is that there a plenty of high quality upgrade parts from companies like PDI, 2Roy and Nineball (owned by Laylax) to name a few of my faves. 

Another, often overlooked or ignored, aspect of the using Airsoft sniper rifles is quality, heavyweight BBs.  Nothing lighter than .27g BBs should be used.  The heavier the better, however.  Unfortunately, as you add weight to the BB, you begin to run out of options in the quality department.  However, there are a few that I recommend.  I will list them for you now in a quasi-particular order.

Perhaps arguably two of the most well-known options in precision BB manufacturing are the Maruzen .29g Super Grandmaster BBs (SGMs) and Bioval .27g BBBMax Transparent BBs. However, both BBs are rarely in stock at the few retailers who carry them and are pretty pricey as BBs go. So here are some lesser-known, yet very suitable alternatives to try out that are much more readily available. They're also easier on your bank account, too.

King Arms .30g Heavy BBs
King Arms .28g Platinum BBs
KSC Perfect .30g BBs
TSD .28g BBs

The one thing I stress about selecting the right ammo is that you really need to try more than one brand or type.  I have found over the years and with the number of different rifles that I've owned that everybody's rifle is going to be different in terms of the BBs that work the best.  One person may have excellent results with the SGMs .29s while another may have much better luck with the King Arms .30s.  I recommend trying out at least three different types of BBs before making your final selection on what you're going to use.

Additionally, with the exception of the infamous Right Hook Fabrication Airsoft Sniper Rifles, there aren't really any rifles on the market that shoot as accurately as needed for a long-range Airsoft weapon right out of the box, so you'll likely need to do some fairly extensive tuning on your gun.  Two important tools in testing your work are a chronograph to measure the velocity and consistency of your rifle, as well as a suitable target setup for groupings tests.  For these items, it's been my pleasure to use the following items in my tests and reviews:

The Shooting Chrony Chronographs are probably going to be your best option.  I have found they are substantially easier to use than some of the other models put out by several Airsoft companies in terms of getting a reading each time, and having relatively low amounts of error readings.
As I've stated in some of my prior gun reviews, I really like these targets for groupings tests.

Also, not entirely necessary, but extra-super handy is the Heavy Duty Metal Trap from Champion. Bear in mind, you actually have to hit the trap in order for it to "trap" the BBs.

And that's the way the BB shatters.


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