Since the 90’s, there has been a lot of controversy in paintball concerning the term “Sniper”. For years, many players outright said there is no such thing as a paintball sniper. And yet, most of us who have played will admit. There have been games where we were out on the field, and a single shot rang out. You feel the paint hit you and look down and see the mark. Yet, you have NO clue where it was fired from! You raise your hand and leave the match and in your mind you know… You just got “snipered” by someone who is adept at stealth, has great shooting skills and more importantly, they outwitted and outlasted you in that match, and it makes your hair stand up on the back of your neck just thinking about it.
I’ve been playing as a paintball sniper for close to a decade now. And for years I heard all the excuses why I didn’t exist. Players told me that paintball guns aren’t accurate enough for one shot kills, they said, that even with the best systems out there, there is no way you can shoot ONE paintball and get kill after kill after kill, especially at range. This was one of the reasons I invented my ZoomCam system for filming paintball, as I wanted to capture on film the long range single shot kills I was getting with regular paintballs. With over 17,500+ subscribers, and well over 2,250,000+ views now on YouTube, on my Trails of Doom channels. People are finally saying “Yes, there are snipers in paintball”. And videos like this have proven that with the right gear (Both Henry and I were using Tippmann A-5 paintball markers in this video) and great paint, you too can make shots like this!
So what sets a sniper apart from a typical marksman paintballer? The biggest obstacle that most players overlook is the mental aspect of playing as a Sniper. You have to be somewhat of a loner at times, someone who will go out in a large scenario and play all by themselves, for hours… leaving the safety of team support behind, and go deep behind enemy lines all alone. You must learn to predict your opponent’s movements and how they think, when they hit the field. Only when you can predict what they will do, and then lay an ambush for them that stops their progression and hinders them from moving. THAT is what a paintball sniper brings to the field. Equipment matters to a degree, but the mental ability to predict and outwit your opponent, even in a short game. That is what strikes fear into your opponents, and puts a target on your back, as opposing players want to get you out of the game as quickly as they can! For years, I listened to the critiques of why there can’t be paintball “snipers” and then I finally made a video that would silence the critics. This is footage from a large scenario at Paintball Country in Ohio, where I was tasked as my team’s sniper to go out and take out as many medics as possible, and try to infiltrate the opposing team’s headquarters and kill their general. I had succeeded in taking him out in this big game the year before, so they hoped I could do it again. This is a long game, but that is what Snipers do, they play deep in the thick woods, and take out player after player without ever giving their opponents an opportunity to fire back!
Here is a much smaller game where I was playing defense for my team, and on a huge field, I had to predict where they would attack, as I would be outnumbered and alone and needed to keep them from getting my team’s flag. I pulled a “gambit” which is described in the video, and just shows how mental play is so important in paintball.
Paintball (large field woodsball or scenario play) is more of a chess match, you have pawns (newbies, and casual players) and rooks, and bishops and a king (your flag typically, or your general in a scenario), but the most valuable player in chess is the queen, in paintball it is the Sniper aka Assassin, as he can go anywhere and make any type of move. Be it close engagement, or long range engagement, or high value assassinations, the sniper will get where you don’t expect, and take you out quickly and efficiently. Their ability to take you out before you even realize he/she was there, without giving you a chance to even fire back is what makes them so dangerous! This player can move in and out of the enemy lines without drawing attention. He will NOT fire when he sees an opponent, unless it is in his team’s best interest, and can be done without drawing attention. As a dead sniper is useless, and if you fire at every player, or group of players you see… You won’t last long!
I see videos of players talking about what it takes to be a sniper in paintball. But, most of them don’t have a clue as to true paintball sniper tactics. I see their videos and they are loud, and shoot often. True snipers are quiet. They sneak around often alone, and let players walk right past them. I was at a large scenario and had been sneaking through the woods towards my enemy’s command headquarters. I had to cross a main path, and was lying under a tree waiting for it to clear. When all of a sudden a large group of players from the opposing team came up to my spot from the north, they didn’t know I was there, so I hunkered down to wait under a large fallen down tree. They were so close to me that I could hear their entire conversation, and there was a tiny attack group (two players) from my team, who had nested in about 20 feet behind my position and were taking guys out who passed by on the path. I didn’t know they were on my team, and had snuck around them, without letting them know I was there, as they were “low value” to me at that scenario. And here I was BETWEEN these two groups, right in the line of fire.
Finally, the enemy decided to just move up and engage these two players. And I was right there between them! They came closer and closer to me, crawling as I controlled my breathing and just lay still under the log. There were at least 6 attackers, and I had spent over an hour getting this far and didn’t want to give away my position! One of the attackers crawled over the tree where I was to the far side of it, and started moving up it using it for cover, and actually stepped on my hand which was on the other side of the tree! I stayed perfectly still as he passed me by and moved towards the end of the log and started firing at my two guys taking them both out, never even realizing I was there!
The group stood up and cheered for taking out the “snipers” as they called them. They proceeded to go down the path away from me. I crawled out from under the log and advanced across the path towards my goal, unseen, and with a sore hand! The adrenaline rush made every noise and movement so much more vivid and exciting.
One of the keys to successful sniping is the ability to remain hidden. I play in hunting clothing. Realtree is my favorite here in the Midwest. And I wear camo pants and shirts. My helmet (I wear a full helmet in camo) and gloves in camo and even my Tippmann A-5 is factory Realtree camo edition. So if I stay still and don’t move, I am VERY hard to see. I have NO color on my gear, except my arm band for my team colors. All my gear is camouflaged.
I don’t wear a ghillie suit, as they tend to catch on brush as you move, and unless you are totally stationary they actually draw more attention to you as you move around. Plus they restrict your movement and are hot, and staying alert is critical in paintball. You need to be able to see any movement around you. Learn to look with your eyes instead of moving your head around. When I’m hunting, I typically see my opponents as they constantly move their heads quickly around and your eyes are drawn to movement. That is why I saw those two guys nested down as they were moving their heads back and forth looking up and down the trail for enemies. Here is a game where my team was pinned down by an enemy sniper. I go in and take him out… Let’s see if you can see him before I fire!
I slowed this way down to give you an opportunity to see him, but in real time this all happened in less than 5 seconds. And I spotted him right away, and was searching for a second sniper before I fired, as I wasn’t sure he was alone! So I took him out right away, and then looked for more attackers as I was in the open in that clip!
Learning to stay completely still will help you blend into the background and not draw attention to your position, I saw that guy as he moved at the beginning of the clip… As I approached at a bad angle for him, and he had to reposition to get his gun on the other side of the tree where I was coming in! I did this by approaching from an angle that “no one” would approach from! A place with NO cover, see people expect you to do what everyone else does, but you have to be unpredictable. If they are good, they will be predicting where you will attack, and they will be waiting for you already in position! So moving in from a place where no one in their right mind would approach as there is NO cover, may be the best method of attack!
This is one of the reasons I like a SHORT gun setup, as long guns in paintball cause you to get “stuck” on one side of a tree, and moving to the other side you have to move your whole body which will give away your position! So I use the Tippmann A-5 and my MonsterSpin barrel system, which is a new style Flatline barrel with the shroud removed, with an Apex tip tape modded on the end. The entire length of my barrel is around 10 inches. This allows for a much more consistent “flat” shot in the woods, and being able to shoot flat instead of arching your paint at longer range will let you hit targets that otherwise you would be hitting tree branches above instead. If I can SEE through the brush I can typically hit the opposing player, even WAY out there!
With this setup and regular paintballs I have made some incredible shots over the years. Here is one from this past summer, at Paintball Junkeez. We were playing defend the flag game, where our opponents were inside a large field, and our team had to attack that group and get their flag. I split our team into two attack groups, one would attack from the left side, and my group would attack from the right and back side. The entire game is on the link, but the amazing shot is located at 1:50 into the video. I shot a guy in the goggles from about 130 feet away through the thickest woods you can imagine! The enemy team had 110 players, and our team had 50 players… Can we overpower them and capture their flag?
Learning how your gear works is critical for a sniper as you need to be able to shoot your opponents quickly before they have a chance to get behind cover. With regular paint you still get left to right movement at distance, but with good paint it is minimized. Today snipers have access to First Strike Rounds (FSR) and these rounds eliminate the left to right movement that backspin systems have with regular paint that isn’t perfectly round. The new Tippmann TCR is a perfect platform for the paintball sniper as it shoots FSR out of the box! Here is a video where I am shooting FSR for the first time and comparing their flight path to my MonsterSpin equipped A-5. I also shoot regular paintballs as well so you can see the difference. This is from my new YouTube channel Trails of Doom HD.
Learning to buy good paint is one of the more difficult aspects of paintball! You want paint that is perfectly round, with no visible seams; I prefer glossy shelled paints as they work better in my backspin systems. A shell that will break at distance is also critical, I typically drop my paintballs on concrete, if they break when dropped at 10 feet, then they will break on an opponent at distance! The fill really matters for backspin as well; you want a thicker fill that won’t move around inside the shell when spinning. You will still get “wingers” which are paintballs that fly off in some random direction, just ignore them and trust your aim for “good” paintballs that will shoot out your barrel soon if you purchased good paint! I run my system at around 270fps when I play.
You also want to shoot a LOT of paint to practice, in games, and any time you can. If you have your own private woods in your backyard, this is a great place to practice, or your local field might let you do this during the week when they aren’t open if you ask! I would put my belt on with some pods of paint, and my air tank connected to my A-5 with a remote line, and go back in the woods behind my house a few times a week. Practice shooting the edge of trees, as hitting the edge of a tree with an opponent behind it will break the paintball and hit him with the paint, guaranteeing a break and elimination. Learning this skill of “skimming” the edge of trees is a very helpful tactic that I use quite often when playing! And you can practice it with no opponents present; just try to hit one side of the tree, then the other as you move through the woods. Pick different ranges, and learn how to shoot at distances that others wouldn’t even try!
Use the light to blind your opponents to your position, in this game our team attacks from the two sides, but I go up the middle, as my barrel can shoot longer range than most of my opponents, so I can stay back in the middle and provide cover fire and take out guys trying to get into position to eliminate my players. By doing this, I am “hiding” behind the bright light of the setting sun, and yet in a place where I can rain paint down on my enemy keeping them from advancing or getting a clear shot on my guys! You can even hear as Pistol Pete can’t see me and he is on my own team! Lol!
In conclusion, there are a lot of different ways to play paintball, and if you find sneaking around and tagging out players, or getting behind enemy lines to be fun for you, then by all means, play that way! Some guys like to sit right in the middle of the action, and some like to play a more mental game. It is all fun, and part of the sport. So get out there, and work on your shooting skills, and have some fun this weekend at your local field! And remember, when all the hairs on your neck raise up… A sniper with a Tippmann might be right behind you squeezing the trigger!