Sniper Markers Guide
I get tons of e-mail every week from players asking what the best sniper marker there is. I hate to say this, but if there is one marker out there that does the job, I have not seen it. Unlike real firearms, a paintball marker's performance weighs heavily on a number of different factors. These can include, barrel to paint fitting, pressure fluctuations, ball imperfections, and even weather conditions. All these things will make a huge difference once that ball leaves your barrel.
If accuracy is your main goal ( as it is in most snipers), then you need to play with one marker and one marker only. I use a stock Angel. I have played with the same marker for almost 4 years now. I have had the same barrel, and the same scope with the same air system. I have also put close to 150,000 rounds through my marker in that period of time. I know what the marker can and cannot do. I know its imperfections, its trigger's exact point of contact, even its muzzle jump when fired. These things have become second nature to me and have allowed me to become devastatingly accurate. Would I be just as effective with a Spyder or a Tippman in my hands? No. But not for the reasons that you may think. If I had been shooting that Spyder or Tippman consistently for four years, then yes. As the old saying goes, the gun does not make the player. Practice makes the player. Only upgrade your gun because you are beyond your markers potential, not because you think it will make you a better player. A state of the art marker is no substitute for practice. A marker should be an extension of the players skill level.
A good sniper barrel can make or break a sniper rig. They must be quiet. A lot of the barrels today are made with air rifling that help to vent the air inside the barrel, thus allowing the ball a path of least resistance down the bore, as well as reducing the "pop" signature. Matching the barrel's length to your marker is very helpful in noise reduction. This has a two fold benefit as well. The matched barrel will help your marker be more efficient on gas consumption. Airgun Designs for example recommends using a barrel that is 11.5 inches long on the RT. This is the optimum length for a factory set marker. Although a short barrel such as that will be extremely loud, a slightly longer ported version may reduce some of the noise without a major increase in gas consumption.
So what is the best barrel on the market today? That depends on who's marker it's on. The best barrel for my marker may not be the best for yours. Do not buy a barrel for your marker based on the opinions of other players, or the tourney guy that is posing with it in the magazines. Everyone thinks that they have the best rig combo. More often than not a player blindly purchases items for their markers because it's the latest and greatest thing on the market. That's like giving a perfect stranger $90-$130 for magic beans. Without actually screwing one on the end of your marker, you have no clue how well it will shoot compared to your old barrel. Field test a barrel before you buy it. That doesn't mean just slinging a few balls out of it down range. Actually get out a chrony, get several grades of paint, and set up a target. Pay attention to things like grouping of rounds at different ranges, chrony speeds, noise level, how it balances on your marker, and gas consumption. These are the factors that will make the difference on the field, thus making you a better player.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A SNIPER MARKER
Now that I have run off all my potential gun sponsors, lets get down to the buying guide. I am not going to name specific brands of gear only because I myself have not tried out every marker & barrel on the market, so it would be unfair to judge a particular manufacture on my weak assessment of their products. I will, however give you some general opinions of mine on what I think makes a good sniper rig.
A broken marker is of no more use to than a broken ball. Snipers spend a lot of time in the dirt. Their markers take more abuse from the elements than the average rec player. Steer clear from any markers that have excessive ports or trick milled out portions. These are just good places for dirt, twigs, sand, & God knows what else to get jammed in. A closed body design will also help keep any moving parts such as cocking knobs and hammers from snagging while crawling. If your marker has exhaust ports, see if they can take filters. This will help keep play time up and four letter word time down.
Although this is one issue that I have neglected ( stock Angel w/ scope, 14" AA barrel & Apoc. 45/68 weighs in at a hefty 14 pounds), it has become an issue at some of the big games. The lighter your marker is, the less fatigue you will have when laying still waiting for that perfect shot. I have had my arm fall asleep while holding in a firing position. A numb trigger finger is not easy to fire with. Just a little food for thought.
3) Noise Signature:
A sniper relies on stealth for protection. Noise reduction is at the top of the list. Your choice in barrel is going to have about a 50 % factor in the decibel level of your marker. However, there are many markers out there that are just plain LOUD, and the quietest barrel on the planet won't make any difference. Check the marker's noise level when paint is fired through it only. Another sound issue is the tone of the shot. If your marker has a distinctive sound when fired, it will make it a lot easier for the enemy to pick you out of a firefight. This can be found when a player is using a pump gun in a firefight with a bunch of semi's. The distinctive "wine cork" pop from the pump sticks out like a sore thumb.
Is your marker going to be able to grow with your abilities? Can it accept a scope? Are there any after market parts available? You don't want to drop your hard earned cash on a rig that can't be upgraded.
Camo is not critical because it can be easily remedied at home, but if you have a choice then chose the darkest color available. Steer clear of the chrome and anodizing or Stainless Steel. That stuff is fine if you are building Harley's, but we don't want to advertise where we are in the bush. The cool thing is that most of the time the standard black colored markers are significantly cheaper than their more vibrant counterparts. If the marker you decide on is not made in a muted tone, you can always apply camo tape to hide the shiny stuff.
I added this with a word of caution. Accuracy , as stated in the begging of this article, is nothing more than practice. I don't want to give the impression that a properly trained sniper would be able to pick off a target a 150 feet with a $40 Wal-Mart Paint Pistol. Sorry, its just not gonna happen. If the marker shoots fairly accurate right out of the box, then you have a very good tool to begin with. A plastic barreled marker running off of 12 grams does not make a very accurate sniper rig. That's just common sense.
Distance = Mass X Velocity. All markers are supposed to be chrono'd in at 300 fps or lower. The average ball weighs 6 grams ( I think). What that means is that all markers will shoot about the same distance, give or take a few feet. Don't be fooled by old wives tales and player myths. A Cocker will shoot no further than a Mag will. The friction from the barrel, ball deflection and ball shape are variables that will affect distance. They will shorten your distance from its maximum which is D=MxV. The only exception to this rule is the Flatline from Tippman. The backspin allows the ball to generate lift, thus cheating the earths gravity. However, Accuracy & velocity are exchanged for range. If anyone has ever had a Flatline fired at them from an extreme distance, they know what I mean. They appear to "float" in like a cartoon pitch.
Keep these things in mind. Do some research before cracking your piggy bank open to buy what you may think is your cure-all sniper rig. Test out every marker you can get your hands on until you find the right rig for you. You will be glad you did. Have fun & play safe!! - Squeegie