Next up in our “how-to” series, it’s the turn of the support gunner. You tend to find support gunners in larger airsoft events that have restrictions placed on the number of support guns allowed, and they can be invaluable in these scenarios.
A support gunner will often be equipped with a Light Machine Gun (LMG) – otherwise known as a Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) – and if utilised correctly, they can help to make everyone in their squad feel a little safer.
You may think that anyone equipped with airsoft rifles and large magazines can be a support gunner, and while that’s technically true, there is something almost menacing about coming face to face with someone equipped with a light machine gun and a magazine that can hold over 1,000 BBs! Some skirmish sites have special rules about what is and isn’t a support gun; you can’t always just strap a box mag into an M4 and go nuts!
So, how do you go about becoming a support gunner?
As we said, you could probably grab an automatic airsoft gun, large capacity magazines and loads of BBs and label yourself as a support gunner. But in order to be an effective support gunner, you will need to look at equipping yourself with something like the Classic Army CA063 LMG.
This kind of airsoft gun is going to help you fulfil your primary objective as a support gunner more effectively than other systems, with that objective being direct suppression. In other words, you will need to lay down heavy fire on your target so that the rest of the team can move to engage.
Photo credit: Sgt. Lauren Harrah/Released
You need to remember that as a support gunner, you need to do exactly what it says on the tin; support. You’re not part of the assault or manoeuvre element, but you are there to allow the rest of your team to fulfil their roles. You won’t be a run and gun, shoot from the hip player, but rather you’ll take up a position, allow your team to advance, move to a new position and repeat. You may also need to take up positions, lay down fire and allow your team to retreat.
The way you operate with your SAW is important. Many beginners will make the mistake of setting up their position, aiming at their target and keep the trigger held down. While the temptation to do this is quite overwhelming, it can give away your position very quickly, waste a lot of ammo and leave the rest of your team feeling pretty p’eed off! As a general rule of thumb, you should look to fire bursts, which helps to keep you in control, but also allows the scope for longer bursts should you need it.
When it comes to firing the gun, you are likely going to be doing it in one of three positions; standing, kneeling and prone.
The gunner will need to position the SAW into their shoulder, grasping the pistol grip in the firing hand and holding the handguard in the off-hand. This position is often used when moving to a more stable position and one with better cover. Aiming down the sites and firing 3 to 5 round bursts will help to keep yourself and the rest of your team protected.
This can be quite a tiring firing position, as the SAW systems tend to be much heavier than other airsoft guns, particularly if it is a RIF. This is when the use of a sling may be beneficial for the user. Having the gun in a sling can make manoeuvring much easier, while also taking away some of the carry strain. Check out our range of slings available here.
You may also utilise the standing position in situations where the cover comes up to around chest height. If this is the case, deploying a bipod can help to give you a much more stable firing platform, which is particularly helpful when you are advancing on an enemy position. Some systems will have a built-in bipod but others can be purchased separately and fitted for more stability.
Kneeling is quite often the most common firing position when using the SAW system. It tends to put you in the same position of fire as you would when you are standing, but you drop to a knee to support the weight of your weapon. This tends to offer you a much more stable position than standing, due to the body-to-body contact of your arms to a knee.
The kneeling position will often be seen in areas that have low-to-ground cover, such as walls, fences, lines of bushes, etc. and gives the gunner the ability to fire from a lower profile, which can be useless in a number of scenarios.
By far the most stable of the firing positions is laying down and using the SAW system. However, to effectively be able to do this, you will need to have a bipod fitted. It may be possible to fire without, but it will be a heck of a lot easier with.
Photo credit: Lance Cpl. Brennan O'Lowney
Once the bipod has been deployed, you need to lower your body behind the weapon, placing the stock into your shoulder. Then, rest your cheek on the stock, grab the pistol grip and pull the weapon back, so it is sitting snugly into your shoulder. Your free hand should then rest on the stock slightly in front of where your cheek is but ensuring it does not block your line of sight.
Once you’ve got this sorted, you need to make sure your body is as low as possible to the ground. Your body should be at around a 45-degree angle from the weapon, leaving your legs spread for stability and the leaving the insole of your feet as flat to the ground as possible.
When used in conjunction with defensive positions such as fighting holes, bunkers and holes in walls, it can be an extremely strong and safe position, which can be used with devastating effect.
As we stated in the primary objectives section above, suppressive fire is what you will mostly be doing as a support gunner. But in order to do this effectively, there are certain skills and traits that will make some people more adept at the role than others, which we’ve looked at below:
Your role is essential to the survival of the rest of your team, even if you may not get as much recognition as other members. But you can rest assured that the rifleman would face many different and more difficult situations without your help.
We’re not saying you can’t be nice in the safe zone; we’re saying you need to be an unstoppable force in attack and an unmovable object in defence. You can’t be a support gunner and be meek; you need act as an extension of your weapon.
You need to always be alert and aware of your surroundings, whether that’s using your team, your comms relay (if applicable) or your very own eyeballs! Constantly watching what is happening around you will allow you to gauge the situation and allow you to (hopefully) make the correct decision.
As we previously mentioned, support weapons are powerful beasts with lots of ammo, and the temptation to keep the finger glued to the trigger is always going to be there. But you need to remember that you are there to provide suppressive fire and protect your team, not inflict injuries.
The same can be said for pretty much any airsoft role, but dedication to the position is required. It can be frustrating laying down suppressive fire and not getting many hits, but it is important to remember that you are doing your role for the rest of the people in your squad.
This kind of goes hand in hand with the above, as you will need to be able to strip and repair your gun on the field. Due to the high rate of fire and large magazines, your weapon will be likely to go down. You will need to be able to get it back up and running yourself as quickly as possible, rather than relying on others to do it for you. Although, it’s probably best to keep in-the-field repairs limited to barrel clearing, as there’s nothing more frustrating than losing an important assembly pin in the grass on site. Keep your tech work for a tech bench!
So, to recap, we’ve looked at some of the basic points you should remember to in order to fulfil your role as a support gunner:
- Don’t go full Rambo, wildly spraying from the hip and acting like a one-man army. You’re there to support.
- Don’t run and gun, you’ll lose accuracy and waste ammo. Shoot in bursts, move to your next position, and repeat.
- Unlike other positions such as the sniper, you’re there for supporting your team, not for gaining hits.
- Don’t ever stop communicating!
- Full auto does not mean keep the trigger jammed until you’re empty. Fire in short bursts to remain accurate.
- And as ever, enjoy yourself!
Do you agree with our points above? Let us know in the comments below or on our social media accounts.
Main image credit: Sgt. Alicia R. Leaders