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What is the Role of a Spotter?

US Army sniper with a spotter wearing camouflage

In airsoft, the role of the spotter can be quite rare, most snipers do prefer to work alone, but they could be missing a trick, the role is quite diverse, from identifying targets to acting as security for the sniper. The most important aspect is being an asset and not a liability to the sniper. Spotters must be able to help locate targets and, help with the range of the target and factor in the wind speed and direction.

The relationship between the spotter and sniper is important, as first and foremost the two depend on each for survival. Sniper teams often work in no-man’s-land or even behind enemy lines, and have little to no support from their unit. In this piece we will go through the essentials of what is needed to be a spotter, so if you are training to be one, you have an idea on where to start.

Equipment

Most spotters will carry an airsoft gun capable of suppressive firepower, which can help provide security to the sniper at any distance. When clearing buildings or in tight spaces, an M4 will be sufficient, but for open spaces, an M14 or M16 might be preferred to offer accuracy at longer distances. A secondary weapon is also required, the same for all airsoft players, in case the primary malfunctions. Extra ammo is needed for both the primary and secondary weapons.

The next critical piece of equipment of a spotter is a spotter scope or binoculars. A spotter will use this to detect targets and inform the sniper of how accurate his shot will be. Snipers using their scope have a limited field of vision, which is why a spotter helps as they can move more to scan the environment for enemies. In airsoft, binoculars will do the job well enough, and a range finder is helpful too.

A databook is another crucial item to have as a spotter. In the book you can write down any relevant information; maps, range estimations, suspicious characters, the rifle and ammunition. The list is endless, and it is very helpful to make a note of anything you want to quickly refer to and not remember off the top of your head.

Sniper on top of roof

Communication

Sniper and spotter teams need to have clear communication; otherwise, it will be their downfall. If a spotter cannot effectively relay much-needed information to the sniper, they are not doing their required job. One example is stating something vague, such as “eliminate that guy over there” as opposed to “eliminate grey shirt to your left”. This reduces confusion and makes the sniper shoot more efficiently.

Spotters might also have to communicate with the field commander as well, using a portable radio. Clear communication is needed for this, so the commander understands exactly what the spotter is referring to. If a radio is not used, a spotter should learn some hand signals so they can communicate from a distance.

Target ID and Selecting

Identifying targets and selecting the right ones to eliminate on the battlefield will keep you ‘alive’. In most games, there will be a commanding officer on both teams, and the spotter will need to identify this target and tell the sniper a valuable target is present.

Selecting targets for the sniper to take out is also important. You want to stay undetected for as long as possible and not make your position obvious to the enemy. The game might also have an objective where the teams are attacking or defending, and the sniper team will need to take out the key players of the opposition, strategically weakening the defence.

A spotter next to a spotter surrounded by trees

Security

The security side is often one of the most fun parts of being a spotter. In woodland airsoft sites, the spotter will need to do regular scans of the area to ensure the team is still isolated and undetected. If an opposing squad is coming your way, you have the option of staying concealed or leaving the location as quickly as possible. If you are in a good position, you may be able to use suppressive power to win against the oncoming team.

In urban sites, security has more options. The sniper team can set traps and alarms to alert of enemies approaching, taking complete control of a building, not letting anyone enter or get close. Sniper teams can also move building to building, clearing them out with suppressive fire. This is a fun play style and makes a game more interesting for a sniper team.

Be sure to take a look at our other blogs for information on airsoft terminology and the right protective gear to wear during a game. Browse through the products too, to find the right airsoft gear you want.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol7th Army Training Command

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