A sniper uses stealth AT ALL TIMES. You are never, ever meant to see a sniper at all. This applies from infiltration right through to mission extraction. Snipers are meant to be both lethal AND invisible.
Being a skilled sharpshooter or carrying a long range precision rifle doesn’t automatically make one a sniper. Far from it. It only makes you a marksman. Playing the role of sniper goes way beyond posessing a high degree of marksmanship. A sniper must first and foremost possess excellent stealth techniques, patience, endurance and an ethos for teamwork. They must be above average in intelligence. Their field craft must be polished. Their observation skills (both visually and aurally) and awareness of their surroundings, second to none. A sniper cannot be a homicidal psychopath and shoot everything they see. They must only take out their main target, work as a team, slipping in and out of the AO completely unnoticed by hostile forces. There can be no compromises here, each skill falls across one another to make the gestalt of a sniper.
A top sniper should put fear and paranoia into the hearts and minds of the enemy. They do this, even if they aren’t firing a single shot. The knowledge that an enemy sniper could be out there, watching… waiting… and utterly hidden from view (even when they’re moving) should be intimidating to the player. That’s their job.
I hope that this guide will assist players, either interested in becoming snipers or supressing them, to better understand what they need to know in all areas of Sniper combat, above and beyond just the marksmanship aspect. Not only will it demonstrate how to move and command their sniper unit correctly, but overall, it should strengthen all fireteams in this area for future combat scenarios.
n.b. I’m aware there are aspects I haven’t included as of yet in the guide and I will update accordingly over time as the game is updated. This guide is for Vanilla copies of Arma 3 and will only reflect changes with official updates from BI, including the upcoming Marksman DLC. Any external mods that affect ballistics and/or other variables relevant to sniper combat should be providing their own instructional information by their modders 🙂
DISCLAIMER: This Steam guide was written for the sole purpose of usage with Arma 3 in conjunction with the other steam guides written for the game. By having read this guide you automatically acknowledge and agree to the condition that you, ‘you’ being the reader, will not, under any circumstances or reason, use the tactics outlined in this guide in the real world, only in Arma 3. You automatically acknowledge and agree that the author is in no way, shape or form responsible of any action/s that you undertake in regards to marksmanship and relevant tactics related to snipers if you decide to use them in real life. Only you are fully accountable and responsible for your own actions towards hostility in life and of the consequences of those actions affecting others in the real world. Nobody else.
This work was collated as the result of knowledge accruded from gameplay experience derived from Arma 3 and personal knowledge. All the information written here is also freely available on the internet in the public domain, all of which has existed many years before this guide came into being. Arma 3 is a simulation only and does not account nor factor in every aspect of ballistics, unit commanding and marksmanship used by real world Snipers in armed forces all over the world and specialist marksman units within the protective civilian services field. These individuals are trained professionals and work within the confines of the laws governed by the country they work in and International treaties on the laws of war as outlined by the United Nations and Geneva Conventions. By having read this guide you automatically acknowledge and agree to all these conditions and fully accept the responsibility and accountability of your own actions as a result.
1) Move very slowly and deliberately with your pace. This is the time between moving to new positions of cover. Always assume that the area you are moving into is being observed at all times. Both Marksmen and Snipers are of the same ilk when it comes to accurate long distance shooting, but there is a key difference between them. Marksmen don’t use stealth, they can be seen in any condition and still be an excellent shot. Snipers, however, rely on stealth at all times. As a Sniper, you move and hide much like a turtle does. A turtle moves slowly and hides itself to protect itself, so does a sniper. Adopt that mentality if you want to be a successful Sniper.
2) Plan your movement. Move in small sections efficiently and incrementally. Meaning, move only as fast as you need to move to cover. But not as fast as you can at all times. Again, the pace between moves must be slow and spent observing. So first, observe around your position at the end of that section for an opening and another point of cover (a tree, boulder, wall, etc) before moving forward to another section. Observe the points of parallax in other areas of distant cover from your point of observation. Anything on the map that can naturally hide soldiers and obscure your view. For example, a building in the distance that hid the appearance of and line of sight of an enemy soldier, relative to your position of previous cover, might now place you in direct line of sight and expose you to that enemy soldier with your new position of cover. So be aware of the changing angles of objects along the terrain, especially in enemy patrolled areas, to avoid this.
3) Patience equals survival. Wait for as long as you have to if the area you are wanting to move into is being patrolled and if your present position is the better option over other areas. Don’t compromise yourself by choosing to move to an adjacent area that offers less concealment. Stay still. Impatient sniper teams will be shot easily
4) Listen as well as look. Most of the time, especially in dense areas, you’ll hear activity before you see it. Headphones with surround sound will give you an advantage to pinpoint sound direction and estimate it’s relative distance based on its simulated doppler effect (i.e. the change in fequency of sound over various points of distance as it approaches, passes and recedes from you, the observer)
5) Crawling is your best option over large distances in areas of high activity. You won’t be seen and will be forced to move in a deliberate path that offers the best concealment
6) The spotter/point man/security in a sniper team is the leader. Always. They determine where the team moves, who to shoot and when. When working a mission in Co-op, that must be the hierachy in which a sniper team works, no exceptions. In a company, that Sniper lead communicates with the other team leaders.
7) Avoid being within enemy encampments for engagement. Distance must be maintained outside the enemy perimeter. Choose a location where there is difficulty for the enemy to engage the sniper team once targets are being taken. Especially areas that can funnel enemy movement in a particular direction with minimal opportunity for flanking such as steep cliffs or high walled canyons
8) Always avoid all areas of high activity like roads, foot paths and walking trails. Avoid densely populated locations with multiple short distance cover and tall buildings where ambushing and flanking are easy for regular soldiers, such as cities and towns. Avoid moving along open waterways, crossing flat deserts and plains with little grass height and no trees, walls or boulders. Enemy snipers may be waiting along their perimeter. Avoid open areas with singular buildings or structures that can allow for a small squad to hide inside and ambush you as you pass.
9) Use areas like dense forest, hills and marshland, terrain that offers concealment by default for all movement. Stay within those areas for as long as possible. Move obliquely to the target location, not directly
10) If working with a battalion, engage the enemy at a flank position relative to the position to which the friendly forces will be attacking from. This will confuse the enemy during a coordinated engagement and offer friendly troops with easy, distracted targets to pick off
11) If using IR scopes, smoke grenades offer excellent concealment during engagement while allowing the sniper to continue to take down targets. It also creates confusion which will weaken enemy soldiers
12) Pick the most lethal target first. Enemy with anti aircraft/personnel weaponry such as RPG’s, mortars and AA missle launchers should be dealt with first. Then sentries and perimeter snipers. Vehicle engines and tyres next. What can come at you and suppress you quicker, and cause the most damage, is how you decide what targets to prioritise first in taking down within this area. Keeping uniform distance is important
13) Always hide from enemy aircraft and UAV’s with tree canopy cover if no buildings are available. Never, ever engage aircraft nor drones/UAV’s under any circumstances. Wait until they pass completely out of sight before moving forward. Most UAV’s are equipped with IR/Nightvision imaging technology so remain still and compact your body shape into a low crouch. Even if an enemy chopper deploys soldiers nearby, let it and the troops leave. Engaging one or the other will most likely attract both to your position.
14) Learn how to read topographical maps and switch the map view accordingly. This will help you plan your movement. Your movemenet as a Sniper team will never be the shortest distance between two points, always the longest. Movement will always be olblique across the landscape with concealment in mind at all times
Key points (continued)
15) When walking across a hill or ridgeline, walk parallel to it. In other words, go around it the long way and stay along the middle of the hill to blend in with the terrain. Never walk along the very top of the hill/ridge and never cut perpendicular to the ridge line (ie. up the ridge, over the top then down the hill) as your shape and silhouette reveals your position, even if seen momentarily. Proper field craft, that being the Snipers awareness of their surroundings yet at the same time being unobserved, involves such skills as knowing the exchange between light/shadow and distinguishing patterns and shapes with the eye. Therefore, a sniper will know that walking beside a hill (i.e roughly halfway down from the ridge) as opposed to walking anywhere near or along the very top of the ridge will work better with their camouflage. The steeper the hill, the further down it you walk around it.
16) When walking in dense forest or hilly areas and there is a open clearing ahead, walk around the clearing. Small clearings have the ability to diminish the effectiveness of a soldier’s camoflage and give it bas-relief due to the strong change of contrast in bright light on your uniform against a shadowed background (see next picture below this one, note the light on the top of scope in contrast to shaded forest and soldiers). And also the proximity it places you relative to enemy soldiers if they are in the clearing
17) Shadowed areas are your friend during movement. Never move in brightly lit areas. But don’t use shadows for stationary “cover”, especially in daylight, as an alternative to solid cover. If the shadow falls on an open area and you are sitting infront of that object with that same shadow cast over you but still facing the enemy unprotected, though your visiblity is reduced to some degree, you’re still very much vulnerable and exposed.
18) When using buildings as sniper positions, fire from some distance back away from the window or loophole inside the building. Never go right up to the window sill, balcony edge or hole and poke your barrell out. Allow the space you are in and shadows to conceal you from an outside observer. Also keep outside doors shut to avoid being ambushed by enemy soldiers when looking through scoped view. A building of two rooms with the middle door connecting them both left open, are best. If a grenade is thrown in the window, you have the other room to escape into and cover with the wall from the blast
19) Only engage the target/s of your mission, no more. Learn to pass up lesser targets who are totally oblivious to your existence on your way to the area of engagement. With each and every shot there is the possibility of losing concealment and giving your position away to the enemy, even if the rifle is silenced. Do not lose this for the sake of a minor, easy target patrolling by. You are not Rambo. (If engaged, however, the spotter is the one assigned to protect the unit, not the Sniper)
20) Headshots are not what a sniper should be aiming for. Yes, headshots can take down a target easily but so to can a well placed chest shot through the heart. The chest is four times the size of the head. Therefore, missed shots to this area are lesser than headshots. Body areas of smaller size should always be avoided to reduce the total number of missed shots made. It will also result in detection by the enemy as your target will only be disabled, not killed.
21) Shoot. Then move to a new position. A sniper who sits still in one spot when engaging an enemy invites easy detection. One thing I want to talk about is the term ‘camping’[en.wikipedia.org]. This word has become so prevalent in the FPS MP gaming community that it’s evolved into being a taboo for any and all MP games. That the word is synonymous to cowardice, which is utter garbage. For Arma 3 snipers though, ignore it. All of it. It’s time for you to unlearn everything you picked up from other FPS games, they’re bad habits and don’t apply to Arma 3. Stillness and silence while remaining in one spot behind optimal cover for any length of time is actually bread and butter tactics of all Snipers. Don’t be put off by comments from other players accusing you of ‘camping’ just so they can draw you out and kill you easier. A real-world sniper wouldn’t capitulate to an enemys frustration in seeing them. It’s their job to locate you, the sniper. It’s your job as the sniper to frustrate the hell out of your opponents by being invisible, undetected, inducing fear and panic in the opponent. You have a unique psychological advantage over them in this regard. So ignore them, don’t even give them a fraction of an inch.However, when you do need to fire a few shots, position yourself in an area that provides lots of cover options surrounding you (trees, boulders, walls, etc) and an optimal escape route (this is especially important). The easier you can move undetected between other positions of cover and ultimately make a getaway to the extraction point in one piece, the better.
Key points (final)
22) Spend time observing enemy bases, know the placement of every soldier visible from your position and allow the game to map their relative positions. Real-world Snipers use what is known as a range card. It’s basically a sketched out view of the area ahead from their point of observation. It’s filled in with various landmarks, main troop positions and their relevant distance between one another. It gives the spotter and sniper an accurate guage of the lay of the land ahead so that careful preparations can be made. As Arma’s map does all the observation marking for you, use this to your advantage as it will map out soldier positions. Even if the soldiers are on the edge of the scopes periphery and you don’t yet physically see them at first, you can follow the new marking, go back and recheck the area with your scope again. Enemy soldiers will only appear on the map if you or other soldiers are directly looking at and acknowledging them. Successful snipers focus on their powers of observation to assist them before firing
23) Shoot through cover. If using a high calibre rifle, the bullet may penetrate and hit the target sitting behind that position of cover (depending on what type of cover they use, ofcourse) Arma 3’s ballistics model allows for this to occur, so don’t feel that some denser surfaces will remain bulletproof for anyone hiding behind it. Even ricochet’s from higher caliber bullets can have a fatal effect on anybody standing in the path of their trajectory. Dslyecxi explains this model in his video ‘Terminal Ballistics’
24) a lone marksman in a highrise building (like the one in the factory complex @ Cherno) invites an RPG being fired up at them and/or risks a small team being sent up to deal with the gunman. The position is great but avoid it at all costs for both reasons. Tall buildings dramatically limit your escape route options. Here’s a great video by Dyslecxi on the very matter, watch carefully (many thanks to the_Demongod for the link 🙂
25) When ambushing troops or a vehicle convoy, pick a spot that overlooks and places the enemy in a position of vulnerability along their path with little to no option to turn around and escape like: the loop of a road, on a bridge, the bottom of a steep valley or canyon, against a walled area or on the edge of a cliff
26) LEARN YOUR STANCES! Stances can be adjusted to high, medium or low or each standing, crouch or prone. 9 basic positions in total. Then you have the lateral side step stances to improve lean and minimise exposure behind cover. All of these can be adjusted by holding CTRL and then pushing the corresponding W or S key (or A and D for wide-step lean stances). The best movement for snipers are low crouch sneaking and wider side lean stance positions behind cover. Sitting is the best and quickest recovery position for fatigue. Stances also affect you fatigue usage. A running crouch stance sustained over long periods during movement puts your soldier into fatigue much quicker than an upright sprint or jog. A weapon raised while moving will use more energy than one lowered. Therefore, vary your stances and weapon holds according to the terrain, your cover options and external situation to manage your soldiers energy. Shoulder your heavy Sniper rifle and have your pistol drawn if you’re not using it as this will conserve more energy. If you need to move but are too worn out, walk upright to restore energy to and reduce your soldiers fatigue levels.
27) Educate yourself on the different sniper rifles and what they are effective against. Do this by experimenting with each weapon on a firing range or within the editor. This will demonstrate each rifles capability to you more effectively. Some rifles offer you long range distance and high velocity. Others are shorter in range but are more effective against armoured soldiers and vehicle engines. Choose the best rifle that suits the mission accordingly.
Effect of the shot
One of the main factors of firing is how the shot will travel according to the environmental circumstances affecting a bullet (such as gravity), the elevation angle of the rifle and the distance of the target. As factors like wind, temperature, barometric pressure and humidity are not (yet) simulated, lets observe a few existing key factors that are in Arma 3
Distance to target:
The spotter reads the targets location via the azumith (the angular measurement in 360 degree’s or the more common “clock system”) along with the distance (range) and elevation angle aswell to the sniper to get an accurate aim on the target.
Naturally, the further away the target is, the more compensation required to hit it as gravity and air drag comes into effect over distance. Changing the angle of elevation with the rifle will also affect how far a bullet will travel, in regrads to whether you are pointing it up or downwards. All of these factors will affect the ballistic arc (trajectory) of the bullet. The aim can thus be calculated and corrected with the use of Mildots and ranging the scope.
One thing to always remember is that when you are in scoped view, the distance between 2 Mildots are always 1/1000th of the range you’re observing. Therefore if you can guestimate the size of the target or object you are looking at, you can know the targets distance to compensate and then adjust your rifle sight accordingly.
Here’s a quick formula in just how to do that…
Known size of target in meters X 1000
Size of target in Mils on Sniper Scope
So an average soldier in Arma 3 is 6 feet or 2 yards roughly, which is 1.80 Meters, so multiply 1.8 by 1000 which equals 1800.
Now divide that by the number of mildots high that soldier is. Lets say the soldier is 4 Mildots tall in the scope. Therefore 1800 divided by 4 equals 450m.
Next you range the scope accordingly to around 400m-500m with the pgup/pgdn keys (observe the change in distance in the top right corner near your bullet counter) Then aim and fire.
There’s also what’s called the Holdoff, something I like to call the “ghetto way” if maths isnt your thing and you can’t be bothered ranging the scope. It’s a way of hitting distant target without adjusting the rifle, but with the understanding of a bullets trajectory and bullet drop, using the vertical Mildots as crosshairs. It’s also slightly quicker
To calculate this, shoot near a visible object away from the target (out of earshot) but at roughly the same distance and elevation. Make sure that elevation is constant. Remember, too much change in elevation will change the ballistic arc. Observe in the line of sight the distance to where the fall of shot occured (indicated by a kick of dust where the bullet hit) relative from the objects position to where you originally aimed and adjust your elevation by using the mildot close to where the dust kicked up as the aimpoint, equal in distance to the fall of shot/object. Not the actual crosshair. Then fire once that Mildot is elevated correctly on the target.
So, for example, you aim at a rock horizontally across a few meters away from the target and fire. Dust kicks up roughly 2 mildots below your scopes crosshair in distance below the rock, relatively speaking. So you use that 2nd mildot down from the crosshair as your new aimpoint when moving your rifle back across to your target. As long as the object and the target are on an equal horizontal plane with the same distance and elevation, you will get an accurate shot. Simple
When we have acquired a target, regardless of whether they are elevated above or below us, the exact same method of angle adjustment will be implemented to determine the angle distance between you and the target. Laser Designators are the only tool to give us the exact distance to target AND angle of elevation. All that is required next is basic trigonometry to calculate correct angle distance before firing.
As we see above, there are a few factors to take on board. Through the laser designator we see 3 separate numerical values up the top, with visual mode on the left and magnification located on the right. For the purpose of this section, the only two we’ll be focusing on are the distance to target and elevation angle, which are the values located in the top centre and top right respectively. First up, locate your target and make note of the distance and elevation angle. (there is a minus sign for when angling the laser designator on a downward elevation)
Now the thing to consider when firing at any elevation is that gravity will take over regardless. So the distance to an elevated target will not be the “actual range”. Firing up or down on an angle will have a significant effect to a bullet’s trajectory, so compensation must be found in the angle distance to the target. The angle distance is basically the horizontal distance between you an the target if there was no angle of elevation between you both. That’s what you need to find to hit your target accurately.
So to do this, we use the Cosine of the angle and multiply it with the measured distance to target with the laser designator. The equation to use is this:
Cos(elevation angle) X Measured Distance in Laser Designator = Angle Distance to Target
Here’s an example below:
(n.b. You will need a calculator but I will provide a graph further down)
Through the Laser Designator we see the Target is 500 Yards at an angle of 45′. What’s the angle distance (i.e. Point A to Point B) to the target?
Cos(45′) X 500 Yards = 353 Yards!
Because of the steep angle, if we had the scope set to the 500 yards distance indicated on the laser designator, we’d miss the shot right over the top of the target. Therefore, adjust your scopes distance accordingly to the new angle distance value and then fire.
For those of you good with basic math, the chart below can help calculate it quicker rounded off to two decimal places. The answer will be a rougher figure than what you’d get when using a calculator. But the discrepancy is neglible in Arma 3. All you need to do is find the elevation angle, match it with the cosine value on the chart and then multiply the listed cosine value with the measured distance. This will work with both Imperial and Metric measurements.
As a side note, if you are operating as a marksman from the side of a helicopter, this will help greatly due to the sharp angles you may encounter. But only if the helicopter is stationary. If it is moving or you’re involved in an intense firefight, you won’t have time to figure out the angle distance due to the constantly changing angle and relative distance of the targets position.
Effect of the shot (cont)
Movement of target:
Is the target stationary or moving? If moving, you are to ‘lead’ the target. You do this by placing the aim point just ahead of the target. This is called the Lead
Knowing the amount of horizontal compensation required when leading a target in the scope is essential. This is based on their speed, their angle of movement, the effective range of the bullet and your distance to the target. Taking down a moving target can be extremely difficult for the novice, especially if they are inside a vehicle. However, practise and knowing the rifles capabilities can ensure a better hit/miss ratio over time.
Lead can be calculated as thus:
– TIME OF FLIGHT x TARGET SPEED = LEAD IN FEET
Time of Flight = flight time of the round in seconds.
Target Speed = speed the target is moving in feet per second (fps)
Lead in Feet = aim distance placed ahead of moving target in feet.
Average speed of a man.
Slow patrol = 1 fps/0.8 mph
Fast patrol = 2 fps/1.3 mph
Slow walk = 4 fps/2.5 mph
Fast walk = 6 fps/3.7 mph
To convert lead in feet over to meters:
– LEAD IN FEET x 0.3 = METERS
(0.3 is roughly the length in meters for 1ft)
Now using the same scaled mildot distance in scopes, that being the distance between 2 Mildots are always 1/1000th of the range you’re observing, the equation to convert Lead in Meters to a “Mildot Lead” is:
Lead in Meters x 1000 = Mil Lead
Distance to Target
The above equation will equal the Mildot Lead that you need to place ahead of the target from the crosshair.
As an example; You have a target, moving horizontally and staying at a constant distance across from the sniper, approx 400m. The target is walking slowly (4fps). The bullet takes about 0.5 seconds to travel 400m (it’s a little quicker in Arma 3, but follow for this example) So the lead in feet is:
> 0.5 (distance to target) x 4 (slow walk speed in fps) = 2
2 as the answer is the lead in feet. Then take that 2 for the next equation to convert it to meters:
> 2 (lead in feet) x 0.3 = 0.6 (this answer is the lead in meters)
then to figure the mildot lead in the scope, finally add;
> [0.6 (lead in meters) x 1000] / 400 (distance to target in meters) = 1.5
So in answer, it’s a 1.5 mildot lead from the crosshair that you place infront of the target.
When looking at the above information with all the math involved, if after you see it you start to think that you “wouldn’t have the time to calculate such things a Mil Leads and target distance relative to mildot height, etc” – I say you are playing the role incorrectly. Sniper gameplay is never about fast and frenetic action. Remember, it’s about stealth, patience and taking time planning the shot. Your role is only ever to take out the mission objective. Which in most cases is probably only one target. Once everything is calculated, taking the shot is relatively easy. Therefore, make it a habit to plan the shot effectively and it’ll become intuitive.
(Count yourselves lucky that you have a straightforward yet relatively accurate ballistics engine to deal with. BI haven’t included variables such as temperature, humidity, wind and air pressure as of yet. That may change with the upcoming Marksman DLC)
A moving target can be taken in a number of ways:
– Tracking involves following the target as they move in your sights. You move as they move while keeping the lead at the correct distance infront of them. A sniper must maintain this position and it can be tricky to keep the lead constant before the shot.
– Trapping (also known as an ambush) involves placing the line of sight in a stationary position pointing to where the enemy ‘looks like’ they’ll be moving into. Once the target enters the area of compensation within the scope, in whatever direction they are moving, then the shot can be taken.
– Tracking and Holding is for targets that move with an erratic motion. Though the targets movement is somewhat unpredictable, all targets fatigue and must eventually stop at some point. To do this technique the sniper holds off from the shot but follows the target by keeping the crosshairs centred within the general vicinity of the targets area of movement. As soon as the target stops, the Sniper can quickly adjust his hold with minimal movement, then fires. This technique requires alot of practise and would be more common in MP games with human opponents than with singleplayer enemy AI.
– Snap shots are relatively common. It’s a scenario where an enemy, who is behind cover, presents themselves briefly to take a shot or observe the area infront of them before taking cover again. There is usually a pattern to this, especially if the place of cover is quite narrow and doesn’t offer a width of other cover options to move across to safely such as a town or wooded area. With the crosshairs aimed at the usual place of exposure, once the target is seen the shot is taken.
When in scoped view, Arma 3 simulates breath control through the use of the aim steadying key (right mouse btn). Breath control is an all important aspect in marksmanship. In real life, when you are exhaling, you are momentarily steadying the rifle for accurate zeroing. Given that this exhale phase lasts only 2-3 seconds (obviously due to a limited lung capacity) – holding down the right mouse btn longer than this gets the rifle back into an even unsteadier sway and exhausts your soldiers breath control to a point where there’s a slower uptake of re-steadying the shot for a second attempt at taking it. A penalty is added to your soldier’s aim for doing this and the sway is increased.
Therefore, ONLY steady the shot with the right mouse btn when you’re ready to start zeroing your aim and then take the actual shot, all within that 2-3 second timeframe. Don’t waste away precious seconds by holding it down longer till your soldier audibly gets fatigued. Also take note of how fatigued you soldier was before taking aim. Don’t zero in on the target straight after you’ve been running for 5 minutes to the target location. BI has added a weapon sway penalty to fatigued soldier, therefore your weapon will be too erratic and it’ll be harder, by comparison, to control your breath for the same length of time that a rested soldier has. Allow for your soldier to restore their energy again and calm their breathing pattern down before taking aim through your scope.
Bipods & Weapon Resting
The community asked for it, begged BIS to get it put in and now we (Snipers) finally have it! 🙂
If you don’t know what these are, what the benefits to using them are or even how to use them, you’re going to have to catch up. These gameplay elements add heavily towards weapon stability and reduce wasted shots. Use them as much as humanly possible. It’s common sense.
Sniper Unit Loadout
A few key items are needed for all sniper teams. Most of this and the following really comes down to common sense and experience, there are no hard and fast rules to a sniper teams loadout. Simplicity is the key
The obvious ones for both sniper and spotter are:
-Laser Designator or Rangefinder
-Medikit (take 3 minimum/ person)
-Smoke grenades x 3 (white)
-Nightvision goggles (only for evening missions)
-Pistol (silenced and with 2 x mags max)
-GPS, compass, Map, watch, etc…
Carrying an additional IR Scope is always handy for both day and night, don’t bother with the Nightvision scope. The capabilities of thermal optics to highlight enemy soldiers in all conditions and times of day overshadows nightvisions positive traits. Nightvision should only be used when trying to ascertain visual detail in any possible obstructions to a bullets trajectory, say with buildings, walls, trees, etc.
Laser Designators will give you Distance to Target and Angle of Elevation, Rangefinders will only have Range. If you’re operating on relatively flat ground, Rangefinders will work best as elevation will not be an issue. Otherwise, always go with the Laser Designator.
Spotters should stick to short/mid range ACOG scopes and their rifles should be 6.5mm calibre or greater, stopping power is essential. Aside from the sniper rifle (which in this case it’s optional) all weapons should be silenced with suppressors.
No backpacks should be worn at all. The less weight in this instance, the quicker you can move without hitting fatigue prematurely. Try to fit everything in your uniform and vest/bandolier.
Take as much ammunition as humanly possible. All available space should be consumed by as many rounds of ammunition you can take. You may need it when you least expect it.
Do not take any weapons that create sharp, loud noises. Anti-personnel mines, explosives and frag grenades, even if detonated at considerable distance just to create a distraction, invites suspicion and puts enemies in a high alert state. This tactic works well for reg. soldiers but it doesn’t for Snipers. An enemy soldier in this state of mind will be more focused, cover a wider area of ground beyond their patrol path and has a high probability of finding you.
Do not take items that suggest a presense towards something “man-made”. By this I mean coloured smoke grenades and glow sticks. White smoke is permitted as it can be ambiguous as to the cause, but anything that gives off a distinct colour at any time of day is a definite sign of a soldier present
Try to match the tone and texture of your uniform with the environment you’re entering into. Ghille suits are great for forest/woodland/bush environments only. Desert conditions require reg. uniforms of the same colour. The fuzzy shape of a ghille suit in a largely barren environment will look out of place. Again, this is all common sense.
One final note, and it’s a little one but it can be important. Never dump your gear. Not even in the water.
You may have noticed that dropped items do not disappear in Arma 3. It’s one of the advantages of having a persistent sandbox environment (fortunately, bootprints aren’t an issue… yet). In the same mission you can always dump your items someplace if you have too much, go away for a period of time and come back later to pick the rest up. To a careless soldier, it can also be a disadvantage. When playing MP, a perceptive enemy soldier coming across a weapon or any other item that isn’t familiar to their own teams loadout, and in a location that is nowhere near theirs; this will immediately arouse suspicion towards your presence. This is about as close to ‘tracking’ that the game presently has. Therefore, carry everything you own, use it all up right through to mission extraction. (n.b. this isn’t a problem with singleplayer AI… again, yet)
Counter Sniping basics
Detecting an enemy sniper is extremely difficult, it can be near impossible if they are highly skilled. Most times it will be at the expense of somebody losing their life before an enemy sniper’s existence is even known. However there are way to defeat the enemy sniper from this point on.
1) Smoke grenades. Unless they have IR scopes mounted, the less the enemy sniper can see, the better for friendlies to move to cover and more advantageous positions. Smoke also offers the option for suppressive and bulk fire to be made, in the direction of the enemy sniper, through it
2) Call in support. It’s a huge use of resources but mortars, artillery and rockets can bombard and obliterate an area where a snipers position is known. However a sniper may need to be observed and distracted periodically to make sure they havent moved. However, a good sniper will presume such tactics being planned against them right after they are detected and move to a new position of concealment
3) Flanking. Fortunately, most sniper rifles are slow between firing and reload. Any team sent out to flank a sniper should do so with speed and concealment in mind. A number of soldiers should be sent out at once for this to work. Even though a few casualties are most likely in this instance, there is a high probability that most of them will reach and stop the sniper. The most effective way is in an envelopement maneuver. This involves splitting the team in half or a third, going around and right behind the enemy snipers position (under cover), driving that enemy sniper out of their cover by pushing them forward and back towards the remaining team.
4) Friendly snipers. Sometimes fire must be fought with fire. And who better to do it than another sniper team. A friendly sniper team can either observe the location of the enemy sniper for the other troops or take them out, depending on their overall situation
5) Scopes or rangefinders with thermal imaging capabilities. Unless they are well hidden behind some solid cover, locating them with these tools will pin-point their location fairly quickly and eliminate all other visual distractions. Thermals are a double edged blade, if a sniper team you spot carries them too, chances are they can see you as well. Always assume they are carrying them.
In summary, an enemy sniper can have a devastating and humiliating effect on a teams morale if you allow them to pin you down and get the better of you. That is their job. The more disarray they create from planting this fear mind-set into your troops, the quicker you will lose valuable manpower and resources due to sudden and ill-conceived decision making. It is important to be aware of this and to always remember to remain calm, vigilant and work in a team at all times to overcome the enemy sniper. Communication is vital. Even if you aren’t a sniper, think like a sniper in order to defeat him/her.
Addenum: A word on Marksmen and their role
Unlike Snipers who mainly operate alone, Marksmen are attached to their infantry fireteam as a regular member of their unit. They usually perform roles like overwatch security in base perimeter towers, natural or man-made observation points near important locations and on roadblocks and checkpoints, usually positioned on top of or behind vehicles for cover.
They are always following behind the team when patrolling so that distance can be maintained. This gives the team has an ever present, expanded effective range ahead of them and also keeps an eye for other enemy troops or vehicles approaching. Marksmen are quite valuable in this respect, thus their positioning is critical. Never move to the front line until the team stops all movement.
A marksmans job is observation, counter-sniping and (of course) excellent marksmanship. They can also operate without a spotter. Weapons designated to marksmen aren’t just long-range rifles but also automatic, semi-automatic and light machine guns.
Counter-sniping is of great importance to marksmen. Though stealth and sniper field craft do not directly apply to a marksmans role, even if the player has a poor ability in such things, having a superficial knowledge of these aspects does help in this regard as it’s critical to the survival of their team. A dead marksman is one less pair of eyes on the enemy. They are key to communicating situational awareness to the team leader when under heavy fire and helping in coordinate the best option for dealing with an enemy sniper.
A marksman must have excellent observation skills. This encompasses a majority of their work and crosses over into every other aspect of their tasks. If you are doing your job well, you will always be the first person confirming and communicating contact of the enemy with your team. The sooner this is done, the more effectively your team can coordinate and action an immediate line of defense.
Marksmen have as much importance as the Sniper.
Addenum: A Question on using Drones and UAV’s
Drones have proven to be quite effective for both reconaissance and long range attacks on enemy targets without the need for personnel to enter the combat zone. Infact it has, over the last few years, pretty much transformed and redefined war as we know it into something that most of us, including the military, are still trying to comprehend on where the actual boundaries lay on a moral/socio-political level in regards to their usage.
More to the point, in regards to a spotter/security in a 2-man sniper team using drones and UAV’s for scouting and marking of enemies, I say NO to their usage by that sniper team and there are a number of reasons why this is:
1) The UAV Terminal backpack. It’s big and heavy. This will increase suceptibility to fatigue for the soldier who’s wearing it. There’s no point in even moving the team if one of them is carrying a bulkier load than the other and thus, slow the whole unit down as a result. Speed on foot is essential at all times.
2) As covered in ‘Sniper Unit Loadout’, dumping the backpack anywhere (as with any equipment) is a bad idea. An enemy force finding it knows that you, the hostile force, are present. You should only take what you need from start to finish.
3) Detected drones draw attention to the fact that there is a hostile force close-by to the enemy forces who detect it. This will in-turn heighten situational awareness to that enemy force, increasing their patrol distance and focusing their efforts to locate any and all hostile targets. There is also a high probability that you will be close to an airfield, so their efforts may move to search in that direction. This is completely counter-intuitive to what a Sniper unit should be during operation: invisible at all times.
4) Most Aerial Drones are restricted to a maximum service ceiling of 1000m. The Greyhawk and K-40 drones will always be detected once in visual range, just like any full-sized aircraft. The quadcopter has a smaller chance of being detected but its service ceiling is only 300m. So you can’t take any of them up to a high altitude to avoid detection. They aren’t silent either.
5) A shotdown drone is about as useful to you as starting out having no drone at all. You’re back at square one. The only difference between the two is that in the first instance, the enemy fireteam who spotted your drone before unfortunately taking it down knows there’s still somebody out there who controlled it on the other end. Again, their heightened situational awareness will be a detriment to the Sniper unit and it’s ability to move across the terrain relatively unhindered.
6) It has to be said: Laziness. Without sounding like a luddite, part in parcel to being in a sniper unit is having excellent observational skills within your repertoire of Sniper field craft. As fantastic as the drone cameras are for giving an excellent FOV in a number of vision modes, a heavy reliance on UAV technology detracts the Sniper from personally developing their field craft properly during gameplay. This goes right back to how a sniper team moves incrementally across the terrain, stopping and starting between cover, constantly observing around them before moving to the next area undetected.This is the very foundation to all sniper tactics and as such, it is really important to master Sniper fieldcraft! A Sniper with little to no field craft skills is as good as dead.
Having said all that, there are times when it is appropriate to use UAV’s with a sniper unit and that’s when you are working alongside a regular fireteam. Unfortunately, the sniper unit will not be the ones operating it. Instead it will be one of the regular soldiers designated to the task. That UAV operator will mark and communicate all enemy soldiers located by the drone, which will show their positions on the map. This is the only time drones can be used alongside a Sniper unit.
In conclusion, it is important to keep separate the roles of each soldier from other members of the fireteam. There’s no point trying to become a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ type soldier if one element of that soldiers main abilities, strengths and lethality are going to be compromised by a negative element of another. A quick fix solution is not the answer. A Sniper unit is quick, precise and utterly silent, in this light their role is very specific. The term that’s usually bandied about to encompass these attributes with snipers is ‘surgical’ and a UAV unit doesn’t come into that equation. Most are noisy, have a single use with limited capabilities. That’s not to say the rules can’t be broken about how to play the game, that’s the beauty of it. But be aware that by not overspecialising in one field and trying to spread your role out across a number of areas in combat will adversely affect how you play with that fireteam/unit. All soldiers only specialise in one area in the field, even special forces soldiers.
Remember, an efficient team is one where each and everybody knows their exact role and works together by sticking to and executing it.
Addenum: Methods of Insertion
As Snipers have to approach their area of operation (AO) without any notice from the enemy forces, there is a need for them to be inserted as covertly as possible. This means they need to be as far away from the area of engagement as humanly possible.
Due to their covert nature, sniper teams are required to insert and extract from the furtherest point away and cover the longest distances over ground in comparison to regular fireteams. Snipers need to also cover as much ground from an observational standpoint so their extraction is done with the absolute minimum of fuss. Whilst moving forward, their observations should encompass how they need to extract efficiently with the most cover around them by remembering particular landmarks and set blocks of tree canopies dotted along the way to the AO. In roughly 2 out of 3 missions, extraction points will be in the same general areas where the sniper team was inserted into.
There are various methods that snipers can be inserted into a mission. Some methods can draw attention of the enemy forces. Most can only be done during night or in low light conditions. They are:
A majority of travel by a Sniper team will be carried out on foot. It is the most covert but also the slowest method. It’s vital that the weight carried by the unit is kept to a minimum, only take what is essential for the mission so that movement is quick and agile over all terrain types and the varying inclination angles of terrain. Sniper teams can also travel with reg. fireteams to a certain distance before breaking off. Sniper units would need to be in reg. uniform with ghille suits stored in backpacks. Then when approaching the drop off point, change into ghille suits then drop the backpacks off to be carried by a reg. soldier in the fireteam for the duration of their mission. This will conceal any designated sniper units in the fireteam during the initial march to the drop off, under the assumption that the fireteam could be detected and/or engaged by the enemy in the interim. Sniper units hidden in a fireteam during the march out will operate as normal marksmen, this will account for their firearms. Concealment of sniper units within a normal fireteam has a huge tactical advantage as having a specialised unit working in sync with the fireteam will give them a better view of the enemy units within their operating area.
No matter the vehicle, there is only so much distance the team can be taken across before alighting from the vehicle to continue on foot. It’s also best that the unit is driven by a third party so the vehicle can be taken away from the drop off and returned to a friendly base. Sole ATV’s aren’t recommended, vehicles should never be left behind for the enemy to discover. Not only wil they alert the enemy to your presence, but they can be sabotaged and put your team at a huge disadvantage, distance-wise, if you’re a fair way away from the extraction point. If you are using ATV’s, there must be a driver for each sniper and spotter on those vehicles. Vehicles obviously allow for greater depth of insertion from a base. Vehicles can be radioed in during extraction to allow for a rapid departure, especially around intensely hostile regions.
HALO (high altitude – low opening) technique is the best method when parachuting free-fall near the AO. Best used when the enemy is landlocked or stationed on an island with high enemy activity surrounding the island or base ***Night Insertion only****
As with the Vehicle, this needs to be done by a third party to remove the boat from the drop off point and taken it to a location close by to the friendly base. Boats have a high noise signature close to shore so obviously it’s important to move to a deserted, less easily accesible yet well concealed location. ***Night and low-light Insertion only****
Helicopters, as with all aerial vehicles, are easily seen and produce a distinct noise signature that is detectable by enemy forces from a considerable distance. They are best used in missions with high enemy activity and few options to reach the target area by any other means. They are extremely quick and therefore allow for rapid insertion and extraction. It must be assumed by the Sniper and pilot teams that their helicopter has been detected by the enemy already. Make no assumptions otherwise. It’s imperative that a helicopter carrying a sniper unit makes a few dummy drop offs and circles about needlessly in a concentric pattern outside the AO to aid in decieving the enemy forces as to where (if any) possible fireteams may have been dropped off at. This facade has to be continued well after the actual drop off of the Sniper team. PILOTS! Never, ever transport the sniper team with one drop off and then leave for good! The helicopter must also move as far away from the drop off point as possible without making it appear obvious. Pilots need to time the fake landings with the exact measure of time it would take to make a real drop off. This will confuse the enemy (under the assumption they’ve seen the helicopter) and buy the sniper team some time to move well away from the drop off point and to a safe location to begin their operation. If enemy forces are moved to drop-off locations, it is likely they will be spread out & thinned rather than all sent out at once.
Whatever method of insertion you decide on, be aware of each’s positive aspects and their drawbacks. Remember, if making any night drops use NVG’s and keep all lights switched off. Use the insertion method best suited to the mission you are involved in.
Below are a handful of recommended mods to use together with Arma 3 and this guide. They make subtle to no change to the overall game engine. They will, however, assist significantly in terms of increasing situational awareness on the field and overall weapon control.
A number of you are having troubles with the fatigue system. Personally, I believe it’s fine and accurate. What it comes down to is proper usage between balancing energy expenditure and rest periods. Dslyecxi has a handy mod to allow for this to be better managed. Download it, even if you aren’t interested in being a sniper.
TMR was a great mod but is no longer needed given the fixes and additions to weapon sway, weapon resting, bipods, fatigue and a tighter system of breath control while scoped. If you’re still after some 2D scopes though, check it out.
This pack is a bit of a standout. It has folding bipods, different ghille suit variations, a great selection of rifle gear and (one of the things I feel that makes this pack absolutely valuable) the camoflaged weapons options. The biggest problems all snipers have in their kit are the rifles themselves. Straight lines are very, very rarely encountered in the natural world. They usually signify something man-made to a trained eye. In other words, a rifle with its straight barrell. Having the option to break up those hard lines with burlap, scrim netting and/or foilage helps it blend in with the surroundings.
Below is a new mod that makes a few changes to the general gameplay mechanics. It’s quite good so feel free to try it. If you need any instructions to the changes made in the mod, please ask the modder directly. As mentioned before, this guide will only reflect unmodded versions of Arma 3 and official updates implemented by Bohemia Interactive
Now that Marksman DLC has been released, you may be wondering if this guide will need to be updated to accommodate it.
I’ve reviewed the change log. Aside from bipod deployment and weapon resting in the mainbranch platform update (which doesn’t really need explaining in their usage/benefits) there is nothing to update in the guide since Marksman DLC. The focus of this guide has always been on Sniper specific tactical play and fieldcraft, which the Marksman DLC does not enhance.
With the addition of weapons, camo gear and scopes in the Marksman DLC, there’s been no major change to the ballistics engine in terms of wind, coriolis effect, humidity, temperature, barometric pressure as I was hoping. This would’ve affected the tactical playstyle for Snipers considerably. Admittedly, these would be tricky to simulate and implement for long term use. Like BIS have always stressed, there needs to be a balance struck between the elements of tactical realism and fun. I support this view.
Bipods and Weapon resting are the only benefits of the platform update for snipers. In terms of remote designators, they can be used by anybody.
That’s not to say “don’t buy Marksman DLC”, feel free to do so. By all means. There’s a great selection of new gear available in it, including more ghille suit variations and camo paint. And it will enhance the immersive aspect by having official content. You’ll also be supporting BIS with future development of Arma 3.
TL:DR Marksman DLC doesn’t change the tactical playstyle or fieldcraft for snipers to any degree. The guide is current, with or without it.