One of the core competencies of a sniper must not only be shooting with great accuracy and precision. Controlling the factors that enable you to do this is a superior skill.
These factors generally include personal concerns like patience and discipline. A sniper must have a strong knowledge of his perspective and situation, far beyond just what he sees through the scope. The formula for great marksmanship skills lies first in managing your stance and breathing pattern and then applying the knowledge of what you read through the scope.
Stances and their affect on breathing control
The sniper uses all stances depending on the situation. A sniper is sometimes required to move fast and other times at an extreme crawl. And after all this takes place, you are expected to retain your ability to shoot well — you can’t determine when you have to be ready. It is important to have control over the things that affect you and the patience to know the limits of what is possible.
It’s obvious knowledge: Just as your stance affects the speed you move, each stance has pros and cons in the results of shooting. Much of this will come across as common sense, but a brief visual comparison helps the pattern become obvious as the effects magnify over distance.
This table features a graphical estimate of the amount your reticle moves or sways while in different stances and breathing. The prone position maintains a near-perfect still reticle with your breath held. NOTE: The steadiness offered by a lower stance can be achieved by holding your breath in a higher stance. This illustrates the shear importance of breathing control rather than solely relying on your stance.
Breathing control by the numbers
There are critical numbers and behaviors related to your character’s breathing in the game. Being aware of these at all times will let you maintain control of what the game is processing, allowing you to have stronger management of your fatigue state overall.
- You can hold your breath for a maximum of 11 seconds on average. After this point you must catch your breath, a physiological penalty that takes approximately 3 full seconds
- The amount of time needed to catch your breath is proportional to how long you hold it
- Key Mapping Beware: Using the “naked-eye zoom” will hold your breath at the same time if mapped to the same key. This effect is likewise for the stepped zoom on the M107, which could be a pro or con depending on your preference
- You can never run out of breath while in a crouch or lower stance. The same is true for any slow or “locked” version of a stance
- Though the farther you sprint progressively affects how steady you can hold your rifle, sprinting about 100 meters or more causes you to become so winded your reticle movement will be beyond the control of holding your breath
- A very long sprint — that is, over several hundred meters — affects your breathing until approximately 60 seconds passes once you stop to rest. Only then does your character return to a normal breathing level. Therefore, be aware of the need to gradually slow your movement for at least 1 full minute after a long run and especially before you expect to engage over distance
- After taking any amount of damage your reticle fluctuates so severely it makes the sniper’s job incredibly difficult. In this case, egress to a safe location and get your wounds healed to restore your combat effectiveness. This why it’s so important to avoid being wounded or take life-threatening risks in the first place
Finally, when it comes to the pressures of shooting, do as many have said before: Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Cliché? Perhaps. Hard to remember in the field? Always.