The Sniper setup is one of the core archetypal tank setups in World of Tanks alongside Brawlers, Flankers, and Scouts. Most elements of a sniping tank seem second nature to experienced players but newer tankers unfamiliar with the finer aspects of game mechanics will find themselves in dire straits when they thought themselves safe from view, or fall victim to invisible assailants with alarming frequency. There are also certain tank and gun combinations that lend themselves to sniping and others that will never make adequate sniping platforms no matter how much specialized crew training and gear you use.The two foremost elements of effective sniping are accuracy and view range.
Weapon accuracy is the first concern in sniping setups as an inaccurate weapon is unlikely to hit your target at all at the ranges you will be engaging. While Howitzers will occasionally get a hilarious hail mary hit, their shell velocity and high dispersion mean that even fully aimed they will never compare to a standard long-gun firing AP shells. This is purely a square peg, round hole problem. Not all tanks have a choice of functional gun or howitzer and not all rifled guns are even accurate enough to snipe with. The D5T-85BM, at .37m/100m dispersion is about the upper end of acceptable sniping guns whereas the ZiS-4, at .34 is perfect and can reliably hit targets out to maximum range with relative ease, provided you lead them properly. The problem with dispersion is your reticle will only shrink so far. While crew skill and other factors do improve maximum accuracy and aim time there is a noticable difference between a .34m fully aimed gun and a .40m fully aimed gun so if your tanks best gun option has a .38 or higher dispersion you may want to reconsider the tanks role. Even the KwK 40 L/48 at .39m begins to have issues reliably tagging targets at range because of how the server throws your shells.
The primary reason you want to insist on highly accurate weapons is the RNG. While most shells will by definition fall within one standard deviation of your aim point you do not want to have to rely on the vagaries of the deviation engine to place shots on target for you. To achieve success it’s necessary to marry skilled play with tanks maximized to your purpose. You want to stack the deck as much in your favor as possible so taking a gun that maximizes precision is key, even if it doesn’t hit very hard.
Unfortunately there aren’t many tanks with guns as accurate as the ZiS-4 available and when you hit the big .40 you’re going to be wasting more shells than not at long ranges. The thing to remember is you’re dispersion grows by that many meters in diameter every 100 meters of range between you and the target. As noted in the View Range Battle Mechanics section of the Wiki, the view range of a tank is technically unlimited and the maximum any tank can reach as of the last revision is 598.8 meters with all modules and crew skills in your favor. Rounding that up to 600 meters for easy math your .40 meter dispersion becomes 2.4 meters in diameter at 600 meters range. This is somewhat misleading as the dispersion describes two standard deviations from dead center, since 95.45% of your shells should land in that circle. Your reticle actually shows three standard deviations so it is 1.5 times the diameter of that dispersion value. Since only ~5% of your shells will land outside the dispersion diameter we can safely use that dispersion to describe the problems you’ll face rather than the reticle.
Lets put this in perspective then. Just how big is a 2.4 meter diameter circle? Comparing to tanks, which is really the only comparison that matters here, the T-34 is 3 meters wide and 2.45 meters high so it sounds like you could hit that regularly from the front at 600 meters with a .40 meter dispersion gun. The caveat is there’s a lot of open space to either side of the turret and underneath the hull that’s nothing but air and is still inside that 2.4 meter diameter. Your actual chance of hitting it may be closer to 50% than 95.45%, and you will not be able to aim for weak points with any degree of precision. Considering turret and target movement and the aim prediction you must make prior to firing to account for shell velocity (these aren’t lasers) even with a .40 gun you’re going to have difficulty.
While the 600 meter example makes for easy math, even the perfect Patton detailed in the Battle Mechanics example doesn’t quite reach that with all the best equipment. While closer targets means they are easier to place shots on, it also decreases the number of shots you can fire before they’re right on top of you. Tanks with poor view range also make poor snipers because an unseen target is very difficult to hit. Teammates closer to the fray cannot be relied upon to survive indefinitely and server updates on obscured targets aren’t very fast, meaning the enemy will have ample time to dart between openings before it even renders if you’re relying on a teammate to spot for you. You’re going to end up doing a good deal of your own spotting when you’re a sniper.
If you are in stealth yourself you will lose most of that bonus when firing thus a long view range is essential in remaining hidden while firing as a closer enemy also has a better chance of detecting you back when fired upon. It is worth mentioning that view range determines detection range but they are not the same thing. View range is actually a pretty terrible label for that statistic since the server rendering rage has nothing to do with your tanks optics. The maximum range an enemy detected by any teammate will be rendered varies depending on the angle you’re viewing them from due to mathematical shortcuts in the server code. Using the edge of this maximum draw distance to provide your own stealth by keeping other enemies out of your server horizon will cause targets to blink into and out of rendering range as the melee progresses so “range tanking” while you snipe has its own set of issues. The server horison is due to be raised as noted by Serb since there’s no reason you should be able to see enemies at 600 meters on one map and nearly 850 meters on another just because the second map has you approaching each other on a diagonal for example.
Your detection range is your view range reduced by the target tanks stealth rating, their crew training, camouflage paint, camouflage net if active, and intervening cover. The range at which you can detect the enemy yourself and remain hidden while firing upon them is rather narrow. If your view range isn’t artificially boosted by crew training and equipment that margin likely won’t exist at all even with cover.
Basic view range is based on the tanks turret and is increased by the Recon skill for Commanders, Situational Awareness for Radio Operators, Ventilation boosting their skills, and either Coated Optics or Binocular Telescopes. While you can equip both a Binocular Telescope and Coated optics the effects do not stack. Premium consumables can boost this a little further but if you’re paying for those each battle for sharper vision in randoms you’ve got problems. Best to save them for your tier 10 brawlers.
Stealth isn’t quite as important as accuracy and view range but still plays an important role in keeping yourself hidden while firing on distant enemies. There will be many instances of enemies spotted by your scouts that you can then fire on and remain hidden but, if your stealth is poor you will likely in turn be detected when firing on them. When your range to the target is great enough even hiding behind foliage can push your stealth over what the enemy can detect. You don’t always know that the enemy doesn’t have a closer spotter but if your commander has the Sixth Sense perk you can be reasonably certain you’ll know trouble is coming before taking damage. The farther you are from the action the harder target acquisition and aiming will be before your three second delayed warning.
Artillery shells at range have a multi-second hang time and that’s after aiming. Even taking that into account, taking up the same position after pulling back is sure to land one on your tank sooner or later. If the artillery knows where to expect you they will hover their reticle over where they expect you to reappear and fire as soon as you’re spotted. If you’re covering an expanse with enemy artillery looking for a shot at you it’s best to be able to pull back a bit and come up elsewhere even if it means sacrificing a bit of DPS. Dead snipers deal 0 DPS.
If you have a stealthier tank you can afford to close that gap a bit giving yourself easier shots but as I noted in my T-34-85 article this is getting more difficult with the addition of new high tier scout tanks. At great ranges you’ll be using the enemy view range limitation as your “tank”. I see this most frequently in places like El Halluf and Lakeville, where the canyon and lake width push the maximum limits of view range. I have detected people behind bushes across the lake but only when they’re using a very unstealthy tank.
Most people like to focus on damage per minute and alpha damage when considering weapons. For brawling applications this can be all you need depending on your preference for keeping to their rear and dealing damage consistently, or making face-melting strikes and retreating. When you’re looking for a sniping weapon part of your defense is being far enough away that the enemy will have difficulty hitting and damaging you. Range is part of your “tank” and armor is the other part. The converse of this is you have to deal with your targets armor as well. After accuracy the next most important factor of a sniping weapon is armor piercing. Armor piercing will trump damage per shell and reload rate due to ranges effect on the armor piercing of AP shells. Some tanks are hard enough to damage within 100 meters with no penalty, let alone from 500 meters.
While the penetration loss over range is smaller the higher tier the weapon, none of these coefficients is actually published so there are no hard numbers to refer to. Note that while it may be enticing to gold snipe, the wiki notes that APCR shells lose far more penetration than AP shells over the same range. Throwing gold at the problem in this case is clearly not recommended though you may encourage the enemy to do so.
Stealth and spotting in anything but advanced light tanks has taken a serious beating in recent patches and the revamp of many map elements ensures that finding good sniping blinds necessitates hard cover nearby. While there are many lone copses of trees and bushes to snipe from they are mostly very isolated and as soon as you are spotted your game is as good as over. There are also large swathes of many maps that are pure kill zones to anything slower than 60m/s and as such most players completely avoid these obvious deathtraps. This may be an attempt by WG to rebalance away from sniping tanks and toward brawling tanks and sniping tank destroyers as mid and high tier tank destroyers still maintain significant stealth, at least until firing. Even disregarding stealth factors, many maps encourage brawling by cutting the map in half using ridges, railroads, and other raised terrain features. While taking a position in the center will give a good view of the opposing team, the first one to expose oneself in this way is usually a dead man.
There are very few sniping posts covering any one advance and crowding on them will only expose all snipers to fire once one of them is discovered. Sniping is a solitary endeavor. While you want to support your team and want their support, sticking too close together when not moving is a bad idea.
Lets go to the Map
The T-28 occupies an odd niche in that it is stealthier than the large silhouette would suggest, and an experienced crew will give you an unusual edge in that few Tier 4 tank crews are experienced. While I ended up losing to a KV-1 eventually, I came out with about 1.5x the experience of our KV-1, and the rest of the team was behind by even greater margins. Also, part way through the match a TD pulls up near me and is shelled. That TD ended up pulling back and I still wasn’t spotted. That’s some stealth.
In this match I take a commanding position in soft cover over the valley and due to a combination of teammates being easier targets, my stealth, and lack of opposing artillery I remain unmolested the entire match. Usually you do not want to sit in one place that long.
This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Saiphas Cain.