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Sniping's A Good Job: A Sniper Guide
By Spooky Beef
The Sniper is known for being an extreme annoyance on any battlefield. Being able to instantly kill most targets from extreme ranges, his mere existence on a team creates a significant threat. However, actually playing one is more challenging than one may think, despite the class’s reputation of being a “point and click” version of playing TF2. With a bevy of tools at his disposal to help pick off key targets, a good Sniper can be the most deadly individual in the entire game.
This guide, like the previous ones, will go over how to play the class effectively. We’ll go over his weapons, as well as some loadouts and general strategies in how the Australian assassin operates. By the time you get through this, you may better understand how he can be so dangerous, and why he loves his job so much.
The stock rifle is generally the most balanced weapon in the Sniper’s arsenal. With no drawbacks, and the ability to get headshots from far range, it fills every situation a player may find himself in. Its only drawback is that it becomes lacking in specific niches where other guns may specialize in, but if you’re just looking for something that can get the job done, you’ll find no better weapon to work with.
+ Applicable to any situation. - Loses out to weapons designed for specific purposes.
The Huntsman is truly a quirky weapon. Instead of being a rifle, it’s an old school bow and arrow set. Using it completely changes how the class plays, as arrows act like projectiles, having a set travel speed, as well as an arch depending on how much you charge a shot. Since the weapon also doesn't have a scope, this changes the Sniper to more of a mid range offensive role, rather than picking off targets from the back lines.
The Huntsman also has its share of advantages over the rifle; It charges much faster when aiming, you’re more mobile when charging, and you have more visibility without the scope, allowing you to better watch your surroundings. Arrows can also deliver a headshot even at no charge, and can also be primed while jumping, allowing you to notch one when rounding a corner, and the weapon was recently updated to allow for mid-air shots. To top it off, the Huntsman also has arguably the best taunt kill in the game, on account of its fast startup and ability to stun players through ubers.
The main drawback comes from its raw damage output. While a fully charged arrow can still take out most classes with a single headshot, an overhealed Heavy can still survive it easily. Aiming is also not an easy task, as it requires a fair amount of practice in learning how arrows arc and where to aim them at. Still, if you’re looking for an alternative playstyle, the Huntsman can be a fun, and sometimes effective, way to play.
+ Effective in close range combat. More offense oriented. - Lower damage output. Low ammo reserves. Difficult to use.
The Sydney Sleeper again changes the Sniper's playstyle, allowing him to take a full-on support roll. While one cannot deliver headshots to enemies, the user can instead “tag” targets instead, coating them with jarate and causing them to take mini-crits. Fully charged shots and headshots also result in a splash effect that can spread the Jarate to multiple targets if they're bunched up. Due to popular demand, recent patches have also granted the Sleeper the ability to extinguish teammates on fully charged scoped shots, allowing for some extra utility.
While some can argue that it’s more effective to outright kill a target, the Sydney Sleeper has an advantage in that, coupled with its faster charge time, one can tag multiple enemies in the same amount of time a rifle user can charge up for a full powered headshot. This becomes especially crucial when dealing with Heavies and their Medic partners, as even they will fall quickly to mini-crits. It excels on KOTH and CTF maps, where you can take potshots at foes coming through the midfield and allow your teammates to finish them off. Keep in mind that the Sleeper's Jarate duration is based on the charge level your rifle is at when you fire, with the duration being 2 seconds at a base charge, and 8 seconds at full.
+ Allows for “tagging” of enemies and causing them to take mini-crits. Can now extinguish teammates on full scoped shots. - Does not deal headshot crit damage, making it difficult to kill beefier classes alone.
This is more for those who are confident in their ability to get headshots. The Bazaar Bargain normally starts with a 50% charge penalty when scoping. However, upon scoring a headshot kill, you will gain a boost to your charge time. You'll break even with at 2 headshots, while the bonus caps at 6, ending with a 100% overall faster charge increase, essentially half the charge time of the default rifle. Originally the weapon was taxed with a much heavier penalty for missed shots, but has been significantly reworked to the current version to be more accessible. The Bazaar Bargain still relies on the player to consistently get headshot kills in order to bring out its full potential, as well as staying alive to take advantage of it, as the counter resets on death.
+ Accumulated headshots can allow for a significantly faster charge time while scoped. - All accumulated headshots are lost upon death. Low base charge level at no headshots.
This Machina is a bit of a controversial weapon. When firing a fully charged shot, the Machina not only gets a damage boost, but it also gains the ability to pierce enemies, damaging multiple targets in a line. This makes it very handy for situations where opposing team members are bunched up, such as the payload cart. Even without the pierce, the damage boost allows one to take out targets much easier, particularly Medics. However, these perks only activate on a fully charged shot, meaning you’ll need to stay scoped in order to get the benefits.
The gun also fires tracer rounds that draw a bright streak in the sky when fired, drawing enemies to your location. It's also unable to fire outside of the scope, requiring you to either stay close to your teammates, or carry one of the SMGs to better defend yourself. Because of these disadvantages, it’s more suitable when playing on defense in maps like Gorge or Badwater, as you’ll be around your teammates more. It’s a powerful alternative, however, if you find that you’re not using the damage boost/pierce that often, you may want to use a different weapon.
+ Able to gain a damage boost and pierce targets. - Traits only activate on a fully charged shot. Cannot shoot outside of scope. Fires tracers.
This weapon functions a bit similarly to the Bazaar Bargain in rewarding kills, however, the Hitman’s Heatmaker is far less punishing. When using the weapon, you’ll notice a Focus meter on your HUD. Getting a kill or an assist with any weapon fills this meter. When full, you can hit your reload button to activate Focus, allowing you to fire without unscoping, and granting a 25% faster charge rate, allowing you to chain more shots on your hapless victims faster.
The drawbacks for this are surprisingly minimal. Although you get reduced damage for bodyshots, you can still do a decent amount of damage in a pinch, though headshots are still encouraged. Firing while in Focus mode also causes your shots to gain tracers that can attract enemies to you. The trickiest part of this rifle is staying alive long enough to make full use of the Focus mode. However, with enough practice, you’ll find few reasons to use any other rifle.
+ Can use Focus mode, gaining faster charge time and being able to reload without unscoping. - Less damage on body shots. Focus rounds fire tracers.
A callback to the original Team Fortress. The main advantage of this weapon is that you can charge your shots outside of scope by holding down the fire button, and then release the button to fire the shot. Charging slows you down just like scoping does, but also allows you to keep your normal field of view. It can also deliver headshots when not zoomed in. The problem with this is that it cannot deliver headshots AT ALL unless the gun is fully charged, and it also does less damage on body shots. The gun’s inability to headshot outside of a full charge particularly makes it impractical against anything but a Heavy. A fun gimmick weapon, but one that’s not much use unless you feel like representing the old school.
+ Can charge shots and deliver headshots outside of scope. - Can only headshot on a full charge. Deals less damage on body shots.
The stock SMG, to put it simply, is pretty terrible as a self defense weapon, and even worse as an offensive tool. It deals a minimal amount of damage with a ridiculously wide bullet spread, and is barely even able to take on light classes. Its main purpose is to help spycheck when you notice any suspicious activity, or to weaken already damaged enemies. It's easily outclassed by just about every other secondary option available to you.
+ Assists in spychecking a small area. - Damage output and bullet spread are poor, making it very weak in actual combat.
Can be considered a straight upgrade from the stock SMG, and has been reworked recently to be evn better. Damaging enemies with this fills a separate "Crickey" meter. Once full, you hit Alt Fire to activate it, allowing you to deal minicrits for 8 seconds. This bonus applies to Sniper's primary and melee weapons as well, so you can use your rifle to further pester enemies, or pull out your melee weapon and cut down anyone trying to bother you. It pairs particularly well with a melee weapon we'll discuss later. This comes with the drawback of a slower firing rate and a lower clip size, makes filling the meter itself a very difficult task, and one that can be made more difficult if you don't have competent teammates to support you. As a self-defense tool, it's weaker than the stock SMG, but it has an application that can allow it to fill a role in your reportoire if so desired.
+ When activated, grants mini-crits to all weapons for a lengthy duration. - Lower firing rate and low clip makes it difficult to build meter.
The best Sniper secondary in his entire arsenal. The secret art of Jarate is your all-in-one tool for just about any situation you may run into. You can bomb a small area and soak the opposition, causing them to take mini-crits. You can use it to root out Spies and cause their cloak to malfunction, revealing their location, even while he’s using Dead Ringer. You can even extinguish fellow teammates that are on fire, which shotrens the recharge timer when doing so! It also pairs especially well with one of the best melee weapons he has available. To be a true credit to team Sniper, having this on hand is essentially a must.
+ Covers enemies hit by the splash, causing them to take mini-crits. Nullifies spy cloaks. Extinguishes fire. Best support item in the game - Missing leaves you without a secondary in the event you need to defend yourself.
The Razorback is pretty much the worst item in the game, as not only does it leave you without a way to defend yourself against other classes, it actually makes you MORE vulnerable to Spies than if you didn’t use it. Three shots to your torso from the revolver of a competent Spy, or two from an Ambassador or Enforcer, are enough to completely bypass your shield, with you not even having the chance to react. You’re also unable to do anything to stop a Spy from going after alternative targets, such as your Medic. The best way to get the benefits of this weapon without actually using it is to place your back against a wall and learn to pay attention to your surroundings. Just do your team a favor and avoid this like the plague.
Darwin’s Danger Shield
This shield grants the wielder a passive +25 health increase, as well as a 15% damage resistance to bullets. This allows you to take more hits before having to pull out from your current position, and it can allows you survive a fully charged body shot or an uncharged headshot. However, it takes up your secondary slot, making it more difficult to defend yourself when your rifle and melee weapons aren’t enough. This is commonly paired with the Huntsman to allow the user to be more of a frontline class, or just Snipers that want to be closer to the action. Also good for♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥off opposing Snipers that think they're hot♥♥♥♥♥♥
+ Grants +25 HP and bullet resistance passively. - Takes up your secondary slot, reducing your self-defense options.
This backpack grants the Sniper immunity to flinching from damage while scoped, reduced knockback, as well as a passive health regen based on how long it's been since you were last damaged, capping at 4HP per second. This allows you to stay focused on firing and not having to worry about enemies trying to mess up your aim with bullets from afar, as well as ignoring bleed and afterburn. As the name implies, the Cozy Camper is most effective when you can find a place you can camp at and take shots at the opposition, so long as you have adequate support. The only downside is that it takes up your secondary slot, reducing your self-defense options in the event a Scout or Spy decides to visit your campsite personally.
+ No flinch, reduced knockback, and health regen allow for greater focus on sniping. - Takes your secondary slot, making you more vulnerable up close.
The stock kukri is your last resort weapon when dealing with people that violate your comfort zone. Two swings takes out a 125 HP class, though beefier characters will be more difficult to deal with. Works well enough on its own if you feel like being a hipster. If you’re trying to swing at a Spy, make sure he doesn’t try to loop around you for a backstab.
+ Decent damage and reach for a melee weapon. - Outclassed by other weapons that fill the role better.
The Tribalman’s Shiv has a duel purpose as a utility weapon, and as a damage one. The weapon trades frontal damage for the ability to inflict bleed on enemies hit by it. Obviously this makes it useful as a spychecking tool, as Spies hit by it will leave a blood trail that’s visible whether they’re cloaked or disguised. It’s also able to do more damage than the stock Kukri, albeit over a longer period of time when taking the bleed into consideration. A pretty decent alternative for a melee weapon.
+ Inflicts bleed on a target hit by it. - Damage doesn’t outdo the stock Kukri until after the bleed runs its course.
The Bushwacka is widely considered to be the best melee weapon for the Sniper. By its own, it’s nothing really special, however, its ability to turn mini-crits into full crits becomes insanely powerful when you add Jarate or the Cleaner's Carbine to the mix. This combo can allow the Sniper to take out any adversary barring a Heavy in a single strike. The Jarate combo is particularly effective against Spies, as not only will their cloak short out, you can make quick work of them, even if they’re spamming the Dead Ringer like a schmuck.
There is a bit of risk when doing this, especially against more dangerous classes like Soldiers and Pyros, but the payoff is usually worth the effort. Keep in mind that you're more vulnerable to damage while it's active, so make sure you make your swing count, lest your efforts be wasted. A very powerful tool when used properly, and one that every Sniper should have on hand.
+ Turns mini-crits into full crits. Pairs brilliantly with Jarate and Cleaner's Carbine. - 20% damage vulnerability makes it riskier to use in the open.
This version is a bit more peculiar for a Sniper weapon. When at full health, the weapon does significantly less damage than the kukri. When at less than half health, however, it actually does 25% more damage than the stock, making it a strong last resort weapon. However, because it requires you to be damaged before hand, it’s not really effective at preventing you from dying, especially since it runs the risk of you getting killed before you even have the chance to take advantage of the damage boost. It’s something you can use for screwing around, and you may get the occasional lucky strike with it, but for serious play, you’re probably better off using something else.
+ Gains a damage boost when at half health. - Does less damage when over half health. Riskier to use.
This is the bread-and-butter Sniper loadout, being able to fill every role necessary to do your job. Rifle choice is largely up to you and the situations you find yourself in, while the Jarate allows you to provide support to your teammates, put yourself out if you get hit by a flare, and help remove enemy Spies trying to ruin your day. The Bushwacka is essentially a must when running Jarate, as it’ll allow you to remove opposition in close range that much faster. This loadout can also be used in MvM mode to grand effect.
This loadout is built with the Machina in mind. When you’re in a situation where you want to make sure that a target is dead and the objective is secure, the Machina does its job well with its higher damage and ability to pierce. If you’re playing on defense maps like Dustbowl, then you won’t have to worry too much about the tracers revealing your position (if anything, it will give enemy players further hesitation when they try to advance into your turf), however, you’ll need to stay extra vigilant in watching for enemy Snipers. One of the SMGs can help with self-defense, since you can’t shoot outside of scope with the Machina, and the Shiv serves as your anti-Spy tool. You can also use the Jarate+Bushwacka combo, but missing with your Jarate throw can leave you even more vulnerable.
Much like the Spy, classes have a certain amount of priority when you’re determining which targets to take out. However, since you’re farther from the frontlines, you have a bit more leeway in picking which targets you can go for. Your own priority listing should be something like this:
The reason why Medics are highest on the priority scale is that they can heal whatever shots you land on an enemy if you didn’t get a kill shot, and their ubers can especially prevent your team from advancing further. Opposing Snipers are also high on the list because they can keep your teammates from trying to mount an offensive, and can even mess up your own sniping. Heavies, Demos, and Soldiers are all powerful classes that can cause troubles if left to their own devices. Meanwhile, Pyros and Scouts shouldn’t be a concern unless they are trying to make off with an objective, like pushing the cart, and you’ll rarely see Engies away from their buildings unless you’re able to spot his nest from an angle he makes himself vulnerable at.
When using the Sydney Sleeper, your priority changes a bit, since your killing potential isn’t as good, and your focus is instead on tagging targets for removal by your team. This list looks something like this:
You’re generally going to want to focus on tagging the beefier classes, as they are more difficult to take down. Being covered with jarate makes these targets much easier to deal with. Medics, while being squishy, are still high on the scale because they can help remove the effect by healing the person affected by it. Enemy Snipers should still be kept in check, though you’ll need to hit them with a fully charged body shot in order to take them out reliably, unless you can find a way to sneak up on them and plant your kukri in his skull.
Obviously these lists are subjective to changing scenarios, and can be dependent on what kind of player is playing what class. For example, if an enemy Pyro is being particularly troublesome, then you may need to switch your priority to keeping him in check. The above lists are a good point of reference, however, you’ll sometimes need to use your own judgment when determining which targets to pick off.
* Spies are your biggest threat, as they can sneak up on you while you’re trying to snipe. Always pay attention to your surroundings for any suspicious activity, and be sure to use weapons like Jarate or the Shiv to help root them out. * You’re very weak in close range combat, so be especially vigilant in watching for classes that try to flank you. If someone is impeding your sniping, try sticking with your teammates to discourage them from hunting you down. * Keeping your back to a wall can keep you from being backstabbed by a Spy, though you’ll still need to watch for them to pull their gun out instead. * Don’t be afraid to go for a body shot if it means getting a crucial kill. Obviously getting a headshot is preferable when aiming for heavier classes, but sometimes a shot to the torso will get the job done just as well, especially when it comes to Scouts or Medics weaving back and forth and messing up your aim. Remember, winning the match is the goal, not topping the scoreboard. * If you’re using the Huntsman, remember that friendly Pyros, as well as Soldiers with the Rightous Bison and Engies with the Pomson 6000, can light your arrows on fire, allowing them to set enemies hit by them ablaze. * If your Medic is burning to a crisp, throw some Jarate at him to put out the flames. He’ll thank you for helping him out. * When using the Sydney Sleeper, try to peg light classes with the base charge level, and heavier classes with the higher charge shots. This allows you to cover as many enemies in Jarate as possible, as well as discourage enemies from advancing too far. * When using the Bushwacka, remember that the effect works on all sources of mini-crits, not just Jarate. If you see a Soldier prepping a Buff Banner, for example, hang around him to be able to deliver full crits on anything that gets close. * You can shoot through small cracks in the environment with your rifle, such as crate stacks next to walls, boarded windows, and other structures. Use them to help reduce the chance of receiving counter fire, or if you’re feeling particularly trollish. * If you’re looking for sneaky places to sniper at, try to find alternate routes on a map and loop behind the opposition, then start taking them out when they’re not expecting it. * Taking cover behind, and shooting over, environmental objects such as barrels, small rocks, building edges, and crate stacks can make it more difficult for opposing classes to attack you from afar, especially enemy Snipers. * Try to avoid staying in the same position too much, as you’ll be increasing your chances of getting flanked by enemies looking to impede your sniping. Take a few shots then move to a different location to keep the enemy guessing on where you’ll be shooting from. * If the enemy Medic is proving to be a difficult target to shoot at, or he's staying behind cover, try taking out his patient instead, as the removal of a power class can hamper their offence and give your team a chance to push in. * Engineers are most vulnerable when they’re whacking their buildings. If you see one at his nest, try to find an angle to pick him off at and get him while he’s repairing, then work on shooting his sentry down. Watch out if he starts to wrangle it, however. * If you see an Engie running Gunslinger and you can’t plant a shot on him directly, take out his mini-sentries, as they can be easily dispatched with a single full charged shot. Not only will this make him waste time and metal replacing them, it’ll also keep the Scouts on your team from ♥♥♥♥♥ing, on account of their tendency to blindly throw themselves into them. * Remember that Huntsman arrows and Jarate are classified as projectiles, and can thus be reflected by a skilled Pyro with his flamethrower. Take care when trying to unload on one that’s charging at you.
* Your priority list for MvM doesn’t vary that much from regular play. Medic bots should always be your primary concern when they appear, so shoot them down before they have a chance to activate their ubers. * Your rifle choice when going into MvM mode is largely up to personal preference, as each brings something to the table. Even the Huntsman is a viable choice in this mode. Use whichever weapon you’re comfortable with. * The Machina has a distinct advantage in that it comes with the ability to pierce enemies without upgrades, which makes it easier to take out Medic bots when they’re behind giants. However, this is only available on a full charge. When using this weapon, upgrade the charge speed so that you can take better advantage of this, and only invest in actual pierce rounds if you need more on demand piercing. * The rifles can be upgraded to have exploding headshots that can help damage multiple targets at once, making elimination of smaller bots easier. Just make sure you don’t accidentally cause a Medic bot to pop his uber at a bad time. * The Huntsman can be upgraded to inflict bleeding, increasing your damage output. You’ll only need one point of this, as most small bots should die quickly, and you can simply reapply the bleed on giants with repeated shots. * Jarate is a godsend in this mode, as not only can it cause bots to take mini-crits, it can be upgraded to slow them down as well. This becomes useful when encountering giants, and it is especially invaluable on waves with giant Scout bots. * Listen for when the Announcer calls the presence of Spy bots. Chances are they’ll be going after you first. Dispatch them with a Jarate+Bushwacka combo or with the Tribalman’s Shiv. * DO NOT USE THE RAZORBACK! This bears repeating, as Spy bots are fairly easy to spot when you pay attention for them, and Jarate is simply too valuable in this mode to disregard. Using the Razorback only puts you, as well as your entire team, at a disadvantage. * You have the ability to do some insanely high DPS on giants by chaining headshots with the right upgrades. Do as much damage to them as you can to soften them up for your teammates. * You’re particularly weak against tanks, as they obviously have no head to shoot at for critical damage, and they can’t be jarated or bled. Focus on the small fries first, then shoot at the tank if nothing else is coming, or if it's getting dangerously close to the drop point. * On maps with Engineer bots, you can take him out while he’s building his nest from afar, though you may need a couple shots on account of his higher healthpool. Make sure you take out his teleporter as well! * Steel Gauntlet Heavy bots will take reduced damage from your shots. It’s best to let your teammates handle them while you focus on other targets. You can also throw Jarate on them to make them easier to take down.
The Sniper is considered one of the more difficult classes to learn, as being able to pick off key targets in crucial situations can be a tricky endeavor, especially if they move around erratically. Hopefully this guide helps to improve your own sniping, as he is capable of stopping an entire offence when played at his full potential. Remember Sniper's own standards when playing in his boots: Be polite. Be efficient. And have a plan to kill everyone you meet.
July 2 Patch Updates
* The Darwin's Danger Shield now not only gives +25 to health, but also grants 25% bullet resistance. This allows you to not only take an additional shot from a Spy's revolver at point blank, but it also allows you to survive a fully charged headshot or an uncharged headshot from an enemy Sniper. This makes it very effective in Sniper vs Sniper warfare. Just make sure to watch for Soldiers and Demomen flinging their projectiles your way, as they will hurt a LOT. * The Cozy Camper no longer slows down your movement when scoped, but in exchange you take 20% more damage from all sources. Make sure you find a good spot to hide at where opposing forces have a hard time reaching you, such as an elevated ledge or near a friendly sentry.
* Formatted Primaries section to be clearer. * Added a section for The Classic. It will be in its own separate section until the guide functionality is improved to have more text space, at which point it will be added to the Primaries section normally.
* Great efforts have been made to adjusting the Primaries section to fit the Classic in proper instead of having it be in its own section. * Updated guide based on current balance changes. * General sprucing up.
* Updated the primaries section to reflect current game build. * General sprucing up elsewhere.