Airsoft Tactics: Flanking. What the heck does THAT mean? You’ve probably heard the term and might think you know what it means, but do you REALLY? Going around the side? Sneaking up on them? What if they see you? Does that mean your sneak attack is a bust?
Usually it is not the guy you see that shoots you. . . it is the one you don’t! Generals and commanders like to talk about attacking flanks and rears, but what does that mean to the poor slob in the mud with a rifle in his hand?
It is NOT just a fancy term for generals to use. Flanking is a fundamental concept of armed (and unarmed) combat. It is not just attacking someone from the side or rear because in individual combat they can just point their weapon at you and the bb slugfest is on.
Flanking is actually exploiting human weaknesses and challenging a person or team’s ability to multi task effectively. People usually aren’t as good at multi-tasking in a hostile environment as they like to think.
Consider two things. That humans have eyes in the FRONT of their face and a person’s weapon can only point in a single direction. Very simple concept, basic, kind of a no brainer. Add in the fact that people ‘usually’ (gotta stress usually because sometimes people try) will try not to shoot THROUGH their buddies and you might begin to see where this is going.
Flanking is the very fine art of putting someone in a position where have to make a major effort to engage multiple targets, OR make it completely impossible to engage multiple targets. Since eyes and weapon can only point in one direction, at one target, then that means they have to decide what to shoot at, they can only shoot at ONE target. People also suffer from something called tunnel vision, especially in combat (or simulated combat). Tunnel vision is when they lock onto a foe and concentrate on taking out that foe while ignoring other things going on around them. Amateurs do this a lot, it is human nature and takes training and a higher level thought process to avoid falling into this trap. A Professional has their head on a swivel, always checking their sides and rear. Professional can still suffer from tunnel vision as well.
There are several ways to flank on opponent. Flanking is as much psychological as physical and I will go into both aspects.
Flanking in Airsoft: Physical
This method seams simple and straight forward. If the enemy can only look and point their weapon in one direction it takes time to point the weapon in another direction and engage a second target. The further apart these targets are the harder it is to effectively fire on them. If you have two targets and are not shooting at one target then that target can take their time and get in a good shot. It is always bad to fight two opponents for this reason.
Now if those targets keep getting further and further apart it starts to get difficult keeping track of them. It only takes seconds to aim accurately and if you lose track of a target for a couple seconds then it is likely to go very badly for you because chances are they did not lose track of you because you are busy shooting at their buddy. All their buddy has to do is keep you occupied while they get into a good shooting position.
Of course this assumes that you know about the flanker in the first place and aren’t too busy trying to shoot the guy shooting at you instead of watching all around you.
Catching on yet? Simple stuff but amateurs ALWAYS forget it, pro’s constantly exploit it.
If you’ve played Airsoft for very long you might realize that while something big and solid between you and the guy shooting at you is very effective, that big solid thing doesn’t always wrap around you. A tree for instance only give you cover from one direction. If the enemy is able to come at you from different directions then your red rag better be ready because you will need it. A wall is very effective at protecting you from targets to the front but not from targets on your FLANK or rear. (Remember how you aren’t looking around too much while you try to shoot that guy shooting at you?)
Also, if someone on the flank is not shooting at you they may be forgotten about because they are not the big threat. I’ve bunkered down before in a semi-flank position until the enemy forgot about me and then mopped them up because they stopped paying attention. It works very well because people like targets. Give them one and they will concentrate on it, let them and if it isn’t you they will think they scared you away. If it IS you, keep them occupied and your buddy will wipe them out.
Another aspect of physically flanking people is what I like to call ‘target rich environment’. Consider the below picture. When engaging an enemy, even most amateurs will spread out so they can all get a shot. This makes it harder because you can only engage one target at a time. It takes time to transition between target. Automatic fire is nice but only a fool would think he could mow them all down. Don’t forget that any target you are not shooting at can take their time and shoot at you.
Now look at this problem from another angle. Notice anything? Targets are MUCH close together and target transition time is minimal, meaning you can get more of them more quickly. They are also not taking cover from your direction. Fast and devastating. You can wipe them out before they can transition from their current target to you.
Another advantage here is that people usually don’t shoot through their buddy (or very close to him). That means they can’t shoot YOU, which gives you time to do something unpleasant to them. In unarmed combat by keeping one person in front of the other, you only have to fight one opponent instead of two, or three. Pretty neat huh? This is why officers and other combat leaders like flanking because firepower is usually focused to the front. If you can focus your frontal firepower to their side then you can attack the enemy piecemeal instead of taking the entire force as a whole, at least until they reorient, assuming they have the time and can survive that long.
Getting surrounded by a larger force is almost the same as getting flanked because you can’t watch in all directions and you get pinned in place real easy.
Consider this. You can effectively engage a target in a 15 degree arc (optimistically) up to your maximum range. You can move that arc wherever you want, but regardless you can only effectively engage what is in that arc. Moving that arc slows you down. The more distance you have to move that arc, the less effective you are. If your targets are close together it is happy time. If they are not you have to be more careful.
If you have to keep turning your head to see the other target you will probably be on your way to respawn shortly.
Flanking in Airsoft: Psychological
So now you understand the physical aspect. That is pretty effective in itself. The psychological aspect is just as diabolical and dangerous.
Back to the concept of eyes and weapon only pointing in one direction. People like to keep the threat in FRONT of them where they can deal with it. Threats from other directions quickly begin to decrease a person’s ability to fight effectively because they are too busy looking around and trying to find those threats. All you have to do is not see a threat for a second and it is red rag time. Stress and paranoia levels increase and your fighting position quickly begins to feel like a death trap, which it WILL become. This assumes the target is not suffering from tunnel vision.
Nobody likes to feel they are in a bad defensive position. Unless they are going all “Alamo”, “Camerone”, “Thermopylae” or <insert battle where everyone died here> they will be forced to retreat or get wasted by a target they didn’t see. Even if they are going “Alamo” they can be dispatched more easily. That’s the cool thing about outnumbering your opponent and why numbers tend to win battles.
So now you have a pretty good understanding of what flanking is about and how it applies so very much to your battles, from small to large.
So keep your head on a swivel and do unto others before they do unto you.
For more information, tactics and techniques see The Airsoft Bible: Book of Tactics http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1466449098/warcatslair
-Bill Frisbee Aka Warcat
The Airsoft Bible: Book of Comm – http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B005LG16NI/warcatslair
The Airsoft Bible: Book of Tactics – http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1466449098/warcatslair