Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Woodsball Links

Here are a few links for differing game formats, up and coming woodsball leagues, and just all around good woodsball information

http://playuwl.com/   This is tournament style woodsball at it's best!

http://tacten.com/paintball/ This format makes for some serious tactical ballin!

http://www.cousinspaintball.com/userfiles/image/ChameleonRules.pdf  Tired of the same old pick up games? Give this a shot!

http://www.toppaintballsniper.com/  These guys run a great competition and need our support. Start practicing!

http://www.pbreview.com/  Don't buy anything without first checking this site!

https://www.facebook.com/MagwellPB  A great new site that caters to the up and coming mag fed format!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Which paintball gun should I buy?

   This is probably one of, if not, the most asked question by new players. The answer isn't easy. First, you should hold or preferably play with any marker you are even considering getting. It is important that you are comfortable with it in both short games and long scenarios. You need to choose something that fits the area you play in (i.e. is it cold in the winter? Can you get HPA fills or are you stuck using C02? Can it be serviced by someone within driving distance if it goes down?) There are many questions to ask, and it is best to have hands on experience with something before you buy it. I always advocate investing in a good mask before anything else, because rental masks suck. There's nothing like taking your new marker out for a day of rec ball and walking to the deadbox because you can't see through the fog of your rental mask. Seriously, get a good mask first.

   Some things to remember when choosing a marker:

- Durability. If you will be jumping over logs and diving into rocks, get something that can take the abuse. Tippmanns excel here.

- Reliability. Check the paintball forums for what current users say about the gun you want. It is often wise to wait for a newer, updated version of the marker you want to be released. You don't want to get excited just so you can miss your first day out because you had to go to the tech shop instead of the field.

- Efficiency. You don't want to miss games because although you still have paint in your pack you are out of air again, do you? This is also a concern for anyone living a good distance from any shop that can fill your tanks as it limits the amount of practicing you can do.

- Complexity. You really don't want something complicated for your first gun. You need to be able to clean and service it yourself.

- Upgrade ability. For your first gun, you (like all of us) will want to trick it out as soon as you can afford to. Choose a marker that can grow with you. Remember the old function over form rule; if it doesn't help you put paint on target it is dead weight.

- Resale value. Was a newer version recently released? Is it out dated? Impossible to find parts for? All of this comes into play when you decide to sell it and get something else. Bare this in mind when you make your initial investment.

- Weight. You may have held it naked in the shop for five minutes, but have you lugged it through an all day scenario with a hopper full of paint and an air tank on it? I am referring mainly to our younger and smaller players here, this is something to consider. If you can't snap it up and fire because you're pooped from lugging it you will find yourself lugging it to the deadbox instead.

   All in all, there are many things to consider. Chances are, if you are looking to start playing paintball then you know someone who turned you on to it. Ask them to borrow one of their spare markers for a day. Even if it isn't something you want, by playing a good, solid day of ball with it you will have a much better idea of what you do (and don't) want in a marker.

The Basics of Paintball Sniping

   It is customary to open with a strong quote from a respected source, and I shall not vary from tradition. It is Captain Herbert McBride who is credited with saying, "First accuracy, then speed." in regards to practical sniping in what is considered static/defensive/trench warfare. In spite of that, some of what I read in "A Rifleman Went to War" does in fact translate to paintball. You need to competently shoot before you can competently shoot, quickly. The whole "slow is smooth, smooth is fast" mentality. There is a marked similarity between the wack-a-mole rifle shooting experienced by McBride and the fast paced nature of paintball. Rarely are there instances of opposing team members in range, staying perfectly still for an elimination. Although rare, it does occur. That was a long winded way of explaining how I feel any kind of real world "sniper" instruction applies to paintball.

   The first thing I want to mention, is that playing a sniper role in a game most assuredly means playing pistol very effectively, or carrying a full secondary. I opt for pistol play. Read on to hear my take on why being light is important. From personal experience, I have deemed it impractical to run a primary full of First Strikes (In part because my choice of first strike marker is a Hammer 7) without a 68 caliber backup for the close/fast/running shots. Not to mention after you have played with your PGP/T8/TPX your muscle memory has begun developing and confidence builds in unison with running it as a primary. I'll go on record to say it is extremely beneficial to the paintball sniper to carry, be proficient with, and thoroughly understand your chosen secondary, which will inevitably become your primary during some intense game moments. Please feel free to take a gander at the pistol article for more.
So, you want to build a rig around being able to play a game effectively with just a pistol, nothing hampering your ability to reload, shoot, or move. Add to that a ten round tube full of First strike rounds and a good easy sling on your chosen sniper marker, and you have a light, playable setup (not lugging six pods also aids in this) that you can add local foliage and even a light bushrag to as well as stay relatively comfortable in for extended periods of time. Knee and elbow pads, chest protectors, extra layers are all your choice, just stay away from the yellows, reds and blacks, any bright colors that create contrast to your surroundings.

   Shooting positions are also worth discussing. You should dial in your sight shooting prone with a stabilized marker, but once you've done so it's important to practice the kneeling and standing shot as well. For kneeling, put your front elbow on your knee, creating about a 50* angle. Make sure your elbow bone is on knee bone. Nothing like muscle fatigue to ruin a shot you've been holding. For standing, it helps to have some sort of vertical grip on your sniper marker, for just this purpose. You never know when the only clearance through the brush is at shoulder level. When using any kind of sight, it's very important to ensure that you have proper eye relief, and that it's is raised off of the marker a sufficient height for you to use it with a mask (you laugh, but this is often overlooked). You absolutely have to adopt the same position with your head, and pick up the same sight picture every time.

   Another important piece is good cardiovascular health. Let me give you an example of a tactic requiring good cardio. You're on a big outdoor field, perfect for a little sniping. The horn blows, you dash ahead of everyone to get to the left 50, which is a mass of cover that offers good firing lanes and plenty of exits. You have to get there, scan, slow your breathing enough to take a shot, and effectively fire before any of the opfor even knows you're there. It also gives one the option to tell the rest of the team exactly what's happening. Being in the heat of an exchange and snapping with a pistol, gets considerably easier with a strong core. Crawling is just one more reason to be in top shape. The list goes on and on.

"My as of yet unnamed rig"

   Choose a sniper marker that very effectively fires your chosen ammunition. Let me just mention briefly that using fresh top quality paint has a major impact on your accuracy. Choose something you can shoot well with, and shave as much weight as you can. By that I mean have nothing on the marker that doesn't enhance your ability to put paint on target. It's also beneficial to be able to sling it quickly, as well as add a riflerag/local foliage without affecting the operation of the markers (semis have a leg up here). You want something that you can hit what you aim at with, and it doesn't hurt if it's quiet enough to allow you to make closer shots without announcing your location. Barrels can help with this, but the operation of the marker has a lot to do with it. Lower end blowbacks and such are simply naturally louder than spoolies. Just the nature of the beast. The flip side is that taking a $1000 electro into the woods to shoot a ball at a time isn't really maximizing it's potential. Essentially, use what you are comfortable with. Use the best you have available. And PRACTICE.

   Personally I was on the fence about the whole idea of paintball sniping until the advent of the first strike round. I can tell you undoubtedly from personal experience that using first strikes in an accurate marker in a sniper role will definitely allow you to utilize which sniping tactics do apply to the paintball world. Whatever your chosen round, you need to be very familiar with it's trajectories, and be damn sure you know it's effective range. If a paintball won't consistantly break at said range, it isn't effective. If you choose a high grade paint, you need to be aware of the trajectory requirements of the field. In other words, being able to consistantly hit a mask at 125 feet won't help you if you’re playing in a canopy of trees, and you can’t lob a ball in. First strikes having a flatter trajectory is definitely a separate bonus to the added range and accuracy. Shooting regular paint, I personally wouldn't use any sight with over 2X magnification. With first strikes, I would bump up to four max.

   You want your scope to have a "quick clamp" if possible, making it much easier to effectively scout without having to hold your marker. Sunshades are another aspect most potential snipers overlook, until your position is given away by the reflection from your objective lens. With your mask on, you're going to need 3-4" of eye relief to get a good sight picture. All things to be mindful of when choosing a sight. Adjustable rails are awesome in an ambush capacity. Get to your ambush point quickly, dial in something close to where you expect contact, and take a shot or two, quickly adjusting your sight to match. They can also help you make the most of your maximum effective range. Remember those choke points! If you're serious about ambushing, you can make a full time job of finding places where opposing players will stop, and cautiously gaggle up, giving you prime opportunities to fire and then disappear. I have found OEG's and red dots most beneficial with "ghosting", which I rarely do with anything except regular paint. Having a two or three man team, ghosting is moving separately, if just in sight of the main element. The benefit comes in giving you a lot of "shots of opportunity", as the main element will be drawing attention. Rarely in this capacity will you have time to dial in shots and aim, making a static red dot and practice the effective answer. The other option is to put your chosen sight on an adjustable rail without adjusting it. When you finally have a chance to dial in a nice shot, you can.

   DOPE stands for data on previous engagements, and the more you have, the more proficient you'll be. You need to know what the round is going to do in current wind, at current FPS, in current conditions. Practice in my opinion is the best way to make you a better paintball sniper. It's good to run drills for accuracy. It's good to practice stealth for it's own sake, and snapping with a pistol to get better, but it's when you practice all the applicable skills in a game that you start getting better at everything coming together. You should play at least 5 games geared up as a sniper, forcing some pistol play, before you buy/set up a vest effectively. There's no faster way to learn which mistakes to avoid than to make them.

   The 5 "S"s of camouflage are shape, shine, silhouette, shadow, and sudden movement. You want your barrel tip, hands, head and shoulders all with added material to give that "moundy" effect. That will greatly aid shape and silhouette on the most important areas. Why are they the most important? Because they move a lot, draw the eye, and have a telltale shape. An experienced player can pick out the outline of a mask from a mile away. It goes without saying that shiny belt buckles and watches are a no go. Good woodsball gloves will cover rings, just be mindful of anything else that could potentially reflect light. Staying aware of the position of the sun will go a long way in helping you cast a silhouette when it's behind you, or give away your approach with your shadow. Both are telltale signs experienced players look for. When I mention sudden movement, I'm essentially talking about avoiding jerky movement. The eye is drawn to it, and it's important to maintain that slower, smoother motion bringing up your optics.You never know who is watching you. They may be scanning your general direction, and the quick hand movement was all it took. Camouflage is a big subject. Please see the paintball ghillie article for more on that. Suffice it to say that using the best camo available to you is fine. Even flat green overalls can be effective with a little added foliage Just don't wear black. Even ninjas didn't wear black. Trust me. "Nothing black in nature" means you're sure to stand out. Treewalking is another skill essential to stealthy movement. It boils down to ensuring you always have cover between you and the opfor, never taking your eyes off of your target, and even taking a longer "clover leaf" route rather than areas of sparse cover.

   As far as barrels go, use the best paint or first strikes you can get your hands on, and a barrel that shoots it well. I don't know that how well a barrel shoots through breaks is more important that the porting/sound reduction, again it's up to the individual. I will caution you that traditionally hating longer barrels, I will not play a sniper role without a 14" barrel, for one practical reason. Time after time, I have missed the opportunity to take shots for no reason than not being able to shoot through a little cover separating me from OPFOR. I run first strikes through a heavily upgraded Kingman Hammer 7, and I have learned that sound reduction as well as a barrel I can "part the grass" with to take a shot is ideal for my play style. I also run a 13/3000 on the back of the Hammer, so efficiency isn't my top concern. All things I've taken into account through a lot of field testing. Flatlines and apex barrels are definitely neat, but I personally choose not use them as I value accuracy over the range, and besides, I use first strikes anyway :P
Remember to "Train as you fight". I shoot masks in training because I shoots masks in games. Soda bottles and paper plates are a stand in for the real thing.

"Stephanie" is what I use when I can't shoot first strikes, like at FPO only events

Advanced Paintball Sniping

   So you’ve sniped all of the local fields, bushwacked OPFOR in the SPPL, and maybe even placed in the Top Paintball Sniper competition, and you’re hungry for more? Past all of the preliminary basics? Read on.

   Fire discipline has to be the first thing we discuss here. Why? Because it’s integral to moving on in the paintball sniping business. Excellent camo and fire discipline are what separate the new snipers from the guys that can really pull off some high value eliminations. Maybe you remember the first time you actually picked up an unaware player in your scope. Maybe you just have to think back to the first time you flanked a group of opfor and shouldered your marker. Either way, you’re likely to remember an adrenaline dump. This is commonly referred to as “Buck Fever”, and takes practice to overcome. Being able to hold off on shots at an opposing player 20 feet away because he isn’t the General and you are far too valuable to your team reporting from the woodline next to the opposing team’s base requires some real fire discipline. Blending in well enough to maintain a position that close requires some real camouflage skills. Top it off with the patience to squat motionless for extended periods of time and you have the makings of a real paintball sniper. Fire discipline isn’t just waiting until the enemy is within your effective range, it’s much more than that.

 An example of a paintball "Bushrag". Note there's plenty of room for local vegetation when I get to the field.

   The tactical withdrawal, or displacement of a paintball sniper is another absolutely essential tool. I honestly can’t count how many times I have taken a shot without moving, secure in my knowledge that my target didn’t make my location. Guess what? An opposing front player off to my 9 o clock did. My mistake. At any rate, the principle here is to have several avenues of withdrawal which offer cover and concealment as you haul arse outta there. Before you take a position to shoot from, know where your next potential hide is, as well as how to displace as little as 20 feet away, because they didn’t see where you went. It’s one thing to be discovered. It’s another to be tracked. Bottom line is to have an idea where you’re going next, as well as a route for a hot withdrawal. It’s also important to stop every so often on a creep, take a knee and scan ahead. Try not look for anything specific, but rather look for what’s abnormal, out of place. You’ll rarely see a whole player or even a whole mask initially, you’re more likely to see a shape or color that doesn’t belong and have to quickly discern if it’s a player, if he’s OPFOR, and if he knows you’re there, all while smoothly rolling your marker up for that accurate, fast shot. Once you are in your zone, you brain will adapt quickly to the mentality of translating a potential threat from and hand shaped stick, etc.

   Shot placement isn’t something you have a great amount of control over in paintball, even using first strikes. A lot of times you’re going to be happy to put a round on a torso at 150’, and it seems like a stretch to go for a mask shot. But often you’ll be stuck using a rec grade paint that is anything but tournament brittle. This is where the advanced part comes in. Move up 30’, smoothly, and gog ‘em. How? By treewalking up, avoiding jerky movement so as not to draw the eye, staying aware of your firing lanes (you did remember to walk the field, right?!), and putting paint on that 8”X 8” target you have been practicing on (remember to train as you fight, I always advocate training using masks). When setting up training, skip the soda bottles and paper plates, and invest in beat up old masks. Masks are great for training because they are often the first thing you see, every player has one, they are often what draws the eye, and are your best bet for guaranteeing a break.

 "Favoring right"

   Wind can be a paintball’s worst nightmare. Windy open areas play hell for the single shot sniper, fortunately, less so with first strikes. The truth is that sometimes there is a bit of guesstimation in the equation, and there isn’t a straight answer to beating crosswind. That said, there are a few tricks of the trade that will help. First thing you want to be able to do is to gauge wind, and distance. The best way to gauge distance is to size a paintball mask at 75’, 100’, 150’ etc  through your chosen sight, (a scope over a red dot helps here) and simply memorize the size differences. Gauging wind can be a little trickier. Unlike military/LE sniping, you don’t have to work an equation to dial in your rounds. Look at the vegetation at or near your target. There are two things you’re looking for here. One is how much your given vegetation is moving, and the other is a simple ye or ne on whether the wind is a crosswind, i.e. it’s not blowing at or away from you. If you do have a crosswind, and you need to take the shot, all isn’t lost. You can start practicing now a simple system from the real world called favoring and holding. Let me explain: Imagine you have a target at 150’ and you are shooting FS out of your favorite barrel. You dial in your APR, center chest of the target. What can you do if you get a slight left to right crosswind? Take the reticle, at the same height, to his left armpit. If the wind picks up a little, go ahead and move it to the outside of his left arm, like you’re trying to pin his left sleeve to something behind him.  Moving to the left (your left) armpit is known as favoring left. The outside of the left sleeve is holding left. A fast, effective way for a spotter to get his shooter on target. Make sure to practice as you play, in real wind.

 "Holding right"

   A classic sniper/observer combo is one way of building a sniper team, though I feel a good sniper team can be one, but is never more than two players. The reason for this has to do with maintaining stealth more than anything. The spotter should be an accomplished shooter who is well versed in camouflage, stealth, displacing, and sending valuable observations to everyone on the team, via radios, handsignals, what have you. His choice would likely be a semi, and perhaps his own sniper marker. It’s important to run light, as light as you can, but whatever your tactic, being quiet, mobile and fast is your ticket to success. A good sniper team can even take 2 separate positions within sight of each other, and using their preferred communication method to engage targets of opportunity simultaneously, thereby lessening their chances of individual discovery while increasing the chances of a successful break on their target. A good team understands how to cover each other for tactical withdrawals, guerrilla tactics as well as how to play either role effectively. It takes a lot of patience to sit motionless behind enemy lines so your buddy can make eliminationss. My personal take is that both players should have a full loadout, so as to be able to fill either role. Adaptability is key.

   Bipods I feel, are a necessity. Whether it’s a sandsock, a backpack, or a rail-mounted adjustable deluxe, bipods really aid is those long shots. Hell, even a trio of sticks corded together will make a difference. In the event that you have the time to take a good clear shot at distance, take the extra time to stabilize your marker. Another great tactic to  take a position standing, poke your barrel out from the branches, and just tie a knot with a piece of rope/550 cord at your chosen height from an available branch. Easy to replace if you have to bug out quickly, doesn’t add a lot of weight to your gear, and it’s very effective.

   Now that we’ve discussed all of that, let’s talk about practical accuracy. Specifically, about being able to roll your marker up to your shoulder to quickly engage, at 40 feet, that unexpected front player with the DM10. You’ll increase your total number of eliminations as well as feel more confident running with your sniper marker as a primary if you don’t keep getting outdrawn. It doesn’t help you to be able to hit a mask consistently at 200’ from a stable position if you’re missing or not taking shots of opportunity at more common ranges. Sometimes filling the recon role for your team is simply maintaining excellent camouflage and eliminating with no more than one shot apiece threats within their effective range (you concede an advantage to their firepower operating within their effective range). Remember you can stand to be outgunned, that’s the nature of the position. It’s accuracy and speed that you will need, in that order. Being an awesome sniper isn’t about being good at one role or familiar with one set of skills. It’s about understanding how a tourney front player thinks, his gear, his tactics and being able to out snap him. It’s about understanding what the noobs on your team are going to do at the game on whistle, and everything in between. It’s about playing to your strengths and your opponent's weaknesses. Do not let him draw you into an exchange while he waits for backup; instead have the fire discipline to disengage, withdraw and reengage on your terms. By the time you reach a very proficient level in the sniper role, I guarantee you will have what you need cleanup using any gun, on any field, in any format.

How to sight in your optic

   Before you invest in an optic, you really should ensure your snapshooting and muscle memory are up to par. Many paintballers will tell you that sights are useless, and to them, they are. No sight is going to compensate for a lack of muscle memory and basic skills, but for those longer shots when you have the drop on your opponents, a correctly sighted in optic is worth its weight in gold. Make sure any sight you buy with magnification has at least 3" of eye relief, and that you have the necessary raised sight rail or whatever you need to ensure that you can comfortably and quickly bring your marker to bare to utilize your sight. Also, try to eliminate any variables you can by keeping the same shooter, preferably prone with your marker mounted in a gun vise.

For regular paint:
   First, set your velocity at the maximum your field allows with your chosen brand of paintball and barrel combo. I would suggest starting around 30 feet, or your minimum engagement range. You should be using a red dot or even better an Occluded Eye Gunsight (for regular paint ghost rings are great too). If you are using anything with magnification, 2X is the most you will need. Set a mask on a post, tree, etc. Once you can put 10 balls on the mask, move back 10-15 feet and repeat. Remember that adjustable rails like the Killjoy are best used for first strikes, because when you are using regular paint you are never out of range of opposing players who likely have you outgunned. You want the sight to be as low on the marker as possible, but high enough to use it comfortably and quickly with your mask on (dogleg and R.O.C. stocks are great for this). The quickly part comes in as this is paintball, a naturally fast paced sport where you will be forced to snapshoot and occasionally be caught off guard. Make sure you fire 10 rounds before making any adjustments, and once you get to the range where you are having trouble putting 10 balls on a mask, you are nearing your maximum engagement range. You may be able to push back a bit more, but with regular paint your maximum engagement range should be between 110 and 125 feet, depending on your setup. Regulated markers with HPA are just going to have tighter groups at these ranges, naturally. Remember that you are at a disadvantage playing a sniper/marksman role with regular paint, as you are ballistically even with your OPFOR who likely have more firepower than you. Another aspect to keep in mind is the paint you're using, and the range at which it will break on target.

For first strikes:
   First, set your velocity using the first strikes at the maximum your field allows. The maximum magnification I would suggest would be 4X, with 2.5X and 3X being your best bet. I would also suggest an adjustable sight rail like the Killjoy, for several reasons. First, they are tall enough to bring your chosen sight up high enough that you shouldn't have issues using the sight with your mask on. Second, they are great in the instance when you do have time to dial in a long range shot, and make the most of the advantages first strikes offer in range and accuracy. I would start at 15 yards / meters, and using regular paint to get your sight laterally dialed in will save you some valuable first strikes. Pushing back 10 yards / meters at a time, I would switch to first strikes at 20 yards / meters and get used to shooting them through your sight out to 25-35 yards / meters without adjusting the rail. Put 5 first strikes on or near the mask before pushing back. This will make emergency shots familiar if you get engaged suddenly within regular paint range. Continue pushing back 10 yards / meters feet at a time, marking down in a DOPE book how many ticks you see on the back of the adjustable rail for given distances. Practice sizing the mask at different ranges through your sight reticule to get a feel for quickly estimating range in-game. Once you see your group starting to really spread out (usually after 70 yards / meters), you can choose whether to continue pushing back to repeat the process or not. When you start close and push back, you save time and paint over starting at maximum ranges and dialing in back and forth.

So you want to play pistol, eh?

So you want to play pistol, eh?

   One thing that’s going to be of paramount importance is your rig. How you carry your pistol, mags, and necessities is going to have a HUGE impact on how well you do, how frustrated you don’t get, and how likely you are to keep playing pistol. First, envision yourself behind a bunker. Now, with your current vest, are your elbows sticking out when you reload? Can you crawl, or do you have gear on your front? It’s ok to set it up however you want, but be mindful of such things. Do you have a dump pouch? You’ll need one.

   Another important piece is a holster. There are drop leg holsters, belt, vest and a number of other options. With so many styles to choose from, you might feel overwhelmed. Let me just say that the very best way to choose is baptism by fire, to coin an old term. By that I mean, PLAY! You will get a very quick understanding on what works best for you. It will also help you set up the rest of your vest.

   Considering you will usually have between 7-10 rounds before you have to reload, you definitely need a reload pattern that is fast, efficient and committed to muscle memory. Also, tubes cut down to 7-8 rounds (depending which pistol you are rocking) are great for magazine reloads when things cool off. You also need to put your 12 grams where you can access them without fumbling, yet they don’t “clink” when you move. 12 gauge shotgun shell accessories are great for this, not to mention more custom options are becoming available as pump and stock play have a dedicated manufacturer following these days. Another aspect that bears mentioning is to get used to reloading mags without ever taking your eyes off of what’s in front of you. Again, muscle memory.

   If snapping is a critical skill for speed ballers with a DM10 and 200 round hopper, it is infinitely more important for a pistol player. One of the advantages of playing pistol is a small profile popping out of a bunker to take a shot. You need to be able to hit what you aim at, expose no more of yourself than absolutely necessary, and shoot left and right. That’s right, being ambidextrous is a major plus for a pistol player. It comes with experience, as does accuracy with your pistol. If you shoot right handed out of the left side of a bunker, you’ll be sacrificing some of that profile advantage you get playing with a pistol.

   CQC stands for close-quarter-combat, and will be a separate article. A lot of what you’ll read there will translate to pistol play. That said, the last thing I’d like to mention is how important a strong core and cardiovascular health is to the pistol player. Snapping, sprinting, and holding uncomfortable positions for that awesome elimination are all mandatory tools of the pistol player. If you’re like me, you’ll find that as you start playing pistol, you will have unparalleled opportunities to advance. You’ll find yourself moving up a LOT more, and with that comes being more aggressive. Waiting until he stops to reload, knowing how many rounds are left in your current magazine to give yourself covering fire, running and shooting, flanking, all come into play. You’ll have to get used to playing tight to available cover, perhaps tighter than you have ever had to before. For what it’s worth, the first time you cleanup with a pistol, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.