Ainsley Neilly served in the RAF Regiment for over 8 years, reaching the rank of Corporal. He deployed to Iraq and was operational on a Sniper section in Afghanistan. Holding many military qualifications in addition to his Sniper training – Shooting Coach, Range Conducting Officer and Weapons Instructor – Ainsley is passionate about the specialism, with a desire to share his skill and knowledge.
Ainsley left the military in 2014 and, with the gaming and movie exposure of snipers in mind, has built an outdoor pursuits business with a difference. Combat Sniper is the UK’s only Sniper activity centre, offering unique experiences for thrill-seeker, taught by ex-military instructors.
“I felt I had the motivation and determination to start Combat Sniper, and wanted the flexibility to be able to make my own business decisions. The biggest obstacle in setting up the business was finding a location.”
Combat Sniper is based in the beautiful Thetford Forest, on the border between Suffolk and Norfolk. Ainsley’s single-day Sniper Experience courses offer an insight into being a military Sniper, the skills they have to learn and how to apply them. The courses cover theory and practical elements, including rifle range firing in different positions, the art of camouflage, methods of movement and stalking. Ainsley describes the experience as all the fun aspects from military Sniper training in which participants will enjoy an unforgettable day.
“The best thing about being my own boss is the flexibility to make decisions about new ideas. However, being a one-man band, you are the accounts, marketing, sales, website, social media etc which takes a lot of different knowledge and skills. I found that I have gained many on my feet, learning from mistakes in some cases but I will admit to lacking in some aspects, like Marketing, which is due to a lack of knowledge as well as limited funds.”
This year, Combat Sniper has seen bookings double and next year looks likely to improve further. As you would expect from a veteran in a specialised branch, Ainsley has clear plans for the business in the short and medium term. He is working on increasing awareness of the centre and expanding into team building and corporate events, working towards branching out.
“I’d like to be in a position to employ more ex-military personnel and expand to have hubs located around the country. I’m looking for a business partner with the same passion and drive to move the business further and offer more variety. One day, I’d like to open the first Sniper museum.”
X-Forces Enterprise has supported Ainsley to start Combat Sniper with guidance on business planning and administration.
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X-Forces Enterprise (XFE)
Is an award-winning Community Interest Company that nurtures entrepreneurial ambition in the UK military community and are the official delivery partner to the government’s Start Up Loans Company and Career Transition Partnership (MOD). XFE has supported over 1,250 entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and has helped thousands more through training, events and mentoring provisions.