This is the most visible of an engineer's weapons. Used properly, it can be very powerful; but as you'll soon learn, it isn't your most powerful weapon. You need at least 130 guass ammo (also called "metal") to build a sentry. The maximum your engineer can carry is 200. When you select the wrench, the amount of metal you are carrying is shown in the bottom-right of the screen.

When you first build a sentry, it is level one (also caled "l1"). You can upgrade it to level two and level three. Each upgrade requires 130 metal. An L1-sentry will kill a scout or engineer in a one-on-one confrontation. It will kill anything in about 8 seconds if it doesn't get killed first. Unfortunately, they run out of ammo really fast. So, you'll want to place ammo into it once right after you build it so it's at 65% full instead of 25% full. That way it'll probably die before it runs out of ammo instead of the other way around. You use shotgun shells to add ammo to a sentry.

Of course, unless you're doing fuzzy defense (described later), what you really want is a more powerful sentry. If you upgrade your sentry to level two, it will be much more powerful. Only a soldier or HW will be able to survive a direct confrontation with it. You always want to upgrade to L2: it is very benificial. On the other hand, you only want to upgrade to an L3-sentry if you have a lot of time on your hands. L3-sentries's are nice of course. Only an HW can survive a confrontation with an L3-sentry, and then only sometimes. If you have an L3-sentry, it will have about twice the power of an L2 and will shoot rockets as well. Thus, you will need to add a few rockets to the sentry.

But your L3-sentry will have a few drawbacks. First, it is pretty big compared with an L2-sentry. So, enemies will spot it easier and, if they have a spread weapon, your sentry will catch more of the flak. Second, it'll shoot rockets, which means people will immediately figure out where it is, which is bad if you were trying to hide it. To cope with this, I sometimes make my sentry L3, but don't add rockets too it. Third, as I mentioned above, it takes time and metal to upgrade to L3 and you aren't really getting that much more ability from an L3 that you didn't already have with an L2. I usually build a dispenser after ugrading to L2.

This is the holy grail of sentry guns. Regardless of whether your sentry is L1 or L3, your placement can make it either totally worthless or stronger than 10 averagely-placed sentries. Some placement strategies are offensive, increasing the sentry's offensive capability, and some strategies are defensive, increasing how long the sentry lasts in battle.

Offensive Placement
First it helps to understand the technicals of your sentry's aiming system. If any enemy (besides a cloaked enemy spy) is within about 50 feet of your sentry, it'll turn towards the enemy and start shooting. It starts shooting when the enemy is in about a 15-degree range if the exact direction the nozzle is pointing. So, you will want to turn your sentry so it points right at where the enemy is likely to appear. That way, it will start shooting immediately, making it much more effective. Occasionally though, you will want to purposely angle your sentry off a little so that the enemy is out in the open before your sentry starts shooting. That way, the enemy won't have time to run to cover once they realize they are being shot. By the way, you rotate your sentry with option 6 of the special menu.

Interestingly, your sentry will only start shooting at an enemy when that enemy is within about 50 feet. But, it will then keep shooting as long as it can see the enemy, even if the enemy runs to like 300-feet away. So, if you want to guard a large area, place your sentry close to where the enemy will first appear. For example, in 2fort, place your sentry under the sniper loft of the enemy fort, and leave it as an L1-sentry. That way, it'll start shooting when the enemy is at about the middle of the bridge and the enemy will be thinking "It's just an little gun, and I can probably get out of its range pretty fast. So, I'll just keep running.". Little do they realize your sentry will keep shooting them all the way to the other fort, by which time they are likely dead. Ironically, if it was an L2-sentry they would just try to kill it, knowing they couldn't survive a run for it.

You generally want it to be hard for the enemy to see your sentry ahead of time. So, place it around corners and in hidden dark spots. To get a sentry as far back into a corner as possible, look strait down and see where your aimer's crosshair is at. Then see if you are far enough from the wall to build. If not, nudge a little farther away and try again till you can build. Then memorize the position on the floor that worked by using dots of the textures.Also, if you have an L3-sentry, it has rockets. So, you will want the enemy to appear at a place that has a wall behind them. That way, even if the enemy dodges the rocket, it will hit the wall behind them and still cause damage. Also, having an L3-sentry up high is very effective since the rockets always hit the floor, which not only hurts the enemy but jolts them and causes them to lose aim.

Defensive Placement
Most importantly, your sentry should be out of the reach of grenades of all types. If you can place it up high, that is ideal. Sometimes though, you can just place it far enough back that enemies will be killed before they get close. It also helps if the enemy has to be out in the open if they want to attack your sentry. Also, don't place your sentry too high, since they then only aim-on to enemies in a tight circle on the ground. Remember, your sentry's aim-on range is best when it is at the same level as your enemy.

Besides grenades, your sentry's biggest weakness is to what I call "edge attacks". This is when, say, a scout peeks around a corner and starts shooting the edge of your sentry and your sentry can't shoot back. The most general counter to edge attacks is to stay close to your sentry and attack anyone who starts edging it. Another solution is to make edging harder by placing your gun far back and right against a wall. This makes the angle that your enemy can edge in much smaller. If you know how to use your dispenser as an explosive, you can place it at the corner and use it to blow the enemy into the view of your sentry; more on dispensers later. However, the most solid solution is to place your sentry at the top of a lift or under water. You can place it far enough back that no one can see it, and thus shoot it, and yet as soon as the enemy gets to the top of the lift, your sentry has full view. My favorite example of this is in the map well. You place a sentry at the top of the lifts in your flag room. You can place sentries in water, especially in rock2. This makes them hidden until the enemy is in the water too. However, the enemy can still shoot at the sentry from above water, if they know where it is.

In contrast to their name, dispensers are almost never used to dispense ammo. They have five real uses: detecting spies, blowing enemies up, repairing armor, dispenser jumping, and hallway blocking.

Detecting Enemies
To use a dispenser as a spy detector, or generally an enemy detector, just place it in the middle of a tight hallway. As soon as a spy, or any enemy, touches it, a message saying "Enemies are using your dispenser!" will appear on your screen. At that time you can hit whatever key you have binded to "detdispenser" and blow that enemy up. The more rockets there are in your dispenser, the bigger the explosion. You can check how many rockets are in it by hitting it with your wrench. You can also force feed rockets into the dispenser with the maintenance menu. But every 10 seconds or so the dispenser will produce 20 rockets on its own (don't quote me on that).

Blowing Enemies Up
A dispenser can hold up to 300 rockets, which causes an incredible explosion. It'll gib anything within 10 feet and does damage out to about 60 feet (these feet measuments are just intuitive mind you). A dispenser with just 50 rockets will kill you if you are right next to it. Remember, you can only carry 30 rockets at a time, and each add ammo command puts 20 rockets into the dispenser. So, you at most only need to add ammo twice for each time your stock up your engie's body. This last sentence is in response to people who feed their entire armor supply into the dispenser thinking it will help it explode harder; it doesn't.

Repairing Armor
People don't realize how important armor is. If you don't have armor and take 10 hit points of damage, then your health will go down by 10. However, if you do have armor, your health will only go down by 2! If you have armor, your health only takes 1/5 damage and your armor takes 2/5 damage. If you work out the math, you'll find that each point of armor is worth two health. So, if you're an HW with 300 armor and some spamming demo on your team takes it all off, don't just pass that off, you just lost 600 health man! Orginally you had 800 health (200 real health + 2 times 300 armor) and now you are left with 200. Of course, progressive servers are now turning allies-armor-damage off, which is good.

But this points out how keeping your armor up with a dispenser is so important. Engineers have a measely 80 health. But it you keep your armor up, you can effectively have 400 health. That's twice as much as an HW that doesn't worry about keeping his armor up. So, if you find yourself behind enemy lines, the first thing to do is build a dispenser and keep your armor up. I've lasted ungodly ammounts of time in enemy forts just by keeping my armor up. Enough said.

Dispenser Jumping
This is rarely used but can be invaluable in a bind. You basically build a dispenser and wait till it has about 30 rockets in it. Then you stand on top of it a blow it up. You jump right before you blow it up to get extra height. You can use this trick to get to high up places and put your sentry there.

Hallway Blocking
You can put a dispenser where it hangs an enemy up just long enough for that enemy to get killed. This is especially effective if your sentry is in range of the enemy right at that point. It makes it easier for your sentry to kill the enemy.

Your shotgun is a pretty good way to kill enemies if the enemy is weak or you do it stealthily. One thing to realize about the shotgun is it has a very tight shot pattern. So, you can zoom in on an enemy that is far away and cause some good damage. Remember that each bullet that hits the enemy's head causes triple damage. So, your can sneak up behind an HW, point right at his head, and cause a lot of damage since every bullet from the buckshot will hit his head.

However, the shotgun is hard to aim in a one-on-one confrontation. Most times it's hard to even hit the enemy since they move so fast and lag-shot is a factor. But if you could hit the enemy's head with every shot, you would be devastating. Five head hits will kill most HW's. And, first hand, I know it is possible to develop that level of skill. So, do it.

The railgun is good because it has perfect accuracy. So, in combination with zooming, you can do some real damage, especially to take out enemy sentries and dispensers and snipers who aren't looking your direction.

John LeFlohic
February 25, 1999