How to get started in airsoft

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A teammate helping out a new player. Sorry Stephen, it just fitted the article. 

I was approached this week by someone asking for advice on what to buy to get started in airsoft. This isn’t a sniper related post; I just thought I’d jot it down.

After speaking to another player on their first day, the bewildering array (and often unnecessary) of player equipment on display can look pretty daunting and expensive. But it needn’t be. A good player is one who can think quickly and make good decisions, not one who can wear the most gear. Clever kit decisions however can improve your game. But where do you start?

 

Eye Protection 

This isn’t optional. You must have eye protection on at all times, so it needs to be comfortable and must be safe for use. Don’t trawl through Amazon for bargains. Go to a recognised airsoft website (I’ll put a list at the bottom) and choose from there. If you’re going to be a playing close quarters (CQB), full seal is a must. That is to say, the glasses will seal around the eye, much like swimming goggles. Twice I’ve been very lucky wearing sunglasses in closed areas and taken shots to the side of the head which have rattled off my eye socket and bounced around inside. Twice I’ve had to change underwear. Dropping further back as a sniper, I still wear wraparound glasses, although I have a hood which should protect the sides and I’m at distances where most bb’s have lost energy. One other thing to note is that, like swimming goggles, eye protection will fog up, whether the description says it’s anti-fog or not (it’s a myth). I use Abbey anti-fog spray to combat it. Alternatively, mesh eyewear is available which won’t fog, but will restrict vision slightly. They’re fine for most situations but will affect the view down a scope.

Face Protection 

Save getting your teeth shot out. Wear a mesh mask. It’s possible to get full face masks too, in funky skull or robot designs if you like cosplay, but don’t expect a full field of vision. Top recommendation is the OneTigris mesh mask from Amazon which has padded sides to allow you to to sight down the gun better.

Clothing

You can play in pretty much anything, but a brightly coloured sports hoody is going to get you a lot of unwanted attention. The three things to consider most with camo are

– What are your (team) mates wearing? Does your team have a specific uniform? As well as looking coordinated for photos, it does make it a lot easier to find your mates on the field. If you want to.

– Can you easily source matching accessories (load bearing kit, hat, gloves etc). Some rarer camouflages look great, but you might only be able to get the shirt. Although mixing and matching tops and bottoms looks good and helps break up the 2:1 human outline into smaller shapes. And you could always run plain green or brown load bearing kit to match with anything.

– What environment are you in? Is it green and grassy or brown woodland? What will stand out the least? In truth, because we’re at much shorter ranges playing shorter and faster games, it doesn’t matter as much as you might think because eyes are attracted to movement. But you may well get that chance to set up an ambush so always look for an advantage.

What I will strongly recommend is spending extra on the pants, and less on the top. Why? Because the pants are going to take a lot of abuse and movement. They need to be comfortable to run in and I really can’t stress enough the need for either built-in hard knee pads, or knee pockets to insert foam pads. Kneeling on bb’s hurts, and you’re going to want to present yourself as the smallest target possible so kneeling is good. The top, on the other hand, doesn’t need to do much other than camouflage you, so you can easily pick up a cheap surplus bdu (battle dress uniform) shirt on eBay for £5-£10. Sorted.

Boots

Always the subject of much debate. Most sites will insist on ankle high boots for protection. Personally, as someone who spent their youth running up and down mountains and uneven ground in the lake district in hiking shoes without injury, I don’t see the need but hey, rules are rules. I picked up a cheap pair of Miltec tan boots about five years ago for £30 and they’re still OK (as much as I’d like a new pair). Trick them out with some gel insoles to give you some impact protection and you’re good to go. Try your local sports or outdoor store for some decent waterproof hiking shoes. Sorted.

Carrying stuff

Load bearing. The cool bit. I love building rigs but always try to find lightweight options. I’ve seen too many players wilt trying to run fully loaded plate carriers. In warmer weather, you’ll be sweating too much and extra bulk is going to flap around, get in your way and potentially get you stuck in windows. Assuming you’re going to start with an assault rifle, typically you’ll be looking to carry three mags on a vest somewhere, possibly a small pouch for spare ammo, and a couple of grenades. That’s it. Keep it compact and tight to your body so you don’t have things jumping around as you run. I wrote an article for Airsoft Nation UK on load bearing kit which I’ll post up separately which covers various options available. Pick up the load bearing at a later date and see if anyone has one at your site that you can have a look at and try on (don’t worry, players love showing off kit. They’ll be happy to tell you all about it).

Accessories

To finish off, get yourself a pair of protective gloves. Hand shots hurt the most. Also consider getting a scarf/shemagh/snood to protect your neck and get something to cover your head. Baseball cap, beanie, or boonie are all good options and as well as coverage, they’ll help camouflage your head. If you get a cap, think about the hole around your forehead if you decide to wear it backwards. You can stretch to a helmet to complete the look, but they’re hot, heavy and can feel restrictive. Maybe an option further down the line.

Summary

Airsoft can be expensive, if you want it to be, but doesn’t have to be. Never buy anything “just to start with”. Buy cheap, buy twice. Cheap crap will break or show its price quickly and you’ll end up replacing it, which means you bought it for nothing. Unless you’re intent on buying a ton of designer Multicam like the guy on the front cover of Battlefield, genuine army surplus stock from whatever country you’re in will be cheap enough and easily sourced, but is real world kit that’s designed to stand up to abuse. As with the example above, spend where you need to (eye protection, pants) and make savings elsewhere (shirt, not buying enough pouches to carry three months of kit in Afghanistan). And don’t compare your loadout to anyone else’s. It’s all about what works for you personally.

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I don’t often cqb, but when I do…its lightweight. Airsoft International Ai500 weekend at The Sandpit – Operation Titan. 

Useful links for UK players 

http://www.ebay.co.uk (of course. But mainly for army surplus goodness)

http://www.military1st.co.uk (kit. Pretty much all of it)

http://www.cadetdirect.com (kit)

http://www.flecktarn.co.uk (kit)

http://www.patrolbase.co.uk (airsoft)

http://www.airsoftworld.net (airsoft)

http://www.actionhobbies.co.uk (airsoft)

http://www.landwarriorairsoft.com (airsoft)

http://www.airsoftzone.co.uk (airsoft)

http://www.taiwangun.com (cheap everything from Poland, despite the name).

There are plenty more which are better for guns and gun parts, but these should have enough kit between them to get started. And there are sites for top quality gear too, but I haven’t included them in this article aimed at starting out.

 

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