Returning to Airsoft

First day back after the UK lockdown, plus a look at my CQB kit

After having to miss most of a year’s worth of airsoft due to Covid19, lockdown restrictions are easing and I got the chance to go to the opening day at Dirty Dog Airsoft with teammate Aiden Elliott to stretch legs, try out kit, and see what it’s like going back and playing with restrictions still in place.

Wed 31st March. Booking day. Having checked, double checked and been cleared by local authorities to open that weekend, Dirty Dog opened its online booking at 8pm for the Saturday. The site decided to run at 50% capacity for the coming Saturday and Sunday, so only the first 120 people to book on would get a place each day. It’s still a lot of people, but being a business, the site has all the necessary health and safety precautions in place. Myself and Aiden are eagerly sat at PC’s, hitting F5 to refresh the page from 7:59 to grab a spot as quickly as possible. We get lucky; the following day the booking opens for the Sunday game and is fully booked in 8 minutes.

120 litre Kombat UK deployment bag (link here) takes all my kit in the one bag, where a rifle bag can’t. It’s not gucci, but does a good job.

For the first game back, I’m out of shape and in no mood to go crawling around with a sniper rifle, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with friends so I chose to run an M4 with a chest rig, which is light but allows for a little bit of crawling around too if need be. There are a few team cqb events in the calendar so I do try to stay up to speed with the non sniper side of airsoft, plus I had a couple of bits to test out too. CQB skills are still my weakpoint, but it’s less physical than sniping so a good place to start back.

The Village, Dirty Dog Airsoft with car park and safe zone top right. Most of Dirty Dog is visible above the village, extending to the farthest tree line.

I’d imagine most airsoft sites post-covid will have similar rules in place, because it makes sense to. Dirty Dog insist on top-to-tail parking, alternating cars so that people sorting kit in the boot of the car aren’t next to the people doing the same in theirs, and that one car space is about 4 metres. All indoor mess areas were closed (one even demolished, but that’s to make way for more new stuff) so everything had to be done outside in the weather, which thankfully was dry but switched from very cold to very hot and sunny all day long. Masks are worn in the toilets and office indoor areas that are open to players, and there’s plenty of hand sanitizer available. All in all, it felt very organised and safe, and personally I’m happy enough being outdoors in the fresh air too. Certainly feels better than a trip to the supermarket.

Group photos are obviously scrapped, and briefing is done in the car park in a very large circle of players, which was good. This is what airsoft needs in place to keep it safe moving forwards and preventing any further outbreaks as the UK starts to escape the clutches of covid19. It was great to see people after so long, in person, and I had a distanced wander around the car park to say hello. Our first game was to locate a bomb in the village area of the site and blow it up, with teams taking turns on defending and attacking. As players scattered across the game area, it’s noticeable how well in normal games we do stay a few metres apart anyway, with the occasional moments getting past players up close only lasting a split second, which is much less than the 15 minutes scientists tell us is needed to transmit.

Aiden’s kit – TM recoil M4 and Blackhawk Helivest

Any notions of tension, or built up aggression during lockdown were quickly dispelled. Compared to any normal weekkly skirmish, I’d say the atmosphere was far more relaxed, relieved almost. People seemed genuinely happy to be out, and it was fun and enjoyable with no complaintsor arguments, despite the big numbers. There was still stories shared, kit shown off and tech advice dished out. Our hobby was back, we were back doing what we loved most, and it had just a hint of normality to it after months of being locked up. Obviously there’s a way to go yet before it’s fully back to normal, but it’s definitely very workable even with restrictions, as long as we’re still careful.

For those who play at Dirty Dog, I had a walk around to check the site out early in the morning (essential sniper recce routine anyway) and there’s a lot of work been done while it’s been closed. This site never sits still, adding lots of new buildings and moving bits that maybe didn’t work. When you consider these are big steel containers and not just flimsy walls of pallets, it’s a lot of work being put in. It was an excellent day out, as ever, and I’m looking forward to the next one, if there’s spaces.

Part 2. Because it’s airsoft and we love talking loadouts, I’ll go through my game day CQB kit and put links in where I can. My CQB kit probably isn’t the best, it isn;t as efficient as a speedsofter, but it’s a kit that has evolved over the years to deal with different sorts of indoor and urban environments, from casual private days to milsims. I’ve tried a lot of different rigs, headwear, belt setups and this is what I’ve got it down to.

I do like mixing camo up a bit, where event rules allow, and skirmish has no camo rules at all so I decided on multicam bottoms (by Teesar, with knee pockets for neoprene inserts rather than plastic knee pads) plus a DPM shirt. Sites now are becoming a sea of multicam and FAST helmets and it becomes difficult to identify your teammates unless they’re wearing something distinctive, which in a game of 120 players can be a problem. I know we’re all wearing arm bands a lot of the time but sometimes you can’t always see enough of a person. And if you’re looking for your buddy among your own team, that’s even more difficult. Being in the UK, the DPM shirts are cheap and easy to pick up, and are very comfortable (and long, so it tucks into your trousers better). Being designed for real world applications, they last a lot longer than reproduction crap. This combo was unique on the day so we were happy with that.

No VSR today, usually at Dirty Dog Airsoft the gameplay leans more towards CQB in the village area of the site so I do take an M4 instead maybe every 1 in 3 visits just to stay sharp; it’s fun travelling around with my teammates from the Norvern Monkeys and not every site we go to is sniper friendly, so it’s good to get the practice in. My M4 started life as a G&P M7A1 (a modern m4 variant) and has had full new internals, plus a few external tweaks. It’s not modelled on anything in particular, certainly not accurate to anything in the real world if that’s your thing, but it’s fairly compact for jumping in vehicles and is set up to suit my style of play.

Could do with a replacement foregrip (I snapped the last one) but otherwise it just has a torch for dark places, and a dummy PEQ for looks. I did have a riser with a reflex sight on, but after joking around with Aiden about carry handles (we’re both busy with old school M4 builds), I ended up replacing the optic for a carry handle I had lying around. Has to be said, after running it for one day, I’ll not be going back to any kind of optics. The iron sights/carry handle are more than good enough and offer an even less obstructed view with no squinting down a scope, and it is genuinely much more comfortable running and having a carry handle on, so I’m converted. Old school cools.

The rig is opened up at the front, so the middle of this picture is the back. The black cable is a custom radio antenna, the fist mic is on the left strap.

The rig is an LBT 1879 type split front chest rig, acquired from a teammate, and as far as I’m concerned, is God tier load bearing. It’s rare and ridiculously expensive if you can find one; the last one I saw for sale was $950. 4 elasticated mag pouches can comfortably hold 8 mags and possibly up to 12, but I don’t want to stretch it. Plate carriers to me always seemed a bit pointless because the back section is inaccessible in a firefight, and they’re awful to crawl in, though I do have a couple. Chest rigs give you just enough carrying space without encouraging you to start packing more than you need. 4 mags in the rig, plus one in the gun, is more than enough (600rds) for someone who plays on semi auto only, and there’s a speedloader full in a utility as a backup. The two utility pouches also contain smokes, chemlights and a spare hat, which is pretty much all I use for most events. Comms are provided by a Baofeng UV-82 running two channels through a cheap fist mic with dual PTT on my shoulder strap (UV-82 was featured in a previous article, link here), and a custom made wearable antennae. I’ll do a review on the rig soon, because it’s starting to become my favourite. Also in the pic, my mags all have Magpul mag pulls, just to make them easier to grab with gloves on.

Comms are as important as the gun – you need to know what’s going on to win

I have a pair of Viper Covert boots, which although cheap are extremely lightweight and I’ve found them very comfortable in all conditions, although they’re not waterproof but I’ve not found water to be life threatening, so that’s fine. I’ve been wearing a mesh lower face mask for years now, and get a lot of shots to the face anyway so wouldn’t be without one. The padded fabric side panels are just as effective as the mesh at absorbing impacts, but allow you to get down on the rifle properly to aim too. Best of both worlds. I have a pair of green hard knuckle gloves to go with green dominant camo tops, and because knuckle hits hurt more than anything in airsoft. The eye pro is a pair of Wiley X Saber glasses, which are the open style for ventilation/anti fogging, and at least let me look good in pics even when I’m playing shit.

If you really want to complete the look, it’s a Czech army green bandana, which is the only one I’ve found that’s big enough to tie properly. Folded over, it just offers a little bit of protection to the forehead but is open to ventilate the rest of the head in good weather. It’s not a complicated or expensive kit, but I like to keep things basic and cut out anything unnecessary. Movement wins games, not kit.

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