It’s not often night fighting crops up during skirmish days (all in the name), but occasionally you might get the opportunity to play out in the dark. It sounds fun, and usually is, but what do you need to change about your kit and your playstyle to adapt? In this article, I’ll share a few things I’ve learned from playing through the night down the years at a variety of games and sites. These are my top ten tips for playing airsoft in the dark.
Some of this may also apply to those who play indoors with the lights turned off.
- Night Vision – Obvious one to start with. Night vision, in whatever form it may take, obviously allows you to see where you’re going, or if it’s weapon mounted, will allow you to see what you’re shooting at. Kind of. Night vision is very expensive, and although there are cheaper ones available, they’re not as clear and have much reduced range. The other issue I’ve noticed with them (not by using, but asking teammates) is that they display everything in that really cool green spectrum. Which means that although you might be able to see other players moving, you won’t be able to tell what colour uniform they have on or what colour band they’re wearing, depending on what the game rules are. Alternatively, and perhaps actually more useful is;
- A torch – (Light discipline) Is absolutely your best friend, especially weapon mounted. On a lot of guns I use now, it’s the only attachment. Yes, white light will give you away but if you need to “go loud”, flick it on. For an enemy player looking at you, the bright white light will initially hide who is behind it allowing you to get crucial first shots in. If they have night vision, that will be blinded by the white light too. As one very experienced member of Stirling staff put it, if the enemy have night vision, they can see you anyway so you’re not losing anything by lighting the area up. It does help massively having a pressure pad for the torch so you can quickly turn it off if you need to. If the enemy are far away however, then yes a torch light is a bad idea because it will give your general position away. Save it for those up close moments.
- A red torch or torch with red filter is a very important tool for map reading and looking at things without making a beacon of yourself. Red light is dull but enough to read by, and it’s worth getting a hand held torch for your rig like this one that you can quickly access to get to vital information or supplies.
- Shut the fuck up – (Noise discipline) Noise is your biggest enemy while sneaking around at night. There’s much less background noise from roads or cities, so any noise is going to travel and alert people to your presence. Walking down a road with a teammate who isn’t paying attention and is intent on telling you about the pizza he had last night is going to get you all lit up. Hand signals obviously aren’t going to work in pitch black, so learn to talk quietly. A lesson from a Dutch player who trains milsim with professional soldiers, is that talking quietly is quieter than whispering due to how the sound travels. On that note too…
- Radios – Obviously keep them turned down and wear an earpiece to keep the sound as contained as possible. Small in-ear buds will do a better job than a large ear piece like a bowman headset, which is surprisingly good at broadcasting your transmissions to everyone in a ten metre radius (but you don’t notice if you’re the one wearing it). Keep radio chat to a minimum where you can, make sure your radio isn’t somewhere where buttons can be pressed if it bounces around (I’ve seen baofengs in winter have the FM radio button accidently knocked and then start playing Christmas songs as we were attempting to stealthily assault a building). If it’s in an open type pouch or just clipped onto molle, use a strip of black electrical tape to cover over the illuminated display and any LED lights so the enemy don’t have an easy target to aim for. You can remove the tape when you need to. On which note…
- Electrical tape – Use it to tape up all loose straps, cover over any lights, silence anything that rattles, and just help dampen all your noisy kit. It’s always important anyway to make sure your rig and all your gear is properly tightened down regardless of the time of day but especially at night to avoid things flapping around that might then catch on doorways, get caught somewhere or trip you up. Essential piece of kit for extra stealth; I always carry a roll somewhere and something to cut it with.
- Keep kit to a minimum – Light is definitely right and less kit means less stuff banging around. Any spare bb’s on you, use a plastic food bag and not a bottle. If you carry a speedloader, make sure it’s either 100% empty or 100% full at all times, because that will rattle like hell too.
- Illuminated reticles – Can be more of a hinderance than a help. The illumination draws the eye making it difficult to see past the light and out into the darkness to see what you’re shooting at. Also, be aware of any scope lights that might present a target. I use iron sights now anyway so that I can keep both eyes open and be more aware of surroundings, rather than focused down a scope. It helps.
- Tracers – Are fun, but again do highlight you and give the enemy a point of aim. I know there are guys that will argue otherwise, but as a sniper I’m bigger on stealth than flashy effects and that carries over into CQB.
- Move slowly – Obviously being dark there’s a health and safety risk with uneven ground and being unable to see where you’re going. But I’m not big on health and safety, it’s more a tactical thing. Tread carefully so that you don’t make noise or end up walking into walls and damaging your gun. That bit I do care about. Also, don’t walk tight up against walls because that kit scraping sound might alert enemy players the other side of the wall. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast etc…
- Fight like it’s daytime – This is a big one. Just because it’s dark doesn’t mean suddenly you’re fucking invisible. You still need to use cover just as you would during the day, but work it harder to avoid any lights highlighting you as well.
If anyone has any more tips or comments, please drop them below or send me a DM and I might just add them to the list to help other players out.