As it draws to a close, I thought I’d have a look back on what has been a fantastic year for me personally in airsoft, and look ahead to plans in the new year.
As the dust settled on England vs Scotland 2021, I took the decision to end my time with Team England to focus more on sniping. In recent years, airsoft had got to the point where I wouldn’t even get out of bed unless it was a sniper only weekender or some big event. All that changed in January thanks to Ghillie Sniper Girl and a few other good friends (Dave, John, Alex, Ronan, Dan, Andy, Cuv and sniper buddy Bubba among others) who persuaded/pushed me to get out travelling and just take in a few skirmish days, but at different sites. We’d camp over, and turn the single day skirmishes into full weekends away. I guess I’d forgotten the simple joy of playing and meeting new people, getting out and about and enjoying airsoft again. I think I’d got stuck in a cycle of just trying to push myself all the time instead of just sitting back and having a laugh with friends.
I watched on one sunny day at Humber Airsoft as the safe zone buzzed with activity, in the background, GSG taking a moment to chat to three kids who were interested in starting sniping. I don’t think any of the other players had even noticed them, but she was happy to go across and offer some advice to them, and I thought about all the times in the past I’d seen experienced players mocking the rentals; the new players who are coming into our hobby. Our teammates of the future, the players who will continue to airsoft after we’ve packed it in. I thought back to my first ever day at airsoft, standing alone in a car park having no idea what was going on, and a chatty Scottish chap by the name of Taf who invited me to come and stand with his team (who in years to come would accept me into their team). I think without that invitation, I might not have gone back as eagerly. Of course, its different now with social media allowing new players to introduce themselves and hopefully make some friends before even getting to that first game, but as experienced players we have to ensure that we’re welcoming them on board.
I had some great travels in the first half of the year and it encouraged me to spread my wings and leave my team, the Norvern Monkeys, but on good terms. They’re still as close as family, and I wish them well always, but I think sometimes being in a team in site is a bit like being in a box; you sort of shut yourself off from the rest of the safe zone. I do still love playing in teams, especially cqb which is a challenge, but being able to freelance as a sniper, as it were, has allowed me to engage with a lot more people than I would normally and I’ve met some fascinating people along the way.
In addition, behind the scenes I’ve been very busy with my sniper team, now some 30+ strong and wielding enormous expertise, and it’s been very intensive with side projects, blogging, live shows, events, meets, research and media that unfortunately it’s not allowing me time to be able to split between the Norvern Monkeys and sniping, as well as being alive and doing stuff outside of airsoft. As much as I’d like to be everywhere and for everyone, I can’t and it was causing burnout. Which left me at a very low point in the summer and needing some changes, and so I’m now very much focused on what I enjoy most. Next year is looking very promising indeed to keep building on all of that and I can’t wait to get started.
With the desk cleared of a few things though, it’s been a very productive autumn, and I’m pleased with the progress. Everything is growing on all platforms, not that that’s a motivaion for me because everything I do is free and I’m still writing for a very small handful of people anyway. It’s great that so many other people find it useful or interesting too, but I won’t stop if it doesn’t. The big Facebook groups now, I find myself less active on as they offer less and less each week on a personal level. There are still so many questions coming in via fb messenger though and I’ll always be responsive to messages. So too Instagram, although I think it’s a good platform for simple pictures it is very difficult to use to get any decent information across to anyone, and it will probably only be a matter of time before filters start coming down hard on guns and related posts.
What we may see in 2023 are the emergence of new platforms to connect airsofters, new ways to trade information and kit, build relationships, and organise meets. Most of the platforms we currently have are very anti-gun and unfortunately the way these places share information freely to anyone can be a negative if it highlights what we do to people who dislike what we do. It would be more beneficial to have airsoft-only platforms, such as Airsofter World. In recent years there have been attempts to use other platforms but few have really clicked the way Facebook and Instagram have.
What I have noticed more this year though are the vast numbers of airsoft players who are chasing some kind of celebrity status. Everyone is trying to be someone. I’m sure 90% of airsofters on Instagram now have a tshirt sponsor and at least two discount codes, a YouTube or twitch channel, an anime caricature of themselves, and a desperate desire to monetise their media. There’s certainly a lot more emphasis on photography, much of it not taken in game, and smoke grenades. It does feel like there’s a lot less game being played, but a lot more time and effort put into the pictures. I get that it looks cool, and you could argue that it encourages more people to take up airsoft, but if everyone is doing it then who is going to do what to stand out in 2023?
Is it necessary to? I’ve written a few blogs now about snipers and their media presence. Once upon a time we could ghost in and out of games unnoticed, go home and be forgotten about. With clickbait trends, there’s now an extra challenge on game days where a site has a lot of snipers with YouTube channels. The good positions are shown to everyone, meaning you need to think harder about firing positions. At my local site in some games I find myself restricted to a strip of land 2mx50m to comply with game rules, reduced to simply sitting shooting fish in a barrel for an hour. MED’s are extended to compensate for headshots because nobody has the sense to go centre mass any more. Shooting from inside buildings isn’t allowed because snipers weren’t paying attention to people shuffling in front of the barrel. Sometimes, it’s better to go under the radar as a sniper, like a sniper, instead of making a big song and dance about it, like a clown. You could say, that in this world the unseen have…ummm…never mind.
While everyone else is busy becoming rich and famous, in 2023 I’m looking forward to still getting out and about to meet as many people as possible at skirmishes, but behind closed doors and unplugged from the media, there’s a lot of work to be done. I’m happy just keeping busy. As usual, the stuff that works I’ll bring back and review, the stuff that doesn’t goes in the bin and we start again. I’m still not going to pretend to review things I haven’t used, I’m not going to give products a mention that I’ve not seen up close, but the stuff I have I’ll give my honest opinion on regardless of whether it’s good or bad. Like most safe zone conversations, it’s a mix and not everything in airsoft works the way it should, as we all know.
Huge thanks to everyone in particular that has helped me through this year, especially in those moments where I didn’t think I’d make it to the end (Jon), to all those who’ve made it a whole load of fun on the road, those who sit and play games late at night, and to those who just keep asking questions and giving me stuff to think about. I love you all and I owe you a drink.