Building an airsoft recon loadout for the warmer weather, combining the best bits of lots of other roles, with a view to providing bigger teams with an alternative to sniper fireteams. Think LRRP or LRDG type action, which was a big part of the inspiration, but in airsoft.
I’ve had a lot of downtime recently and was scrolling through nearly 200 previous articles to have a bit of a think about a recon loadout. It was something I touched on in detail in The Role a few years ago, but from a purely sniper perspective. Summer will be here soon rendering the sniper loadout much less effective, and I enjoy getting out and having a laugh with friends during the warmer weather, because that’s what airsoft is all about. It gives me another project to work on, like I don’t already have enough, so in this first article I’ll go over what I’m looking to do with it.
So, the role itself. I think the best experience I have at working as part of a bigger team is the England setup with Stirling Airsoft. We form up into ten man squads, and sections then comprise of 3-4 of these squads. The nature of the game is punching through enemy lines in bigger numbers to capture objectives; all well and good, it’s the best way to win a game. However, I find myself without a team at the moment and skirmish games as a result are a little different. There’s no coordinated support or familiar faces to run with. Recently I’ve been able to put together a string of appearances at Dirty Dog Airsoft with one-man-army and sniper buddy Bubba, running as our usual sniper pairing but minus the bolt actions.
While the rest of the players are colliding in a wall of automatic fire (LMG’s seem to be everywhere at the moment), we find that we’re playing almost as we would as snipers, detaching from the main force, flanking, getting ahead and in behind the enemy positions, and causing havoc. As a pair, we can move more easily without being detected, and the conversation afterwards revolved around developing that idea into something we can use more widely. And so the recon role idea developed. It is, in effect, a rifleman setup but with more emphasis on speed and mobility. Once we get the kit nailed, it’ll be onto more hit-and-run or guerilla-style tactics for smaller groups or pairs.
Where the sniper looks to stealthily disrupt enemy activity, the recon role we envisage will be a hybrid of Sniper and rifleman. Harassing the enemy with fully automatic weapons means that where the sniper would avoid a firefight, we can actually push one or look to take smaller objectives, or ambush smaller groups of enemy players. Doing reconnaissance work will depend on the event and if it requires any, but it can make a huge difference to a large team game if you can provide information on enemy strength and movement. And of course, being able to chip in with the grunts on their objectives to help reinforce positions if needed.
The Weapons System
The DMR seems to be the popular choice in a semi-sniper role, but it’s one of the weakest airsoft weapons platforms on the field for a number of reasons. It doesn’t, despite the owners’ best claims, deliver the same range and accuracy as a sniper rifle. It can’t deploy the same firepower as an assault rifle because it’s limited by semi-automatic only, and is crippled by having an MED ruling out close range ambushes and attacks. A big, bulky platform that is less mobile through all terrain types, there’s no way I’d consider one for airsoft unless part of an impression kit.
An assault rifle is the obvious choice here. This is the difference between the recon sniper and this type of recon loadout – full auto capability. Close range ambushes, attacks from cover, and being an even match for the opposition. It’s more aggressive in its style than the sniper and as above, it’ll be going straight into engagements. I suppose that if you’re playing this role as a pair or small group (3 or 4 perhaps), it’s a great idea for those who don’t turn up to big games as part of a 20 man team or community, but each player in the role should be capable of dealing with any situation or objective; the assault rifle allows this flexibility. Don’t try to specialise (rifleman, grenadier, support) because that limits the flexibility of the individual player by trying to get them to complement each other, which will only last as long as the pair/squad is intact.
Behold, my current favourite – the MC51. This unusual piece in the real world was the result of a request by British special forces for a 7.62mm version of the MP5. Which is as ridiculous as it sounds. This replica was a £20 purchase from a friend many years ago, which was completely dead and has sat under my bed since awaiting repairs, never seeing a single shot fired. However, it has been reborn, and although very old and sluggish by many of today’s AEG standards, it’s proving very reliable. The sliding stock makes it very compact when it needs to be, and the handguard will hopefully be replaced by something better soon, ideally with rails on it, courtesy of OTARshop who are assisting with the build. It doesn’t need any optics, PEQ boxes, angled foregrips or any other gadgets, although I would like a simple torch added. It might get a paint job, but reference pictures are hard to find to see what it might look like.
Ermm… Yeah, 7.62 pouches. In my case anyway. Obviously, plate carriers are out, they’re bulky and aren’t optimised for load carrying, they’re for plate carrying. The rig has to survive crawling through the dirt and allow shooting from prone. In my collection, three options stand out immediately – the NI Chest Rig, the M83 South African Assault Vest and a Dutch Army rig I set up for sniping years ago, which is finally starting to catch on with some YouTubers.
The early favourite here is the Dutch DPM vest, which is a split front rig meaning stuff isn’t going to get in the way of getting flat. It’s an old design originally for ALICE style pouches but I’ve managed to fit MOLLE ones no problem. Being customisable like this allows for any combination of pouches as required, and it’s a very comfortable rig to wear. A low-hanging back panel will allow a utility or butt pouch for less urgent items such as food or drink, and it has loops on the shoulders for comms wiring if needed. Unlike plate carriers and chest rigs, it’s very quick and easy to get on and off. If it were a bigger event where more supplies are needed, the South African M83 would win hands down, but for the average skirmish it’s probably not needed. The Dutch rigs can be picked up for very little, as most people see them as old and not particularly cool looking.
The DPM Northern Ireland chest rig I’ve taken out a couple of times already and despite having fixed pouches, still swallow 6 of the 7.62 mags in its generic mag pouches with ease. On top of that, it has two sizeable utility pouches either side which would take a comms setup in one (with space for a few extra bits) and then either pyro or more ammo/food/other supplies in the second. For an average skirmish, you’re looking at a max of 3hrs in the field anyway depending on lunch arrangements so that’s plenty of room. In terms of pyro, I’m still not a massive fan of bangs that would alert nearby forces to a contact, and smokes have limited practical use except for these influencers on Instagram that like to use them for posed photos.
Speed and mobility through difficult terrain. Whilst maintaining some level of camouflage. US Woodland, which the noobs call M81, is a strong contender because of its high contrast and good breakup. It’s a versatile pattern in a string of environments but this being a role for the summer months (I’ll be sniping during winter), there’s plenty of cover to use anyway. The other option for its brighter, summer green is the venerable DPM. BDU trousers and a simple shirt will do to avoid overheating. Those UBACS shirts end up getting ripped to shreds and are only useful for loadout photos in your kitchen, or indoor sites. I like the Lonestar Tactical face masks because they’re easy to just pull down when you’re not in contact which will be ideal in warm weather. Helmets are an absolute no-go for me, they’re bulky and unnecessary unless you’re wearing NOD’s or are playing airsoft in a cave. Fight light, fight right. The bandana remains the favourite because it protects the front of the head and allows the top to release heat.
The Other Equipment
If it’s recon, then a radio is key to be able to relay vital information to the team and allow them to outmanoeuvre the enemy. I use the Baofeng UV82 for it’s programmable dual channel mode and easy access to accessories. I think the 82 is now discontinued, but any programmable Baofeng is a cheap and solid comms option. In larger games, a utility pouch for a pencil and notepad. No need for any fancy flip-down pouches. The one thing I do find useful is an arm panel like this one for maps and game instructions – if the game is so structured it’s important to have quick and easy access to that information to help make informed decisions on the field. For only £10, that Viper one linked is a cheap bit of kit but delivers a tactical advantage. The one thing that is missing from this rifleman recon kit compared to the sniper recon, is the magnified optic on a bolt action. It’s sometimes needed to zoom in and identify players at a distance – if you’re calling in an attack on someone you need to be sure who that target is. To that end, I’d probably look to add a monocular rather than binoculars, just because it’s smaller and does the same job of spotting.
And that’s as far as I’ve got in terms of the loadout. It is just an optimised woodland rifleman setup and it’ll focus more on tactics and working in small teams or just a pair on the field, but it’s an alternative to the VX mini rig/FAST helmet/long ass keymod M4/multicam loadouts you see absolutely everywhere now being championed by Binfluencers who think a dangler pouch is a game changer but “haha I just use mine for sweets”.
Any suggestions from anyone on any improvements? Any bits you use that you find useful? Once I get it all put together I’ll do a more detailed guide, and then the tactics to make it work.