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I Need A Weapon

Okay you’ve got all the important safety kit sorted now comes the best part, it’s time to choose your first rifle. I would start with a rifle too, you can pick up pistols, shotguns and more specialised stuff later but to begin with you need something that is a jack of all trades so no matter what site you go to you’ve got something to shoot with. This way you can start to get familiar with your own gun and not constantly having to use a different gun every game. Although that tends to happen when you’ve been playing a while and amassed your own personal arsenal. Gas or AEG? AEG (short for automatic electric gun), for the majority of beginners. Cheaper, more consistent, reliable and they tend to need little to no work to optimise out of the box. You can always come back to a gas rifle later in your Airsoft career but I think as a beginner it’s best to stick to an AEG. Buy new if you can, then if there’s any issues you can get your money back or swap for a working model. If budget compels you to buy used make sure you test the thing to make sure it works first!

The first job is to decide what type of rifle you would like. Sub-machine gun, assault rifle, sniper rifle, designated marksman rifle (DMR) or light machine gun (LMG)? Okay, straight off the bat I would not recommend getting an LMG as your first rifle. They are big, heavy, expensive, have limited parts support and you can do everything a LMG can do with a much smaller and lighter package, often more. Snipers and DMRs are for those who want to engage foes at a distance but be warned it’s not as glamourous as the films depict. There is a lot of lying in the dirt and waiting, it’s a game of patience. If that’s your thing then go right ahead but again unless you are absolutely certain you want to play the sniper role AND have had experience to prove that to yourself, I would not recommend this as a starting point.

So, we have sub-machine guns and assault rifles left and this is a good place to start. I’ll start with the most common type and that’s assault rifles, more specifically those of the AR15 (M4s, M16s and all that), AK (47, 74 and so forth) and G36 persuasion. All of which come in a variety of styles and models that you can pick to suit your liking and needs. As for manufactures it will come as no surprise to some that my top recommendation is the G&G combat machine series. These guns are made for beginners and as such come at entry level price of around the £130 mark. For that you get a rifle and a magazine so all you’ll need is a battery and charger (I’ll go more into depth about these in another article) then you’ll be good to go. These rifles are decently accurate, reliable and will last if you treat them well. You won’t get any frills like metal receivers, high torque motors, or tight-bore barrels but what you do get is a solid rifle that is good to go straight out of the box so you can focus on the most important thing, having fun. As for sub-machine guns, check out G&G’s combat machine MP5 or if you’re a Battlestar Galactica or Stargate fan you should look at Tokyo Marui’s P90 although you’ll have to fork out the extra cash… Sub-machine guns are very similar to assault rifles in function in Airsoft terms, the only major difference is magazines, as they are often thinner and longer than their shorter and fatter assault rifle counter parts (stop sniggering back there). Be aware that there might not be as many options when it comes to carrying your magazines about your person, not a major issue but something to bear in mind.

My personal recommendation is some sort of AR15, the ergonomics are good, controls simple and there is a mountain of aftermarket parts and accessories that are compatible with the platform. So all you Gucci gunners can pimp your weapon to your hearts content. All this is of course just my opinion but it has come from my many years of experience and I’m more than happy to pass on anything I can to help the new players get the most out of the game. Don’t let me stop you getting your dream gun and building your loadout around it though, that’s half the fun of Airsoft and trust me, you never stop at just one gun.

JWR

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Enter The Samurai

Resident Evil. What springs to mind when I say those words? Perhaps a favourite survival horror video game? Perhaps a massive film franchise? Maybe both. For me when I think about Resident Evil the first thing that pops into my mind is the Samurai Edge. What is a Samurai Edge? In short, it’s a pistol. More specifically it’s a customised Berreta M92fs, with most members of the S.T.A.R.S. teams having their own unique model. They’ve appeared in numerous games and I do believe the most recent, and last of the Resident Evil films. If you frequent Airsoft sites or even websites you have probably seen one in some form or another. Tokyo Marui (TM for short) made the first one and since then WE and other companies have followed in their footsteps. I had one of the first ones, the old TM M92fs with the fixed hop up, I once out sniped a sniper with that thing at 30m. Damn it was accurate.

A few years ago though TM released a new model the M9A1 with rejigged internals for more kick and now with their adjustable VSR style hop up as well as a rail for under barrel attachments. I wanted one, so I got the Jill Valentine Samurai Edge A1 version. I loved this thing from the moment I laid hands upon it, the realistic weight, the high quality of the new plastics and now a functioning de-cocker/safety. It shoots incredibly well too, as you would come to expect from a TM. I’m not really one to keep things stock though, I don’t know why but I always feel a gun can perform a little better (check out my Project Guns article to see how successful I am at upgrading). The first thing I always get for my pistols is Nineball (Laylax) gas routers for the magazines, these are super cheap and really effective at bumping fps a bit as they create a better seal between the router and the nozzle. Then I put in a Nineball (Laylax) 6.02 steel barrel and swapped the hop rubber out for a soft Firefly one (seriously these things are amazing). It’s now super accurate, has great range and consistency and is a genuine pleasure to skirmish with. I didn’t stop there though…

Having nailed the performance it was time to change the aesthetics. The Samurai Edge A1 comes from TM all black with a silver barrel and it looked very good but I wanted something a bit more memorable. I wanted my Samurai Edge to look like Wesker’s, with much chrome and black two tone. I spent time on some airsoft forums and managed to track down a silver TM M9A1 lower frame and then got to work swapping out the guts of the pistol to the shiny new lower, slapped on the back slide and the glorious two tone faux wood grips and boom. My own Samurai Edge was created. I love this thing. As far as I know it’s unique. I’ve not seen another like it, yet. To me it is perfect, plastic and all. It shoots like a dream, looks like one too but more importantly it makes me smile. It’s just so much damn fun to use.

Of course it has its foibles, the dodgy de-cocker design, the plastics used scratch and dent easily, and the sights weren’t great until I modified them a bit but I don’t care. When I’m using this gun I feel like a member of S.T.A.R.S on some daring mission, it’s got that magic factor about it which most guns just don’t have. It’s a truly special sidearm to me. I hope you know what I’m talking about, it’s not just a gun. It’s my gun.

JWR

Casualsoft

Today I’m going to introduce you to the concept that is Casualsoft, in all its wondrous glory. Casualsoft is a way of playing Airsoft that my buddy Rufus and I came up with a few years ago when we were both young and poor. Now that we’re not so young and poor we still practice it often to great effect. What is it you ask? Basically we play in casual clothes, no camo, ‘tactical’ clothing or anything like that. Bear minimum gear, only enough to carry mags and ammo. None of those massive backpacks you see people carting around on top of a massive plate carrier, seriously how do those guys not melt to death in summer? Lightweight is basically what I’m saying, paired up with comfortable clothes and it really is a super combination. We feel it creates a relaxed day’s gameplay and not being uncomfortable or hot really ups the enjoyment factor. I should mention that we only play casual soft at our local urban sight as crawling through mud and undergrowth in a check shirt is hardly good for concealment or the shirt.

A lot of the time when you go out Airsofting you see people draped head to toe in three layers of camouflage, plate carrier, backpack, balaclava and then helmet or gas mask. Now a lot of these guys look cool as fuck but it can’t be comfortable. I know everyone is different but I personally feel restricted the more gear I wear. Hell I hate wearing eye pro, I only wear it because, you know, I like the gift of sight (check out The Boring Basics for more on eye pro). The less the better in my opinion and as Airsofters we are lucky enough to not need to carry any lifesaving and very heavy armour.

Saying all this it’s probably obvious but we came up with Casualsoft as an excuse for not having enough money to buy nice combat gear. For years I used to wear a pair of old Next cargo trousers to skirmishes or an old pair of jeans, then a shirt or t-shirt and hoodie in winter. You really don’t need to spend a fortune or indeed any money on airsoft clothes, you can have just as much if not more fun in a t-shirt and jeans as a full camo uniform. Of course if you’re going for a specific look or loadout, don’t let what I stay stop you. This is more an idea that you don’t have to look like a Navy Seal to play airsoft, but of course the tactical beard helps. Everyone knows that.

JWR

The Boring Basics

Starting off in Airsoft can be a pretty daunting experience. There is a lot to learn and perhaps more horrifying, a lot to buy. I had the luxury of already having a friend who played that could lend me a variety of gear for my first few games to see if I liked it. Honestly, that’s what I’d recommend first. Before you spend any money on gear or guns, play a few games to make sure you enjoy what you’re getting into. If you don’t have a friend you can leech gear off don’t worry, most sites let you rent a gun and a face mask for the day. While the initial costs of a few game days and renting a gun seem expensive, its waaaaaaaay cheaper than gearing yourself out then realising Airsoft isn’t for you.

Okay, you’ve been to a few games and you’re hooked, what’s the next step? Well if you live in the UK you want to look at getting your UKARA registration sorted out. In brief, UKARA gives you legal exemption from purchasing replica imitation firearms (RIFS) which is usually a prosecutable offence in the UK (Americans please don’t laugh). This means you can purchase realistic looking Airsoft guns without the dreaded bright two tone colouring. For more information about UKARA give it a quick Google, their website is easy to find and explains how it all works very clearly.

Believe it or not guns are not the most important part of airsoft that prestige goes to eye protection. I’m gonna be crystal clear here. DO NOT SKIMP ON EYE PROTECTION. Buy something with a suitable ballistic rating and personally I wouldn’t recommend anything that isn’t full seal. Full seal is something that creates a full seal around your eyes so that no matter the angle BBs cannot penetrate. I know those slick shooting glasses look cool but they do not provide 100% protection, they leave gaps and tragically people have been injured while wearing them. Buy a recognised brand, Revision, ESS, Bolle, there are literally hundreds to choose from and tonnes of official retailers. You only get one pair of eyes so spend the extra cash and buy something decent. Mesh or lenses?  Well that’s more a personal preference. Again in an ideal world I would recommended everyone choose lenses for absolute protection but if you’re like me and sweat more than a pig in sauna they can be a royal pain in the arse. I run some ESS Profile goggles with a Heroshark mesh insert so I get a full seal but don’t have to worry about fogging. A lot of people don’t like mesh for the same reason I don’t like shooting glasses, BBs can sometimes fragment on impact with the mesh (especially bio BBs) and fragments can pass through into the eye. Mesh comes with that risk and it’s up to you if you want to take it. If you play at higher fps sites it might be best to stick to lenses but if you play in a low fps cap country or a low fps site, mesh is a more viable option.

Boots soldier! Boots! Get yourself a good pair of sturdy boots with ankle support. Spraining your ankle sucks and on your average airsoft site there is plenty of uneven terrain and debris to trip on so trainers won’t cut it. I know I probably sound like your mum making sure you’ve got your packed lunch for school but its basic stuff that can ruin your day if you get it wrong. You can pick up a decent pair of boots for very little money these days and they don’t just come in black anymore.

I know this isn’t exactly the most fascinating side of Airsoft but getting the basics right means you can spend your day getting stuck in and having a good time playing rather than sitting in the safe zone or worse an ER.

JWR

Project Guns

Project guns. Can anything else give in you a bigger headache? Well maybe one or two things… I made a decision about a year ago that the accuracy and constancy of my G&G GR15 (basically an AR15) was sub -par, and it was. I doubt I could consistently hit the side of aircraft carrier let alone a person at 200 yards. I initially wanted to replace the hop up system and inner barrel and maybe try installing an R-Hop just to see how they worked. Externally I wanted it to look like an old school M4A1 with some modern touches so not a massive undertaking. However things got a little out of hand and thus began the epic saga that was to be my project gun.

It all started when I decided that I should probably replace the cracked plastic receiver so my rifle would stop doing its best impression of a Mexican wave. I got a swanky new metal receiver from Dytac which was awesome, until I realised that the GR15 has an odd shaped blowback gearbox and it wouldn’t fit… Magic. Okay, never mind. A good opportunity to replace the gearbox shell with a stronger model so I got a new Laylax shell and I thought since I’m already opening the gearbox I may as well swap a few parts out to improve the air seal. You can see where this is going. Basically I ended up replacing everything in the gearbox, totally on purpose. Air nozzle, piston head, cylinder, bearings, spring guide, selector plate and tappet plate (those last two came free with the gearbox). All swapped out for a more consistent or higher quality part. While I was in there I also sorted the gears angle of engagement and put a sorbothane pad in to help increase the life of the gearbox. Needless to say the air seal is pretty amazing now, so good in fact that since all the new parts went in the fps has gone up from 340fps on 0.2 BBs to about 425fps on 0.2 BBs… Didn’t see that one coming.

As I write now my project rifle is leaning against my desk with various parts missing and hotter than a ghost pepper sunbathing beside Hell’s lake of fire. Until I have the time and money to swap out the spring for something a lot weaker I can’t use the damn thing. Which clearly outlines the problem of not setting a goal and actually sticking to it. You end up changing so many things that you never even thought about touching at the start, leaving you with nothing but horrendously expensive desk ornament. My original goal wasn’t even completed, it turns out I suck at installing R-Hops and after three attempts I still haven’t nailed it so the accuracy is iffy at best.

I know that it’s this reason that a lot of people leave their rifles stock out of the box and don’t meddle of fuss with them in any way. The chance that when you take a gun apart it loses all of that factory fairy dust that makes it work properly is seriously real. That or they’re not bothered, they just want the gun to work and that’s all that matters. I’m not one of those people. For me half the fun of Airsoft is the tinkering, trying to make your guns as accurate and consistent as they can be. Swapping out parts and build your own dream rifle is just too much fun to pass up for me. I really enjoy that challenge no matter how infuriating it can be, because damn is it satisfying when you land that one shot headshot from 200 yards.

JWR

Why Do I Play?

Okay, here we go. First post, has to be a good one to hook people in. Where do I start? Urmm…  Why do I play Airsoft? Seems like a good place to start, my own origins story. Sort of. I played my first game almost six years ago now, not knowing what a huge piece of my life it would one day become. I was invited by my friend Rufus to a forest in the middle of nowhere, where about fifty full grown men had gathered in old DPM camouflage to shoot at each other with toy guns. No idea how I got talked into that one.  There I was in old cargo trousers, favourite hoodie and old hiking boots ready to become the next Jason Bourne excited to see what all the fuss was about. Now, there is a bit of history you should know about Rufus and the state in which he used to keep his armoury. Young Rufus was not one for maintenance and cleaning, and as can be expected most of his gear has, to put it kindly, limitations. The rifle, to tarnish the word with the abomination he gave me, was a HK416 or had been once upon a time.  I hated that thing. There is a special place in Hell reserved for that rifle. It worked for three minutes over the course of a whole day. I’m not exaggerating. Three minutes into the first game is when the problems started. To say it was inaccurate is a gross understatement, in fact to say it fired at all is being kind. I said it wasn’t working, Rufus said it was fine, the site tech wasn’t there that day and all the rentals were in use. I was stuffed. I spent the whole day following Rufus around carrying my glorified (and very heavy) paperweight, pointing out bad guys and getting shot. Not the best first impression.

I left Airsoft for a few months after my ordeal, went back to the comfort and reliability of video games but something had changed. I started looking at guns and gear online, planning load outs, browsing local sites I wanted to visit and even began lurking on forums. I had the bug. I went with Rufus again to his then favourite site a few more times, this time without Satan’s HK416 and a much merrier time was had by all. Later that year I got my UKARA and a rifle all of my own. Looking back it really is a miracle that I even play at all.

Why do I play though? Is it because of the guns? The gear? The feeling like an absolute badass when you land that perfect shot? Yes. Yes it is. In recent years though it has become more than that. I play Airsoft because it is an absolute escape. From the world and from myself. No matter the worries on my mind, the problems in my life, the stress I’m under. When I gear up and step onto that field my problems melt away, my purpose becomes singular, my mind focuses and I lose myself to the game. It’s bliss. I enter this almost primal state of being which is so otherworldly to me. I use my cunning, my aggression, my courage in the most creative of ways, all for the sake of fun and victory. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take Airsoft too seriously, it’s just a game at the end of the day and there are far more important things in life. That being said I always have a laugh while playing and I come home at the end of the day in such a good mood. For me Airsoft is a stress release like no other and perhaps you feel the same way or maybe football, rugby, even video games does it for you. No matter what your release is I think it’s an important thing to have in life. A place you can go, an activity you can do, something that gets you into that zone where you just let go of all your problems and enjoy the life you have. That’s why I play, to keep myself sane in an increasingly maddening world.

JWR