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Diary of an Airsofting Newbie

 19th Sep 2016

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know quite what to expect when I got out of the car at Spec Ops Airsoft in Bloxworth on a mild yet wet Sunday morning.

I did briefly wonder what I, a 34 year old father of one with dodgy knees, was doing running around a patch of woods with Abbey Supply’s very own Liam and Adam (off of the internet) but figured it was too late to back out.

Diary of an airsoft newbie

Image courtesy of Leighton Teasdale Photography (all rights reserved)

I’ve been paintballing a few times so had fully expected the majority of people to be in black or green jumpsuits provided by the site; with the odd one or two die hard with their own weapon and gear.

I was wrong.

The carpark was more akin to the set of Blackhawk Down than a recreational combat sport. Everyone was in camo, rigs, varying types of head gear and eye protection, and all of them were toting some very convincing looking airsoft weapons.

Alarm bells immediately began to ring.

In my experience, the dedicated paintballers were all boorish, aggressive, borderline sociopaths who were one redundancy notice away from climbing a bell tower with a high velocity rifle.

So an entire car park full of them made me nervous.

Except they weren’t boorish. Or aggressive. None of them seemed like they were going to kill me and wear my skin like a onesie either.

Whilst airsofters take their sport seriously they seem to do it out of a sense of authenticity and out of a sense of comradery.

The sense of ease was remarkable. Everyone was laughing and joking, sharing tips in weapon maintenance or helping one another if something had broken in transit.

There’s a real atmosphere of team spirit, even with people who weren't on the same team. But this shouldn’t have been all that surprising as airsoft relies on people being honourable and honest about taking their hits.

Liam had told me it was very inclusive sport but I didn’t quite appreciate how true that was until I saw it for myself.

Aside from not being the oldest there (by quite some margin), the desire to run around a patch of wood playing army seems to transcend any and all boundaries which was incredibly cool.

A long time ago I had a brief stint in the Territorial Army (what the youth of today now call the Army Reserve) so I was familiar with the gear and handling weapons, which definitely came in handy when Liam handed me a rig and a replica of a G36 assault rifle.

Once we were all ready to go there was a safety briefing.

Again I was struck by the importance airsofters put on honour and doing the right thing, even when no one’s looking. the latter being easily done when you’re sneaking through the undergrowth.

Cheaters would be thrown out, plain and simple. The emphasis was on running around the woods, playing war, and having fun, which is how 8 year old me spent most weekends.

Anything that contradicted that was unacceptable. Which was nice.

Airsoft skirmish

Image courtesy of Leighton Teasdale Photography (all rights reserved)

The first game was, essentially, scrabble for masochists. The teams had to assault a central tower within which were ‘scrabble tiles’. Players had to grab the tiles and take them back to their spawn point and spell a word.

The team with the funniest word won.

To put that another way: we were told to run into heavy fire, grab squares of laminated paper and run for our lives…without getting shot.

It didn’t take long for the air to be filled with the ‘pop pop pop’ sound of weapons fire and small whizzing white plastic balls.

It was impossible not to feel like a badass, running through the woods in full camo, spare magazines strapped to my chest and an assault rifle in my hands. Within minutes the red mist had descended and I was ‘running and gunning’ like a pro.

Right up until I got shot.

In my defence I would have had the guy but my rifle jammed. I’ll say this for airsoft, the weapons can be temperamental and there’s definitely a need to maintain your equipment.

The great thing about airsoft is whilst I was down, I was not out. Whereas a hit in paintball means you’re out for the rest of the game, airsoft allows you to respawn like a video game.

Granted it means the likelihood of being shot increases, but so does the amount of fun you have and as trade-offs go, it’s a good one.

It occurs to me that this is the reason people were far more relaxed and happy when playing. Their enjoyment wasn’t being curtailed by a punitive measure designed to draw a game to a close rather than encourage fun.

I have never been the first person hit playing paintball but I always felt sorry for the people who were as they were essentially paying a lot of money to stand and watch.

This simple difference in ideology is what turns casual airsofters in to enthusiasts.

By the end of the day I’d given more than I’d gotten and thoroughly enjoyed myself, although the sniper shot to the tip of my nose was a particularly sobering moment.

Everyone had played fair, apart from a couple of snipers that couldn’t accept that corporal new boy had hammered them from 45 metres away. There was also none of the altercations and hurled abuse that is often synonymous with paintballing. Neither was I covered in large bruises.

I walked back to the car with Liam and Adam, boots caked in mud, exhausted but happy that I’d had a really good day.

In the three weeks since my first taste of (pseudo) combat I’ve purchased camos and extensively researched the rifle I want. I’m also airsofting again at the weekend.

I absolutely, categorically, told Liam right from the outset that I was just giving it a go. That I wasn’t going to get into yet another expensive hobby. It was purely for research purposes.

What can I say? You don’t know man, you weren’t there!

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