How cool would it be to run your own airsoft site? Imagine playing airsoft as your job! It’s a thought that most airsofters have had at one point or another.
Whilst most airsoft site operators will admit that it’s a great job, they will also tell you that it’s not a simple walk (then run and crouch behind a box) in the park. Starting your own airsoft site is a mammoth task that takes more work than most people know – or get given credit for – and most airsoft site operators rarely get to play at their own site or take any profit for doing so.
However, if you still think it’s something you’d like to try your hand at, here’s everything you need to know in order to get up and running with an airsoft site. Financing such an endeavour is difficult to predict, in the guide we make no guarantees towards costs and timeframes, as they vary greatly from circumstance to circumstance. We’re also not going to go into the “general” aspects of airsoft, we will assume that you know most of it, such as “players must wear eye protection” etc.
The first step that you need to undergo is planning. It sounds boring and it sounds tedious, and it is. The important thing to remember about running an airsoft site is that it is a business, not a hobby and you need to treat it as such.
Before embarking on a task as large (and as expensive) as starting an airsoft site, you need to work out if it’s a viable business.
There are a few basic (and a lot of in-depth) calculations that you can do in order to get a basic understanding of whether the business will be profitable. You’ll need a robust business plan if you’re thinking about going to a bank – or anyone – to ask for funding.
Work out your initial costs, most of these will be covered in the following blog, but bear in mind that your situation will vary slightly.
Land is obviously going to be your first consideration. You can’t play airsoft without somewhere to play. This is where you need to decide what kind of airsoft site you will be. Will you be running a woodland outdoor site or a CQC indoors site? This consideration will influence the kind of land you need to be looking for.
You don’t need to purchase the land in order to be able to use it. The sort of land that we airsofters use is quite often the kind of land not currently being used for something. Hilly woodland is hard to develop (and often protected) so it’s in plentiful supply. Many owners of this kind of land are happy to lease/rent the land for your use. However there are 2 key considerations to make when sourcing woodland for airsoft use:
- Hilly woodland is prime shooting land. Unfortunately (for airsofters), since countryside shooting is generally a little bit more widespread than airsoft, most appropriate land is already being used for weekend game and clay shooting. It can be hard to find land that’s not already being used for other shooting activities.
- It’s hard to find. It’s hard to find through the normal “property” searching means. Not many people list their woodland for sale on rightmove in case an airsofter wants it. Finding this sort of land takes patience and networking. Speaking to people and making connections is the best way of going about it. The plus side is that a lack of demand and urgency can make the land much more affordable.
If you do eventually manage to find some land that you think is suitable for airsoft use, there are further things that you need to be aware of before considering it. Does the land have suitable access? It’s all well and good finding the perfect piece of woodland, but it’s next to useless if no one can get to it (including paying customers).
Can you develop it into a great airsoft site? It might be a perfect piece of land but if the owner doesn’t want you digging trenches, putting up buildings and fortifying positions, then it’s next to useless. This is something that you’ll need to talk to the landowner about to ensure their happiness. Whilst most of the developments on airsoft sites might not require it, you will still need to look at planning permission for the land to ensure there are no restrictions or caveats on your land.
CQC environments are much harder to find (or create). They usually consist of abandoned buildings or indoor warehouses. However, once again these are hard to find – no one lists their abandoned building for sale on rightmove, so it’s all about networking and building connections.
With an indoor environment, you’re blessed with more flexibility in your ability to make different environments with wood, bricks and other materials. There should be no restrictions there.
However, these places are usually abandoned for a reason. Ensure that you do your due diligence on the building for committing to ensure that you’re not paying for a building that cannot be used. Pay particularly close attention to asbestos and structural problems – this would render the building unusable (hence abandoned) and not insurable for airsoft use.
In addition, with the price of property what it is in our country, do not expect this kind of property to be cheap (or even realistic). If an indoor environment is suitable for airsoft use, it’s usually also suitable for industrial and office environments, which command a much higher price on the market.
One of the most easily overlooked aspects in the initial stages of airsoft site planning is insurance. Since your business will come in contact with members of the public, public liability insurance is an absolute must.
Whilst public liability insurance isn’t a legal requirement, the nature of airsoft as a sport means that injuries are more likely and should a customer hurt themselves on your airsoft site, you may find yourself needing to pay compensation.
Luckily, in recent years a number of insurers have begun to offer airsoft site insurance as an “out-of-the-box” product, which cuts down on a lot of the legwork in talking to underwriters to explain what airsoft is.
In addition, you may wish to look at insurance for other parts of the business – for instance, insuring rental airsoft weapons and stock from fire and theft.
Next is safety and it plays quite heavily into your insurance premiums as mentioned in the previous section. In this section we’re not going to be talking about overall airsoft safety, this is something you should already know!
Your site should have a first aider on site at all times (where you are operational). Now, this obviously doesn’t have to be a dedicated first aider and could simply be someone trained in first aid. However, it’s important to think about what happens if your first aider is not available, who will fill that requirement?
As part of running a business, employing or being self-employed is a legal requirement to conduct health and safety, and risk assessments (Including fire risk assessments) – most of which an insurer will also need to see before insuring you. You will need to ensure that the risks to members of the public when playing on your airsoft site have been fully realised, accounted for and mitigated. This includes potential fire risks such as from pyrotechnics.
Most airsoft sites are required to have a robust fire plan in place in order to use pyrotechnics. This is why many sites in the UK will have water buckets buried in the ground at strategic intervals. Without this level of fire planning, your site will not be allowed to use “hot burning pyro”.
Another level of safety that may not be on your radar is the local police. Naturally, it’s a smart idea to make your local constabulary aware of what you’re doing on your land, to prevent any confusion. Most sites will ring their local police and invite them for a chat to acquaint them with airsoft (don’t assume they will know the sport) and talk through any concerns. Prior to every airsoft game day, you should ring them and ask them to update their daily shooting log with your activities. This is the best way to avoid having a van or 3 full of police arriving on site after a concerned member of the public has phoned in something suspicious.
Next step in building a world dominating airsoft site is to kit it out with everything you need. One of the main costs to consider is rental weapons, magazines and eye protection – this way even brand new airsofters can come to your site and play for the day.
The best way to prepare yourself here is to sell (or at least have available to rent/borrow) absolutely everything a person might need. Assume that a player will arrive to your site with nothing but a wallet in their pocket. What do you need to have so that this customer can play all day and come back next weekend?
Here’re a few things we suggest you look into:
We just covered most of the safety aspects you might need to consider when running a site, so you should be pretty clued up. You’ll need eye protection, face protection for the youngsters and clothing for the player to wear. This can usually be cheap overalls that are rugged and re-usable. As additional nice-to-haves, you might want to consider boots and gloves.
Don’t forget to think about the peripherals here, anti-fog spray is a must.
Here you’ll need to ensure you have plenty of rental guns for an ill equipped player to rent. Ensure that you also have plenty of batteries, chargers and magazines.
Players go through consumables fast, make sure you have everything they need to keep playing. This includes BBs and pyrotechnics, as well as Gas for GBBs, and oils / lubricants for airsoft techies.
Players get hungry and they love nothing more than a hearty meal around mid-day. If you can serve hot food at lunchtime, you’re onto a winner.
Also spare a thought for when the player’s out on the field, have plenty of snacks and drinks available in the site’s shop that they can take out.
As stated at the beginning of this post, site owners do more work than most players will ever know about. They are constantly battling with having the site shut down for endless different reasons, they are always looking for ways to improve the site and they are often doing so in their spare time. This is in no way a comprehensive guide, but it’s a starting point for further research.
Why not start with what to stock in your site’s shop?