Welcome to the wonderful world of Airsoft! One of the most enjoyable, and at times demanding, combat simulation sports there is. If this is your first venture into the hobby, we hope you find this document useful and interesting reading, if you’re already a seasoned player, and wish to add something to this article, please get in touch.
There is masses of information available on the Internet regarding Airsoft, just check out our link pages for some of the best information websites and retailers out there. It is easy to get carried away whilst surfing the net, drooling over pictures of the latest Airsoft hardware, and whilst prices have dropped significantly over the past few years, it can still be an expensive hobby. So to save yourself money and perhaps wasting some time, we’ve put together what we feel is a useful guide to starting out in the sport.
Visit A Skirmish Site
Before you do anything, if you have never played before, the first thing you should do is visit an established Airsoft skirmish site, and experience the games first hand. One of the common mistakes a lot of new players make, is to spend a lot of money on expensive kit, before they’ve ever played a game… you never know, it might not be for you! Airsoft can be a physically and mentally demanding game, so we always recommend spending the day at an Airsoft skirmish site, with a hire-gun to see if you firstly enjoy the games, and secondly find the days play not too exhausting.
Another advantage of visiting an established playing site first, is that it will give you some ideas of what kit to purchase, should you wish to. Most skirmish sites have around 100 or more players that turn up each game day, and the vast majority of them will own their own Airsoft weapons. It is an ideal opportunity to have a look at that special gun you’ve had your eyes on, and make sure it is for you. I made the mistake of purchasing an expensive sniper rifle (and I’ve been playing for years!) without first trying out and seeing if it was for me, it wasn’t, and I’ve since learned my lesson.
Most skirmish sites will have an array of weapons available for hire, and they usually comprise of (but not limited to) AK-47’s, MP5’s, M4’s, FAMAS’s and the occasional G3 or G36. You will also be given eye protection, usually in the form of a full face mask, some ammunition (the amount varies, but often over 1500rnds) and perhaps some camouflage clothing items. We however, highly recommend taking the following items with you as an addition to what you’ll receive in your hire gun package :-
Gloves – Getting shot in the hand or fingers DOES hurt!
Packed Lunch – Don’t always rely on there being food facilities available, be prepared!
Plenty Of Water – When playing, you can become quickly dehydrated, always drink plenty of water.
Small First Aid Kit – Even if it only comprises of bandages and plasters, very useful.
Hat or Balaclava – I wear a full face balaclava for additional head and face protection – recommended!
Small Plastic bottle – Very useful for filling up your magazines quickly without spilling ammunition.
Boots* – Should be sturdy and come above the ankle. You can pick these up cheaply from an army surplus store
Correct Clothing* – Wear the correct clothing depending on the weather conditions, jeans are not recommended.
Where To Start
So, you’ve been to a Skirmish site, you’ve thoroughly enjoyed yourself and you’ve decided to start buying your own equipment… but where to start? First, thing to do, is set yourself a budget and try to stick to it! The cost of guns and accessories can soon amount to staggering figures, and it’s easy to get carried away. The next thing to do, is decide on your playing style, as this will help you choose the correct equipment for the job. In my opinion, there are three main playing styles for Airsoft, we’ve included some ‘Additional Accessories’ you may consider for these roles… These are:
CQB / URBAN – Be the first man through the door, moving quickly from room to room clearing them as you go. This style of play is up close and personal (and at times painful!). Ideally you’d be wanting a smaller weapon that allows the highest levels of mobility to move swiftly. Something like an MP5-A5, G3-SAS or MP5K are good examples.
Optional Accessories: Tactical Flashlight, Red-dot / Laser, PMR Radios (with headset), GBB Pistol with Thigh Holster.
Woodland – Woodland style of play will usually be at further distances than CQB / Urban, although it can get close at times. You will want a gun with a longer range, and probably a higher magazine capacity.
Optional Accessories: Scope (great for spotting too)
Sniper / Support – The role of a sniper or support gunner is the most appealing to me. Usually working alone, or in radio contact with the rest of your team, your role is to take out targets from afar, or lay down covering fire so front line troops can move in. The sniper doesn’t have to use a dedicated sniping platform, such as a VSR or APS2, the Marui M14 (my personal choice) is a good example of a standard AEG with excellent range, with the added bonus of fully automatic fire. As for the support role, again, you don’t need a dedicated gun such as an M249 or M60… A G36 with a box magazine makes an excellent suppressive-fire weapon.
Optional Accessories: Box Mag (Support weapon), GBB Pistol for back-up weapon, PMR Radio, Scope.
As mentioned earlier, it is very important to get the right clothing depending on the conditions you’ll be playing in. It should keep you warm and dry, whilst offering a level of protection against hits. We recommend against wearing jeans for Airsoft, as they can get heavy when wet and offer little impact absorbing qualities. Boots are highly recommended, and should be sturdy and come above the ankle. As for camouflage pattern, that is entirely up to the wearer. Some opt for desert pattern, traditional UK DPM (disruptive pattern material) or SWAT style black uniforms. It is worth noting however, that whilst the traditional DPM combat gear can be worn in all environments, wearing all black in a woodland setting will make you stand out somewhat. As I only play at an Urban site, I have the black uniform, with tactical vest and all the relevant accessories.
A tactical vest is a highly recommend piece of kit too. It offers extra protection, and makes carrying all the gear required for the day a lot easier. It gives you somewhere to store magazines, extra ammunition, food supplies and water provisions, some of them even include a pistol holster built into the front, known as a ‘crossdraw vest’.
When choosing your first AEG, there are a number of factors to take into consideration. As above, certain types of Airsoft gun are suited to particular playing environments, so first you need to choose your style of play. If you are uncertain, then it is best to choose an AEG that is equally at home in any environment. The M4 Carbine and the G36 are both excellent examples, both are small enough to use in CQB/URBAN environments, but have the range to work in a woodland setting also. To keep the initial cost down, one should choose a gun that accommodates a large capacity battery, as it will last all day. Airsoft guns that take a mini or stick battery might require you to purchase an additional one, as the capacity is currently limited to 1400mah, where as 3000mah large batteries are common place. Magazine size is also a consideration.. an AK47 hi-cap holds 600 rounds, whereas an MP5 only holds 200. The choice of whether to use hi-cap or standard capacity magazines is entirely up to you. To purchase an AEG brand new, or get one second hand is also worth thinking about. Marui AEG’s are very reliable, and as long as they’re looked after, will last a very long time. Therefore it is often more economical to purchase an AEG second hand, with the benefit the gun will probably come with a battery, charger and several magazines, all of which need to be purchased separately if buying new. I would recommend buying your first AEG second hand, as this gives you the option to work out if the gun is for you, without losing too much money if you change your mind.
To give you an example how long a Marui AEG can last… I bought a second hand MP5K 7 years ago, I owned it for 2 years and then sold it on. The person who bought it from me, still has it, and it is still running fine on the original parts!
Pistol? or no Pistol?
A common question people ask when starting out in Airsoft, is it worth buying a pistol? In all honesty, I’d say no, save your money and buy that last. I’ve owned several pistols over the years, and the only one I have ever really got the most from, is my Glock 18C AEP. It’s been very useful in certain situations, and is excellent for clearing rooms on urban sites, but if you’ve already got the right AEG, unless you run out of ammo, it’s not worth spending the money on initially. Still, nothing is more satisfying that getting a ‘Pistol kill’, when the other guy has an AEG… There are so many things that you’d find more useful to spend your money on initially, such as radios, spare magazines, batteries, optical sights etc..
If you’ve decided on taking the sniper route however, a pistol is an essential piece of kit. Typically most sites do not allow you to engage targets under certain ranges with a sniper rifle, so you’ll need a pistol to defend yourself under these circumstances. Again, I would recommend the Glock 18C AEP to anyone, purely on its practical value.