A while back, we had the opportunity to review the Matrix Alien Pulse Rifle and test it out at Hollywood Sports Park in Bellflower, CA. We ended up falling in love with the sport of Airsoft over the course of several games. We were drenched in sweat from running around and, at times, were even winded from the intense sprinting and, in contrast, sneaking around the various obstacles on the field in search of the enemy. Now, I get plenty of cardio workouts with treadmills and the like, but intense conditioning is something I seriously lack. What struck me was how easily I fell into the concepts of the Airsoft game. The referee for our matches explained the rules of various game types and all were things I had seen before in various shooter titles. I was able to apply my gaming knowledge to the sport. IN essence, what I discovered in Airsoft was a team sport where I could get more fit and experience a “live version” of a first-person shooter – albeit with some welts from BB strikes…
What is Airsoft?
Airsoft began in Japan back in the 1970s as a way for civilians to go to the range and practice shooting without violating the nation-wide firearms ban. Of course, it eventually became a team sport and made it to the UK and, then, North America. Airsoft is played usually between two teams of players, each armed with one or more Airsoft “guns” that fire non-lethal, plastic BBs at high speed.
Airsoft game types include team deathmatch, escort, capture the flag – all of which should be very familiar to first-person shooter gamers. Airsoft guns come in a huge variety of models and performance ranges, and I highly recommend hitting your local Airsoft store and asking the employees your questions. It is important to do some research into the stuff you buy as some fields are restricted to AEGs (Airsoft Electronic Guns) with certain performance parameters for safety reasons.
How Do I Start?
If you are curious about getting into playing Airsoft, I would checkout a field like Hollywood Sports Park where they deal in Airsoft and Paintball gaming all day long. You will find some very knowledgeable people there – both working and playing. The best part about a big center like HSP is that they do equipment rentals. This is a great way to see if you would like to get into the game with only spending a little bit of cash. If you are someone who has the extra cash to burn and want to buy their own equipment, I would recommend a basic set of gear from an online retailer like EVIKE.com. Read into the next section for equipment options.
What Do I Buy?
If you are new to the game, I would recommend an AEG of full metal construction, based on the M4 Carbine. AEGs based on the M4 make up the vast majority of Airsoft guns on the field today and most (not all) of their magazines are swappable. As far as clothing goes, you will definitely be seeing a lot of camo out on the Airsoft field. If you want to play in full military regalia, you would be in good company. ACUs, BDUs, A-TACS, Marpat – you name it. However, beginners can start to play with as little as a basic vest, t-shirt, and jeans. Of course, you MUST wear head protection and many fields out there require ear protection as well (imagine the 1 in a 1,000,000 chance a BB fires into your ear canal at 370 feet per second . Like most things in Airsoft, there are a number of head protection options out there – from full face masks to multi-piece setups. Here is a basic gear and gun loadout if you are totally clueless. Also, don’t mind the specific camo patterns on these – most gear-makers have the items available in all manner of camouflage.
Are there Character Classes in Airsoft?
You may be the type of shooter gamer who always likes to lend suppression fire to their team as “the heavy” or automatic rifleman. Perhaps you are instead the quintessential sniper? The good news is that Airsoft guns come in all shapes and sizes – including sniper rifles and light machine guns. Heck, there are even Airsoft grenades, RPGs, and claymore mines! All of these options provide a lot of customization to the player and the team. However, when you are just starting out in the game, it is our recommendation that you start with a solid rifleman loadout and work your way up.
Basic Rifleman Loadout
- CAA M4 Carbine Airsoft AEG Rifle
- 2 x Elite Force 140rd Midcap Magazine for M4 / M16 Series Airsoft AEG Rifles – Black
- SCOTT Vectra Single Airsoft Paintball Full Face Mask / Goggle
- Deluxe Spec. Op Cross Draw Tactical Vest System w/ Modular Holster / Mag Pouches / Belt (Land Camo)
- Evike.com 0.20g MAX Precision 6mm Airsoft BB (5000 Rounds / White) by Matrix
- Evike.com Airsoft 6mm BB Speed Loader for All Airsoft Magazines (transparent)
- Intellect 9.6V Small Type 1600mAh Airsoft Battery Pack (Butterfly Configuration)
This loadout will cost you about $400 dollars. If you wanted to save a little more cash, you could switch out the listed M4 AEG with the following:
Using the lesser-expensive AEG will save you about $100 bucks. Additionally, this model features a very cool electric “blow back” system which helps create a slight amount of recoil for a more realistic feel. Either weapon is a quality AEG – especially for a beginner with money to burn (remember, I recommended renting first to try stuff out).
Another thing to remember is that playing Airsoft can be very intense as you maneuver into and out of cover while avoiding enemy fire. There is the possibility you might skin a knee or bruise your arm running around. So, protective gear aside from stuff that goes on your head is advised. There are a number of elbow and knee pad options out there. Here are some of my favorites:
- G-Form Elbow and Knee Pads
- Avengers Special Operation Tactical Knee Pad / Elbow Pad Set
- Condor Quick Release Spec Op Tactical Knee Pads
Models like the Avengers and Condor brands have a more mil-spec look. I would recommend the G-Form brand for comfort and mobility. Unlike bulkier models, G-Form’s pads have built-in webbing for wear and are very flexible. They could be tough to get over BDU trousers, but you can easily wear them underneath your outfit. For the guys out there on the Airsoft field, you might consider wearing a cup if the field rules allow for over 400fps AEGs or heavier than .20g BBs. If you find that your hands sting from being hit with BBs, you can also pick up a pair of gloves. These can be found in mil-spec varieties all the way down to simple outdoor weather gloves. Just be sure you have hand mobility and it should work fine. A close friend of mine recently picked up some bulky gloves that did not allow him to get his finger on the trigger without mashing it by the trigger guard. Don’t let this happen to you.
Where Do I Play Airsoft?
There are several Airsoft leagues around the country that you could sign up for but, since you are a beginner you will probably want to try out a variety of local Airsoft centers. Remember, you NEVER want to take your Airsoft gun into public places without being safely stored in a gun bag and having its orange barrel guard firmly in place. Imagine what you would do if you were a police officer who happens upon some people carrying realistic M4 Carbines around a public park. Be smart, people. Here in Southern California, I would recommend you checkout Hollywood Sports Park (aka “HSP”) in Bellflower, CA. They have opened their new “HSP Combat Center”, which features a cool Afghani town environment and a full pro-shop. You can checkout their website for daily hours and rates.
Places like this are awesome for beginners because they setup public games all day long. You will get assigned a team and their referees are very good at keeping watch on a match’s progress. When hit by an opponent’s BBs, you are essentially “dead” or “out”. It is on the honor system to call yourself out. Once done, you raise up your hand or “dead rag” high in the air to signify the kill and you safely exit the field. Sometimes, however, a player will act dishonorably and not call themselves out. At times like this, you will be glad you have a referee there to keep watch. In better news, I have found that Airsoft players at these fields have been very welcoming and friendly. There seems to be a sort of desire among players to get new people into the sport and it shows. Another excellent Southern California Airsoft field is located at “SC Viper” in Corona, CA. The field offers much more rugged environments than HSP and is open for public games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Throughout the week, however, they are only open to private groups and commercial/law enforcement agencies. If you have guns that fire BBs under 350 feet per second, you could play at an indoor field like “Tac City” in Fullerton, CA. A maze of plywood walls, it makes for great CQB or pistols-only Airsoft games. Down the road, if you really get into the sport, you can even explore mil-spec leagues that play Airsoft outdoors on large, private acres of land. On these large plots of land, they usually allow for guns that shoot at a higher feet per second in order to cover the longer ranges involved.
Well, now that you have an idea of where to go play Airsoft and what kind of gear to rent (or buy), our work in this initial Airsoft for Gamers article series is done. Over the coming weeks, we will be bringing you on-scene, in-game video excerpts from our Tachyon Ops HD GunCam and Contour ROAM 2 cameras as well as articles on types of Airsoft games, guns, and other various topics related to the sport. Airsoft is a terrific way for video gamers to participate in a team sport and increase their physical conditioning while also applying their knowledge of shooter game tactics to a more real-world environment.
Check those corners, Shogunites!
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