Bulletpoints: Getting started with Airsoft

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Training is great. Whether you’re at home, dry-firing, or at the range working on your fundamentals, there’s no better way to hone your skills than training. While all of those are great, they don’t necessarily echo what could happen when SHTF. Static targets tend not to shoot back.

Though the plan is to hope never to get shot at, hope isn’t a viable strategy. It’s not without its shortcomings, but airsoft is a great way to hone skills you wouldn’t get shooting silhouettes or paper.

Why play games?
There are a few advantages airsoft has over conventional means of training. Firstly, you have targets that actually think, take cover, and shoot back. Secondly, the play areas are not flat. You have threats that can potentially come from any direction, so you learn to start thinking in 360 degrees pretty fast. You very quickly learn how to act sharply under duress to perform, and depending on the gear you use, you can even get some weapons manipulation training in there for good measure.

It’s not without its disadvantages, though. Not all the gear behaves the same way as their real-steel counterparts, so you may often see weapons that are carbine-sized with capacities to rival LMGs. Rates of fire are also usually higher than the real deal, with hardly any recoil to speak of. You also have less accuracy, no real way to determine hits apart from an honesty system, and you have to resist the temptation to walk your rounds to the target rather than use iron sights. Still, if you are careful not to build bad habits, it offers you something your regular training likely can’t.

Gear up!

What are you going to need to take the plunge? There’s a bit of a list, so let’s go through it.

Before anything else, it makes absolute sense to buy the best safety gear you can afford. Of critical importance is eye protection, so get some good polycarbonate (or if you’re confident the BBs won’t shatter and get in, mesh) eye protection. You aren’t going to grow yourselves any new eyes soon, so unless you have spares, take care of the ones you have.

Unless you don’t mind scars, you’re also going to want to get some face protection. There are a lot of full-face masks available that will keep your mug from getting shot up. Trust the word of someone who has shattered a tooth playing the game.

Weapons. This is where it gets fun. If you’re serious about using airsoft as a training method, you’re going to want to get gear that closely, if not exactly, mimics the real steel gear you have. If you’re not cool with the idea of getting a whole other set of accessories for your hardware, it’s quite likely that some after-market real-steel accessories such as slings, holsters, and mag pouches will fit their airsoft counterparts, with some exceptions of course. I have personally had luck using the same holsters and slings for both airsoft and real steel pistols and carbines, though that can also be brand-specific.

Using the same gear greatly aids in consistency, and allows you to make the most of each session. I credit my confidence in real-steel malfunction clearance to what was then a poorly-functioning gas-powered 1911.

Lots of people show up to play airsoft completely dressed in attire that would put the armed forces to shame. While that certainly has its use, there aren’t very many who actually go out every day dressed in that kind of gear. If practice is what you have in mind, you’re going to be far better suited by dressing as you would when you carry every day. If that means an IWB holster and three spare mags, then it makes the most sense to play that way. You are likely going to be outgunned, but trust me when I say there are few things more satisfying than taking out multiple rifle-wielding opponents with nothing more than a single-stack pistol and your wits. It might not be the most realistic scenario, but it does help keep you on your toes, and lets you build familiarity fast.

Getting situated
Once you have the gear together, you’re going to need a site at which to play. There are a few scattered throughout the Metro, so with a little searching, you should be able to find one near you, with a playstyle that’s suited to the kind of practice you want to achieve. The site that’s closest to my heart is CXG, near Judge Jimenez, in Cubao. It was once the site of a school, so it offers very fast-paced, close-quarters action that closely mimics what could happen in an actual urban engagement. There are others though. Abandoned warehouses, office buildings, houses and the like are all over the city. Poke around Facebook a little and you’re bound to find them.

I put on my robe and wizard hat
If you really want to get serious, roleplay can be a great training aid. At the airsoft site I used to frequent, we had realistic scenarios that would put players in situations that were not all that far removed from things that might happen in your usual everyday. You’re going to have to make sure the marshals are cool with that idea. There might be some at the site that are interested in playing special games such as those. It never hurts to ask, so you might as well!

Airsoft is a great way to add another dimension to the training you would receive at the range. The value of it is in the ability to remain consistent, so try to treat it like you would your real steel gear to make the most of the experience. Keep the good habits, grind away the bad ones, and you’ll be a much better shooter for it.

Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE May 2015  issue.

Words by Ren Alcantara