I don’t very often play airsoft these days, but I always enjoy the social aspect of going with friends and to what sort of funny antics go down. As sporting type hobbies go, the actual single day skirmishes definitely give you something in terms of a good run around, provided you’re not lazy and just stroll about of course; you get out what you put in. As much as some super duper serious people who’ve never tried it will scoff, I’ve found airsoft is not a bad way to wring out basic issues with any gear in a comparatively entirely safe environment. Once you put all your shit on, fill your pouches with mags, sling your rifle etc and jog about for a few hours, you will definitely identify any baseline problems. Pouches that are too hard to access or don’t hold your mags securely, belts that ride up, slings that chafe you, any kit that constricts or binds your movement etc; all problems I’ve flagged up when using a new piece of gear for airsofting.
I attended a game at ‘Strikeforce CQB’ in Gloucester a couple of weeks back, which is set in what I’d imagine used to be a manufacturing building that’s been completely stripped down to a big, rectangular room and then been fitted with a lot of pallets and string to hold up wooden barricades and hanging curtains. Compared to some other close-quarter/urban type sites I’ve played in the past it’s not the biggest, but it’s enough to not feel cramped and provide a bit of variety. Engagements often occurred at 2m or less but also stretched out to 25-30m. This isn’t a review of the site, but sufficed to say I enjoyed it and wouldn’t be at all adverse to visiting again.
Since a lot of my equipment was having its’ first outing, I thought I’d highlight some stuff that did and didn’t work. As opposed to just listing my loadout, which tends to imply that all of it worked perfectly and in turn, potentially gives folks the wrong impression.
The Bad News
To highlight my earlier point about gear that surprises you with problems when you actually try and use it, the first issue I had was with the modular setup I’d created for the front of my plate carrier. If you want to use placards or chest rigs to the Mayflower/Vel Sys spec (the HSP D3CR falls in to this category) via an adapter kit on a plate carrier that isn’t specifically designed for such applications, you need to position the female QASM buckles such that there is a gap of 2 rows of PALS in between said buckles and your field of loop (which itself needs to be 5 rows high). The buckles need 2 rows to mount to, making a total of at least 9 rows needed on the 2 outermost columns either side of your front plate bag. Unfortunately the medium SAPI cut FirstSpear Strandhogg only features 8 rows on the outer columns, meaning the placard hung about an inch too low. I left it like this for a short period but, as I expected (but wanted to test to check), the hook backing chewed up my combat shirt really nicely in very short order. Luckily I had some loop handy from my belt rig to cover up the over-hang and save my shirt.
The only other issue that I encountered and would class as at all ‘significant’ was with my dump pouch. I had a Plat-A-Tac roll-up SSE type pouch on my belt which is supremely small when folded and incredibly lightweight; but the main body of the pouch is constructed using a multicam fabric that is so thin it’s borderline transparent. Now this will work just fine when you’re stuffing it full of things you need to recover, but I was shooting a GBB rifle and those mags weigh the same as a full 30rnd 556 whether they’re full or empty, so the swinging pendulum effect created when I’d stowed 1 or 2 mags was seriously impressive. Sufficed to say I’ll be swapping to a much beefier, multi-layer pouch made from 500D in future. Sometimes going too light on kit isn’t the way forward (again, a lesson I’ve really picked up these past few years of moving in to the realm of modern, lighter nylon gear).
Another minor grievance reared it’s head in the vision department. My eye/face pro combination of ESS Turbofans and ‘rental mask’ plastic lower continue to work pretty much perfectly and I can’t foresee any other combination of similar PPE serving me better as far as airsoft goes. Unfortunately however, I did find that the tinted lens, combined with a killflash on my Primary Arms red dot and the indoor light did make aiming a little tricky. It would probably have been fine if I was either outdoors or using a clear lens and it wasn’t as if I couldn’t use my dot, it just made the view through the tube less than ideal given the overall dark sight picture and the metal mesh generally cluttered things up.
Always Get The Good News Second
Good gear is gear that does it’s job and you don’t even notice it. For example, the Beyond Clothing Lvl 9 set; seen in this case in US woodland, but it’s available in Multicam for a little bit more and then FR Multicam for quite a lot more. When I was searching for a modern, combat cut set in US woodland there weren’t many (to put it mildly) good options out there, but I rang up Beyond and they sorted me right out. The specific version of the A9-A trousers I have isn’t entirely compatible with the Crye knee pads, but I feel that may be a deliberate move, for reasons. Anyway… I generally prefer to mix apparel, but I’d owned the Beyond set for a while without using it and I wanted to try out the full set in one go. As far as just wearing it and running around a bit went, there were no issues and it was comfortable enough to meet that criteria of simply not being noticed. Much like some of the lesser-spotted Crye combat apparel, The Beyond L9 clothing features buttons for closure on the arm and thigh pocket (as well as velcro); buttons which I can’t say I’d want to try and use in a hurry, even less so with cold hands. But then again they are impervious to snagging (being covered as they are) and I’d rather have a button that I can choose not to utilise on land, yet remains available if I was someone who, for example, spends time in combat gear underwater.
On the day in question I also tried a velcro interface belt configuration for the first time and as I’d very much predicted, it was excellent. I’ve found in the past that having any sort of belt stay in place without having to thread it through the loops on your trousers was pretty much down to luck in terms of your kit selection. I’ve managed it with some other cheaper belts and seen other people manage it ok with certain belts depending very much on their body type, but it was never hard and/or fast as to what would work and who it would work for. With a loop covered trouser belt and a hook lined war/PALS outer belt (FS slimline AGB sleeve in this case), staying in place is a sure thing. Short of something seriously extreme, your belt line will never, ever ride up on you.
As in the past, the PIG FDT Alpha gloves, Peltor Comtac XPs, BFG/Magpul amalgamation sling, FS plate carrier, HSGI TACOs, G-Code SOC rig, Arc’teryx BAC and Source bladder all performed flawlessly.