Everyone has very different perspectives on everything in life. The term ‘airsoft’ encompasses a very broad range of activities that range all the way from ‘chairsoft’ and gear collecting through the general 1-day skirmishing across to what essentially equates to something vaguely akin to a light military exercise, but using BBs instead of blank rounds and without any of the requirements that being paid to do something entails vs paying to do something.
Being the great big REMF/uniformed civilian that I am and as a long-time airsoft player and gear whore, I tend to float somewhere inbetween the military world and the world of l33t bbwarz. I don’t really class myself as anything specific other than an airman who knows some stuff about kit and really likes guns. I’ve never done anything vaguely ‘special’ and it’s very rare I do anything that’s mildly unpleasant or uncomfortable or go anywhere austere. I do not in any way, shape or form need all the over-priced tactical gear that I’ve acquired over the years and many people would (and have) strongly criticise that, both online and in work. But that’s fine because I know that how I spend my expendable income is entirely my decision. I do ok financially, I’m far from rich but I’m not one for flash cars or a fancy lifestyle (i.e. I’m boring, as society will tell you) and I live alone in a tiny barrack block room 95% of the time, so I can have money to spend on my hobby while still managing to put funds aside for a house and other things that I’ll need once my time in the mob is over. Of course I pay for that luxury by putting up with immense amounts of pointless military stuff that I won’t go in to now; that’s a whole other article that I’d get in real trouble for writing, but if you’ve ever served you know the type of things.
Now, the vast majority of people that engage in any sort of activity that falls under the airsoft umbrella are very much aware of who they are and what it is they’re actually doing, so when they talk about it online they bear that in mind. They either talk in an appropriate fashion without using all of the military-sounding terminology they can physically fit in to a sentence, or they go sufficiently overboard with it in order to be quite clear that they understand the lane they’re actually in and articulate the fact their tongue is in their cheek. The slight issue can come in the middle ground.
Now, airsoft as both a recreational hobby and as a tool for proper training has gained traction over the past few years and its’ popularity and appeal has certainly seemed to increase. At the same time, the amount of ignorance regards what an airsoft replica actually constitutes these days has decreased significantly as the older generation slowly begins to realise that they are not, in fact, entirely made up of the $5 specials found in supermarkets. Slowly the realisation is dawning that there are plenty of airsoft companies producing quality Gas Blowback and Electric Recoil guns that do a pretty reasonable job of mimicking a firearm. However, a lot of this positive progress is being hampered, and indeed reversed, by the explosion in popularity of milsim type games and the very strange, misguided attitudes that have grown up around it with some of its’ participants. I would imagine that most people would agree with my feeling that the more grown-up, sensible and self aware we can make the community around this hobby of ours (especially in the online arena), the better off we’ll be. The veterans that so many players copy are far less likely to be driven to a dislike of said players and the game will overall attract more participants. This part is the key to my thinking on this whole piece.
With that in mind, I’ve picked out just a few of the issues that jumped out at me when browsing certain Facebook pages, IG accounts and YouTube videos.
- Saying ‘hardcore’ before the word milsim
I’m kicking off with this one, because at the first ‘military simulation’ GAME (a word some folks forget too often) I attended, this phrase was one of the very first things I heard uttered in the starting brief and I threw up in my mouth just a tad.
Yes, you’re running around with a fair bit of kit on, basically camped out and playing your game in potentially some pretty unpleasant weather conditions; but there is no genuine risk to life or limb. The only people I’ve ever seen or heard of succumb to the elements are those who rocked up to a game without investing the appropriate money in to warm/dry clothing layering and/or did not employ their clothing system properly. The most basic fundamentals of the training in any military are far more focused on survival in austere conditions than they are on fighting and far too many players get caught up in the tacticool while not realising this basic fact. You look after yourself such that you can sustain fight, not the other way around. This includes keeping well hydrated, eating appropriate food at appropriate intervals, staying warm and as far as possible, dry. The UK and US are not Afghanistan, they are often far wetter and copying the gear you saw in ZeroDarkThirty will not do you any good on a cold, rainy winter’s day in England.
Overall, by educating yourself to a basic level and kitting yourself correctly, when you’ve got more than sufficient time and opportunity to eat, drink and change layers and there’s absolutely none of the stress associated with a real enemy shooting real bullets at you, there is nothing hardcore about anything in airsoft. Real guys blowing through doors on the real 2-way range are hardcore, you are not.
- Constantly referring to each other by LetterNumberNumber ‘callsigns’ (then blurring all faces)
Chances are you are all incredibly normal people leading incredibly normal lives. You’re not in an SF team, you’re in a milsim team. You have normal names.
I’m more than fine with people wanting to not be identified on the internet, that’s a personal choice for whatever reason and that’s ok. I don’t personally understand why you’d be such a massive social media whore if you want to remain anonymous, but hey that’s a perfectly acceptable preference. My opinion is that far too many civvies do this because it’s somehow similar to the way the indentities of actual military personnel are protected and some folks feel a need to cling on to that cool factor they’ve not earned.
Some players are current or ex military or LE, which again makes sense. But I think if you’re Jim Smith from I.T. and you’re posing in $5k worth of AOR1 out in an arid area, pixelating your face and hiding your name, you might have lost a bit of perspective in your mission to emulate something you’ll never be. I’m not going to say everyone does exhibit this for certain because I don’t know what’s going on in their heads, but it’s a distinct possibility.
- Using “Milsim” as an adjective
You cannot ‘be milsim’, that phrase has literally no meaning. Every single person I’ve ever heard use it was in serious need of evaluating their perspective of themselves and their place amongst the airsoft community as a whole. It’s a well known and documented fact that humans love to belong so they group and segregate themselves based on all sorts of abstract concepts and ideas, but the way a lot of people do this within airsoft is just supremely backwards and counter-productive. I’m encountering more and more people who are only interested in milsim type games as the popularity of that style of airsoft has rocketed over the years. Along with this there is a growing sentiment amongst some participants that they are, at best, taking part in a completely separate game, or at worst somehow ‘better’ or above other people purely due to the style of airsoft they play.
Also within this point, saying ‘milsim’ instead of airsoft is not the way forward in this regular guy’s opinion. The two are not separate entities and one has not replaced the other, by doing this you just look even more like you believe like the section of the hobby you engage in is something far more than it actually is in reality.
- Generally using totally over-the-top terminology
Just because you’ve put on a bunch of Crye gear doesn’t mean the stuff you’re doing is the same as the people who were issued that same gear for their work. You are not a door-kicker or a sniper or a medic (in 99% of cases) and repeatedly declaring yourself as such gives a seriously poor impression to outsiders and people just seeing your content for the first time; regardless of whether you’re entirely serious or not.
When you attend any type of airsoft game (milsim style or otherwise) you are not ‘out on the ground’, that is a term applied to troops actually going out of base areas in real conflict. You are also not in an ‘AO’, similar meaning to the above, yet I hear this term used on a literal constant basis to the point it’s as if some people have an addiction to saying it. It’s just an airsoft field or an area ofland, there are no military operations happening within it while you are there going pew-pew-got-ya. Obviously there are a shit load more examples whereby hobbyists have, for whatever reason, misappropriated specific military terminology in an effort to ‘immerse’ themselves far beyond what is necessary. Far too many to list here, but I hear and read them all the time in certain places, to the point I find it almost unnerving.
- Declaring anything airsoft ‘OAF’
Let’s be real clear on this one. Nothing airsoft is even vaguely operator, let alone as-fuck.
As far as I know, the phrase became more widespread as a result of the facebook page/website of the same name, a page which ironically is run by people who clearly (to a large extent) despise airsofters because so many of us do stupid things in the form of taking this game way too bloody seriously.
These are all points I’ve just taken off the top of my head, but I’ll quite possibly look to note them down as I come across them in future so as to not forget. I think in general there is just far, far too much of this sort of thing going on and the more it happens the more widespread and accepted as the norm it appears to become. Again, to reiterate, people are more than free to say whatever they like wherever they like and partake in their free time in whatever manner they wish provided it doesn’t negatively impact other people’s lives. But this grey area that’s smudging the line in to the territory of walting and stolen valour, could, IMHO, really benefit from being significantly reigned in. It may seem totally fine from the inside looking out, but believe me for those folks on the outside looking in, it is at very best, extremely odd.
Some people who don’t know me will probably really hate me after reading this, but that’s alright. If you express an opinion on the internet, it literally does not matter how many times or how eloquently you express your belief that everyone else remains free to lives their lives however they wish regardless of what you may have just said; people still get hurt in the butt. Also people often seem to lack the ability to recognise when they’re not actually the target of a given point and choose to take it personally anyway; that if anything is the most common problem. But my goal has always been to speak completely honestly and I’m sticking with that.