American Civil War Airsoft: A treatise on the test day

Game write-up, Get into airsoft series, Imperial Era

 

When I talk to people about the idea of 19th Century Airsoft, the overriding response I get is: “Why would I want to stand in a line, in a field, and be shot at?” This is not an unreasonable question. This would be a very tedious day of airsoft.

It is also completely unlike the day of play we had. This game day was one of the most dynamic and varied I’ve ever had. I won’t give an in-depth blow-by-blow account of the day, but I hope to give some idea of why this style of play is worthwhile and highly enjoyable.

When it comes to historical airsoft, one major concern is that if you turn up to an event you’ll not have the right kit and be looked down on. The group shot we took at the start of the day will give you an idea of the level we’re aiming to start off with. We had no-one with 100%, truly authentic historical repro kit. What we did have was a bunch of guys who did the best they could with the kit they had.ACW Photo Day-6028

On the Union side, we had a mix of jeans and decorator’s trousers with blue shirts and tops.

On the Confederate side, a couple of the guys wore WWI/II German trousers, one a pair of green civvies and I wore a pair of British 49 pattern BDs. For the top I wore a cotton khaki shirt, the other guys wore either old grey uniform jackets/shirts and even a red cheque. We used a mix of satchels/belts and leather pouches to carry ammunition. The only period-specific equipment we had were the Kepis, which are pretty inexpensive to buy. I made my own Kepi from canvas, I’ll be making another from felt and may even offer a sew-your-own Kepi kit.

Airsoft gun wise, most of us used bolt-action rifles. Several guys used the stock, basic, unadulterated VSR knockoffs that sell for about £50-60 on the continent. They got kills with them too, using iron sights at the ranges we were playing at (typically 20-80 yards) they are perfectly usable. There are also rules for AEGs and gas guns, but if you are able to buy or borrow a bolt-action I would recommend it as it is a much nicer way to play.

ACW Photo Day-6111

Enough on kit for now. Let’s talk about game play. We headed off to the first game start point. It was a simple attack-defend points game, the Union had two spawns, Confederates had one.

ACW Photo Day-6040

The Confederate spawn was slightly uphill. The Union forces pushed through the trees, while we Confederates went further uphill and took the ridge. We put fire into their flank, taking out a couple of guys. At this point I was killed, but being in the middle of the battle area I could watch the events quite well. The Union took our spawn, pushing round our left. However their spawns had been left entirely unguarded and a couple our guys came round their rear, took the spawns and shot the Union out from behind.

ACW Photo Day-6064

We then played a couple of games running through the village. On the face of it, the defenders should have the advantage when they have cover and the attackers are covering open ground to assault them. In reality, due to the controlled rates of fire, the attackers can fire and move from cover to cover with a minimal chance of being hit. In the meantime the defenders can only hold a certain position. For some time, I was in the building in the picture below duelling the guys in the next picture.

ACW Photo Day-6163

These guys (Ryan, left and Kim, right) kept me pinned for several minutes. Another of my team was going in on their left while two others were taking a spawn behind them. In the end, their undoing was Ryan advancing on my position, taking a couple of shots from close range in cover before being forced back and shot in the back as he retreated. At this point Kim was left on his own, with 3-4 guys coming at him from all sides all firing at his building and he attempted a retreat to the next building, which had more open ground around it so would have been harder to attack. Unfortunately for him, 2/3rds of the way across I let a BB fly and it curved beautifully into his hand.

ACW Photo Day-6164

That’s the beauty of this style of gameplay. If you want to hold a position, you need to stick together and work together. There’s no chance a single person can keep a whole team pinned with a flurry of automatic fire in about the right direction every now and then. Fire and manoeuvre is needed and actually has a chance of working without the unlimited ammunition and rates of fire in a normal skirmish.

The next game was a sort of collapsing defence game. The Confederate objective was to push through and clear a corridor of Union Spawn points. Once a spawn was taken, it could not be retaken, but the Union were able to advance as far forward as they liked.

ACW Photo Day-6177

The result of this was that although the Confederacy took each spawn, we were brutally flanked and taken from behind a couple of spawn points in.

ACW Photo Day-6180

This series of pictures really drives home what’s special about this gameplay. It is not staged. I had charged, noisily round the left of the fort to draw fire and attention away from my Confederate buddies.

ACW Photo Day-6186

I reached the fort and found it still quite occupied. Two of the nearest Union boys shot at me and missed.

ACW Photo Day-6187

I shot at them and missed. In normal airsoft play at this point one player or the other would sprint straight at the wall and hose over it on full auto.

ACW Photo Day-6190

Instead, there was a brief consideration of whether or not to reload, before deciding that at this range, let’s just go in with the steel. I only just managed to land a stab on Aidan, at which point I ducked back down to reload.

ACW Photo Day-6192

At this stage, my distraction had served its purpose and my team had pushed up and shot one of the others. We didn’t realise there was a third hidden away in the corner, who had to be dealt with as we climbed in.

ACW Photo Day-6193

Once in the fort, it was a case of attempting to repeat the flanking action on the next group of buildings. This proved much harder as they had several angles to fire from and each flank covered. We had to take them in a certain order, so couldn’t just come in round the back.

ACW Photo Day-6194

Now, with regards to marching in line and standing in a field; have I persuaded anyone yet that there’s much more to this type of play than just being a target? Because that isn’t exciting for anyone.

Now let’s talk about line fighting. ‘Cause this is exciting, even if it doesn’t sound like it would be.

ACW Photo Day-6118

For normal airsoft, advancing across open ground and firing in lines would be useless and painful to boot. With two opposing lines of even numbers, the chances of one side wiping the other out in shooting at range is unlikely. You have to get close to increase the chance of hits, even then there’s no guarantee and when BBs are coming in at near 400fps at close range the pressure is on to reload. Reloading under that sort of pressure is surprisingly hard!

ACW Photo Day-6114

If the attacking force do so with determination and vigour, using a little work on the flanks, they can get to grips ‘properly’. Melee is not just a nice addition to this type of fighting, it is a necessity.

ACW Photo Day-6145

The artillery is a nice touch too, advancing into it is unnerving. The only time the Confederates had to take it on was over relatively covered ground, but with the shells coming in around you and not being able to tell where they were coming from or landing was distracting. TAGs make a very, very loud bang by airsoft paper pyro standards. I’m told that advancing toward it over open ground is also unpleasant.

ACW Photo Day-6104

There’s a great deal of satisfaction in this type of game. Because of the higher-powered rifles there is more of an adrenaline rush when playing close up, the pressure to reload or charge is intense. The lack of automatic fire means you have to pick your shots, pick your targets. It means you can move from cover to cover without being pasted.

ACW Photo Day-6184

If you think this type of game could be your bag, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to give it a go.

 

You can join the British 19th Century Airsoft Association Facebook group for reports and updates on the battles and events being held and to meet the community (top blokes all). You can get first word on events on the organisation page here.

 

Commentary on the American Civil War test day at C3 Tactical in Monmouthshire, August 2017. Photo credits to Luna Chapman.

Advertisements

So, you want to try airsoft? Part 1.

Advice columns, Game write-up, Get into airsoft series

Preface:

This is intended as a general introduction to airsoft for people who have never played before. It is a general guide to airsoft in the UK, though many of the points here will be the same abroad. Any advice regarding the law is intended as a rough guide only and you should research further or consult a lawyer on points in detail if you wish to. Vintage Airsoft is not responsible for any action you take regarding this advice!

This is Part One, a really basic starting point.

Part Two will look in more detail at guns and equipment.

Part Three will eventually look at specific airsoft genres.

So, if we are sitting comfortably, let us begin:

 

So, you want to try airsoft? Well, get yourself an airsoft gun and off you go then!

13929155614_4272d40163_z

Oh wait. Don’t do that.

If it was that simple I wouldn’t be writing this would I?

-Buying something that looks just like a real gun is illegal in the UK

-You have to be over 18 years old

-You don’t know what is worth buying yet

13929152314_d78011bea5_z

The VCRA or, how do I get a UKARA ‘license’?

The Violent Crime Reduction Act is a largely pointless bit of law that makes it illegal to sell, manufacture or import Realistic Imitation Firearms (RIFs) in the UK. There are ways around this however as the VCRA grants exemptions to permit their sale/creation, including Airsoft Skirmishing.

What this means is that you will have to prove to any retailer that you are a regular skirmisher. This hasn’t been defined in law and is, rather like the rest of the VCRA, a bit sketchy and vague. This is where UKARA comes in.

The United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers’ Association (UKARA) co-ordinate with many sites to keep a record of who is skirmishing regularly and therefore has a defence to buy RIFs. When you have played three times in two or more months, sites will allow you to fill in a form and pay to have the pleasure of easily buying RIFs online and in shops.

Let me get one thing straight:

UKARA IS NOT A LICENSE.

13905826762_a352611d06_z

UKARA is a scheme set up by retailers to cover their own backs, it is not government run, affiliated or even officially recognised. It has never been tested in a court of law. Nevertheless, among airsofters it is seen as the gold standard of defence and is by far the most widely recognised. Other schemes are available but not as widely recognised.

What about those bright blue/green/red/yellow/see through guns? What’s wrong with that?

These guns, or Two-Tones as they are often called, are Imitation Firearms (IFs) under the VCRA. The difference is that although they look just like the gun in every way, they are at least 50% brightly coloured or see-through to mark them out as not real. All you need to buy these is to be over 18.

guns

If you just intend to mess about with friends (on land with permission!) or shoot in the garden these are fine. For serious airsoft skirmishing they have a number of issues. Firstly, in woodland a bright pink gun is quite visible.

Secondly, many of the cheaper options on two tones are very low quality. They have plastic internals, plastic externals, low power and are generally a bit dismal. Many retailers do however offer a two-tone service on good quality guns for a token £15-20. That’s a lot of money to spend to make your gun less useful, but if you want a good airsoft gun without actually going skirmishing then that’s the way to go!

Yes, you can repaint it once you have a defence to the VCRA, but it will chip off and wear as you use it, revealing your lovely, vibrant undercoat once again.

And even after all of this, you may have bought a two-tone, gone airsofting, realised your gun is rubbish and all your new airsoft buddies may have to let you know there aren’t many good upgrade parts for that particular model. Then you are back to square one.

So, don’t get a gun! Yet.

Choose a site

There are airsoft sites all over the UK, they are roughly divided into to two major types: Woodland and CQB (Close-Quarter Battle).

For your first airsoft experience, I would wholeheartedly recommend woodland/outdoor sites. The chief reason is that most shooting happens at range, so when you get shot it hurts less. Yes, airsoft hurts, but 99% of shots in woodland sites sting for a moment to let you know you have been hit and fade off very quickly. It isn’t something you have to worry about unless you get in very close.

13905624222_80a40a3440_z

Outdoor airsoft is very much fieldcraft, movement and tactics based. Good camouflage, accuracy and unit tactics pay off here. Don’t worry about knowing everything about these subjects when you first turn up, in fact if you go in with a know-it-all attitude you will learn the hard way that it’s not quite like in the movies.

CQB is a very different beast. I recommend you play a few outdoor games first before trying this. CQB is intense, fast and painful. CQB will leave marks. Good CQB sites are strict about the power allowed and do not allow full automatic, which is unnecessary.

Why you need face pro in CQB. Don’t make my mistake! This did however lead to the happy creation of my WWI tank crew anti-spatter mask.

Your first concern is to find one local to you. If it’s convenient, you can get to more games and not have to set off at the crack of dawn or psych yourself up for a long drive home after a hard day’s skirmishing. If you have a few options, try them all out. You want a site with good prices for hiring kit, decent guns for you to use and a friendly bunch of local players for you to learn from. Ideally, the site owner/operator should have an interest in airsoft as the games will be better run and based on the abilities of airsoft guns as opposed to the limitations of paintball guns (which many sites also run).

13905729101_5cfb777b40_z

I’ve found the site I would like to try, what should I take?

Money. Cash is best as not all sites have card facilities. Enough to hire for the day and buy some more ammo, you will run out quickly until you learn which shots are worth taking!

Rough clothes. You can pick up an old pair of DPMs (the recently discontinued British combat uniform) and a jacket for a few quid and these are absolutely fine. You can also get MTP (Multi-Terrain Pattern), the current British uniform very readily now. They are lightweight, hardwearing and comfortable, as well as breathable in warm weather. Avoid denim, it is hot, stiff and gets very heavy and uncomfortable when wet.

A hat. This is one bit of protective gear sites don’t typically provide. Hits on the skull do hurt, so the more of your head that is covered the better. A beanie is fine.

Gloves. Hand strikes are a bit sore, in CQB these are vital as hands get hit a lot, in woodland they are nice to have. In winter they also make holding metal guns a lot more comfortable.

Footwear. Substantial, supportive footwear is a must, especially on woodland sites. At a minimum, hiking boots, or ideally high-ankle assault boots. You can get these easily in army surplus shops, it is worth trying on a few pairs to find ones that fit well. Also consider a thick pair of outer socks to prevent blisters.

A good sporting attitude and a good dose of honesty. If you don’t play honourably and take your hits you won’t make many friends and will probably get shot a lot to make up for it until you do. Regular airsofters hate cheating, they don’t take kindly to it. Listen to the marshals, they will give a safety briefing at the beginning and instructions during the game. They are there for your safety and enjoyment.

Everything else should be provided by the site, a basic webbing set, gun, ammo, batteries/gas, eye protection (eyepro) and face protection (facepro). Wear face protection for your first goes, at least until you know what it’s like getting hit.

13929063133_cc4a508c7c_z

Oh, three final bits of advice:

-If you’re not sure, ask a marshal. There’s no such thing as a stupid question, they know not everyone is familiar with guns and safety gear

Keep your eyepro on when you’re not in the safe area. You will get yelled at for taking it off, for you own good

-Take your time and enjoy yourself. You don’t have to be Andy McNab or Jason Bourne on your first day. No-one is.

 

The guns we build here at Vintage Airsoft are generally for the more experienced airsofter who has specialist needs. However we deal with all levels of players and are always happy to help build the gun of your dreams.

13929021655_9a1abee8fe_z

We’ll be covering in more detail the kit you may want to consider in the next post.

If you liked this content and want to see more like this, why not follow the blog or join us on Facebook?

You can buy many of our finished products in our Etsy store.

The Battle of Guadalcanal

Game write-up, WWII

Those who follow Vintage Airsoft on the Facebook page will know I attended the 34th Infantry’s WWII Pacific game last week at Fireball Squadron. I thought I would give a little writeup on the day as these games really summarise what WWII airsoft games are all about for me.

13701037_1556731174634764_6917937850205247728_o

The game format that the 34th run is based on missions. Each squad has to accomplish as many of these as they can, they choose which missions they do when. As a result, friendly and opposing teams are tracking across the field randomly, never knowing exactly where everyone else is. As a result, you can go for an hour not seeing another squad, then have a solid half-hour contact with both enemy squads!

13724076_1556730941301454_7532353967394876524_o

This randomness means you never know exactly when or where a firefight will be. You may lay an ambush carefully, wait for 20 minutes and the enemy is as likely to appear behind you as where you wanted them to be!

13710665_1556732057968009_1035743645650927127_o

For my part, I played Japanese. Our squad had a very quiet morning, only the one contact. We spent a lot of time patrolling the field, achieving lots of objectives. We came close a few times, with the US Marines clearly operating at the next set of buildings or defensive lines, but held our fire in order to complete our missions13765724_1556732241301324_3409418459314172379_o

The missions varied, there were several where we had to sabotage various facilities, placing bombs to ‘destroy’ targets. The loud bangs sometimes drew in the enemy, so it was wise to bug out as quickly as possible.

There were also search and destroy missions, where you had to simply go out and get kills from enemy squads as well as supply runs or treasure retrieval.

13717289_1556732331301315_7476387656128870935_o

For me, the highlight of the day was a Banzai charge. The squad got as close as we could to a Marine squad without being spotted, as soon as they saw us and started to fire, most of us jumped into a sprint, yelling and screaming “BANZAIIIIIIII!!!!” at the top of our voices. I went in with the Luger, firing off a magazine as I charged. About 15m away from the Americans, I copped two shots in the torso and went down. One of the great things about the format is that instead of shouting ‘Hit!’, raising a hand and walking away, you scream out and ‘die’, as dramatically as possible. This is disconcerting for people who have never seen it before but it does add to the immersion value. Once you get into it, it is also quite fun in its own right. It certainly makes taking a hit more enjoyable.

13719516_1556731347968080_3182840814547442745_o

If not all your squad are killed in a contact, there are two bandages per player that allow you to be medic’d back into the game twice. One prolonged contact in the afternoon, all my squad around me had been wounded and I was on my last Sten magazine. I ended up having to do a dance of death with my opponents, shooting and moving position, waiting for them to move up to a place where I could land my shots on them. At a crossroads in the path around which this contact happened, three of my team were lying injured, with one of the enemy.

Fortunately I had a good view of this and when people came up the path I was able to jump out with the Luger and emptied a magazine at them, taking them down. I pulled back for a bit and waited again. A Marine came back from further ahead to try and medic one of his teammates back into the game and I shot him with a short burst from the Sten. At that point enough of the Marines were out of action for me to feel comfortable healing my own teammates. Three healed, we started to pull back to our HQ, leaving the Marine squad ‘dead’ at the crossroads.

13724879_1556732327967982_3394278286955255478_o

There were also a lot of contacts where our squad got slaughtered, quickly or otherwise! One mission was to achieve two confirmed kills, we set up an excellent ambush at a checkpoint with lots of hard cover. As the US troops came into view,crossing the road about 20m away I opened fire with the Sten. Unfortunately, it turned out that both Marine squads were together at this point, resulting in our being flanked from the back, right and killed to a man!

13735656_1556731771301371_6594056660192709137_o

The sheer unpredictability of this style of game is what makes it so attractive. You have to be on the ball constantly, there is no doss period as you make your way to the start point of a mission, as soon as you leave your HQ you are fair game! You may be contacted before you reach your objective, while you are carrying out the mission or on your way back. The enemy can come from any direction, at any time. There are quiet periods, but that makes you appreciate the fight even more when it does come.

 

If you are able to make it to a game with the 34th Infantry I highly recommend it. You can find them at Fireball Squadron, near Sutton Coldfield.

 

Photographs are kind courtesy of Pedro @The Airsoft Project.

If you would like to get involved with WWII airsoft in the UK, you can find the WWII airsoft forum here.

P.S.: This rare airsoft beauty featured in the game. A Type 14 Nambu pistol, this is the first I have seen in the flesh. A truly lovely replica, with very good handling characteristics._DSF7665