So, you like airsoft? Part Two B: Gear

Advice columns, Get into airsoft series, Protective items

Preface:

This is intended as an introduction to airsoft, it is a general guide to airsoft in the UK, though many of the points here will be the same abroad.

Part One is a really basic starting point

Part Two A looked in detail at eye protection

This is Part Two B looking at equipment

Part Two C  will look at guns finally!

Part Three will look at specific airsoft genres.

If you would like to read more about getting into airsoft you can find all of our articles HERE.

So, you’ve tried airsoft and you like it!

So, you’ve been to a couple of games, you have decided what eyepro is best for you and now you need to get the rest of your kit.

Facepro

Facepro (face protection) isn’t compulsory on most sites in the UK. Some people wear it all the time, others never wear it. If you don’t like being shot in the face, that’s pretty understandable! But don’t whine about it, wear protective gear or you only have yourself to blame. BBs have a magnetic attraction to bare flesh! If your local site is a CQB site, full face protection is highly advisable.

As mentioned in the previous article, you can get integral goggles and face protection, but re-read that section if this is what you are considering.

Most face protection is a shaped piece of mesh with padded edges that covers your lower face, most of your nose and the jaw. You wear this in conjunction with goggles and this is by far the most commonly used and allows you to easily switch between mesh and clear goggles between games if you need to. It offers pretty good protection all round but there are usually gaps around the ears, throat and sometimes between the goggles and the mask.

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It is possible to get extra protection for the ears, mesh cups that cover them to prevent some of the most uncomfortable hits in airsoft. These usually are suspended from the helmet/headgear. You can also get plates that mount onto fast helms.

It is possible to go an extra level and get all-in-one ear, face and throat protection. These look ludicrous but do have fewer gaps in for BBs to sneak past.

If you want to go ALL the way you may wish to get a whole head covering. This is essentially a mesh mask as described above but forming a ‘bubble’ around the whole head. You will end up looking like a martian, but at least you won’t get shot in the head!

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Many airsofters don’t like wearing full facepro, finding it claustrophobic or stuffy, myself amongst them. I wear it for CQB and that is about it. There are, thankfully, other options available. Many airsofters wear a scarf, shemagh or similar that they can pull up around their face if they get too close for comfort. Although this takes the edge of shots that would otherwise sting or leave a mark, an unlucky shot in the teeth may still do damage. Without practice you may also find that the scarf slips down or moves around annoyingly. It also can cause your clear eyepro to steam up worse than usual.shemagh_lg

A major reason for face protection is to shield the teeth which can be chipped, knocked loose or out completely by an unlucky shot. Some players wear a gum shield to prevent this. Although effect at protecting the teeth, you cannot communicate clearly to your team mates and you may find yourself dribbling randomly during a game.

 

The latter two options are popular among airsofters who use a particular ‘loadout’. They are much more discrete and don’t clash with an historical outfit-nothing ruins a really good, old uniform like modern facepro! This is particularly important when playing games with high immersion value such as WWII, Vietnam or Filmsim/Milsim. If you do need to wear facepro for these games, try and keep it unobtrusive out of respect for the other players!

 

Gloves

There are so many options for gloves. They can add to a load-out if they look right for it and provide some hand protection. The right gloves also act as camouflage, as (especially white) bare skin stands out in woodland or open spaces and doubly so in the dark.

The most popular ones are ‘armoured’ tac-gloves. These are fairly thin fabric to allow easy weapon handling on the inside of the hand but have either hard foam or plastic panels on the back to take the edge off hand shots.

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Woollen gloves. These are great for winter as they provide warmth as well as protection, however they don’t give you a great deal of grip.

Leather gloves. For me the best option, but the most expensive. If you shop around you can find a pair of unlined or very thinly lined leather gloves which take the edge off hand shots but don’t sacrifice dexterity or grip. You have to look after your leather gloves, keep them moisturised, clean and not dry them too quickly after a wet or muddy game day. Whatever you do, get the types without large, external seams as these cause issues interacting with the trigger and control surfaces.

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Fingerless gloves are available in all the above types. For wooden gloves they provide a much greater level of dexterity and grip than full length ones, and significantly improves this on a cheap pair of ‘armoured’ gloves. For leather gloves there isn’t so much point as a good-fitting pair acts as a second skin.

Headwear

With headwear, you have two main categories: Soft and Hard. Both protect to some extent against BB strikes which do hurt on unprotected scalp, but some have extra functionality.

Soft headwear: beanies, balaclavas, snoods etc… are great for winter wear. They are warm and protective. Balaclavas and snoods can also be used as impromptu facepro if needed. Caps, shemaghs and sunhats are great for summer as they are a little cooler. Some kinds of sun hats (with stiff brims) are also good for winter as they keep the worst of the rain/sleet/snow off your face. They can also be used in conjunction with a scrim scarf to break up the shape of your head and shoulders, which is a major visual indicator that is likely to give you away.

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Hard headwear or helmets stop you from feeling the BB directly. Fast helms are popular at the moment, a lightweight, round helmet that fits over the top and back of the head and can be had in a variety of colours and styles to suit your load out. They also have rails and mountings for accessories such as NVAs (Night Vision Aids), cameras, monoculars, glowlights or pretty much anything else you can imagine.

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This is a personal preference above all else. I use a British WWII-era MkII Brodie helmet with a hessian cover for my regular skirmishing, it keeps the sun out of my eyes, my head dry and the cover is now painted in drab colours to break up its distinctive outline. While protecting my head from BBs, it has a unique ‘ting’ noise it makes when shot so I still know when I am hit.

With helmets it is easy to make or buy a suitable camouflage cover for most models, some it is even possible to create a cover that breaks up the outline of your head and helmet, which is no bad thing for camouflage.

Load-carrying equipment

There are a few sub-categories of LCE. What you go for depends on both your personal preference and the airsoft gun you are using. If you are running a particular load out do some research into the webbing kit the originals use/d, but bear in mind that it won’t always be suitable for the airsoft version of the gun you are using. For example the US WWII rifle belt won’t take airsoft M1 Garand magazines, as they are about 4-5 times the size of a Garand en-bloc clip. Some WWII US  airsofters use Rigger pouches to get around this, the equipment maintains the look of the outfit and is more practical than wearing empty webbing, carrying all your ammunition in a satchel.

This aside, there are three main types of LCE:

Webbing

This is the traditional way of carrying your equipment, used in various forms since the introduction of firearms from the apostles of the early musketeers to recent times when it has been supplanted in Western military doctrine by plate carriers.

Generally, this consists of a belt, a pair of shoulder straps and an array of pouches that attach to the belt or shoulder straps to carry your equipment. Modern (1930s onwards) webbing allows you a reasonable degree of modularity, allowing you to customise your webbing kit for the gun/sidearm/equipment you carry and where items are located for ease of use.

37 pattern webbing

37 pattern webbing

In the UK, webbing pouches have gone through a phase of being fairly universal until recently. Both 37 and 58 pattern webbing has two large utility pouches at the centre of the equipment that can hold pretty well any magazines you can think of. You can then add supplementary pouches/holsters/packs to carry any other equipment you may need.

58 Pattern webbing in Northern Ireland.

58 Pattern webbing in Northern Ireland.

Although there were a couple of small-scale attempts to replace 58 pattern webbing, the only really successful one was with the 95 pattern, or PLCE (Personal Load-Carrying Equipment). This is a much more dedicated webbing set, designed to work around the L85 (SA80) weapon system. This webbing can be used for other rifles that take similarly designed magazines however.

95 Pattern/PLCE Webbing

95 Pattern/PLCE Webbing

Between 58 pattern and 95 pattern these are the two cheapest options for an entry-level webbing set in used condition. 58 Pattern in particular will cost £15-20 for a full set including poncho roll and large pack.

Chest Rigs/assault vests

The chest rig has never seen much use in western militaries, though they have been experimented with. In the Far East however they were ubiquitous in all the small, anti-communist wars, particularly favoured by groups such as the Vietcong. They are particularly popular for use with the AK-47 and its cousins.

AK47 chest rig as used in Vietnam.

AK47 chest rig as used in Vietnam.

The chest rig is typically (though not always) a pre-determined set of pouches for carrying ammunition for a certain firearm. It is much cheaper than modular webbing so is a popular choice for less well-off militaries who just need to equip as many people as possible for the least cash. It carries all the weight around the chest rather than at the waist like webbing.

An assault vest is the next step up, pre-set pouches mounted on a vest-like structure that covers the whole torso. Usually you have an array of magazine pouches for a specific weapon, some utility pouches and possibly pouches for grenades or communications equipment.

Plate carriers

The plate carrier is the standard today among well-off militaries. It combines a lot of advantages of the chest rig and webbing.

The base component is a body-armour plate carrier, traditionally a separate piece of equipment, on which are mounted rows of straps onto which pouches can be attached in any format the user desires. This is a popular choice among airsofters as it allows a great degree of modularity depending on your kit and provides a bit of protection from BBs.

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What you go for depends on your load out to a great deal. If you just want a load out that works then just pick what you like! Personally I use 37 pattern webbing most of the time as it allows me to swap between my Sten and M14 easily without changing pouches, though having recently acquired a GBB (Gas Blow-Back) M16A1 this may need to change, as the magazines don’t fit very well in there!

By all means research what load-carrying gear you may need but wait until you have decided on your airsoft gun before deciding, you want to avoid having awkward to use webbing. Unsuitable webbing makes it very hard to play effectively!

 

Don’t forget, if you would like to read more about getting into airsoft you can find all of our articles HERE.

 

Don’t forget to ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on our projects and interesting videos and articles.

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

 

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So, you like airsoft? Part Two A: Eyepro

Advice columns, Customer Reviews, Get into airsoft series, Products, Protective items

Preface:

This is intended as an introduction to airsoft, 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!

 Part One, a really basic starting point is HERE

This is Part Two A and will look in detail at eye protection, Part Two B at equipment and Part Two C at guns finally!

Part Three will look at specific airsoft genres.

 

So, you’ve tried airsoft and you like it!

That’s great, I don’t blame you! So you’ll want to start assembling your gear. Before I get to the fun stuff, here’s the important bits:

Eyepro

There are quite a few options for eye protection. Some eyepro is airsoft specific, some is general. I’ll not go into specific requirements for eye protection standards but will show some pros and cons of each type.

 

Safety specs.

These aren’t really designed for airsoft, though they are used. These usually (but not always) meet the minimum safety requirements for airsoft but you should always test them before relying on them for protection.

These are usually inexpensive, and the most discrete to wear. However some goggles do have a gap around the edge, which can leave you vulnerable to BBs getting through this gap.

All clear eye protection fogs from time to time, with warmth and sweat or moisture in the air. Safety specs do have an advantage over other forms of eyepro in that you can reach into them to clean dirt and moisture in the field without taking them off. If you get fogging then you can wiggle them up and down to clear them in a few seconds.

Because of their low profile, they are popular with themed airsoft games such as WWII and Vietnam. They are also a good choice for snipers as you are unlikely to get lit up at close range so the reduced protection is less of an issue, but the ability to clear them is vital and they don’t get in the way of a scope or clunk on the buttstock.

You can get larger lab specs that go over spectacles, but these have large gaps around the bottom typically so be wary of them.

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Safety goggles.

These are the next step up. A good pair of safety goggles wrap all round the eyes and it will be pretty well impossible for a BB to get past them. As far as safety is concerned, these are the safest eye protection.

However due to the reduced capacity for air flow, these are likely to fog and are harder to clean in the field, but this can be done with practice. Some higher end goggles have fans built in to improve this, other use a thermal lens to keep mist at bay. Some less expensive goggles may distort your view at the edges. Any large goggles can get in the way of rifle stocks for aiming, which can be an issue with using sniping scopes. However if you wear spectacles, these are a valid option.

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Mesh.

There are two main types, large goggles and small ones. Large ones protect the full eye area, small ones just cover the eyes themselves. These have the profound advantage of not misting up or getting smeared.

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However, cheap mesh goggles do have their drawbacks. Cheap BBs can shatter on impact and small fragments can get through. The large goggles can get in the way of aiming on some guns, but some thin glasses can be worn beneath them. In bright sunlight, the light can dazzle through the holes, which is distracting!

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Full face protection.

It is also possible to get eyepro built into full face protection, either in mesh or clear form.

While this provides a pretty seamless level of protection across the whole face, if you use clear eyepro in this format it will still mist up and cleaning it is nigh-on impossible in the field. However some versions do have built in fans or thermal lenses to help offset this. If you wear glasses with these, both the lens and the glasses themselves may fog and you won’t be able to clean either! Some face protection can cause issues with aiming certain guns.

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You can also get themed full facepro if you have a specific load out you’re aiming towards. For example, I make the WWI tank crew spatter mask for this purpose, but you can also get gas masks, horror masks, replica faces and so on!

Prescription eyepro

If you decide to take you airsoft seriously and need glasses, you can get safety specs and goggles that take prescription lenses. They are usually better than the average safety specs and of course allow you to see very clearly. As ever with clear eyepro, they will still mist up from time to time.

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Some final eyepro tips:

1. In an ideal world, shoot any eyepro you have to test it before you use it. If it’s a pair of inexpensive safety specs, get two pairs and test one. Use a 350fps gun in full auto at close range, test the frame and the glasses themselves. Any signs of cracking or splintering then do not use them. If you have access to a DMR or sniper rifle (450 to 550fps in the UK) then it is also worth testing with them to simulate a worst case scenario. When you have tested your first pair, use the second as impacts can degrade the protection. 

When testing eyepro like this, WEAR EYEPRO. Just in case you forgot that BBs can take your eye out…

2. There are dozens of different standards for impact ratings, but not all are suitable for airsoft. This is why I recommend the above test before any skirmish use.

3. Anti-mist for clear eyepro is a constant debate. Honestly, I think mist is nearly unavoidable and when I remember, wash my goggles and specs in a detergent solution which largely keeps it at bay. Carry some clean blue tissue around with you for a cheeky wipe in the field if needed, most sites have a stock.

4. DO NOT USE SKI GOGGLES. These and other related forms of eye protection are not designed to protect against impacts. They will shatter and send splinters into your eyes.

 

Sorry for such a long post on this, but there is a lot to cover! Next time we will look at webbing, helmets and other more exciting equipment.

 

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

Face protection: British WW1 Tank crew mask

Products, Protective items, WWI

My first remark on face protection in airsoft is that you don’t generally need it, especially in woodland/outdoor airsoft where you are usually at some kind of range. The exception I will make to this rule is in CQB (Close-Quarter Battle) sites. Sadly at my first CQB game I forgot my hat/balaclava and came home looking like this:

why you need face pro in CQB

The missus was not pleased and quite frankly, neither was I! So time for some suitable face protection for this CQB malarkey.

There are a few options, gas masks are an obvious choice but can be a pain for air circulation and temperature. However for the British there is another option, not strictly correct for WW2 but it fits in with the aesthetic of the era better than modern mesh and plastic.

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These spatter masks were worn by French and British tank crews during the Great War (1914-18). These hardened leather and steel masks had several narrow slits for viewing and chainmail lowers to prevent shrapnel caused by rifle fire from injuring the faces of the crew.

 

The build naturally started with some designing in Qcad, followed by some steel laser cuttings…

The first rendition had 2mm high slots for the eyes and the strap attached via broad hooks on the sides. However this didn’t feel secure enough for use in a skirmish.

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It did however give me chance to practice working the leather to fit this tricky shape…_DSF6945

With the leather in place:

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The second version featured square strap lugs built into the shape and holes to mark the position of the eyelets to hold the chainmail.The vision slots are also narrower at 1.2mm.

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I have lightly oil blued this with WD40 to remove the shine and lessen rust.

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With leather fitted.

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And with the chainmail piece as it came out of the envelope! This piece is slightly small but on the next version it will stretch from side to side.

Before attaching the chain mail to the mask I slightly heated the rings and sprayed with WD40 to take the shine off and help fight rust.

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With practice, I hope to get the leather closer fitting. Like in the first version.

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But overall I’m very happy with it! As with all mesh-type masks some BBs do fragment and pass through, but these will be sold with a pair of clear safety specs for people wishing to use them for airsoft.

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If you are interested in buying a mask like this, do let us know on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com or contact us through our Facebook page. They will be for sale on our Etsy page if there is enough interest.