Make a good impression.

Advice columns, Creating an impression

I’m writing this as I’ve seen quite a few posts recently where someone has bought a load of gear and posted their shiny, new impression that they are thrilled with – only to be put down instantly and told everything is wrong.

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Just… no. German WWII camouflage was distinctive, there are very few post-war patterns that look even remotely like it.

 

Here’s my advice to create an historically valid impression using general rules that can be applied across eras. This is more aimed at historical accuracy rather than filmsim levels of accuracy, as those guidelines are a good bit more flexible.

At a later date I, or guest writers, may produce guides on specific impressions.

1. Use pictures.

If historical impressions interest you, looking through a tonne of original photographs isn’t a hardship. The more you look at, the more you learn about how people from your chosen era set up their clothes and equipment in real life as opposed to in the field manuals.

THE CAMPAIGN IN NORTH WEST EUROPE 1944-45

When looking through pictures, try and find photographs of the unit you are portraying. This isn’t always easy, but if you are familiar with the role your unit fulfilled you may be able to draw parallels from other similar units if they worked in the same theatre at the same time.

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Yeah.. you can play airsoft shirtless. I wouldn’t recommend it though.

If you have a low quality image that  you don’t know the original source of, you can use Tineye reverse image search to potentially find more, higher quality versions and maybe even some context.

 

I have folders subdivided by units/forces/years with reference pictures in the hundreds. It sounds slightly anal when I say it like that, but if anyone questions the authenticity of something you can point to an original source and people can’t question those.

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A sound all-rounder.

If you are starting completely from scratch, Osprey books are not a bad place to pick up some of the basics. They usually have an excellent selection of colour illustrations which are taken, more often than not, from original photographs. These are accompanied by commentary on the basic items and the peculiarities to the individual.  Some of their books are very general, say looking at soldiers from a particular century, but others go into much more detail on all sorts, even WWII Croatian Legionnaires.

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As I said, Osprey get pretty darn specific….

By all means use modern kit guides. For specific airsoft ‘genres’, be they WWII, Vietnam or Cold War you will find good guides for basic impressions which are a great way to get started, but do a little of your own research and make the impression your own. I’ll include links to some of these at the bottom.

 

2. Remember dates.

Equipment changes and during times of intense war, weapons and gear can change either subtly or distinctly. As a general rule, if you use earlier equipment you can excuse it being used later. Yes, Pouch B may have been issued to replace Pouch A, but they were not all replaced overnight. There are limits to this of course, the British Army had stockpiles of 37 pattern webbing into the ’70s, that doesn’t mean it was being actively used!

 

3. Read original sources.

Military memoirs are often written with the warm glow of hindsight, sometimes looking to glorify or justify the writer. I would take them with a pinch of salt. They are however somewhat more reliable than accounts by historians if taken in context and contrasted with other sources of the same events. Let’s just say that no-one I know of used a 4.5mm pistol in WWII.

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Original sources are best. Just remember who wrote them and why!

With written sources, the closer they are written to the events they describe occurring, the more likely they are to be reliable. That said, beware of Unit War Diaries/logs. Promotions, demotions and bollockings could depend on these, so the people who wrote them made sure they and the people they needed to impress looked good.

 

I’ll include talking to veterans here as well. Remember that if someone is talking about events that happened decades ago, their recollections may not be 100% reliable but you’ll come away with a better ‘feel’ for the events that they experienced, which instil has value.

 

4. Balance the exception and the rule.

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What a pair of farbs! Oh, wait, these guys are original WWII farbs. These chaps are definitely on the far end of the non-standard spectrum and turning up like this will probably get you shot by your own side as well as the enemy!

Some people are very strict on portraying only the most average soldier, using only the most average, issued equipment. I don’t have a problem with people doing this, but remember that real soldiers ≠ tin soldiers. Yes they would do as they were told and carry what they were issued, but if you had to traipse through North Africa and Italy from 1940-1944, you would use and do what worked for you if you could get away with it.

A really good example of this insert is the low-leg tanker holster for the .38 Webley. In WWII, these holsters were used to some extent by vehicle crews, but you will see quite a few other British impressions with them.

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There’s two pictures I know of where this happened (this and a man killed in the St Nazaire Raid), from which you may surmise a couple of people did it. However this was not the norm, it just appeals to people who like the idea of some WWII-tacticool. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just don’t make every single item of your equipment simultaneously some kind of modified coolness you sourced from a dozen different soldiers.

 

5. Enjoy creating and using your impression.

Only start buying kit once you have the basics pinned down, whatever way you decide to do your research. There is a great deal of satisfaction in getting something well-researched and authentic put together and if you play with other, like-minded folks, they will notice and appreciate the effort you have put in.

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On the flip side, if you turn up to an historical event having put no effort in at all and looking like you have time-travelled in from 30-200 years in the future it’ll upset people and in a community like that you have to pull together to create an impression that makes it good for other people too. 

But remember it’s airsoft. If your magazines won’t fit in the correct mag pouches, you can either keep them in a satchel/pockets or you can find the next best pouches. The important thing is to put the effort in. Once you are familiar with a genre, keep any advice to newcomers friendly and positive!

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Links:

Osprey publishing (Men at Arms series)  Good starter books for impressions

Tineye reverse image search To find other versions of a reference image

Imperial War Museum collections Original photographs, artwork, films and objects. This website can be a bit clunky to find what you want, but worth perusing when you have time.

Bundersarchiv picture database I’ve not spent as much time on this as I would like, but loads of photographs to search through. Ideal for German impressions.

UK WWII Airsoft Kit guides for various countries including: German (Heer, Gebirgsjager, Falshirmjager, SS), Soviet, British (Infantry, Airborne, Commando, Mountain), US Infantry, Rangers, Airborne) and even a basic Japanese impression.

Cold War Airsoft have some simple kit guides for various period forces in the European theatre.

L42A1: Build 3

Cold War, Custom builds, L42A1/Enfield Enforcer, Lee-Enfield, Rifles, Weapons

The receiver in place on the rifle, a little tweaking was of course needed for the stock to fit the new action. Onto the side attaches a steel plate which is tapped for the scope.

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Another improvement is the first use of my newly designed Enfield trigger. This steel trigger drops into the standard VSR trigger unit.

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Although not perfect, it pretty closely resembles the original trigger and certainly gives it a nice pull.

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Another improvement is adding in a thick, steel custom nut. This is much stronger than the regular aluminium screw that is threaded into the original receiver.

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There’s really not much more to do on this now. I have a new scope mount design for the new receiver which needs making but there won’t be much to see on that!

 

It interested, you can see the other rifle builds here and a potted history of Lee-Enfield development here.

If you are interested in this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles. 

Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy.

L42A1: Build 2

Cold War, Custom builds, L42A1/Enfield Enforcer, Weapons

Since the last post, some of the 3D printed parts have arrived. The scope mount isn’t bad, the receiver is OK (not shown here) but both need a few tweaks to be perfect.

I’m very pleased with the shape of the 3D printed bolt parts, some minor tweaks and they will be perfect. I need to work out how to get them made in metal though as plastic simply doesn’t have the strength required for the job.

In the meantime I’ll keep using the steel handmade bolts for testing.

The receiver side plate painted. Although this will do for now I have a new design for a side plate integrated with the receiver itself.

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Moving the outer barrel off-centre means a new spacer, but it does improve the aesthetics of the rifle massively. I have also tapered the woodwork a lot more to allow use of the iron sights.

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I am also making new scope mount screws that look more the part than the temporary ones. Deep knurling makes then very nice to grip to tighten and remove, these will be oil blacked for wear resistance.

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The new screws in place. I’m going to re-dip them as the oil loosened up the flux on the joint.

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The bolt is a temporary measure, it will be replaced with a cast one once I have the kiln working.

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In the meantime it looks OK and will be oil blacked to tidy up.

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I have some tweaks to make to the receiver design and scope mount but this is the majority of the work done. The new receiver will have a steel side plate for the scope mount. I hope in the future to cast the rest of this piece.

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As you can see, it takes an original rear sight leaf. while it’s nice and secure for the battle sight, I need to make a locking system for the ladder.

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You can see the other rifle builds here and a potted history of Lee-Enfield development here.

If you are interested in this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles. 

Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy.

L42A1 Build: Part 1

Cold War, Custom builds, L42A1/Enfield Enforcer, Lee-Enfield, Rifles, Weapons

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With some dimensioned parts, I could get some bits laser cut and underway…

Receiver and scope mount first, this is a pretty simple tap, screw and weld together job by my standards!

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Once this was done, I marked out the lower stock, indicating the depth for each section.

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I then drilled to each depth to rough out the space for the internals. Once I made my way around the outside of each section, I took the rest out by chisel.

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Once it was roughly fitted, I scooped out the lower to expose some more of the receiver.

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I made a spacer/mount for the outer barrel. These parts will all be screwed into place and covered by the top guard.

For the curious, this is the magazine well design for the production rifles I intend to make for customers. I’ve played about with it a bit and it allows for a pretty fast reload with only a little practice, which makes it somewhat better suited to those up-close and personal moments than most VSR builds.

The top guard in place, waiting to be shaped.

So far, the main thing that is annoying me about this build is the barrel, which is a bit too low in the stock. I may have to revisit this at a later date and fit a wider diameter barrel higher in the woodwork, with the inner barrel off-centre.

This replica will make extensive use of 3D printed parts for the detailing. The foresight is closely related to the Sten MkV foresight I produce. The receiver and scope mount are new designs, which should fit around the existing metal parts. Although it is possible to purchase an all-metal replica L42 scope bracket it would cost almost as much as an authentic scope, so this will take a small bore scope suited to the period, maybe with some cosmetic modifications.

 

You can see the other rifle builds here and a potted history of Lee-Enfield development here.

If you are interested in this project or have an idea of your own, drop us a line on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to discuss. ‘Like’ our Facebook page or follow the blog to get regular updates on projects and interesting videos and articles. 

Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy.

LAW M72 update

Anti-Tank, Cold War, Custom builds, LAW, War on Terror, Weapons

I’ve been working quite hard on the LAW rocket launcher this month so far, with lots of plastic work!

I had the fortune to find two pieces of pipe which had corresponding inside and outside diameters, allowing one piece to slide snugly inside the other. My client had a model of an earlier type of LAW and had sent me the trigger mechanism housing from it (in green below) to work from.

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I created a wooden mould from photographs of the A7 in order to be able to form this complex shape. My initial idea was to build a vacuum former but before going to the expense of doing that I thought I’d have a go at forming with a heat gun…
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Pushing the plastic into the former.

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My second attempt, getting the sharp edge in front of the trigger is pretty well impossible with this technique without splitting the plastic or creating a crease so it looks like I’ll have to build a vacuum former after all!

I also ran some tests on nerf balls to see how they performed ballistically. When put in the end of the 50mm bore tube I was planning on using for the barrel it barely fell out the end when the grenade was actuated. I then tried a smaller bore pipe which sat just around the end of the nerf ball. This produced a much better effect, shooting it maybe 10 yards.

I decided that a slightly different approach was needed. I have been playing with the idea of expanding foam rockets as an inexpensive, disposable missile system. I made a mould up from some plastic tubing…

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The three components: the body tube (top), nosecone former (bottom right) and the backcap (left). I have inserted the tail fins into slots at the top. I am yet to make a rocket from it yet however! I think that this will produce a more ballistically viable rocket that will also be cheap to reproduce if lost.