Creating an impression: 82nd Airborne, Italy 1943-44

Creating an impression, WWII

This is part of a new series, written by contributors outside of Vintage Airsoft itself (though I am sure I and some friends will have to do some of our own as well). Although I edit, pictures and words are from them and they have done their own research. Accreditation is at the bottom of the article.

82nd Airborne: Operation Avalanche

A less common impression in both the reenacting and airsofting community, as most loadouts are based on the Normandy Campaign.

The equipment pictured can be used for Operation Husky (Invasion of Sicily), Operation Avalanche (Invasion of Italy), or Operation Overlord (Invasion of Normandy). As the war progressed, the standard M42 jump uniform, as well as most of the equipment was phased out in favor of the M43 field uniform.

This is the one of the earliest variants of the U.S. airborne uniform that saw combat during WWII, with most jump uniforms being reinforced after the invasion of Italy in late 1943.

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Head

M1C/M2 Helmet: $99.99-345.00 (UK approx £200 from Soldier of Fortune)

The standard U.S. airborne helmet used throughout the war was the M2 “D bale” helmet. This helmet differs from the standard infantry helmet in that it uses curved fixed bales that resemble the letter “D.” This design was eventually decided to be inadequate as the bales that secured the chinstrap would often break in the field, necessitating constant repairs to helmets when returning from the field.

Due to large demands for airborne helmets, a number of standard M1 infantry helmets were converted with a jump liner and paratrooper straps to meet the demands for M2 helmets.

Eventually the M1C jump helmet was introduced to replace the M2, and added swivel bales to the helmet to prevent the bales from snapping off; however, they were not common until late 1944.

All versions of the jump helmet usually also had an airborne jump liner, which was a standard infantry liner with the addition of “A yokes” to hold the leather chinstrap. This chinstrap was used to secure the helmet to the paratrooper when jumping from aircraft.

The helmet pictured was compiled from various auctions on eBay, full M2s or M1Cs can be found at: At the Front, Jmurray and Soldier of Fortune

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Uniform

M42 Jump Uniform: $150

The M42 jump uniform was the standard uniform for paratroopers during 1943. The uniform was later upgraded with reinforcements at the knees and elbows, and later replaced by the M43 uniform.

The uniforms are common, however At the Front has the most durable and accurate for their price.

 

Khaki summer shirt: $50

The khaki summer shirt was often worn by airborne and infantry under the M42 jump uniform during the summer months. While technically not permitted, this was a common practice due to the hot climate of Italy in late summer.

What Price Glory is one of the few vendors to still sell khaki summer uniforms. (the one pictured is an original)

1937 wool shirt: $50

The standard regulation shirt (not pictured) was worn under the m42 jump uniform. This is the same shirt used under the M41 jacket by infantry; however, there are several photos of paratroopers wearing khaki shirts under their M42s instead of the wool shirt.

At the Front, What Price Glory, and other vendors have reproduction wool shirts, and originals are still plentiful.

 

Insignia

Sewing patches: Each paratrooper was to sew on their own insignia to their uniforms, this lead to a variety in the manner in which the patches were affixed to the uniform. Some would spend time meticulously sewing intricate patterns for their insignia, like the cross stitching pictured, while others would attempt to quickly sew insignia to the uniform, creating a sloppier look to the uniform. Others, especially units like the 509th parachute infantry regiment chose not to sew on a unit insignia.

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Divisional patches should be sewn onto the left shoulder, approximately the width of two fingers below the shoulder seam. American flags should also be sewn two finger widths below the right shoulder seam. Rank patches should be sewn approximately one finger width below the unit patch or halfway between the elbow and the bottom of the unit patch.

At the Front makes quality patches for uniforms, as original airborne patches are nearly impossible to find.

82nd Airborne Patch: $10
The 82nd Airborne was the first airborne division to see combat in the European theater in WWII. The division fought in Sicily, Italy, France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany.

PFC Stripes: $5
Private First Class stripes, added to denote rank of private first class.

48 Star American Flag: $5
American flags were commonly sewn on the arm of invasion forces, leading to several variants of patches or armbands to be attached to paratroopers. Often, these patches would be removed after landing, so their inclusion is not necessary.

Feet

Corcoran Jump Boots: $125-256
Jump boots were issued to U.S. paratroopers throughout WWII, and are still used today. These jump boots are taller than most other boots to secure them to the paratrooper when jumping. The boots should be polished to a shine, as this was a common sign of pride among paratroopers. WWII jump boots should be brown, and polished to a dark brown shine.

At the Front, Amazon, and most other WWII vendors sell brown Corocan Jump Boots.

 

Field Gear

For the invasion of Italy, all field gear should be OD3 (khaki), there should not be any OD7 (green) field gear, as OD7 was not common until D-Day.

Webbing set: (pistol belt, rigger pouches, canteen, entrenching tool) $175
The standard web gear for U.S. airborne in 1943 consisted of a 1936 pistol belt, rigger pouches which could hold four enbloc M1 Garand clips or five M1 Carbine 15 round magazines. The canteens should be stainless steel, as original aluminum canteens contain large amounts of aluminum oxide. The T-Handle entrenching tool allowed soldiers to dig foxholes, clear brush, and could be used as a weapon of last resort. In 1943, the standard T-Handle or shortened airborne T-Handle shovels would be appropriate.

Much of the web gear pictured are originals, the e-tool was from At the Front, and the rigger pouches were from Man the Line

1936 pack system: $60
The 1936 Musette bag and suspenders are an important part of any airborne impression. The system allowed the paratrooper to be able to jump while carrying a pack, and was issued throughout the war to U.S. Airborne forces.

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The pack and suspenders pictured are both originals.

1916 holster: $30
The 1916 holster was designed to hold the 1911 handgun, and was issued to officers, machine gun crews, and other units who were not given an M1 Garand rifle. Additionally, U.S. paratroopers often acquired 1911s from various sources and were able to keep them for the Italy jump.

The holster pictured is an original.

Gas mask bag: $20
The 82nd Airborne jumped into Sicily and Italy still using their training gas masks. These were usually discarded soon after the jump upon the realization that the Germans were not using poison gas. These training masks were replaced by the M6 gas mask and M7 rubberized gas mask bag for the Normandy invasion.

Parachute first aid pack: $14
The parachute first aid pack was a small first aid kit for the individual’s use should they be wounded in action. Soldiers were also issued a separate bandage and pouch, however during the Italy invasion, the content of the second bandage pouch were often stuffed into the M42 jacket pockets.

The one pictured is an original.

At the Front, Man the Line, What Price Glory, World War Supply, and other vendors sell quality reproduction field gear. I would recommend against buying off eBay, as reproductions are often poorly made and poorly dyed.

 

Weapon

M1A1 Carbine (King Arms): $350
The M1A1 Carbine was a M1 carbine with a wire folding stock to allow easier use when jumping from aircraft. The rifle was folded and placed in a scabbard secured to the parachute, and unlike the M1 Garand, could be immediately used upon landing. Carbines were usually issued to machine gun crews, officers, and radiomen; however, there is evidence that some riflemen were issued carbines.

The King Arms M1A1 is CO2 powered, full metal and real wood, giving it a similar feel and weight to the real version. Unfortunately, King Arms did not base their model off the WWII version of the M1A1, and therefore the rifle needs modifications to bring it closer to WWII specifications. Additionally, the rifle shoots at 487fps using .2 bbs, making it difficult to use at normal fields.

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1911 (WE Tech): $95
The Gen3 WE Tech 1911 GI model is an affordable, reliable sidearm. The handgun shoots reliably and possesses a 15 round magazine. A very capable sidearm, and one of the few 1911s made to WWII specification.

M3 Trench Knife: $50
The M3 trench knife was issued to U.S. soldiers who did not have an M1 Garand bayonet. This knife was used as both a fighting and utility knife from 1943-1945.

Rubber knives can be found on eBay for $40, while the M6 scabbard can be found on eBay separately for $20. 

Editor’s note: Other suitable main arms would of course include the M1 Garand, M1 or M1A1 Thompson. You can of course find some rubber knives in the Vintage Airsoft Etsy Store.

 

Vendors

There are a variety of vendors from which to source a U.S. Airborne impression, for simplicity’s sake, the links to quality vendors of reproduction equipment in the United States will be listed instead of the prices for individual items, which are subject to change at any time.

US: At the Front: www.atthefront.com 
World War Supply www.worldwarsupply.com
Man the Line www.mantheline.com

US/UK: What Price Glory www.whatpriceglory.com

UK: Soldier of Fortune www.sofmilitary.co.uk

 

As a rule of thumb, At the Front has the highest quality reproduction uniforms and field gear, however they are more expensive. Man the Line and World War Supply have some items that are of high quality, but others that tend to fall apart quickly. What Price Glory offers a larger selection of uniforms than At the Front, but often are lower quality.

Original items will vary in price greatly, and generally sell for approximately the same price of At the Front. USThey will be the highest quality, and most accurate, but due to age, they may not be as durable as good reproduction gear.

Editor’s note: Apart from strong items like helmets or garments not exposed to the elements such as shirts, I’d personally avoid using original items in the field as they are likely to succumb to wear or loss and it’s sad to lose a piece of history! That said I wear original uniforms for airsoft myself sometimes, just bear in mind historical value.

Text by Jacob Riley
Photos by Roger Harris

Edited by Dominic Evans

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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.

Farbmuster

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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Your can buy our products and support Vintage Airsoft through Etsy.

 

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.

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.

 

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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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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.