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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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.

TM L96: 308AWS to SMLE conversion

.308 SMLE, Cold War, Custom builds, Lee-Enfield, Rifles, SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

Quite some time ago, a client proposed making an Enfield with the magazine in the right place. Now, this is after the Matrix SMLE (Gas) but before the newer Red Wolf No.4, making it among the few with a magazine in the ‘correct’ place.

The simplest way to achieve this was to take a TM L96, which uses a feed ramp to take BBs from the magazine (located in the correct place for that rifle) forward to the chamber as it is effectively a VSR with an added on magwell/feed ramp system.

The first job was to modify the action/magwell to be as small as possible. I kept trimming it down until it was as small as possible without losing the rigidity required for this system.

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I could then fit to to the fore-stock.

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An original trigger guard was not an option sadly, as it did not fit around the dimensions of the donor.

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As a result, I designed a custom one. My first attempt didn’t quite look right.

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My second attempt was much better though.

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The next step was to attach the nose cap unit and top guards. 

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As with the VSR builds, I fit the metal parts before doing the shaping so that the shape fits around these. In the picture below, you can see the rear top guard has been cut away for the rear sight and sight guard.

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Cut down to size and part of the shaping done.

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It still needs to be shaped round the back end a bit to improve the grip, but the overall shape is coming together. 

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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.

New rubber melee weapons

BC-41, Cold War, Edged Weapons, Fairbairn-Sykes Knife, NR40, Products, Weapons, WWII

It’s been a while since I did a post about melee weapons, but there are a few items now available in the Etsy shop which may be of interest to followers of the blog.

 

BC-41

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The BC-41 was an early fighting knife adopted by the British Commandos. Inspired by earlier Trench Knives, this is great for an inexperienced knife fighter who can punch and slash and be fairly likely to do some damage.

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It was fairly quickly put aside in favour of the Fairbairn-Sykes design, which was much more flexible in use due to being able to hold it in a variety of ways. Ideal for the experienced and practiced knife fighter, though some would argue of questionable use to the average soldier.

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You can find the BC41 here.

 

Fairbairn-Sykes

The mould for the Second Pattern died a death recently and I reckoned it was time to do something a little different. The new knife is a First Pattern, though at a glance it could easily pass for a Second Pattern.

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As with the previous model, it is stiffened so that it doesn’t flop about. This is aided by a new rubber I am using for thin blades which is slightly harder.

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It has an optional sheath based on the second pattern version to keep costs down, though it should fit in a repro sheath if you already have one.

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You can find the Fairbairn-sykes here.

 

NR40

For the Soviets among you, the NR40 will serve you well for WWII and post-war impressions. Although it has long since been replaced in service, privately procured ones have remained popular with Russian soldiers.

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Once again, this is stiffened and uses the new rubber mentioned above to maintain stiffness on this relatively thin blade. This is cast from a reproduction but should fit in original and repro scabbards.
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The NR40 is here.

 

You can take a look at the Etsy store for these and other interesting and unusual items, but don’t forget to join us over on Facebook where there’s nearly always something interesting going on.

FG42: First production model: In pictures

Battle Rifles, Custom builds, FG42, Products, Weapons, WWII

Airsoft replica of the WWII German battle rifle used by Paratroop units. The Fallshirmjägergewehr 42 was designed to give paratroops more firepower than their the standard rifles and SMGs as well as giving them a small enough package to jump with rather than having to drop them separately in a canister.

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This airsoft version is based on a later pattern, with only full automatic functionality. Semi-automatic functionality may be achieved with the addition of a mosfet or rate of fire control unit. 

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The bipod locks up and down solidly with knurled thumbscrews, as does the foresight unit. 

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This will come with a rubber bayonet, modified from a MAS36 but which maintains the look of the original.

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This replica takes standard TM/CYMA M14 magazines for ease of procurement, inserted in reverse. The version customers will receive will also have a false fire selector that is missing in this picture.

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The charging handle can move, the current design is not sprung but I hope to fix this in future versions.

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I have been asked a few times if I will be producing an early pattern FG42. Within a few months I will be producing a conversion kit with additional parts to make it into an early pattern for those who want it.

 

You can see the build process for this here and order the FG42 and many of our other items through Etsy.*

For large items like this, payments in instalments are welcome. Please get in touch to arrange.

*At present Etsy are being awkward about selling replica firearms. Please get in touch directly on enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com to place your order

Lanchester Build: Part 1

Custom builds, Lanchester, Sub Machine-guns, Weapons, WWII

First things first, I draw out the stock template on the wood.

I took the drill to the stock and took out the detailed bits, then sawed through the rest. I’m very much looking forward to the day when I have a bandsaw to do this job…

Over in the metalshop, I bent, tacked and welded the steel parts together. On this build I am making a new magwell, but will be using the original magwell sleeve.

The fore-end of the Lanchester, showing the foresight and sight guards. These will need to be hardened to be much use I think.

Fitting the action to the stock. This is always a long job, but having recently got a hold of some lovely blue oil paint I’m improving my fitting technique and speed quite a lot!

Showing the bottom plate, which I am going to draw around to cut a nice, deep recess for.

I have cut the recess for the bottom plate deep so that the trigger reaches through to the correct depth in the trigger guard. I may need to tweak the trigger design though as at present it is a bit sticky. Far from ideal in an automatic airsoft gun!

I can finally get to my favourite bit: Shaping the stock. The Lanchester has a very slim, feminine wrist on the stock reminiscent of a P14/17 rifle. As a result it will have to rely on Lipos in the back of the receiver which is unfortunate but better than sacrificing the stock strength at the weakest point further. Even when I have carefully selected the grain to flow down through this for maximum strength there’s only so much you can do to keep it strong.

The Lanchester, pretty much roughed out. Now onto the rear sight, locking lugs and detailing!

 

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.

FG42: First production model: Improvements

Battle Rifles, Custom builds, FG42, Weapons, WWII

First things first, a locking system for the bipod. It flopped around a lot on the pre-production version so I have added locking lugs. This should hold it in both deployed and carry positions.

The new receiver and trigger group. The shape has been changed significantly, losing the fore-end entirely which allows for a much stronger wood fore-stock. The back has been extended to fill out the buttstock and support it fully.

The pistol grip has also changed to fit the new grips I am making.

I bought in some repro grips from the US and modified them with polymorph to fill in the air gap and make them really solid.

I then made rubber moulds of these modified grips and poured copies.

The new magazine well is a big improvement. It locks up very tightly on the magazine.

I have modified the Sten barrel to fit an extension. The gas port is welded directly onto the receiver.

The new foregrip in place. This is much more solid than the first version and will have a correct-looking curve across the top.

I sanded down the woodwork and stained it. Finishing it with hardwax oil.

I then cut a slot matching that in the receiver up into the gas tube for the operating handle in order to allow it to move.

Some of the new parts having their first coat of paint. I’m looking into 3D printed versions of some of these, but need to test out the strength of the parts.

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In position on the gun. 

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The bipod locked down, so far, so good!

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The new gas tube cover.

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There are a few other small changes, but this article covers the vast majority. I hope to have the first  production model completed this week!

 

If this build is of interest to you, please get in touch at: enquiries.vintageairsoft@gmail.com or join us on our Facebook page. Don’t forget you can buy our complete products via Etsy.

Spring SMLE: Complete.

Imperial Era, Lee-Enfield, Products, Rifles, SMLE, VSR SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

At long last, the first spring rifle is complete! I’m quite pleased with my first attempt at a VSR based SMLE, though there are a few tweaks I shall be making to production versions.

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I think in future versions I shall sit the action lower down in the stock to achieve a lower profile. Then I can add things like a charger bridge, maybe even splitting the back of the receiver for added authenticity.

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This example is using an original rear sight leaf. In future versions I hope to make reproductions to minimise the number of irreparably modified originals. The rear sight will also host the TDC hop adjustment mod, saving you a helpful upgrade.

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I may have to use No. 4 Enfield swivels unless I can find a way to reproduce these, swivels are becoming harder to come by.

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After the success of the 3D printed Sten MkV foresight, I have continued to use this technology here to create the outer barrel impression and foresight unit.

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The barrel has been trimmed down to fit. The VSR barrel is a little long so I removed it, cut and re-crowned it on the lathe.

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Here’s an important feature, I have lined the magazine well with steel which means magazine release should be consistent and not pinched by the wood. Other VSR Enfields don’t have this lining and I have seen magazines get stuck. There is a new design for this which I will use in the production versions to allow very fast magazine changes.

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The fake magazine is solid resin, painted to look right. There is no need to destroy a perfectly good magazine for this build!

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The original buttplate. I’m hoping to make reproduction ones for future versions. As this is an original buttstock you would still be able to fit an original if this happens.

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I’m hoping to improve the bolt handle and back of the bolt shape. However I am pleased with where it now sits, nice and authentic on the rear band you can achieve quite a good rate of fire.

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So, there are some changes to come for production but I’m very happy with this first go!

You can see the whole VSR SMLE build 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. This will be available soon.

Spring SMLE: Part 4

Imperial Era, Inter-War (1918-1939), Lee-Enfield, Rifles, SMLE, VSR SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

I’ve had the mould sitting about from previous projects for SMLE magazines. I took a resin cast from this, cut it down to size and added some screws into the top to secure to the gun. I painted it with acrylics, which are great for getting metallic and weathered finishes.

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I’ve removed the rear band assembly to do some detailing and finishing work.

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I thought I would attach a few pictures of the band before being cleaned up here as I forgot to show the build process for this part. I’ll let you work out the details…

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Markings will be kept simple for this, no attempt to replicate the originals as they would require a very random set of stamps.

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As I’m replicating various Mks of firearm I can’t use the Mk system to denote changes in the designs of the airsoft versions as ‘SMLE No.1 MkIII MkI’ is a bit confusing! However I’m not going to stamp ‘V0.1’ onto this as it would look out of place, so it will be denoted as MkI. Confused yet? Yeah, me too.

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Now it’s clean and marked up, it’s heated up and into the oil it goes for that lovely, black satin finish.

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Finally, screwing on the buttplate and some last finishing touches before assembly….

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You can see the whole build so far 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.

Spring SMLE: Part 3

Custom builds, Imperial Era, Inter-War (1918-1939), Lee-Enfield, Rifles, SMLE, VSR SMLE, Weapons, WWI, WWII

The last SMLE build post was a view of the rear sight on its own. It is now mounted on the rifle, awaiting the rear sight leaf.

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The foresight unit for this is experimental, 3D printed in ABS. This design isn’t perfect but it’s not a bad start!

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The ridge on the back was accidental, I considered cutting a recess for this to fit, but decided against it. I cut this off and filed it flat.

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A view of the back of the foresight, which has slumped a bit in printing. The next version will hopefully be more square.

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I cut a flat section at the end to take the nose cap insert. The back of the insert doesn’t reach the back of the nose cap, so there is a piece at the back cut to a curve to fit this part into. The hole drilled through is for the vertical  bolt that secures the nose cap.

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In future versions I hope to have wood going further forward into the cap itself, with the transverse nose cap screw going through it. This system is still pretty strong though as it still has a substantial bit of walnut at the front.

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In place, the eagle-eyed among you may notice that the top guard is different to the last picture of it. I’m making a new top guard that is a bit chunkier and rugged than the original for durability.

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There’s still a good bit of material to remove, but this will just be a couple of hours’ work.

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Then some alterations to the rear sight before sanding, oiling and finishing up!
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You can see the whole build so far 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.

PZB 39: Build 3

Anti-Tank, Custom builds, PZB-39 Rifle, WWII

The basic components for this build are all in place, now it is time to add in the parts that pull it all together.

Next up was to fit the buttplate, the top half of this is fixed in place but the bottom folds in to help the rifle pack up smaller for transport. 20161129_141747

In the folded position. Once the cushioned pads are in place it won’t fold quite as far as this but it allows it to fold a lot closer than it would otherwise.

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I have now planed the stock down to its rough shape, adding the grooves with the router. If I was doing this again, I would definitely make these grooves sooner as achieving a straight and level cut on this shape is quite tricky!

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The forestock needs another mounting point further back to really solidly hold it in place, I expect I will have to make some kind of band that slips around the action as the bottom of the tubes at the chamber end are all cut open to hold the airsoft parts. It may make sense to combine this with the rear sight, which is still yet to be mounted.

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The rear sight fitted in position. This is welded into place on the front. I decided not to use this at the attachment point, instead adding a second screw well behind the first one.

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Taking the buttstock home, there are a couple of bits of fabric work for this build. Firstly, the leather cheek rest, presumably added to keep the cheek away from cold metal. It certainly doesn’t provide any great cheek weld.

The second part is the cushioned buttpad, to absorb the not insignificant recoil on the original!

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The leather cheek rest is laced on so it can be removed easily. The originals were sewn on but this looks the part and makes it easier to remove and maintain.

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I have to make the carry handle covers, fit the foresight and re-assemble to paint it, but that’s the majority of work to come.

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In the meantime, the trigger unit cover and pistol grip. I already welded the grip together, at this stage I used a bolt to line up the hinge points and the grip over the cover plate. This can be tacked down so the whole unit swivels as one.

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In place. The receiver was slightly out of square, so I used a clamp to hold it in place while I made adjustments.

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Although the pivoting grip unit doesn’t cycle the action like the original, it will be useful for disassembly.

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It opens much like the original.

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At the front, I now have a cover plate for the magazine well, which can be swivelled aside to access the magazines and change them.

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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.