Airsoft Equipment – A Starters Guide!
Airsoft can be a daunting sport to start, especially when you don’t know where to begin. Airsoft UK goes through some of the basic items you’ll need to start playing at your local field. A good question to ask at the start is, what do you actually need to play airsoft?
Eye Protection. Eye protection is a must since there are going to bb’s firing & ricocheting from all directions. It’s essential as you want to protect your vision as an impact from a pellet could result in injury or worst yet, permanent blindness. Your eye protection should have a ballistic rating sufficient to withstand at least the impact of a 500fps airsoft gun fired at point-blank range. This is obviously the worst-case scenario, but it does ensure that your eye protection will withstand any impact you may receive in a skirmish. A requirement at most UK sites is that if you are under 18 you must have full face protection as it’s usually a legal requirement as it’ll be included in the sites insurance policies.
An Airsoft Weapon. An airsoft weapon can range from a pistol to a light machine gun. You could even opt for something like a plastic knife/machete/sword, but we wouldn’t recommend it for your first game! This is where airsoft comes into it’s prime, as choosing your airsoft weapon is one of the best bits (For us at least). You’re able to fulfil any gun fantasy you’ve ever had, choosing your own loadout that you may have been inspired to pick. Whether it be from your favourite film or your favourite video game like Battlefield or Call of Duty, you’ll most likely be able to replicate your favourite gun in real life! This is the true beauty of airsoft and is why it’s a preferred sport over a lot of alternatives like paintball since you have a big element of realism.
Somewhere to play. This would usually be your local airsoft or paintball site or if you’re into milsim you could find yourself literally anywhere hanging out of a helicopter and slinging bbs at your opponent. there are sights up and down the country with games every weekend and almost every night of the week so you can always have a game. It is also possible to play on private land with the permission of the landowner however a you should also keep in mind that members of the public won’t know your airsoft guns aren’t real so will end up calling the police and that’s not good for anyone so be sensible and think about where you play.
A bit more detail/technical perspective (this section is long but will give you lots of information rarely considered by new and old players alike so read this to give yourself a step up above the competition)
Eye protection or “eye pro” as it’s more commonly referred to is without question the most important piece of kit you have in your arsenal if you can’t see the enemy you have literally no chance of hitting any of them. So it’s worth taking the time to make the right decision and this can have a lot of factors can come into play.
So lets assume you have a gun already and you’ve been practicing looking down the sights and getting what known as a “Cheek Weld”, now depending on what you have on your face will alter the position you can look down your sights, so if you find your face pressed into the stock of the gun then you will most likely need some slim face protection and slim eye protection. If you are playing with pistols then you’re going to be holding it at arm’s length so and cheek weld issue just isn’t an issue, which is why a lot of speedqb players go for the full face Dye i4. (We have a review of the Dye i4 here). Other reasons someone may choose a Dye i4 is over more low profile protection is the type of game played, in Speedqb headshots are more common and sometimes at point blank range. Another advantage of the Dye i4 is that when you breathe out, the condensation is directed down and is completely separate from the eyepro so even when you’re breathing heavily the mask will not fog. but if we look at the other extreme, milsim, now these players usually will forgo the lower face/tooth protection as engagements are more measured and less hectic, you walk a lot more and shoot a lot less so the idea of wearing a full face mask for hours on end becomes less appealing and therefore most people choose to do without. you can still have lower face protection on you and put it on when you know you are going to engage the enemy team but its those sneaky buggers waiting in the bush that collects the teeth when you least expect it.
Lower face protection has come a long way in the last few years so there’s almost no reason not to wear it. the full mesh lower is almost a thing of the last as we’ve seen the introduction of masks with mesh in the middle and material at the sides which is not only more comfortable but also allows you to get a proper cheek weld. (Click the image below to buy our reccoemnded face protection!)
You can also choose to run a mouthguard which will stop you from getting your teeth knocked out and there are even some which you can speak through properly so are a good option, still hurts when you get shot in the face though and that’s not fun and it’ll ruin your looks!
So as I touched on above there are 3 different off the shelf ways to attach your eye to your face. you can go for the over the ear option like traditional glasses, the elastic strap both thick and thin, and also a direct mount to a helmet. the main point is that you want to have a setup that is going to not only protect your face from incoming fire but also allow you to see properly with good peripheral vision and is comfortable for wearing for however long you are playing for. something that irritates you in a 30 min skirmish will bug the hell out of you after a few hours so it’s worth figuring out what works for you.
Lastly, We should mention novelty masks such as Predator or Boba Fett. I’ve seen people use these masks but most only wear one once or twice at most or if they’re a die-hard Batman impersonator. the reason is that your vision is really restricted and for a game so heavily reliant on sight it really plays as a disadvantage and so is best avoided, however saying that some of them are pretty cool and they are the best way to look like your favourite character just don’t expect to be racking up kills like them.
Other types of protection
Every game you go to someone will have forgotten their gloves and they’re not happy about it for good reason. not only do they help to reduce the pain of being shot on the knuckles but when you end up crawling up a bank covered in nettles or brambles you’ll be thankful you have them.
There are loads of gloves out there from ones with a palm and fingers 0.5mm thick to gloves with carbon fibre knuckles.
The type of glove you need depends on what your requirements are, you can get some pretty cheap gloves out there which will suit your needs. for years I’ve been using the mechanix fast fit gloves, and they are about £20 a pair but wear out after about 6 months of regular skirmishing, more expensive gloves like Oakleys will provide more protection, especially on the knuckle but do come at a higher cost. its worth noting that mechanix and PIG also do some other gloves which are worth looking into including gloves with rubber spines down the fingers especially designed to help with the impact of bbs at close range. If you’re a sniper you may not need to have expensive carbon fibre knuckle gloves but the added dexterity of a thin glove may help when adjusting your hop up and setting up your rifle/scope combination so look at the mechanix .5s
Airsoft Caps / Airsoft Hats / Airsoft Headwear:
It may sound simple but a layer on your head just to take away from the initial impact of a bb will save you more than a few headaches. any kind of hat will do but dark colours are usually better for most players (speedqb players go loud) but a hat with a brim such as a baseball cap will allow you to see better when you’re facing towards the sun. hats also help to keep your eye protection on your face (if attached under the hat) as you pass through the undergrowth. I’ve seen more than a few sets of eye protection be plucked off someone’s face by a branch mid game. Vortex does some pretty cool hats but something to sinch everything down with some sort of sun shielding ability will see keeping up with the action.
There will be a separate section on helmets and helmet setups coming soon, however, this is a big issue to cover as you have so many options with a helmet including night vision, go pro cameras, torches and more. needless to say, a helmet setup can get expensive but if you want a cheap helmet to get started you can look at the element ones which give you pretty good bang for your buck and are a good way to get started.
Airsoft Elbow Pads / Airsoft Knee Pads:
Knee pads are neglected but still relatively important, there’s a reason the top brands integrate their knee pads into their trousers or “pants” as our American cousins would say. the most painful experience I have ever had in airsoft was kneeling on a BB on a concrete floor, I was down on the floor in agony for about 10 mins and was limping for the rest of the day, and it wasn’t the first time it had happened either so knee pads are a really good idea. now despite this, I still don’t have knee pads as I’ve never found any that were comfortable over jeans so for the few times I am out of play its a fair compromise. Elbow pads are pretty subjective really. If you find yourself going prone (laying flat on your front) you may notice that the elbow pads help but I’ve never found the need for them personally. they can look pretty cool in a loadout though.
Airsoft Boots / Combat Boots:
A sturdy pair of boots with good ankle support should be one of your number one purchases, the most common injury in airsoft is actually a twisted ankle so picking something that will help prevent this will see you in the fight all day long, rather than sitting in the carpark waiting for your mates to finish. saying that, if you’re playing CQB/CQC then trainers are brilliant and allow you to more quickly and quietly, just make sure that they still have good grip as close-quarters sights can have a layer of used bbs on the floor, all ready for you to slip on.
Protecting the next generation! Most people realise that whilst getting shot in the nether regions is unpleasant and temporarily incapacitating at best, its still a rare occurrence. if you feel that your little swimmers are worth protecting you can get a box just make sure that you try all the unorthodox shooting positions and do some sprints to make sure that its both comfortable and doesn’t shift. at the end of the day if someone hits “down there” it was a bloody good shot!