COW2007: Airsoft

There was a follow-up to the COW2006 Airsoft session at COW2007. We were able to use a much larger area (a field next door to the conference venue that had been previously used a grazing for cattle) that was a mixture of open grass intermixed with a few clumps of trees and the remains of a large stack of hay bales.

In the intervening period the amount and quality of ‘kit’ we had available had improved, and we looked a lot less like an armed rabble.


The tall grass proved to be an interesting challenge. Not only was it possible to lie down and not be seen unless an opponent was almost walking on top of you, it also made it almost impossible to move at any speed without falling over. Most of the participants were wearing some form of camouflage, and it was interesting to see how effective it could be.

British DPM camouflage blends in very well with the surrounding vegetation.

Another example of British DPM camouflage. In some places the grass was as tall as it looks in this photograph.

We all discovered that trying to fire lying down in grass was very inaccurate, and we all had to resort to kneeling if we wanted to stand any chance of hitting our targets.

Tall grass can provide quite good concealment …

… but does make speedy movement difficult.

Although the land we were using was private, we did take the precaution of informing the local police that we were running the Airsoft session on that field. This proved to be a wise precaution as one dog-walker did seem to be a little surprised to be confronted by a group of apparently heavily-armed men carrying out manoeuvres when he decided to cut across the field with his dog!

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COW2006: Airsoft

Not all sessions at the Conference of Wargames are based indoors, and in 2006 we ran our first Airsoft session in the grounds of the venue. (The grounds are private property and therefore no members of the public could see what was taking place. We did, however, make sure that the local police were informed … just in case!)

This was a rather experimental session as very few of us had any proper ‘kit’ … and that included the Airsoft guns that we were using. As a result we ended up looking like a rather motely group …


We did learn some useful lessons from the session, and for those who had even the most basic military training it was a practical reminder of some fieldcraft we were supposed to have learned (e.g. even a dip of less that 12″ can give a lot of cover when one is being fired at).


Airsoft

In between watching the third day of the Fourth Test Match between England and Pakistan and modifying some Heroscape™ hexed terrain (and photographing each state of the process for a ‘How to’ blog entry I will write later this weekend), I have been sorting out my airsoft gear.

For those of you who don’t know what airsoft is, Wikipedia defines it as ‘primarily a recreational activity with replica firearms that shoot plastic BBs that are often used for personal collection, gaming (similar to paintball), or professional training purposes (military simulations, a.k.a. MilSim, and police training exercises). A primary difference between airsoft guns and BB guns is that an airsoft gun uses a 6mm or 8mm plastic pellet and has a muzzle velocity of typically less than 180 meters per second (600 feet); which is generally considered safe when used in a controlled environment and with safety equipment like protective eyewear.

I became interested in airsoft when I found a shop in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, selling a lot of cheap ‘springer’ (i.e. spring powered, single-shot) airsoft guns a few weeks before a COW (Conference of Wargamers) some years ago. I took the guns along, where we played a few, impromptu games with them … and that is how the whole thing started.

Since then, airsoft sessions have been a part of most COWs, and they have actually served a very practical purpose in showing wargamers who have not had much or any military training how important ‘battle drills’ and cover – however sparse or small it may be – are on the battlefield.

Would you read a blog written by this man?
This photograph was taken during an airsoft session held some years ago during February (hence the very necessary woollen gloves!). Gloves, thick clothing and – most importantly – eye and face protection are essential safety equipment. The gun I am carrying is an AK47 AEG (Automatic Electric Gun) made by CYMA, and the ammo pouch is a genuine ex-Yugoslav Army item; I know, because when I bought it there were four empty AK47 magazines (still in their greased paper wrappers) inside it!

Those cheap guns are long gone … but over the years (and before the Violent Criminal Reduction Act came into force; this Act makes the buying and selling of airsoft guns in the UK much more restricted than it previously was) I acquired quite a collection of guns. These need fairly regular maintenance and checking, and today was a day when I had enough time – and space – to do it.

I have not had the opportunity over the past years or so to take part in any airsoft battles, but one of the leading retailers recently opened a CQB (Close Quarter Battle) venue less than three miles for where I live, and hopefully I might be able to go along there soon and take part in an evening session.