“Here. You’re gonna need this.” Jason said as he hands me a heavy winter hoodie.
“Thanks.” I reply, zipping up the jacket.
“Don’t forget the mask.” Jason continued, “You want to put it on after you pull the hood up. It keeps the hood from flopping off.”
The mask crooked my glasses, but I didn’t notice. It was 91 degrees outside and I was wearing late fall/almost winter cloths and getting ready for my first assault.
Welcome to the world of Air-soft. Unless you’ve been in another country for the last five years, you know that Air-soft is a less vibrant version of paint ball. It’s supposed to be less painful too. Instead of firing dime sized plastic balls of paint, Air soft fires a hollow pellet that is only 6 millimeters in diameter (smaller than an eraser on the end of a pencil). It’s supposed to be less painful, but I had to question that after seeing some of the “battle wounds” my coworkers showed off on the Mondays following a Saturday excursion.
It was my coworkers that dragged me into this in the first place. Like all things, it started with just two guys showing off their hardware and talking about good times. Before I knew it, everyone but me was playing and most had their own guns.
The guns they chose aren’t what I’d call cheap either. You can find entry level handguns starting at under $10, but the guys at work averaged their purchases at over $120. To me that’s a huge investment, given that I’ve never played before. (Plus the fact I have a $100 bike that I bought two years ago silently collecting dust in the garage.)
My coworkers don’t seem to have this problem though. They are fully enthused with this hobby. They spend hours prepping the field next to one of their houses by cutting paths, building berms, and setting up objects to be used as cover. They even went so far as to gather up a few unwanted sheds and put them together to use as a “shoot house” that one team would defend while the other would attack.
I was reluctant to join in the fun. I honestly could see no reason to run around in the hot Florida sun just to get shot at. But then, I quit running around at full sprint after high school. A relaxing hike is more my speed.
Reluctant or not, my coworkers made sure that I at least tried the sport before knocking it. Jason suggested that I could just watch them play and then decide if I wanted to join in.
Seeing how badly they wanted me there, I couldn’t refuse. Besides they were right. It wasn’t as if they were asking me to go sky diving or swimming with sharks, they just wanted to play an old fashioned war game. It wasn’t going to kill me.
So I went along and brought my camera. I can see good potential blogging material when it’s staring me right in the face. I watched as they got ready to play. I was impressed with the concerns of safety. They wore heavy clothing to absorb the impact of the pellets and had spent extra to get the upgraded face masks that also covered the ears. Then I moved to a better vantage point as they broke up into teams and started to play. It was three against two.
The two were hunkered inside the shoot house while the other three tried to assault it and take command.
The ones inside had the advantage. The multi-shed “shoot house” was placed on an empty house pad that was raised four to six feet above the surrounding ground. Not only did those attacking the house have to run across the woods to cover, but they also had to charge up that incline to get into the house. Those inside the house had better cover from a front attack and the advantage of higher ground.
Some of the attacking force did well and made it into the multi-shed house before getting shot. None ever did take the house though. I think the attacking team was “killed” five times before they called the round over.
Then it was my turn. Jason asked if I wanted to be in the house or attack it. I went for the attack. Jason, Lou Jr. and I would attack while Matt and George would defend the stronghold.
I can’t prove it, but I think the guys took it easy on me. I made it all the way up to the incline before I got hit.
“Ow! I’m hit!” I yelled as I felt a sharp sting on my chin. Matt had got me with a very lucky shot for that pellet either threaded its way through one of the breathing slats on the mask, or I had held my head at just the right angle to let the flying pellet come up under the mask.
Matt stood roughly six feet away from me and was apologizing. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think you were so close.”
I told him not to worry about it. Playing air-soft is like playing hockey. You don’t apologize for slamming the other player into the boards. It’s part of the game. Same with Air-soft. Getting shot is part of the game. He apologized even more after he found out the pellet had drawn blood. (400 feet per second at only 6 feet away will do that.) Again I told him that it’s part of the game.
I did that part fairly well that day. The goggles stopped one pellet from hitting me between the eyes. George rained a hail of pellets over the cover I used and hit me multiple times on my upper forehead. (My wife just chuckled and said; “Uh-huh” when I told her I hardly felt those hits.) I also took a good hit on the upper thigh. That one I felt. It didn’t cut me, but it stung. By the end of the round I was sweating and tired.
The guys took a break to rehydrate and reload. Everyone was drenched in sweat. 91 degrees and wearing heavy hoodies and blue jeans will do that. The guys decided to do a free for all with no teams. I declined that opportunity. I did take the time to talk to Lou Jr. and find out more about the game.
There is way more to it than I ever realized. The hundred plus dollar amount the guys had spent was barely entry level money for the hard core group. Evidently some rifles cost up to the thousand dollars! And there are modifications and accessories galore. From high powered batteries, to different sized pellets, to scopes and laser sights, there are many ways to expand on the airsoft sport.
I never asked if there was an official team or club, but I bet there is.
What I can say is that it was fun and I had a good time playing. I just wish the guys would do it on cooler days, like January.
Oh. and for all those who have read this and are begging for the expected here you go.