MattywheelsIt’s fair to say that prior to starting WW2 air soft in 2010, I had grown pretty fed up with the game. I’d been playing fairly frequently since around 2004, I was a member of a well organised, even, a ‘good’ team and had enough DPM, tactical kit and M16 derivatives in my garage to outfit a small army. Yet the rigmarole of turning up to the same site, playing the same old ‘capture the flag’ game with a bunch of ‘high cap heroes’ had led to me nearly jacking it all in and finding something else to do.

From browsing the UKASZ forum, I discovered the sub section of WW2 airsoft, that included links to the Comrades In Arms and Gunman events. From reading the ‘after battle’ reports on these pages, I was intrigued to see that the game play seemed to be more in line with how I wanted airsoft to be. There was a focus on ‘the experience’ of the everyday infantryman as opposed to the blatfest that traditional airsoft seemed to revolve around. It was obvious from reading forum postings that the participants took these events seriously and did invest a great deal of time and money into them. Yet there was a sense of humour and fun that went with it, making a refreshing change from the SAS wannabes or supposed ex-Royal Marines that seem to inhabit 99% of open day events!

focus on ‘the experience’ of the everyday infantryman

I decided that these games could provide the enjoyment factor that had been missing from my airsoft outings and started to put a loadout together. It was clear that gear authenticity wasn’t a barrier to getting involved. For every authentically tailored Wermacht soldier playing, there were others mixing and matching modern gear with traditional items that enabled them to get a look similar to the genuine article. I didn’t encounter any snobbery from those who did appear to invest considerably in their appearance, only guidance and advice that would later prove invaluable when I was weighing up whether to purchase one set of magazine pouches or another!

But the greatest test of my resolve would be booking and attending an event. Up until this time I had never attended an airsoft weekend without at least one person who I knew. I had given up all hope of convincing my team that WW2 airsoft would be more enjoyable than the open days that we were used to, so had to take the plunge and go for it all by myself.

It’s strange that even at twenty-nine years of age, the thought of going to an event alone is intimidating. After all, you’re going to be surrounded by people who share the same interests as you, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find some common ground to talk about! And yet the thought of pitching up by myself at an event did hold fears. What if my kit wasn’t good enough? What if people wouldn’t be welcoming or friendly? What if everyone was in their ‘cliques’ and I would be seen as an outsider? I decided the only way to find out would be to just to take a chance and go, so I booked onto the Comrades in Arms Visit of Hauptmann Horn weekend in April 2011 and put my fears to the test…

MattywheelsI had a four hour drive up from London to the weekend in Herefordshire, with many of the fears rattling around in my mind as made my way to the site. As soon as I pulled into the site and get out of the car, I sensed a very, very different atmosphere than I was used to at other ‘traditional’ airsoft weekend events. I had parked next to two of the organisers who when they realised that I wasn’t a familiar face introduced themselves and made me feel welcome; a manner that continued with everyone that I encountered throughout the weekend. I never felt that my kit was being assessed or graded by some of the more authentically dressed players on-site, and didn’t sense any elitism amongst the players, a major change to the average open day!

The game style was a refreshing change too. This wasn’t about firing as many rounds as possible, but on having a game plan and using strategy to achieve objectives, that were significantly more interesting than ‘capture the flag’ or hold location X etc. ‘Ragging’ the team up and down hills wasn’t on the agenda either, unless you really wanted to! With the hard going terrain, steep inclines and streams to cross, some players found it hard going (myself included). The organisers made it clear that players didn’t have to suffer hard graft if they didn’t want to or weren’t fit enough. There were other, more leisurely tasks that could be done and yet were still important to the flow and direction of the game.

The event was, without doubt, the most enjoyable day of airsofting that I have ever had. Though I have visited impressive military training sites like Copehill Down Village and Catterick, and have played on vast wooded venues such as Ground Zero in Hampshire, the gameplay and camaraderie between all the players at this weekender made the event so much more enjoyable than any scenery could provide. The organisers placed the emphasis on the basics of getting the tasks and missions right, rather than just booking a dramatic venue and then hoping that the ensuing firefight would keep the punters happy.

people weren’t playing to win, they were playing for the experience

But what made it was the people. The players were trusted to marshal themselves, so the escapism of the event isn’t shattered whenever a fluorescent jacked official looms into view, there wasn’t any cheat calling with people generally erring on the side of caution and ‘taking their hit’ if they were unsure. On top of the great sportsmanship shown, again what struck me was the manner and spirit that the event was played in; people weren’t playing to win, they were playing for the experience and opportunity to step back into a different era which for a history geek like me, was exactly the change that I have been looking for.

If you’re reading this and considering getting into WW2 airsoft, I can’t recommend it enough and I can assure you, you’ll find no shortage of friendly faces there to give you the same warm welcome that they gave me.