In the heart of Oakham, Rutland lies an abandoned jail that was known by the name of HM Prison Ashwell, it first opened its doors in 1955 as an open men's prison that was built on the site of a former W11 US Army base - home to part of the 82nd Airborne Division, however in late 1987 it was to become a Category C men's prison which eventually shut its doors in 2011. In 2013 the site was redeveloped as the Oakham Enterprise Park - a business park for light industrial use including offices and a gym but part of the former prison still remains and has been brought back to life by Justin and Charlotte Reffin of the Gaol events, the couple brings to players one of the most intense CQB sites in the country. The playing area includes 4 former wings of the prison to fight through, courtyard and exercise areas all surrounded by high prison mesh fencing with barbed wire on top - all adding to the atmosphere.

The Gaol is actually one of my closest sites, sitting at only 42 miles away from my hometown near Derby in the East Midlands and because the site is on a Business Park it is really easy to find, it takes me around about an hour and ten minutes due to all the tiny, windy country roads, although it is also accessible from the M1. There is ample parking on the business car park for players. Gates open at 8am for sign on and the walk on prices are £35 for none members and £30 for members - both prices include lunch and the food is great! On both of my visits to the Gaol I've been heartily fed on Cheeseburgers and Steak and Onion sandwiches! If you require a rental package they are priced at £50 and include a RIF, a mag, mask, the game fee and lunch. Although I feel the game fees are a little expensive compared to other CQB sites that I've visited, the overall experience is very much worth it.

 The facilities on site are fantastic, the safe zone is well lit clean and has working toilets for both men and female players. As you guessed from the food, the site has a fully functional kitchen that serves breakfast, lunch and hot drinks/snacks.The safe zone has 5 rooms so is very spacious however if you are going in a large group it is advisable to get there early so you can all set up together (we've learnt that the hard way haha!)

Safety stuff: All weapons get chrono'd as standard before gameplay commences and maximum limits for AEGs are 350 FPS on single shot (no full auto warriors here!), 400 FPS for DMRS and 500 FPS for Bolts with a minimum engagement distance - it is also worth noting the minimum age to play is 13. It is very close CQB, so under 18s are required to wear full face protection, if you're over 18 the minimum is eye protection but it is recommended.

During my game days at the Gaol I haven't had much interaction with the marshaling staff apart from chrono and being put into teams, there is always a marshal close by but they never seem to be 'in the way' which is great and helps the game play move forward smoothly. I have never had any issues with any other players at the Gaol and the quality of hit taking on the occasions I have played has always been very good. The regulars are a very friendly bunch and are very welcoming to new players.

What I love about the Gaol is the fact it is an old prison which is a really cool setting and it is close CQB, with plenty of cell blocks to clear and the maze to fight through but it also boasts large outdoor areas so it offers an urban style of gameplay. E wing is by far my favourite area of the prison - it is dark and full of small cells to clear with stair cases and large open rooms filled with cover. The outside area is pretty cool  - the outdoor courtyard boasts loads of cover ranging from cars,caravans, water filled barriers and containers - it also has a set of wide gates that open to allow better access for the players into the 'long drag' - a long road that ties the sites different areas together.

The Gaol plays varied games that suit the site's layout and pace including deathmatches, attack and defend games that encompass the entire site and objective games. My personal favourite games are the games that utilise the entire site such as the attack and defend game that starts in the maze and works its way into E wing and also the objective based MILAN launcher game where one team takes all three MILAN launchers, hides them around the site and defends them until the game is up. It is the attacking teams mission to find all 3 MILANS and igniting the smoke grenade on them which signifies it has been destroyed - these games are always really intense and fast paced.

Overall, I am really impressed with the Gaol, from the site itself to the gameplay and facilities available onsite for players. It is a little more expensive in terms of game day fees than I would usually pay but I feel the quality of the site and overall experience makes it worth it.

Photos thanks to Graham 'Airsoft Addict' Thompson and Ian 'Snoopy Snaps' Bell


Airsoft has been gaining speed in the world of shooting sports at an enormous rate in the last 5 or so years and with this growth comes an Airsoft presence in the world of events. The very first Northern Shooting Show was held at the Yorkshire Events Centre in Harrogate, Yorkshire and was a mix of real steel, Airgun and ‘The Airsoft Experience’ all in one show. Whilst not the first show of its kind, it has been highly anticipated by the Airsoft community since it was announced last year!

The Airsoft Experience was designed to introduce members of the British shooting scene to our sport and the team at Airsoft Action pitched up a tent to show our support! In true Airsoft community fashion there was a varied display to be seen as within the experience we saw Airsoft stores such as JD Airsoft, The Grange, Pro Airsoft Supplies and ASPUK, some of our favourite brands Nuprol and ASG, Stirling Airsoft providing fee taster sessions within their mini inflatable Airsoft skirmish site and a full Practical Pistol course so the punters could try another side to our sport to name a few.
There were many highlights of this event – seeing the highly anticipated ASG CZ 805 Bren in person for the first time, checking out some of the new products from Nuprol such as their new range of magazines and testing the latest generation of Alpha Tec Hex Grenade – 2016 is sure to be a great year for Airsofters and their kit.

The main highlight of this show for me however was definitely having a taster session of Practical Pistol with the team at the Grange, and dare I say it, since I’ve been trawling the internet looking at competition pistols and shooters belts – all in the trademark pink! (Shifting the blame onto you there Herman!) What I love about this side of the sport is that Practical Pistol is all about accuracy and speed, and the loadouts! They are brightly coloured and completely different to the Skirmish aspect. I enjoyed this so much I definitely think it will definitely become a new addiction for sure!
As well as the Airsoft experience skirmishers could try their hand at new activities such as clay pigeon shooting, archery, plinking, shooting real steel .22s and also attend gun safety talks.

Overall, the Northern Shooting Show was a resounding success, with tickets priced from £9 per day the event was great value for money! It was great to catch up with old friends and make new ones! Although I would’ve liked to have seen more retailers and brands at the show, it was great to see such a large Airsoft presence and try new aspects of our sport/hobby, and experience what the rest of the shooting industry has to offer us. I anticipate that the turn out next year will be even better! Here’s to the Airsoft Experience 2017!

Hardwick, K. (2016). The Northern Shooting Show. Airsoft Action. 63 (July), 31.


Twice a year, the Gaol, a CQB site in the heart of Rutland hosts the Midlands Airsoft fair: an Airsoft boot fair event where retailers and Airsofters can sell new products and second hand gear. On the 23rd of April 2016 The Gaol Events hosted their 5th Midlands Airsoft Fair and I made the trip to see what was new for this year’s event as the event is growing year by year.

Let’s chat a little about the venue itself! The Gaol was once known by the name of HM Prison Ashwell and was a Category C men’s prison, it was first opened in 1955 as an open prison for adult male prisoners and built on the site of a Word War II US Army base (home to part of the 82nd Airborne Division), in late 1987 it was converted to a category C for adult males. The Prison eventually closed in 2011 and in 2013 it was redeveloped as the Oakham Enterprise Park – a business park for offices and light industrial use. Part of the Prison still remains and this has been acquired by Justin and Charlotte of the Gaol events to bring players one of the most intense CQB sites in the country. The playing area of includes 4 former wings of the Prison to fight through and the outside yard areas, all surrounded by high prison fencing with barbed wire on top – all adding to the feel of the Prison. The site has a fully functioning kitchen and toilets but for the event is equipped with clean portaloos – much appreciated! The site itself is very impressive, as this was a completely new site for me I decided to make a weekend of it and play their open day the very next day and I wasn’t disappointed.

 The cost of the fair is just £5 and the price includes entry to the event, a bacon or sausage cob (roll for anyone outside of the Midlands!), and CQB games in wings of the Prison. The fair runs from 10-3 so is a great day out for Airsofters and their families. Every event there is a raffle and although the raffle ticket prices this time had increased from £2 to £5 a strip, the prize fund itself had jumped to over a whopping £2000, including some amazing prizes such as a full Tippmann set up, a Scorpion Evo 3A1 kindly donated by ASG, A SWAT VTG grenade and a game day at the Gaol – a very, very awesome prize draw indeed! Although the event is all fun and games, it does support a very worthy cause – The Pilgrim Bandits. The Pilgrim bandits are a charity set up by Special Forces Veterans to help injured service men and women believe that life is worth living again using their unique skills and training. During the event I had the pleasure to meet Terry and Michael Arnett who are a father and son team who are part of the team at the forefront of this fantastic charity. The sacrifice our Armed Forces personnel make is unrepayable and it is wonderful to see charities out there who are giving something back to these amazing people.

The fair was set in the safe zone, a wing of the prison, the kill house and inside the prison courtyard and this time around it attracted some very well-known brands and retailers indeed! Amongst the booters were well known and well-loved brands and retailers such as ASG, Enola Gaye, RS Airsoft Supplies, ASPUK, Ammo Drop and Incentive Designs. The events are always great to see what the brands are developing and the new products that they have, my favourites by far were seeing the long awaited and highly anticipated ASG Scorpion Evo hi cap magazine – Airsofters reached out to ASG regarding this and ASG, in true form delivered! The new hi cap magazine, although not suitable for MilSims, which is what I primarily use my own Scorpion Evo for, is going to be a big hit with skirmishers for sure – enabling the player to stay in the game longer! I was also really intrigued with Incentive Designs and their new hardware for Tippmann M4s – although not the only product on display from the makers of the I.D 5 – the 5 shot BFG, the venom - a flash hider that creates a flash of light to mimic that of a real firearms muzzle flash was also a big hit! And the new custom CNC’d free floating rail systems were definitely a looker! I also had a lot of fun on the day testing smokes and bangs with Enola Gaye – their purple EG18 was to die for!

As well as buying new gear, there is also the opportunity for Airsofters to sell second hand gear which means there’s always a bargain to be had and you can pick up those rare finds! There are always plenty of booters at the fair and with the pitch prices being extremely reasonable starting at £10 and an extra £3 per table hire and this is all done through their website.

In conclusion, the Midlands Airsoft is a great day out and excellent value for money – £5 won’t get you far at a lot of events these days so it is nice to see the Gaol events catering for the player, no matter what the budget! It also means a bigger budget for new kit haha, but I do feel that the event is aimed at relatively new players rather than those who already have all the gear but there is always something for everyone and it is a great day! 

Hardwick, K. (2016). Midlands Airsoft Fair April 2016. Airsoft Action. July (63), 68-69.

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