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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