Hey everyone!

Valken V12 Optima BLOCK-I DST
So those of you who have been following the blog over the last four weeks will have seen my December HPA series where thanks to Valken I have been exploring the world of HPA! From the set-up itself and what is needed to run HPA, to reviews of one of their HPA airsoft guns and even HPA specific kit I’ve looked at all the aspects of the system. Now is the time, after running the set-up through its paces, to consider the pros and cons of HPA and decide if I’ve become a HPA convert!

Since I started playing airsoft 3 years ago I have been an almost exclusive AEG user, opting for the simplicity of battery powered airsoft guns. I have dabbled in GBBRs and HPA only a couple of times but never set myself the challenge of running ONLY HPA for an extended period of time. Over the last 2 months, I’ve really enjoyed learning about and using a HPA weapon system, from the range and consistency they have out of the box.

Valken V12 Optima BLOCK-I DST
Let’s first look at the pros of HPA systems:
  • ·         Not affected by cold temperatures
  • ·         Less mechanical stress on the gearbox
  • ·         Quiet
  • ·         Easy to change the FPS/ROF
  • ·         Great trigger response (instant)
  • ·         Steady air flow means more consistency

The pros for me heavily outweigh the cons and are as above. What I love about HPA systems is that they are really fun to use, they are consistent and perform well in any weather! Unlike GBBRs they aren’t affected by cold weather which really helps during winter in the UK! How quiet they are definitely gives you a tactical advantage, especially in woodland environments which is really helpful for sneaking around and picking off the enemy team.

Valken V12 Optima BLOCK-I DST
The internals of the weapons generally goes through less mechanical stress because of the nature of HPA weapons too, which prolongs the life of the weapon – great for those of us who play week in and week out. The steady airflow makes them more consistent and when you pair this with the instant trigger response, they are a pleasure to use.

And now the cons:
  • ·         Tank and line
  • ·         System still needs a battery
  • ·         Tank needs to be filled
  • ·         Isn’t just plug and go like an AEG

The cons of HPA are as follows: you will always have a tank and line connected to you which means added weight and the line can get snagged on objects when you’re running around so this has to be taken into account, you still require a battery in the system to power the FCU and the tanks need to be filled regularly by individuals who know how to do so safely so there is definitely more to think about than a regular HPA gun!

Valken TRG-L AEG
Many people describe the transition to HPA as ‘learning how to airsoft again’ which I wholeheartedly agree with! HPA systems are definitely something you want to read the manual for  -  when I got this out of the box and hooked it all up I managed to completely mess up the nozzle timing settings (meaning it didn’t feed) when playing about with the FCU. The adjustment to HPA is an interesting one as there are so many other factors to think about, from learning how to use the regulator to setting the pressure it can be a little overwhelming but once the rifle is set-up it general needs very little maintenance.

Valken TRG-L AEG
At the start, I wasn’t quite convinced on running HPA systems but after seeing the performance outdoors I definitely feel like I’ve been converted.

You can check out my review of the Valken TRG-L AEG here and my review of the Valken V12 Optima HPA rifle here

Post sponsored by Valken Tactical
HPA images by Pewpewpatriot
AEG images by L Sibley Photography


On the weekend of the 2nd September 2017, ASPUK and Camp Sparta in Kirton Lindsey hosted the very first Northern Airsoft show where retailers and booters came together to put on a show dedicated to all things airsoft. I am a big fan of airsoft boot shows!

Camp Sparta (formerly known as RAF Kirton) is a 31 acre FIBUA airsoft site that has 500 playable rooms along with in-game vehicles. The site itself is pretty epic, from the courtyard that houses large shipping containers to fight in and around, to the onsite vehicles that are scattered around the site to the buildings that tower over the internal roads of the site. It looks like something out of a zombie apocalypse movie after the virus has spread. It made a great backdrop for the show.

The day started at 7.30 for retailers, 9.30 for car booters and 10am for the public -  as Kirton Lindsey is a 2-hour drive from where I’m based in the East Midlands I left my house just after 8am. When I arrived on site I was warmly greeted by the marshals directing the cars in and I was told where to park. It is worth noting that the postcode on Google Maps doesn’t take you to the site itself, but rather a little village a 5 minute drive away so I did spend a good 10-15 minutes driving around trying to find the site – I feel like the organisers could eliminate this by signposting the event on the roads leading up to the site. There was however ample car parking space for all the cars on site that day and many more.

The on the door ticket price was £7, which is a little more expensive compared to the other airsoft shows that the community has seen but I feel for a day out (I was there from 10 to 4pm), it’s still pretty good value for money! Food isn’t included in the price but the onsite caterers were reasonably priced and had some good meal deal offers ranging from jacket potatoes to hot dogs.

As you walked from the car park to the show itself you were met with the sounds of airsoft guns being fired in the ranges, stalls everywhere and show goers buzzing around the stands waiting to get their hands on new shiny airsoft goodies! The show was set up around the safe zone/signing in building and the immediate ground around it which gave It a massive area to fill. The rooms inside the safe zone were packed with the tables of retailers showcasing their goods and there was a buzz of customers throughout the day. Retailers on the day included: Fubar Bundy Airsoft, Nuprol’s ‘Red Van Man’ Trent, AimCam showcasing their shooting glasses with a built in 4k camera, Valken Tactical, ASPUK and Sniper One exhibiting their made in Britain Sniper One tuning kits!, The Grange Live Gaming, Ammo Drop, DZC Tactical showing their custom made tactical kit and chest rigs, the Camp Sparta onsite shop, High Pressure Airsoft, QM Supplies and others so there really was something for everyone on the day, from sniping to practical pistol, the show had it covered.

Luckily enough the weather was absolutely glorious which meant that the outdoor area was buzzing with activity as well. The outdoor area held the two gun challenge that was run by The Mill Huddersfield Practical Shooting Club. Competitors went head to head with each other to hit the targets in place and the winner was named as the champion of the day! It was a fun task for punters to take part in and test their skills! There was also the chance to try out the new Sniper One tuning kit for the TM VSR endorsed by none other than Sgt. Dan Mills which was another cool activity for airsofters to give a go on the day! The outdoor area also held the car booters which had tables lined up with anything from RIFs to mags, sights and even rails of surplus kit. The great thing about airsoft boot fairs is that there’s always someone looking for what you’re selling, meaning these events are a great opportunity for airsofters to shift some kit and raise money for their next purchase!

The day was in support of the Pilgrim Bandits charity (who are also Airsoft Actions charity of choice!) who are an amazing bunch of guys who raise money for injured veterans and help them live life to the fullest once again – from sponsored skydives to walks up Snowdon the Pilgrim Bandits give our injured service personnel opportunities to look forward to. On the day there was a huge raffle in aid of The Pilgrim Bandits and the prizes included: Tasmanian Tiger Modular Pack worth £200, Tasmanian Tiger Roll Up Bag worth £48, 2 x Nuprol Day Packs worth £55, a pair of AimCam glasses worth over £200, a RIF by Valken worth over £120 and many more goodies including BBs, gas etc up for grabs and for £3 per strip it was affordable! There was also a collection on the day and promotional goods being sold in aid of the charity. At the time this write up went to print we were still waiting the total amount raised on the day! One thing I love about these events is that the airsoft community can come together to raise money for such worthy causes. 

When all is said and done, I had a really good time at the Northern Airsoft Show – it was great to catch up with everyone, check out the stands and what they had to offer and of course to meet so many of the airsoft community. My only criticism is that in hindsight, it was a little ‘over-hyped’ and there were retailers that were announced that did not attend which meant the show was smaller than anticipated. The day overall I felt was a success and the team did well to organise such an event, I’m definitely looking forward to the next Northern Airsoft Show. Next year I’d love to see it bigger and better than ever!

Hardwick, K. (2017). The First Northern Airsoft Show. Airsoft Action. 81 (December), 50-51.


Hey everyone,

Today I’m continuing the HPA posts for December with my review on the Valken V12 Optima BLOCK-I DST as featured in my HPA set-up post!

Let’s talk about the externals first of all! The V12 Optima BLOCK-I DST has a lightweight polymer upper and lower receiver with a 9.5" modular polymer free float rail system. Its free float rail system has a full-length top rail for Picatinny mounted optics and accessories, included in the box are fibre reinforced polymer front and rear adjustable sights. Inside the free float rail system is a 9.5" aluminium outer barrel and flash hider with a 14mm cc thread. It features a Nylon plus fibre pistol grip, an adjustable crane stock and a single point steel sling mount point.

It has some pretty decent internal features including an enhanced Nylon adjustable rotary style Hop-Up, a 6.03mm Diameter Copper Inner Barrel, a pre-installed Valken V12 engine, the Valken V-12 Grip Connect System. It has trigger/LED trigger controlled programming that doesn’t need any tools or disassembly that controls everything from nozzle-timing to rounds per second. One of the clever features the rifle has is the program lock-out mode which allows the player to limit their rounds per second and fire modes to encourage fair play, and to comply with different rule sets and site limits.

How easy are they to use? Well, this is definitely something you want to read the manual for as HPA systems aren’t ‘plug a battery in then go’ like regular AEGs. In fact, when I got this out of the box and hooked it all up I managed to completely mess up the nozzle timing settings (meaning it didn’t feed) when playing about with the FCU. After I did a factory reset, which is easy to do and is detailed in the manual, it was smooth sailing from there. The factory settings are the recommended settings so if you are a complete HPA beginner, like me – run the rifle on its factory settings! The adjustment to HPA is an interesting one as there are so many other factors to think about, from learning how to use the regulator to setting the pressure it can be a little overwhelming, but the benefits for me definitely outweigh the positives.

How does it run? This is the thing, HPA systems are REALLY fun to use, and they’re pretty quiet which can be advantageous. I have put this through 3 game days and I was most impressed with its performance outdoors in sub-zero temperatures. It was consistent even in the cold, the range was really impressive and I didn’t mind the tank and line. How quiet it is made it easy for me to sneak around the woodland terrain with ease even when taking out members of the opposite team.

It is available in two colours – either full flat black or flat black and tan. It retails for $379.70 on the Valken website which to us in the UK is around £283.85.

Check out the Valken V12 Optima BLOCK-I DST here

Post sponsored by Valken Tactical

Photography thanks to Pewpewpatriot



When I had the pleasure of visiting West Midlands Airsoft High Command in Rowley Regis whilst I was there I got talking to Joe from, a relatively new independent airsoft rental company that aims to level the field for new players.

SIXMIL is an independent airsoft rental company that aims to 'level the bar' as it were for new players wanting to get into airsoft and give them the weapons and gear that are on par with regular walk-on players. They have been in business for around 2 years now and started with the aim to encourage more players into the sport by giving them something with new players don't get a lot of at the hiring stage - choice. SIXMIL provide a large range of weapons, genuine military clothing sets, tactical gear, even radios so they can get the most out of their early days in the sport.

Speaking to Joe I found out that SIXMIL originally started as a favour to a local site that often needed a couple of extra hire weapons here and there, and the enterprise grew rapidly (within 4 months) into a fully-fledged separate business. It became pretty evident to him that new players craved the choices around weapons and gear loadouts that regular players enjoy, but there were no rental services that could give them that choice so he decided to take it on himself. He understood that site owners are limited on time and money and that they need to focus the majority of their time and money on site improvements and game planning, and so as a result hire kit for new players is usually limited at best, and last on the priorities list. Joe thought it was clear that if you give new players that attention and choice that the sites often struggle to, it has a massive effect on their enjoyment and player retention from day one. The first site they took over hires from went from their usual 6-8 rentals a game, and within 18 months that number shot up to between 35-50 hires per game as the word spread about this service.

Currently, SIXMIL has permanent hire shops at 3 sites in the West Midlands - Stormforce Airsoft in Rugeley, Staffordshire, West Midlands Airsoft: FOB in Tean, Staffordshire, and West Midlands Airsoft: High Command in Rowley Regis, Birmingham. They also supply on an ad-hoc basis to other local sites as and when needed and also additional weapons for specific events. 

They are looking to expand into more sites on a permanent basis within the next 12 months, time allowing. In addition, and one thing that is really cool about SIXMIL is that they also have a fully equipped mobile armoury which they bring and set up at sites for specific events if needed.

Their current range, includes numerous assault rifle class weapons, sub-machine guns, support weapons, DMR's, sniper rifles, even GBB sidearms. Most of these weapons are also available to hire in both standard and upgraded configurations. The upgraded versions will include additions such as sights, foregrips and a few other external modifications. Kit-wise they decided that overalls and plastic masks just don't cut it, so SIXMIL supply a range of genuine military issue combat sets including DPM, OD/Greens, MTP and so on. These sets also have options like choices between UBACS/Smock tops, adding matching headwear such as boonie hats, baseball caps and helmets. In addition to their loadouts, the service also offers tactical accessory packs that include simple but useful items such as gloves, knee pads, shemaghs and so on. Of course, they supply a range of specifically designed chest rigs to accompany their weapons, from plate carriers to webbing sets, and even lightweight SMG assault rigs. The recent addition of radios and radio accessories to their range have proved really popular. One awesome service they offer is pre-designed 'Loadout Packages' that combine weapons and kit into one simple full loadout package so new players can pick and play – no prior knowledge of what kit works together is needed, these premade packages help to get new players out on the field and kitted out head to toe as well as the regulars and have been a massive success for SIXMIL.

Joe has said ‘We are always adding new weapons and gear! I'm probably the last person that should be doing this job as being a self-confessed gear junky myself I can't stop constantly adding new kit! There will be a new assault rifle class in the next month or two and another SMG class too, but I'm undecided on quite what yet (suggestions are always welcome). In addition to that, we are currently working on a new type of hire class altogether, something I've never seen a site attempt before - The Elite Class! Basically, I want to hit a side of the hire market that has been left untouched - regular players. The idea at the moment is to stock a range to top-shelf weapons (TM VSR's, TM Recoils, EVO's, AA12's) and so on and give regular players a chance to hire weapons they may just want to try or are thinking of buying and to kick things off we've just invested in some of the new CA microguns and are looking into how to get this out as a hire weapon for those that just need to go mental for the day!’

Thank you to SIXMIL for speaking to us, the Airsoft Action team wish Joe all the best and cannot wait to see what he has in store next!

Contact details:

Hardwick, K. (2017). Inside Airsoft: SIXMIL. Airsoft Action. 82 (Xmas), 46-47.



Hey there!

So today I have another review in the Valken HPA series this December and in this post we are going to look at the Universal Tank Pouch – a molle pouch that Valken has specifically designed to hold HPA tanks that is suitable for mounting vertically AND horizontally on battle belt set-ups, and plate carriers.

The universal tank pouch is designed to carry 45ci-90ci air tanks - it has 3 Velcro straps to adjust the pouch to the size of the tank and make it secure when you’re running on the field. It has an elastic strap that pulls up from the bottom and goes over the regulator to keep it in place for extra security when you’re running it horizontally. It’s easy to install, the molle on the tank pouch is a different size to the molle on most plate carriers but that doesn’t pose an issue when attaching the pouch to a plate carrier or belt. It has a reinforced piece at the top, and my only guess for this is that it is to protect the regulator from getting caught during a game or hitting the back of the plate carrier when you’re in motion? I found that my Valken tank fit perfectly in the pouch, but as I have the ultra rig installed on my tank, the regulator did stick out of the pouch a fair bit.

What do I think of the aesthetics? Honestly, I’m not keen on the look – it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing design but it is a product that definitely puts more focus on the functionality and usability of it rather than how it looks. I think it’s pretty cool that you can mount it both vertically and horizontally, this definitely makes it more versatile in regards to loadouts and play styles. So for the players who like to run just a battle belt set-up, it’s a great choice.

The pouches are available in tan, olive and black – I would really like to see these made in the V-Cam to go with my MultiCam plate carrier but, the tan doesn’t look out of place on a MC PC/rig. They are available from the Valken website here for $19.95 which for us Brits is around £14.76 at the current exchange rate which is really affordable for a pouch with such a specific purpose.

Overall, I think Valken have done a great job with the universal tank pouch, although I’m not a fan of how it looks I think its usability and functionality more than makes up for that. It’s not a pouch I would necessarily swap my cargo pack for (which is what I carry my HPA tank in otherwise) but it’s great that a specific pouch for HPA tanks is available for HPA users.

Post sponsored by Valken Tactical

Photography thanks to Pewpewpatriot


Hey everyone!

Here’s another post in my 2017 favourites series as the year comes to a close and in this post, I’m going to reflect on the loadouts and camouflage patterns that I’ve donned this year and choose my favourite 5! Do you have a recommendation for a camo pattern you think I’d love? Write it in the comments box below so I can check it out!

MultiCam X Wolf Grey

First up is my go-to winter loadout, MultiCam combat trousers/UBAC and a Wolf Grey softshell that keeps me warm at low temperatures. I’ve been developing this loadout since 2015 and keep going back to it as I love the shade of grey and how it breaks up all the MultiCam. It’s warm, super comfortable and probably one of my all-time favourite loadouts! Photography thanks to James Murray.

Lumber-Tac X Ranger Green

Next up is the loadout I wore for the Tora Bora Raid weekender event in August 2017. You can check out my full loadout lowdown post here. The basis of this look is a Primark flannel shirt and ranger green combat trousers, this worked really well with my ranger green TMC plate carrier. What I like about this loadout is that it’s super relaxed and comfortable. It’s also perfect for the summer months as well thanks to how lightweight it is. Photography thanks to Snook Snaps.

M81/US Woodland

M81/US Woodland is my go-to camo for a ‘green’ team loadout. I’ve worn it for every MilSim that I’ve played on the green side. I really like the pattern, the mix of colours and it definitely goes with MultiCam tactical kit and green kit. M81 was the issue camo for US soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors from 1981 until it was replaced in 2006. It features four colours and is a high contrast disruptive pattern. Photography thanks to John Wright.

Camouflage Europe Centrale

CEC (or CCE) is a camouflage that I didn’t even know existed until my trip to Paris in September 2017! It is the issue camouflage for French military and is a four-colour pattern of woodland shapes that is designed for French forests. I wore this camo with a tan plate carrier and a tan softshell as it has more of a brown hue than green and I loved it! Photography thanks to Dye Lifad.

MultiCam Tropic

My overall favourite look of 2017 has to be MultiCam Tropic. I’ve always been a huge fan of MultiCam and so it makes sense that I’m drawn to the other variants. My team and I, Project Cerberus decided early 2017 that this would be our team camo for the year and it hasn’t let us down. I really like how it looks with ranger green, olive drab and also MultiCam plate carriers and tactical kit. MultiCam Tropic was developed to reduce the visual and near-IR signature of a person operating in a dense jungle environment that is mostly lush vegetation that isn’t really affected by seasonal changes. Photography thanks to Pewpewpatriot.



Hey everyone!

I get a lot of questions about what airsoft guns are my favourites and even though naming my favourite airsoft guns EVER would be a really hard choice to make, I’ve reflected on the ones I have used THIS year and picked my favourite 5. For this list I’ve chosen one of each platform that isn’t an AR15 – from shotguns to SMGs to support weapons, check out the airsoft guns I’ve used and rated this year:

My AK of choice this year has to be the G&G RK74-T, you can check out my full review here. This AEG is the longest variant in the tactical AK series by airsoft manufacturer G&G. What swayed me on this AK over the scores and scores of other AKs out there are the features that such as the keymod rail system and the foldable stock. For me, it's a fun RIF to use and mixes the best of the iconic AK with the tactical goodness of an M4! Photo credit to Snook Snaps

As for shotguns, this year I’ve really enjoyed using the Tokyo Marui Breacher. Although I haven’t done a review on the TM Breacher, every time I’ve used one I’ve had a blast. I love how the breacher sounds when it racks and discharges. It’s a really short, compact weapon that is perfect for CQB, and the 3 round or 6 round burst feature is something that can be switched up to surprise your enemy.

For my support weapon, it has to be the Classic Army HPA Microgun. This is probably THE most fun airsoft gun I’ve had the chance to use this year. It is 32 rounds per second of pure fun, and when HPA tapped is a consistent support weapon that can be used for extended periods of time. It is pretty brutal and something you’d definitely want in your arsenal for suppression, defence and also breaking through defences.  

For a Sniper rifle, I think it has to go to the Ares Amoeba Striker. This sniper rifle is really affordable and performs great out of the box. What sways me on this is how easy the stock bolt is to pull back as that is usually an area of trouble for me. It also looks great and comes in a variety of colours to match any loadout. Upgraded, it can definitely give even the TM VSR a run for its money! Photo credit to Ioan Roberts.

My favourite SMG of the year has to be the Krytac Kriss Vector – you can read my full review here. The Vector was the most highly anticipated AEG of 2017 and for me, it didn’t disappoint! I love the look of the Vector – it’s so different to any other weapon on the market and its performance out of the box is pretty hard to match. It is accurate, has great range and consistent groupings which for me what makes it such a great choice if you’re looking for an all-rounder weapon that is compact. It is worth noting that the Vector, only just beat the ASG Scorpion EVO 3 A1 on this list. Photo credit to The Airsoft Project



Hey everyone,

If you’ve been keeping an eye on my Instagram and Facebook pages you will have noticed that Valken has sent me a full HPA set-up to test drive. As I’m a complete newb to HPA systems, the first post in our December HPA series will be a post on the set-up itself – from the Ultra regulator to their Optima BLOCK-I V12 rifle so those of you thinking of making the transition know what to expect! It goes without saying that HPA systems are a lot more complicated than your average AEG and GBB system, requiring 2 sources of power instead of one. In this post, we’ll be looking at my set-up which includes: the Valken V12 Optima BLOCK-I rifle, Valken Ultra Rig, Valken 48/3000 Tank, Valken SLP QD Air Rig 42” Hose and the teeny tiny 7.4v 250 mAh PEQ Battery.

First, let's look at the main power source of a HPA set-up, which is, of course, the air which is contained in a HPA tank. The tank I have is the 48cu black 3000psi (EU) w/regulator air tank. It is made of aluminium and has a 3000 psi fill pressure with an 800 psi output pressure. It features a nickel-plated brass bonnet that provides a durable and long-lasting gas interface and high/low-pressure burst disks for the highest level of safety. Tanks of compressed air make me a little bit nervous, especially when they're so close to my spine (we've all heard horror stories!) but the fact they exceed ASTM standards is a piece of mind.

Next up, is the Valken Ultra Rig, which fits on top of the tank and regulates the air that goes into the rifle, and it is also where you can adjust the FPS via an Allen key. It is easy to operate as it has a quick rotating on/off design which releases/cuts off the air flow into the rest of the system.

In regards to the battery and air rig hose, there’s not really much to say – the battery goes in the stock and is required to power the FCU and mosfet. The air hose, which should go without saying allows the air to get from the reg/tank to the gun itself, both are essential to the system.

Lastly, let’s look at the V12 Optima BLOCK-I! Now this will just be a short rundown of the key features of the rifle as this will be getting its own review in a couple of weeks. It has a Valken V12 engine pre-installed in a fibre reinforced light-weight polymer upper and lower receiver based rifle that has a 9.5” modular polymer free float rail system with built-in accessory rails, meaning it’s ready to be accessorised with lights/lasers and PEQ boxes and because of the polymer it’s a light-weight rifle. Let’s have a quick look at internals - it has an FCU that can easily be programmed via the LED trigger face which is a pretty cool feature, it features an enhanced nylon rotary hop-up and a 6.03mm copper inner barrel. I like how the Optima BLOCK-I looks and I really like how light-weight it is.

I am really looking forward to running a HPA set-up in-game!

You can see my unboxing of the full set-up here:

Post sponsored by Valken Tactical
Photography thanks to Pewpewpatriot



Once a year Zero One Airsoft host the National Airsoft Festival – a dedicated airsoft festival where airsofters descend on Ringwood in Hampshire to sling some plastic, enjoy camping with their teammates and enjoy shopping and beers in the Zero One village. Our contributors Kelly and George were there to cover the biggest annual Airsoft weekender in the UK!

Kelly: The National Airsoft Festival is, without a doubt the biggest airsoft weekender in the UK. On the bank holiday weekend in August 2,500 airsofters descend on Ground Zero – Zero One's skirmish site located in a small market town in the south-west to enjoy a huge festival dedicated to everything airsoft. I arrived at about 1 pm on the Friday afternoon thanks to the good ol’ bank holiday traffic and the festival was already in full swing! As I drove down the long road laden with banners for the NAF into the quiet camping zone to meet up with my teammates, I was already feeling the festival buzz and so were they! They were already in full festival mode with pitched tents, beers and of course a BBQ on the go! After we’d set up the rest of our camp for the weekend it was time to take a walk into the festival village to sign in.

Let me tell you about the festival village! It is a huge space amongst the trees of the Ground Zero forest that is conveniently situated between the gaming zone and camping zones that holds the Zero One shop tent and bar tent, the retailers/manufacturers stands, the food vendors, the range, the G&G CQB course and player sign in. It is the hub of activity over the weekend! The gates to Ground Zero open at 7 am on Friday for festival goers and I recommend getting there as early as you can – this way you can get your pick of where you camp and get through the sign in and Chrono queues pretty sharpish, 2017 is the first year Ground Zero have chrono’d players weapons at the event and getting that many players checked and tagged takes a fair while! Every player/camper is required to sign in at the registration desk before your fun can really start! At sign in you receive your player packs which are customized to your team – either Bravo, Delta or Others and they contain your player bands, NAF patches, product catalogues, freebies and the game plans for your respective side. Tickets for the NAF are £90 if you wish to play or £30 for the weekend if you simply want to camp and enjoy the festivities and shop your heart away.

One of the highlights of the festival for me is the shopping and seeing all of the different retailers within the festival area and checking out all the new kit they have! Zero One bring a 48,000 sq ft shop marquee with them every year and it is filled to the absolute brim with everything you could need from BDU’s, RIFs, scopes, sights, gun cases, beebs, batteries and any other accessories you could need! The showroom tent is also connected to the Zero One bar tent (for anyone who needs a stiff drink after spending all their money on new kit!) and is a huge tent kitted out with hay bale tables and benches, a bar that serves drinks at very reasonable prices and a stage area for the live entertainment in the evenings. Outside the tent, there is an ample amount of picnic tables for players to have a drink, check out their new purchases and eat some grub! For anything that the Zero One tent doesn’t have they invite a whole host of retailers and manufacturers including big names such as Viper Tactical, ASG, Enola Gaye, Bear Valley Co, LOWA along with a whole host of smaller retailers that sold everything from customized dog tags to boots and kit. The festival village this year also had an increase in food vendors, from ice creams and sundaes to burgers and cheesy chips to greek cuisine and a pizza stall there really was something for everyone! Perfect for whether you decide to eat out all weekend or if you just fancy a snack on your way back to your tent!

The facilities at Ground Zero for as long as I have been attending in my opinion have always been very good. The camping is separated into 3 sections – loud – for those who want to go hard all night, normal – for those who want the best of both and quiet camping – for those that love their sleep. The camping areas are huge and even welcome caravans and motorhomes so you don’t have to tent it if that’s not your thing! Each campsite is equipped with an adequate amount of portaloos for festival goers but teams do have the option to book their own portaloo for the weekend at a price of £125 per loo. The private portaloo is delivered to your camping area so there’s no worry of having to stumble in the dark across the site to find the loos if you pitch up your tent a way away from them. My only gripe with the facilities this year were men using the ladies portaloos, which is no fault of the organisers. Ground Zero are always really considerate of the significantly higher male to female ratio on-site and provide each campsite with a number of ladies only loos, something that I and the other slaydies in attendance really appreciate. To make it clear I have absolutely no issue with dudes using the ladies if ALL of the other loos are engaged but if the others are free? As Zero One says ‘Be considerate lads, flop it out somewhere else’

The NAF also serves another awesome purpose besides being a get together for like-minded airsofters – it is the UK qualifiers for the G&G World Cup CQB Shooting competition! Earlier this year some of you will have seen that I flew out to Taipei, Taiwan to cover the bi-annual G&G World Cup, where contestants from all over the world compete against each other to claim the title of world champion and the $10,000 prize fund! Over the NAF weekender players can have a crack at the G&G M.E.T target system and CQB course in the hopes of qualifying as the UK champion. Players compete in teams of 2 in a two stage CQB arena – the first stage is the G&G M.E.T target system which involves both players eliminating 25 targets each as quickly as possible using a stock G&G CM16 SRL, once this stage is complete they move into the CQB arena where they must eliminate all of the targets as fast as they can  - this may sound easy but some of the targets are hidden, some are behind you and all of this has to be completed in only 4 midcaps worth of ammo (each player gets 2 midcaps before starting the G&G M.E.T) The team with the fastest score over the weekend qualifies for the World Cup in Taiwan – with flights and their hotel covered by G&G (and free tickets to the NAF 2018 to defend their title thanks to Zero One Airsoft). 5 days in Taiwan to compete for a world title AND $10,000? Yes, please!

As many of you will know, I rarely play woodland and I play every single weekend so for me, the NAF is a bit of a ‘bus driver’s holiday’ as I call so for me, it’s all about one thing – the social. The social side of the festival is my jam, I love attending and meeting so many of the community and generally just chilling out with friends/colleagues. This year I didn’t play but the weekend is definitely what YOU make of it - I had an awesome time at the National Airsoft Festival 2017 and I cannot wait for the 2018 weekender, Zero One manages to make the weekender better and better every single year so I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next year! I really recommend this event even if you come purely for the festival side of things.

George: Since Kelly has covered the social side of NAF, as a Bravo veteran of the event having been 6 times, I have a fair idea of how the event runs from a player perspective (Let's put it this way... I was there the last time Bravo won!).

Now even though I didn't get a chance run the Krytac Vector like I'd hoped this year (I was on the Airsoft Action stall for a lot of it), I instead took the opportunity to talk to you guys that came over throughout the weekend, admittedly to look at the aforementioned Krytac Vector, about how you were finding the gameplay.

I spoke to some teams that like me, have been going for years; I spoke to some first-timers and I spoke to those folks that have only been once before but were dead set on getting their guns out and bracing the storm once more. What's nice is that we all seem to have the same perspective when it comes to NAF and it varies very little from team to team. The event isn't a Milsim: it's not even close but it does take from certain elements. It's not even a skirmish because of the sheer magnitude and organization of the gameplay. I feel like the best way to describe the National Airsoft Festival is to call it an extreme skirmish!

Getting 2400 players onto any site is going to be a challenge, let alone chrono'ing that many players like they did this year (think about it, on average each person has 2 guns). Even when a decent percentage of players will likely never hit the AO it can feel like cramming that last BB into an already full high-cap before closing that fill door and winding the spring. The game area at Ground Zero is 150 acres, which is massive but even so, 3 teams each consisting of 800+ players means that 150 acres gets filled up pretty quickly!

What that does is create an environment in my mind where 3 different types of play can exist.
You can either:

1) Head out with the largest proportion of your team in order to push hard on a large objective. This method will often land you in a grand firefight between many factions, forcing you to both attack and defend positions with plastic being pelted around from every angle. It is an intense arena of confusion that requires some serious brute force and cunning to overcome any stalemates. This is the closest version to a regular skirmish game... on a much bigger scale.

2) Head out with your smaller squad and aim to complete smaller objectives. This often means you'll be actively avoiding firefights unless they're completely necessary and opting for stealth, slowly making your way through the dense woodland in order to reach an objective across the site. This will likely end up in a smaller but equally intense firefight to obtain that objective and is more akin to a Milsim style gameday. You're not tied to a larger group and can act independently from the wider team, choosing the objectives and routes you want to take however once you're separated from your squad, it's often really difficult to make it back.

3) You lone wolf. Tackling this method is in some ways the easiest way to play but equally the hardest. On the one hand, you have zero responsibility to keep your team-members alive and no need to find them again you get separated. On the other hand, you have to be extremely stealthy and choose when to engage an enemy because you will be outgunned 90% of the time. This method is almost completely stealth and you go much deeper into the forestry than most and often don't care for the objectives at all. You're there to hone your skills and choose your moments but be warned... you're not the only lone wolf out there. You may just happen upon someone else being equally stealthy and at that point... you'll have to choose to either risk letting them pass, or hope that you have the better positioning and go one on one.

Which kind of player are you? Or do you fall into a different category? Over the years I've tried all three methods at this event, sometimes on the same day! This year my teammate Joeski told me about his favourite engagement of the weekend... I won't lie, every time I hear about situations like this, I wish I was out and laying down some plastic alongside them.

Apparently, they travelled to the village to find out that there were Others attacking from one side but, as is the way with Ground Zero, the dense woodland made it difficult to see exactly where the multitude of flying spherical balls of bad news were coming from.

"We'd fire back at where we thought they were but it really felt like they were just everywhere, it was a proper little clusterf**k really... and you can change the wording on that one (NOPE!).

We had Steve doing his Rambo thing, standing pretty much out in the open with his recoil (a TM G36K Recoil Shock... a VERY satisfying piece of kit to shoot) so all you could hear was this recoil going off, sounding like some sort of real machine gun and occasionally you just hear this 'hit Others' and you're like oh, well that's another kill to Steve.

Suddenly he gets hit from... no idea where which seemed to be the case for everyone in our area. You just saw a BB come out of nowhere, or well 10, and then you were out. The Others were definitely there but they were being very very good. They weren't exposing themselves and it was just constant; you were always under pressure and all you could do was just fire back in their general direction and the thing is, they were doing exactly the same thing. They had no idea where we were either because if they did I think they'd have probably been a lot more accurate."

This kind of situation is one that all of us that play woodland sites have probably been in once or twice. That utter confusion mixed with a determination that you know exactly where the opponent is positioned... 'no, they ARE behind that leaf I've hit 7 times... they ARE!'. The problem is, they're probably not, and what happens when you focus everything on that one position? Well, you lose situational awareness and things change fast!

"So Steve got hit and I'm stuck in a couple of bushes without very much cover about 20meters away from the Village and then suddenly... the Village was under attack from the other side. There was a tonne of people getting hit, you had Bravo getting hit, you had Others and then as soon as you heard that first..."

At this point I like to think that it went down like an action movie, our hero is pinned down yelling orders at his squadron,

'Fire at the Others! Fire at the Others! They're to our North! OTHERS TO THE NORTH!'

… the camera dramatically pulls in close and swoops around...
'… S**T'

"So there were now 3 teams in this firefight and we had Delta on one side, the Others coming up from behind and Bravo stuck in the center with no cover because no matter where you were in the village BBs were flying in! That's where it all went to hell. I'll be honest, I didn't last long after that.
The weight of fire coming in was incredible and obviously, they weren't talking to each other but had somehow managed to work out this perfect crossfire that meant we just had nowhere to go.
If we tried to retreat we'd have been shot, if we tried to push forward we'd get hit, if we tried to hold it.. well GG. It was a really good firefight and for me, it was the tensest 45minutes of the weekend."
That's what I love about the NAF weekender (nothing NAF about it in my opinion), you have complete choice to take part in whichever element you want to and control how you play the game. It's always a hard site to play, with so many players it can sometimes be overwhelming, but at the end of the day, you make the weekend whatever you want from it. To play or not. You could be out in the bushes for the whole weekend and not take a single shot, or you could take part in the most intense 45 minutes you've played. If the daytime play isn't for you, you can take part in the night game against much smaller teams but with much greater difficulty... I saw a few NVGs and vision assisted scopes out there this year... or like Kelly said you can play the CQB arena over and over again and compete against your own times.

All in all, you could just go for the camping but after the usual trash talking coming from a certain team (I'M LOOKING AT YOU DELTA!), there's always a score to reflect on at the end.

The scores:

Bravo – 2024
Delta – 1884
Others – 1721

So Kelly, how do you feel about the final score? BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO!

Kelly: We’ll get you next year.

Hardwick, K & Shankster, G. (2017). National Airsoft Festival. Airsoft Action. 80 (November), 24-27.

Photography thanks to Ioan Roberts
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