When starting out in airsoft it can be a bit daunting to speak to seasoned players and discover just how much they have spent on kit. I once heard the sport labelled as “the money pit” and that can certainly be true. So where do new players start. We’ve all heard the saying “buy cheap, buy twice” and it’s true….. isn’t it?! Well, you’ll be pleased to know that this is not necessarily always the case. There are some tactical kit manufacturers out there that don’t break the bank but also provide a fairly decent product. Viper, for example, is relatively cheap and in my personal experience their products stand up very well to both airsoft and real military abuse. The two products I will talk about later below will hopefully demonstrate that you don’t always have to spend a lot of cash to get decent gear for airsoft.
The first thing to do, when looking at which kit to buy, is to start researching how well specific items are made. There is no point just buying something without reading at least a few other people’s opinions on it first, unless of course you have confidence in that particular brand. But this is often where I believe that a lot of cheaper gear get’s an unnecessary bad rap and airsofters need to be careful here, especially if you are a newcomer to the sport. The massive expanse of the internet means that you can literally find information about whatever you want, but often, within airsoft, this information is mixed up with real world tactical clothing, equipment and reviews from a soldier or private contractor perspective. This can be a bit confusing especially when looking at the reviews of certain products. For example, many real world civilian operators and special operations soldiers will review cheap civilian kit badly because to be honest, it’s not made well enough to handle the stresses of combat. There is one particular manufacturer available in the UK that springs to mind, that is hated by UK Soldiers, and I myself will never purchase clothing or load carrying equipment from them again. But those experiences are often a lot more demanding than airsoft will ever be. For example my experience involves a brand new patrol pack that decided to fall apart during a weeklong exercise while on a 25 mile march carrying an anti tank weapon, as well as all my normal patrol kit. My buddy bought his patrol pack at the same time as me, and his failed a few weeks later. But here’s the thing. Airsoft will never replicate that type of demand in terms of load bearing and distance, because there is just no need, plus it wouldn’t be very fun and would cost a fortune to take part in! But that particular kit would probably stand up quite well within airsoft, although if you were reading a review of it from me you’d stay well away. So, if you’re looking for cheaper kit, make sure that you read reviews from fellow airsofters; otherwise you’ll just end up spending more money!
Get Your Hands On
This is not always possible to do, but try and get to a store where they actually stock the types of products you’re looking at buying. Have a look at the quality of the materials and the quality of the stitching. If there are loads of loose threads and unfinished stitches then this is a good sign that it isn’t good quality, but don’t just look at the one first item on the shelf. Look at the whole rack. You may find the first item on the shelf is just a single bad item, or likewise, you may find the first is a one off fluke and the rest is made poorly. The materials should feel strong. A lot of the cheap Chinese copies of real steal gear use cheap flimsy materials that will just wear through quickly, and you can tell the difference on quality. Speak to other airsofters at events and game days. One thing that struck me as a pleasant surprise when starting airsoft was how willing everyone was to chat about their kit and the sport in general. Use this to your advantage and get talking and find out what works and what doesn’t.
An Example That Cheap Can Be Good
At the start of this article I said that Viper products were reasonably priced but stood up well to airsoft use. In fact one of their products, the M16 drop leg pouch (pictured below), was the very pouch that I used in Afghanistan for my 6 month deployment, and that was given to me by a Royal Marine leaving Afghanistan who had been using it prior to my arrival. You can see the pouch on the left and on the right is an image of me wearing it.
This pouch is available for as little as £12 new in some places online and stood up to over 6 months of harsh military operations in extreme heat. It was never washed or maintained, simply because I didn’t have the facilities to, and upon returning from Afghanistan was thrown in a box in the garage for a few years until I got it out to use for airsofting, and it is still functional, even now, 7 years later. The build quality is great and as you can see, it has stood up to pretty harsh tests. Not bad for a £12 piece of kit! The second piece of kit that I’m going to show is one of their tactical glove products. When I first started airsofting I didn’t bother with gloves. I started to change my mind after playing some urban CQB games at Ambush Adventures, The Depot and receiving numerous shots to my knuckles. Then, after a malfunction with a pyrotechnic severely burnt my hand, I decided enough was enough and purchased some gloves. Now, I went for Viper gloves because for me, gloves have to have dexterity. You have to be able to feel all the different parts of your weapon, such as the safety, magazine release, sight adjustment dials etc, etc. The Viper gloves are great at this: you can feel every little bump of your weapon and they have not let me down. I bought them after a serious burn, and after getting my knuckles painfully shot, repeatedly, and since then it does hurt less which means I’m standing around flapping my hand around like a baby a lot less and swearing less! Now don’t get me wrong here. A little bit of pain is part and parcel of airsoft, it’s kind of part of the fun in my opinion and without that people would be less willing to take cover, but when something hurts enough to cause you to stop playing for a few minutes, then you need to do something about it! I have also had another accident with a malfunctioning Blank Firing Grenade (BFG). The BFG, which another player tossed to me to use against the enemy as a crawled along a ditch, prematurely detonated as soon as I pulled the pin, exploding in my hand. I have seen the damage that blank rounds can do to skin and luckily I had my gloves on, but as you’ll see in the picture below, they took all of the blast and my hand came away unscathed with no burns. Now, a more expensive pair of gloves would have probably stood up to the blast better, but these gloves cost me £13 and at that price they have done well.
Hopefully for the new players among you reading this you can see that it doesn’t need to cost you a fortune to start playing. One thing I haven’t touched on is second hand gear as well. Facebook, for example, is full of selling groups where you can get good gear at a cheap price. Plus there are plenty of forums all over the internet that have selling sections too. But don’t just buy something because it is cheap. The saying “buy cheap, buy twice” has some grounding for good reasons. There is a lot of cheap crap out there that won’t last you more than a few games. But, if you’re willing to look around a bit and carry out some research, you can find some great kit at very reasonable prices.