Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Do Not Underestimate Airsoft as a Training Aid for Youths

My son who is 15 years old recently got into Airsoft and started to amass a collection of replica looking, fully functioning and firing Airsoft rifles and airsoft pistols.

I had planned on enrolling him in a Hunter's Safety course soon as he is of age but the more I watched him and his buddies play Airsoft in the bush like a rag-tag wild bunch I decided to take action. This was a good way to train them to be soldiers. Mostly because it was out of fear of some of the younger children getting seriously injured, since those plastic airsoft pellets hurt [and a great risk of eye injury]s. I told them that I would treat them like soldiers and adults as long as they acted the part. That little bit of respect given them was enough to make them attentive and more mature acting then some of the recruits that I’ve had to deal with in the past.

a) The first thing I did was break them down into two teams that were roughly equal in both ages and sizes.
b) Then, just like instructing recruits it was weapon basics and Immediate Action (IAs) on the airsoft rifle. (Almost all of them had Airsoft M4 look-alikes.) I covered the Load, unload, and make safe, clear weapons for inspection. Then more advanced drills like IAs for obstructions and so forth.
c) After I was confident that the 11 year olds could remedy stoppages as well as the 15 year olds then it was small section tactics. Section sized advance to contact, moving and covering and the final assault of a position. After the advance, I taught them defensive positions and ambushes.
d) In our neighborhood most kids are military brats so they all had Dad’s or Mom’s old field uniforms, I made sure they had ballistic eyewear, Being in Supply it was my gift to them. Then we went into camouflage and concealment.

Now when they wage war on each other there is no such thing as one-sided matches. Some would say that I should not be teaching kids that sort of thing, but I played war as a kid and I believe it prepared me for a life in the military; it has been that way since the dawn of time. Mostly I trained them how to safely handle a weapon and how to perform escape and evasion, valuable lessons if and when the Schumer hits the fan.

In the beginning of summer I took my son on canoe trip, I packed my bug out gear and made sure that he did the same, everything that he would need. All of the equipment was divided equally and even though he is only 15 and not fully-grown, he did a commendable job of keeping up with the old man on portages.

Once we were deep in Algonquin Park I started to teach him actual bushcraft such as fire starting. We did not use a match the entire weekend. It was fire steels; he needed to know that over a long period that matches and lighters would be in short supply. I taught him tracking, or should I say the basics of tracking. It takes a lifetime of experience that makes you good at tracking. What woods to use as kindling, what wood to use for as smokeless as a fire as possible, how to knock off pine knots to burn. We brought our wrist rocket slingshots and he was able to bag both a squirrel and a grouse so I taught him how to skin and clean each plus how to clean a fish. That turned out to be a welcome change from the MREs that we had brought with us.

When we were prepping for our canoe trip, I bought a couple topographical maps and taught him how to read the lay of the land from a map. I got him to research the available crown land surrounding the park to see if there were any viable options for camping on public land. A mini orienteering course was put on for his benefit. I taught him the basics, like how to take a bearing, follow a bearing. Using back bearings to get home. The more advanced stuff will come, like calculating magnetic declination and triangulation on a map to find your location.

I have been a sheet metal worker, plumber, electrician, oil burner mechanic, combat engineer. I worked in a cabinet shop, framed houses and on rejoining the military a Supply technician. Little by little, I have been trying to teach my son that it is best to be a jack-of-all-trades and like many kids whose parents remember the Great Depression and rationing of World War II, I know the value of making a little go a long way. So we work on our bicycles together, I would rather show him once how to do something so he will know how to do it himself. In addition, it is a lot cheaper then paying someone else to do something. Now that he’s in high school his interests have been the shop classes, I totally encourage him to take wood shop, welding and small engine repair seriously and made him aware that home economics is a must. I might have told him that girls dig a guy who can cook.

When my son seen the items coming into the house bought through eBay and his interest peaked when it came to prepping. I made a master list of items we need for long-term survival and when I am not on the laptop he will surf the internet looking for great deals. His best find was a case of food grade 6.5-gallon pails without lids. We promptly went to Mountain Equipment Co-op and bought enough Gamma Seal lids to cover them.

Right now, our goal is to start accumulating ammunition and teaching him how to strip and assemble the weapons, we have at home. Presently, case lots of 7.62x39mm ammo are relatively inexpensive so I’ll be able to get him sighted in on his own SKS and get him to practice using the stripper clips to reload.

The basement is starting to look more like a supply depot but that is all right. It is all about keeping it organized and to know what you have, where it is and how to use it. Right now for his punishment when he does the normal teen angst I make him do the laundry in the new “Wonder Wash”. Some serious hand cranking on a Saturday morning without access to Internet, PS3 or hanging out with his friends is almost in line with child abuse in his mind but it teaches him a couple valuable lessons. 1) Don’t screw up, and 2) Know how to do laundry by hand.

One part of the basement is our home gym. Lots of free weights, being military physical fitness of mandatory and it is great father son time together working out. Because we are living in married quarters on base, going on a rucksack march is nothing out of the ordinary, so out of the 20 to 30 guys doing that at night for PT, my son gets a chance to don his ruck and practice carrying all his gear.

When I began prepping, I kept it a secret but now that he is all in, I feel a lot better about it. It is still our little secret but it is good to know that we are doing everything we can increase our odds when TEOTWAWKI comes. Family is first in my book, but now I know of six kids who are fully weapons trained and have the basics of field craft down.

This winter I have him going with one of my friends who has a trap line to learn more about wilderness survival then I have time to teach him. I should also mention that I have two daughters that are grown up. I did my best by them as well. They know what to do if they get in trouble: run like mad, split up from friends and gather in a pre-arranged Rendezvous Point at a specific time. My oldest daughter is an awesome angler and always shows up her old man when out on the river. When they were little I always had them going out with us deer hunting and they have watched us field dress and skin many deer without the slightest hint of squeamishness. They are "girly girl" now but I know they have a solid foundation to build on.

So all of you parents out there, it is never too early to start your children off on the right foot. Even if it is just exposure to new things. Get them to help in the garden, or to go on an evening walk…do fun things like identify trees and plants and tell them what they are used for or feed them venison, or muskrat or beaver once to make them aware that not all food has to come from the super market.

JWR Adds: As I've mentioned before in SurvivalBlog, Airsoft and paintball are fine for learning some aspects of camouflage and small team tactics. The fatal flaws of both, however, are that:

1.) Since Airsoft pellets have hardly any penetration beyond five yards, players start to subconsciously equate concealment with cover.

2.) Because Airsoft pellets and paint balls only have limited range, people start to subconsciously think of anything beyond that range as "safely out of range" (for maneuver in the open.)

If you can regularly remind yourself about those shortcomings and adjust your training regimen accordingly, then you'll find that they provide somewhat worthwhile training. But it is essential that you integrate high velocity ballistic realism. This means declaring anyone that blatantly stands up in the open at 50+ yards "dead meat." Ditto for anyone that mistakenly takes "cover" behind bushes or small trees. Always remember: concealment is not cover!


  1. Love this post, you're absolutely right! more power to you and the airsoft industry! Hoorah!

  2. Airsoft is a military simulation sport in which players participate in mock combat with military-style mock weapons and tactics. Airsoft guns usually use 6 mm spherical pellets typically made of solid plastic.