Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Airsoft outdoor war game provides exercise and excitement

Alright. We might be in the autumn woods, but mushroom picking this is not. Instead, we are picking enemies off one by one with airsoft bullets whistling through the air.
Near the Lahnus shooting range in Espoo, a group of 73 men and two women has gathered to be divided into two teams by the airsoft game leader.
The aim of the game is to raise the team’s flag at a strategically important location - and to liquidate as many members of the opposing team as possible in the process.

The recreational activity in question, for which a substantial outdoor space is needed, is called airsoft.
In airsoft, non-metallic airsoft pellets are fired using realistic-looking replica guns.
In the capital area there are only a couple of locations in which playing airsoft is permitted.
These locations are in Helsinki’s Paloheinä district and in Lahnus and Korpilampi in Espoo.
In Helsinki’s Mustavuori (out east in the suburb of Vuosaari) there used to be an official airsoft area, but it now lacks a valid permit from the Public Works Department.

Pekka Gröhn from Espoo has brought his 15-year-old twin sons Juho and Henri to take part in the airsoft fighting, but the father, too, rather enjoys spending the afternoon dressed in a green camouflage outfit.
“I am probably the one who is most excited about [airsoft]. At first my wife was averse to the idea, but nowadays she may ask me if the boys are not going to go and improve their fitness in the woods.”

The relative shortage of legitimate airsoft battlegrounds tempts people to play the game also in residential and outdoor areas and even in playgrounds.
The airsoft sport’s image has been tarnished somewhat by mostly underage players who have flouted the rules.
“The wild groups of [airsoft] players running around with [airsoft] guns have caused fright among outsiders, resulting in several police alerts. Lately there have been fewer such incidents but each breach of the rules harms us and the discipline”, says airsoft enthusiast Tero Salmela.
The Pääkaupunkiseudun airsoft-yhdistys (”Greater Helsinki Airsoft Association”) that Salmela administers tries to get the youngsters to practice the airsoft activity within organised settings.
”We engage in cooperation with stores selling airsoft guns and equipment, but more responsibility could be put on the shoulders of the parents who purchase the [airsoft] guns. The airsoft guns cannot be sold to persons under the age of 18”, emphasises Ville Hietikko, a board member of the association.

The youngest members of the airsoft group gathered in Lahnus are 12 years of age. The oldest ones are in their 50s.
The area’s rolling landscape, with lots of bushes and scrub to provide cover, is to everybody’s liking.
“The out-of-way location is an advantage. It allows the [airsoft] players to immerse themselves fully in the activity without having to worry about giving an outsider a heart attack in the process. The Espoo airsoft playing areas, however, are not easily reachable”, Salmela explains.
The situation is worst in the city of Vantaa, which has not allocated any playing areas for airsoft enthusiasts.

In Lahnus, the airsoft game leader announces the end of the day’s first game.
Antti Puskala, 19, of Espoo, emerges onto the dirt road from the bushes.
He wipes sweat from his forehead. Some of the black war-paint on his face sticks to his hand.
How did it go?
“My friends and I decided from the start to go round behind the enemy. For us the main thing was not the flag, but to get to shoot as many of the enemy fighters as possible. I managed to take out quite few of them.”
In the next airsoft game, Puskala took a hit and was among the fallen.

Airsoft originates from Japan. In the game, plastic or biodegradable airsoft pellets are fired. The bio airsoft pellets decompose in 1 to 3 months.
The game can be based on imaginary or actual historic fight situations.
An unprotected airsoft player may sustain minor injuries.
Protective eyewear and a mouth guard or a mask are a must.
In the capital area there are only a few places where airsoft can be played.
According to the Public Order Act, the airsoft guns, which bear a striking likeness to real firearms, must not be displayed in public places.

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