A Guide to Airsoft at University in the UK

We know that most people make their University choices usually on the course they wish to study, location and cost but for anybody who wants to be even more meticulous with their Uni planning and is considering joining an airsoft society when they arrive, then we have the perfect gift for you! We’ve created a guide to airsoft at University in the UK. We spoke with some key people from 6 University airsoft societies about what the sport specifically looks like at their Uni and why it’s so important. The Universities we spoke to were: Southampton University University of the West of England, Bristol Leicester University Swansea University University of Birmingham De Montfort University

Southampton University

Our club started in 2009 and for the past few years we have been twinned with the paintball club, so your membership can get you playing both sports if you wish. We currently have 23 airsoft members, and this will vary year-on-year, though we regularly get alumni come back to play with us at game days. We tend to run games about every 2 weeks, at sites all around the South of England ranging from CQB pistol and shotgun-only games at UCAP Redemption to open woodland sites like Combat South. Since we are twinned with a paintball club we tend to stick to walk-on days rather than tournaments, and we tend to play on the less-serious side, especially when some of our members’ loadouts include a Roman Centurion, the original Mad Max, or just a check shirt and jeans. We even have our own fleet of hire guns so even if you’ve never played before you can turn up and get stuck in. We have a roster of more than 10 sites we play at during the year, ranging from an old Royal Marines base to an active quarry, so you never get bored of the same site. My favourite thing about airsoft is the range of atmospheres you get in the same game – from sneaking behind enemy lines with a team of people you’ve just met, to exchanging banter and grenades with the opposite team round a corner – as the Combat South marshals put it brilliantly, “you’re grown men (and women) messing about in the woods with toy guns” – what’s not to like! If I was to give one tip to any new players, it would be to have a chat with the players around you. Most people in airsoft are really welcoming and they can probably answer your questions about the sport way better than Google will. Words provided by Henry Taylor of Southampton University Paintball and Airsoft Clubs.  

University of the West of England, Bristol

Airsoft at our society is a weekly event and we follow a schedule of a CQB game day on a Wednesday at Bristol airsoft then going the pub afterwards (pints after airsoft is a Godsend) then the week after we have a social on a Thursday (we rotate socials between drinking and non drinking) then the following Sunday we travel to fields surrounding the Bristol area. We actively compete in tournaments and we have the privilege of having the number one team in the area, we’ve won all the competitions we’ve been involved in since 2019 however these competitions are few. Our society has existed for some years but in 2016 the membership grew massively thanks to the committee at the time.  Our membership this year is 61 members, but next year we’re hoping to boost it back up to 70-80 members as we are growing in active members.  Our home site is Bristol Airsoft and it’s actually an employer to members since I can remember, I for one, work there as a head Marshall, also two other members work there, we also do all the sites within an hour’s drive such as Black Ops Airsoft, Dragon Valley, Strikeforce CQB and Warminster Airsoft. I personally live for the sport, I can’t pinpoint one thing I love about the sport so I’ll just list off everything: firstly the friends and bonds I’ve made have been the best, I’ve never felt more comfortable around the friends I’ve made through the sport. The actual sport itself can be what ever you make it and you can still enjoy it, the memories of the funny stuff we’ve done one example is getting 8 of us in marching order singing it’s a long road to Tipperary, managing not to get shot while we literally walk past enemy players, capturing a really strong position, holding said position for a good time while screaming starship trooper quotes; what other sport allows that much ridiculousness? Our society feels like a family, nothing serious just a group of mates shooting toy guns at each other.  For beginners looking to get into it all I can say is just dive right into the sport feet first, Airsoft as a whole is a community and it welcomes everyone from everywhere – it’s the most diverse sport out there. Buy what you think is cool just do a bit of research before it’s always a pain when you get the wrong battery for a gun or the wrong attachments and the most important advice I was given when starting “airsoft is what you make it to be” if you want to spend £1000’s on the real gear and night vision go ahead, if you want to spend £100 go ahead, it doesn’t matter as long as you enjoy it. Words provided by Nicholas Mills, Airsoft UWE.

Leicester University

We meet up and play every two weeks, normally at private hire games at the Department, our primary site. We have also began attending the newly opened Project X site, which has been taken over by new management who run some fantastic games at the weekend. In terms of socials, we don’t really do anything that special, mainly just going down the pub after games to relax. We have competed in a good amount of tournaments in the past, with decent success. We have mainly attended the Midlands tournament and Cardiff Uni tournament, in which we have placed well in each. Unfortunately, we have struggled to attend any tournaments this year which has been a big shame, but we hope to change that next year! We are also very lucky to have a Uni which has a positive take on airsoft, and we have not had any problems with them about it. They allow us to attend society fairs each year to show of our guns and try to get people involved. I wouldn’t say that we have any particular notable achievements yet but we aim to do big things in the next few years. In terms of members, this year we have had a fairly good amount of around 20. Those members must pay £35 to give us a good starting budget and allow us to afford vital things such as transport and deposits for site hire. In the years I have been here, that number has been pretty consistent. We are hoping to grow the number as even though that is a great number for putting a game together, the main problem is consistently getting that amount of members to a game, as we sometimes struggle to get enough together for a game. The site we normally play at is the Department, a great CQB site in Croft, Leicester. Its run by a great bunch and we really enjoy playing there. With the reopening of Project X, we have began attending there also. It is in the middle of Leicester, and it is one of the biggest CQB sites in England and really is a blast! We go there less frequently than The Department, but we still really enjoy it! Due to having a uni right next to us (DMU) we are lucky to do frequent games at both sites with them in order to boost the numbers that are there. This allows us to get some good games with many players, and a lot of friendly rivalry! The main thing I would recommend to beginners is to try the sport before putting money in it, just in case you don’t end up liking it. I would recommend attending a site first that provides hire so you can get some game play with the equipment without needing to put in significant investment. Secondly, NEVER go cheap on protective equipment. This should be the first thing you should get, and you should only buy from trusted airsoft suppliers so you don’t get sold any potentially dangerous protection. I think one of the best online resources is the Airsoft subreddit on Reddit, which has a wealth of beginner info and you have the ability to post your own questions there if you cannot find the answer.   Contact Details: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LeicesterStudentAirsoftSociety/ Words provided by Sam of Airsoft Leicester University.  

Swansea University

We set out to play once every two weeks, but in reality, we have averaged games once a week this academic year. Socials we run twice a month as of current, although this is something we expect to increase next academic year. This year I have pushed our focus more towards competitions, we always play with Cardiff at their SUCQC they run each year, we always take part in the University Airsoft Championship (UAC) after hosting it four years ago and this year we attended both the Speedsoft style competitions Birmingham hosted. Working with a new site aiming to open in Swansea we will (hopefully) be able to run our own competition event this year. Being in West Wales, our choice for airsoft is normally woodland. However, this year we have been going further and further afield to Bristol and beyond to play more urban stuff. Our favorite sites are Hard Target in Bridgend which is a woodland site run by a great team and Black Ops Cribbs in Bristol which offers a good mix of urban and woodland which our guys really enjoyed this year. We are limited in terms of choice for CQB which does limit our ability to perform in competitions but we are looking to get more into CQB next academic year. Hopefully, with a new CQB site set to open in Swansea, we can really offer our members both styles of play. We have just shy of 60 members this year and have grown year on year by about 20% on average. With around 20 members being particularly active. In my experience, active members are key for running games regularly and I’d argue lot’s of active members in a small club is a lot more essential than a large club with few active members.

Personally, I love the mix of people and play-styles you get in the sport. I am a very casual player who goes to have a laugh. Whereas, there are a lot of people who take it very seriously and have all the ‘correct gear’ etc. It’s a lot of fun to get to know all the people who turn up and play airsoft and just enjoy shooting each other with toy guns. Our focus on making airsoft as cheap as possible to get into is one of our key values. We provide all the kit, guns, safety equipment etc you could need to play to any and all of our members, as well as all the advice we have collectively, so there could never be a better (and cheaper!) time to get into airsoft than at Uni. At Swansea we have built a reputation as casual players out to have fun and this is how we sell the club. Anyone can join regardless of if they have ever played before and we aim to make sure everyone has the best chance to pick up, what I think is an absolutely fantastic sport. I think we can all agree that airsoft is incredibly hard to get into unless you know someone who does it already. This should not be the case. Not to mention, it can get very expensive very quickly if you go out buying loads of guns and kit etc from the get-go. I’d say to anyone who hasn’t started already, look around your local area first for sites and Uni clubs if you are lucky enough to be near one. Uni clubs specifically cater to people who have never played before and they will be full of advice and more than happy to help out. Also, if they are like us in Swansea, you do not have to be at Swansea Uni to join our club. Contact your local site and look at renting guns first to make sure you enjoy the sport. When you rent a gun from a site for a game day, they obviously spend time making sure you know how to use it, which is great too. Rent for a bit before getting a UKARA and buying any guns to ensure you don’t waste money. Make friends at your local sites too or take your own friends with you, it is a lot more fun to go when you have people to chat to during and between games. Join the UK airsoft groups and pages on Facebook as these are a great place for asking questions. Everyone will have their own opinions on guns and kit too so I won’t advise too heavily here but one thing I will say is that we have always bought midrange G&G guns as a club after buying our first guns second hand off of Cardiff when our club was first founded. G&G is flawless for what you pay for and some of the secondhand Cardiff guns still operate with no issue to this day, we believe they are 7 years old at least by this point and have not exactly had easy lives! Words provided by Tom of Airsoft Swansea University.

Birmingham University

Our society has gradually transitioned from being a small group of casual players to a large collective that mostly focuses on Speedsoft, but is very open to playing all forms of Airsoft (Speedsoft is a faster version of Airsoft that encourages more running around whilst wearing lighter equipment, and is typically played indoors). For example, we play at a new site once a month to encourage some diversity and ensure that we do not get too bored playing at the same place! Private UBAPS Member’s Games are held every two weeks where we hire out an entire floor of Bravo 1 (our local site). We also join on to Bravo 1’s public games and encourage our members to play there in their free time. We regularly hold Speedsoft training at Bravo 1 for our two competitive teams, but also attend outdoor games at other sites, such as Gunman Airsoft Midlands. Our competitive teams compete in our own UOBCQC tournaments which we hold at Bravo 1. These are Speedsoft tournaments and have featured Universities such as UWE, Aberystwyth, Hull, Loughborough, Swansea, and Portsmouth, to name a few. We came second and third in the last tournament and are very excited to host our Speedsoft Festival this year for any team that wants to come along and play. One of our players has also played at SpeedQB in Europe and our Paintball team has competed in the CPPS Student Cup.

Whilst we are quite Speedsoft focused, we very much enjoy playing outdoors and at different sites. We are also planning on doing many non-Airsoft related socials in the new year, such as indoor rock climbing, trampolining, games nights, and just going to the pub! UBAPS has 59 current members after 2 years, with around 20 core members who turn up to virtually everything! We are hoping to expand even further in the next academic year by holding a big fresher’s event, so look out for us during Fresher’s Week. However, there will also be Give-it-a-Go games for new players to check out the sport and our society, so come along! Airsoft is a very open sport and is receptive about different types of play. You might hear that Speedsofters and Milsimmers do not get along very well, but that is not true. Almost everyone is lovely and as soon as you play a round of Airsoft with them, you feel much more like a team, regardless of if you know your teammates well or not. Also, whether you have spent £100 or £1,000 on kit, you can still have some amazing game-changing moments, such as flanking the enemy team and eliminating all of them, that will make you fall in love with the sport. If you like the sport, then I would suggest renting equipment for a couple more games just to get a feel for the sport and how it all works. In terms of beginner weapons, go for what you want to! My first gun was a second hand WE Glock 23, which I still use now alongside my new ARP 556. However, you cannot go wrong with an M4-based weapon, particularly G&G’s CM16 Raider. A few of our members have it and it is a solid beginner’s weapon that is very easy to modify with loads of attachments at a pretty low price! If you are a bit further into the sport, I would highly recommend getting a tracer unit (I use the Xcortech XT301 Compact) as it will change your life! Finally, the biggest thing I would say to new players is don’t worry about getting hit! It hurts a bit, but you get used to it very quickly, especially if you wear thick clothes like a hoodie and trainers. I look forward to seeing you on the field, and please feel free to get in contact with UBAPS through our Facebook and Instagram!

Contact Details: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UBAPS1 Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/uob.ubaps/ Email: ubaps@guild.bham.ac.uk Words provided by Simon Arends of University of Birmingham Airsoft and Paintball Society.  

De Montfort University, Leicester

The society as a whole has suddenly become significantly more popular. We seem to have gained some traction this year particularly in regards to members and sign ups. We are more active than ever when it comes to going to games and taking part in events and aim to increase our footprint in the Airsoft Midlands community. Our members since last year have almost doubled and we have more people taking part and investing in the sport than ever! We play every week or two, and have weekly socials often. There is an inter-uni tournament we are a part of with the University of Leicester, where we engage in competitive CQB games. Local sites we play are at the Department CQP, Project X and MAW – Midland Airsoft War Games. I love the silly side of Airsoft – the fact I can modify a rifle to shoot a ridiculous distance or to fire a ridiculous number of rounds per second is great! I also love the comradery and banter that comes with Airsoft and, as someone who used to be in the army, I’d say it’s all the best bits of that experience, without the shouting and 5am starts! Advice I’d give new players are just join if you’re interested or come to a game, chances are we can lend equipment which will dramatically lower costs. Feel free to message us and ask us whatever you like. We are all friendly and are really happy to talk about Airsoft. First thing I’d recommend is playing before you buy any guns. There’s cheap ways in but it can still be a lot for a student if you don’t want to continue.  Lastly we don’t take life too seriously and love a good laugh, so do get in touch if you want to try it out. Contact Details: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DMUAirsoft/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/airsoftdmu/ Email: demontfortairsoft@gmail.com Words provided by Cameron Sands, James Carson & Josh Williams of DMU Airsoft