When it comes to using Airsoft as a training tool for real steel weapons manipulation and operation, there are a number of advantages.  However, there are also a few limitations that prevent Airsoft guns from being the perfect training tool.  One of those limitation is the fragility and sensitivity of gas magazines.  They are fragile when it comes to dropping them on the ground from a standing height when you eject them from the gun to load a new mag.  They are sensitive to the dirt they fall in after they've landed on the ground.  Reuse a dirty gas mag in your gun at your own peril.  Needless to say, letting your gas mags hit the ground to reload is less than optimal.  

There are several solutions to this for Airsoft purposes.  One could argue that performing a "tactical reload" would be the way to go.  As I was taught by a retired Special Forces operator, this is where you grab a fresh mag from your vest with your off-hand first and then, with that same hand, grab the mag in the gun as you hit the mag release button.  Insert the fresh mag while you have both mags in hand and then once inserted completely, place your spent mag in your dump pouch.  

That's cool.  Especially since it is more of the textbook way of doing it.  Now, I'm definitely NOT saying I know better than a real deal, Special Forces operator, however, let me throw an idea at you from a different angle.  Enter the small dump pouch from 5.11 Tactical.  As you can see in the picture below, I've added it to the front of my battle belt, on my right side so that I can easily drop the empty mag inside of it without needing to use my "off hand."
While I'm dropping the magazine in the dump pouch with my right hand, I'm reaching for a new mag on my vest with my left hand (If you're an openly left-handed shooter, then you'll want to swap this around).  *I know that my pistol mag pouches are empty.  I only had one mag handy for this demonstration.  So just imagine one is there*
 I'm sure there are those out there that would gasp in horror at the thought of having TWO dump pouches on their kit *Oh, the sacrilege!  But I've found it to be very handy, a more natural sequence of movements for me, and a bit faster than performing a tactical reload.  Sure, if I practiced for awhile, I'm sure I could get pretty quick with my tactical reloads.  But I don't want to practice that method when I've already got a good system going.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  If it doesn't fit, you must acquit, too.  I suppose you could just use one large dump pouch for your rifle and pistol mags, but I like to keep mine separate.  Separate but equal.     
I've found that if you've got a bunch of rifle mags already in the big pouch, and then you start dumping pistol mags in there (this has happened during long firefights with a long of bad guys to shoot), the pouch starts to get overfilled and a bit too heavy for my tastes.  Having that second, mini pouch on there takes up minimal real estate on the belt (only one MOLLE webbing slot) and helps to mitigate some of those issues I just mentioned.
So that's what I've got for you.  You don't have to use this method.  If you have another method that you like better, feel free to share it here in the comments.

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Today's topic may take you aback for a minute or two.  I'm going to talk about applying freakin' spray paint to tactical nylon gear.  Why?  Simple.  Vanity.  Let's face it.  For the majority of us out there, Airsoft is all about looking good.  Who cares if you call your hits, as long as you look good while cheating, you're totally legit, right?  Wrong, of course, but before I get too far into sarcasm town, let's fall back and address the painted nylon.
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When the idea was first bestowed upon me by a good friend, I was appalled.  PAINT YOUR KIT?1?!  Sacrilege.  But then, once I saw how much better it made the gear look, I started to come around to the idea.  Then, last week, I picked up a new Condor plate carrier for a little last minute stealth mission, but didn't have any matching pouches to go with it.  All I had were an assortment of 5.11 Viking Tactics (VTAC) pouches in OD Green or Coyote Tan, so as you can see below, my kit was looking less than stellar.  So I called up my buddy, Jon, over at Insight Interactive CQB Arena and said, "Time to get your 'Tactical Monet' on and paint my new kit."  You'll also notice I've got one of those super sweet, super fake Crye Precision Air Frame knockoff helmets there, too.  Mine finally arrived the same day I got my new vest, so then I said, "Well, heck.  Gotta have consistency in my overall appearance."  So the brand new helmet and brand new vest each went under the spray can.   
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The story doesn't end here, though.  I figured that if I was going to go through the trouble of this process, I would at least document it for you to check out at home (or likely, work) and perhaps inspire you to do the same to yours.

Check out my tutorial on how to paint snakeskin camo on your tactical gear after the jump...

High-Visibility-Paracord-Pull-Tabs-for-Tactical-Gear-Rattlesnake-Key-FOB-Pyramyd-Airsoft-Blog-Tom-Harris-Media-Tominator_0002
One of the many uses for 550 paracord is to make super handy little pull tabs to assist you with accessing the contents of your tactical gear, such as bags, packs and/or pouches. 

Today, I just wanted to quickly illustrate how handy they can be.  Not only can they help you get a better grip on the zipper, especially if you're wearing bulky gloves that inhibit dexterity, but if you use a contrasting color of paracord when compared to your bag or pouch, it can really help improve your ability to find the zipper in much less time, in the event you were in a low-light situation or in an emergency where timing is of the essence.  Or maybe you're just impatient and don't like having to hunt around for the zipper while getting into your stuff. 

In any event, high-visibility 550 paracord pull tabs are pretty sweet. 

As a follow-up to my post about installing ARC rail adapters for a COMTAC headset, the question was asked on the Pyramyd Airsoft Facebook Page about how one would be able to continue running a Contour HD helmet cam on the side of their helmet once the ARC rail adapters have been installed.  

The answer is quite simple, really.  I didn't provide a complete tutorial on the first go around.  The ARC Rail Adapter come with short, Picatinny rail mounts which sit on top of the adapters, allowing you to mount anything with a compatible rail mount on them.  This would obviously include the Contour cameras, but also a helmet light, or maybe something else cool that I didn't even know about.  
Anyway, here is the photo illustration of the Picatinny rail attached to the ARC rail adapter for my COMTAC headset.
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Picatinny rail attached to the Z Tactical ARC Rail Adapters for COMTAC Headsets
Tom Harris for the Pyramyd Airsoft Blog

-------------------------------------
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Today, I thought I'd take you into the world of gear whores for a minute and show you how to quickly install a set of ARC helmet rail adapters on your COMTAC headset. 
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Just to give you a little background on why this is a useful thing to do, aside from that fact that these adapters will make you look more like a high-speed operator, I feel compelled to mention that I have a fairly large skull.


Consequently, not all helmets fit me the same way and sometimes, as in the case of my Air Frame helmet here (it's a knock-off, I ain't gonna lie), the darn thing is just too small when you factor in that I always wear a shemagh on my head as a sweatband.  It's pretty much a must because I get so hot and sweaty when I play that my goggles go beyond fogged and just get covered in liquid sweat, reducing my visibility to pretty much zero.


SOOOO, long story short, I don't have any room inside the helmet for the somewhat bulky COMTAC headset.  Installing the helmet rail adapters for my COMTACs alleviates that issue quite well.


Actually, that title wasn't entirely fair. I kinda just said it to get your attention, although I wasn't lying.

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Condor Compact Plate Carrier - Tactical Gear
Tom Harris for the Pyramyd Airsoft Blog

Click here to see what I'm talking about after the jump...

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5.11 Tactical Gloves, (L-R): Hard Time Gloves - Black, Hard Time Gloves - Tan, Taclite 2 Gloves
Tactical glove photo by Tom Harris for the Pyramyd Airsoft Blog
I generally wear some form of tactical gloves when I play Airsoft and given my track record, it remains very wise for me to do so.  Case in point:

If you haven't done so already, watch the last 2 minutes of this video, where I fall and dislocate my shoulder.  I used my hands to break my fall.  Since I was running fairly quickly, when I hit the ground, I skidded a bit on my hands.  Had I not been wearing my 5.11 Tactical Taclite 2 Gloves, I'd have not only wrecked my shoulder, but my hands would have been pretty torn up as well.  But instead, I had invested in some high quality tactical gloves, which did their job very well.  
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Click to Enlarge for a more detailed view - 5.11 Tactical Taclite 2 Tactical Gloves
Tactical Gear Image by Tom Harris for the Pyramyd Airsoft Blog
ESPECIALLY when one considers that the 5.11 Tactical Taclite Gloves are more of a "second skin" material that is very thin.  

 However, as you can see from the photos below, they held up extremely well.  No rips or tears, but aside from the dirt caked on there from my fall, you can see a bunch of scratches from the skid.

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Click to Enlarge for a more detailed view - 5.11 Tactical Taclite 2 Tactical Gloves
Tactical Gear Image by Tom Harris for the Pyramyd Airsoft Blog
 The funny thing is that these gloves aren't even their heavy duty, gloves, yet because they are well-made with good materials (5.11 loves to do this), they held up extremely well.  That dirt will come out easily, I'll rinse with a bit of water if necessary, and then I'll be back in business. 
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Click to Enlarge for a more detailed view - 5.11 Taclite 2 Tactical Gloves
Tactical Gear Image by Tom Harris for the Pyramyd Airsoft Blog

I don't know about you, my favorite reader, but I freakin' HATE injuring my hands because I use them so often that being impaired like that can be a real hindrance.  So I protect them.  You can do as you please, I try to respect the POV of others, but I thought I'd fill you in on how I roll, in case you cared. 
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Hazard4 Forward Observer DSLR Camera Bin & Jelly Roll Lens Case - Tactical Gear
Shot Show 2012

Here's a little somethin' different for ya today.  I found some footage from my trip to Shot Show 2012 that I had yet to post and so even though it's a bit of old news, I figured I would share it anyway because I know that there might be some of you wonderful readers out there who might find this interesting.  This video features Josue, from Hazard4/Civilian Labs tactical gear, showing me the "Forward Observer" DSLR Camera Bin, which can be used as a standalone tactical bag for your DSLR Camera, or it can be mounted on another piece of your kit that has a MOLLE webbing platform on it.  Pretty slick.  Additionally, Josue, talks about the Hazard4 Jelly Roll padded DSLR lens case, also MOLLE compatible.  

http://youtu.be/n35JTLQwJlw

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With the weekend already on the very near horizon, there are some pretty big Airsoft OPs going on around the country and I thought it might be prudent to provide some of my suggestions on what to bring with you to a major event where you'll be camping out all weekend. 

Some of the obvious choices would be your guns, of course.  That's the most exciting stuff to pack.  But it's important to take more than just your guns.  There's nothing worse than paying a bunch of money to travel out of town for an Airsoft event, pay the large registration fee (if you're attending a Lion Claws event) only to get there and realize you've forgotten something very important and nobody else has the item you're in need of.

So first and foremost, I ALWAYS recommend writing out a checklist, or typing one out on your computer, phone or tablet device.  Whatever works for you.  Just make a checklist and make it thorough.  Don't check things off the list until you've actually packed them in a bag and loaded them into the vehicle.

Some of the things I would personally include on my own checklist, might include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

Guns & Accessories
- 1 Primary Rifle (Usually it's a Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) or machine gun for me).

- Back-up primary.

- Optic - appropriate for whatever platform I'm running.  Leapers scope for DMR or Elcan Optic for support weapon.

- Plenty of magazines for DMR/Assault, or Box mag for support weapons.

- Tac Light/Laser, if applicable

- BBs for Primary (<5,000 for DMR, 20,000-30,000 for machine gun).  I know that sounds like a lot, but the more bad guys on the other side, the more BBs you'll need to hose them down all weekend.  It is especially important to bring the best BBs you can get with you to big games because you've got a lot invested into the weekend and therefore you'll want to maximize the amount of fun you have.  Using poor quality BBs can lead to a lot of missed targets, which is lame.  I prefer the new line of Elite Force BBs.  Now that they've got the .32g MilSim Max Bio BBs, they've pretty much got options for just about any platform out there.  I know that there's a small niche of guys that run heavier BBs than that for their sniper rifles and PolarStar guns, but they're a select few.  Pyramyd Air does carry several options in weights heavier than .32g which will do just fine, so you're not completely SOL if you fit into this niche.  

- Battery Packs (PLURAL) and Charger.  Since there is not usually a power source provided at most outdoor fields, I usually bring a 400w Power Inverter that plugs into my car's cigarette lighter, which gives me two outlets, a usb port (for charging cell phones & tablets), plus all the power I need to run all three if necessary.  The higher quality chargers will often come with a set of connectors to run your charger directly off of your car's battery, but you really need to know what you're doing to avoid serious injury, damage to your stuff and the potentional to be stranded out in the middle of nowhere with a dead car battery afterwards.  For this reason, if you're going to do this, I recommend a set up jumper cables, which you should carry in your car at all times anyway.  

- Sidearm, plus 2-3 extra mags.

- Compatible holster for sidearm

- Can of green gas or propane for sidearm or any GBBRs that you may have brought with you.  I'd recommend at least two cans of gas if you run a GBBR and plan to play with it all weekend.  

- Gun case for primaries (always transport your Airsoft guns in a case)

- Gun case for sidearms


Tactical Gear/Kit/Loadout/Uniform/Whatever/You/Want/To/Call/It:

- First thing on this list should be your Eye Protection and/or Facemask


You can get by without any fancy tactical gear and such, but you won't be able to play without your Eye Pro, so don't leave home without it.  Never a bad idea to always keep a backup set stored in your gear bag in case you take your primary set out for some reason and then forget to put it back in the bag when you go out to your next event. 
- For big weekend OPs, I try to stay as lightweight as possible these days to preserve precious energy.  I can't say I've been able to stay as active as I'd like, so going out and hard-charging at full speed for the entire weekend with a ton of gear on just isn't realistic.  So I like the high-speed plate carriers or chest rigs out there that are smaller and lighter weight than a traditional, full-size CIRAS-style plate carrier.  Voodoo Tactical has several new lightweight options in both the plate carrier and chest rig department that are a new balance between high quality and affordability. 

- Some of my buddies have even moved to just running a battle belt rig, no vest at all.  This is even better for lightening your load, but depending on how long you have to be out in the field and the type of weapon setup you have, this might not be enough for you.

Ask yourself this question when deciding to add that extra pouch or item to put in that pouch:

"What is the probability that I am going to need this item while I'm out on the field?"

If it's a low probability, keep it with your stuff in the parking lot or staging area. 

 - A good set of boots or high-quality hiking shoes are advisable when dealing with any sort of rugged terrain.  The longer you're going to be on your feet, the more important it is to have good foot support to protect not only against sprained/broken ankles, but from slipping on slippery surfaces and also to prevent fatigue on your knees, hips, feet, back, etc. that would otherwise occur from having poor foot support.  You would be surprised how much damage you can do to yourself from wearing bad shoes for a prolonged period of time.  5.11 Tactical makes a great line of tactical footwear and is what I've been wearing for years now.   

-  I always like to have a pair of gloves.  Whether they're the ultra-trendy Oakley hard-knuckle gloves or just a second skin set, it's nice to have gloves.

- If you're going to be playing at some sort of abandoned structural facility, I generally advise wearing a tactical helmet.  Not only do you look much more tactical hot, but it will actually provide cranial protection should the situation arise where you're not paying attention where you're going for whatever reason and happen to run into a low-hanging board with a rusty nail sticking out or with a sharp edge.  I've hit my head numerous times while clearing rooms of run-down buildings, but never once got injured because I was wearing that helmet.  I recommend helmets to anyone, regardless of height, not just for tall guys.

Well, that's not all I would take with me, but for the purposes to cutting myself off before this thing gets any more long-winded, I will leave it at that for now.  I'll pick up where I left off in another blog this week with some more tips in other areas (food & water.  I didn't forget, that's just a whole other topic) that I think are either crucial to a successful Airsoft weekend, or will improve your quality of life drastically.

If you've found this post to be helpful in any way, please share a link to it with your homies on your favorite forum or social network.

Please feel free to add your suggestions on good guns & gear to bring on an all-weekend Airsoft trip in the comments below. 
 
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See how I rhymed that title?

For the longest time now, I've had this Blackhawk SERPA holster lying around not getting any use.  Reason being: I only had a belt paddle for it but don't like having it on my belt.  I prefer running a thigh rig for my sidearm during games.  I recently came upon an opportunity to do a little tradesies with my brother Todd for one of his thigh platforms in exchange for an item or two I had in my possession.  The only problem was that he did not have the screws to mount the holster onto the thigh platform.

 
At first I thought the screws I had for the belt paddle would work, but they were too short, as it were.  Since I am very impatient and didn't want to have to try & track some official Blackhawk SERPA replacement screws down online, pay what would probably be more money than necessary, plus shipping, then have to wait for the screws to arrive, I just ran down the street to my local hardware store to see if they might have some screws that would work just as well.

Check the rest of this story after the jump...

For today's Airsoft question, James Beam from Kentucky asks,

"How do I clean my clean my tactical gear (e.g. load-bearing vest, pouches, boots, etc) after a long weekend of sweating like a beast in all of it without running it through the washer?"  

Well, Jim, here's my Airsoft answer (after the jump):

Also new from 5.11 are the Screen Ops series tactical gloves, whose claim to fame is that they feature silver-threaded finger tips which somehow allow the wearer of these gloves to operate his or her touchscreen devices such as iPhones & iPad, Android phones & tablets, as well as eReaders like the Nook & Kindle.  The concept is pretty awesome to me, since I hate having to take my gloves off while I'm out on the field when I just need to check something on my phone quickly. 

I was a bit skeptical about how well these things really worked, but luckily I had my iPad with me to see if these gloves could put their money where their fingertips were. 
Sure enough, navigation of a little website I like to frequent at Pyramyd Air was a breeze with these things on.

Response from the iPad was excellent, as was the response from my Android phone, which I did not bother to photograph. 
I don't know what it is about that silver threading that allows the touchscreen devices to function while wearing the gloves, but I can't say I care too much.  I'm just glad they (5.11 Tactical) figured something like this out as I frequently find myself needing access my phone and don't like having to take at least one of my gloves off in order to use it.  If you want to know why it works, I'm sure doing a Google search would net you some knowledge. 


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Here's a little review of the 5.11 Tactical Rapid Assault Shirt in the Crye Precision Multicam colorway that I uploaded to the Pyramyd Airsoft YouTube Channel.

This video is part II of the series that I started yesterday, in response to a troll who trolled the wrong Airsoft blogger.

Click to see part I (My troll response video)


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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New 5.11 Tac Tec Plate Carrier Prototype

Perhaps one of the most exciting things that I came across at Shot Show 2012 this year was the announcement of the new Tac Tec Plate Carrier from 5.11 Tactical

 This is definitely NOT just another copy of the plate carriers that are already out there. I was informed that Chris Kyle, of Craft, who also authored the best-selling book, American Sniper, was one of the key developers to work with 5.11 on this project. 
There is ample surface area for adding morale patches, department patches & nametapes to the laser-cut velcro MOLLE chest panel that also serves as an integrated admin pouch.

Speaking of integration, the new 5.11 Tac Tec Plate Carrier can hold up to eight AR15 magazines without the need to add a single pouch.  The operator also has the choice of running cover flaps or going with a bungee system.  Or a mix of the two, as seen here to show versatility. 
 On the back of the 5.11 Tac Tec Plate Carrier, there is even more real estate for patches & name panels, along with an innovative drag handle and of course, MOLLE, MOLLE everywhere.
One last feature I'd like to point out is the generous amount of padding used on the interior of the vest to help alleviate some of the discomfort from having to support the weight of the heavy ballistic plates which are inserted into the front and back panels of this plate carrier. 
Not only is there more cushioning than I've seen in a lot of plate carriers out there, but the developers have used a unique honeycomb mesh design to allow more breathability for the operator to remain at a cooler body temperature.

The 5.11 Tac Tec Plate Carrier is due out in the Fall 2012 (August/September).  
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