The sport of Airsoft is popular worldwide, bringing hundreds of thousands of players to the field annually to fire plastic BBs at each other through a series of fantasy-minded scenarios. At first glance, it looks like a bunch of grown men playing dress-up, who are afraid of "real" guns and only seem to have time to play in between long sessions at the gym. The truth is, it's none of these things, and I only learned that recently after sitting down with Christopher Wratten, owner of Ballahack Airsoft in Chesapeake, Virginia.
Ballahack is home to the east coast's largest airsoft field and came from a simple idea, save the family land while providing a unique experience to the community. People-centric to the core, Mr. Wratten hosts over 25,000 people a year at events that involve everything from CQB to overhead engagements via helicopter. He was gracious enough to spend a little time with us and explain what the sport is about and, even more importantly, what it isn't.
Misconception #1 – Airsoft is nothing but a field full of wannabe's who take themselves too seriously.
Well, even though it's not a requirement to play, something like 38% of Ballahack's participants are either active or retired military. So many of who you see playing aren't wannabes; they're "currentlys" or "usetobes" trying to stay fresh or find new tactics for when it hits the fan in real life. The others are just men and women seeking to escape the reality of the day-to-day grind. Wratten explained: "Airsoft is a chance to be a kid again. It's not about being some sort of alpha human on a B.B. gun field; it's the ability to play pretend, just like we used to growing up, similar to Knights & Armor. The vast majority of our clientele find the reward in the fun, not the success. In fact, success isn't gauged on a win or loss but rather how well each player suspends reality, even if but for an afternoon."
Misconception #2 – You need to be super athletic to play.
Although Ballahack is situated on 99 acres, gameplay can be as mobile or static as you wish. The only requirement for airsoft success is a nimble trigger finger. During our conversation, Christopher informed me that they'd had players as young as 10 to as old as 76 come out and participate. It makes sense to me because there are all sorts of roles in combat, and each has a different requirement for movement. He went on to retell a tale of 15 deaf players that joined a game and completely annihilated the opposition through the use of far superior hand signaling. Lastly, he reminded me, "BBs shoot just as far regardless of who's pulling the trigger."
Misconception #3 – You have to choose between real guns and Airsoft.
As we have already established, many shooters are duel oriented and enjoy the aspects between the two that crossover while using one discipline to fill in the gaps left by the other. We can't compete in USPSA with Airsoft, but we can get better at running through buildings and working on our reaction time with plastic pellets. On the other hand, we can't shoot our powder burners in most backyards, but a replica airsoft gun lets us practice nearly wherever we want. Mr. Wratten expressed his disgust at the idea that perpetuates around the industry that you are any less of a shooter if you pick up a plastic gun and don a vest for an afternoon of make-believe. The truth is, working with one type of gun will only make you better with the other. Check out the vast selection of Elite Force Airsoft guns at the link above.
As we wrapped up our interview, Christopher went on about how rewarding it is to provide this service to both communities and how he never for a moment believed that he would be earning a living doing what he loves. As for myself, I would have never believed that the sport of Airsoft is as laid back and casual as he's telling me, but after hearing his conviction (and seeing the smiles on the website), I am eagerly looking for a hole in my schedule to get out there and see what I'm made of! If you are looking for more information on Ballahack Airsoft or Christopher himself, check out ballahackairsoft.com or the Swamp Sniper YouTube channel. Until next time, keep your batteries charged, and your tanks filled!