Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year, One And All

A happy and prosperous 2011 to one and all, the whole, wide, wonderful world over


Well, here in the UK it is very nearly the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011. I wonder what the New Year will bring

One or two friends have already 'hit the ground running' so to speak and been very quick off the mark in releasing their January 2011 updates. Mark and Dave over at TM Terrain, for example, have already published next month's newsletter crammed full of juicy tit bits from John Jenkins Designs, First Legion and The Collectors Showcase

The opening paragraphs of TMT's January newsletter. There's lots more there, trust me!
Take a look at the 'news' and 'product update' links sections of the blog over the next few days and I'm sure you will find plenty there to make you smile and get your heart racing. And don't forget, King and Country will be posting their January dispatches very soon, probably early on next week, and I, for one, am looking forward to that with eager anticipation

News, news, news

Each and every month toy soldier manufacturers, airsoft manufacturers and retailers, military model producers of every size, shape and persuasion, announce the release of new and potentially exciting product. How on earth do you keep up with the sheer volume of 'stuff' coming on to the market? The answer is, well, it's pretty much impossible

Even if I restricted myself to one particular area say, for example, toy soldier collecting, I couldn't possibly review or even refer to everything coming out in any given month. So, as I come across something that takes my fancy, I will put a post up on the blog. Predominantly, I will refer to manufacturers and retailers whose products I personally like and, more often than not, purchase myself

I've also included links to a number of manufacturers and retailers whose products and services I particularly value or consider to be good value for money. These can be found in the 'Links.....' area of the blog and from time to time I will create similar links within posts. There are also a number of images, mainly at the bottom of the page, which will take readers directly to certain sites. Some manufacturers or retailers who have websites also have blogs and I have included links to a selection of these in the area headed 'My Blogs List'. Some produce monthly newsletters and/or product updates on their websites and where this is the case I will be creating separate areas on the blog linking readers directly to these pages

Happy exploring, and I hope you find something here of use

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

New WW2 Gun

Airsoft replica gun manufacturer, Ares, have recently begun production of another new and very interesting addition to the stable of guns now available to WW2 airsoft enthusiasts

The M3A1 Grease Gun produced by Ares is a replica of the model issued to US servicemen after 1942 as a replacement to the more costly Thompson variants and, if the images currently available are anything to go by, it's a pretty faithful copy and is sure to be a 'must have' on many players' wish lists

Two images of a genuine 'Grease Gun'

A cutaway diagram showing some of the basic internal functions
Below are some images of the Ares replica, taken from the company's own website and that of a retailer currently offering the gun for sale

The gun as shown in the official Ares advertising

The gun is described as firing at anything between 300 and 340fps. At the upper end of this range that might make it a little hot for some UK sites. It is designed to take a stick battery up to a maximum of 8.4v, and 1500mAH and, intriguingly, the battery is located inside the magazine! Yes, you did read that correctly

There you go. What did I tell you? Battery inside the magazine

The top of the magazine showing a pair of electrical contacts
Electrical contacts on the top of the magazine connect with a corresponding pair on the inside of the mag well and allow the gun to fire. An added dimension of realism, if you will, insofar as the gun can't fire without a magazine, but it will make mag changes interesting. The magazine takes 65 rounds, so lo-cap and what we have come to expect from WW2 guns, or most of them anyway. So your options are, I guess, put up with having to refill your one magazine very often or buy several batteries, which you might probably do anyway

It has an adjustable hop-up which, by all accounts, is very straightforward to use and is accessible via the hinged flap covering what would, on the real steel, be the ejection port on the right hand side of the gun

Simply lift up the flap, and there she is, a simple 'slide forwards and backwards' hop adjustment mechanism

The rather nice looking cocking lever on the original gun has, sadly, not been reproduced on the replica, however, lots of other things have including the stock, the iron sights, the quirky looking trigger and trigger guard, some of the markings, the cross hatching on the grip, and the sling points. Overall, I reckon this is a cracking looking piece of kit

There are two sling points, one just above the mag well and the other just above the grip, as per the original

A close up of the original looking markings and the welding at the business end of the barrel assemmbly

Altogether, a nice looking gun, if a little quirky!

I can't wait to see this in action

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Shooting Holidays for Brits

Well now, here's a topic I don't know a whole lot about but I'd like to know more

I've been thinking about this for some time, ie going abroad to experience what it's like to handle and fire a real gun, [rifles and shotguns aside] but the inspiration for penning this was an article I read in the latest edition of Airsoft International, 'Smell the Cordite: an enthusiasts shooting weekend in Switzerland'

The write up was extremely positive, I'd go as far as to say it was a glowing report of the entire event. Everyone who took part appeared to love it and came way from the experience having discovered something important about themselves and/or one another

This particular excursion was a weekend away in Switzerland, being taught how to handle and shoot real world handguns and ARs by experienced ex Special Forces personnel, utilising some of the shooting stances and techniques employed by real world operators. I got the impression that this was a very intense, thorough and professionally run experience covering all manner of things to do with gun handling, drawing, targeting, shooting, stripping, cleaning and firing in different light conditions. More information is available on the company's website, however, I'd be interested to hear from anyone with direct experience of either this, or any similar, event run by them or any other company

The home page of the 'Smell the Cordite' website

It almost goes without saying, they aren't the only ones putting on shooting events, and the cost of the one referred to above, coming in at around £1,150 for the complete individual package, is going to be prohibitive for many people

The company referred to below also put on shooting events held outside of the UK, but I get the impression we are talking about a very different type of experience here, almost as different, perhaps, as the proverbial chalk and cheese, far more relaxed [whilst at the same time safe] and less intense

The home page of 'Top Gun Tours'
The website referred to below provides information and advice on all manner of things gun related, including shooting overseas, primarily aimed at UK residents and enthusiasts

'Cybershooters' is essentially an information portal for anyone interested in finding out about shooting and gun ownership

Perhaps you know of a company offering similar information and/or experiences. Maybe you've tried a shooting break, weekend, day at the range or whatever whilst on holiday. If so, why not post a comment and share your knowledge and experiences with us. Any contributions greatly appreciated

Edmonton Scout Snipers

These guys hail from Canada and are discussed in the latest edition of Airsoft International, in their 'Ready Room' feature

As part of an airsoft 'team' myself, I couldn't help but be a little impressed by how 'together' they look. Placing themselves fairly and squarely at the Milsim end of what is a very broad airsofting spectrum, they give a very good impression of being a coherent unit, wearing the same camo, similar headgear and webbing, and even going to the trouble of carrying the same weapon platform so they can easily interchange magazines

Some members of the ESS [to the left] pictured with some other Canadian airsoft buddies from 6 Combat Battle Group
The team have a website, too, with quite an impressive opening sequence, however, it is currently in the process of construction. No doubt, when it's finished, you will be able to learn a lot more about them from there

The 'Home' page of the ESS website
Personally, I reckon it makes for some interesting reading as it stands and I'm intrigued by the overall 'feel' of it, replete as it is with 'real deal' organisational and operational references, members in maroon berets and a logo clearly inspired by 'you know who'

Are they the ideal airsoft team? I'll let you decide, but I'd be interested to know your thoughts

M02 Cacique Plastic Skull Mask

I don't know about you, but I've been through a whole heap of eye, face and full face protection options in my [still relatively brief] time in airsoft, most of which I still have and, on occasion, still use. Call me morbid, but I find something quite appealing about the idea of rocking around the skirmish field looking like a skeleton. Once upon a time I very nearly forked out on one of those 'Army of Two' full face skeleton masks but decided not to in the end because they didn't really work that well in conjunction with a helmet or a communications setup

This mask was given a very brief write up in the last but one edition of Airsoft International and they seemed to rate it quite highly. According to the sales information it works with most, if not all, of the helmets currently in vogue and appears to allow for the use of communications headsets, too. Spectacle wearers are advised to make use of foam inserts for added comfort, but according to AI it is generally quite easy to wear

I must say, I love the look of it, especially the 'Skeleton' coloured version, and would be interested to hear from anyone who has any direct experience of the mask in operation

The skull mask in silver black. I have one or two concerns about the gap in the teeth, the nose holes and, almost inevitably, the mesh

The rear of the mask showing how it fixes to your head!

The mask is available in four colours. My personal favourite being Numero Uno!

Monday, 20 December 2010

First Legion Crusading Knights

First Legion have recently released a number of Crusading medieval knights, together with a handful of mercenary soldiers to fight alongside them, as part of their range depicting the Fall of Acre in 1291. The knights represent the Military Orders, the Templars, the Hospitallers and the Teutonic knights

A selection of the Military Order knights currently available

Placing the figures in their historical context, the Crusader state has long been in a period of decline. The city of Acre stands alone as the last bastion of Crusader power in the Holy Land. Defended by the Military Holy Orders and various allies, Acre has now come under siege by the powerful Mamluk armies lead by Sultan Khalil. A fierce struggle ensues and the result is the final collapse of the Crusader State

First Legion's initial focus is the Siege of Acre in 1291 and will feature knights of the Templar, Teutonic, and Hospitaller Holy Military Orders, along with their European allies, and even the forces of Henry the II of Cyprus, King of Jerusalem. Famous personalities such as Grand Master of the Hospitallers Jean de Villiers, Marshal Matthew de Clermont, and the Templar Grand Master Guillaume de Beaujeu, to name but a few, will be represented fighting a stoic defense against the unstoppable power of the Mamluk forces arrayed against them

The range will also bring to life the great armies of the Mamluks who dominated the Holy Land in the 13th Century. From simple soldiers, to great siege engines, to personalities, First Legion promises to cover this epic conflict in all its glorious detail

For further details, and pictures of all the figures currently available, visit First Legion's website. Meanwhile, take a look at the three Teutonics currently on the market and allow them to whet your appetite

Teutonic Knight Standard Bearer, advancing

Teutonic Knight swinging axe

Teutonic Knight with sword and cape

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Magpul Masada Folding Stock

The long awaited Magpul PTS Masada/ACR folding stock has arrived! This stock is of a very high quality and is made from DuPont polymer. The stock is spring loaded and easily folds to the side. It is attached to the rifle with minimal effort and fuss by using 2 pins. It has a compartment to hold batteries, 7 length settings and an adjustable cheek riser. The stock is available in Dark Earth, Foliage Green and Black

The new folding stock, available in three colours

The new stock is just the first of many planned 'add ons' for the Magpul Masada. Another stock, suppressors, front-end and barrel assemblies are all in the pipeline and promise to make the Masada a readily adaptable piece of kit, allowing the player to have two or three guns in one. The video below shows the stock in all its glory

Monday, 13 December 2010

Recent Releases from The Collectors Showcase

Good evening toy soldier collectors everywhere. I just thought I'd share with you a number of recently released, or soon to be released, offerings I particularly like from our friends in America, The Collectors Showcase

I'm not really a fan of their figures, although their quirkiness interests me and they are certainly possessed of a style uniquely their own, but I think their vehicles offer real value for money. In my opinion the standard of painting on their figures is inferior, by and large, to that of their main rivals but the vehicles hold their own and in some ways I prefer them to those produced by King and Country. The camouflage schemes are clear and bright, the vehicles themselves are beautifully detailed for the money and they all come with moving guns, opening hatches and/or doors, and optional thrown tracks. Oh yes, and all the tanks currently come in a variety of finishes, with and without zimmerit and in summer and winter versions, too

One of their newest vehicles is the Wespe. It was one of the most successful mobile artillery platforms the Germans built. Used in strength to reduce enemy positions when needed and not a bad vehicle on the retreat either! This model comes with two figures, a gun that elevates and traverses, and the CS signature thrown track option included. If that wasn't enough the interior is perfectly detailed with discarded equipment and extra rounds of ammo. It's also nicely weathered with mud, signs of wear and chips to the paintwork! There is a winter version of this beauty, too

The PzKfIV Ausf. G comes complete with the optional thrown track and a complete set of Shurzen, a casualty figure, rear stowage ( helmet and crates ), two crew figures, a destroyed idle wheel, copula machine gun, open and closing hatches and also a removable side Shurzen plate. If that wasn't enough there are two, two-figure booster sets available for each variant (summer and winter) comprising two 'riders' and two 'jumpers'. The riders also come with separate terrain bases for use on the ground. This vehicle is also available without zimmerit

Two tank 'riders' also available in a winter version, wearing greatcoats!

Two 'jumpers'. Also available in greatcoats for the winter versions of the vehicles

This brand new Steyr 1500 is the best command car ever. This Austrian built car was built by Auto Union and about five thousand of these vehicles were ultimately produced during the war. Used from the Eastern front all the way to Tunisia the vehicle developed quite a reliable record and transported many commanders during its time in service. This Normandy version sports LAH insignia and has a brand new Sepp Dietrich command figure as an add on. The vehicle comes with two figures, one of which is the infamous Kurt 'Panzer' Meyer! Included in the set is a removable top: have the top up or down. All doors open and close and the wheels move!
The new Sepp Dietrich figure complete with separate terrain base to allow you to stand him in the Steyr, if you so desire!

And finally, but by no means least, a series of King Tigers. The first, with a Henschel turret, comes with or without zimmerit, and there's a winter version, too.....

.....and the second, with a Porsche turret, also comes with or without zimmerit, and there's a winter version, too. Beautiful
The 'add on' for the KTs comes in the shape of these rather determined looking shell loaders. They and their vehicles are due for release in January, 2011 and I, for one, can't wait to feast my eyes on them!
So, there you have it. A few of the more recent goodies from TCS. You never know, if you write a grovelling letter to Santa you might be able to arrange for one or two to fill a hole in your stocking this Christmas. Happy collecting

Sunday, 5 December 2010

New Series From King and Country

Market leaders in the 60mm Toy Soldier hobby, King and Country, have just announced the first sets in a new series, 'Streets of Berlin', designed to complement their extremely popular 'Berlin '38' range. Due for release in January, 2011 these figures have already  got 'tongues wagging' on the TS hobby forums and opinions are very much mixed

To draw attention to their street activities the SA would often be accompanied by one or more of their musicians and flagbearers to announce their presence to everyone!
These tall "street decorations" were utilized as the perfect spot to stick a poster on
An SA leader orchestrating the latest propaganda drive
A portable street hoarding displaying three different Nazi posters
These young SA recruits have their work cut out pasting the latest posters on to the hoardings

The enemies of the SA often described the Sturmabteilung as a "drunken rabble"… These three SA men are living up to that reputation!

Sepp Dietrich in a new "parade" pose

To check out these figures in more detail, together with all the others that are part of the 'Berlin '38' series, visit King and Country UK

Friday, 3 December 2010

WW2 Filmsim Game at The Asylum

Hi guys, and a very good evening to you all on this chilly night

It's been a while since my last post and this evening I bring you a review of the WW2 'filmsim' game held recently at The Asylum near Kidderminster, one of a whole host of sites currently being run by the guys at First and Only Airsoft Adventures, and I'd like to extend my thanks to everyone concerned for putting on a thoroughly enjoyable days gaming. Clicking on the link above will normally take you to their very professional looking website, however, it is currently undergoing some reconstruction and will be back sooooooooon

Where to start? Well, we arrived at about 8.30, before the gates to the site were officially open to the public, how keen is that, thoroughly looking forward to the prospect of taking on the Allies and giving them a darn good hiding. I say 'we', and that is somewhat deceptive, since I was chauffeur for the day to a fellow Fireball player who had put his name down for the the Allied side!

The game was organised and run as a 'filmsim' event, along the lines of those put on by CIA and Gunman Airsoft, and as such there were a number of restrictions 'in force' that wouldn't ordinarily apply to an open day style airsoft skirmish, all designed to make the experience more realistic and encourage the participants to get more fully immersed in the game. So, players were encouraged to attend in full WW2 kit, with WW2 replica weapons, and there were ammo limits, of 300 rounds and two grenades per player, in operation so people couldn't employ the spray and pray tactics so familiar at regular skirmish games. For those without 'full kit' F+O supplied 'lookey likey' outfits at a reasonable price and players were allowed to use modern weapons but were restricted to firing on single shot at all times, unless they were a support gunner in which case they could carry 2,500 rounds and only fire while prone or with their weapon 'located' in an historically appropriate manner!

A couple of shots of yours truly in my guise as a Leibstandarte Scharfuhrer
The event was reasonably well attended, and I'm sure the accompanying photos will testify to the fact that most players threw themselves into the spirit of the game by wearing predominantly period clothing and using period weapons. There was a healthy mix of veteran WW2ers and 'noobs', a little wet behind the ears, but as someone quite rightly remarked, we all had to start somewhere. What they lacked in experience they more than made up for with enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is infectious

Two young guns. Ideal recruits for the Hitlerjugend

God damn, those yanks sure know how to look cool. Thanks, CJW, for the piccies

The Allies: tooled up and ready for action. Fun shooting you guys. Can't wait for the next game!

Heer, SS and Gebirgsjaeger. Go get 'em lads!

The standard of gameplay, as is generally the case with events of this sort, was exemplary. I didn't hear of a single complaint of non-hit-taking or unfair play of any kind, which allowed the in-game marshals to run the game, set objectives, and generally keep an eye on which side was winning!

Having arrived, chatted, booked in, chatted, finished getting organised, chatted, listened to the safety and game briefings and walked to our starting positions, the game got underway at about 11 and was due to go on until 6, so we would be playing the last hour or so in the dark, a fairly daunting prospect without a torch! I have included an outline of the game scenario below, and although the weather on Saturday threatened to make it feel more like Stalingrad or the Ardennes, once we got started we all warmed up a treat:

France, March 1942

After the lengthy German invasion of 1940 and the 3 day defence of Holland and the defeat of Belgium, thousands of French & Allied soldiers littered the fields of France. The German military machine had control of the low countries and was busy fortifying their positions throughout the Gallic region.

In October 1941 French Resistance member Pierre "Fabien" Georges committed the first violent act of resistance against the Germans in Paris when he assassinated a German naval cadet in the Barches-Rochechouart Metro station. More than 150 Parisians were be shot by the Germans in reprisal.

So, in the small industrial French town of Marquets de Lorne, the German garrison is about to come under attack from within, by the newly formed French Resistance or Free France Fighters.
The German Garrison is under the command of Herr Felix Jaeger. At his disposal are a small group of Waffen SS troops, a small Panzer Unit and a unit of Heer. Their role within Marquets de Lorne is to ensure peace and the protection of the industrial facilities.

The Resistance have managed to communicate with Allied command and have secured a small Allied force of No 1 Commando and others including Canadians, French and Poles. Their objective is simple; to eliminate all German positions and destroy German controlled facilities and industrial buildings resulting in an embarrassing defeat for the Germans on occupied, and supposedly safe, soil.

So, the scene was set. The Germans had their base in the 'village/small town centre', aka the pagoda in the middle of the single storey buildings in the centre of the site, whilst the Allied base was located in the 'mortar pits', a small area of woodland at the bottom end of the playing area. The game ran continuously throughout the day and comprised a series of set objectives which needed to be met and a few others thrown in for good measure as the game progressed. Lunch was provided, included in the price of the game (£35), and consisted of soup and a roll, a chocolate bar, a bag of crisps and a drink. This was laid on between 12.30 and 2.00 and players had to decide for themselves when to take it whilst the game continued to run!

The objectives were interesting and varied, and there was always something to do. Very little time, if any, was spent wandering around aimlessly waiting for something to happen. It was an interesting and entertaining mix of full on action and purposeful role play - even if you weren't shooting at someone you felt as though you were 'doing something' meaningful that counted towards one objective or another. This was undoubtedly helped by the fact that all the objectives were 'pointed' as were all kills

Each side was allowed two medics and only they could revive an injured comrade. Each soldier was allowed to use the services of the medic once, with a bleed out time of 5 minutes, and when hit again he had to return to base and record his untimely death on the kill log, with points being awarded to the enemy for each kill recorded. He could then replenish his ammunition, up to a maximum of 300 rounds and 2 grenades, and return to the game as a 'fresh' soldier

The objectives we were fighting over were many and varied and included: capturing and holding the enemy 1ic, capturing/protecting the road bridge, knocking out/escorting the Panzers [two F+O Land Rovers, one with a fairly large support weapon fixed to the back and a gunner, in the shape of Treebeard, who was almost impossible to kill], resupplying the Panzers with ammo whilst they lay idle at the motor pool, guarding/protecting prisoners and/or buildings whilst the enemy tried his best to break them out or capture them respectively, organising an assault on the enemy base, and taking members of the FR prisoner, holding them and then interrogating them for stolen documents. All these, and more, objectives were pointed and some of them - like taking people prisoner -  could be done at any time throughout the day and as many times as you liked

"Wos is  you were hiding in your pants? Naughty boy. You're very lucky I do not shoot you on ze spot"

Certain 'rules of engagement' were also in operation and these, too, helped make the game play a little more interesting. For example, to simulate the fact that real Panzers were pretty well armoured, the gunner in the back of the Land Rover was allowed to continue firing, even if he was being hit, for as long as he liked until he couldn't take the pain any longer! Hmmm.  Certain Allied friends of mine have commented on the fact that our Panzer was virtually indestructible and gave us an unfair advantage. Sounds a bit like sour grapes to me, but anyway, they did manage to destroy it in the end.

On the other hand, the Germans were only allowed to shoot the FR players if a) they were visibly carrying weapons or b) they decided to attack us first, after all, to all intents and purposes they were civilians and we had to be 'nice' to them. We were allowed to push them around a bit and generally intimidate them, and we could arrest them and hold them in the 'prison block' for 10 minutes at a time if we felt like it. Of course, at different times during the game, they were openly hostile and worked alongside the Allies to help them achieve some of their objectives, but they were sneaky little so and so's too. I died for the first time during the game at the hands of one of them who strolled past me, with a wave and a cheery 'bonjour', before disappearing round a corner and rolling a well timed grenade at my feet. And if you’ve never seen a group of Waffen SS clad airsofters, running for their lives from a length of exploding baguette, then you’ve not lived. It was a sight to behold, let me assure you. The French Resistance character wielding the deadly bread stick spent most of the day dressed in a fetching pink necktie and carrying a fluffy pink pig, prompting a number of amusing verbal exchanges. The pig, incidentally, was blown up at the end of the game, having been stuffed full with explosive by one of the F+O organisers

A very suspicious looking Frenchie, minus piggy and baguette. Now, I wonder where that could have got to?

So, all in all, a thoroughly enjoyable day, made all the better by the fact that the Germans won. By ONE solitary point! It just goes to show, every little counts, and I for one am looking forward to the next adventure. If you would like to view more photos of the event, follow this link: WW2 Filmsim at The Asylum