Mission report: Centurian Airsoft
Sunday's mission marked my return to airsoft after a two year absence and as such there was a lot of trepidation as I prepared for it. Despite rummaging through my kit I realized that I have lost, loaned or broken several key items in my inventory and as such I was forced to run out a very trimmed down loadout, but as it turned out that was a good thing.
Basically I was 'come as you are' with some Flecktarn trousers, good solid boots, a khaki hoodie, lightweight Flecktarn cargo belt and my Army of Two Skull mask. I had no choice about my AEG, I have only one left - my JG G3A3. But before I give you the low down on how my kit faired I must, of course, tell you a little about Centurian Airsoft.
Nestled in the Yorkshire National Park just outside Scarborough, Centurion's site is tucked into a little valley which is a mix of farmland and park woodland. The 56 acre site runs down the side of a hill and has ground which would be fair to say is 'rough going' - so wear stout boots my friend!
Luckily, the entrance to the site (a farm access road) is on a short lane with only the one obvious gate, so you can't miss it and in any case you can see the assembly area from the road. On a game day the Centurian crew set up a nice mess tent and there is adequate parking space for a few cars. This is one of the smaller sites I have visited in terms of organisation, but good things come in small packages.
The first thing that strikes you about the Centurian team is that they really make you feel welcome and this extends to the hospitality that they extend you by way of food. For your £15 walk-on fee you get a bacon button for breakfast and then a lovely cooked meal - ours was a pasta dish - for lunch!
There was quite a small turn out, but it's quality not quantity and we had a nice mix of young guns, snipers, gung-ho veterans and - er - me! The Zimmer Brigade! But even so the Centurian guys didn't stint on the preparations and gave a good a safety briefing, made sure everyone understood the rules and - a nice touch - emphasized the importance of hydrating and explained that there would be plenty of water available throughout the day. And why is hydrating inportant? Take a look at the hill...
Importantly, a chrono station was set up and - thank the lord - they managed to do the calculation needed for different weights of BBs (something which seems to be rocket science at some sites, and meant I didn't have to reload my G3 mags with .20s)!
As this was my return to airsoft, I did promise that I would take it easy and only do a half day, but from what I saw there are a lot of ideas and enthusiasm behind the site team and they really do try to give the punters a diverse experience. We started the day - perhaps unfortunately - with a bit of a hill climb game. I have played 'take the hill' before, but this one took the biscuit, especially due to the rain sodden ground - it was a real hike and knackered me out for the day just in that one game! (I was amused to find out that the name of this location was 'Merry Wood' - er, I beg to differ!)
But there is a diversity of ground on the site and our next game was on a slightly less taxing woodland strip before lunch. The undergrowth can be thick, with a mix of bush and thicket mixed in with trees, so there is plenty of latitude for stalking.
Well I'm sorry this isn't a really comprehensive mission report, but I can say that the sheer enthusiasm and friendliness of the site crew will elicit my support - quite aside that as a site right on my doorstep I have a vested interest to keep the numbers up!
Centurian Airsoft Harwood Dale - Site rating:
Site builds (bunkers, etc):
Finally, I must mention two fine upstanding chaps who popped over to partake in some Yorkshire up-hill bog-snorkeling - Messrs Spider and (how ironic!) Swampy! I was glad there was three of us...In case one of us needed extracating from the mud! Nice to see these fellas - cheers guys.
My gear for the day
As I mentioned I didn't really have a theme for the day. I just tried to keep it light-weight and practical. But even so there were a number of 'new' items I was using on the day that bear mentioning...
Chinese copy of the Matrix Cactus Hobby Army of Two Skull mask
First of all there was my Rios Skull mask. I got this for a bit of fun, but it is a very well made piece that has very strong steel mesh and moderate face protection. Despite the quality of cool looks of this mask (I had been dying to try it out) I found a few problems with it.
First of all there was the size - it was obviously designed with a medium sized head in mind, and it didn’t quite cover my face, my chin poked out at the bottom. There is also no ear protection and ventilation is also a issue, as the small mouth holes don't help all that much, but worse the shape of the mask squashes your nose flat so you struggle to breath property!
This was a major pain as I labored with the hill climbing at Centurian and so I found I had to pull the mask forward every so often – NOT recommended in the play area – just to get a good breath.
Verdict: A good idea, with badly implemented ergonomics.
The JG Jing Gong T3-K3 - H&K G3A3 replica
It seemed fitting that I took this AEG out for a run on my return to airsoft as this was one of the last items I had upgraded just before I had to give up the game two years ago. Land Warrior undertook a downgrade – as it was running hot at about 370fps – and installed a Laylax Prometheus 6.03MM tight barrel.
The G3A3 is – what I supposed might be – the ideal woodland AEG, and I am told that only the TM M14 or the long barreled AR10 equal or surpass it for range (among infantry rifles). Depite it’s length though it is a light and and easily to swing about and cary because it is made of strong plastic. I know a lot of people have a ‘thing’ about plastic AEGs – and as it turned out with reason (more later) – but this is my second plastic AEG and as the first stood up to a very bad fall with my weight landing full on it I have a bit more respect for the quality and strength of modern polymers!
As it turned out the talk about it’s range were fully justified, and even though my fps was on the lower side of 300fps (310 I think) and I was using .25 BBs the trajectory of my BBs was pleasingly straight and quite far. In fact this AEG has the best range of any of my other AEGs, with a consistent and reasonable ‘grouping’ on single shot. So much for FPS being everything!
I mentioned the fragility concern over plastic, and this issue was dramatically brought into focus when Swampy slipped in the mud and sheared the stock clean off his G3 carbine! It sent a chill down my spine I’ll tell you. But when you think about it, even with metal AEGs, the plastic stock is always going to be a point of weakness, I just think you have to show due care but at the end of the day accidents will happen.
Verdict: It’s said that the JG clone is every bit as good as the TM original (which is something of a collectors piece now I am told). Depite it’s length it’s surprisingly easy to bring to bear and is, in my opinion, one of the kings of the woodland game. [Just marked down because of durability concerns]
Madbull Precision Biodegradable .25 BBs
This was another purchase that was made on the eve of my break from airsofting. I had tried out some of the early ‘biodegradables’ when I first started airsoft with disastrous consequences when fractured BioBBs caused a catastrophic blockage in my CA SA-58 which in turn caused my gears to shread in very dramatic fashion. I had to endure a string of ‘I told you so’ themed comments from fellow players that day which really predudiced my impression of these early bios.
But the technology improved and I eventually decided to give Madbull’s precision Bios a chance – having read several positive reviews. The main buying point was that these were truly biodegradable, important as many of the early so-called degradable BBs simply weren’t or at least had a half-life of plutonium!
Additionally, Madbull’s Bios contain a material called 'P-Life', which it claims is repugnant to wildlife, so it is hoped that they are not liable to be eaten by small wild critters. They are designed to fulfill strict Japanese ecological guidelines and are, as such ‘reassuringly expensive’ when compared to normal plastic BBs. Still you only have to play on a beautify woodland area like Centurian to realize that the countryside isn’t the place you should be depositing your rubbish or spent BBs and I am willing to take the ‘moral hit’ with the price for my peace of mind.On a more practical note, the Madbulls fed beautifully through my hi-cap mag and JG AEG. Not one jam and they certainly seemed to aid my guns already impressive accuracy and range.
Verdict: Practical and ethical, their only downside is the price – but what price our environment (and it helps me sleep better).
Flecktarn camo loadout items
Finally we come to the bits of Flecktarn kit which I gave a go in my ad-hoc loadout for Centurian. I used two pieces of kit based on the German mottled camo pattern (which seemed to be the right stuff to wear when totting an H&K G3 based AEG), my trousers and a belt based webbing system.
The trousers were my original – near vintage! – Undercover brand custom made paintballing trousers. These were purchased in the 80s when I was into paintballing and represented THE cool items to be wearing at the time as Flecktarn had just come into the UK market at the time. (Undercover stopped making custom camo suits some time ago, sadly.)
It’s not only gratifying to find that I can now fit into some trousers that I bought way over 20 years ago but the sheer quality of Undercover's work remains legendary for very good reason. Despite some of the worst conditions with sopping wet mud and thorny thickets the trousers remained undamaged, with no bust seams, at the end of the day. They were comfortable and with the Velcro ankle fasteners are easy to pull off over boots.Verdict:
The second item based on the German camo pattern was my authentic German Army belt webbing – bought from the UK retailer Flecktarn. This consisted of a nice thick and sturdy belt with three different sized pouches, two small and one large butt bag. I have to say the butt bag seemed like a good idea but was a bit tricky to use because of the fiddly fasteners, so I may just buy a couple of more smaller side pouches instead.
It’s good gear – it should be, it’s the real thing! – and held the minimum load I wanted to cart around on the day. A water bottle, spare battery and magazines and a bag of BBs. The only doen side might be it does not use the universal MOLLE system, but rather a unique clip based contraprion to fix pouches to the belt (not Alice clips, but another design).
Verdict: Does what it says on the tin (in German)…