Overview
Budget
Equipment
Gear Descriptions:
Gear to avoid!

Regular Skirmish Airsoft!

Players walking to start a game

Overview

“Regular” airsoft games involve playing ad-hoc games on privately owned fields. You will know a lot of the players on the field, but there’s no pre-defined teams or camouflage/ weaponry/ loadout requirements. Most of the games are not pre – planned and include whatever people feel like playing. Such events are fun and often fast paced. A regular game can last for an hour or two, with 2-3 games in sequence (~3 hours before break). A subset of regular games are short elimination or CQB games which are also fun."Back to basics" - pistols and shotguns games offer a new challenge to people used to AEGs. For more information, see the list of airsoft game varieties

Budget - How much will playing cost me? 

Here are the high level costs associated with getting retail airsoft equipment. It includes all you need to play safely and comfortably. Detailed breakdown is provided in the "what will I need?" section below.
Loadout Budget AEG (CYMA/ Echo 1)  Average AEG Quality AEG (TM) + Extras
Initial Costs 633$ 933$ 1440$
Ongoing costs 30$ / game 30$ / game 30$ / game
When getting into regular airsoft, expect to spend a significant amount of money on gear. The suggestions below are intended to help you minimize money spent on shipping and gear that you are not going to use (after all, most people can only shoot 1 gun at a time and wear one set of gear) or gear that has low utility.
 
Significant savings can be realized by buying second hand gear at 40-60% of retail price

Equipment - What will I need to play?

Below is a description of your options when playing backyard airsoft. Prices vary depending on your airsoft retailer, brand and quality of the item. See the  terminology section for acronyms.
Item Description Price low
 USD$
Price high
USD$
Primary weapon AEG (280-400 with 0.2g BBs FPS)  100 300
Primary weapon Magazines 2x highcaps (400- 600 BB capacity) 30 70
Spare battery for primary 1 x  battery for your primary weapon (NiMh rechargeable ) 25 50
Universal airsoft charger Automatically stops charging batteries. Can charge various NiCd and NiMh batteries 20 30
Backup weapon AEP (200FPS) or Green Gas pistol (GBB or NBB) (<320 fps with 0.2s) 40 150
Speed Loader Cheap, no brand name 100 round speedloader (looks like a pistol magazine) 3 10
Camouflage Woodland BDU  (April – October) or Desert BDU (November – March). Shirt and pants. 50 60
Vest or a chest rig Airsoft tactical vest (Condor / UTG brand) or a no name chest rig, Olive drab or Tan (based on your camo) 45 60
Airsoft/ Paintball gloves Specially designed gloves to protect hands from blunt impact 20 30
Face protection Full face paintball mask (new, anti fog) or a full seal goggles (see details below) 20 150
Anti fog spray or wipes Anti fog solution + soft non abrasive cloth or compressed air to clean lenses 10 20
Knee pads Condor brand (6 rivets), you dont even need 2 10 15
Boots Law enforcement or military varieties (assault or tactical boots) 50 100
Airsoft BBs High grade BBs 0.2 g or 0.25g . 8k-12k rounds (white) 24 36
Barrel Plug Save one that came with your AEG or get one 2 5
Hydration Bottled water 10 bottles or a hydration pack 3 30
Radio Cobra or Midland brand, 20 channels with subchannels and a headset jack 30 50
Scope 4x scope with 20mm scope mounts if you have a rail. May require elevated scope mount to see the scope with a paintball mask.  50 200
Bug repellent ~40 deet rating 5 7
Field Fee Required for all games (4-8 hours of play) 15 30

Gear Description

Below is a detailed description of gear involved in most regular airsoft skirmishes.  
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Primary weapon:

 It is recommended to get a stock gun in the mid price range. You can try to go low with a CYMA AK47 or 74 series (100-150$), ECHO1 G36 varieties (140$-170$) or aim for a stock Tokyo Marui (M4/ M16/ G36c/ AK series) for 200-300$. You can also try to find used airsoft guns of the abovementioned varieties on Ebay or Craigslist, or better yet your local airsoft forums.  Please note that I’m advocating buying stock guns with an intention to upgrade them later, as you get in touch with your local airsoft repair enthusiasts. They will guide you through the upgrade process. These people offer reasonable prices and take pride in their work. Sometimes there are guarantees offered for the upgrades(1-2 games). You can also purchase an upgrade service along with a gun from a variety of online retailers.

I’m skeptical of the brand new 375 FPS+ guns sold by some airsoft stores for less than 200$. There’s a lot of work involved in building a reliable gun at this level of FPS that will last a while (and chances are, you are not getting all of this in your 200$ gun):
  • Stiffer Spring (M120) provides around 400 FPS
  • Piston, piston head, cylinder upgrade
  • Getting better quality bushings for gears
  • Possibly reshimming gears
  • Getting a better (High torque) motor
  • Potentially replacing crappy stock wiring and solder joints with thicker wire
  • Replacing factory lube
Together these upgrades create a consistent propulsion force, which is the equivalent of using “match grade” ammo in sniper rifles – consistent power helps with consistent accuracy and makes adjusting your hopup easier.

There are 3 types of AEGs (M4/M16, G36 and AK47) which are probably the most widely spread models of airsoft guns out there. This means that people may be able to loan you a spare battery or a magazine on the field in case you don’t have one (this becomes important if high caps are not allowed in a specific scenario). Also, spare parts are more abundant and cheaper. You can buy a “dead” gun if you need to salvage some external parts for your own. Additionally, cheap (<70$) tune up kits (ex: Hurricane) are available for these models which can save you a lot of money on aftermarket upgrades.

Primary Magazine

Your gun will likely to come with 1 “high cap” which quality will vary. If you decide to get a CYMA, Echo 1 or other cheaper airsoft guns, it makes a lot of sense to get 2 spare  highcaps - about 40$ for 2 if you go with cheaper brands. You can also buy genuine TM or King Arms or Classic Army magazines, which are more expensive and I have not seen a significant difference in quality – about 30-40$ for one or 60-80$ for 2. Players at your field may also sell you magazines at very reasonable prices.
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Barrel Plug 

Airsoft has a set of safety rules – magazines out, shoot once to clear the barrel when you are in a safe zone. A barrel plug helps ensure that even if you forget to do one of these activities you won’t hurt your fellow players. A requirement to use barrel plugs can also keep the field’s insurance costs down. The most common barrel plug out there is designed for an M4 and will also fit a G36 if some electric tape is added. There are no good plugs for an AK series, so you may need to use an airsoft barrel condom.

Don’t forget to take off the barrel plug before you start playing : )

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Battery recommendations.

There’s a host of battery options out there and this is probably the most confusing thing to pick appropriately. Because batteries are hidden inside an airsoft gun, they can assume wild shapes based on space available. The good news is that most newer guns come with either large or small/mini type battery.
 Guns with large stocks (AK47, M16) usually have a large type battery with large connector (hiden in the stock). CYMA AK47 (model CM028) came with a weird battery with small connector which caused a lot of headache and soldering. The stock also had to be modded to accept a large battery.
G36c uses Mini type battery with small connector, hidden in the armguard.
M4s use Mini or Nunchuck battery, depending on the model. Sometimes M4 batteries are hidden in an external PEQ box

I would recommend sticking with Large or Mini battery guns, as these batteries are the easiest to find. Getting a battery which does not fit your gun means you will have to deal with external pouches and extension wires, which sometimes look goofy.

A 3000 mAH 8.4V rated Large battery offers excellent rate of fire and can last for a whole day even on a cold winter day when battery performance is diminished.

Recommended brands: Intellect
Recommended battery type: NiMh  (NiCd is the old generation and suffers from the “memory effect”). LiPo  batteries and chargers are too expensive for a beginning airsofter.
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Universal charger

A lot of guns come with a simple wall charger/transformer. There’s no electronics involved in such charger, so you have to monitor the state of your battery, otherwise it may leak, explode or catch on fire. You can estimate the charging time by dividing the mAh on the battery by the mA rating on the charger. Substract one hour for existing charge or remove the battery from charger if hot. Universal chargers allow you to charge various battery configurations (most common one is 7 cell 8.4 V rating) at different mA current ratings (300 mA or 600 mA). Some of them automatically shutoff after the charger detects peak battery capacity.

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Backup weapon

There are 3 reasons why you need a backup weapon:
  • To participate in CQB if your primary weapon does not meet the FPS limits (usually 300-325 with 0.2s) (alternatively, you may consider getting a 15$ "muzzle velocity reducer" attachment)
  • To engage targets in close quarters (around/inside buildings, cliffs, etc) where a long weapon is too cumbersome to use or you need to shoot with 1 hand. Pistols are also very useful when shooting through "spider holes" - very tight holes in cover
  • As a backup if your primary high cap misfeeds, battery fails, barrel jams, etc. Some fields require you to swap weapons if your primary is hit. Having a pistol in this case adds a good feeling of realism and keeps the fun going.
As a new airsofter, you have two "budget" choices of a backup:
-AEP (CYMA Glock 18c (CM030) or M9/M93R) these cost 40-60$ depending on retailer or a TM equivalent (~150$). Both shoot in the 180-210 FPS range, which makes them safer to use in CQB. They come with a 450-500mAh battery which can last for more than 300 shots or 10 magazines. This makes it feasible to use a backup with a single magazine and reload it on the fly. My biggest gripe with these is the magazine release switch which can cause the magazine to fall out. It is recommended to tape the magazine in to avoid losing a magazine and costly reorders. Also sometimes people cannot feel 200 FPS hits if you get them in the vest, therefore it is recommended to aim for arms or legs.

-Green Gas GBB pistol (300-320FPS) or a Non Blowback (NBB) with 250-320 FPS. These come in many varieties. It is important to get a gun in the FPS range listed so it would be legal for CQB. Having a Non Blowback or a CO2 pistol in the 380FPS+ range is a good prop, but it will not see much field use. Then you will sell it and someone else will have a good prop. Save yourself 100$ on an over the limit NBB pistol and stick with a lower FPS version.

Gas pistols have 3 significant drawbacks in terms of TCO (total cost of ownership):
  • They operate on Green Gas, which is expensive and you have to discharge your magazines at the end of the game.Therefor you pay, even if you didn’t fire a shot. Cheaper camping gas or canned air adapters exist, which allow you to use cheaper gas, but there’s still issues with lubrication. The worst thing is that you will have to reorder green gas and will be tempted to pick up more gear along the way. 
  • They require more than 1 magazine, because reloading the gun requires reloading both BBs  and gas, which is not feasible in battle. (expect 1-1.5 mags of BBs on one gas charge, depending on temperature).
  • Gas weapons have very low performance in the winter when outside temperatures are low (below 40). Chances are you will want to buy something else as a backup during winter months.
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Camouflage

As a new airsofter, I would recommend picking one of these camouflage patterns:
-    US Army Woodland BDUs if you start during the spring/summer season. 
-    US Army Desert BDUs (DCU) if you start during the fall/winter when there are dry leaves on the ground

These BDUs can be purchased very inexpensively new or used from army surplus stores for 20-60$ for both pants and long sleeved shirt. You can also try Ebay for used camouflage. Woodland camo is probably the most cliché camo out there and will definitely NOT make you stand out from your fellow airsofters. These camo patterns offer following advantages:
-    With a  little practice it is possible to use them to hide very effectively (don’t be fooled by static images of people standing in the middle of the woods when comparing camo). At airsoft engagement distances (less than 300 feet) movement becomes the dominant factor of target identification, not camouflage.
-    Woodland and Desert camo patterns are the most common patterns used by airsofters out there. This almost guarantees that during scenario games one of these two camo patterns will be on the list of acceptable loadout (eliminates the need to purchase costly additional camo sets, and  the "it did not get here in time" headache).

If you want something to stand out, try digital woodland or  MarPat(woodland).

Avoid urban, subdued urban, snowflage, or any camo involving white, as they are incredibly ineffective in the woods at just about all times of the year except winter when snow is heavily present. Additionally, they will not be on the list of allowed uniforms for most scenario games. Pure black or blue also does not work too well, unless you are doing indoor CQB with poor lighting. Marpat is recommended over ACU because ACU is a bit too bright for the woodland setting.
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Vest / Chest Rig

This is the trickiest part to get right if you want color coordination or if scenario games require some certain color. Ideally you would want a vest to hold a couple spare magazines, a bottle of BBs and a couple bottles of water if you don’t have a hydration pack. A cross draw holster is also very desireable.

There are several variations of an airsoft tactical vest floating out there, now offered by multiple vendors (UTG tactical vest with crossdraw holster) for 40-60$. Avoid paintball vests - their pouches are too large. Some replica military vests are also available. The MOLLE vest systems offer a lot more flexibility in your loadouts, but are significantly more expensive after you factor in the shipping cost of all of your pouches and attachments. Plate carriers (can hold body armor plates) are mostly outside of the beginning airsofter price range.

I highly recommend the UTG tactical vest due to good level of flexibility, 4 large magazing pouches, cross draw holster and a heavy tactical belt included. It also has 2 internal zipped pockets for your valuables like cell phone or wallet if you decide to take that with you to the field. (losing stuff at airsoft  games is not fun, getting it shot up is even less fun)

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Airsoft/ Paintball gloves

These are a “must have” at the same level as eye or face protection. If you are using a pistol, a gun with a foregrip or a paintball marker, chances are your left hand (if you are a righty) is facing forward with your knuckes ready to take the full impact of incoming BBs or a paintballs. Taking a 280 FPS paintball or a 300-400 FPS airsoft BB at a point blank range to your hands/knuckles hurts like hell. Even in protected gloves. Get these gloves and thank me later. Save money on all other varieties of gloves, as you will eventually gravitate towards the airsoft/paintball gloves anyway.

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Eye/ Face protection

If I learned one lesson about airsoft it is that you cannot go cheap with the eye protection gear. There are 3 reasons for this:
  • You don’t grow more eyes as you age
  • Average dental surgery for front incisor teeth costs more than 2000$
  • Fog on lenses is the #1 killjoy of airsoft.
Good eye and face protection is essential to have fun in airsoft. The inside of the lens is where the magic happens – a thin film of a fog resistant compound is preventing the fog from forming under light use. In combat, fog may precipitate inside the lens due to all of the perspiration and adrenaline. Wiping dust/dirt/debris ont the inside of the lens with your hands/red rag may scratch the thin anti fog coating and eventually more fog will develop at these scratches. This will result in you having to buy a different pair of lenses (not a whole new set of goggles/ mask!) The good thing is that some goggles already come with a spare set of lens, reducing the need to reorder.

A full face mask is always required by insured fields for all players under the age of 18 (due to insurance terms). I highly recommend a full face (not full head) paintball mask for all CQB encounters. Chances are you will be using your pistol or a compact folding stock weapon, so aiming down the sights is not going to be an issue. Plenty of people may get startled in CQB if you sneak up on them and instinctively pull on a trigger, spraying you with BBs. A full face mask is very useful in such cases, as even 200 fps guns may chip your teeth at short range.

You can wear a full seal goggles (no safety/shooting glasses that come with many guns) to skirmishes if you are over 18. Here the primary concern shifts to protecting your teeth. I’ve seen only a couple incidents where people have had chipped teeth from airsoft and I’ve been to many games.These people threw the 2000$ number out there as the price of dental surgery. You dont want to verify if this number is accurate.  There are a few simple techniques you can use to minimize the risk of dental damage if you are using full seal goggles:
  • Dont keep your mouth open or shout a lot
  • Turn away from the attacker and yell "HIT!!!" when you get hit. This prevents generally causes people to stop shooting. 
  • Use your gun or hands as cover around your face when you are "dead"
  • Put a red rag on your head when killed.
  • Play very cautiously around buildings or in CQB
If you do get hit in the face with a BB, even a high powered one, it hurts, but the welt heals in around 3 weeks.

Save money by not buying mesh goggles – they are not allowed by most fields (probably due to insurance). Full face "slim" or "low profile" cutout masks often are not made for an average face and are incredibly uncomfortable to wear. Get a gun with a folding stock if you plan on using a full face mask.

Some high quality/price goggles (100-150$) come with an integrated fan that eliminates the fogging problem. If you have money, get that. The battery can last up to 3 hours. Cheap imitations (30$) are not recommended, as they can be incredibly uncomfortable and have low quality lenses
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Anti fog spray/ wipes

Also get a soft cloth. Fog is #1 issue with a lot of airsoft games.There are 2 ways to handle this: 

  • Get a high quality paintball mask or full seal googles with good anti fog coating. Take care of your goggles and do not wipe the inside with anything other than the softest cloth that came with goggles. This will preserve the anti fog coating.
  • Having an anti fog solution (>20$) on hand or pre-treating your lenses significantly reduces fog. Buy this at paintball, ski/snowboard shops or online.  It is very important to use non abrasive cloth and clean the lenses gently (probably compressed air) before you apply and wipe the anti fog solution. Scratched lenses get foggy quicker along the scratches and significantly degrade visibility. 

  Save yourself the field admission fee and the cost of commute by being prepared to deal with fog if/when the problem emerges – this will enable you to actively play for the whole day instead of playing defensively or manning some fortification. 
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Knee pads

This is a very good investment. You can get a set of “Condor” kneepads for around 10-15$ online. These come in a variety of colors to match your camouflage pattern. Kneepads definitely extend the life of your camo pants and make kneeling manageable. During the early mornings or rainy days, the plastic kneepads will prevent your pants from getting wet, resulting in a lot more comfortable gameplay. I’ve had the same pair of Condor kneepads for a very long time and they work pretty well. You don’t even need both of them, as there’s usually a dominant knee that you use for kneeling. So if you don’t own kneepads or forget them , ask around, maybe someone will be willing to loan you one. You are not going to be doing heavy work while kneeling, so the comfort of kneepads is no the primary concern here.
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Boots

Airsoft is often played on a very rough terrain. Airsoft fields are known to have areas which are wet/swampy, have jagged rocks and thornbush, etc. The paths on an airsoft field can get muddy if it rained the day before. Therefore, a military or law enforcement high boots are recommended. They can take a lot of punishment and can also prevent you from hurting your ankles.  I’ve never had a foot injury from playing airsoft.
If you get old hiking or construction (ex: timberland) boots, remember that these are not water proof, so if you go through a field of high grass in the early morning or late night, your boots may get soaking wet in  minutes. Same thing may happen on rainy days. Wet boots can royally ruin your day of airsofting and get you sick the next day. I had considerable success with using rubber overshoes on rainy days and/or when I have to go through wet grass.
Try to catch military/law enforcement boots sale (50 -100$) when you decide to buy. It doesn’t really matter which brand you can use, but it is recommended to get ½ size larger so you can wear heavy socks during cold weather.
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High Quality Airsoft BBs.

These are very important for everything beyound “backyard” airsoft games. Start with purchasing 8k-12K high grade (Recommended Airsoft Elite) white BBs (2-3 bags). Depending on the game conditions, expect to use up to 4000 bbs in a game (for example suppressing a fortified position requires A LOT of ammunition).

Based on your gun loadout:

For 350 FPS and less, no scope, stick with 0.2 gram BBs. Chances are you will be using the "spray and pray" approach and accuracy is not that important here.

For 350-400 FPS or if you have a scope, stick with 0.25 gram for tighter grouping and more consistency.

 BBs above 0.25s are usually used by snipers to improve accuracy at very long distances. The weight of the BB has no impact on the range - the kinetic energy is the same, but the sideways deviation is less. 

I’ve never had Airsoft Elite BBs jam in any of my guns and I have a 6.03mm tightbore barrel

Save money on shipping and reduce impulse spending on airsoft by reducing the need to reorder BBs, however, avoid the urge to order BBs in bulk before you know your playing habits, you may stop playing or change your playing style and be left with a ton of BBs on your hands.
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Hydration 

U.S. Military Fluid Replacement Guidelines based on the outside temperature and the kind of game you are playing:

http://ftp.rta.nato.int/public/PubFullText/RTO/MP/RTO-MP-HFM-086/MP-HFM-086-06.pdf
CQB or short attack/defend games = high intensity activity
Campaign games = moderate intensity activity
Static Defense = low intensity activity, stay out of direct sunlight
Your gear (BDUs, vest, goggles or face mask) will add extra heat.
Recommendation – carry 2-3  0.5 liter bottles in your mag pouches for short games, refill in between games (please don’t litter). For longer games – get a hydration pack, but remember that they require maintenance and need to be emptied/cleaned in between the games. If you find that your hydration pack tastes foul and you cant stand that, check your local Walmart, they started to carry replacement hydration bladders for 10$ in the camping section (to avoid the temptation of buying “extra” stuff online to qualify for free shipping, etc). In Airsoft, your hydration pack counts as a part of your body for hit purposes. It raises your profile by ~4 inches while laying prone and makes you easier to hit. Finding a hydration pack to match your camo and vest can be a problem, as a lot of retailers are routinely “out of stock” for the most popular camo patterns.
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Radio

Communicating through radio is a skill and the usage of radio varies greatly in between regular “pickup group” airsoft games. Having a radio helps you more effectively coordinate offensive operations and flanking maneuvers and this becomes even more important during scenario games. Due to short engagement distances and all players speaking English, shouted communications are not terribly effective, as the enemy can hear you just as well.

It is recommended to get a Cobra or Midland radio (retail ~50$ for 2). These have ~20 channels with sub channels and should have a headset/charging jack. Offer to sell one on your local airsoft forum if you buy a pair in retail. Cheaper radios don’t have subchannels and may leave you out of the communications loop. The best way to look for a radio is Ebay or your local airsoft forum, where you can get some great deals – around 10$ used (ensure the radio has subchannels and a headset jack for future upgrades).

A lanyard (string to tie the radio to your vest) is higly recommended, as most radio belt clips are not designed for airsoft action, causing the radio to get lost unless it is tied to you.
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Scope

Scopes are optional, but are are a lot of fun and elevate your game to the next level. Target identification becomes easier, and its fun to aim at a bunch of enemies from the shadows through your scope. That makes you feel so much cooler! The issue here is that scopes require mounts, so if your G36 or M4 allows this, go ahead. Hunting rifle scopes (30-60$) look a bit goofy on assault rifles, plus they adds a couple inches of height to your gun, making shooting from a prone position less comfortable.

Knockoff ACOGs and other military scope replicas cost around 100-200$, which puts them outside the budget of many beginner airsofters.Red dot scopes are a matter of taste - they look cool, but their use in aiming airsoft guns is debatable. They are decent for indoor CQB when seeing your ironsights is difficult.

If you decide that you want a scope, look for 3-4x magnification and 2+ inches eye relief so you can see through the scope with your goggles/mask. On a related note, most Walmart sold binoculars don’t have the sufficient eye relief to be used for airsoft purposes.

Scope allows you to overcome not having a perfect 20/20 vision.
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Bug repellent

There are a lot of little creatures out there in the woods. You probably don’t even suspect half of them exist. Mosquitos can be very very annoying, especially if your field has a swampy area and you have to defend something.. Ticks are the #1 concern due to lyme disease. Therefore it is recommended to get a rating 40 deet bug spray and spray  the following areas:
  • Clothing
  • Your hair and neck
  • Underarms
  • Waistline
  • Boots and socks
  • Avoid spraying your goggles, the bug spray may ruin them!
For heavily tick infested areas, you can use electric tape to tape your pants to your boots to minimize exposure. If you know that a field has a tick problem, a hat is also recommended. Google “how to avoid ticks” for more tips and check yourself after every game. I followed these tips and found just one tiny tick on me in all of my airsofting experience.
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Field fee

You can play regular “pickup group” style airsoft in a variety of settings, the two most common ones are airsoft fields or paintball fields. Expect to pay a field fee and sign a waiver/medical release form. Please verify that the field is on private property and may be insured.

Average field fee is 15-30$ for a day of gameplay
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