ASG has been reaching out to female players across the airsoft community to discover more about what it’s like for a woman stepping into a male-dominated hobby for the first time. We spoke to Bernie, an airsofter relatively new to the scene, and discussed her journey, what she enjoys about it, and the challenges she’s faced as a female player…
Hello there, Red Panda! Thanks for taking timeout to tell us a bit about your life in airsoft. The first thing we always like to ask people is what’s the story behind their airsoft callsign?
Well, I go by the callsign of ‘Red Panda’. I’ll be honest, I did choose it myself, as I have red hair and red pandas like to snack a lot, I can relate! Also, I work with animals too, so it felt like a good fit.
There is nothing wrong with choosing you own callsign, some of the team here have done the same. As you say, yours is a great fit. Can you talk us through the first time you played airsoft and how long you’ve been playing?
My first game was September last year and I was absolutely petrified. I think I spent most of the first game hiding behind cover with another female friend who was also playing for the first time. I barely shot anything! But by the end of the second game, I was slowly getting a bit more confident and getting into it a bit more. Actually, I remember being a bit disappointed as we had only booked a half day and by the time my adrenaline was really flowing, it was time to go home.
So, did you know anything about airsoft prior to playing and what first attracted you to it?
When I met my boyfriend, he took me to the shooting range for our first date. I just remember the feeling of excitement when shooting and hitting targets, and it kind of snowballed from there. I started going to the range more and then the guys said I needed to go to a skirmish with them!
What type of games have you played and what’s your favourite? Do you prefer simply to turn up at your local game site and go with the flow?
I really like skirmishes, but I have played CQB in an underground bunker before. I like the higher stakes in CQB and getting a bit more ‘up-close and personal’. However, it does hurt a lot more – I’ve had some cracking welts. I haven’t played a Milsim yet, as I want to gain a bit more experience and confidence before diving into that style of gameplay.
Each player is different, some like daytime play, while others prefer using the cloak of darkness to their advantage in night games, supplementing their style of play. What do you enjoy most?
I’ve only played during the day, but I mainly wear MCB and playing in the dark bunker was fun as I felt sneakier.
Have you ever had one of those ‘pure adrenaline, heart-in-the-mouth moments’ playing airsoft? Absolutely any situation that you’ll never forget.
Yes, but mainly because it was really funny. We were playing in the bunker and a few teammates and I were trapped in a room with a crawl space and a main door, with heavy fire in the corridor. Our team leader, a 6 foot+, ex-marine and built like a brick wall was stood in the doorway. Someone threw a grenade through the crawl space, so I went to shove him out of the door. I ran into him full pelt and just… bounced off him. Just like in a cartoon, he turned around very slowly and as soon as his eyes landed on the bang it went off. Cue us stomping back to the respawn, ears ringing. It was quite a small room.
HAHA! That must have been hilarious to see for real. Going from one extreme to the other, can you recall an embarrassing situation you’ve had while playing?
I’ve got a bad habit of forgetting about the hard cover rule and just panicking when pyro is thrown. I was crouched outside a window looking in, and someone threw a bang into the building. Being behind the wall, I was in hard cover. Yet, I ran away, tripped on a log, fell face first and smashed the torch on my rifle. Only two people saw thankfully, but still.
We’ve got to admit, some of us still react too slowly to pyros entering the play area. Okay, let’s put those bad memories to one side and instead focus on your best moments, such as your finest ‘kill’ or shot, or perhaps your longest killstreak?
One time, the enemy team was camping behind a van which was our objective, and they were picking-off our team left, right and centre. I snuck round through the vegetation and got a shot in on both of them with my pistol! I was so happy I had to do a victory dance.
In terms of style of play, would you say you are you a lone wolf or do you prefer safety in numbers and to ‘squad-it-up’?
100% ‘squad-it-up’. I have learned so much from my teammates and get so much encouragement from them too.
The gear a player carries depends on their personal preference, many go for the classic AEG and sidearm combo, others swear by the sniper rifle – what’s your favourite loadout?
I’ve got my trusty AEG & recently added a pistol to my get-up. Dual pistols do sound fun though, for sure.
Have you tried or successfully modified your airsoft guns?
I haven’t personally got to tinkering, but a friend of mine is a certified genius when it comes to how stuff works and modifying guns. My rifle was a hand-me-down Christmas gift from my boyfriend and has recently been upgraded with a new nozzle, spring, motor, cut-off lever, piston & a mosfet . added. It’s performing fabulously now.
What’s the farthest you’ve ever travelled to play a game?
I recently met up at Halo Mill for the first UK airsoft ladies meet… that was a 5-hour drive. But I’d love to visit some international airsoft friends too someday.
Do you think male players can underestimate your abilities as a woman airsoft player?
I think that overall, I’ve been very lucky with the group that I’ve become a part of, as everybody is 100% supportive and encouraging both on and off the field, but I’ve had my fair share of comments on social media and even from marshals on site. Being underestimated can be a competitive advantage, though.
Most sites we know of are genuinely good-natured for all, but at times you get instances of players showing a lack of respect to others – male or female. Have you ever experienced any hardships due to the fact you are a female player?
I guess one thing is finding kit to comfortably fit my body and I also struggled to find face protection that could fit my face shape in the beginning.
As I said, I’ve had a few comments from marshals and players alike. I’ve also experienced being ignored when trying to relay information about enemies moving through with an objective.
From the outside, airsoft could be seen as intimidating arena to enter for anyone – what would you say to girls who are perhaps interested in airsoft but are still unsure about taking the plunge?
Come play! You won’t regret it, it’s a lot of fun and there are some really good people out there that will help you get started. Equally, if you’re in the UK, please get in touch with UK Airsoft Ladies – if you’re nervous about playing for the first time, there is guaranteed to be someone in your region that would be more than happy to show you the ropes.
Is there anything you would do differently if you could start your airsoft journey over again?
I just wish I had more confidence in the beginning, and to be honest even now, to just push myself and be a better player.
If you could change one thing about airsoft, what would it be and why?
I just wish there wasn’t so much gatekeeping on the sport. People expect you to just know how things work or how to combat problems like getting a jam. If you’re new to the scene you’re going to need help. I’ve been playing for 10 months, and I’ve only just thrown my first pyro because I was too scared to do it before. Big wimp, I know! But I just needed someone to show me what to do.
In 2022, what do you think is the biggest challenge for a newbie stepping into the airsoft hobby for the first time, and how does it compare for a female player?
I think that equipment can be a real challenge. Both in choice and cost. I was fortunate in that I had been introduced to a great group of people, all with different equipment, and an airsoft-specific shooting range so that I could play around with different things and see what I liked. And I’m not just talking guns, I mean eye and face protection, chest plates and rigs, clothing and all sorts. Also, a lot of the kit that I have that creates the biggest expense has been gifted to me. My guns, my belt & holsters, and my gun box. For a new player the choice of products and the cost is overwhelming.
I think more eyes are on you as a female player entering the game. My local sites, usually I can count on one hand how many female players there are on a given game day. And that can be a bit daunting, so finding a support network to get you started and into the airsoft hobby is important but also a challenge. Unless you have an unfathomable amount of confidence and are happy to just go it alone. That’s not me, I’m riddled with anxiety, haha!
It has been great chatting to you, Red Panda. Do you have any shout outs you’d like to give and how can women wanting advice about getting into airsoft, get in touch?
I would like to shout out my inner circle of airsoft friends, for helping me out with equipment and teaching me all that I know today, you know who you are! For the UK Airsoft Ladies for making waves in the UK airsoft scene and bringing the powerhouse of women together. Also, a shout out to Lonestar Tactical UK for sponsoring the team and providing great face protection.