Let me ‘Costa’ that sh!t! – Does real steel training transfer to airsoft?

If you haven’t heard of a couple of chaps called Chris Costa or Travis Haley then I’ll leave you to google them and see what they are all about, but essentially they are two of the most well known fire arms knocking around at the moment, both of whose names get thrown around in airsoft quite a lot and people try to copy what they’ve seen in things like Magpul Dynamics Art of the Tactical Carbine/Pistol/Shotgun/Rifle and think that because it works in real firearms, that it must be applicable to airsoft. Well some of it is, and some of it not so much or even makes you less effective in airsoft because of how airsoft guns work.

So what things might be worth translating into the airsoft world and what is worth leaving back on the DVD/Youtube video? This is all my personal opinion and definitely isn’t telling you how you should play airsoft in the slightest, but more my view on what works and what doesn’t, having arsed around with some of the techniques and styles some of these training DVDs portray.

What works?

How to set up your gear. Whilst not having your gear ‘optimise’ isn’t going to result in you getting killed, some of what the videos talk about really is handy. For example, I used to only run mag pouches on my plate carrier and would feed mags from my plate carrier into my gun, but having watched these videos a lot of talk is made about having easily accessible mag pouches on your reaction/weak side (your non-shooting shoulder) which you feed the gun from, and then you use the pouches on your rig to replace the mags on your belt when you get a quieter moment. I found this helped me in a number of ways:

  1. Faster reloads in general
  2. When prone, its much easier to reload from the hip than trying to get your arm under your chest or having to roll slightly, this making you less of a target
  3. Mag changes stand less chance of being interfered with by other bits of your gear like PTTs/Radio wires, drinking tubes etc
Belt mounted mag pouches set up for feeding your gun.
Belt mounted mag pouches set up for feeding your gun.

Some of the shooting stances. Whilst we don’t have any kind of proper recoil to deal with, some of the stances will make you shoot better, not get hit as much or actually use your optics rather than them just looking pretty. Stances like the Urban Prone will not work all that effectively in airsoft, as due to having hop up on BBs, the rounds will curve massively to the left or right so this isn’t as much use as some of the others like the regular prone and also how to get into those positions which is definitely useful in airsoft as given the flight time of BBs, being able to drop quickly but also into a usable stance is pretty handy.

Your grip on the rifle. To a certain extent these are useful. Again as we don’t have recoil, some of them have limited value because they are designed to help mitigate recoil, but others are just plain more comfortable to use (in my opinion) and do help give you a steady grip on the gun if your switching targets a lot. I imagine a lot of people have seen the ‘Costa Grip’ or the C-Clamp as its actually known (not named after Costa), and whilst the recoil element of the hold is pointless, getting your thumb slightly over the bore is more comfortable because it fits the natural position of the hand (if you couple it with something like the Magpul AFG) rather than twisting your hand/wrist into something that isn’t as natural, but is considered to be more of the ‘traditional’ style of holding a rifle.

C-Clamping like a boss with Chris Costa

To be honest the most useful thing they talk about is probably the most obvious, and its something called ‘height over bore’. Because you have a sight on top of your rifle, which is above the actual barrel where the BB leaves the rifle, where you are close up to buildings or other obstacles and trying to shoot around/over them, if you are not aware of this difference, you’ll be looking down your optic thinking you’ve a clear shot, then when you pull the trigger the rounds just hit the wall/bush/wood and go no where because you forgot that your optic is some 4/5 inches higher than the barrel.  I imagine this catches people out quite a lot and possibly costs you the element of surprise that you spent a while waiting for.

Aside from the stuff in training videos, some other military practices and techniques are useful. For example a knowledge of some basic hand signals like contact/hold/double time/go prone etc are useful. You don’t need to go crazy learning all of them, but those simple ones can really help if you’re working as a squad and want to get your sneak on. Also remember that a lot of military tactics are either designed for ranges we will never experience, or are based on taking the upper hand through force of action AKA making yourself the biggest, most bad ass person at that very moment and using aggression to gain the upper hand over your enemy. Whilst acting quickly and confidently in airsoft will often get you the first shot, there’s no need to get carried away and act like a dick, or become a weekend commander shouting orders left, right and centre.

What doesn’t?

As mentioned, ‘Urban Prone’ doesn’t really work with airsoft, because you end up lying sideways with the rifle and the hop up will result in BBs going side ways rather than forwards. It’ll work if you’re within 10 metres at a very maximum but otherwise best leaving this one at home.

If you're lucky, this position might let you fire around a corner...
If you’re lucky, this position might let you fire around a corner…

Speed reloads. These are the reloads where you see people rotating the rifle to flick the empty mag out the gun and feed a new one straight in, leaving the empty one to fall to the ground. You can do this, and I have done/do myself, but on our site, be ready to have a mag full of sand depending on where you do it or if you really get into it, a lost mag when you’ve carried on the fight and forgot about where you flicked it. Speed reloads are better in CQB/Urban because you are less likely to bury it in sand or lose it in the undergrowth.

The zeroing techniques. Whilst it is important to zero any optic you want to use on your rifle, most of what is discussed in these kind of training videos is not relevant to airsoft at all, because we simply cannot shoot out to distances where it really makes the tiniest amount of difference. Sections in these videos about holding over/under your zero can basically be ignored from an airsoft POV, although they are interesting to know.

Trigger pull techniques. Whether you slap the trigger, pull it with only a third of your finger over the trigger or however you go about it, generally for airsoft it isn’t going to make any difference . You’ve plenty of other things both inside the gun and outside the gun like the wind that are going to influence where your shots are going that you don’t need to have a perfect trigger pull (unless of course you also shoot real steel, then I would suggest transferring as much training between the two as you can to prevent you developing bad habits).

Always putting your rifle on safe after an engagement. You’ll notice in any of these DVDs and videos that everyone will flick from safe, engage their targets, flick back to safe and this is because if you get an accidental or negligent discharge because you didn’t safety your weapon, someone could end up with a hole in the chest or face. Is it good practice? Definitely. Will anyone care if you don’t do it and are you a worse person if you don’t (on the airsoft field)? No. Everyone is wearing the required eye protection at a minimum so any loose rounds from your trigger getting caught on a branch etc aren’t going to do any bother. This obviously doesn’t apply when entering safe zones, where you should make sure the chamber is empty and on safe.

Also remember, just because you might use some cool guy operator skills, you can still take taken out by the guy running around in a t-shirt with a springer shouting Pew! Pew! everytime he fires. Where the BB came from doesn’t matter, if its hit you, get that arm up in the air and call that hit.

~ Adam Smith (SMIFFY)
~ Adam Smith (SMIFFY)

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