The lone wolf is a classic literary and filmic trope.
Shane. Bond. Superman. Even Jesus, if one doesn’t mind the slight whiff of sacrilege. They enter the world alone, apparently from nowhere. They do amazing deeds. Finally, they leave the scene, again alone, having changed the world in some not inconsiderable way.
Then there’s the lone wolf airsofter. The one who makes the long walk from the car park alone, picks an inconspicuous spot in the safe zone to prepare their kit, and generally hovers around aloof amid the sociable cliques of veteran regulars and the swarming packs of rental kids.
It’s not such a heroic role. In fact, the lone airsofter can be seen as a little sad. A Billy-No-Mates amid the bantering in-crowd. It certainly feels that way, sometimes.
I like to think I’m a reasonably gregarious character. I work in a profession that’s very much a team sport. And while I live alone, I have a wide circle of friends and acquaintances.
But when it comes to airsoft, I fear being the man on the news who ‘always seemed very polite’ and ‘kept himself to himself’. I have no reason to add to that description the classic ‘fascination with firearms’. So I remain solitary in my airsofting. I am, after all, The Secret Airsofter.
I’m reasonably comfortable with that reality. But it doesn’t make walking onto the site any easier. Especially as I may well be the oldest player there. I have, however, found a number of coping mechanisms which make being a lone ranger easier. In case there are other lone wolves reading, I share them here.
- Remember you are not the only camo-clad fantasist with a make-believe rifle standing in a forest clearing on a Sunday morning. You may be a little cracked in the head, but there are 50 others with a similar compulsion standing here. Rejoice in having found some like-minded souls.
- Remind yourself that many psychiatrists recommend that it’s good for your mental well-being to act your shoe size, not your age every now and again. It’s an expensive hobby, but it’s cheaper than therapy. Or golf.
- Share. If a neighbour in the safe zone needs an allen key or a screwdriver, be the first to lend them yours. If a comrade in the field is stuck without ammo, come to their aid. Word will get around that you’re a decent sort, not an aloof and selfish loner.
- Play generously. Always take your hits, even if there’s a slightest hint of doubt. And offer to cover fellow players as they advance, even if they fail to return the favour. It’s surprising how few groups of friends are aware of the tactical miracle of fire and maneouvre.
- Bond over kit. We’re all kit-whores at heart. Show interest in others’ guns. Let others fire yours. You may even learn something that you can’t glean from reviews on the internet.
- Take a book or magazine to read while waiting in the safe zone. If it’s a rental site, there’ll be a lot of faffing while newbies work out which end of the gun to hold and where to put the little white things and so on. Having something to read during this dead time will make you feel less of a spare part, just as it does if you go into a pub or a restaurant on your own.
These are my simple coping strategies to relieve some of the weirdness you might feel as a lone airsoft ranger. Feel free to invent your own.