Proper Equipment for Night Games
November 16, 2011
For whatever reason I was thinking back on last year’s Operation Irene. I recall being under prepared for the night game. I had previous experience with night games and shooting at night in general but we traveled to the event by plane so my gear was restricted to the bare essentials. I was also trying to conform to “the rules” which asked the opfor to limit their gear to what would be available to a poor Somali militia man. I only brought a hand flashlight and ended up going to Target to buy glow sticks. I thought I would share what I have learned (sometimes the hard way) about equipment for night games.
Flashlights & Weapon Lights
The issue of flashlights is more complicated than one might think. It is not just a matter of getting the brightest and most powerful flashlight possible. Certainly having a bright flashlight is useful. However, bright flashlights can become a liability if used improperly.
The first time I took out my SureFire M96 Series Weaponlight I did not use it for the majority of the game. It was pitch black out and in the middle of the desert. Contact was few and far between. Very rarely did anyone activate their light. The objective was to secure an ammo can and move it across the field through the enemy line. The only point at which I used the light was when I was searching a trench complex for the ammo can and I was blinded when I turned it on. The Surefire M96 with the high output lamp put out over 200 lumens.
There are at least two lessons I took away from that experience.
1. Flashlights will give away your position: I did not use the flashlight for the majority of the game because it would have given away my position.
2. Bright light can blind you: Despite being behind the flashlight I was blinded when I turned it on for the first time because it was pitch black out and my eyes had adjusted to the dark.
As a result I recommend for a weapon mounted light that you get something with “guide lights”, a colored filter, or multiple brightness settings. “Guide lights” are generally lower powered LEDs that will give you some light but that light will not travel too far. A colored filter will visibly decrease the output. I have a red light filter for my Surefire now. Red light does not travel as far or is less visible to the human eye and the filter can be flipped out of the way if I need max output. I hope “multiple brightness settings” is self-explanatory.
Everything I have said about weapon mounted lights (weapon lights) applies to hand held flashlights also. I recommend having both. Although I have better handheld flashlights I normally just carry a Surefire 6P on my vest or belt. Output is only about 60 lumens.
Glow sticks are a must. Many night games will require players to wear glow sticks to show what team they are on or at least who is dead and just on their way back to the spawn point. Glow sticks can also be used to mark objects or areas. Aside from elsewhere on my person I carry at least one in my med kit.
Tracer units are helpful to have as they illuminate your BBs and help you aim. They can also be intimidating to people on the other end. However, the drawback being that the opposition can follow the stream of illuminated BBs back to your location. Personally I forgo tracer units but I make sure my scope/sights and hop up are dialed in and I know the effective range of my airsoft gun.
Night Vision Goggles (NVGs)
The cost of NVGs is prohibitive for most people (including me) so I will not really go into them. However, from what little experience I have had I think they take some getting used to and require training to be really effective.
Visible lasers are useful to have by assisting you aim in low light situations but to truly be effective they may need to be zeroed in. They also have the drawback of possibly giving away your position. I do not use a laser in favor of a red dot scope.
Illuminated Scopes / Red Dots
They essentially provide many of the same benefits as visible lasers without the drawback of giving away your position. Picking up an illuminated reticle inside a scope is quicker and easier than lining up iron sights in the dark. Just make sure you take the time to dial them in.
I would recommend having a headlamp or helmet mounted light of some kind. It has the same advantages as a hand held flashlight but aside from the on/off switch can be operated hands free. So, the light will be pointed where you are looking and that can be someplace other than where your airsoft gun and weaponlight are pointing.
Hopefully what I have learned through my experience will help save you some time and money. Night games are a lot of fun but can best be enjoyed with the proper equipment.
P.S. Despite my lack of preparedness the night game was the highlight of my trip. The entire operation was a blast and I recommend that anyone who can go do so.