This week we look at the man behind one of the most popular kit blogs in the Airsoft world. I am of course talking about The Reptile House.
The reptile house blog, often the first port of call for all things PTW related and a great place to find out about the inner workings of the Milsim community, but today we’re talking to the man behind the mesh mask. Rich writes the reptile house blog with all the diligence & vigor that you would expect from someone who’s been in the community for ages, doesn’t do things in half measures but also has recently had a second wind and taken up arms again after a period of inactivity due to injury. He uses a PTW, he wears whatever kit he’s reviewing that month and plays where he feels like it.
Q1. If you could introduce a single new rule to airsoft, what would it be?
Mandatory mid caps. Surely that needs no explanation? It does?!
I believe that mid caps encourage the application of restraint and efficiency. To practice restraint and efficiency I think you have to play a certain way. I enjoy playing that way and I respect others for doing the same.
I didn’t start using mids until I switched to PTW and it wasn’t a particularly difficult thing to get over – although I dreaded it at the time. I just had to develop improved judgement of when I would take a shot and when I wouldn’t.
All that being said, I know some truly talented players who use hi-caps; so what I’m not saying is that mids make you a better player – they don’t. But for me, a mids only rule would be a preference because I prefer the style of play they encourage. Think of it as lightsabres versus blasters. Mids are lightsabres, obviously.
Q2. What’s the most disappointing piece of kit you’ve ever bought? Now this isn’t “what’s the worst” but more, something you’d heard great things about but it didn’t live up.
I’m afflicted with a constant compulsion to optimise. In fact, this was one of the many reasons I went down the Tackleberried PTW path – because I knew I’d be limited to ergonomic optimisation, given that a Tackleberried PTW is near perfect on the inside for my needs. However, within this compulsion to optimise I’m not very nuanced: things are either adopted or sold on. If a product improves my performance it stays, if not, it goes. Immediately.
As far as disappointing kit goes, my first thought was to mention Saloman 4DX boots. In fairness the only reason I consider them overrated is because they weren’t right for me and that’s a personal thing, not a performance issue; although I was wearing them when I cabbaged my foot and couldn’t walk for three weeks. Similarly, the LBT 6094 almost put me off plate carriers for life, but when I tried the Crye JPC I realised it came down to preference. My preference there was not wearing something that felt like a sandwich board.
Q3. What 3 words best describe your play style?
When I first started playing, the three words would have been, “Paint. Ball. Stylee.” Now it’s more “Slow is Smooth”…with the three words following that being “Smooth is Fast.”
Let me explain…
When I was a newb, there was a large team at my local site who’d evolved their style of play from tournament paintball. They were like a force of nature and at the time I’d have put money on them against any other UK Airsoft team. Probably still would. Fast, aggressive, intimidating and with a lot of shouted communication. Clearly, this was the style of play to adopt for anyone who liked winning (bollocks to sneaking around being all ‘tactical’) and because back then I still had the athleticism and stamina, I took to it pretty well. I must have been doing something right, because I ended up playing with a lot of guys who were in that team.
I haven’t forgotten how to play like that but as you get older you pick up injuries, aches and pains…so I had to adapt. I always remember reading ‘No Easy Day’ by Mark Owen/Matt Bisonette. One thing really resonated with me – the mantra, “Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast.” My style of play nowadays is more about capitalising on the mistakes opponents make because they are panicking or rushing things. I don’t try to do fast, tricksy mag changes and I take my time in aiming.
One thing that hasn’t left me (or the guys I play with, some of whom are also in their 40s) is shouted communication. Calling out targets is really important because even if you don’t have the angle on someone, one of your buddies may do. That’s not to say I don’t do sneaky nowadays as well, but my main wing man for that kind of thing moved to Ireland a few years back. No comms required at all there – we could read each other blindfold.
And that leads me to my last point: all the guys I play with now are experienced players and we’ve all played with or against each other for nearly ten years. Again, we can all read each other and even though we have different styles we compliment each other well. We all work hard and you get out of it what you put in. So the other style component is hard work, because I’m an average player at best.
Q4. What would you like to see more of and what would you like to see less of within the airsoft community?
I know the side of Airsoft I’m interested in really well, but I don’t necessarily know what goes on in the community at large. So, for my area of interest, I’d like to see less elitism and more inclusivity. I think there’s less elitism now than there was, but you can always improve things.
As for what I’d like to see more of – and I promise this isn’t inconsistent with what I’ve said above – I’d like to see more interest in quality blasters and gear. I like stuff done right.
Q5. Between the time you first started playing airsoft and now, what do you feel to be the biggest change positive and negative change?
Negative, I’d have to say the legislative scrutiny airsoft comes under every few years. Saying that, I think we got a good deal out of the VCRA because it could have been all over. The level of regulation we’re under is tolerable and if it protects us from greater concessions, even better.
Biggest positive change is the vastly increased availability and choice of high quality, robust, reliable RIFs. When I started playing in the 00’s I was plagued by AEGs which would only feed intermittently, had compression issues, or simply chucked a gear every few games. The solution, it was said (if you bothered with forums), basically revolved around enjoying fixing your own guns.
I had a different perspective. I wanted guns which didn’t break down, which I’d have serviced once a year by an expert – like any normal mechanical consumer product. That’s another reason for going the Tackleberried PTW route. But, nowadays, there’s reliable stuff near entry-level prices, like HPA, which from a theoretical point of view I’m a big fan of.