Yes, Airsoft. Though there are many detractors of the MilSim Airsoft subculture out there, I’m not one of them. I have seen quality airsoft weapons used to great effect in training scenarios, and I was also surprised at how entertaining it could be.
In my mind, running around in kit shooting it up with your friends is a better time than golf, if you can’t get to the range, and I damn sure prefer my assorted spawn and minions do that than sit on their ass playing X-Box all day.
Airsoft Extreme, run by Andrew HO and some partners, has been in business since 2000. They have four stores (Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Clara, Los Angeles), a strong on-line presence and a very technically experienced staff. Some of their employees have worked their for a decade or more; there’s probably no other with as experienced a staff (some of whom are veterans). I’ve visited the LA store myself and ran into a surprising array of military personnel (behind the counter and in front of it, including a medic home on leave from the 160TH SOAR.)
I first met Andrew a few years back at a Strategos International course in Kansas City and kept in touch with him in the years since. When I wanted to purchase reliable, high end weapons to train my guys he helped our selection process immensely. He also went above and beyond to help me equip tracking school OPFOR when we were doing pro-bono courses for local military and LE personnel.
I am repeatedly astounded at the number of people ‘in the industry’ that Andrew knows and corresponds with frequently. It’s hard to meet anyone he doesn’t know in some capacity. He’s very good friends with the man behind Military Morons, action photographer Quoc Ha, competition shooter Shin Tanaka, Chen Lee, Max Mullen and, well, pretty much everybody. He has on more than one occasion introduced me to people with a familiarity that left me shaking my head.”
“A couple people have been central to me,” Andrew says. “One is Mike Maceda, a gearhead and an action figure designer—that’s the guy originally behind 21ST Century Toys. He went on to be a designer at SO Tech and now works for a different contractor manufacturing gear, including Echo Niner. Brad Nelson from Lightfighter played a pretty serious role in how AEX started, back in the old days.”
Airsoft Extreme has provided charitable support for many veteran-centric organizations (like the Special Operations Warfare Foundation), they’ve assisted on a project run by Dalton Fury and have been involved in many things Andrew doesn’t really discuss because it’s charity.
What’s funny to me is the amount of training Andrew has pursued vs. his attitude. An excellent example of the TEARC (Trained and Educated Armed Responsible Citizen), Andrew will laugh and say “I actually know nothing about guns, not really.” This despite the fact that he’s trained with almost every ‘big name’ tactical instructor out there, and many who aren’t as well known—Larry Vickers, Pat MacNamara, Mike Pannone, Jason Falla, Chen Lee and many others.
AEX has an excellent T&E program available for departments and units and have a lot of experience helping with the selection of training tools for LEOs and military trainers. They have an excellent supply of gear in stock and will happily help anyone select what they need, whether to train a tactical unit or just for recreational use.
I’m not going to lie, I enjoy the hell out of shooting all my spawn and minions at the local indoor place. It makes me feel better after weeks of the beatings I take on the X-Box.
If you’re looking for some airsoft gear for yourself, your students or your kids, check out AEX. They’re good folks, they’re self-deprecating and point man Andrew Ho is one of the Good Guys.