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Milsim vs reality: Is there any application to the real world?

Milsim. What is it? Military simulation is essentially a live-action simulation of real world military actions. People will work in groups in different types of “games” or scenarios with military-style equipment and “toys” that fire plastic pellets at one another. Airsofters, LARPers, can be used interchangeably. There are game rules and generally accepted standards and practices.

The question has been posed to us over the years asking if there are any real-world applications for this type of sport. Within the team and with friends of ours that own properties where military simulation enthusiasts go out and “train,” this is a debatable subject. We thought we would further add noise to the conversation, but hopefully slightly more focused. Full disclosure, nobody on our crew has played airsoft or trained with airsoft. The closest we got was old school paintball guns or in the military using Simunitions in force on force exercises in which there is immense value.

I have shot a few airsoft guns for fun and found them similar to the BB guns I shot when I was barely a teen. I’ve tried to be as objective and open-minded as possible, keeping an eye out for economical training options not commonly used due to the current ammo blight brought on by the civil unrest of last year.

My experience with the airsofters has been limited and not entirely favorable one at that. Previous encounters with avid participants in the sport have delivered a mixed bag of both ability and favorable attitude. My research into Milsim consisted primarily of watching Youtube videos and limited discussion with friends who still play the sport. I know that’s not a fair assessment. That’s why I mention it now.

Things I see value in when it comes to MILSIM:

• Collective network of friends that can go out and work together regularly

• Dry fire manipulations of pistol and rifle (see issues below)

• Sight picture and sight alignment muscle memory with rapid acquisition of a target

• Non-traditional cover and hide site selection

Milsim can translate out of the live-action role-play environment. These LARPers go out significantly more and work in a group of their friends or a community of friends on average much more frequently than the average firearms owner. In our experience, the average firearms owner may go out and do some plinking target shooting from time to time, but it is a rare individual that goes out and seeks professional instruction to sustain and enhance their capabilities. We have been fortunate at Range U to see many of these extraordinary individuals, but those that go and train regularly can attest to this shortcoming by other firearms enthusiasts. The quality of these airsoft guns have significantly improved since I had last paid any attention to the sport. Many of the airsoft guns can and do use parts and equipment that are interchangeable with live firearms. Rifle rails, magazine releases, charging handles, metal slides on pistols, metal components on rifles, and sight and optics capable of real-world equipment are now all available. For us at Range U, the most valuable and cost effective training is dry firing. The final thing I noticed in my investigation into modern MILSIM is the inventiveness that some of these professional players have in their attempt to outplay their opponents. They use angles and look spider hole type access to ambush their opponents. This outside of the box thinking is highly encouraged in other circles and thus has relevant crossover. While naïve in some situations, if done in a real-world scenario (usually a one-way trip), these spaces that they seem to find and camouflage used in so doing would be quite beneficial.

Issues with MILSIM:

• Crossover to the real world as a whole

• Unrealistic and misunderstanding of principles of warfare

• Unlikely follow-up with real, professional firearms training

Milsim only has real-world value when practicing using real-world firearms manipulations on pseudo

guns that replicate as closely as possible real-world manual of arms. It’s the crossover from pretend to the real world that usually collapses most people’s support for this type of training. Just as a Green Beret might be the best in a face to face jungle or desert fight, the majority will be severely lacking if thrown into the ocean like our SEAL brethren. Likewise, if not understanding firearms manual of arms, basic rifle and pistol marksmanship, recoil mitigation, and a myriad of other aspects, one cannot expect to be any better off than a novice.

Furthermore, a misunderstanding of basic combat principles that are not relevant in Milsim would get one killed in a realistic scenario. When we train about cover and concealment, for example, the differences between them can easily be understood by all when comparing the Milsim world to the real one.

Lastly, the biggest downfall of Milsim, when it relates to the real world, is the lack of follow-up. Playing just for play is a great thing, and we all need our avenues of decompression. However, when considering Milsim as an alternative to actual training, I would argue this approach is severely lacking without competent and professional training to establish solid foundational principles. Even we as instructors continue to receive outside instruction and work within the various “communities” to stay relevant and to continue to learn. Milsim players wanting a deeper understanding and cost-effective means of training cannot scrimp out on learning WHY things are done and WHAT they should be thinking about in different situations.

All too often, we have heard hunters and woodsmen who have “grown up with firearms” brush off training opportunities or, worse, pontificate on subjects they do not have a deep understanding. This illusory superiority bias gets people hurt daily and, in this realm, would get them killed. I cannot exclude myself from this temptation as nobody can, so encourage dialog and self investigation in these endeavors.

To close out this topic, we can state that yes, that there is some value to training with Airsoft/Milsim. This position is heavily caveated however and in no way should solely replace competent professional training. What are your thoughts?

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