Man Down at Skirmish Mansfield

  The Shadow Stalkers deployed in good numbers and good spirits to the game day on the 2nd March at Skirmish Mansfield. While the day started as many days of airsofting do, it will be one that the team and certainly myself are unlikely to ever forget.

   Skirmish Mansfield is a well regarded site within the team, we enjoy its varying game zones, its polite and friendly marshals and its great safe zone that means, even in the rain the site can still be enjoyable. Many of us including myself have played at the site numerous times, in fact it was this site where I started playing Airsoft just under a year ago, this time was different, this time my whole future of playing airsoft would hang in the balance.

  Rather than do my game day report, on everything I want to focus on one game, the village, specifically attacking the village. Shadow Stalkers hold the record for both attack and defence on the village so its a game we enjoy massively.

  On the right hand side of the village is a small wooden two floor building, it is one of the key buildings on the field and taking it is one of two main priorities for clearing the village quickly. The team began its push onto the building, having seen other members make good advances I decided to get to the building with the aim of clearing it.

The back of the structure has the only two doorways on the building which open into separate rooms, I advanced towards the building, a quick scan of the first door seemed clear, I switched to cover the second door, while still moving forward. The opposing team knew we were gaining ground and a two of them must have decided they didn’t want to get pinned down and that they would make a bid for freedom so they could hold another area.

   While I was still about 10 feet from the first door, two players from the other team came out of the second door, the first ran, he took a burst from my Masada in his back. The second player saw me levelled his M4 and put a burst into me, this engagement was probably about 15-20 feet in length. The burst hit me in the head, rounds bounced off my lower mesh mask and off my eye protection. In a fraction of a second and in a one in a million shot, one round amazingly bounced off the edging of my mask and deflected upward with enough force to get under my ballistic glasses. The round struck me in the lower part of my eye and was deflected the round still had enough energy to continue onward and bruise the area under my eyebrow.

  Not understanding what had happened a raised my hand to my eye, thinking I had just been caught off guard by the number of rounds that hit my eye protection. I called my hits and began walking back toward re-spawn, while walking I lowered my hand and opened my eye, nothing changed. I was blind in my right eye. I yelled for a marshal but as the seriousness sank in I yelled as loud as I could for a cease fire. Having walked about 30 feet from the point of impact the shock hit me and I went down, I dropped to my knees and as team mates and marshals came running over I lifted my Masadas sling off my body and sat in fear and panic as I began to understand that my right eye was simply not working any more. Its impossible to explain the fear at this point, your mind blocks out logic and reason and focuses only on the worst, I had lost my sight, my mind raced as to how exactly I was going to live with this, not once did I consider it could be fixed only that my life had been changed for the worst and that something as valuable as my sight was in one eye gone forever.

The marshals got me out of the game zone, I was trying to walk but I was basically dead to the world at this point as the shock hit harder and harder my legs simply stopped working and unfortunately for the marshals they had to drag me and all of my combat gear until they could get me sat down and I was then taken by ambulance to Queens medical centre where there is a specialist eye casualty.

The impact caused massive bleeding with in my eye, along with damage to the retina at the rear of my eye. It was the blood level in my eye that has impaired my vision, at the time of writing the blood is draining and the swelling is going down. The eye did however take a serious impact I currently can’t do any physical activity due to the risk of a retinal detachment. I will also need to have the pressure of my eye tested annually for the foreseeable future as this can increase even years after an injury.

It is at this point I would like to say to anyone who may be reading from other countries that fully sealed eye protection is not required by sites in the United Kingdom and that from my experience the vast majority of players I have played with and seen playing do not wear fully sealed protection. With me wearing both ballistic rated glasses and a lower mesh mask which included ear protection the irony was I had more protective kit on my head than most players on the field.

While I do not wish to preach, I understand that all Airsoft players go to their sites, listen to the safety briefings where full face protection like paintball masks are recommended and that players who choose to wear other protection do so at their own risk. It is a risk I took, it is a risk that many other players take and doubtless will continue to take. I just want to say to anyone in the sport or considering getting involved, it is now my personal recommendation that players should wear fully sealed eye protection at all times. The events that took place on the 2nd March were the single most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me and I would not wish it on anyone. Never under estimate the importance of good eye protection.

I have also had a number of players suggest that should wear mesh goggles, however a greater number of players quickly pointed out the higher levels of risk with mesh goggles. With mesh there is a risk that the BB may fragment on impact and the mesh will allow these fragments through and into your eye at speed. There is also a further risk with cheaper mesh that the paint on the goggles themselves can come off on impact and end up in the eye.

I know players, even the ones on site who saw me go down will still probably keep playing with just ballistic glasses and thats fine, the shot that hit me was one in a million and you could probably spend months trying to recreate it and never have it happen but just know that no matter how unlikely that it can happen.

The good news, my vision is returning and I am going to get my vision back, whether it will be as good as it was in my right eye is unknown and that will have to wait for my treatment at Queens medical centre to be concluded before I find out. I have been lucky, a few feet closer, a different angle or a heaver BB and I could have been blinded for life. I would never want to put anyone off this wonderful and enjoyable sport, by writing this I simply wanted to inform players of the hazards of what we do, rest assured as soon as my vision is back I intend to return to the field.

I would now just like to say a big thank you to all the members of my team, Shadow Stalkers Airsoft, who helped me on the day, along with the fantastic staff at Skirmish Airsoft, the Paramedics who attended and all the staff at the Queens Medical centre. I would also like to say thank you to all of you who played alongside me on the day who have wished me well and I hope to see you at another game day soon.

Writen by: Alex Booth