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The Current State of UK Airsoft Magazines

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The State of Airsoft Magazines

 

- Reviewing Airsoft Action and Airsoft International -

 

Disclaimer:
i) I've been a subscriber to Airsoft Action since March of this year after recently discovering it.
ii) I've been reading Airsoft International since 2005, and my father was a subscriber for a number of years. I have been buying it again since March of this year.

 

I have wanted to review and compare the two main printed airsoft publications for a while now. After a couple of years with very little skirmishing being played (my daughter was born being a main reason) it was the trying out of a closer airsoft site (Ace Combat) and reading an issue of Airsoft Action that Nigel Streeter (editor) posted to me after a cheeky emailed request, that has reignited my passion in the game.

 

I am basing this joint review of the two publications from recent editions:

 

Airsoft Action, October 2015, 98 pages, of which 23 are whole page devoted to advertisements - 23%. Price - £4.50.

Listed staff - two: Nigel Streeter and Gareth 'Gadge' Harvey. Although, Jerry Noone, Les Lee, Kelly Hardwick, Paul Yelland and Dan Mills have regular and often multiple features in each issue.

 

Airsoft International, Volume 11, issue 5. 90 pages, of which 32 are whole page devoted to advertisements - 36%. Price - £4.25.

Listed staff - Eight: Paul Monaf, Ben Webb, Ben Dickie, Jonathan Wade, James Kenton, 'Frenchie', Connor James (Monaf) and Craig Atkin. This magazine is very much a family publication, as Sharon Monaf is listed as the Administrative Director.

First impressions. AI's cover is the slicker looking cover. AA's also enticing but focuses more on words over pictures. AI is more advertisement heavy and this is noticeable when skimming through.

 

AA has a wider range of articles, from reviews of gear/weapons/books/stores/sites/
events, to survival tactics in the 'real world', history (WWI) and 'Practical Shooting'. In depth feature on the Entebbe Airfield raid and 'Namsoft. AA has recently in issues had a lot of space dedicated to Viper's new range of gear, as well as Helikon's range. AA has recently had more reader competitions to win some very nice pieces of kit.

 

AI has reviews on weapons/gear/events/sites, as well as in depth, serialized pieces on a DMR build and Carl Gustav build. Recently, AI have dedicated a lot of magazine space to gear reviews, last issue was 5.11 Gear, this issue (+ a separate mini booklet enclosed) is heavy on Military1st/Helikon kit. A bug bear of mine when reading AI from 2005 onwards was the frequent grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes (homophones etc.) - this issue has clearly had a higher standard of editing/checking, and it reads much better. What is hard to ascertain in AI, but not in AA, is which staff member has written which feature. Both publications have first hand reviews on products the team own and have brought themselves. Both have a distinct feel; I feel AA flows better if reading cover to cover due to the layout of articles and spacing of advertorials. Even AI's feature pages have adverts squeezed onto them. Both have clear contents pages, subscription information (although neither have attractive subscription incentive 'freebies'), and AA dedicates 4 pages to a UK-wide site directory.

 

It is hard for magazines to 'stay ahead of the curve' in terms of news, new weapons and gear if compared to the forums, but certainly both magazines have reviewed kit that I'd not seen in the airsoft forums I frequent. This is a definite positive.

Product reviews are well written and detailed. As I've been a longer AI reader, what annoyed me was the phrase 'available from all good airsoft retailers' after a review. AA is more defined; where said product came from and for how much. This I find far more helpful.

After reading both, I feel vindicated in subscribing to Airsoft Action and casually buying Airsoft International. Both are great reference material and both serve a purpose. The editing in AI has vastly improved of late, which, as mentioned before, helps a lot when reading (must be the lecturer in me...). I like the range of articles on offer in AA; most are light in page colour and well-presented around clear, well-lit pictures, in AI this issue, many of the features are dark in page colour and fitted around large, atmospherically dark photos. All of this, for me, changes how easily I can 'flow' through an article. From the cover designs, you'd assume the opposite from each magazine.

 

What does, however, annoy me, is how AI dedicate a lot of their reviews to the history of the product, rather than how the product performs.

For example, on the front cover of AI - 'Semapo Gear DCU 3D Combat Pants on test!'

In reality, inside, we the reader get a third of the article about the history of DCU, and then the remainder on how Semapo make it. If these pants were tested and evaluated, this information was not included in this 'tried and tested' feature. In fact, it is written like someone has evaluated a picture of said pants...

 

How the two magazines could be improved:

Airsoft Action - I'd like to see retro or older style airsoft guns reviewed, like a throw-back section. Overall, it is a very good magazine, with the contents well presented and easy to read.

 

Airsoft International - Attribute staff to the features. Harsher editing for punctuation, grammar and spellings. Reviews of products rather than reams of history and background information - that is what Wikipedia is for, guys - and more "this is how we found these trousers/gloves etc., to be like. It does have some in-depth 'how to do...' articles and plenty of up-and-coming events and products.

Both could have more freebies for subscribers and AI hasn't gotten near to AA's competitions recently.

 

What I have found recently due to the steady increase of me reading more articles both online and in magazine form, which was odd and as-yet-unexplained, is that an ICS CXP APE review in AA by Jerry Noone was almost word-for-word identical to a review online in the Gunmart review section by Bill Thomas. Neither AA nor Gunmart have clarified why this is to me, despite several enquiries.

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I have been a subscriber of Airsoft Action since reading my first copy in May. Airsoft International was the first magazine I was able to find on the shelves of a newsagents. Pity that more places do not stock them which does restrict the available readership and would make them rely on the adverts. The advertising is helpful when looking for retailers or places to look for kit. I prefer AA as it is UK focused, has more relevant content, and I like the historical articles. Although AI does have some good articles covering load-outs. I do find that both magazines do not tend to be negative or that critical about sites and retailers, possibly because the sponsorship and advertising directly impacts on some impartiality. Some of the typos and grammar are appalling. Still, it is good to have an old fashioned medium to peruse, airsoft needs its periodicals.

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Totally agree.

 

They are different enough to warrant buying both of them IMHO, however, AI's approach to actually proof-reading/editing the content is slap-dash to say the least.

 

AA has reviews more centred towards actually using the kit, AI more on what the kit is, and the history of it.

 

I have no problem with sponsorship at all, but AI typically has far more space taken up in the issue than AA does.

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Both mags have their good and bad points. AA seems to concentrate a little too much on military history articles, which really have no place in a mag dedicated to airsoft games, although the rest is very interesting and usually well written. AI tends to review "Gucci" kit and only really comments on what it is like to buy / wear / look good in / use, rather than actually testing everything properly to see how well it performs under "battle" conditions. They may well do so, but if they do it really doesn't come across in the articles. Both need to rely a lot on adverts to make the production costs reasonable enough to put out the mags at an affordable price for the consumer, but yes the ads do take up a lot of space, although in AI's case a lot less of a percentage now than it used to be 5 or 6 years ago.

 

And as Dentonboy says, both of them suffer from very poor proof reading, as the number of "schoolboy" spelling and grammar errors suggest that they are written on a laptop and rely wholly on the spell checker to correct any errors, without actually reading what they have typed / written. Or, if the writers are of the era where schooling was the "anything you do is right" method then they don't actually know that their spelling and grammar is wrong, but they still passed English with a A*!!

 

The best airsoft mag ever was Airsoft Soldier, a mag produced in Scandinavia for airsofters by airsofters, with no adverts at all. Their gun reviews included a complete strip down of every weapon tested, with pictures of the gun in parts and an honest review of how it performed. Unfortunately, trying to produce a mag at a reasonable price without advertising sponsorship was never going to work and it folded after about 6 issues, leaving some of us out of pocket on pre-paid subs.

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I proof read things for a living so the spelling and grammer drives me nuts in those magazines. After last months AI contained 31 (sorry, I counted) errors I did shoot them an Email offering my services. Never heard back from them, which is understandable, but something has to change. It isn't acceptable in a full price magazine.

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Too right. Basic error checking in AI would be a very good step in the right direction.

 

Some retro reviews would be cool too.

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agree there, read a few mags I have on subscription and it can annoy me when you see so many mistakes in magazines, im quite happy to read a few before they print! :)

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Since doing this, my mind has been fixated upon the similarities between Bill Thomas' reviews in Gunmart and Jerry Noone's in AA.

 

There was the word for word ICS review a couple of issues ago, and both post pictures of the gear infront of the same shed/fence. A look on FB shows they were both educated in Southampton. Does anyone know them? Have they ever been in the same room together?!

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I occasionally buy one or the other, I subscribed to AI for years but they started repeating old reviews, articles and stripdowns etc too often. I prefer the style of AA, AI has got too much gucci kit in it for me nowadays and too few gun reviews, AA has more historical stuff which I don't mind though I appreciate younger players may. If there was a mag which concentrated on guns rather than kit I'd subscribe.

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Never read either of them personally and rely totally on forums and social media to inform and educate. We had a guy writing from Airsoft Action at the Okto Eight Milsim last weekend so will keep an eye out for that review.

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Review of the Umarex H&K M27 appeared here - http://www.gunmart.net/gun_review/umarex_hk_m27_rif - several months ago, written by 'Bill Thomas'.

 

In the January 2016 edition of Airsoft Action, it reappears, written by 'Jerry Noone.'

 

Does anyone know 'either' person? I am convinced they are one and the same. But why use two names (and have these names on Facebook) if you are the same reviewer?!

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I stopped reading ai when every front cover had a 'pmc' who always had to have a beard (not the same guy) and ever since that's what ai focuses on instead of mixing it up and going back to things like Vietnam,ww2 etc

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I bought Airsoft International once and it featured lots of adverts, adverts disguised as articles and the actual articles didn't really go into enough detail to be worth reading.

 

Also saw that UCAP: The Sandpit was voted best CQB site of the year... although to be fair that's not the magazine's fault.

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What I most detest is the poor quality of most of the adverts. Some aren't even print quality 300dpi and they all look like they've been done in Word. Fire Support in particular puts absolutely zero effort into theirs despite taking up about 10% of the pages in the thing.

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I generally pick up both AA and AI and they both have their pros and cons. The major gripe I have about AA is the sheer amount of pages dedicated to military history articles. If I wanted to learn about stuff like that I'd dig out my old history books, I'm paying for an airsoft magazine not "old duffers memoirs vol 98"!

 

Adverts are part and parcel of print media these days, especially anything with a limited appeal like airsoft magazines. Pick up a What HiFi and count up the amount of column inches given over to adverts if you want to see what it really can get like!

 

But yeah, AIs lack of proof reading really does grip my shit.

 

They've both started doing a thing that annoys me though - packing the magazine with a brochure (almost always a Military 1st/5.11 wank fest) meaning you can't flip through it in Smiths to see if it's worth getting this month.

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I agree, there is too much military and historical stuff in AA. If they put them more into an airsoft context, I would 'get it' more, but it just seems like filler to me.

 

AI's editing is still bad, and of late has been very 'Gucci' in content; with the adverticles more and more pronounced. Frankly, it is sometimes hard to tell the magazine from the Military 1st catalogue they have with each issue.

 

What has been nice is the addition of non-M4 AEGs being reviewed. I know, there are non-M4s being released out there, who knew?!

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I know what you mean on the Gucci thing but then it has just been Xmas....

 

Most magazines are heavily led by their editorial team as far as content goes and maybe AIs team are more fond of quality real world gear than some can afford. I used to buy a lot of guitar magazines but they suffer from the same problem - a Pensa Suhr may well be a lovely combination of birdseye maple and the finest ash the world has to offer but I'm never going to pay upwards of £2.5k for a guitar! Endless reviews of high end kit with very little relevance to real world rank and file players put me off.

 

As far as the AI "gucci kit" thing goes though it really depends on how far you want to go (which kind of echoes the thread about airsoft being all about the dress up). Nobody is going to do a two page spread on "best £10 chinese chest rigs off of ebay" because if all you're spending on a chest rig is "as little as I can get away with" then you won't care if it's bar tacked and made of 1000D Cordura. Conversely if you're spending £200 on a pair of trousers you're probably going to want to know as much as you can about performance and quality before you spend the money!

 

One thing that PC Gamer does well is aim a spread spectrum of reviews - they have a "PC Gamer rig" section where they have an ongoing build of a PC that they use to benchmark hardware and games with. To that end they now run three rigs - a budget build, a mid range and a high end choice. I think some articles in AI/AA that cover that kind of spread would be good - maybe instead of say 5 combat shirts that all cost upwards of £100 maybe 2 for under £50, 2 for £50-£100 and 2 money no object ones. That way a direct comparison could be made that lets the reader decide if the extra money is worth it...

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The problem is, AI will have a lot of Gucci kit mentioned and pictured, but VERY little information about what it is actually like to use, wear or anything resembling a review.

 

Compare an AI clothing review to a Military Morons review and it is like comparing a scribbled crayon playschool picture with a Monet. AA clothes reviews are far better. AI will give you a company history, real world history, and the advertorial blurb, but they don't REVIEW it. This vexes me a lot.

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I get Airsoft Action delivered, however, January's copy did not arrive. On enquiring was given this explaination:

 

I am really sorry you didn't receive the January 2016 issue, we have had a very large number of copies go "missing in post" this Christmas and all I can get out of Royal Mail is that they "might have been delayed"!

 

Unfortunately this has meant that I have already sent out every last spare copy I had, so I am unable to replace the one you have not received.

 

Rather disappointing. They are extending my subscription to make up for the missing copy.

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I had exactly the same problem and response. Glad I bought the Jan issue though as it was a good edition.

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The politics of the publishing industry are very long and complex, having worked with a few biking rags in the past it's a literal mine field of cross breeding, asset sharing and corporate domination. I would not be supprised if somewhere down the line the same company bankrolls both mags.

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I wouldn't have an issue if both are owned by the same company somewhere down the line...they are both different enough to justify me usually getting both if they have good articles in.

 

My most recent point is just how poor the editing is for AI - which is the slicker and elder of the two - and how the same article has appeared in two places but written by two apparently separate authors in AA.

 

I am sure I will renew my AA subscription this year. But AI has so many basic errors (that even a half-decent editor could correct with a proof-read) that I just wouldn't subscribe. I will get the ones that interest me, but I won't commit.

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I used to think AA was bankrolled by Viper an Pro Airsoft, every other page, ad and mention was one of these a while ago.

 

I grab both when I see them as always good to have something to read on the lav or in the bath, And as mentioned both suitably different to justify grabbing both.

 

Have found some amazing links, and loadout ideas from both so more than happy to currently support both!

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I enjoy reading them because there are always a couple of good articles to read and pictures to look at in each issue. It is good to see some of the sites that are out there as it gives me ideas for places to possibily visit and have a game or two at. Most articles do tend to be positive, or at least not particularly negative, which I understand due to the nature of a niche hobby and needing advertising sponsership, etc. Would like to see more comparison reviews of guns and maybe some articles on how to do simple maintainance/repairs/upgrades. When I was first looking into airsoft the magazines were very useful to give me retailers and sites to look up on the internet and research.

 

I actually enjoy the historical articles in AA but then I am into military history and have plenty of books on the subject in my study.

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