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Riot Shields in Airsoft: Overpowered or Under-utilised?

Man using riot shield in Airsoft arena

In a sport that is built on respect, fair play and keeping within the ‘spirit’ of the game, riot shields are something of a dividing topic. Many of us will have at some point considered whether using a shield would be productive for us and our teammates and whether it would be something we actually want to use. If you’ve not played with or against a riot/ballistic shield in the past, this may be something of a new topic for you and something you are yet to make up your mind on.

Hopefully, we can help to inform you of the advantages and disadvantages of shields on the battlefield and provide you with some food for thought. That said, if you’re a more experienced player that has seen the shield in action, you’ll likely already have your own opinion on whether it has a place in the collective heart of airsoft. Either way, we’ll be looking to you to provide your thoughts, experiences and opinions on the topic. Leave a note in the comments section below, or head on over to our Facebook page to leave a comment on the post.

Should They Be Allowed in Airsoft?

This is the million dollar question, from which the topic of fair-play stems. Ultimately, the purpose of a shield is to protect the user, and potentially other team members, from enemy fire. The shield is also a moveable and mobile asset on the battlefield which can allow players and teams to remain in cover while progressing towards their target/objective.

At first glance, this seems like something of a trump card for the team using the shield, as it's a moveable cover while still enabling players to shoot at enemies. Perhaps this is why some sites have taken the drastic step of banning them entirely, with no use of shields permitted on the site. Although this is an understandable response to something with the potential to ruin a game, however, it could be seen as being a bit too strict, without first allowing for the possibility of rectifying the situation.

The objective of a sport is to win, generally by beating an opponent with a better time, more points, or as in airsoft, by shooting them. Typically, as players become better, the rate of improvement in their ability slows down and eventually plateaus. This means they are left looking for tactics and strategies that can help them win games and sometimes this even involves bending the rules slightly. Unless specified by the site, riot shields are not illegal to use in airsoft which means they can offer a tactical advantage over other players, but does this make them unfair, or just underused?

Let’s assume that because of this blog, we start a trend of people using riot shields in airsoft. Realistically, we could expect to see three outcomes from this:
- Sites and hosts begin to ban the use of the shield meaning we have to revert back to using our regular loadout
- People realise that the shield is actually a hindrance and not an asset on the battlefield
- Players will build the shield into their game style and develop new strategies to maximise its effectiveness

Essentially, we use it and like it, use it and don’t like it, or aren’t allowed to use it at all. For players that have clocked up a few more ‘airsoft miles’ on the odometer and been playing for a longer time, you may remember when CQB started becoming popular. You may also remember that because of this trend, shotguns became a popular weapon choice as players adapted to new requirements and environments. Maybe we need to adapt to this new style of play, to develop new tactics and strategies that focus on removing the shield's benefits from the equation. This can be done by carrying more grenades, mines and other tactical gear.

Could we Make it Fair?

Although many guns, accessories and clothing items look like the real deal, airsoft is built around fun and shooting lightweight plastic balls at each other, not heavy, metal bullets. Because of this fact, there are certain elements of the game that do not quite accurately reflect real life, and riot/ballistic shields fall into this category.

When you’re using airsoft guns, there is only a certain amount of damage you can do, which means that the criteria for an effective shield in airsoft are a lot more lenient than when you’re dealing with high powered assault rifles and alike. If you were to craft a 2m x 1m rectangle from polycarbonate, it would only need to be 5mm thick to stop all incoming fire and would still be very light-weight and could be completely see-through. This moves us on to restrictions and how they could potentially be put in place to keep the use of shields balanced.

Realistically, criteria would need to be set that places limitations on both size and design, perhaps to mimic that of a real shield by making it opaque and having a small window for visibility. Designing them as standard issue size would also help towards making them fairer accessories. Additionally, sites could place limitations on how many a team can use, or to have them available as a rental item at the site with one or two allotted per team. We’d also like to see restrictions placed on the number and size of weapons that the carrier can hold, having the shield as a substitute for a primary weapon and being limited to only carrying a secondary such as a pistol or low-powered SMG.

What do you think about using shields? Leave us a comment in the comments section below or let us know on Facebook and Twitter!

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