Soapbox: Realistic Milsim Paintball – A Soldiers View

It’s 2am. You open your eyes into the blinding brightness. Someone is whispering your name “SMITH! SMITH! GET OUT OF BED. STAND TO! WE’RE BEING PROBED.” You sit up in your sleeping bag and your head brushes against the frozen hootchie suspended over your shell scrap. You pull yourself out of the warm sleeping bag and search for your wet pants and shirt which you stuffed under your bivvy bag with some deluded idea that they would dry. Another paraflare goes off over the position “Pssssssshhhhhttttt!” The entire surrounding countryside is lit and you can see people on the other side of the position taking down their shelters. You check the thermometer on your watch, -2 degrees, a warm night. You get your boots and helmet on and get out of your pit, searching for your webbing and rifle on the way out. You give the poles of your hootchie a swift kick and the frozen tarp collapses onto your sleeping bag, no doubt filling it with ice so it’ll be nice and warm when you get back in. Your headset flickers into life “11A rifleman this is 11A sunray, radio check, over.” You depress the send button on your radio “11A sunray, this is 11A rifleman, you are lima Charlie, over ”

You take a knee next to your shell scrape and flick your NVG down over your right eye and stare into the foggy green mist caused by the condensation on the lense. You curse and lift it again to wipe it with your sleeve and then drop it down again and look at the green landscape. 10 minutes pass. You watch the tussock around you move in the wind. You feel the cold cut straight through your wet cotton shirt. The ice under your knee starts melting and your pants leg starts to soak through. Another paraflare shoots up from a nearby reentrant and illuminates the position again. You sigh and keep watching the hazy green landscape around you. To your left your pit buddy kneels next to you, visibly shivering in the cold. This is the third probe tonight, and any chance of sleep is just a dream.

This is the reality of a military exercise.

There are no doors to be kicked in.

No bombs to disarm.

Your body armor and equipment weighs 30 kilos on its own. The value of your NVG and radio is several times that of your car. Running is a chore. The machine gun is the last thing you want to touch and the only thing you look forward to is sitting in your hole and eating after a 10 hour patrol carrying 50 kilograms of equipment.

What Do You Think When You Hear “MILSIM Paintball”?

A lot of people seem to enjoy what they like to call “Military Simulation”  or MILSIM Paintball for short. These people are the same kinds of people who enjoy playing video games like Call of Duty and Battlefield. They think that changing a magazine is the most important part of “being an operator” and that by simply wearing an armour plate carrier they look cool. I’ve personally never been partial to this kind of play, even before I joined the military I always looked at it with a small amount of distaste. Something about it never seemed right. These guys wanted to be operators, but they were too afraid of the actual military. Maybe the authority scared them, maybe they couldn’t deal with having someone else tell them what to do with their lives? For whatever reason, these guys wanted to be operators, without doing the hard yards.

Willie Apiata

This is what a real operator looks like

After my little stint with the Army I have a new level of distaste for this kind of thing. In reality there is no glory in being an “Operator” and these guys don’t do it for awesome pictures on the internet (Although Willy does look damn good.)

However, the intent here isn’t to discuss the moral and ethical implications of pretending to be something that you’re not. The intent is to voice a few issues I have with MILSIM paintball. Now, before you say “But it’s not a real war, it’s just a game” think about this – it’s called Military Simulation. Isn’t the aim to simulate a real military operation? If it wasn’t, wouldn’t you just play “speedball”(I try not to use this title because I consider anything other than MILSIM to be just paintball) or were you just looking for an excuse to wear military gear without being in the military?

Milsim Tactics 101 (or lack thereof)

I see guys playing MILSIM Paintball &  everyone wants to be a hero. Everyone wants to be the guy who single handedly kills all the Jihadis, disarms the bomb,  gets the girls and yada yada yada. You might deny this, we all like to think we are some kind of lone wolf operator who’s better than the other guys on their team.

When you’re in the military, no one is better than anyone. Everyone does the same job.

In reality, a firefight is based on effective fire and maneuver. One person in a pair fires their weapon, at the target, the other person in the pair makes a short bound – usually no more than 10 metres. The section then advances onto the enemy position and kills the suckers up close, by doctrine this is done either by shooting, bayoneting or grenading the enemy. This isn’t something a lot of MILSIM paintball players observe. The majority of the time people make outrageous movements over long stretches of ground with little or no cover – why? Because you can.

Is this therefore an accurate simulation of a military engagement?


Battle Drills

In a real contact there are four battle drills:

  • Reaction to effective enemy fire (Getting shot)
  • Identify the enemy (Figure out who shot you)
  • Assault (Kill his ass for shooting you)
  • Re-Org (Put your ass back together)

MILSIM paintball tends to only focus on the first three parts. When  the fourth part is arguably the most important part for the sake of realism.

Re-Org – The Missing Battle Drill

Let’s talk about that fourth part, let’s talk about casualties during an assault. So you’re advancing down a road, on your own (Makes a good Tui Ad) and suddenly you get ambushed, you’re dead. Well that’s alright, put your hand in the air and walk down to the “respawn” point and you’re alive again! Yay! Well, what if this was a real contact? Do you think you can just get back up again in the killing zone of an ambush and be alright? No. For simplicities sake, let’s say it was an exercise, are the directing staff going to let you get up and walk? No. The directing staff is going to expect you to kill the enemy, then once you’re sitting on a pile of dead bad guys, you have to go back and pick up those dead mofos and take them to a casualty exchange point.

Note, by dead mofos I mean ALL the dead mofos. Regardless of whether they’re your friends or not. How are you going to move them? On your back or if you’re clever, a stretcher. Some of you might ask “well how does this help realism?” Riddle me this – if you had to find and recover every dead person, either friendly or enemy before you could move onto another objective/contact, would you have people running around on their own? Probably not. This encourages two things, first people want to stay cohesive. The faster you can reorg your section, the faster you can keep moving.

The second is in discourages things which might have previously been doable because – i’m sure you can cover a span on 50 metres in one bound, but if you die on the way your whole section is coming after you.

Too many Chiefs, not enough Indians (The Importance Of Chain Of Command To Realism)

Real Military groups work on chain of command. No matter how operator you are, someone is going to tell you when you can eat, sleep and shit. Command means that decisions are made and stuck to regardless of consequences. Don’t like a commander’s decision? Too bad, you signed the line.

Milsim Paintball

Terminal Lance – Why We Drink

If you want to achieve any level of realism you need a chain of command. A section commander, a platoon commander, whatever you want to call it. The section commanders job isn’t only to tell rifleman number one to draw sniper fire. The section commander is responsible for everything prior to, during and following a contact. Along with the section commander you a section second in command, or 2IC should be present. The 2IC is the section bitch. After a contact, he locates and accounts for all dead, both enemy and friendly. He makes sure ammunition is distributed and the wounded are dealt to.

It’s important that your command element is taking care of all aspects of the patrol. Not as I said earlier, just telling everyone what to do “cause they the boss.” The section commander has to dictate everything

  • Where is the patrol going?
  • How are they getting there?
  • What happens if we get hit?
  • What happens to casualties?

I’m not going to talk you through section leadership 101 – but you get the general idea. It’s also important that everyone in the section knows the ropes and understands the intent, if the commander is killed, everyone should understand enough to complete the mission. I understand this command might exist in some MILSIM Paintball games in the form of pre game briefings. But I believe that adherence to a command structure during the game means that people are kept of a shorter leash. The use of a solid command structure, along with realistic casualty rules means that at least for one in every eight players, the game just got a whole lot more stressful.

Inspector Gadget (Equipment – Less Is More)


This guy has realistic military similation written all over him

What’s the coolest looking piece of military equipment to hit the fashion scene in the last 20 years? Without a doubt, it’s the plate carrier. Everyone who’s anyone is wearing a plate carrier right? What’s a plate carrier for? Oh, that’s right, carrying ballistic plate armour.

When was the last time anyone actually put plates in their plate carrier for a MILSIM Paintball game? Probably never. Let’s face it, plate carriers are useless. And don’t try and tell me you’re just wearing it to carry your stuff, because if that were the case you would have bought yourself a chest rig or H-harness belt order to carry your stuff.

The reality is that any soldier you talk to is going to tell you they despise their body armor and will generally only wear it when required to by orders or when the situation is deemed dangerous enough to justify that level of protection. For the purpose of “MILSIM” paintball, you’re probably better off wearing something like belt webbing. Belt webbing serves two purposes. It’s light – containing no unnecessary material which you find on a plate carrier. Belt webbing also removes ammunition and unnecessary rubbish on your front, meaning when you go prone, you’re prone. Not prone plus half a foot.

“Dammit Joe! You forgot to get our dump pouches! How will anyone know that we’re operators?” – NZSAS do the walk of shame after forgetting their dump pouches. Image Source: TVNZ

The second coolest accessory this season is dump pouches. Every operator has a dump pouch right? Empty mag, mag goes in the dump pouch, fresh mag goes in the rifle – slaying bodies all day. Dump pouches are great – if you’re sticking empties in there. Trouble starts when you put part full mags in there. What happens when you need those last five rounds in the mag you chucked in there four magazines ago? Time to go-a-searching!

Two useful points about dump pouches:

  1. You should never actually use a dump pouch. It should stay somewhere useful, like at home
  2. Second – you should just put your empties back in your webbing where you got them from

Enough said

Seths Tips for Playing Realistic MILSIM Paintball

Thing about the rules and what you’re actually trying to achieve. If you want to have an actual “military simulation”, consider a few of the following;

  • Inclusion of realistic “dead” player rules i.e: no “respawns” until the assault is complete and your section has gathered dead players to a designated reorg point. This encourages cohesion and discourages “sniper” or camping players.
  • Implement and follow a clear command structure. Some people may find this is a bit – restrictive. However, if it works in a real military situation, maybe it will help you to achieve a better simulation of the real deal. I’m not writing an article on command though, so you’ll need to figure that part out for yourself.
  • Carry a realistic load out.  Ask yourself, do I really need this armour plating, if you are serious about military simulation, take into account the amount of equipment being carried, and how its taken into the field.
  • Mag Fed is a great move forwards, ordinary soldiers don’t have 200 round magazines, and neither should you.

About the Author:

Seth M72Seth used to troll the NZ Paintball message boards looking for fresh victims from an early age and was always facing repeated threats of the mighty banstick. He eventually ended up working as a firearms dealer, studying engineering at the University of Auckland before a brief stint in the New Zealand Army.  This of course makes him an expert in everything.

He hasn’t explained his reasons for leaving the armed forces, and we aren’t going to ask.  He now lives in a cave somewhere in Wellington and is the… ahem…brains.. behind the New Zealand Paintball Smokers lounge, a facebook group that is guaranteed to offend, well, everyone. 

Mar, 19, 2014