Central War Gaming Blog

Central War Gaming Blog

 

Monday, January 3, 2022

Everything lightsticks!

Here at CWG we love lightsticks. Glow sticks, Cyalumes, whatever you call them, they are just neat, but we also use them a lot because we just do training and landowners, residents, and local fire protection districts don't like it when you set the training ranges on fire. 

If you come to Swift Fox 22, you'll be loaned or given some stuff, like little bags of mini lightsticks for marking trails and campsites, and a few Cyalume flare-replacements. 

Operation Swift Fox 22

Wyandotte, Oklahoma

April 22-24, 2022

Sign up today!

"Minis?" "Flares?" Read on for more about all the various glowing products there are. 


Sizes, Types, Runtimes, etc. 

There are lots of versions and variants of many products, and while I am sure Cyalume has a neat Powerpoint explaining it all, they sure won't share with us. 

So, just the "lightstick" products (they make some other chemical light up things) and with some cross-brand info:

Colors

Much like tritium, the phosphors have varying output. I don't have a solid list but my impression is, brightest to least:

  • Yellow
  • White
  • Green
  • Orange
  • Blue
  • Red
  • Pink

IR is only made by Cyalume itself AFAIK, and is hard to put on the brightness scale but seems plenty bright, similar to the yellow/green range, through night vision, but has no visible output so... not really a 1:1 comparison.

I think Cyalume doesn't make pink. it is often identified just by colored stickers which look like (or may be SOLD AS) red. It's not. They also look closer to purple to my eye, but it's called Pink. 

Colors when illuminated have no obvious relationship to colors when not snapped. If it matters what color a lightstick is, DO NOT take it out of the wrapper. There is no marking ON the stick and the color of a non-cracked stick has a very tenuous relationship to the glow color. The chemistry is what it is, so these colors for the knockoff minis shown are typical but... I wouldn't try to memorize, this is just for fun:

Left to right, lit colors: Yellow, Orange, Blue, Aqua, Lavender, Violet 

Passive Lit
Yellow Yellow
Orange Orange
Clear Blue (IR also looks clear un-snapped)
Yellow-green Aqua (but also can be... yellow-green!)
Pink Lavender (did not come through in the camera, but I promise: lavender)
Red Violet

I'll add more as I find additional colors like red. 


Sizes

  • 0.20 x 1.5"
  • 0.20  x 2"
  • LARGER CHEAP NO NAME.... 
  • 0.20 x 8" - Party or Bracelet or so on, novelties
  • 4" — Never seen one, but NSN milspec Cyalume product in the same foil packaging as the 6", same shape of light, with the hook and all, seems the same diameter I think, just shorter.
  • also 4" – Don't have one now, not sure of diameter but close to 6" size, just shorter and straight cylinders with rounded ends. These are always low quality, often don't all light up, or light brightly. Usually have a thicker ring around one end with a loop but often not fitted so falls off, can't be used to hang it without glue or tape to retain the ring.
  • 6" - The standard size, tapered, has become smoother over the decades but still faceted at the small end, transitioning to round, with a hook or loop at the smaller end and a round cap at 0.70" diameter. 8" is the overall length to the tip of the hook Mostly sold individually foil wrapped but bulk packs for special purposes are available. There are also 6" length ones that are shaped and built like the 4" ones.
  • 0.70 x 8" — Flare Replacements — 8" overall, but a rounded-end cylinder of 0.70" diameter over the whole length. No hook. Taped-on wire feet. Can be removed but be careful and you then have to take it out of the wrapper so use it soon enough.
  • 10" (not sure diameter) — Some in or integral with a plastic cylinder with flat ends. Sold for escape, and for marking of emergency scenes, evacuation sites like CCPs, etc. Also sold as a flare replacement like the 8" with two feet on the end as a bipod, also as the Self-Standing Baton, with an integral wire tripod to make it stand straight up about 4" off the ground.
  • 12"  (not sure diameter)  — Heavy duty, but not clear what that means. Similar marketing to the 10" but not as well cataloged (i.e. "shop by length" doesn't have a 12" size on the Cyalume site though they sell them)
  • 1 x 14" — No-name import that is broadly a 15" cyalume competitor. Seem to be reliable, beloved by divers for example, and seems to be reliable enough they tolerate them, at the $15 they are apiece.
  • 0.70" x 15" — Same size and appx shape as flare replacement, just longer. Often as high or ultra-high intensity. Often as impact. Some individually wrapped, some in 5 pack cylinders. Impact come in a resealable bubble wrap bag in the tube when in bulk, when individually... be careful? Available in IR in 3 hour mode but while they may exist I have not seen longer timeframes available in any colors.

(Sizes are nominal guesses, actual measurements are a bit under or over on average IME)

Other products probably use existing sizes above but are not sold by sizes, and it's unclear what they are:

  • SOS Signal Light. Light in a cardboard tube, extend and it comes out on a short string. Pre-made buzzsaw in a box.
  • PML, Personal Marker Light, permanently mounted to a case with a big clip, for putting on life vests, etc. USCG Approved.
  • PML Dual Personal Marker Light, two of the above in a rigid V shape. I am sure like cateyes the shape/size helps tell how far away, azimuth changes, etc. USCG Approved.
  • Marker panels ... flat adhesive things in square and round
  • More! I will add more as I notice and have spare time, give tips on the tripflares, for example. Ask if you have questions...

Illumination Times

Time correlates to brightness. Apparently it's pretty close to correct to think that all of the same volume have the same energy, and the mfg can tune how fast it all releases.

  • 5 minute "ultra high intensity" – This is practically a flare in all but the brightest condition. In moonless dark, is hard to look at
  • 30 minute "high intensity" – Also very, very bright. Versions are sold with little wire holders to keep off the road at a 45° angle, as "Flare Replacements" by Cyalume themselves. These are often quite cheap, but BE CAREFUL of the wire bit. There's exposed wire ends, so don't throw them at others in training or you can put an eye out. 
  • 3 hour — Apparently only for IR output lights. Cyalume 1.5" minis are labeled as 3 hour output. No idea if this is because of a mil request for that output level or IR phosphors are weird so they had to do that for chemistry reasons.
  • 4  hour — Cyalume rates their visible 1.5 minis at 4 hours
  • 6 hour — Many Cyalumes, but also my guess as to what would be the official rating for many third party 2" minis, and party sticks. They talk about a range of times, but including the tail end brightness, this seems right
  • 8 hour — Sorta the "standard" lightstick but mil issue ones also in 6 and 12, with no obvious reason why. IR is only apparently available in 3 and 8 hour.
  • 12 hour
  • 24 hour — I have never seen one, but reportedly true

Activation

  • Crack. Manually break and shake or (more effectively) break across the entire length. Even minis will get more output from breaking the entire length. Break multiple places, or run your fingers along the length, cracking as you go. 
  • Impact. Almost entirely only available in the 15" sizes, throw or drop from a height onto hard surfaces and they activate themselves. 

Cyalume Military catalog, including NSNs:

https://getcyalume.com/wp-cont...RY_english_20_sm.pdf


Mini Lightsticks

These are pretty common for trail marking and so on, but there's a bit to know about them. First, unlike knockoff full size ones, some are different diameters. Here the bottom one is from an $11 tube of 200 no-name, color assorted ones. Visibly fatter.
Top to botton: Cyalume, Lumistick, No-Name.

Note that Lumistick has the characteristic pointy end on the minis and party-size (as shown to right of the mini). They are FOR SURE not rebranded Cyalume but clearly from a different factory as much as quality and packaging often appears to be identical.

The larger size is notably larger. Won't fit into things designed for the Cyalume-spec diameter like the helmet mounts I've mentioned we're (slowly!) prototyping but a few of you have, or I presume the MARCO but I don't have one.

Also, to make these useful (such as for Swift Fox 22) I am sorting them by color, then bagging and labeling. The colors have already been discussed above. 
 


Tactical Markers

Mini glowsticks are very useful individual ID markers. I've had full size ones fussed with in the wrapper, and stuffed into webbing or helmet bands with varying degrees of success, and as I said they still generate far too much light. Minis work better stuck into bands, bungees, etc. and there are holders (all those shown are the 3D printed ones under development, absolutely NO ETC) to make them work better.

While these happen to be yellow/green, one good use is color. Aside from trying to color code your side to tell apart from other lights, you can code units. We've done that lately and it worked very well for a large movement; the scouts were blue, so everyone in the assault unit could find them, and could know to follow blue people.


Markers of any sort can be overkill. This (on the right) is brighter than the (left) cateyes, but is that necessary in the woods?


Often no, and it can even get troublesome, to glaring out NODs, harming night acclimation. But there are different environments. Built up areas have lots of light that can make cateyes disappear, so you can loose at least immediate orientation on your team. Distant lights as below can be even worse as the distant lights are so distributed and so many small points appearing and disappearing behind branches et al they are easily are confused with moving individuals closer in. 

The glowstick here helps make your team-mate pop, and (when you look under the NODs, etc) color can again help with more positive ID:


I haven't done it much, but suspect the long "party" sticks might further be able to help if the light environment gets really confusing, as they can act like cateyes, provide not just more light but a shape, so it's easy to tell how far away, and what angle your team-mates are facing. 


I have done this on the kid's bike helmet, both for more markers when biking at night, and to follow him around at night playground time and it seems to work. More to investigate there. 


"Party" Lightsticks

One of my favorite tricks is the party or bracelet. As thin as minis, but longer so when used as a marker they indicate direction or shape. You can indicate direction on a trail, or when taped to a guyline. Minis are too small so read as point sources so it's hard to tell how far away they even are.


Full sized Cyalumes CAST light. They illuminate an area, so in camp can give away your position by lighting up the trees above, etc. Even when you cleverly arrange the wrapper, they emit too much light. Just use smaller glowsticks if you can get ahold of them:

Both the small diameter sizes put out so little light you can make a patrol base so bright from paths and trip hazard markers you worry you won't be able to get to sleep, yet they only work in line of sight, so 10 m away you can't see it at all, even on NODs.


Minis can become lost. Toss one in tall grass or even a normal forest floor, and they can disappear under the leaf litter. In a sandy area, become buried within minutes. The party sticks you can stick in the ground so they protrude up.

If there is anything bad about the 8" mini-diameter party sticks it is their fragility. You can't put them in the loops of your MOLLE vest as they break instantly. They also come in 100 packs so tend to be campsite or very deliberate use. And, lightsticks expire, so out of wrapper they have only a couple years left.

But, to go down even further to consumer mode, they sell 8 packs! Foil wrapper, cardboard case.
https://www.amazon.com/Glow-St...Color/dp/B09B68WH4H/

I have had 100% success with consumer brands when trying them. I assume like many products, there is no cheap lightstick factory, just Lumistick makes them under contract so they are +/- as good.

Anyway, here's a video demonstrating the relative brightness, and how minis turn into dots at even a few feet range, while the "bracelets" are visibly lines at some distance.



Next, I have to find (I swear I have one) or make a demo of 5, 30, and 8/12 hour brightness Cyalumes. It's neat!


Extended Life

Before the next bit, I guess worth mentioning the context of why I know so much about weird lightsticks. Because we do training not war, and over time it's become hard to get pyro, it's expensive, and many places we use as training ranges can be both flash-flood and red fire hazard. We've experienced range fires with snow on the ground. So, aside from normal team tactics stuff (lane marking, working with your gear at night, setting good patrol bases and OPs...) and being a nerd, finding better solutions and spreading it to our students, we also have found these weird replacements to use as flares, of a sort, for training. Also... we've found some stuff because we use the same ranges over and over again for years.

Q: How long do lightsticks last?

A: Not the time on the label.

It's best to think of them as radioactive. They have a half-life. It is not that straightforward, but the rated time is /close/ to the full-output time. Then, they do not turn off, or drop off rapidly, but persist at a lower and slowly decreasing rate but emitted light is going to be there for long after the rated timeframe.

For how long? Well, it depends. And my observations are either purely anecdotal or from excessively small numbers of samples even when experimental. 

  • Normal 6, 8, 12 hour ones reduce to about 1/2 dimness for say... 50% more time, then slowly degrade further, giving dim marker-level light for another full time period. Say: 12 hours of full bright, 6 hours of dimmer but still "that's a lightstick" and use it to light up an area, and then another 12+ hours at least as bright as a party stick.
  • The 5 and 30 high intensity ones drop off to normal 8/12 hour lightstick level when they expire their time, then slowly over a several hour period get dimmer yet. I have picked them up after an assault (used as flares) to mark CCPs, set parking for relief vehicles, etc. After it's a flare, it's a good normal lightstick for a long while.  
  • Party sticks placed at dusk to mark campsite safety things are bright enough to see into dawn even in the winter (long nights). Not as bright, but bright enough to not trip over lines in the weird morning light. 
  • Actual minis are usually more dead by morning, to the point that you should consider timeframes when emplacing. Don't set minis out at dusk for a pre-dawn attack, but send someone after midnight to emplace or refresh them, for example.  For close range work, like marking where the handmic is in the OP: they work fine into the next night; almost like tritium, they are better after a few hours for this sort of stuff.

Here are the sticks from the video I shared above. Right about 24 hours after breaking the minis and the 6", about 30 hours for the reds, and the yellow party stick (look close, it's above the very dim mini) is from three weeks ago. This is about what they look like to the eye in my normal life, after walking out of the lit house minutes ago:

And adjusted to gather more light, not far from what you'd get more night-acclimated for the reds, but the yellow somehow disappeared, sorry:

The 12 hour red is still casting light; I can read things with it, if held close. The red party sticks are still marginally useful markers in dark conditions at least. The mini is very nearly dead, but is not much brighter than the weeks-old yellow party stick, which pans out. They seem to just keep going and going and going at their dimmest for... ever?

Here, I have thrown the mini into the darkest place I could find in my yard:

It's not that dark out here in the suburb, so a bad test and is clearly visible still. On training range time, we've seen sticks we know are YEARS old that stick out like a sore thumb, a series we can follow as trail markers under NODs when it's moonless under the forest canopy. Years old. How? I don't know. They must be cycling, somehow charging during the day a bit, but... I'll be damned if I understand the chemistry.

Nevertheless this is important to know if you revisit the same territory, use them to mark dangerous items you then clear (like IEDs) or jsut run on the same training range. Pick them up when done if you can. And if lightsticks are important safety markers then don't assume they are all found, and be especially careful about it with processes like color coding or similar (then you ignore that dim red one if blue is the color of the day. 








Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Irons, Dots, or Scopes? There's Data on That!

An all too common discussion, or argument, is what is the best category of sighting system for infantry arms. There are a lot of traditionalists who insist iron sights are best, and much discussion of whether red dots, fixed power scopes, or LPVOs (low-power variable optics) are best. 

Well, a couple years ago the US Army Research Lab (ARL) actually did a very relevant study. Their plan was to determine if a universal zero or soldier zero is best. Now while that's not the focus of what we care about, to avoid you being distracted we'll talk about that briefly. Soldier zero is what you do with your gun, or what the US generally does; the individual zeroes his gun for himself. A Universal zero means the armorer zeroes the rifle for you. For example, the reason the G3 has a weird sight tool is to make sure soldiers in the field can't mess with it, as only armorers are allowed to zero the gun. On purpose. 

But to get there, they did a test of how well each of those zeroes worked... on four different sighting systems! 

That means we incidentally got data on how well each of those sighting platforms work, on the same gun, with the same soldiers shooting, under the same conditions. For those not 1000% familiar, I'll summarize which is which: 

  • Standard M4 Carbine Iron Sight — The MATECH flip up BUIS (Back Up Iron Sight), but basically an aperture or peep sight, with a range dial. 
  • Vortex Razor 1-6x — I guess because 3 years ago, off the shelf, not type classified scope. The defining characteristic of the LPVO is the bottom end is 1x, and ideally is like not looking through a scope at all. Also usually with an illuminated reticle, bright enough to be seen during the day so it sorta operates like a red dot sight at 1x. Reticle is not specified but will likely have a way to hold off for range. 
  • M68 Reflex Sight — The Aimpoint Comp M... something. They use "M68" for all of the several generations. I assume nothing based on the photo, but all Aimpoints are pretty bog standard RDS, or Red Dot Sights. If you think the holographic EoTech is very different, it's not. All Reflex/Collimator/Holographic/RedDot sights are about the same. No reticle, just a dot. No ranging ability. 
  • M150 Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight — A normal 4x ACOG, the newer one (replacing the TA01) is this, the TA31 (Army) or PVQ-31 (USMC). Fixed power, illuminated via fiber optics and tritium and no diopter adjustment for the individual shooter's eyes. Has a BDC reticle to adjust for different ranges if fired off the expected platform (M4) with the proper ammo, and everything is as planned. 

And the results? Lots and lots of stats. Let's not worry about them, and don't agonize over the number of participants. I do some research for a living, and for the type of study, and the results and analytical methods chosen it is fine. These are valid results. 

Biggest takeaway: Irons are terrible. As we've known for individual programs back to the late 1940s, anything is better than irons. Even at 100 m on a range, notably worse results. 

As range increases, the next most obvious thing occurs, in that the red dot begins to suffer. This is likely the direct result of no magnification, so the shooter's eyes are doing a lot of work. 

The M4 and ACOG are optimized for about 300 m distance, and it shows here, with a notable dropoff in accuracy, nearly to RDS levels, at 400 m. 

The LPVO is the best as range increases. Likely because of the small additional magnification, but there may be something else such as dialing vs holding ranges. It's unclear, and would be good to observe people shooting such a test. 

One last note is that they did not test a magnifier behind the M68. That should have provided similar results to the LPVO, but it would be good to try out. 


Read the whole study if of a mind:

Effects of Sight Type, Zero Methodology, and Target Distance on Shooting Performance measures While controlling for Ammunition Velocity and Individual Experience

ARL (US Army Research Laboratory) TR-8594 (December 2018) 

Or bookmark the whole CWG library of info like this.


Using this Info For Swift Fox and other CWG events: 

Due to the limited range of the simulation systems we cap all magnified optics at 4x. But even then, we've seen the reduced-range version of these results as everyone brings their own guns and so we see a broad range of sighting systems. This sort of thing (or classes, or so on) is one reason that these results are not at all confusing and in fact the conventional wisdom. 

Even at closer ranges, there's a notable benefit to optics. While a red dot sight would seem to be enough, the research also was on a flat range, but we've seen magnification be helpful at least as close as 50 m, to see through brush, or pick out camouflaged individuals moving slowly under partial concealment.  


For Swift Fox 22 we'll be back on the ground, in the woods of Oklahoma. Try out your weapons systems and skills April 22-24. Sign up today.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Least Weasel Off but Training ON

We really tried to squeeze in an in person event in the fall of this year, but the schedule is tight. Fall is always busy and this year, everyone else is doing the same thing. Instead of fighting the schedules and having low turnout as well as causing agony to everyone in the community, we're going to try to help.

CWG has cancelled Least Weasel 21, our Force-on-Force event for the fall, and instead has two events planned, that we hope you'll all attend. The first is set up specifically to allow you to plan and prepare for your other upcoming Fall tactical activities. 

Fall '21 Fieldcraft

Keep your skills sharp or specifically prepare for force-on-force, re-enactment, training, or other field events by attending our short fieldcraft weekend. Starts mid day Saturday, and ends as early as the next morning, giving you 18 hours of tactical movement, bivouacking, communications, communication, observation, and concealment. As long as you can be comfortable, safe, and effective, bring and wear whatever you want, no uniform requirements. Sunday will be day of AARs, a chance to fix your gear and get familiarity with other CWG equipment and procedures.

11 - 12 September 2021 in Farmington, Missouri

Only $25 if you Sign Up Today


Operation Swift Fox 22

Our regular springtime force-on-force event will take place at the normal time, place, and duration, come hell or high water. And we mean it. We fight day and night, in all weather. And this time with a new twist, with insurgents to confound the battlefield with different tactics, as they do. Come prepared for anything.

April, 2022 in Wyandotte, Oklahoma

Watch for announcements of dates and when we accept signups.

Learn More

Sunday, March 28, 2021

What Weapons Can I Bring to Least Weasel 21?

One of the most common questions we still get is about suitability of individual guns. Can I bring my [whatever]. Adding the insurgents who are allowed to bring "anything," we expect it will get even worse. 

We don't want you to wonder, to assume it won't work because we're hardasses about all this, or to show up with the wrong thing and we have to work it out (or you start trying to borrow one) moments before the start of play.

Always feel free to ask us questions, but for your reading, here's an extended guide to weapons for CWG events. 

Airsoft

We have all used many simulation systems, but CWG force-on-force events are always — so far — airsoft. This naturally limits the range, but no more so than other projectile firing systems (UTM or Simunition), and it offers a broader experience. 

There are cheap, simple, and safe, machine guns, rocket launchers, mortars, land mines, and hand grenades for airsoft. Other systems simply do not have these, they are impossibly expensive and hard to obtain, there can be safety issues, or they are restricted by law. 

The vast majority of participants bring their own airsoft gun, which they often configure like a real gun they own, or have used in the military or so on. If this will be a hardship, such as because you are traveling, ask us and we may be able to provide rental guns, or make other arrangements such as pre-shipping items to avoid the complexity of travel with what appear to be weapons. 

The 10-Foot Principle

CWG events are Force-on-Force. You shoot at people as a war game — not a real battle — which means you inherently want to not kill or seriously injure anyone. That also means the guns are at least a little fake, and we must wear some Personal Protective Equipment at all times. 

However, we want to maintain a sense of "immersion," and not feel like the event is clearly fake. There are a lot of specific rules about what weapon system, barrel length, and realism of accessories, but a good guideline before you ask us is the 10-foot principle.

If the gun, when carried around by you, looks real at a range of 10 feet, without looking too terribly close, it is probably fine. Since you shouldn't be closer than that to the enemy for safety, this also works well in the heat of the action.  

If there is something clearly impossible, or fake, or wrong at that range, then it fails. For example: 

  • External gas guns with hoses coming off them: clearly fake. Not allowed. 
  • Many airsoft FALs and most AKs are simply wrong in a few ways. FAL triggers are too far forward, AK receivers are too wide. But at a glance, even a short distance away, they look fine. Allowed. 

We have a number of other guidelines for weapon accessories, and sights, right under the allowed weapon types details:  

Let's dive into the specific weapons for each side now. 

Ardea

Ardea issues 7.62x51 NATO self-loading rifles. Like many countries, they use several rifles, purchased over time, as budget or availability permits. In reality, units would tend to coalesce around one rifle even if the next one over uses a different rifle, but we've let that slide and within small teams different rifles may exist. 

Not any 7.62 rifle is allowed, we only accept: 

  • G3
  • FN-FAL
  • Mk17 SCAR-H
  • HK417
  • SIG 716
  • M14

They can be any issued rifle or carbine with any issued barrel length. No commercial, gunsmith-only, or airsoft-only variants. For example:

  • G3, or G3K, but not the HK51 as those were not real, factory guns
  • FAL, FAL Para or L1, C1 and other issued guns, with 21" or 16-17" barrels
  • SCAR-H, not the SCAR-L (5.56), and only with barrels from 13-20"
  • HK417, not HK416 (5.56), and only with barrels from 12" to 20"
  • M14s may only have the original 22" barrel, and may not use any railed chassis or folding stocks

No longer-barreled machine gun, sniper, or automatic rifle variants are allowed, even if actually issued. This is to be an individual rifle, not a specialist or support weapon of any sort. 

Only original, issue-style stocks are allowed. HK rifles may not have side folding stocks, FALs cannot use SAW stocks, and neither can have adapters to use AR-15 stocks.

HK 51s aren't production guns, so not issued to any army. Too short.

Bog standard HK G3. All good. 


Same basic gun, with sight, railed forearm, Spuhr buttstock. All typical of modern military use of this platform.

Too much barrel, too much scope, stocks configured for sniping. The PSG-1 is a sniper rifle not a battle rifle. 

Kitoy

Kitoy issues AR-15 variant rifles or carbines. While more standard than Ardea, they are also like a smaller country and do not have a single style, or a small handful, they bought only from one maker or to one technical specification but purchase small quantities of guns as budget allows, and may mix and match. 

This of course means you can bring most any AR-15 variant that is a carbine or rifle. That means all the way down to short things like the "CAR-15" Colt Model 733, or the Mk18, with barrels as short as 10" and up to 20" M16s

No shorter length SMG guns, no 9 mm versions and none if the longer machine gun, sniper, or automatic rifle variants are allowed, even if actually issued. Remember this is your individual rifle, not a specialist or support weapon of any sort.

Any buttstock that uses the original receiver extension may be used. No side-folding stocks are allowed. Yes, even though there are actually folding stock variations based on the AR15, they are too specialized and generally not allowed. 

Way too small. While very small guns are issued for specialized forces rarely, not a general issue rifle. 

Completely standard M4, with a 4x scope. All good.

A step up with lights, lasers, and a red dot instead of scope. All good still.

Rifle length, more precision optimized, but (as long as the scope is not more than about 4x) then this slightly DMR-configured gun is also just fine. 

Too much scope, but also a weird, non-standard receiver. No armies issue odd receiver patterns. 

Way too much scope, too much barrel, and too configured to be a sniper rifle. Oh, and also not an AR15, but a 7.62x51 "large frame" AR instead. 


GDL Insurgents 

GDL is an insurgent force, so what do insurgent forces carry? Well it depends. They might get support from a third party. They might buy weapons on the open market. They could be using older weapons saved — or donated — from previous wars and squirreled away for just this. And many insurgent actions are raids. 

The main news or threat reporting about raids is their lethality (how many soldiers or civilians were killed), their ability to disrupt government and NGO operations, and how much the risk of raids changes how the war is fought, how aid is provided, or how civilians go about their daily business. But a key factor in many insurgent raids is the shopping trip. Insurgent forces steal everything, from boots to weapons. 

Since we see too much of the Middle-East and North Africa terrorist threat, and think of them as always equipped with an AK47, that's by no means always true. AUG, FAMAS, SA80, AR18, SS2, and many more have all been seen in insurgent hands or for sale in conflict zones. What is used often varies based on what is available. For the GDL, we're specifically not going to make too much background, and decide which guns are allowed and not. Basically you can carry anything as long as it is: 

  • Real. No science fiction guns or otherwise fictional weapons. 
  • In reasonably current use. We generally only want guns issued to armies since 1955. This doesn't mean their first introduction, but their last date of issue; M1 Garands were in service through the 1960s at least so if you really, really want one of those, you can bring it. 
  • Realistic, and functional if a real gun. You can't — for example — simply take the buttstock off an AR15 as the mechanism of real ones goes back into the stock. 
  • Production guns. Despite their prevalence in some regions, we want to avoid overly gunsmithed or entirely craft produced arms. We'll just say guns aren't that hard to find in this region, so there's no need. 
  • Must be — when real — in a useful military caliber. SMGs are allowed, but not .22s or airguns. 
  • Look like a real gun at a glance. As mentioned above, meets the 10-foot rule. 

As for the weapons used by Ardea and Kitoy, they also have to have working sights that are zeroed (and you have to use them), meet the velocity requirements, and use only the issued pellets. 

So now is the time to break out your AK, MP5, UZI, or anything else you haven't been able to bring to CWG events. And yes, you can also use an AR15, SCAR, G3, FAL or anything as issued to the Ardeans or Kitoy as well and declare it was just captured. 

If you want a little inspiration — for weapons, uniform, LBE, and more — here are some insurgents in the Philippines

 
AR-15s some with carry handle scopes.

Old school M16, and a Galil on the right.


Grenade launchers are always a good force multiplier.

FN-CAL (no, not FAL) with improvised mount for M203.

An M16, and an M4 with M203.

Steyr AUG. 

 
Galil Ace. Yes, brand new guns make it to conflict zones also.

Snipers

There are no snipers. We don't mind scouts and use them all the time, but snipers more or less do not exist in airsoft due to the technology, and also tend to be disruptive, due to inappropriate adherence to fictional tropes of the movie sniper. 

There are other reasons we restrict these having to do with the effective range and functional reduced scale of the war game, so scopes over 4x are still not allowed for GDL weapons and bolt-action rifles are somewhere between discouraged and banned. If you really want to bring an iron sighted K98, ask us and we'll discuss why you have it though. 

While lower barrel length limits are removed so an HK51 or Colt 633 is allowed for the GDL, the opposite way — a very long barrel — might not be as it becomes no longer a general purpose individual weapon but a specialized sniper rifle. 


Machine Guns and Heavy Weapons

Want to bring a machine gun, rocket launcher, or something else? Please do! As long as it meets the basic principles of being plausible, reasonably modern, realistic, and having sights (no PVC-tube rockets!) then there are none of the per-side restrictions on weapon platforms. 

Machine guns and other heavy weapons have even fewer options in airsoft, and most armies are not too picky about these systems, so if effective will keep them in service for decades longer than they would rifles, and use odd mish-mashes of such systems instead of standardizing. 

Machine guns must be machine guns. High cap mags (the hopper fed wound style) are disallowed unless they represent a drum or belt feed box, as on a machine gun. Ardea and Kitoy cannot use automatic rifles (magazine or drum fed machine guns) so but the GDL is so open to weapon systems, so automatic rifles fed from drums are allowed. 

If you want to bring an RPK or some other automatic rifle that's probably fine, but ask us to make sure. If you want to bring a drum for your AKSU74, that's not okay, and you need to use box magazines for it instead. 


Operating Systems

All airsoft weapons may use pretty much any operating system or principle. AEGs are easiest, but GBBs and onboard HPA systems are great for the sound and realistic manual of arms. HPA tanks as buttstocks can be made to pass the 10 foot rule. 

No weapons will be permitted on the field which allow for adjustment of velocity without tools or disassembly. Any guns with easily-changeable spring rate, regulators, or the like must be able to be locked out (tournament locked), and will be locked by CWG event staff after passing chrono. A cut or broken lock during game play will be a bad thing so keep it safe, don't cheat and don't let anyone else cheat as this is a safety issue. 

All guns must be free-standing weapons systems, just like real ones. That means no external (hose fed) gas systems. As with all other accessories, all weapon accessories must be as they purport to be, and all airsoft gun specific mechanisms must be concealed. This means no PEQ battery boxes, no visible gas tanks, no visible wires, or visible battery packs are allowed. This is not an exclusive list, and feel free to ask us for approval or assistance in making your gun suitable for CWG if you have any concerns.

Note that one (rare and older) system is not allowed. Pyrotechnic (cap firing) systems are not allowed as they present additional risks, including legal ones.


Read more about weapon systems: 

http://centralwar.com/equipment/#Weapons-Airsoft


And we hope to see you in Oklahoma in October: 

Operation Least Weasel 21
22 – 24 October, 2021
Wyandotte, Oklahoma

http://centralwar.com/events/LeastWeasel21.shtml



Friday, October 16, 2020

A Guide to the After Action Review Process

I think we all know in principle at least that some sort of post-activity accountability is good, so improvements can be made to the next project, or the next phase.

Far too often, we skip this, or have vague chats about it. But we at CWG prefer the term and the process of the After Action Report. After an activity, you sit down and talk about it.

After Action Reviews are collaborative, inclusive assessments performed after any major activity or event. Ideally, everyone is involved. For exercises, have both sides attend both AARs, or do them both sequentially in one meeting. Tell everyone what the process is before you start. Show them this document, and make them stick to it. The moderator must interrupt people if they don’t follow the process. And the process is:

Get everyone in a room. Be ready to write things down where they can be seen, get a good moderator (preferably not from the team) and in turn discuss the:
  • Plan
  • Performance
  • Issues
  • Fixes
One person talks, everyone else listens, everything gets written down. Ideally, few computers are open and all the participants just listen. 

Plan

Communicated by the most senior actual battlefield leader:
  • What did you intend to happen?
Do not talk about what actually happened. Usually, you do not even describe changes in the plan at first. From the original plan, describe one or more of the following:
  • End state, what did you expect it to look like when done
  • Operational guidelines
  • Plans and coordination
  • Timelines, schedules
Brief, but complete, it should not take more than about 5 minutes. If it can be done in 30 seconds, all the better. It doesn't have to be done from memory, so the orders documents can be referred to, but don't just read an OPORD out loud.

Try not to project anything or use PowerPoint, but communicate by speaking of the issues instead. 

It can be good to have higher level goals discussed as well, so feel free to refer to the orders received or even to invite the next higher level command to the review process, if available. 

Write down all of this. Any method you like is good, from typing, to whiteboard to post-its.

Performance

For this step, the leadership cannot talk. Instead, everyone else talks. Usually, "everyone" is just the next level or two of command on down, vs every soldier involved, but still get them to answer:
  • What really happened?
Try to go around the table, and get everyone to provide input in turn. Make sure everyone is engaged. None of that false engagement by asking “does anyone else have something to say.” Instead go one by one around the table, or down the TOO.

Even if a respondant they say “it was said” then ask which one they would have said so that can be emphasized. It assures they feel engaged, and increases accuracy. They might have misheard, added their interpretation, or have a slightly different point to make.

Analyze these results: Compare to the Plan step. Looking for deltas here, and considering it like this helps make it more brief. Improvements over the Plan are fine. Cover all changes from the plan.

Again, go step by step. Do not say why anything happened. Just what happened.

Issues

This time, everyone can talk, although the most senior leadership should go last to assure they do not influence all other answers.  

Many AARs open this up and everyone raises hands and gets called on, but I think that’s risky. So again, everyone in turn should be called on to answer:
  • Why did those things happen?
"These things" are the performance phase items. Why did the things that are written down from the previous phase happen. New things that happened either should be ignored, or you have to stop and write them down on the what-happened list first.

If leaders seem to be taking over, or anyone steps on someone else, it is the moderator’s job to stop it. Everyone can help keep on target. 

Going around the table again is probably the best way, but if everyone is getting tired of this at least make sure there is minimal back-and-forth discussion, to avoid arguments or the original point being lost in the discussion. One person talks, and the point is put up, and that’s it. 

If the person bringing up the issue says they are not sure why; then go to raising hands, and one person responds at a time. Keep this under control. 

Some other notes:

  • You can consolidate items in the Performance step to single issues.
  • Try not to bring up Issues that are not gaps in Performance.
  • Discuss positive changes from plan or expectation, not just problems.
  • Participants might disagree. Some discussion is acceptable but if they are not going to agree, just write down both and move to the next phase. 

Fixes

Again, everyone talks. Same methods as above ideally to be sure everyone is engaged equally. If everyone is playing nicely, this may go towards raising hands, but I do find that people who don’t actively volunteer still have ideas and we need to drag it out of them.

Instead of talking, sometimes having everyone write their ideas on Post-its to share is a fine idea. This also works well if the team is very large so it would take too long to get all ideas out there. 

The core question is:

  • What could be done differently to Improve this issue OR,
  • What should be done the same, to Sustain this success in the future?

How to do this?

Try to address each Issue in the above list. Try not to discuss Fixes for things not already discussed.

Classify each item as “Improve” or “Sustain.” Either it was a problem to fix, or a benefit to keep. 

Note that many Sustain items are small. That doesn't mean they aren’t beneficial. Try to notice all that was done well, even if small, and accidental. 

Everything must be actionable, at least for permanent organizations (ad hoc game/exercise environments can skip this). Even Sustains. Assign a person (not a team, an individual). That individual must be there, and agree to it. Even if they can’t fix, they can find the person who can fix it, and it’s still their responsibility.

Fixes should still not be personal. Even if the problem was a person, don’t use this to simply point fingers. Instead provide training, provide more communications, move them to a place or role they fit better, things like that. Everything must be actionable, and their boss more likely gets the actions, not them.

Remember in general this should not be a griping session, but sticking to the process means that issues can be brought up that might have otherwise been perceived as an attack.

You are not allowed to say “Joe wouldn’t let us do x” because you have to say “We failed to perform activity x” and then some time later, you can explain why, and very often someone else will. Many times, in my experience, the person responsible will even do it for you. “Oh, I stopped that because…” You learn there are reasons, and it’s not all incompetence and personal bias.

These often become effectively team building exercises as you learn about everyone else, and how their role really works in practice.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Swift Fox 20 Moves Online

When we postponed our normal spring event, Operation Swift Fox 20, it was for the direct safety of players, staff and the general public due to proximity and travel. 

We had hoped that by October everything would be well in hand, so rescheduled to the fall. However, aside from continued high rates of infection in much of the US, with concordant restrictions, the situation has put much strain on everyone financially, and personally. 

CWG has chosen to cancel all in-person events for at least the remainder of 2020, and will not resume them until it is safe and reasonable for everyone to do so. 

But, we're not shutting down entirely. 

This year, CWG will instead host an online event on the same weekend, pitting larger scale forces, with more capabilities, over a longer timeframe. This event will like all of them be about how you command, plan, manage, and think. We'll simply no longer also be physically testing your ability to hike, sneak, see, and shoot. 

It's also much, much cheaper. 

Only $20 to attend, and no travel costs or new equipment needs. 

Swift Fox 20 will have the same overall scenario, pitting small units of the fictional Ardean and Kitoy against each other to gain control of the disputed, depopulated, mountainous Central Grafston Highlands. However, we'll be doing it as a tabletop exercise.  

Of course, there won't be a real tabletop, and it will all be online. But the principles are the same. You will play the role of a small unit — as small as a Squad — and will perform a mission, find and fight the enemy, and communicate with your chain of command over a voice link to simulate tactical radio.

Everyone will be sent a digital map file you may use online or print out if you have access to large format printing. For an extra fee we can also mail a paper map with the event registration.

Some players will be put in charge of higher level units, such as Platoons and Companies. You will have to communicate as though in the field to pass information, and orders. Since it's voice, you better have a notebook around to write it all down as well. 

Without the tabletop, you won't simply move the counters across the board, but will have to talk via an instant messenger link to the game administrators. 


Interested? Sign up today, or just visit the event details page to find more details.

http://centralwar.com/events/SwiftFox20.shtml




Tuesday, March 17, 2020

SWIFT FOX 20 POSTPONED

With increasing recommendations and restrictions on gatherings and travel as a result of the global pandemic, CWG must respect our mantra of Safety First, and will regretfully postpone SWIFT FOX 20.
We do not yet have a new date for the event, but will share it here as soon as we do. Expect fall, to avoid the heat of summer on the plains.
All existing Swift Fox 20 payments will be held and apply to the postponed event OR to Swift Fox 21, if it turns out you cannot make the new date.
In addition, and unlike our usual policy, for Swift Fox 20 you may request a refund at ANY time. That means you can wait until you know the new time, or even until the event approaches in a few months to decide.
To request a refund, simply respond to your reservation confirmation email asking for it.
If you lost that, message us here or email to sales@centralwar.com, and pay attention to responses as we may need to ask for addition info.

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