Feel Good Farm – Airsoft Field in New Hampshire

Zach Billings Airsoft

Read my info page if you’re wondering, “What is airsoft?”

Background

As of spring 2008, I had owned an increasing number of airsoft guns for about 18 months. During that time I had been – and still am – a member of a national airsoft forum called Airsoft Retreat. Through the forum, I knew of the existence of organized airsoft fields (similar to paintball fields) throughout the country, but I didn’t know of any in New England because most of the Airsoft Retreat user base lives outside New England. During early spring 2008, I finally learned of the existence of Feel Good Farm, an organized and insured airsoft field in Lyndeborough, New Hampshire.

I visited their website which listed that the first game of the 2008 season would take place in mid April. I bought up the last pieces of gear I would need to play at an organized field, and headed out to the field with three friends on the date of the first game. When we got to Feel Good Farm, only the field owner was there. He informed us that the site hadn’t been updated in a while, and that most of the scheduling information for the site is posted on the New England Airsoft Group (NEASG) forum. He told us that the then-field marshal, Sam and a few field staff members would be showing up to do some building on the field, and that the reason the game wasn’t taking place was that they were waiting for their insurance to renew.

My friends and I chatted with Larry, the field owner, for an hour or two before Sam and the field staff showed up. When they arrived they said that if we wanted to just hang out we were welcome to, and that if we helped them build, we would be granted free admission to the first game of the season. They told us that they were going into the field to build a small urban combat area which the field didn’t have at the time. We agreed to stay and helped Sam build the original Urban.

In airsoft, political correctness is not exactly commonplace. The day we met him, Sam told my friends and me that he makes fun of all religions, ethnicities, and nationalities equally and that it was all in good fun. I therefore didn’t mind the day of Jew-jokes that took place during the build day. Since my friends and I are Jewish, Sam and the staff joked that us building the Urban was like building the pyramids. Over the course of the day, they started calling me Jew and it stuck. Now, my airsoft callsign is Jew and everyone at Feel Good Farm knows me by that name and no other.

Field Layout and Environment

Feel Good Farm is a farm that hosts an enormous range of activities from horseback riding, to airsoft, to ATVing. The whole field is nearly 1000 acres, but that would be far too large for one-day airsoft events. We play on 48 acres of woodland field, with a wide range of topography and geographical features. Walking from the dirt parking lot into the field, one comes to a 10ft long bridge, spanning a small stream. We call this bridge Short Bridge, and it is the official entrance to the field. Following a path uphill, you walk 100 yards South-East to Urban, where every game is usually launched from. The original Urban was comprised of about 6 shacks measuring about 10x10ft. These shacks have no roof and are made with plywood walls which contain open windows and doorways. The Urban has since been expanded to about 12 buildings, two of which are larger than 10x10ft. There is also an old 60s bus which is rusted and contains no seats, which has been hauled into Urban. The bus has two doorways and open windows, adding an interesting facet to the Urban.

Aside from Urban, there are two proper standing buildings in the playable field. 150 yards South of Urban and about 50ft of elevation above it, is a building called Moose Mountain Shack. The Shack is surrounded by a fairly open area of woodland. 150 yards to the North of Urban and 50ft below it, is a building called Adirondack Shack. About 500 yards East of Urban, and 200ft below it, is a 25ft bridge called Long Bridge. This spans a small river that runs along the North-East edge of the field. The bridge is often a factor in game objectives, and makes for an interesting choke point that is hard to pass if occupied by an enemy force. The river itself is shin-deep at its most shallow and shoulder-deep at its deepest. I personally like to wade the river with my squad about a quarter mile up river from Long Bridge. It makes for an easy surprise attack on enemies camped at Long Bridge.

To the South-East of Urban, the ground begins to rise steeply into a tall hill, the summit of which is about 300ft above Urban. The summit of the hill is that furthest playable point from the parking lot, as radio transmissions cannot be received once on the other side of the hill. In between the river and Urban is a lot of woodland, criss-crossed by trails, and made interesting by varying topography and a large rocky expanse called Rock Assault.

Zach Billings Squad Leader

Leading a squad during an Op in 2009

Game Types and Details

Each game alternates between being a ‘Run and Gun’ or an ‘Operation’ (Op).

Run and Guns are generally less organized. Players are typically split into two teams (usually by camo color if there is a fairly even split) and the day is played out as a series of mini games. Most of the time, these games revolve around capturing ground. Very often, a Run and Gun will start with each team starting at a different location and trying to capture Urban. Other times one team will start in Urban and the other has to take it over. Run and Guns are generally centered around relatively close quarters combat and involve a lot of trigger time. The down side of Run and Guns is that they generally don’t have established team leaders. This leads to disorganization within teams and very often newer players’ ill-conceived tactics can make team tactics very difficult to implement. Sometimes, during Run and Guns, a limited number of mini objective-based games will be played to keep things interesting.

Operations (Ops) are highly organized. They can involve anywhere from 2-6 teams which are each comprised of multiple squads. Ops generally have back stories of varying degrees of depth and can involve roll players, special weapons, objects, and props. For the most part, teams and squads are organized via the NEASG forum before the day of the Op, so that tedious team organization doesn’t take up too much time the morning of the Op. In some cases, serious squads will go an entire Op without firing a single shot. Ops are more focused on completing objectives and less on shooting. When I am leading a squad and we have an objective, I consider it a success if we can avoid ever encountering an enemy squad. Of course the point of airsoft is that you will most likely encounter an enemy squad one or more times. During Ops, people generally take things much more seriously, so when firefights do happen, they can become extremely intense.

During the semi-annual two-day Ops, night combat takes place on the first day. Players with a lot of money to devote to airsoft may have military night vision goggles (NVGs) or night vision optics mounted on their guns. Most players simply rely on natural human night vision and do not have NVGs.

Games at FGF are run no matter what the weather. Games are still played at 100′F, in the pouring rain, and during thunder storms (provided lighting is not striking nearby). During bad-weather games, player turnouts can drop to as low as 15 people, however many of the most serious players actually enjoy occasionally playing in the rain, as it adds a new challenge.

Game Day Scheduling

Games take place every other Sunday from April to November each year. Twice a year there is a two day event which runs Saturday and Sunday.

On a standard day, players begin showing up at 0800 hrs. Players go through registration and the chronograph station from 0800-0930 while prepping their gear for play. At 0930 a game briefing is called, during which squads are organized if needed and the events for the day are explained. Briefing also contains a safety briefing.

If all goes to plan (which it rarely does, as ‘Airsoft time’ runs slow) we hit the field at 1000 with game start scheduled at 1030. The first half of the day runs until 1300-1400, when we stop for a 60-90 minute lunch, and then game play is continued until 1700-1800.

For two day events, the Saturday portion uses the timing above, except game end is between 2100 and 2300 hrs. Players can then camp at the field or go home and come back and the Sunday portion then runs to the above timing.

Zach Billings Feel Good Farm

Firing across the river near Long Bridge

Players and Demographic

The demographic at the field is mostly male from 13 to 55, with the majority in the 18-32 range. About 2-5% of the field attendees are typically female. Assuming a nice day with a reasonable temperature, Run and Guns will often draw around 80-100 players, with Ops drawing 80-150. The semi-annual two day Ops, Spring Offensive and Autumn Justice will generally draw up to 200+ players if they take place on a nice weekend. Poor weather or extreme temperatures will generally decrease numbers.

For most games, there are 5-8 staff members, plus the field marshal. The field marshal does not play, and during Ops that have been planned by another member of the community, that person also does not play. The 5-8 staff members are players who are well versed with field rules and are respected and responsible members of the FGF community. These staff members are introduced during morning briefing every game and play just like everyone else. If staff attention is needed during a game, a staff member will remove themselves from the game temporarily to resolve the situation. As this is rarely needed, non-playing, dedicated staff is not required at the field.

Rules, Regs, and Safety

There are two primary safety regulations at the field. Those are weapon muzzle energy, and eye protection. Full seal, ANSI Z87.1-rated eye protection is required. Non full-seal goggles are not allowed because bbs can sneak in from the sides, and shooting glasses (shooters) are not allowed because – aside from not being full seal – they are not always rated to a high enough ballistics rating to stop an airsoft bb.

Weapon muzzle energy is restricted to 1.85 Joules (J). Most airsoft players understand weapon energy limitations in terms of a velocity with a specific weight bb. This is really a layman’s way of creating an energy restriction in Joules. During morning prep, every player must chronograph their gun. They are given a few field-supplied 0.25g bbs to chrono with, so no one can cheat chrono. They must then shoot through the chrono three times, averaging below 400fps. For new players who do not know to use heavier bbs, this translates to 445fps w/.20s. Once chronoed, players may then use any weight bb for play, as it does not affect muzzle energy. (Note: It is a common misconception that velocity limits are imposed to limit velocity. They are there to limit energy. The actual velocity is irrelevant. It is the energy that a bb impacts with that matters).

A yearly sniper certification is offered for the few players who wish to act as dedicated snipers. Sniper certified players must demonstrate that they have the ability to accurately judge distance, among other things. With a sniper certification, a player is allowed to use a Ghillie suit and may increase their muzzle energy to 3.5J (550fps with .25s). Concequently, they are issued a 25 yard minimum-engagement distance (MED). This ensures the bb has slowed to a safe speed by the time it hits the target. Sniper certifications are not handed out lightly and are only for the most serious players with the utmost understanding of safety.

An unenforced safety-kill rule exists at the field. This states that if a player has less than 10ft from their muzzle to an enemy player, they must offer a safety-kill, by yelling “safety kill.” The enemy player may then accept the safety kill to avoid being shot from so close, or may attempt to shoot the player. If the player sees the enemy player turning to shoot, they may fire one to two rounds to the enemy’s center mass. The reason the rule is unenforced is that there are sometime situations where it is not reasonable or practical to offer a safety kill. For example, if you enter a building and find three enemies, you can only safety kill one at a time. This would take too long and you would be shot. In this situation you would just shoot each enemy once, center mass.

Summary

Feel Good Farm is an excellent airsoft field for both newbie players and experienced airsoft veterans alike. It offers a large range of terrain to play on and offers game types that suit both players who want to complete objectives, and those who want lots of trigger time. The field is a safe place to get into the sport with a responsible and friendly atmosphere. It is not uncommon for players to leave their cars unlocked during a game, as they have no fear of theft. Injuries are extremely rare, save for the obvious bb welts. FGF is a great place to partake in the realistic gun-based combat that is airsoft without the pesky risk of getting hit with 2000 Joules of lead. Why go to war when you may get shot or play Call of Duty when you could have the perfect happy medium. Real combat without the blood, sweat, and tears. Well…less of it anyway.