Kelly Louise Hardwick is Femme Fatale Airsoft – one of the biggest names in the UK Airsofting community. She’s hugely popular on social media, blogs regularly, writes for the UK’s leading Airsoft publication and goes out to Airsofting events across the length and breadth of the country. We spoke to her about her experiences….
How are you?
I’m really good thank you.
How did FFA start?
I started Airsoft as a hobby in August 2014, and then I had a car accident, and lost my job in November of that year and created the blog to fill my spare time. It’s snowballed and snowballed since then (laughs). After the accident, I thought, I’m going to have a look at all the kit I wanted to buy when I was able to play again. And after searching the internet for around 9 hours, over two days, I was like ‘why isn’t there anything for women?’. And two, ‘there’s not really anything out there that encourages women’.
There was a massive gap in any information available to help women. And, there was a quote that was in a book that I read when I was 16 years old, that said ‘be the change you want to see in the world’, so I thought, ‘Why not?’.
The problem was, I was new to it anyway. So it’s been a massive, massive learning curve. And it’s been me trying to find me feet in airsoft, which I have, quite quickly.
What’s happened over the past two years for you then?
A lot! The blog has enabled me to travel, meet new people and be a part of some amazing experiences. One of the most notable would be that in July 2015, I got approached by Airsoft Action magazine, and I became the first female contributor to a UK Airsoft Publication. I’ve been lucky to travel internationally with them to the IWA in Nuremburg (annual trade show). It’s been crazy, absolutely crazy…I have travelled up to 800 miles at weekends to play airsoft. I love it, I absolutely love it and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s been a crazy, crazy two years.
Just give us a ballpark on the Airsoft. How many sites have you been to?
I would say I’ve probably been to about 20 to 30 sites, in the last two years. So my home site is Strikeforce CQB in Gloucester. That’s the site I play the most often. The furthest north I’ve been to is Edinburgh, in Dalkeith, that was a long trip! And then the furthest south I’ve been is the UCAP Sandpit in Kent. I play more southern sites than I do any other. I think the south has a better selection of CQB sites. I would say a lot of the northern sites are woodland, and I don’t play woodland too often.
Airsoft’s quite an unusual sport. How would you describe airsoft for the uninitiated?
How I had it described to be was that it’s like a real-life Call Of Duty, but you’re the player, if you see what I mean. It’s a fun hobby. Everyone’s really friendly. You shoot each other with plastic pellets, and they don’t hurt that much.
Tell us a bit more about the Airsoft community. It seems quite secret and underground. What is it like? Who goes?
I would say that one of the best things about Airsoft is the community. I think if you know about it, you know about it. If you’ve never heard of airsoft, you won’t have any idea. This one game can bring so many people together. You can get builders, doctors, people from all walks of life and we all run around woods, dressed as soldiers playing with toy guns! I think the advertising for the sites/shops are more prevalent than they used to be. Some people in general don’t really understand what we do but more people know about it now. I read in a newspaper article once that the UKARA website had around 15,000 people registered on it in 2012. And the industry as a whole has grown 5 fold since then so i
t’s constantly expanding, so more people know about it which is only a good thing.
On a normal game day, you’ll turn up at the site, get everything from your car and get your kit to the safe zone to get ready. Safe zones are anything from purpose built, to gazebos. Anything works. It’s a very odd sport (laughs). After that, once everyone has turned up, we all get kitted up, and sling plastic for a bit.
What is there out there, in terms of unusual or interesting Airsofting locations?
There are some that I’ve heard of that sound really interesting, I really want to play them but I haven’t had a chance yet such as Red 1 The Boat. I think the most interesting sites I’ve been to so far are the Mall in Reading, it’s a shopping mall, and it’s so strange! You’ve got all the shops, all the windows, all the escalators. The escalators don’t work because obviously, with BBs everywhere that would be dangerous. But, it’s bizarre because, you obviously recognise shopping centres in the daylight, when they’re really busy, but it’s really eerie to see it dark, with no one in it.
I’d say another interesting site I’ve been to is the Gaol in Rutland. It’s an old Category C men’s prison. So it’s not like high security, but all the cells are still there, all the gates, everything like that. It’s dead cool.
What is the gender balance like in the sport?
I would say, the gender balance is predominantly male, and it always has been. Do I think it always will be? Maybe. I think it takes a special sort of person to play airsoft. You have to enjoy getting shot at, and a little bit of pain! (laughs).
I think from when I first started two years ago, the industry has moved forward quite a lot. Back then, there wasn’t a lot of well known female players, and I spent ages looking for them! You’ve obviously got big name players like Desert Fox, Scout The Doggie, on the male side. There were only a couple of really female players making waves such as Unicorn Leah, Airsoft Hasmeen and Adella Relentless. And there weren’t many companies making tactical clothes for women, now, there’s a lot more coming into the market with brands such as 5-11 Tactical (http://www.511tactical.com) making a lot more women’s tactical clothing, which is great.
What’s it like being a woman Airsofter?
You have to learn how to put a load out together, and if you’ve not got thing specifically made for you, it can be quite difficult. It is nice to have that female presence online and on the field to help with any questions.
There’s one thing about women, as well, they seem to play harder than some of the guys do. It’s insane. Some of the women – and I make a point of meeting as many female Airsofters as I can, just so we can get more of a female solidarity thing going. Spice Girls / girl power sort of thing – and.. some of them are crazy. Absolutely crazy, and it’s amazing to see.
What does your loadout for your typical event consist of?
For my primaries, I have two favourites, my two go-tos. G&G sent me a custom CM16 SR-L. Basically, it’s a mash up between the first Black Rose, and the CM16 SRL with a Key Mod rail system. That’s my favourite gun to use. It’s got a custom Cerakoted real steel red dot sight, and it’s got a mini launcher – 40 BBs of pure terror, out of one tiny little launcher. And I’ve got my Scorpio Evo by ASG as well. That has no pink on it, so that’s my serious gun for games I can’t really take the pink one to. It’s a good all rounder.
As for my sidearms I’ve got two. I’ve got the WE, M&P the M Force one. It’s got a silver vented slide with a gold barrel. It’s got a pink grip. It’s very blingy! And then, for serious games I’ve got my CZ P-09, by ASG. That’s got no pink on it!
I was wondering how feminine you are with your presentation!
See people have an issue with the pink! Pink’s not my favourite colour, believe it or not. Purple is, but there’s not a lot of kit out there in purple, so pink’s a good substitute. Because it’s a fun hobby, I like to have fun loadouts. What’s the harm with a little pink here and a little pink there? (Laughs).
In terms of your ‘brand’, Femme Fatale Airsoft, it’s been very successful what do you plan to do next with it?
I’ve never really thought about it. Because it started out as a fun hobby. And I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun. I just take each day as it comes. One thing I like about it is I get to travel with it, I get to meet new people and obviously I’d say, representing the hobby in a positive light. I’ve no specific plans for where to take it next so we’ll see where it takes me.