Review text and images by Mark "Blondie" Ormerod.

Look on any airsoft kit related site and you'll find a plethora of reviews for Delta or US forces kit, replica kit and look-a-likes. Ever since Jerry Bruckheimer brought us ''When Mogadishu Attacks'' or as its more popularly known, ''Black Hawk Down'', there has been a veritable flood of Ranger and Delta Force wannabees cluttering up the internet with their ''impressions'' and seemingly insatiable lust for kit.

However, despite this rising tide of chocolate chip clad ''Skater Boyz'' there is, thankfully, an equally enthusiastic undercurrent of Russian gear nuts. Whether or not this is due to the fact that in reality the US SF aren't actually very good, or that people are realising that wearing Desert Cam in a woodland or urban environment is actually pretty dumb, we're not sure. But one thing is certain - Russian kit is a hard wearing and highly practical alternative to the ever popular Western hemisphere variants.

There's a plethora of information available online - and its really outside the remit of what I'm trying to achieve here to go into any detail about the real steel units many of us are keen to emulate - such as the infamous Alpha group. Besides, much of its popularity relates to it reputation for excellent build quality rather than an overwhelming ''impression'' culture. For completeness, I've included some links and suggestions for further reading at the end of this article for the more military minded.

Real steel Russian kit is becoming easier and easier to obtain - our preferred supplier being Rusmilitary - who are UK based and have always given us prompt and reliable service - although there's a growing number of international suppliers out there. I'll be looking in detail at a complete Russian Les (the four colour woodland camoflage pattern) loadout - including summer and winter variations. In summary we're going to look at the following's performance in the field - from a warm wet Cornish summer through to winter blizzards and a wind chill of -15 in the mountains of central Wales :

Principle loadout :

Bekas BDU's.
Standard Les issue bandana.
Les fingerless mits.
Officer's belt.
M22 Assault vest.
OMON Patrol vest.
Twin grenade pouches.
''Spetzsnas'' fur lined boots

Winter and poor weather supplements :

M3 Parka.
Wind / rain proof ''snipers'' les over-suit.
Les double-knit wool hat.

So to the basis of any loadout - the Bekas BDU's.

Camoflague effectivity is a subjective thing. I, for one, can spot Flecktarn a mile away having played consistently against people clad in it for the last 4 years, whilst others will swear by its effectiveness especially in a European woodland in autumn. Your choice of camoflage is one factor amongst many in the fine art of not being seen - such as quiet, stealthy movement and effective use of cover. Its no good wearing the world's biggest or best Ghillie suit if you move like a herd of water buffalo or silhoutte yourself against the skyline.

I'd certainly say however that the Les pattern is consiStently as effective as other forms - whilst its distinctive enough and recognisabled to stand out from the crowd in its own right - and I've had no issues with standing out like a sore thumb in either winter or the heights of summer. It breaks up your shape well in both daylight and darkness - and provides an excellent basis for using vegetation and ambient cover effectively.

I own 2 sets of Bekas BDU's - black (for that all important ''I'm an elite urban CQB specialist'' look) and Les. Without a doubt these are the comfiest set of BDU's I've ever owned - something that virtually everyone who owns a set seems to concur on. There's no restriction of movement and (thankfully I'm not alone) I actually ended up wearing my black set as comfy ''I've got man-flu-slobbing-round-the-house'' gear. They're well made, fade resistant and tough. The infamous Alamo brambles still bite - but only the larger ones. In terms of summer heat they're fairly cool - whilst the crotch ventilation causes much mirth - its an effective way of keeping air flowing. Beneath both the jacket and the trousers there's room for effective layering - in winter I normally whack on a pair of thermal jogging bottoms, t-shirt and norge on underneath and I'm toasty enough. Although you need to bear in mind my Viking ancestory here and the fact that I'm generally ''too warm'' most of time. With the OMON patrol vest on top (we'll get to that later) its only on the coldest winter days I need to employ anything else.

I think its fair to say they're shower proof - a prolonged bout will certainly soak you to the skin - but patchy rain will be no problem.
After 12 months of extremely hard skirmishing they are scuffed but still tear free. They're lightweight enough to wear in summer and having survived a few tropical Cornish down pours, I can vouch that they're fairly wind resistant and dry extremely quickly.

Being one of TeamKGB's less portly (some would say I'm a ''lanky streak of p1ss'') players I opted to go for the Russian Officer's belt with these. Having secured a size small enough (thankfully Russian soliders seem to be on the slim side) belt I was particularly impressed by the thickness and rigidity of the leather. It didn't just have to hold the things up - but cope with 2 kilos or so of sidearms and holsters. The belt has happily supported 3 different Bianchi holsters holding weighty kit - namely a full metal Infinity, M629 and Ruger Redhawk without deforming or sagging. Currently it handles a couple of Dynatek's, a metal custom 1911 and a Ruger Redhawk.

There's also available natty set of les camo buck skin fingerless gloves - giving you that added bit of hand protection but without losing any agility. I do have fairly small hands and they're a good fit - so I suspect if you're larger in that department you'd have issues getting into them.

A cracking piece of summer kit which I wouldn't hesistate to recommend - and is found throughout many of the team - is the Les ''Bandana''. Its not a Banadana in the traditional sense - its essentially preshaped with some velcro to attach it your head. Its excellent camo, and a good sweat abosrber. It fully covers the back of your neck (great against the sun) and can be attached across the front your face - leaving just your eyes uncovered.

I've used both the M22 "Tarzan" assault vest and the OMON patrol vest. I've sinced switched soley to the OMON vest choosing a light loadout for speed and manouverability - but more of that later.

The M22 vest is extremely hard wearing and well made - with room for 8 AK (or M16 - ugh!) mags and 2 grenades in custom grenade pouches - complete with the addition of a wonderful little attachment which hooks onto your grenade pin. There are 2 options open to getting Dynatex Blank Firing Grenade's to fit in them - either cut a small square in the top of the grenade pouch or simply insert the Dynatex upside down with the blank holder poking through one of the drainage holes. The pin retaining hooks work perfectly with pins on the Dynatex's and these really are the best solution I've seen to carrying these wonderful items in the field.

It's a comfy vest - easy to adujst with plenty of room if you must carry the proverbial kitchen sink - and available in a variety of colour schemes to boot. There's no specific integration for rehydration devices - although I had no issues clipping my 3 litre Thermobak to it.

So onto the OMON patrol vest (I elected again for the Les option for completion and avoided the large "OMOH" patch and subsequent ridicule). This is fully water and wind proof with space for 2 large AK mags, a radio and some assorted bits and bobs. There's another pocket on the front which will fit a 250 round Beta mag - although I generally use it for some spare 8mm BB's and 12 gauge blanks. A nice touch if you employ a shotgun for CQB work is the presence of shotgun loops within these AK mag pockets. There's also a "concealed" pocket on the left hand side which is again perfect for some spare rounds or blanks.

The map pockets on the base of the back are pretty superflous - although the pocket on top can be useful for slotting in a small platypus or rehydration system of choice. There's also a pistol holster on the front which will fit most small pistols (such as PPK's) and slightly larger framed pieces with a little modification. Forget sticking a large double stack 1911 frame or Beretta in there however. The waterproofing's a very nice touch and and the vest offers an excellent degree of protection from both the wind and overzealous opponents. Even on the wettest of days it keeps your mags and you core body bone dry.

The grenade pouch secures a Dynatex on the left side of the chest - although it employs an elsticated loop for the pin - which while makes it a little more lengthy to deploy the grenade initially but works fine. I store my 2 other Dynatex's on a les twin grenade pouch on my belt - in essence this is identical to the pouches found on the M22, again with the excellent pin holder. These are a great way of carrying Dynatex's - even if you're not going fully Russian.

To complete the loadout are a pair of the fur-lined Spetsnaz boots. Now, you may think me clinically insane for wearing these in summer - but in my defence I've not had issues with them being too hot at all. They've been worn both for airsoft at sites as varied as Sennybridge, Crickhowell and Airsoft KGB. Ankle support is excellent - even on the toughest bramble encrusted areas of the site I've yet to twist anything. The grip is also excellent - especially useful in the world war one clay trench and duckboard environment down here in the trenches in Cornwall. The boots are extremely toasty - even in atrocious and cold conditions - such as Brecon in November. When others were complaining about cold toes and impending frost bite, I was smugly toasty. Their biggest test was 5 days of winter hill walking in Wales - through thick snow, ice fields, treacherous conditions and averaging around 15 miles a day - my feet were warm and blister free. The best description I've seen of the comfort level of the boots is that "they're like wearing trainers". Trainers that is, which are warm, give great ankle support and stick to the ground like glue. Granted they're a little more expensive than your average 'softers foot kit at £95 - but they're worth every penny.

12 months in they're still in excellent shape - and the only maintenance I perform is the regular oil and polish to help keep them water tight. With a pair of Swiss made gators I've been able to happily wade up and down the Airsoft KGB's river whilst keeping my feet warm and dry.

So to winter then and airsofting in frankly, awful, freezing weather. And a lesson about what Russian's mean when they state that an item of kit is warm.

The M3 Parka is an impressive piece of kit - wind proof and water proof. Its fairly bulky without restricting movement and comes with a detachable hood, optional detachable fur collar and optional fur lining. The only flaw being the pockets - which are the annoying square type - open at the top - rather than angled, so if its raining, the rain runs straight down your arms into them. Useful for collecting rainwater in the tropics but a complete pain in torrential January rain.So how warm is warm ? Well, don't think of wearing this if its over 5 degrees. Although I opted for the removable fur collar (for keeping your neck warm) I've only once been in a cold enough wind to warrant using it. Put it this way - I actually had to take the thing off while walking uphill in a blizzard as I was sweating like a suicide bomber at a Barmitzvah. As a winter coat this really can't be equalled - but I'm glad I didn't buy the optinal fur liner for it. I suspect I would have expired due to heatstroke. It's been excellent at the Stirling winter events we've attended. There's nothing like winding up a team mate on the verge of hypothermia by announcing that you're only wearing a t-shirt under it and you still need to unzip your jacket to "cool down a bit". Even whilst spending what should have been a cold, motionless, miserable few hours in the NAAFI while snow lay outside on the ground I was warm within a few minutes of putting on the M3 and extremely comfortable. Its has a deep internal pocket and as well as the side pockets, a pair of breast pockets and smaller ones on the upper parts of the sleeves.

For winter events I've replaced the summer bandana with a Les pattern wool hat - and like the M3 you can tell this was designed for use in *proper* Russian winters. Its extremely warm and thick - excellent for avoiding howls of pain when your local sniper mistakes 10 yards for 50 and shoots you close up in the head - plus, always important for gear sluts - it looks the business.

So onto the last item - what Rusmilitary terms the "wind/water proof snipers's oversuit". Essentially what you're getting is a cheap set of over overtrousers and matching jacket in Les cammo pattern. As such they do their job as expected - and here its definitely a case of you get what you pay for.

In bad weather I normally don't bother with the jacket - the OMON vest keeps my core body warm and dry (I'm not fussed about my arms).The jacket's been used once and while its most certainly windproof and waterproof - it was restricitive and limited in terms of doing anything other than undoing any good it did in keeping the rain off, by making me wet through condesation due to sweat. Its not in the least bit breathable. If its cold and wet enough to justify yet another layer of water and wind proofing then its M3 time.

The trousers proved to be a lot more useful - especially in dealing with the curse of thick, wet undergrowth - keeping my legs dry and water free and solving the perpetual problem of run off from the OMON vest or M3 in severe weather. A few minutes in a downpour and without any waterproof over trousers your legs will be soaked through to the bone. The waterproofs are machine washable - the waterproofing being an inherant feature of the material rather than of any treatment. One of the initial problems with them - that they rustle loudly and make quiet movement impossible - is alleviated after a few washes. Unless you're playing in high winds / rain when you take them out for the first time I'd definitely recommend sticking them through a couple of cold wash cycles.

So in conclusion then - we've looked at just one out of a myriad of possible loadouts based on Russian kit configurations. I think its fair to say that (and I'm sure any real ex-FSB member will probably grimace at this) it looks good - but more importantly, Russian kit is truly a triumph of well designed and engineered gear. We play at what I would say is a very tough site environmentally - its a real test for both kit and owner - in all weather conditions. Russian gear isn't cheap - but neither is it extortionate. Its well made, extremely functional, hard wearing and there's something in terms of loadouts for everyone. There are plenty of sites dealing with the real deal - and its always nice to match your kit to what's being used by serving Russian professional soldiers. After all, if its good enough for them and the conditions prevalent in Eastern Europe - its clearly good enough for a bunch of Alpha-group wannabes in the UK.

Selected Further Reading:

Whilst Google is your friend I've included 3 sites to get you started if you're interested in the real-steel counterparts :

Mark "Blondie" Ormerod.

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