Anyone who has a bad word to say about this film had better just leave, Anyone whose yet to watch it had better make a little time to relax and watch what is possibly one of the most under-rated war films of all time… I’ll gloss over any of this films mistakes, due to it in my mind being such a classic. What this film may lack in depth, It makes up for with fantastic camera work, great direction and ample amounts of gear porn.
For a well rounded and not overly critical review I’ll just leave Roger Ebert’s analysis as something to have a look at.
So… Another early 2000s Military action film, This one focusing on the heart of darkness that is the Nigerian Jungle . Barely a year after the start of the invasion of Afghanistan it’s possibly a reason why this was so well received by the public, despite being widely regarded as a poorly written film. Putting the military in a forgotten about theatre allows the audience to root for the good guys without that current war playing out that might hit a little close to home.
Conversely it plays out as a narrative or how the western world views Africa, we see it’s worst and best without the richness of its cultures… all we see is what’s in front of us on the screen… Bad guys with AKs ruthlessly cutting down villagers dressed in colourful clothing and naive white missionaries and doctors who are purely there to provide a reason for the SEALs to be there.
It’s worth noting that Antoine Fuqua directed this hot off the heels of his out of nowhere hit Training Day which probably accounts for a degree of how he was able to play the actors to their strengths and in some cases define an actors career (Cole Hauser has basically played the same gruff role ever since).
One of the reasons I feel this film has hit a chord with so many Airsofters is that it blends that late 90s/early 2000s military chic with a story-line that’s light on bullshit and heavy with inter-spaced set-pieces which cover all those moments we love to recreate on the Airsoft field, from the stealthy insertion and sneaky assault into the village to the full blown firefight and last stand at the films climax.
There’s a lot of iconic bits of gear in the film, Some of which can be picked up cheap enough… others might be a challenge. One of the things I’ve always liked about Bruce Willis (Whose character, The veteran Lt A.K Waters is the subject of this dissection) is that like the actor himself, His characters are often left handed… This means that I can have a chance at finding the correct gear as I know at least that it’s available.
I’ll add that I’m certainly not the first to cover this and when I ventured into building this loadout a few years ago I relied on a few sources, None possibly as complete as Mundo Airsoft who have compiled a very thorough kit list for most of the main characters, Please check them out as they deserve most of the credit for what you’ll see below and were pretty much a one stop shop when it came to researching my own go at it a few years ago.
Your going to find a lot of manufacturers that may have since been nudged off the podium of Gear Gucciness in favour of dare I say it… Higher speed brands. That is potentially good for your wallet, but some items are hard to find and a true one for one load-out is probably going to cost you just as much as a modern Tier One unit impression.
Starting with the uniform, The usual raid cut BDUs in M81 US Woodland… in this film or the most part they’re soaked through in either river-water, sweat or rain. Patches and indeed the Velcro used for them are absent, this is period where concealment trumps cool points and if you cared enough about your patch, you sewed the damn thing on. Under the BDUs, most of the team wear a black sleeveless vest, Obviously Mr Willis loves his vests.
As for headgear, It’s a mix of bandannas, flat top woodland caps, scrim net scarfs and Bruce Willis’s shiny head. The boots are Danner Acadia 8″ boots in black, a popular choice in the late 90s with a lot of SEAL units, Still available but not the cheapest boots on the market… Also a lot of units have moved away from the high laced black combat boots towards a more civilian’esque mid height hiking boot such as Merrell or Salomon.
The belt line, All built around a Blackhawk! Riggers belt in black with a pair of Blackhawk! double BTS magazine pouches (Two of which with talon-flex inserts, An early adoption of kydex as a magazine retention material), the holster is a black Blackhawk! Omega holster (left handed) with two straps. I’ve owned the Omega triple SMG pouch which is more comfortable than you’d imagine (the rubberised grip straps are excellent and superior to the Safariland ones in my opinion) and a world away from the Viper clone in terms of durability and build quality.
A final item on the belt is one of the three (yes THREE!) knives he has chosen to bring to a gunfight! This one being a SOG X-42 Recondo in a custom kydex sheath, For Airsoft your going to struggle to find a suitable alternative but TS Blades have a number of suitably mean looking training blades and making a kydex sheath isn’t an impossible task (see my below effort).
The centrepiece of this load-out is the load bearing kit, based around a Blackhawk Spec Ops H-harness in OD… It’s not the easiest thing to find (I’ve yet to see the exact one needed for sale in the UK) attached to this is a standard USGI LC3 pistol belt with a pair of standard ALICE M16 ammo pouches loaded with 3 STANAGs apiece along with a pair of M67 frags… or TAG67 Airsoft grenades (confirmed by myself to fit perfectly) in each wing of the pouch.
A Blackhawk Enhanced buttpack (another hard to find item) in OD is attached to the rear alongside a single USGI Canteen (I’d suggest a pair of canteens would have been more appropriate and would certainly give you enough for your average day on the Skirmish field). A final pouch is the Blackhawk! Alice tac-vest Radio pouch which is attached to the pack not the belt itself holding those all important comms… And we all no what “No Comms” means…
The finishing touches are a carabiner on the left shoulder, an Emerson Police knife (again in a kydex sheath) on the right. You could swap these over if right handed, no ones going to mind…
A few of the accessories that finish off the load-out itself are the Nomex finger-less gloves, An early model G-Shock watch and the comms set up… A TEA Lash throat mike and Lash 2 PTT with a first generation earpiece are what you’ll be looking to replicate, Z Tactical did at one point make a passable copy but I’ll always find it hard to recommend copies of Kit that don’t stand up to the rigours of a days Skirmish… buy genuine if you can and if you can find a way of making the witchcraft that is comms work for you. I’d suggest an aftermarket earpiece by a reputable manufacturer would serve you better with a trade off on 100% accuracy towards functionality. The radio is a Motorola Astro Sabre, so little is seen of it you’d be able to get away with anything… even a Baofeng in the pouch wouldn’t draw too much attention. The one item your certain to never find is the Emerson Kandahar knife on his leg (of which only 20 were ever made), Seen below in this production still.
Onto the weaponry…
Bruce Willis favours an M4A1 Carbine with the older Car 15 Type stock, A long rubber stock pad over the butt and a Knight’s Armament RAS fore-end. Onto this is attached a plethora of early 2000s accessories tailored for the type of engagement this small fire-team is expecting to get itself into. A KAC Foregrip, KAC Rail Covers and a DLAP laser aiming unit with a secondary rail mounted atop (The G&P DBAL would be incorrect although it is exceptional although eye-meltingly powerful) is on the top rail just rear of the foresight with a rat-tail switch running to the fore-grip. Ares/STAR made a copy years ago but I’ve never seen one in person… If anyone has one, Let me know!
The optic seen on Bruce’s M4A1 is the Aimpoint Comp M2/M68 Close Combat Optic sat in what appears to be a GG&G Cantilever Aimpoint mount although a Larue Tactical Aimpoint Cantilever Mount would look better than 90% of the other mounts out there (It also has an additional benefit of spare battery storage). The reason this is mounted “backwards” is to assist in the mounting of a weapon mounted PVS-14 (seen briefly at the start of the film), Mounting your optic to the front RAS is probably not ideal (especially with it being a non free floating design) but i guess if thats your only option then you make do with what you’ve got. Unfortunately at a few points in the film it appears to be on backwards… I’ve heard people debate about this (And its possible reasoning in real life) many years ago but i do believe its a genuine mistake…
The rear BUIS is almost certainly the GG&G A2 back up sight (d-boys package a decent clone within their SPR Mk12 Mod 1 package IIRC) and the suppressor on the front of some rifles (Not Bruce’s though) is unknown but the KAC NT4 QD Suppressor would be a good stand in as the universally seen suppressor of on M4s of this era.
The sling used is almost certainly a home made affair from a cargo strap or similar material, however if your after an off the shelf option the Tactical Tailor 2 point or Blackhawk! Tactical 2 point would be worthy options (Black of course, as all the genuinely cool gear always is).
There are other weapons to choose from within the squad, If looking to put together a loosely “Inspired” load-out you’ve got a fair amount of leeway with the weaponry used… Several members of the team use non-railed Sig Sauer P226 pistols as their sidearm, theres also a pair of M60E4 Machine Guns, An M249 Para and an M1A (Civilian stand in for the M21 that would have been correct) along with a modified Remington M870 with a duck-bill choke. Theres also a lot of available options when it comes to load bearing equipment, My older “TOTS Inspired” load-out was based around a genuine woodland LBV harness chopped and attached to a set of ALICE webbing. It wasn’t correct but people still commented on it (Unfortunately I have no pics from that era)
The star of this entire load-out has to be the Heckler and Koch Mk23 pistol… this entire film acts as probably the best promotional material for this weapon outside of a certain Japanese stealth based video game… seen both with and without a suppressor but never seen with the bulky and (in this scenarios case) unnecessary LAM unit.
Overall this load-out is based upon what you’d expect to find on a “3 Day LRRP”, Heavy on ammo (6+1 STANAGs and 4+1 Mk23 mags) and light on additional clothing and equipment, All kill and no chill. I’d only suggest that it’s a touch light on the water carriage side as the butt-pack could in theory hold a few split down MREs and equipment not immediately needed (such as the PVS-14 during daylight) and a med-kit could be within a cargo pocket or the butt-pack alongside the food.
For woodland games this load-out is perfect, its well balanced… Can be kept reasonably light if you don’t fill all the pouches and allows you to take everything you need for a full days game, I’m sorely tempted to take this load-out to “The Trees” and see if my chubby civilian ass can live like this for a mere 24 hours, Its certainly a burning ember in a list of ideas I have planned for next year.
As with all load-outs, this one contains as much of the environment its in as anything else… There are points in this movie where the uniform looks black, brown, beaten and ragged… Its a lived in look that separates the great load-outs from the merely “OK”. Fabric tape and/or black nasty will need to be added to anything that rattles or makes noise, the PTTs are given the tape treatment as well and getting this look out in all weathers is a must, In fact I’d positively jump for joy if it started raining and I was wearing this load-out…. Oh and don’t forget the worlds supply of camo cream!