When approaching people to interview there’s always a possibility that they’ll say no, it can be for many reasons… They might not like you, your page, the other people you’ve interviewed or they might simply not want to be in the public eye. So when I asked Andy (There’s a lot of Andys knocking about in the Airsoft world… He’s the third one I’ve interviewed) and he agreed to do the interview I was extremely happy.
If you’re unaware of what Tactical Optician does, then hopefully this will give you a bit more insight into the man behind the business and also a brief overview of the business itself. I’ve known of him for about 3/4 years, a recommendation to me from the Cobalt Milsim guys to provide protective lenses for my PVS14 Night Vision, certainly a must have purchase for such an expensive piece of gear.
I’m happy to say that 3 years on and with a fair amount of time under NODs they’ve stood the test of time and have protected my most expensive Airsoft investment. I’m not the only one to have asked him for this either, in the close knit “Milsim” community his work is extremely highly regarded and there’s enough monetary value in the night vision devices being protected by his custom work to fund several houses.
So without further ado, I asked Andy a few questions about work, Airsoft and eyewear… Let’s see what he has to say.
ATRG: Thanks for taking the time to do this, let’s start with a bit of background… How long have you played Airsoft and what prompted you to start playing in the beginning?
Tac: I started playing airsoft in 2010. I played paintball quite seriously in the early 90’s, but I really had little inkling of airsoft until I stumbled across some webpages while idly surfing the web. I asked three mates if they fancied taking a punt on a night of airsoft & that was that. One of those friends went on to found a business on airsoft import & distribution.
ATRG: Following on from that, where do you usually play now and what type of games do you look forward to the most?
Tac: I play rarely these days, for a couple of reasons. My last two days have been at Humber Airsoft, near to home. It’s a cracking site, a real gem. A good old walk on skirmish generally scratches the itch. I used to play more milsims, and weekenders, but I became disillusioned by what I was getting in return for a large outlay in time and money. One weekend in particular stands out in my memory. I had essentially paid north of a hundred quid to stag on or stand around.
ATRG: Having followed your IG (TacticalOptician) for a few years I see a lot of high end gear pop up, being somewhat of a gear whore myself do you see a place for repro/clone gear for yourself or are you strictly a “buy once/crye once” type of guy?
Tac: I’ve always been a bit of a gear whore, but not really a “real steel for real steel’s sake”. Most of my kit has come about by discarding stuff that didn’t work for me, and trying something else. A great deal of check & test has formed my core loadout. In the early days, I had plenty of copy kit. As my outings became longer, I started to discover that much of it just didn’t cut it. Of course, there has always been an element of allyness there as well, but I don’t reject copy kit out of hand just for being a knock off. I took a similar approach with RIFs. I started with a lovely G&P VLTOR Sentry, but after a year, it destroyed the gearbox. After a couple of other RIFs, I discovered Systema PTWs. I’ve owner mine for 7 years, and it’s never failed me. Who wants to rock up to a day and sit out because their blaster is dud? Reliability is key. This ethos goes as much for my kit as well.
ATRG: In regards to tactical kit, what is your most prized possession
Tac: Without doubt, my Ops Core Maritime ballistic helmet. Hands down.
ATRG: And which bit of kit/replica you’ve sold do you miss the most
Tac: My ‘other’ PTW. It was a lovely H&K 416D with a custom SGT lower receiver. I sold it to a friend, and I know I can buy it back if I ever want to. But I still miss it.
ATRG: In regards to your day to day loadout, where do you draw inspiration and are you aiming to replicate something from a source photo or strike a balance between form and function?
Tac: I have serving friends who are a good source of kit tips, but probably the best (worst?) influence on my kit is Rich (AKA) The Reptile House. We can spend a deal of time discussing the finer points of this kit versus that kit, and Rich is a constant source of ideas. He’s also indirectly a constant source of credit card agony as well.
ATRG: I can wholeheartedly agree with that, Rich has been the final nudge for many of my own purchases. Onto the name… Tactical Optician, it’s pretty self explanatory and I’m sure there’s many readers who’ll have bought sacrificial lenses etc for their NODs but for those not in the know, what other products and services do you offer?
Tac: I make prescription lenses for those that need it, both clip-on inserts, as well as bespoke solutions. But primarily I supply eye protection and consulting services to security, law enforcement and military customers.
ATRG: I know a big bugbear of yours is mesh eyewear, as a big sweaty mess I find it’s often what I fall back to. Have you got any tips on avoiding the dreaded fog?
Tac: Fogging is inevitable with lenses. It can be reduced, but it won’t be eliminated unless you stand very still and don’t sweat. Generally not compatible with an airsoft game. Good fitting eye protection is important, helping airflow. Keeping lenses scrupulously clean is paramount. Moisture binds readily to minute particles on lens surfaces. Think about how easily car interior glass steams up; polish the glass and it’s much less likely. Use a good quality anti fog preparation, and deploy it in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Too often I’ve seen somebody buffing all that anti fog away, then complaining that it isn’t effective. I can see why mesh gets used. I’ve no problem with a good quality mesh, but some of the cheap stuff deforms badly, and sheds particles when hit. If you go mesh, go Heroshark. There’s a similar situation with cheap protective lenses that masquerade as CE marked kit, though. It’s not just mesh. I recall seeing a Far East copy of Oakley’s Ballistic M Frame, it was labelled “Z80.3 tested” or similar. Clearly they were trying to pass them off as Z87.1 standard tested. Unfortunately they had chosen to refer to a standard for flammability of sunglasses frames, but I suspect plenty of people were taken in by the Fakely M Frame with no tested protective properties at all.
Personally, I think that tactical eye protection designed and used in combat is tailor made to what we do, so I follow that route. It’s over-engineered for most airsoft situations, but I like my eyes; they are the only pair I have.
ATRG: Eyewear being a topic close to your heart, Do you have any advice for someone who is looking to buy protective eyewear and also what is your go to set of glasses?
Tac: My advice is simple. Buy from a legitimate retailer, know the eye protection standards and if possible, try stuff on. Faces vary and there’s no one size fits all eye pro in my opinion. Look for Z87.1+ (US standard) or EN166 (UK & Europe) and you won’t go far wrong. You can get an excellent set of eye shields for little more than £30 that meet those standards. It’s the kit you’ll use the most on a site, after your boots, so buy well.
My go-to eye pro is Oakley’s Ballistic M Frame 3.0 in multicam (of course) with a ballistic photochromic lens. I’m a lazy, lazy man & I don’t want to swap my lenses out for night use, so I rock a light sensitive lens. They are getting on a bit now, but I’ve not found anything better. My law enforcement customers buy more M Frames than anything else, by a large margin, so I’d say Oakley did something right in the execution.
ATRG: It’s as close I’ve got to a signature question… What one thing do you like most about Airsoft and what one thing would you change if possible?
Tac: What do I like? The community. The people that week after week rock up, dress up and shoot each other, from wildly different backgrounds yet find a commonality in airsoft. I’ve made friends that have stood beside me through the darkest times that I have experienced, given me such incredible support and all because we dressed up and ran around with toy guns shooting at each other. Brilliant.
What would I change? I’d like to see the knock off protective eyewear stamped out. It’s a hazard to sight. Real eye pro doesn’t have to cost much. It’s better than vision loss.
So there you have it, Thanks again to Andy of Tactical Optician. If you’re looking for something like custom prescription inserts or lens/optic protection then you’d be well served contacting him directly via: