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Old Upshur County armory now play gun venue

Inter-Mountain photo by Roger Adkins Josh Mullins takes up a firing position behind a crate during an airsoft match at the M2 Bravo Indoor Field.
Inter-Mountain photo by Roger Adkins
Josh Mullins takes up a firing position behind a crate during an airsoft match at the M2 Bravo Indoor Field.

BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — There’s more gunplay at the old armory now than when the military owned it.

M2 Bravo Tactical and Hobby LLC has set up West Virginia’s first indoor airsoft field at the old West Virginia National Guard Armory on Route 20 South. The company leased the property from the Upshur County Development Authority.

The company is owned by Michael Bickel and Joshua Mullins, with Mike Madrinnan as manager. The company had been operating out of a retail space on South Florida Street, which included a much smaller indoor range.

M2 Bravo also carries a full line of airsoft guns, ammunition and accessories, including everything from helmets and body armor to gear bags. Technicians also are available for equipment repair and maintenance.

Once outfitted, airsoft enthusiasts can take to the indoor field M2 Bravo has created at the old armory. The massive space includes a replica urban environment, where the variety of war games is limitless. There are numerous barriers, barricades and simulated buildings, so there is plenty of cover.

In the future, the owners want to construct multi-level buildings to code specifications inside the indoor arena.

There also are plans for an outdoor field.

Madrinnan said airsoft was already a popular hobby in Upshur County. M2 Bravo is simply tapping into a market that needed an outlet.

“When it comes to stuff to do here for young people, you have the pool in the summer, skating rink in the winter and the bowling alley,” he said. “We’re providing a place where kids can come and enjoy this hobby in a safe environment.”

Safety is a priority at M2 Bravo, Mullins said. A lot of airsoft play in West Virginia is unregulated. M2 Bravo provides an indoor environment unlike anything else in the state, but also stresses safety and professionalism needed in the sport.

“Most airsoft play is just kids in their back yards. A lot of times they don’t wear proper eye protection. We wanted to make something that was a safe place to come and play,” he said.

The M2 crew has traveled all over the East Coast playing airsoft. One thing they’ve learned is that those who take the sport seriously understand the need for professionalism. And both Bickel and Mullins have a background in the U.S. Marine Corps, so they are aware of the need to take even simulated weapons seriously. The guns may be shooting soft rubber pellets, but that’s no reason not to exercise caution while having a good time.

“It does absolutely no good when people get hurt. We can’t stop what kids do at home, but if they come down here, maybe we can teach them some things they will hopefully take away from the experience,” he said.

There are a variety of airsoft events at the new armory location. And there’s something for everyone, Bickel said. There are even days for low-velocity pistol wars geared toward the youngest of airsoft enthusiasts.

“We have people from 8 to 65 who come down,” Bickel said.

Bickel was hanging out one evening in Mullins’ basement when the two got the idea to start their own company.

“We originally started selling army surplus online. My sister owns the building we started in on South Florida Street. We made a little field in the back and started running games. People just started coming in,” Mullins said.

Mullins bought his first airsoft gun three or four years ago.

“We took it out in the back yard and tried it out,” Mullins said.

“The guns are a lot more realistic. You reload magazines. With the military background, we just like it a lot better,” Bickel added.

While there is an initial expense for getting fully outfitted, airsoft ammunition is much cheaper than paintball ammo.

“You can buy 5,000 rounds for 12 bucks. You can’t touch that with paintball. There’s also no real mess. You have biodegradable pellets for outside use,” Bickel said.

The major difference is, airsoft lacks the paint splatter to confirm a hit. So, fair play relies heavily on the honor system.

“It’s more of an honor system since you don’t have the splatter, you have to just raise your hand and call the hit,” Bickel said.

“I think with airsoft, you can play it just about anywhere. You can play it out in the woods, in an abandoned building and you don’t have to worry about painting everything up and having to wash the paint off.

For more information events and schedules look up M2 Bravo Tactical and Hobby LLC on Facebook.

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