I haven’t done a loadout interview for a couple of weeks, so what better way to kick off the new academic year than with one of the titans of the CAG impression milieu?
I’m not going to go on talking, because this guy needs no introduction; the very cool Joe Jensen of Hestehovkompaniet (HHK).
Thanks for coming on the blog again, Joe! How did you come to join HHK?
I think it was around spring 2013. I’d only played airsoft for a year and a half then, focusing on an early Norwegian kit based on what I was issued when I served in the army from the year before. I got a phone call from Ola Coltsfoot, who asked me on behalf of HHK if I wanted to join them. At the time I wasn’t too familiar with HHK as a team, other than that I’d met some of the individuals of the team before at regular games. I really liked the guys and I suddenly had a lot of spare time and some cash to spend on myself, since I recently ended a relationship. I thought of this as a great opportunity to start a new project in my life.
What do you bring to the team, in terms of role or your personal style of play?
Since I served as a Border Ranger in Norway’s mandatory military service, I have first hand insight in military operations and conduct. I really enjoyed my year in uniform, and I take as much as I can and translate into my airsoft experience. I think and hope that affects the team in a positive way. I don’t mind the long hauls to get to the objective. I like to plan ahead as much possible before larger events and gather information for me and the guys about the area; and lately I’ve been trusted as a commander at larger events (Berget, Ghost Zone), so it looks like something I’m doing is OK.
What does it mean to you, to be part of the team?
A lot! I wouldn’t be here now if I was enjoying the hobby alone. To be a part of a bigger unit during milsim games really heightens my immersion, and rolling through corridors as a part of a gun train with people you’ve played with a million times before makes everything easier, funnier, and occasionally you get that flow you’ll see real operators exhibit when they do their thing. Again, immersion.
Which other teams are pushing the envelope in milsim right now?
I don’t have to think twice about this one; right now, Trident EOD is the new cool kid on the block. With up and coming correct EOD kits and the fact that the guys are learning pyrotechnics to produce pyro for events is just amazing, and takes the game to a whole new level. Is there an IED behind that old log right next to the road? Better secure the area and send in Trident. When are they done? You’ll hear it.
That’s what HHK is about. I knew CAG simply as “Delta Force with cool multicamouflage kit” when I first joined the guys. I had worked hard on my Norwegian kit up to that point, but sold the lot to fund Crye Precision. So I was kind of going in blind when I started my CAG impression. It didn’t take long for me to realize the full potential and the more pictures I studied and forums I read, it really got me hooked. I quickly saw that this theme was something I would enjoy working on. I still feel, three years later, that I’m at that point.
Is there a particular era which guides your kit choices?
Somewhere between Paraclete SG and OpsCore! Hehe! We’re aiming for around the 2012-2014, with some artistic freedom here and there. In the end, we’re airsofters playing airsoft.
Where does your impression sit between performance-driven and picture perfect?
I really want to have it as performance-driven as possible, as that’s what a real operator would have done. But some stuff, like flashbangs and breaching charges, are purely for the look. As an airsofter and milsim enthusiast, you have to realise that you need some “fluff” to make it look like you’re a real soldier – otherwise all of us would run chestrigs, high capacity magazines and morale patches.
What’s the most game-changing item in your possession?
At regular games and events, I think I’m going to say the Aimpoint Micro T1. I’ve tried a whole bunch of replica sights in the past, a lot of them T1 replicas, and the red/green dot would either be too bright indoors or too weak out in the sun. The Aimpoint T1 ranges from IR invisible to crazy strong red dot in strength, so I can adjust it as I please according to the current environment.
At larger events, especially those that last overnight or happens in dark buildings, my night vision optics and infrared target illuminator equipment give me an advantage over most of our opponents.
Anything newly acquired that’s impressing you?
That would be the Wilcox FTS mount, which I reviewed on your blog. I’ve already used the dovetail quick detachment system in-game, to spare my EoTech G33 of the unnecessary risk of being shot out. It worked flawlessly.
What’s working less well and needs attention?
I’m frequently bugged by the fact that my Oakley glasses fog up just when I need them to be as clear as possible, but I’ve learned that there’s little to no way of getting that problem fixed without switching to goggles with fans – and that is not an option for me.
What’s your position on replica kit?
I don’t mind replica kit as long as it has some to it, but I use as little of it as I can. There is the quality difference, and the fact that a particular pouch is exactly what an SOF operator is issued. It makes my impression more true to its inspiration. I wouldn’t label myself as a collector on the same level as other, more serious collectors, but I want my setup to be as real as possible; so in the end it’s borderline collecting, I guess…
You mentioned to me recently that NVG vs. NVG games don’t work so well. Do you think asymmetric warfare scenarios bring out the best in milsims?
Haha! The game I was referring to was a rather small but really fun game that happened in Sweden a couple of weeks back. It was a promotion game for a camera system that attaches to your NVG – SandyCam. Every participant – except two or three of 25 – had NVGs. When everyone has NODs, you loose the advantage of seeing in the dark without light, and everyone can see your infrared equipment. Which means no IR laser, no IR illuminator, no IR strobe to differ friend from foe (as you can’t tell by uniform who is who), and everyone just lost a bit of their field of view. This game and scenario did bring a new element that I hadn’t experienced before, however; when you use your infrared laser or light, you quickly give away your position. So you always have to be on the move. Pretty exciting, in that way.
About the asymmetric warfare: I would say both yes and no. Early in my airsoft career, teams were usually divided by “whole uniform” and “half uniform/random” kit. This meant that the geardos got together on one side, while the new guys and those who don’t spend as much money on airsoft got together on the other. This actually worked out really well, because even if the geardo team had better equipment and tactics, the “random” faction always outnumbered them – bringing stability to the games.
Recently, a lot more people have fallen under the geardo faction, which has led to teams being divided by uniform colour – light colours like multicam on one side, and dark colours like Norwegian camo on the other. You’ll see that both sides naturally have more advanced gear now, and even the simplest of technology like radio/comms makes an opponent so much more powerful in the act of teamwork. And it is really cool to see the enemy outmaneuver us, because of tactics and good communication.
What makes a good milsim?
The in-game information issued in advance of the event, maybe weeks or months before, for us to prepare the mission. Restrictions on ammo, specific medic rules, and in many cases the duration of the game. What our opponents look like what they’re supposed to portray; looking like a team and not just several individuals on the same side helps. Maybe even the fact that you’re going to walk a long distance and wait several hours at a point, while still remaining undetected. I’ve been to milsim events where I didn’t even fire one single BB, and saw just five or six enemies during the whole 24 hours we were in-game; and it still stands out as one of my best experiences to this day.
What made you decide to go NGRS?
The realism of recoil shock and bolt catch, without the flaws a GBB. While GBBs might be more anatomically correct, and really fun to field-strip, they don’t perform as well during the colder months in Norway as a TM. Even though you’re restricted to certain things like larger stocks and fewer types of magazines (if you want to keep the bolt stop function that is), nothing is impossible when modified. I would choose NGRS for whatever next weapon platform I get.
Purely based on form factor, would you choose an M4 as primary or stick with the 416?
HK416 all day and night long. I’ve never been much of a M4 boy, even though I’ve owned a few some years back. My first encounter with the 416 was in my military service, so I’ve “grown up” with it. I would love to build an M4 MRE CAG-build sooner or later though!
You love your RS; which acquisition are you most pleased with?
I would need to say “optics” again, sorry about being so boring. While the Wilcox mount itself is something I might be most pleased with at this point, it is the whole collaboration between the T1 and G33 that gets me going. And of course I love to walk around in the dark with my PVS-14!
Are there any compromises you make, because the gains delivered by certain RS items don’t make you more effective?
I have yet to acquire a real AirFrame. It’s going to add more weight if (when) I finally get one, thus rendering me a bit slower and heavier, but giving me more realism, so I’m sure I’ll pick one up later on.
What’s playing in the HHK transport when you guys deploy at an event?
From “Ghost – Year Zero” to “Backstreet Boys – I Want It That Way”. And yes, we do sing along.
Massive thanks to Joe for words and pics; pic contribution also from Roar Stene, B79 of Berserkir Mechanized.