Airsoft Extreme is one of the country's longest running Airsoft retail company's. They got their start when a few friends discovered, then fell in love, with Airsoft. Check out this interview we did with one of the founder's Mickey Colombo and learn a bit more about Airsoft Extreme.
It all started while watching "Die Hard" back in 96' 97'. I noticed Bruce Willis was running around with an MP5A5 and I got to thinking how cool it would be to own a toy version. I was chatting to a buddy about it and he mentioned something called "Soft Air" (which is what Airsoft was called back then) and I was immediately intrigued. I eventually found a place called "Mike Frost Industries" in the middle of San Francisco that sold “Soft Air” guns and I checked out the website. Back then, Tokyo Marui was the only AEG’s that he carried and though I was unsure of the it being an AEG (and the price, $700) but I had to have it.
I worked at EA at the time and after plinking cans in my backyard, my buddy asked me if I had gone out and played. I was like "Played? I just thought you used these things for target practice" he laughed and then mentioned going out with a group called the Cimmerians. Fast forward a few weeks and I rolled up at Big Bear Paintball in the Santa Cruz mountains with my gun, gear, and a bag of BBs. Its safe to say I had never experienced anything like it... eyes dilated, heart pounding. Airsofting was like a shot of adrenaline and I was totally addicted from that point on.
It started pretty much right away since I quickly discovered that a lot of my friends simply could not afford to get involved. So I decided to find a way to get gear cheaper so more people could enjoy Airsoft like I was. I started by contacting Paul Chu from Redwolf Airsoft to see if we could be a US distributor. He said yes! So in 99' I created airsoftextreme.com and began selling to mainly friends and then friends of friends. It started to slowly grow with me advertising on the Airsoft Zone. I met Peter Ho while playing airsoft and we traded “war stories” of buying and selling airsoft guns and we both realized the potential of a partnership. We joined forces in late 99’ and at first we started with a website and we stored the gear in both my garage and his apartment. Eventually we needed help and brought Peter’s brother Andrew aboard. This worked well for a while but unfortunately it didn't take people too long to figure out where we lived and would "swing by" to buy things... so in Feb 2002 we decided it was time to open a physical store.
We found a great place in San Jose, it was small 1400' sq ft max, but HUGE compared to my garage. When we brought all of our gear it filled just one small corner so it was clear we needed to purchase more stock to really fill out the store. Fast forward to today and along with our online business we have 4 Airsoft Extreme stores... Santa Clara, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Only one? there are far too many to name just one, how about I cover the top 3?
Third place goes to that very first time I got out on the field. It was just so eye opening and fun. Even tho I had 5 mags for my MP5 and a stick loader hanging from my belt forcing me to constantly reload during the game... I loved it. My buddies were giving me heat saying they call those "Suicide Mags" in japan. I didn't care, I don't like the noisy high caps and I actually enjoy the more realistic mid/low cap magazine.
Second place goes to a game that I played with the Cimmerians. It was on an island run by a yacht club in the Stockton Delta. You heard that right, an actual island. It was an amazing day, assaulting the beaches with rubber rafts and defending the island from attack. It was also a true "simulation" so when you died you had to act out your death and lay there for other players to search through your gear. It was a real blast, everyone playing, having fun and not taking things too seriously. I actually miss that kind of acting and would love to see that style of play make its wayback into mainstream more.
First place has to go to my first Lion Claws event, Op Irene at Ft Knox in Kentucky. It was truly awesome. Not only was it a great honor to play at a place where some of our top warriors are being trained, but the pyro effects and the general realistic nature of the event really blew me away.
First and foremost, I would say to just have fun. Don't worry about having the best gear or high end this or that, just get out and play and have a good time. Get your buddies involved and go and play soldier like you did when you were a kid. To me Airsoft is not a sport, it’s a hobby... a hobby you can be seriously interested in, but just be careful to avoid taking it (or yourself) too seriously. Obviously, since we are running around with realistic looking guns, any new player has to also take safety seriously. So make sure to hop on AirsoftC3 and find all the safe legal places to play near you.
We want to reintroduce ourselves to the community, not that we haven't been here the whole time with our local stores, but remind them of who we are and what we are trying to do for the community. One step toward that goal is the launching of our new website which will make it easier for customers to learn about Airsoft and more easily find the gear they are looking for. It’s important that we provide our customers with the best possible prices on the highest quality gear. The other important factor, more than the new site even, is our experience. Having 4 local stores gives us a tremendous advantage... we are on the front lines helping players and serving our local community every single day. It’s honestly what we feel sets us apart now and for the future.
Just take our repair services for instance, we have years of helping players get the most from their gear. It’s important that players don't get frustrated with avoidable breakdowns. We want them to spend more time actually playing! Our current log of repairs really represents this idea, as we have very little repair work lined up. This proves we have done our jobs right and used our experience to help educate players on proper usage and maintenance so they can be out playing more often.
For a while there the Airsoft community slumped along with the economy, but we are seeing a resurgence right now. More people seem interested in giving Airsoft a shot, which is either because of the game play itself or the popularity of games like Call of Duty. People are discovering that it’s even more fun to shoot your friends with BBs in real life than to pretend to shoot them sitting on the couch. I think this trend will continue as long as we are smart about how we promote Airsoft. We have to make sure that we are putting safety first, helping teach new players how to play properly and get them out on the field to experience REAL Airsoft. If we do, Airsoft will continue to grow.
We have always felt It was important for us to be available to community in anyway we can. After learning about what you guys were doing with AirsoftC3 we felt Airsoft Extreme needed to be a part of your effort. The first thing that was clear to us, was that AirsoftC3 solves a huge problem facing Airsoft... discovery. I struggled way back in the day to find not only places to play but also finding other Airsofters. I would have loved to have an AirsoftC3 like tool back then it would have made it much easier to get connected to the community. I should also mention, I love that you guys have local shops listed, as we have several of our own, we feel it’s very important for a community to support their local Airsoft shop.