Going to a Milsim West Event? Here’s What to Bring as a NATO Player

The best way to experience MilSim West for the first time is to join the NATO faction

For those that are attending MilSim West for the first, I always highly recommend playing as a NATO player first as you will get an all-encompassing feel of what MSW has to offer. It’s also generally the faction that the majority of players have most of the gear for.

Here we’ll take a look at what you’ll be required to bring for MilSim West and some of the options available to you.

milsim west guide what to bring as a nato player for airsoft core - header image


Your uniform is an important component in your loadout.


Let’s begin with the first thing you should get a handle on. Your uniform. Luckily this is also one of the easiest and cheapest pieces.

With MilSim West, all NATO wears multicam or the US Army’s OCP pattern.

There’s a multitude of suppliers out there in these patterns and uniforms. Your simplest, cost-effective option would be the US Army’s W2s. Issued to every soldier and national guardsman, you can find these pieces in military surplus stores and eBay.

NATO at MilSim West’s Caspian Assault at Guardian Centers, Perry, Georgia
Credit: Milsim West

BDU Fatigues verse Combat Shirts & Pants

Now, let’s talk about types of uniforms. There are your standard uniforms that go by many names, mostly outdated ones like fatigues or BDUs (Battle Dress Uniforms.) These are composed of a jacket, shirt, and pants.

Then there are combat sets, a lighter-weight material of just a shirt and pants. The most popular is Crye Precision’s series. There are a couple of things to consider when picking which uniform to use, but I personally tend to break it down into these. 

  • What’s the area I’m playing in?
  • What gear am I using?
  • What’s the temperature going to look like?

If the event takes place in a mostly outdoor environment of woods and hills, I’ll tend to lean more towards a standard uniform, simply because they fit looser and are more durable.

If I’m going to a more urban environment where I’ll be using a plate carrier, I’ll look towards the combats as they’re lighter and more breathable.

If the event is going to be hot or warm, again I’ll lean towards the combat set, cooler, than the other.

Admittedly though, the combat sets are my usual go-to (Patagonia L9s) as they provide more comfort and if the temperature drops, there are always warming layers I can add.

Author using Patagonia Field set due to the environment instead of a combat set
Credit: Milsim West – Author using Patagonia field set due to the environment instead of a combat set


MilSim West does have a special rule in place for NATO, however. From the TACSOP:

“If you wish to wear another type camouflage pattern or uniform to our event you must fill a squad of 9 and then contact the MSW Staff via a Facebook PM from the MSW homepage and ask for permission first. Showing up the day of the event in an unauthorized camouflage pattern will only result in you being turned away without a refund.”

So you and eight other players sign up together and form your squad, you can then put together an impression using another uniform and contact MSW Cadre to get approval.

Keep in mind what’s being looked for with this rule. As NATO, your impression should fit within the nations that are aligned with NATO or its allies. More on this later.

Players who formed a large enough group to wear Desert Digital MarPat
Credit: Milsim West – Players who formed a large enough group to wear Desert Digital MarPat


Okay, now you’ve decided what to wear to the ball, let’s talk about what kind of weapon system you should bring. With MilSim West there are a few categories that airsoft guns fall under:

  • Rifleman
  • Light machinegun
  • Medium machinegun
  • Designated marksman’s rifle.


These are your basic weapons, think M4s and M16s. As a rifleman you’ll be given a limit of five hundred bbs during your initial check in and subsequent resupplies.

There’s no rules against only firing in semi or fully auto, that decision is on you just keep in mind your limited munitions. The rifleman will be the majority of players and the most versatile of everyone.

For NATO the vast majority will be M4 style weapons but depending on your impression with your eight other friends, can include G36s, FAMASs, etc.

You’ll find me often sticking to a VFC Mk18 as the smaller profile helps with different AOs and travel.

As for an optic I generally recommend people to have some sort of 3x to 4x magnification in order to help them with observation and positive identification of targets or friendlies.

Here are the FPS limits for Riflemen: 1.5 joules or 366 FPS with .25 bbs – No MED (Minimum Engagement Distance)

Milsim West Guide for NATO Players
Credit: Milsim West – NATO Player as a Rifleman

Light Machineguns

Light Machineguns are your belt or drum-fed weapon systems with the intended purpose of laying down suppressive fires and firing the 5.56 round. Most commonly the M249 SAWs, but can even include the M27 IAR used by the United States Marine Corps.

The major upside to LMGs is the ability to be issued 1500 bbs versus the 500 for riflemen. Oftentimes, you will see SAWs from companies like A&K or G&P while switching out the larger plastic drum for the smaller munition pack.

LMGs have the following FPS limits and no minimum engagement distance: 1.5 joules or 366 FPS with .25 bbs – No MED

Medium Machineguns

Milsim West NATO Player Guide - Player with Medium Machinegun
Credit: Milsim West – The M240B is the most common Medium Machinegun platform available to NATO

MMGs are characterized as firing the 7.62 round and belt-fed. M240s, M60s, and Mk48s will be the usual suspects here.

The advantages of being the MMG gunner are being issued 3000 bbs as well as being able to shoot at a higher FPS than the LMG and Riflemen. This is to mimic the capabilities of the real-world weapon system.

The only disadvantage you’ll face is having a minimum engagement distance of fifty feet for the safety of others, so I highly encourage you to invest in a pistol.

Consider getting an Mk48 from Lambda Defense as you’ll have a smaller profile to work and maneuver with.

These are the following FPS and MED limits for MMGs: 2.09 Joules or 425 FPS with .25 bbs – 50 Foot MED

Designated Marksman’s Rifle

DMRs follow similar rules to the MMG. NATO uses only, such as the M110, Mk12, M39, as well as any bolt action sniper rifle.

DMRs can shoot at a higher FPS as well but must be locked to Semi only and have a minimum engagement distance of 100 feet, so again, look into getting yourself a sidearm.

DMRs will also get 500 bbs issued to them. Generally, I’d recommend something like the M110 or Mk12, weapon platforms that are based on the M4/ AR platform. Bolt action sniper rifles won’t get you much out of MilSim West.

Here are the DMR FPS and MED limits: 2.8 Joules or 490 FPS with .25 bbs – 100 Foot MED


This is for your grenade launchers, pistols, and even shotguns.

The rules here are simple and you should be seeing a pattern: only weapon systems used by NATO forces.

Remember, MilSim West looks to mimic military operations, don’t show up with your golden Desert Eagle or custom HiCapa thinking you’re some assassin feared by the mafia.

These platforms follow the Rifleman limitations of: 1.5 joules or 366 FPS with .25 bbs – No MED

Milsim west airsoft NATO faction player
Credit: Milsim West – NATO Player at Caspian Assault


With gear, we could spend hours discussing all the ups and downs of each type of equipment that is best or what type of pouch will be better suited for your needs. Luckily for the NATO faction, the options for what gear are near limitless between military-issued and private purchases from tactical gear companies.

I’ll be keeping this simple and break things down into three categories:

  • Chest rigs
  • Plate carriers
  • Helmets
  • Water


The chest rig is what I suggest for every player regardless of faction or mission type. It is simple and effective and most importantly, lightweight and breathable.

Your chest rig should carry the bare essentials, munitions such as magazines and grenades, a pouch to hold a radio if you’re a squad leader or platoon leader, and a general-purpose pouch for whatever else you personally may need.

With the chest rig, you’ll have freedom of movement and are less likely to become a heat casualty. Consider companies like Haley Strategic with their D3CR or LBT’s 1961 series of chest rigs.

Plate Carrier

If you’re playing in one of the more urban venues at MilSim West, a plate carrier can be quite helpful in the simple fact it will provide some protection against being overshot or being shot too close.

Let’s be real here, getting shot by a burst of bbs at close range is not fun and can be quite painful, with the plate carrier you’ve got some preventative measures.

I personally use a plate carrier at most events I work, specifically the Spiritus Systems LV119, although I also recommend Crye’s AVS plate carrier. If you need a cheaper option consider ZShot’s Crye Licensed reproduction models.

With all this being said though, I have seen on countless occasions the downfalls of body armor. Everyone wants the cool-looking plate carrier but oftentimes either overload them or don’t keep in enough shape that instead, it becomes a hindrance.

Heat Casualties and plate carriers go hand in hand, if you’re going to use one, make sure you’re physically up to the task. Start by seeing if you can run a sub 10-minute mile, if you can’t do that, I don’t recommend you bring a plate carrier.


This is the piece of equipment I honestly hate the most but begrudgingly know is one of the more useful pieces. Besides the obvious protection from head injuries that do happen by accident, even replicas will do.

Helmets are great in that you can keep a number of useful tools on you, primarily night vision, communications, and hearing aids. The last piece is extremely underrated as you’ll be subject to blank fire and pyrotechnics.

From FAST helmets to MICHs and ACHs, the options are vast. Generally speaking, however, everyone and their brother (including myself) goes with the FAST helmets as they provide more modularity.

Personally, I have an Ops-Core FAST ballistic helmet as I’m making use of night vision and feel more comfortable that the mount won’t break, however, I do have plenty of experience using a reproduction helmet without issue. 

Author’s personal helmet set up - NATO Faction Player Guide for Milsim West
Credit: Milsim West – Author’s personal helmet set up


It’s not the sexiest piece of gear, but it’s necessary. Have a Camelbak, canteen, or Nalgene bottle if you have to, but always carry something for water.

Dehydration is another top reason why players quit.

It’s easy to prevent, bring at least a liter of water to the game, MSW will have water blivets available throughout the AO to refill but you will need something to hold the water in.


One of the major attractions to MilSim West is the impressions that can be done in order to try and mimic military groups and organizations. NATO by far has the largest options for impressions out there.

Some of the more established ones are United States Marines, US Rangers, Polish GROM, and British SAS. Others include Australian SASR or Spanish, German, and Norwegian armed forces.

As long as you fulfill the criteria of having at least nine people in your squad you can attempt any NATO impression. With this though be sure to contact any of the Cadre to ensure you will be allowed to do such. The impressionist groups can vary in size and each has its own requirements but attending as part of a larger group and working cohesively as a unit will greatly increase your enjoyment of the game.

airsoft milsim west 75th ranger impression group shot
Credit: Milsim West – Players of Task Force Mayhem, a 75th Ranger Impressionist Group

NATO gives you the closest military experience

With NATO, you’ll have a lot of options available to you on what to bring. That freedom in gear and equipment is nice but it won’t make your event. Also, don’t forget you have to prepare for cold nights in harsh weather.

When you arrive, NATO will provide the closest approximation to military simulation that the Cadre can provide.

Be prepared to usually be on the offensive. Be open to teamwork and following instructions not only from the Cadre but also from your Platoon and Squad Leaders.

Give it the opportunity and follow the TACSOP and I guarantee you’ll be coming back for more.

Christopher Bast
Christopher Bast

Chris is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Cadre of MilSim West, and author. Airsofting since 2010 and working as Cadre for MSW since 2014, Chris has traveled throughout the nation and spent over 1000 hours in milsim events.

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