You went to Afghanistan?
“No. I was part of another team. I got injured in the training. I was in the second line.”“They pull 5 to 10 armorers out of the 2,000 guys. We’re not a lot of armorers on the field at the same time. When my turn came up, I was injured. I did missions inside the country. I did 5 years as a combat engineer on the 15 years that I served. After that, I did 10 years as an armorer.”
Where are you injured?
“Left shoulder. The right one compensated too much. But it’s the left one. I have 4 holes in it. The 2 hands, right knee, thoracic spine and shoulder blades. I have advanced arthrosis in the back. It’s the accumulation of sores. It’s not one injury. I compensated too much to protect my wounds that I mortgaged my body.”
“My medical reports say that I can only work 2 hours a day, 4 days a week. Nobody wants to hire me.”
“Like a lot of soldiers, I became hypervigilant: you’re always ready, always on my guard, always checking everywhere, becoming overly protective.”
“For a civilian, it’s too much, for us, it’s considered to be OK because it’s our job. Because, on the other side, you got to watch your fuckin’ back. You never know where the threat is coming from.”
“In a conventional war, it’s not so bad. You know it. The enemy wearing a uniform. There are rules of war. It’s not a kid or a woman packed with bombs. There, you don’t know who’s who. Sometimes they know them, the rules of engagement. They fire at us and they drop the gun on the ground. They fuckin’ shoot you, but you can’t do anything because they are not armed anymore.”
How did you start repairing airguns?
“I was playing paintball with a friend of mine. Then, some guy opens a gun case. Then I look at the toy he’s unfolding. Shit! That’s not a paintball gun. It looks like a real gun! But it’s clearly not a real gun if it’s there. I look at my friend and I ask him: that thing is so freakin’ cool. What is it?”
“The guy turns toward me and says: ‘Well, that’s an airsoft.’ It was a closed community at the time. Airsoft Canada. No stores were selling them, yet. There was nothing. And it was illegal to import them. Even if they’re marble shooting toys. It interested me. I tried to find one but I didn’t succeed. I continued to play paintball in the Canadian Xtreme Paintball League, the beast league there was at the time.”
“Some years later, a guy from the army that I was working with brings me one. I didn’t like the model too much. I dismantle everything. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. So I take the airgun and I strip it completely, right in front of him. His eyes were wide open. It was new to me. I started there. A month after, I was repairing their airguns. And it stayed like that.”
“I’m a professional armorer. I already repaired paintball guns. But then, I started to really enjoy working and playing with airguns. In the meantime, paintball’s popularity dropped, while airsoft’s grew.”
“There were online stores who sold them, and we were 2 or 3 guys repairing them. But I was the only schooled armorer who was touching airsofts. So my name got bigger.”
Why are you doing it?
“It’s more like a hobby than anything else. I always did it. I have no life, somehow. I’m lucky to have a baby now that I have no life. I’m either on the firing range or entertaining myself, tinkering weapons, maintaining them. Otherwise, I do nothing.”
“I prefer small arms. Everything that’s portable. I’ve always tinkered with small objects. A little bit like a clockmaker.”
Is there a big demand for what you do?
“The minute you lay your eyes on them, they break. Those knick-knacks are so cheap. They’re made in China, most of them. And the Chinese man, he botches his work. The quality of the materials used is so second-rate that they’re always breaking. You’re repairing more airguns than firearms. Because with firearms, there are some quality standards. So, generally, they’re more trustworthy than those trinkets.”
Are airguns legal, now?
“For an airsoft to be legal, it has to fire between 366 and 499 feet per second. People say 500, but that’s not true. Because at 500, you have a weapon. However, the law is stupid. Because the majority of the outdoor fields will tolerate guns that go up to 400 feet. Some will tolerate spring guns that shoot up to 450. Sniper guns.”
“That’s foolish. Fuck. If you play with us, it’s 350. If I shoot you at close range, at 350, you’re gonna go cry to your mama. At 320, still at close range, it can go into your skin. One of my friends lost a tooth.”
How long does it take you to repair a gun?
“I don’t work very quickly. With my injuries, well, it goes as fast as I’m able to go. It’s more of a hobby, to busy myself.”
“There are some days where I can’t do anything. Nothing works for me. Well, those days, it’s sad to say it, but I don’t work on guns.”
“This kind of job, it normally takes 2 days. For me, it’s 2 weeks. I tinker roughly 2 hours a day.”
Do you often play airsoft?
“I get to play a little airsoft, once in a while. We play in a loose group. There are a lot of injured guys, former soldiers. There are also a lot of civilians.”
“But sometimes, like I say to people, they have to be careful. They’re playing on the line. Their training, those who put videos of their training on Youtube… that’s where you start to look like a militia. And it’s totally illegal to train a militia in Canada, whatever the type of weapons you wield. You’re all dressed alike. You have military drills.”
“These games, these groups, I stay far way from them. They act more military than real soldiers. That irritates me a lot.”
And why does it annoy you?
“I served for real. It’s not a game. It’s war, fuck. We’re not there to play. It’s not a small pellet: ‘Hit! I’m dead. I’ll be back later.’”
“No. There, you kill people for real, fuck. It’s not a game. It’s not a party. You are trained to kill and they give you a warrant to kill on the other side. It’s not the same stress. It’s not the same adrenaline. You don’t turn PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder] when you play airsoft. And your friends. You don’t watch them while they get blown into pieces. And after that, saying to your girlfriend: ‘Well. Sorry, but I was there.’ It doesn’t work like that. It’s a different story. Fundamentally, airsoft is a game.”
“It’s like one of my friends, the other day, he tells me: ‘Hey. We have an official game this weekend.’ Stop that. You don’t have an official game. You’re not real teams. You’re groups of friends.”
“And you’re all dressed the same way, with military equipment… to a certain point. And to act with a military discipline and drill, you are close, according to me… you’re fuckin’ playing with the law… to be an armed militia. Which is totally illegal in Canada. And you’re close to impersonate a soldier. You only see this in the airsoft community.”
“There are some guys who are very foolish. They go outside, dressed from head to toes, with their pistol holster. I even saw people enter corner stores with their fuckin’ airgun inside the holster. You’re a fuckin’ winner, big time.”
“I would put side by side my real P226 handgun and my training airgun on the table, right in front of you, and I could test you. You won’t be able to distinguish them. Which one is real and which one is a toy. Good luck. Everybody fails at this game.”
“To make people realize that, for me, they’re not toys. It’s a really fun sport, but they’re not toys. Because a toy doesn’t injure.”
“Look how real they are. The firearm pieces fit perfectly, without modifications, on a toy. You can’t see the difference.”
And what do you think about the NFA’s position, which is to deregulate the storage and transportation of airguns?
“It’s not because I’m an active member of the NFA [National Firearms Association] that I agree with everything they say. They should be carried in gun cases. Just like firearms. People are going to panic. It’s a matter of responsibility. It doesn’t need to be locked in a gun case. An appropriate bag for it will suffice. It’s a bit silly, what they say. It will strip people of their responsibilities. Kids need to be educated and the parents who think that they are buying toys to their children too. It’s not a toy. A toy won’t shoot your eye out or break your teeth.”