Foldable airsoft shield: lightweight and fits in a bag
Every once in a while I see someone bringing a shield to a field. While it isn’t used a lot during the day, it certainly can be useful to overcome a well protected bottleneck, particularly in CQB. The problem is that having to carry 5 to 10 kg of metal plate for these situations is only possible if you have a car, and last year I only moved by train and motorcycle. That’s why I decided to devise this lightweight foldable airsoft shield with powerful lights .
Disclaimer: Many airsoft players dislike seeing the words ‘lightweight’ and ‘shield’ together, since in real life any shield capable of stopping bullets would heavily impede the carrier’s movement. For the sake of a conflict-free match, ask the referee to set any special rules he may deem necessary beforehand. For example: no running while using the shield, only small guns allowed, etc.
The shield is made from cellular plastic sheet. Cellular structure means that it isn’t solid, but instead is mostly empty inside with a laminar structure that preserves its rigidity. This has two advantages: on one hand, it’s lightweight while still easily stopping BBs and resisting harsh use. On the other hand, it will save us many hinges as you’ll see a bit later.
I found a 100×50 cm sheet in my hardware store, which is good enough to cover most of my body when crouched (although I recommend a bigger one for extra safety). Try to get a black or grey one; you don’t want to look like you came from Toys’R’Us. In my case, I decided to make it foldable in 5 parts, at a height of 20 cm each. I’ve found that this size fits well in a standard flight suitcase.
Originally, I planned on making four cuts and joining the pieces with hinges (hence those two on the top fold), but I later noticed that, by not cutting the plastic sheet completely, the remaining face was flexible enough to fold itself without breaking. Use a cutter for this, and make successive cuts until the correct depth. Remember to cut at alternating sides or you’ll mess up the direction of the folds. It may actually break in the long run (after mach folding and unfolding), but if that happened you can always use the hinge joint or very strong tape.
Keeping the shield straight
Now for the interesting part. I had a couple selfie sticks (around $1 a pop) lying around, so I decided to use them as a structural element when the shield was open and retract them when it was closed. For this I prepared two symmetrical 3D printed parts to screw at the top of the shield.
Afterwards, I made holes along the shield’s sides where I could put some wire (the type you use to tie cables) since it’s fast to deploy. Whenever you unfold the shield, extend the selfie sticks and tie the wires to them.
Beware! Not all selfie sticks are identical. When shopping, make sure that the stick has the design on the right:
The top cut has a window. I merely cut a rectangular hole with a cutter and hot glued a transparent plastic sheet. Any size is good. By the way, if you can’t find any clear crystal plastic sheet on your hardware store, remember that many come with a protective adhesive that renders them translucent until unpeeled, so don’t be fooled.
This is a hard problem to solve. The current solution is provisional and I’m open to suggestions. You can’t put a pair of big handles to grab and carry the shield, since they would prevent it from folding. I tried to put some removable handles with little success (the joint was weak and and wobbly), so I settled for making four little horizontal cuts and inserting a couple of band loops. By making the nooses at the correct length, I can put my left arm inside one and hold the other with enough dexterity to quickly move the shield around.
This part is a bit more electronics oriented, and not essential to the shield. Since the concepts of putting lights on a shield could be useful for many things (guns and helmets mostly), I’ll make their own post soon.