Culmore woman Caroline Irwin just love guns. She loves them so much when she gets married next year in Rome the reception will have a James Bond theme and she will present her new husband with a customised gun and a set of pistol cuff links as a wedding gift.
Caroline is one half of Predator Zone, an indoor airsoft gaming site in Derry’s Pennyburn Industrial Estate alongside her fiance Stephen. She says she loves all things guns-related.
“We opened Predator Zone a year ago and things are going really well,” says Caroline.
“Stephen had been playing Airsoft for a few years and was really interested in it. We knew that there was definitely a market for it here in the city, so we set about setting up something, talked to Invest Northern Ireland and the rest is history.”
Airsoft is similar to paintball and it is an honour sport and hobby. The guns used in Airsoft are remarkably similar to real world firearms.
Airsoft combat simulation is as close to the real thing as you can get. The basis of Airsoft is taken from real world which is why most experienced Airsofters look like military/police personnel from around the world. It is a great sport for working as a team or working as an individual to achieve the objective.
Despite being only 28, and being at the helm of one of Derry’s most successful young businesses, Caroline says she is having great fun in the world of Airsoft, which reflects in the ethos of the company.
“Yes I am a young entrepreneur,” she says. “I have always been around business. My dad owns a business so it’s really like second nature to me. I’m not afraid of a little hard work. And it is a hard job. It’s 24/7 really. We work all day and then handle all the social media requests at night. When people ask us if they can come down or hold a party we don’t like to keep them waiting.
“But it’s good fun, it’s a really different work environment.”
Caroline says, despite being surrounded by guns, pistols and male testosterone on a daily basis, she is a girly girl at heart.
I’m not afraid of a little hard work. And it is a hard job
“I might don a flack jacket and work with the guns, but I would say I am definitely a girly girl,” she says. “There is a lot of testosterone floating about for sure, but it’s not a challenge to work here. I suppose you split yourself up, get into the combat gear here and run around with the gun and then dress up and make the most of the girly time too. I have put a few women’s touches to the place. The place might be full of guns but I have introduced a bit of girliness - the mop bucket and the dustpan and brush has a nice flowery design on it!”
Caroline says the game might be a favourite for the boys, but the girls who attend often show them who’s boss.
“It is a male dominated sport,” she says. “Most of our weekly players are guys, but maybe when there’s a party on and the guys bring their girlfriends or wives, the girls absolutely love it and often kick the guy’s asses! Once they get the gun they realise they can take out their frustrations on their other half – of their husband has annoyed them they can get them back. It’s a lot of fun and a great stress reliever.”
Caroline says although it’s a tough sport, it’s a lot of fun.
“Yes, you get hit with pellets,” she says. “But everyone who walks in that door to the game room has to wear protective gear. Their eyes are covered, they wear goggles, we provide overalls and headgear for the adult games. The young people who play the Nerf games also have to wear protective gear, so they are all well covered.
“It’s a very addictive sport. People come in here once and they get hooked. They love to buy guns, then they customise them to the exact way they want, they buy mags, torches
Caroline says she takes part in the games herself and even has her own blinged up gun.
“I have a pistol of my own,” she says. “It’s a Glock, it’s black and has a nice bit of gold on there. I like bling. I am on the lookout for another gun, I want a red one, maybe an M4 in red, gold and black.”
And she may well get one as a wedding present. Caroline and Stephen are due to walk up the aisle next year and the nuptials will, of course, have a rather unusual theme.
“Our wedding will have a James Bond theme,” she says. “We are getting married in Rome and all our tables will have different names, the names of all the Bond films. The top table is called Diamonds Are Forever, for example. Our cake topper is a guy holding a gun and I’ve bought Stephen some pistol cuff links as a present. He wants a customized gun as wedding gift, so I’ll have one made for him and engrave it.”
It might be all guns and shooting and fun but Caroline has her sights set on expansion.
“Eventually we want to have an outside gaming area and perhaps move to a bigger unit. We are really busy with lots of parties and private books and open games. We have five staff at the moment and hope to double that within the next year. So things are going good.”
For more information on Predator Zone Ltd, check out their Facebook page or their website www.predatorzone.co.uk.