I love making props. I've always enjoyed building things especially if there is a story to go along with them like you usually get at an Airsoft event. My local club, Tauranga Airsoft Club, have reaped the benefits of my prop making passion for years and have given me the opportunity to come up with some fun items for our games.
There is a downside to using Airsoft props though. As the fields get bigger and the number of players increase it's harder to keep track of items on the field. This means props go missing. If you've sunk a lot of time and money into a prop it can be disheartening to have it vanish into the bush. Not to mention expensive and time consuming to replace.
So what is the solution?
Firstly, if you have a heavily themed game that would benefit from some high quality props consider the field-to-prop ratio. Small hand-held props are likely to get lost on a large outdoor field so use them for CQB arenas. For the first Asylum Night Terror game we made 100 highly detailed props. Some of the props were quite small - they had to be as there were not supposed to be easy to find. As the game area was only one building we ended up getting all but 2 props back - not bad for 12 hours of overnight gameplay.
Conversely, use large props on outdoor fields. It's hard to lose a cannon, downed drone or satellite emplacement on the field. These sorts of props can even become regular field features and can add to the atmoshpere of the field even if they are not a key element of every game. Further along these lines, look at other items you can add to your field, game brief, admin area or safe-zone. Even if you don't incorporate a props into actual gameplay adding themed items to your fields can greatly add to the vibe of your events, something that will entice players to return for future games. These can be as simple as designating areas with sand bags or adding painted drums or flag poles. It advertises your passion for the sport, your club and your field, something that other players will pick up on.
Secondly, if your game only requires props for scoring purposes don't sink a lot of time and money into them. One of the most effective points-based props we have been using is a set of painted fire logs. These a round wood cores sold as wood fuel which we have painted fluro orange and added a webbing carry straps to. The paint makes them easy to find and as they only cost a couple of dollars and a few minutes to make there is no great worry of they do get lost. We also employ tagged garden stakes, team code cards and colour coded flags. Like the logs these are reusable and cheap to replace. While these props would not be considered mil-sim props, our points-based games are not considered mil-sim either so they work well at those events.