AGL Airsoft in Aldgate offers targets and thrills aplenty for groups

Founder and director Peter Fernandes talks hospitality, weapons and building a business

A man holding an Airsoft air rifle aims his weapon at green and red LED targets at AGL Airsoft in Aldgate
Competitors at AGL Airsoft shoot digitally-enabled LED targets

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It all started at a shoe repair shop in Camden.

In 2016, Peter Fernandes was helping out in the family business while his dad recovered from a knee operation.

There, he spotted a niche.

While the area was busy, there was a notable lack of places to buy toys for kids.

So he started selling remote controlled cars and helicopters from the front of the shop. It went OK. 

“They were doing alright, but I went to one of my suppliers and he had cheap, spring-powered BB guns in bright colours,” said Peter.

“They sold like hot cakes. Slowly, I started getting into Airsoft, which is more advanced. 

“Those guns look more realistic and fire plastic pellets.

“They’re powered by electricity or gas and can be fixed if they break.

“They’re next level. You can get replicas of lots of different kinds of weapon and I wanted a place to test them – but we only had a tiny corridor behind the shop.”

Images shows AGL Airsoft founder and director Peter Fernandes, a man wearing a black T-Shirt with a diamond earring
AGL Airsoft founder and director Peter Fernandes

first steps towards AGL Airsoft

Eventually Peter rented a basement space, creating two firing lanes with targets so that customers as well as himself and staff could try out the weapons.

“It was really fun and we started putting up leader boards,” he said.

“Then people who were just passing would come in and try it out. From there it was about finding new targets and creating packages.

“We got really good feedback, put some videos on social media and it went viral. We were doing something new for Airsoft and it was really popular. 

“We were fully booked at weekends – I wanted people to have great experiences, but we only had space for two lanes, so we knew we needed somewhere bigger and better.”

A man in a black shirt aims a Glock-style weapon at lit targets in the Aldgate facility
Airsoft weapons are modelled after real guns but shoot non-lethal plastic pellets

Airsoft as competitive socialising

Airsoft weapons are typically used for recreation in a similar format to paintball, albeit significantly less messy.

The 6mm projectiles they fire are non-lethal, with an honour code system used to determine who has been shot during a game.

What Peter and the team at AGL Airsoft have done is to take those weapons and combine them with digitally enabled target systems to test the accuracy and speed of the shooter.

It’s essentially a competitive socialising experience.

That mission has massively expanded at its second site, just off Commercial Road in east London.

AGL’s facility boasts target lanes, a fully-equipped shop for Airsoft enthusiasts (selling guns, clothing and accessories), a sniper alley for long-range competitions, digital simulators and, perhaps most crucially, a “close quarters battle” arena.

The latter offers a fast-paced experience aimed at delivering a high-intensity game as players move around the arena to shoot lit targets.

A man in a brown coat aims a large brown sniper rifle with a huge scope at targets
A range of experiences are available including a sniper lane

skills and aim

“It’s all about reaction times and accuracy,” said Peter.

“We’re the first facility in London and probably the UK to have the LED targets – the plan is to open more branches and perhaps offer franchises in the future, then to grow internationally.

“With our latest location, we wanted somewhere towards the City, that was also close to Canary Wharf and Shoreditch, so we could accommodate large bookings and work with corporate clients.

“AGL is something new and it’s great for team-building. It’s a lot of fun and there’s a lot of competitiveness, but anyone can do it.

“We get bookings from all types of people, every age and every gender.

“I think deep down we’re all big kids and we all have that competitive spirit.

“Growing up I always liked gaming and testing my skills and reflexes. 

“Here we have leader boards and people who play can see exactly how well they’ve done against the party they are with and everyone else.

“Airsoft isn’t about violence, it’s actually a really great way to make and deepen friendships.

“For groups that come here, we offer food, drink and the games, which gives everyone a lot to talk about – especially the day after in the office.”

A woman points an Airsoft gun at the camera
A wide range of Airsoft weapons are available to try at AGL Airsoft

AGL Airsoft: Suitable for all

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve never shot any kind of gun before.

“Our staff are really good and they’ll teach you how to hold the weapons, how to stand and give tips on ways to improve.

“They all play the games a lot and each one has their favourite – they all test different skills.

“For example, the first game played on the lanes is usually about accuracy.

“Players are asked to shoot 20 targets in as much time as they like.

“But they only get 25 shots. Time only comes into play if the score is perfect. 

“Next comes a time trial where you’ll have 30 seconds to see how many targets you can hit.

“If you miss, they just stay lit until you shoot them successfully.

“Then there’s a game with two different colours, where you have to only shoot the red targets that flash up.

“With all of these games, if players are doing well, we can increase the difficulty so there’s always a challenge.

“I knew the Aldgate venue would be fun, but I didn’t realise how much until we opened. What we want now is to be fully booked with everyone enjoying themselves.”

Image shows the AGL Airsoft Aldgate bar
AGL Airsoft’s facilities include a fully stocked bar. The venue also serves food

key details: AGL Airsoft

AGL Airsoft’s Aldgate branch is located just off Commercial Road on Gower’s Walk close to where Shadwell and Whitechapel meet the City.

The closest station is Aldgate East, but the facility is within east walking distance of Tower Gateway DLR and Whitechapel station, which is three minutes on the Elizabeth Line from Canary Wharf. The facility is open daily from noon until 11pm. 

Prices for five games start at £40 per person and £30 for 30 minutes on the venue’s digital simulator.

Gun rental, pellets and eye protection are all included in the price where appropriate.

AGL offers a range of options for groups and corporate clients including party packages, VIP experiences and full venue hire.

Those interested can email aglcontactus@agl-airsoft.co.uk for more information 

Find out more about the Aldgate location here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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