Airsoft is an activity that has been steadily growing in popularity as both a sport and an exciting form of recreation. From people just looking for a fun way to spend some time on the weekend, to dedicated practitioners who utilize real-world military tactics, there is a wide range of activities that fall under the ‘airsoft’ umbrella.
As of 2012, even federal agencies have used forms of airsoft in their official training regimes.
To help you understand what is possible in the airsoft realm and to help you better wrap your head around the hobby we have put together this quick guide. We will quickly cover the basic styles and types of airsoft guns, how they function, and which is best for your playstyle. Afterward, we will touch on safety equipment and what can be expected of you should you go to an airsoft range or arena. Lastly, we will briefly cover the types of airsoft competitions and events you can expect to be available in your area.
Contents of this Article:
While airsoft guns often resemble modern firearms down to the minor details, they are actually low to moderately powered air guns that fire small plastic pellets or “BB’s”. While the guns may utilize a spring-loaded piston air pump (that can be either manually or automatically cycled), or CO2 canisters, they are all regulated to a PSI that allows them to be operated safely.
Air guns are even in the Olympics, but the guns designed for that level of competition fire at a much higher speed than consumer models.
The consumer variations come in when you consider the manner and power with which the airsoft gun fires, and the style in which it is held.
As we go deeper into the subject, the following terms should be understood. With actual firearms there may be more profound differences between these terms -for now, we are using these styles as representations of general gun builds and how they are held.
For those common with these terms this will be very basic:
These are handheld airsoft guns that can be operated with a single hand if needed. They are generally the smallest of airsoft guns and will almost always be found in single-shot formats.
These are longer airsoft guns that require both hands to wield. These can be single-shot long-range items (as in a sniper rifle build) to automatic or selected burst fire modes. There is the greatest variation in rifles and most guns fall under this term.
Items like a Bullpup style rifle or a submachine gun are also pretty common but may not fit snugly under rifle or pistol terminology. These are usually built around a specific role or purpose.
There are even crew served machine guns, grenades, etc. There are airsoft acceptable equivalents of a huge array of military equipment depending on the rules of the organizer.
These specialized items will usually be more expensive and are often built in smaller numbers for more discerning buyers who wish to have a replica of a specific real-world equivalent.
There are three firing systems that 99% of airsoft guns will fall underneath:
Spring-powered airsoft guns use a spring to push the BB at the intended target. To build the energy in the spring the gun must be cocked back -often manually. There are some electric managed variations but these are much more expensive and overlap with our next category.
The manual spring-powered airsoft guns are usually recommended for first-time buyers. There are easy to use and reliable.
Spring-powered airsoft guns can range from the cheapest guns to dominating high-powered sniper rifle builds.
The electric-powered airsoft guns are the most popular and common form of airsoft rifle on the market today. Electric guns have the largest variety in firing modes, styles, and quality.
Electric airsoft riles require a battery but fire able to fire at an increased rate.
The higher-end electric airsoft guns have selective-fire capabilities that let you quickly switch from automatic to semi-automatic fire.
Very broadly speaking, these are the higher-end form of airsoft as far as realism goes. Many of the gas-powered airsoft rifles have features that simulate the recoil of an actual gun. For reenactors or people who wish to simulate a more military-style experience, these are optimal.
Not typically the best beginner guns, these style airsoft guns are usually heavier and more complex.
Gas-powered airsoft guns utilize either HPA, CO2, or some other type of gas (often red or green).
The airsoft gun a first-timer buyer will want is going to be different than what a hardcore military simulator or even Federal agency will want to use. These also differ greatly from the Olympic style airsoft guns target shooters utilize. Extreme examples, sure but the point stands. The best way to figure out which gun is best for you is to spend some time playing the game. Borrow one from a friend and see which play style fits you best and your level of competency using the different airsoft gun variations.
There are tons of different game formats, rules, and exercises that force you to play different roles. The two shooting variations you will first need to think about it close quarters battler (CBQ) or taking long-range shots. Both shootings style differ, and both lend themselves to different airsoft guns. A long-range, single-shot high powered spring-powered airsoft rifle might not do you much good as you try and clear a room. The time it would take to really go into this would require a whole other article, for now, just be aware of the scenarios you will likely be using your airsoft gun in and plan accordingly.
Safety is paramount in airsoft as there will be many fast-moving pellets flying through the air. Protecting your eyes, face, hands, and body are all very important.
Make sure that you at least have safety glasses, though it is highly recommended (and sometimes required) that you have a sealed set of safety goggles to avoid the possibility of a pellet coming in at the perfect angle -or a burst of rounds dislodging the glasses and then hitting your eye.
Some sort of mask or wrap should be used to protect your face. The skin on your face (and your mouth) is vulnerable and should be protected to the best of your ability. Reenactors or simulators will often use a scarf wrap and a military-style helmet to protect the whole head.
These areas are often not required to be covered -but you will quickly regret it. The use of gloves, heavy clothes and scarf-like items go a long way in keeping you comfortable and safe as you play.
Elbow pads and knee pads will be a god-send after you lay in the prone position on cement for longer than 20 minutes.
To give you an honest list in this category would take pages. You should familiarize yourself with organizations in your area and find out what they prefer, and how they play. This site is a good place to start. You can also take a look at some shooting competition rules here. You can also take a look at the full rules and manual put out by Desert Fox events to get a full look at what you can expect.