In the last three decades, Airsoft has emerged as an immensely popular combat simulation sport, gaining fans and participants worldwide. Learn what Airsoft is and everything a newcomer needs to know.
What is Airsoft?
Airsoft is a combat simulation sport, similar to paintball. Developed in Japan, where it is illegal to own firearms, Airsoft guns evolved from toy BB guns into highly accurate replica firearms. As the sport has gained an international following, it has grown into a highly popular activity.
Airsoft games are usually played as skirmishes between teams, or scenarios designed to simulate military or police actions. In all games, being hit, or tagged, with an Airsoft projectile removes the player from the game.
Airsoft guns come in a wide variety of types and styles, ranging from pistols to sniper rifles. Generally speaking, these guns all fall into three categories, based upon the firing mechanism.
Gas-powered guns usually rely upon CO2 or Green Gas (a propane-based propellant) in small tanks integrated into ammunition clips. Similar to paintball guns, these guns use compressed gas as the propellant. In some guns, this allows for more realistic features, such as gas blowback slide mechanisms that appear to function just like real firearms. Unfortunately, these guns run out of gas rather quickly, and require a new full tank to resume play.
Spring-powered guns require the user to cock the weapon before each shot. They tend to be far less expensive, and for this reason they are quite popular among newcomers. While many experienced players prefer semiautomatic or fully automatic guns, some single-shot models are prized for their realism.
The most popular category uses a powered electric gearbox to load the next round and compress gas for the next shot. These Automatic Electric Guns, called AEG’s for short, draw power from a rechargeable battery. These models allow for semiautomatic and fully automatic shooting, and can be used for three or four hours on one battery charge.
Because Airsoft involves small projectiles fired at high speeds, it’s important to wear proper protective gear when playing, primarily eye protection. All organized groups and playing fields require participants to wear eye protection, and others may also require some sort of face mask in addition to goggles.
When selecting Airsoft goggles, look for shatter-resistant or shatterproof lenses. Buy goggles that use Lexan glass, or offer similar guarantees of protection. Find styles that offer a full seal against the face to prevent a stray round from slipping in from the side.
Beyond goggles, you may want to protect your face with a mask of some sort. Paintball masks make for effective protection, and using a balaclava or shemagh head-wrap may actually enhance the sense of realism in your play.
Hundreds of retailers online and in stores offer accessories for Airsoft players. Some important accessories fall into three groups: weapon upgrades, tactical gear, and clothing.
Weapon upgrades include rifle slings, laser sights, barrel extensions, even sniper scopes. Tactical gear includes everything from specialized vests to high-end flashlights to military-style knee-pads. Clothing regularly includes camouflaged BDUs, athletic wear, even vintage uniforms.
When purchasing these accessories, keep two things in mind. First, performance can only be improved so much. Unfortunately, there are limits to the range and accuracy of plastic pellets, and while some accessories may improve that accuracy, they can’t work miracles. Second, in a simulation game played with replica weapons, looks and details do matter. Don’t be afraid to purchase an accessory merely to improve the look or feel of your gun. Realism is half the fun.