“I have just become aware of the Airsoft “toys.” I understand they are recreational only and have no place in the “real” weapon arena. They do seem to present a real possibility for practice at home. In most homes, discharging a real firearm is not safe or practical. These functioning replicas seem to offer a viable alternative when getting to the range doesn’t fit in the schedule. I have seen a selection of them: gas, electric and spring, pros and cons, good models and bad, etcetera. The spring models are inexpensive and the gas models have blow-back action to enhance the realism. Would it be possible to bring us (readers) up to speed on the topic?” —Bob Crifasi – Highland Park, NJ
It’s time for a crash course on all things Airsoft. Let’s get a little history while we are at it. Airsoft started in Japan during the early 1980s. It was then and is currently illegal to own firearms in Japan, but even with a total ban on firearm ownership, there was significant interest. During the latter part of the 1980s, the sport migrated to a number of Pacific Rim countries. Airsoft started appearing in North America and Europe during the middle of the 1990s. Today, it is fairly well known in the US and is really starting to enjoy widespread use as a training tool, thanks in part to classes like Interactive Gunfighting from Suarez International.
There are 3 major types of Airsoft guns: spring powered, gas powered and battery powered.
Airsoft guns are 1:1 nearly perfect replicas of your favorite military and civilian weapons. Now you can own an FN Herstal P-90, a Heckler & Koch MP 5K or a Glock 18. The only real visual difference is the orange tip on the muzzle, and the trademarks have to be removed for importation into the US.
Otherwise, they look nearly the same when placed side-by-side. The biggest difference is that they will not and can not be made to fire any sort of conventional ammunition. They can only chamber and fire 6mm plastic BBs. Unlike simunitions, Airsoft guns and ammo are relatively cheap to use, easy to clean up after, do not require special protective equipment at considerable additional cost, and can be acquired without special permission.
Our subscriber asked if these are toys or serious training tools. Both toy and tool would be the correct answer. They are amazingly fun to shoot, but they have even greater value in the training arena. It bears repeating that safety with these guns is as important as with real ones.
Most out-of-the-box Airsoft guns shoot at 300 feet per second or more. The rounds don’t hurt nearly as much as a paintball because of the low mass and small size, but at normal engagement distances, protective headgear and eyewear are a must. Long sleeves are a good idea, as are long pants. Even with the proper attire, you are going to know when you get hit and you will look like you have measles after a long day of skirmishes.
There are 3 major types of Airsoft guns: spring powered, gas powered and battery powered. The only two really worth using in most serious training scenarios are the gas powered guns and the battery powered automatic electric guns or AEG s.
With the gas powered pistols, everything works just as you would expect in a semi-auto. The magazine ejects and is loaded in much the same way as a real pistol. They are powered by a gas charge in the magazine, usually Green Gas or HFC 134a. You fill it in much the same way as you would a butane lighter. The 6mm ABS plastic BBs of various weights (commonly 0.20 grams) are loaded into the top of the magazine. You insert the magazine, cycle the slide, and then you are ready for action.
A decent gas gun can run $100.00 and up. Personally, I have had great luck with the Glock pistols from KWA that are manufactured in Taiwan. Taiwanese guns use Green Gas and hit harder than the Japanese guns that use HFC 134a as their propellant. There are more and less expensive pistol options out there, but unless there is some other reason to purchase a more expensive gun (such as there is only one company that manufactures a Sig Sauer 220R like the one you carry that also carries a premium price tag), stick to the $100.00 to $140.00 range. That seems to be a good balance of quality and value for the price. The lower priced guns are of much lower quality and have had serious durability issues in class.
The AEG s are the next step up in Airsoft gear. They run on rechargeable battery packs that are similar to the ones found in radio controlled cars. Want a Sig Sauer 552? Go get one. AK 47? Steyr AUG? Heckler & Koch G3 or MP-5? No problem. There is even a GE minigun Airsoft replica. I tend to favor the Heckler & Koch G36C and FN Herstal P-90 class of rifle for CQB and the AR and AK for a bit longer range shooting. “How far can you shoot,” you may ask? Try in excess of 100 yards with the right equipment.
The AEG s can be expensive; although most can be purchased with battery and charger for around $350.00. There are several very reliable manufacturers on the market. Tokyo Mauri and Classic Army are two of the top makers of electric guns and they happen to be the manufacturers of the guns that I own. Upgraded guns can get into the thousands of dollars very quickly as you add bells and whistles. Save your money here, because for most CQB engagement distances, 500 feet per second upgrades are not needed. Your training partners will thank you.
There is a wealth of information as close as your favorite web browser. Make sure you read the reviews available at the various online retailers and on some of the Airsoft forums for more information concerning both the pistols and the rifles. With literally hundreds of choices, it pays to do your homework before investing in new Airsoft gear.
Don’t forget to visit the online forum and feel free to post any additional questions you may have concerning Airsoft gear. I’ll see you in the next issue with new scenarios to examine and a few new welts on my body. Jack Rumbaugh is a Suarez International Staff Instructor. To participate in “The Force-On- Force Notebook,” you can mail your force-on-force scenarios to:
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