Airsoft is a primarily recreational activity where replica firearms shooting plastic rounds are used for personal collection, gaming (similar to Paintball), or professional training purposes (Military Simulations and Police training exercises). A primary difference between airsoft firearms and BB guns is that airsoft uses 6mm or 8mm plastic pellets and have muzzle velocities of less than 700 feet per second (FPS), which is generally considered safe when used in a controlled environment, while BB guns utilize metal ammunition and shoot at higher velocities (up to and over 1000 FPS), making them unsuitable for gaming and training purposes. Another distinguishing factor between BB guns and airsoft guns is that the latter generally uses hop-up (back-spin on the BB) to increase their effective range, since the lower muzzle velocity of these guns shortens their shooting distance.
Airsoft games vary greatly in style and composition depending on location, budget, and the quantity of participants but often range from short-term skirmishes and organized scenarios to military simulations and historical reenactments. Combat situations on the battlefield often involve the use of common military tactics to achieve the objectives set in each game. Participants typically use varying types of airsoft weaponry along with either real or replica military gear and uniforms.
In the 1980s, Japan made it illegal to own a firearm, though there was a large interest in them. Because of this interest, manufacturers started to produce spring-powered replicas of real guns. These guns fired several calibers of plastic or rubber BBs, but were eventually standardized into 6mm and 8mm sizes. The early spring powered weapons then morphed into gas and battery powered ones, using a variety of systems. The hobby then migrated to North America in the mid 1990s. This is due in large part to the addition of many new AEG (Automatic Electric Gun) manufacturers in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, as well as many others.etc.
Airsoft has also been adopted for training purposes for both military and police units (more often police units).
Methods of play
An airsoft/MILSIM player operating in a sniper role and wearing a ghillie suit as camouflage.
Airsoft players at a World War II re-enactment. The player is holding a SIG 552 styled rifle.
Private vehicles representing an armoured personnel carrier."MilSim", short for Military Simulation, generally combines airsoft play with some military live-action role-playing elements. This type of play may be considered "hardcore" by many players because of the amount of roleplaying required. Several goals or missions may be assigned to each team, along with a basic load-out (i.e., supply) of ammunition, rations and radios.
A key element in Military Simulation games is the use of low-capacity magazines, replicating the actual magazine capacity of the authentic firearm the airsoft gun is replicating. Examples of these include the 30 round STANAG magazines of the M4, M16, Type 89, SCAR-L, and several others.
Teams will remain in the field for the duration of play, only returning to a staging area or "safe zone" for medical emergencies and for other special circumstances. Military simulation games often last several days. For example, the large Berget annual event in Sweden lasts for six days with no breaks. In large scale Military Simulation operations, the players often use vehicles such as painted vans and trucks. In some cases, such as Operation Irene (an annual Military Simulation held in the Midwest U.S.), real APCs and tanks are used. Such large scale events can take place in MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) facilities.
True Military Simulation requires players to adhere to an agreed level of uniform authenticity and to play as part of a team.
Also known as pickup games or skirmishes, among other names. This is the more common form of airsoft. These games are considerably less strict with their rules and restrictions and therefore is the style of play for most players and a common event even for MilSim players. Realism may be broken in this style of play with things like high-capacity magazines, clothing that doesn't match with any nation's (or non-military style dress), and lax rules to name a few examples. Occasionally, teams may use specific uniforms on either side, but usually players dress in a variety of military or paramilitary clothing to their liking.
Skirmishes are often structured as multiple short to mid length games containing various different scenarios, including capture the flag style games, deathmatches or simplified CQB games and many others. Other skirmishes can run for the entirety of the game day, playing out like a much shorter MilSim Event, including full game plans with objectives, from anything as simple as capturing a certain location, to something as complex as collecting parts of a bomb from around the Skirmish Site, assembling them, and then planting the assembled bomb in the enemy forces base.
Live Action Role Playing
Live action roleplaying groups games in modern or science fiction settings sometimes use airsoft weapons to simulate firearms. Similar to military simulations but with more emphasis on the theatrical aspects and not necessarily set in a war zone, these games often have more complex rules for airsoft combat, including rules for armor, unrealistic enhancements or supernatural abilities.
These games can be seen as a modernized version of the popular fantasy boffer LARP. Popular genres include cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic and zombie horror.
There are thousands of airsoft sites worldwide. These can vary from woodlands and dense forests, to industrial facilities to Military camps and training areas, and other more specialised locations like shopping malls.
Airsoft play employs an honor system whereby the players rely on each others' honesty to admit to being hit, because unlike paintballs, airsoft pellets do not leave visible marks on clothing.
The effect of a marking bb on the honor system is an addition to the game but does not remove "honor" from the game as it still remains with the player to choose whether or not to call his or her hits. Instead, it simply allows for verification when the need arises. For instance, depending on the muzzle velocity of the gun and distance from the shooter, the targeted player may not feel the impact.
Players are discouraged from calling out hits on an opponent - instead players are expected to signal a marshal to judge how effectively they have hit their opponent. Simulated 'knife kills' can, at the venue's discretion, be recognized when a player touches or taps an unaware opponent. This prevents the player being forced to shoot him or her at point-blank range. Some sites will allow players to use training knives made out of rubber, plastic or occasionally non-bladed metal to perform a 'knife kill' as long as they do not use violent stabbing or cutting movements. Similarly, a 'courtesy kill' occurs when a player refrains from shooting an opponent at close range while enforcing that opponent's surrender, instead of risking injury. Players are usually prohibited from firing blindly when not able to see their target, especially around corners. In some instances, players don't call out hits they have sustained as a result of this "blind fire". Players are expected to avoid the shooting of an opponent who has already admitted to being hit. Harsh language and forceful physical contact between players is strongly discouraged and even penalized. Players are expected to resolve disputes politely and with proper decorum.
All airsoft players are expected to acknowledge being hit, even if they are in doubt, by shouting "I'm hit" loudly, and raising their hand or gun high and/or displaying a 'hit indicator' or dead rag while walking back to the safe zone. Paintball style "speedball" games may include the aforementioned hit markers. A hit indicator can be either a bright-colored cloth during daytime or a blinker, Glow stick or mini-flashlight when playing in dim light or darkness.
There are many organized teams, of varying sizes, in various countries. Some prominent teams have 50 or more players, and are able to send delegations to regional or national events. In the Philippines, there are many amorphous groups of airsoft players organized into "teams" of varying sizes. There have been attempts to create large nationwide organizations of airsofters but these have neither succeeded nor persisted in the past, although regional organizations have been able to sustain a significant membership.
Ballistics and speed
For more details on Airsoft pellet ballistics, see Airsoft pellets#Pellet ballistics.
Airsoft player shooting from behind cover wearing goggles that fully seal the area around the eyes and a Balaclava to protect the face.Kinetic energy is the energy that is transferred from the pellet to its target upon impact. One joule of energy will be transferred by a 0.20 g BB travelling at 100 metres per second (330 ft/s). A typical set of limits on guns might be 100 m/s (330 ft/s) for CQB, 125 m/s (410 ft/s) for outdoors, and 175 m/s (570 ft/s) for bolt action sniper rifles, all measured with a 0.20 g BB. The amount of kinetic energy depends on the weight of the BB and how fast the gun can propel it. Certain places play "no velocity limit" games.
In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy the energy limit for Airsoft guns is one joule (100 m/s with a 0.20 g, 6 mm BB) regardless of the type of game play. See response from UKASGB. Some UK sites allow semi-automatic only weapons up to 400FPS, and Bolt Action Rifles up to 500FPS. Northern Ireland has a maximum velocity of 328FPS with 0.2 gram bb irrespective of weapon.
Most Airsoft guns are capable of shooting from 50 m/s (160 ft/s) to 125 m/s (410 ft/s), though it is also possible to purchase upgraded internals for some Airsoft guns that will enable up to 180 m/s (590 ft/s) projectile velocities.
A hop-up unit, if present, puts backspin on the BB, generating lift and giving it a greater effective range. The range of any Airsoft gun depends on both the muzzle velocity and the amount of hop applied. Airsoft guns can have a range of 75 metres (246 ft) or more with the right combination of power, barrel, and ammunition as well as a good hop-up unit. A good hop-up unit can sometimes double the range.
Eye and face protection
Players in the 'safe zone' between games.The minimum safe level of gear required to participate in most games includes a pair of impact-rated goggles or shooting glasses to protect participants' eyes. But if shot from at least ten feet away there will be no damage to the eye or other body parts. Traditional prescription glasses and sunglasses, or goggles not designed specifically for use with airsoft or paintball guns may break or shatter upon being struck, causing damage to the eye.
Many airsoft groups and fields require that eye protection fully seals the area around the eyes, and also meets or exceeds ANSI's Z87.1-2003 goggle standard for eye protection, namely, the ability to absorb 3 joules of impact energy without damage. Some players instead opt for paintball goggles, which are held to a higher impact rating standard, ASTM's F1776.
Full-face masks (similar to, and often including paintball masks) are considered the safest form of eye-protection, as alongside the eyes, they also cover the rest of the face, protecting vulnerable parts such as teeth. Some airsoft masks are made with mesh screens, though there is debate that fragments from lower quality or bio-degradable BBs may pass through the mesh and enter the eye, although there have been no recorded incidents of such an occurrence. While masks offer superior protection, they can interfere with the use of scopes and in cheaper masks, condensation inside the goggles can reduce visibility. During very hot days the masks can also cause the player to overheat quicker due to the lack of air getting to the head.
Unprotected players or bystanders
At most airsoft sites, any player or observer is required to keep their face mask, goggles, or shooting glasses on at all times. All players must immediately stop shooting when a person without eye protection is encountered in the playing area. One common practice is for players to shout words such as "Cease-fire, Blind Man!" Any player hearing the words must stop and repeat the alarm, alerting the whole game. If a player is hit and is wearing their death rag so that they can go to the respawn point and spawn, he will often say "Dead man walking!". This indicates to the opposing team that the person is not a threat. Even removing a mask or goggles for a brief time to clean off fog or for any other reason is not advised. If you must do this, either go to a no-fire zone or call yourself out and clean them off after leaving the combat area.
Community safety precautions
Airsoft replica of a H&K G36C. Note that this replica is not in use on a field, and therefore has the magazine removed, the chamber cleared, and has a barrel bag placed over the muzzle.Other rules such as a maximum BB velocity and engagement distance guidelines are used by different groups. Some organizations have created common safety rules and guidelines.
When not actively playing, some fields require "barrel bags," also known as barrel stoppers, which were first introduced in paintball. The magazine is usually removed as well, and the gun fired to clear the chamber. Most fields also require players to leave their guns set to the safety position when they are not shooting, a practice common when using real firearms. In certain countries, such as the Philippines, additional special rules have been adopted.
All "real steel" firearms are banned at any airsoft battlefield to prevent harmful accidents or confusion between real and simulated weapons. In some cases, for example Milsim games, players are allowed to carry knives for use as a tool, rather than a weapon. A similar limit applies to training blades, which are allowed at some airsoft fields but under strict usage rules. Players are expected to be discreet in transporting their gear and uniforms so as not to alarm the public or police. Pyrotechnic devices may be allowed, but are rarely employed, because of the added danger. When they are allowed there are usually legal limits on the effect of the device, e.g. amount of smoke, volume of sound or brightness of flash.
Classic Army M15A4 Automatic Electric Gun. Airsoft guns and playing airsoft is legal in most parts of the world. Some countries have specific restrictions such as maximum muzzle velocity and 'unrealistic' coloring to distinguish them from actual firearms. They are legal throughout the U.S, but restrictions exist in certain cities such as Camden, Newark, NJ, Chicago, IL, Detroit, MI, and Colorado Springs, CO. The states of New Jersey and Michigan, however, do not allow airsoft guns to be used or handled publicly, because of the resemblance to real firearms, however they may be used on private property with the consent of the owner. Federal law categorizes airsoft guns as toys and for importation into the United States the muzzle must be painted safety orange.
In the United Kingdom, airsoft replicas are classified as realistic imitation firearms or RIFs. The sale, manufacture or importation of RIFs are restricted to activities that are exempted or have been granted a defense by the Home Office under the Violent Criminal Reduction Act. Airsoft skirmishing has been granted a specific defense against the requirements of the act, and a skirmisher as defined under British law is allowed to purchase, manufacture and import airsoft replicas. The accepted method of proving entitlement to the defence is to be a member of a site that holds public liability insurance. An association set up by UK retailers, called UKARA, recommends that an airsoft site only give membership to a player who has played at least three games over a period of no less than two months. It is also possible to purchase Airsoft replicas if you are a member of an insured reenactment society or are in the film or TV industry. The right to buy a RIF is still reserved for individuals age 18 and over.
Many retailers are part of the United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association (UKARA) scheme and will only sell to players who are registered to a Skirmish site that fulfills the desired requirements for the VCRA Defense. A player will be 'registered' with UKARA, only a retailer can become a member. Retailers must renew their membership annually. The Association has a database of registered players from approved airsoft sites that is updated on a regular basis by the sites themselves. Retailers who are members of UKARA have access to the database and can check using the players site membership number for proof of eligibility of purchase before selling any RIFs to private invividuals.
Other schemes have been attempted to allow Airsoft players to comply with the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 although none have been succesfully implemented. Also, the use or possession of any kind of replica weapon, loaded or otherwise in a public place without valid reason is an offense under UK law and can carry heavy penalties.
As an alternative to RIF's, IF's, Imitation firearms (including 'two tones') are available. These are RIF's which have been painted a bright colour over the majority of the body. No specific defence is required for purchase of IF's, however they are strongly discouraged and sometimes banned from skirmishes because it is felt that they undermine the requirement for a specific skirmishers defence. IF's exist primarily to enable non skirmish retailers to sell imitations to the general public.
Due to a steady entry of lower-cost airsoft guns from abroad, the Philippine National Police issued in December 2007 its Circular 11 (Airsoft Implementing Rules and Regulations), regulating the ownership of airsoft guns by Filipino citizens. Only airsoft guns with a muzzle velocity of 550 feet (170 m) per second (ft/s) or less using 0.2g BBs can be registered. The PNP AIRR also regulates the operation of airsoft playing fields, teams, and the standardized rules and codes of conduct among airsoft players. During the 2010 electoral campaign in the Philippines, airsoft guns and other replica firearms have been banned with officials citing "safety reasons" as the main cause behind the ban.
Orange-tipped airsoft gun muzzles
American federal laws require minimum 6 mm (0.24 in) orange tips to be present on all "toy guns" (including airsoft replicas) while being transported within or imported into the United States.
However, these orange tips can be easily covered or painted over. One prominent case occurred in Longwood, Florida when a student threatened fellow classmates with an airsoft pistol and was subsequently shot and killed when he aimed it towards an officer. The orange tip mandated by US Federal law had been painted black. Airsoft players may paint over the orange tip on their guns because it makes them more discreet at a distance when they play. According to the New Times Broward-Palm Beach, however, despite the lack of federal penalties for consumers who remove the required orange tips, some states (such as California) have enacted state legislation that does impose criminal penalties for the removal of any required markings.
An example of a gas blowback airsoft pistol, in this case a replica of a SIG-Sauer P226The guns used in airsoft are typically replicas of real firearms, except that they have a mechanism for pushing out projectiles 6 mm or 8 mm in diameter.
Airsoft guns are classified according to their operating principle which can be spring, electric, or gas-powered. An airsoft gun is selected according to the level of performance (battery life, range, rate of fire, accuracy, reliability, customization, magazine capacity, size, and weight) or realism the player requires. Early-generation airsoft guns were mostly "springers." Single action airsoft guns fire only a single bb before having to be manually re-cocked for the next shot. Second-generation airsoft guns had gas-powered mechanisms that required either an internal "Flon" (CFC) gas reservoir or an external high-pressure CO2 chamber. AEGs (Automatic Electric Guns) are now the most commonly used. AEGs have high-capacity rechargeable batteries used to operate gearboxes that displace air and propel the BBs. However, gas powered long guns are becoming increasingly popular, as the increased realism of these guns are now more accessible due to their increasing quality.
Most airsoft pistols which are gas-powered use environmentally safe "green gas". Green gas is propane gas with small amounts of perfume and silicon lubricant that produces a realistic blowback recoil effect when fired. Recently Airsoft manufacturers have begun producing propane adapters that screw directly onto camping grade propane tanks, allowing players to power their gas guns on pure propane, as a cheaper alternative to "green gas". Each pistol magazine contains a small storage gas cylinder with enough power to propel the 30+ BB projectiles also housed in the magazine. Thus a player can realistically load, fire, and unload an airsoft pistol in a similar manner as compared to a "real steel" semi-automatic pistol. A few early-production AEPs (Airsoft Electric Pistols) have been released but these suffer from weaker BB velocities because of the difficulty of fitting a small-enough motor in the housing of a pistol, although the range is sometimes greater than a gas pistol. AEP's often have a higher rate of fire than their gas counterparts.
Most early airsoft guns were completely made of ABS plastic except for some internal moving parts. Newer guns, especially those made in Taiwan and China, have metal internal and external parts. Japan has specific rules about producing airsoft replicas with metal parts. A typical airsoft gun is noticeably lighter than its "real steel" counterpart due to the use of aluminium, alloy, and plastic, though some have weights in them for a more realistic feel. Smoke caps are available for certain airsoft guns to add realism.
Gas hand gun magazines are usually 10-20 in a standard capacity magazine, however some are hi cap magazines which have a winder and can hold 50 rounds or more. In the case of AEG rifles, magazines come in either real-capacity (equivalent to the capacity of its real steel counterpart), low-capacity (low caps: 30-80 BBs), mid-capacity (mid caps: 80-150 BBs), or high-capacity (high caps: 200-500+ BBs). These magazines are spring loaded. The high-cap magazines often have a ratchet wheel that can be wound up periodically to force BBs up from the holding chamber of the magazine to the feed chute. Due to loose BBs in the reservoir, they often make a rattling noise when running or walking. Some airsoft guns have an electric-powered box or drum magazines that hold thousands of BBs.
The "Hop" system, which is installed in most stock airsoft rifles and pistols, is used to add extra range to the pellets, by putting backspin on each as it is fired. This operates through a small rubber nipple, which protrudes into the top of the barrel through a small hole. Adjusting the Hop-Up makes the nipple vary in size, so that backspin is increased or reduced. Ideally, the Hop-Up should be adjusted so that the pellets fly as far as possible in a straight line. The Hop-Up adjustment is usually relatively easy to access, so that players can adjust it during play. On the majority of airsoft guns it is located underneath the innate bolt cover, but sometimes is only accessible by an Allen key.
Grenades and launchers
Players can use grenades, grenade launchers, smoke grenades, mines, and replica claymores that use little or no explosives (pyrotechnics). Most of these "pyro" devices are powered by compressed gas. Like many aspects of airsoft, each item is designed as a playful analogy to the real thing, and often lacks the violence of such. Hand grenades are not as common as grenade launchers which launch a large shower of pellets, NERF or foam slug rounds using compressed gas. Some players purchase heavier support weapons such as replicas of the Heckler & Koch 69 40mm grenade launcher, or a replica of the Milkor MGL, which can hold up to 6 40mm gas powered pellet grenades (some grenades are able to fire over 300 pellets in a single shot), and shoot them in a semi-automatic mode. Some mines only produce a mushroom cloud when activated without actually firing any pellets. The airsoft claymore mine is more expensive (around $150) but popular. Anti-tank weapons exist, but they are not common due to their weight and greater expense. Another type of launcher that is often home made is the Works Cannon or the Dry Ice Cannon. These usually use Nerf rockets as grenades.
6mm plastic BBs (0.12 g). A sample of inexpensive BBs. Note visible seams.Most airsoft guns fire spherical plastic pellets ranging from 0.12 to 0.88 grams in weight, though the most popular weights for AEGs are between .20 and .28 grams. Heavier rounds (.30-.48 grams) are typically used for long range and sniper use, as they are more stable in flight and less easily deflected by wind, so are more accurate. They usually come in packages of: 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 and even as high as 125,000.
Pellets are typically 6mm in diameter, though 8mm varieties exist for specialty guns. Pellet quality is important, as malformed ones can damage the Airsoft gun's parts. Malformed, soiled, or low-grade pellets with seams and burrs can also be much more inaccurate - even a small deformity will throw the pellet off course.
Paintball pellets are also available for airsoft guns but are unpopular due to the incompatibility with hop up systems as well as the damage they can cause when a pellet bursts inside a gun. Paintball rounds allow hits to be objectively verified, these pellets leave a clear paint mark on the player showing that they have indeed been hit.
Most airsoft pellets are made of plastic but biodegradable airsoft pellets are also available. Commercial fields usually only allowbiodegradable pellets to avoid the buildup of plastic pellets littered across their field, it also has less of an impact on the environment because regular pellets take too long to break down when biodegradable pellets only take from four months to two years depending on the conditions and brand.
Most players, especially those participating in MilSims, wear military clothing consisting of various forms of camouflage. Some players, usually snipers or marksmen, will go as far as to use a ghillie suit, which breaks up the human outline by having sticks, leaves, and similar items in the fabric/netting, as well as its own camouflage leafing material all over it. Aside from the advantage of camouflage, some participants aim to faithfully replicate a specific combat unit such as the SAS, Spetsnaz, or police, particularly in games such as MilSim.
In some countries, such as the Philippines, airsofters are not legally able to wear official uniforms. In Sweden, for example, it is illegal to wear both rank insignia and Swedish flags on civilian uniforms at the same time. It has become popular among civilians and airsoft players to wear only the upper garment or the pants, but not both.
When not wearing full paintball-type face masks, many players wear protective clothing around their head such as a balaclava, scarves and Shemaghs, and military-style helmets. Other players will cut off half of their face masks to allow them to aim down the sights of their weapons more easily because the mask gets in the way. Players generally wear combat or hiking boots (not just ordinary athletic shoes) for safety in harsh terrain. They also wear padded gloves, elbow pads, knee pads and tactical vests for additional protection and realism, as well as practical reasons, such as carrying equipment and ammunition.
Airsoft teams will often use custom patches or hats in order to identify members of their team.
In some cases, rules are adopted that allow only casual clothes in an effort to encourage realism because players will more actively avoid being hit.
Players wear tactical clothing and accessories for the added realism and for the practical needs similar to that of a real soldier. The most common are holsters for side arms, load bearing vests, and modular rigs. Many players also use a hydration system. Equipment for real world soldiers is also often used in airsoft games, such as reflex sights, red-dot scopes, flashlights, Picatinny rails, Weaver rails, and mock sound suppressors. Many Mil-Sim players choose to wear real equipment (not an airsoft replica) and in some cases, real ballistic protective armor - this can raise the price of the game considerably.
"It is not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart."-Jesus Christ, Mark 7:15