Airsoft is an activity where players will engage their opponents by shooting round non-metallic BBs at each other using a replica firearm typically called an Airsoft Gun. A player that is hit by a BB is considered out and they have the opportunity to reenter the game at a later time based on the rules of the specific game they are playing.
Airsoft started in Japan in the 1980’s and moved to Europe, North America and the whole world over time. While its popularity was well below paintball in its early years it has seen a surge in popularity in the last 10 to 15 years. This is due in part to its cost of operation as well as public awareness of real military special forces. This led to the desire for more realistic gameplay scenarios and also the popularity of military simulation video games that people want to experience in some way in real life.
Airsoft is often compared to paintball. Both are considered “shooting sports” and share a lot of the same terminology and equipment however they are different in many ways. Here are a few of the main differences:
A common question people have is weather airsoft is safe or not. The simple answer is yes, it is safe, if the proper safety procedures are followed. This is true of many outdoor activities from riding a bike to swimming in a pool. The key is understanding the risks and learning the safety procedures both on and off the field of play.
When playing Airsoft the most important safety concern is wearing the proper eye protection. There are many options but a good rule of thumb is to only use ANSI rated goggles that are full seal, meaning that there is no gaps between the google and your face. Full face masks are not completely necessary but it’s recommended to protect your teeth and mouth. In most cased Airsoft fields will require anyone under 18 years of age to wear a full face mask.
If you are a new player, or sending your children to an airsoft field for the first time, make sure that the field has clear velocity guidelines in place. Velocity means is the speed of the BB as it leaves the barrel of an Airsoft gun (this is often called an FPS Limit or Feet Per Second). The FPS rules for fields can vary depending on the type of gun, type of game play etc… you just want to make sure that the field is chronoing (checking the BB speed) of every gun that is being used on the field
Engagement distance is another important safety factor. This is the distance that players are allowed to shoot or not shoot each other. As with FPS rules, engagement distances will vary from field to field, the key is to make sure the field you visit has engagement distance rules in place. For new players or children, make sure to check that the minimum engagement distance is 10 feet or further away. While they would not be harmed, if there are FPS rules in place, being shot closer than 10 feet can hurt a lot more.
If playing with regulated FPS limits and Engagement distances getting BBs hit they will sting a bit but not hurt terribly. Where it can hurt more is if you are struck in your hands or neck. Good gloves can mitigate most hand discomfort and the use of a shemagh is great for protecting your neck. Thick clothing overall can help protect you from hits to your body, legs and arms.
Wearing the proper footwear for the terrain you plan to play on is also important. If you playing at an indoor field it’s perfectly safe to use tennis shoes. If you are playing outside, especially where there are obstacles to move around you will want to wear footwear that provides more protection for your feet and ankles. Your best option is to use a military, or work, like boot that wraps around your ankle and has a thicker sole.
One of the biggest misconceptions people have with Airsoft Guns is to consider them “Toys”. They are NOT toys. They are Replica Firearms and in many cases indistinguishable from the real thing. This means that it’s imperative to treat your Airsoft gun as would a real firearm when you are not on the field.
Never, ever brandish your Airsoft in public. Not only is it illegal, it is also very dangerous. Law enforcement has no choice to consider something that looks like a real firearm as the real thing. This can lead to life threatening situations that are 100% avoidable by simply not bringing your Airsoft gun out in public.
When transporting your Airsoft Gun it needs to be secured in a gun bag or case. Like with a real firearm it has to be as far away from the driver or passengers of your vehicle as possible. Many Airsoft Fields and/or Airsoft Shops will refuse you service if you do not have your Airsoft Gun properly secured.
Store your Airsoft Gun in a gun bag or case so that casual misuse is prevented. This is especially important if your children are playing Airsoft or you have children visit your home. The idea that your Airsoft Gun is not “real” can lead kids to pointing it as each other which is an extreme eye hazard or worse, bringing it outside where it could be mistaken for a real firearm. Keep it stored and secured and away from curious fingers.
When you make the decision to play your first game of airsoft you will find there are many options for getting in the game. Your best first option is to find your local Airsoft Field, read their rules and then find your local Airsoft Shop to get the gear you need and then go out and play.
Another great option is to find the Airsoft Teams operating in your local area. There are hundreds of active teams teams all over the country. From beginners to old timers or die hard milsim groups to guys that get together once a month to sling plastic and chill. You will never have as much fun on an Airsoft Field as you will running as a team. So check out the teams near you, see if they are recruiting or mind if you tag along.
In most parts of the country you will find local fields fairly close by, but in area of the country that are less populated, like the midwest for instance, the games tend to be run by local teams in that area. So if you do not find any fields, check the Teams and find out how to get connected to your local Airsoft scene.
Airsoft games can range from a simple 30 minute skirmish to a full weekend event. There are also many different types out there, with endless variations that field owners and organizers use to put their own spin on games. Here are the 3 main categories most typical Airsoft games fall into.
This stands for Military Simulation and these games tend to be slower paced objective based games that are modeled after real military scenarios. How “real” they make these games can vary from game to game but the overall goal is the same, to give the player a chance to use strategy to solve a specific set of problems to “win”. You can play Milsim game that are only an hour or so long at your local field all the way up to very intense full immersion games that can last 40-65 hours strait. These kinds of games are really what sets Airsoft apart from other shooting activities.
These types of games are intended to not be realistic expressions of what a real world mission might be and more of what you might find in a video game. The rate of fire and the amount of ammunition allowed are much much higher than in a milsim game. The pace of a SpeedSoft game is also much higher with players working toward smaller objectives.
These games are ones that you tend to also find in Paintball and other shooting sports. Scenarios like Capture the Flag, King of the hill, Force on Force and others are commonly used in traditional games. They are usually shorter in duration, 30 minutes or less so players can cycle in more easily and often the fields are smaller.
This stands for Close Quarters Combat and often refers to playing indoors or inside of room like structures. The key element here is that you are “close” to your opponents. Moving from room to room look for the enemy players. CQB is not a type of game however as you can have Milsim, Speedsoft and Traditional games all run inside of the CQB context. THe important thing to know is what types of guns are allowed in any CQB environments, so check with the field or event organizer to know what you need to play.
In practice when going to a field or event you will see a mix of all these styles present. The key is to be aware of what is being offered so your expectations are in line with the games you will be playing. This is very important for SpeedSoft vs Milsim players as their styles of play fall on opposite ends of the spectrum leading to conflict on the field. So discover the kind of gameplay you like and research the field or event before attending.
There is no absolute age for when it’s ok for your kids to get out and play, a lot of this really depends on the child in question. Usually the minimum age that any field will let a child participate is 10 years old. It almost always mandatory that a parent or guardian (or really good adult family friend) participate with them at that age. The typical age limit on most Airsoft Fields is 14 years old, but as with other rules, it’s best to check and see with the field you are planning to attend. Also be aware that some events might have certina age requirements that are different from the field’s themselves.
Another consideration is the types of games and/or events that you child wants to attend. As with any sport or activity there is a range of complexity, difficulty and experience required for various Airsoft Events. Usually you will find the best games for beginner are your standard weekly game run at your local Airsoft Field. Here you can usually rent gear, the outfit requirements are more relaxed and you will find players of all experience levels on the field. On the other end of the spectrum are the large Milsim events that are held around the country by national event organizers. The cost of these events is high, the equipment requirements are very strict and the gameplay as well as the expectations on the player is much more intense.
As a parent, understanding the difference between the different level of events with help determine what your child “Needs” vs “Wants”. If they want to try Airsoft for the first time, your best bet is to find a local field that rents Airsoft Guns and safety equipment and see if they enjoy it or not. If they do enjoy Airsoft, then you can consider buying them gear of their own. You can buy a great starter gun for $150 (including a battery and simple charger) and safety goggles and/or mask for under $50. If you include a carrying case for the gun, some BBs it’s possible to get your kid started playing for under $250. Do your research, make sure that what they say they need lines up with the kinds of events they plan to attend, and if you think they are ready for it.
As we recommended to parents, evaluating what you “Need” vs “Want” is a good idea no matter what you age. Saving money is only part of the issue here, one thing that any long time Airsofter will tell you is that it took a long time to tune their kit to what worked best for them. So rushing out and buying everything you think you need will almost always not be the case after getting on the field and playing. As they say, nothing replaces real world experience.
If you have never played before, find a local field that offers rentals and just go out and play. No matter your age that is the best way to get started. Just. Play. Once you do you will discover not only if you want to purse Airsoft but also what kind of gear you might want seeing what other players use on the field. Another option is to connect with a local team that might be willing to lend you gear to try out. There are a lot of gear freaks out there that have tons of extra kit to let you use. So reach out and see what’s going on with teams in your local area.
You can certainly spend thousands of dollars buying the best of the best of everything that available. Before you do though, do your research, evaluate what you “need” vs “want” and let your kit grow with your experience level. It’s a reasonable to spend $250 and get a great starting setup... a gun, battery, charger and safety gear. The important thing is to make an informed buying decision.
Airsoft is a very gear heavy sport, there are literally hundreds of different choices in almost every category. The biggest decision you will have to make is the type of Airsoft Gun you want to buy. To help you start your research here are some key points to know about Airsoft Guns:
You will hear a lot of lingo for different types of guns, M4, DMR, Sniper, SMG, AK, Pistol, etc… They all mean different styles, looks and in the real world counterparts they designed for specific tasks. Look for either an “M4” or “AK” style rifle when you begin your search, as they will give you the most flexibility.
The most common way for a gun to “shoot” is by using an electric motor that pushes air through the rifle using a small internal piston. They are called AEGs and almost any style of can can be an AEG. To operate an AEG you only need a battery and charger. They easiest to operate and the most cost effective to begin with.
Gas Blow Back guns take a compressed gas, normally called Green Gas, that is filled into a magazine and that gas is released into the gun when the triggered is pulled to “shoot”. GBB rifles are by far the most realistic feeling Airsoft guns. They also require a lot more understanding, are less flexible and often cost a lot more to operate than an AEG.
HPA or PolarStar Airsoft rifles connect to an external tank of compressed air that provides the force to “shoot”. HPAs are more expensive than AEGs but far more reliable than either GBB or AEGs. You will find that HPA style guys are more often used for SpeedSoft style games than Milsim as the rate of fire (how many BBs per second it shoots) can be very high. If you decide to get an HPA, make sure to check with your local field about any HPA specific rules or restrictions.
Bolt Action or Springer both refer to guns that you pull back, or cock, in some way so when you pull the trigger an internal piston will then push air through to “shoot”. A Springer is a slang term used for small pistols that are usually on the lower end of the quality and performance spectrum. Bolt Action refers to a more high end rifle that is usually used for long distance shooting often called sniper rifles. These rifles tend to shoot with a higher FPS and are used for a very specific purpose that carry more restrictions for their use on the Airsoft field.
Green Gas is a special type of propane that is formulated to be used specifically for Airsoft Rifles or pistols. CO2 is a compressed gas cartridge that can also be used for Airsoft Rifles or pistols. Green Gas is typically much cheaper to operate and easier to “refill” when you are playing that CO2. Also some CO2 pistols can have FPS rating that are too high to be used on most fields for short engagements. For a starting pistol we recommend starting out with a GBB pistol that uses Green Gas.
When you do decide what you want to buy there are two primary options, your local Airsoft Store and an online Retailer. You will never beat the prices of an online retailer, they tend to offer more options and shipping these days is easy and fast. On the flip side, you can’t beat the individual attention and education you will get at your local store. Local stores also tend to have repair services available so you can have a home base to have things repaired. There is no right answer here so do your research and find the option that works best for you.