What is Airsoft? – A Quick Guide

So, your small boy keeps on nudging you to take him to the airsoft field and you’re wondering what the devil he is talking about. If the word “airsoft” sounds foreign to you, you’ve come to the right place!

Our parents’ guide to airsoft should help you comprehend airsoft from a parent’s perspective so that you don’t look lost the next time your kid brings up the subject.

What is Airsoft?

Airsoft is a competitive combat sport that involves players shooting at opponents using special plastic projectiles propelled by replica air weapons known as airsoft guns. It is in many ways similar to paintball, in that players group to form two separate organized teams and shoot BBs at one another for fun. 

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However, the major difference is while paintball markers do not resemble real guns, airsoft markers are modeled after “real” guns and can easily be confused for the real thing. Unlike paintball, this sport is very much focused on military simulation, with players dedicated to donning more realistic military gear such as vests and helmets to enhance the sense of combat realism. 

History of Airsoft

The sport of airsoft has its roots in Japan where it originated in the early ‘70s, trademarked as “soft air gun”. The guns were specially designed for the Japanese shooting enthusiasts with manufacturers conforming to the strict gun control rules in the country. 

The name “soft air” was used to refer to the mixture of compressed Freon and silicon oil (replaced by propane-silicon oil mixture later on) that was used to propel the projectiles. Initially designed for target shooting, the plastic pellets provided a viable alternative to casual wargamers because they could be shot at people without causing any significant harm. 

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The spread of airsoft guns to the UK happened in the late “80s and early “90s, thanks to a company called LS. The guns were available in pieces and required to be assembled to be used as a complete gun. Airsoft gear was tailored to closely replicate real guns.

Since the mid “80s, these guns have been produced with a purely recreational application in mind, allowing people of all ages to enjoy the sport. Today, airsoft guns are produced globally, with a lion’s share of the manufacturing happening in Asia. The popularity of the sport has seen law enforcement agents, as well as military units inside the United States incorporating airsoft guns into their combat training drills. 

Airsoft Basics

Airsoft is simply a military simulation game where participants take part in mock combat using military-style guns and strategies. It uses 6mm BBs that are made out of hard plastic. The weapons are full-scale replicas of “real-world” weapons, and you can find anything from an airsoft pistol to a full-scale sniper rifle.

Airsoft guns can be grouped into three main types that include spring-powered, gas, and electric-powered (AEGs). The spring-powered airsoft gun must always be cocked by hand before shooting and generally shoot at a lower velocity compared to its gas and electric counterparts. 

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Gas-powered airsoft guns utilize a variety of gases to propel the BBs, including CO2, propane, and green gas. Finally, the AEGs use a motor and battery to power the spring mechanism. Generally, airsoft guns tend to shoot out BBs at a velocity of 350-500fps or higher, and this will depend on the type of gun you are using or the manufacturer. 

You’ll realize that these guns have an orange tip on their muzzles, a legal requirement that serves to differentiate them from real-world firearms. The pellets used primarily come as 6mm size plastic balls and are available in different weights. 

The good thing about these airsoft BBs is that they don’t cause injury or pain when they hit the human skin. Many players liken getting hit by the BBs to a rubber band snapping on your skin. However, the sensation can further be lessened by increasing the layers of clothing worn and other safety gear. 

Airsoft Safety

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Being a shooting sport, it is natural that airsoft has safety regulations to reduce the risk of injury. Many manufacturers suggest treating guns like real-world weapons at all times. This helps to reduce the risk issues that may emerge as a result of accidental discharge to an unsuspecting target. 

Buyers are urged not to remove the orange muzzle tip they come with to help differentiate them from real weapons. And due to the nature of the game, players are expected to always wear eye protection to prevent getting hit by the fast-flying BBs. Most tournament organizers set the minimum safety level gear for participants to include ballistic eyewear, impact-rated goggles to safeguard your eyes.

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Prescription glasses or sunglasses not tailored for use with airsoft markers may break upon getting struck by the BBs. Your ears, nose, and mouth should also be thoroughly covered during active play to avoid injury. 

Safety Precautions

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There are several rules regarding maximum muzzle velocity, as well as engagement distance that are enforced on the airsoft field. Some organizations have rules such as a minimum of 10 feet engagement distance in their safety guidelines. 

When not playing with the guns actively, some airsoft fields dictate that “barrel bags” or sleeves/condoms/blockers to be placed over the gun’s muzzle. The magazine is also removed and the weapon fired to clear its chamber. A lot of fields require participants to leave their rifles set to safety whenever they are not shooting, which applies to real firearms. 

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These legal issues may differ between countries; in some places like the Philippines, there are extra special rules that have been adopted. Generally, the official airsoft field rules in many cases are as follows:

  • Always have your eye protection on when in or around the airsoft arena
  • Keep your weapon pointed in a safe direction and your finger should be off the trigger
  • Aim at the center of mass when shooting and avoid the head
  • Physical or verbal fighting isn’t tolerated
  • Don’t shoot at speakers, lights, signs, or fire equipment
  • Don’t climb walls, scaffolding or windows
  • Don’t shoot at fog machines, props, laser lights, and other game enhancers
  • Respect the referee and fellow players
  • Remove the magazine from your gun when not in use
  • Never walk into the arena when a game is in play
  • Don’t shoot at opponents within a 10ft surrender distance

How Airsoft Guns Work

Airsoft guns are limitation firearms. They are equipped with a mechanism to shoot out projectiles with a 6mm or 8mm diameter. Some manufacturers make full replicas of grenade launchers that can fire a projectile and spray 6mm pellets with the help of a high-powered spring mechanism and compressed gas propellant. 

There is a kind of airsoft gun that is powered using a single high-pressure air tank, as well as a battery pack to propel the internal Fire Control Unit computer board. These guns have a notable high and adjustable rate of fire and durability. They are popularly referred to as “PolarStars” 

Some of the latest airsoft gun models, especially those produced in China and Taiwan, come with metallic external and internal parts. These guns are relatively lighter than the “real steel” weapons used by law enforcement officials because of the plastic, aluminum, and alloys used in their construction.

And for certain types of airsoft guns, you’ll find smoke caps and noise amplifiers to enhance the element of realism. CO2 handgun magazines will usually consist of 10-30 pellets in a standard magazine. However, higher capacity magazines may carry up to 50 rounds of ammunition and more. 

In AEGs, magazines come in real-capacity (similar to its real-steel counterpart), high-capacity (190+ rounds), medium-capacity (75-160 rounds), or low capacity (10-50 rounds). The magazines are spring-loaded, with the high-cap featuring a ratchet wheel that is wound up periodically. 

Some airsoft guns feature a battery-powered box that can carry thousands of pellets, although these are only allowed on light machine gun replicas. It is a common practice for airsoft gun owners to modify their guns. 

Most of the gearboxes are tailored to Tokyo Marui specifications, with upgradable parts available. While some of these gearboxes have a proprietary design, others allow you to perform DIY modifications. 


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It is normal for airsoft gun owners to customize their weapons to either improve their performance or for aesthetic value. Some of the extras you can buy include fore-grips, scopes, red dot sights, and flashlights. All these additional parts help to enhance the functioning of the airsoft guns in different situations. 

Lasers are also a popular attachment in Europe and the U.S. even though some countries have rendered them illegal. Laser lights are mostly added for aesthetic purposes than for their practical effect. This is mainly because they should be weak enough to avoid damaging another player’s eyesight. 

Another extra available is mock silencers, which resembles the real firearm accessory that drowns the sound. Since airsoft guns do not use combustibles to propel pellets, the combustibles don’t serve any particular function. 

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Airsoft keeps on growing in popularity with every new generation. It is a nice way to simulate military scenarios and many kids are picking it up as a viable pastime. The information above should provide you with all the basic knowledge you need to have about airsoft.

As a parent, you need to know what your child is getting into when you finally give in to his constant nudging and get him his first airsoft gun.