The term “airsoft gun” is used to refer to a wide variety of air-powered replica weapons that were originally designed for military training purposes. Although they closely resemble their real counterparts, airsoft guns are not considered firearms under U.S. law because they use non-metallic spherical pellets as projectiles and do not have an actual rifled barrel. Airguns that use Pellets for ammunition are considered a type of Airsoft gun by most people. They need special pellets and are usually only usable with an AEG (Automatic Electric Gun). Some airsoft guns use “BB’s” for ammunition. The typical round size used is 4.5 mm (.177 inch), although some use 6 mm (.24 inch) or 8 mm (.3125 inch) rounds.
The airsoft gun industry was estimated to be worth just over $1 billion in 2008, with the United States alone accounting for over $700 million in retail sales (90%) of the total global sales volume of US$ 1.2 billion.
Industry insiders predict that the airsoft market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 20 percent, reaching US$2.7 billion by 2013. The Japanese airsoft market alone is estimated to surpass $1 billion in sales in 2008, with 40% of those sales coming from the domestic market and 60% coming from the export market.
In a typical Airsoft operation, players divide into two teams, one representing “attackers” and the other representing “defenders”. Each team has an objective which they must accomplish to win the game. A game is usually played outdoors in 6–8 km² (2.3–3.1 mi²) of terrain and can last from 45 minutes to an entire day. Airsoft is played with a wide range of realism, with many players making their replica weapons, gear, and accessories.
The most common objective for one team is to take control of the other team’s flag or similar object while preventing the other team from doing the same to theirs. Control can be obtained by either capturing opponents’ flags or by simply making them “inoperative” by pouring water on them, shooting them until they cannot work any longer, etc… Another common game type is VIP (sometimes known as VIPER), where a player must get from one point on the field to another without being killed.
Airsoft games are usually played on a specific field of varying size, or game site, with varying terrain and buildings. One such site is Camp Perry in Ohio, United States. There are also indoor arenas that will mimic a vast array of places to make for a better gameplay experience.
Many different organizations run airsoft games and events. Some of these are sponsored by local or national governments, run by private businesses, or are completely run and operated by volunteer members. War has different meanings to different airsoft users, which leads to the tournaments and wars having a variety of rulesets. Typically, airsoft players refer to organized events as “tournaments”. In some cases such as MilSims or very large games with multiple organizations involved, each role player can be required to purchase a specific game kit to play. Those who play the role of the Japanese will buy Japanese uniforms and weapons while those who play the Americans will buy an American kit. But in the end, a game is an event where people get together to play airsoft. They are often held by private businesses or governments, but that doesn’t make them any less of an airsoft game. Tournament games are typically based on capturing the flag scenarios and other objective-based missions that require strategy and teamwork. These can range from a simple 2 vs 2 shoot out to a large scale battle featuring over 100 players per team and multiple objectives for each side.
In some historical re-enactments of battles, airsoft replicas may be used as props instead of real firearms.
In anime and manga, airsoft replicas are featured often due to their relatively affordable prices and ease of acquisition.
A game played with a set number of players on two teams, the team that captures the enemy’s flag faster wins. One side hides a flag that is randomly selected during the game either by roll call or by some randomizer device. The other side then tries to capture it. A common variant is to have the same team play both sides and have them switch sides at halftime. Another variant allows multiple flags that must be brought back in order (for example, three flags representing a “speed race” on an obstacle course).
Prepare a “mission” for each team and tell them which side they are on and what their task/mission is. One team must kill the other to win, or one side might have to capture a flag or some other objective. The winner is decided by points, in which case a referee may be needed to keep track of the points (counting the number of hits for each team) or by time.
In some cases, there will be a “beacon” placed in an easily accessible place for each team. In this game, one team must try to get hold of the beacon without being killed by the other players of their own team (this is typically optional).
there are many uses for Airsoft Guns that go beyond the realm of Airsoft games, including military training (i.e. sniper training, Close quarters combat (CQB) training), tactical training, and even military recruitment.
Training for close-quarters combat situations is particularly useful for law enforcement and military personnel, as it allows them to train in a cost-effective manner that involves realistic scenarios that can be used to improve the use of weapons and minimize injuries to the opposition during real-world engagements.
One of the main attractions of airsoft is its tactical appeal, which makes it useful as a tool for police and military staff when they need to train for hostile situations quickly in a controlled environment. Because airsoft replicas are originally designed for training purposes, they are manufactured using higher quality materials compared with the mass market products that are usually sold to consumers. Airsoft replicas can get very detailed and realistic, can be customized to individual operators, and even use “real steel” parts. Many law enforcement personnel use airsoft guns for training purposes, including U.S. police forces like the NYPD and LAPD SWAT units.
Because of the realism of airsoft replicas, they have found use in live-action role play (LARP) games as well as in film productions and military simulations (for example making 9MM Submachine gun sounds when used in conjunction with a silent electric motor).
In the United States, airsoft guns are unregulated when used solely for recreational or hobby purposes. The sale of automatic electric guns (AEG) is prohibited in New York City by a local ordinance. A similar ban was formerly in effect in Illinois, but it was declared unconstitutional on January 23, 2009. Some states require that all BB guns be brightly colored or have prominent fluorescent strips (usually under the barrel) so they can be distinguished from real firearms.
The manufacture and import of automatic electric guns (AEGs) are regulated by the U.S. Customs Service. AEGs require a special license to be imported and they must be inoperable while in the country. Once they are outside of the U.S., AEGs can be easily converted to “fully automatic” fire because the only part that needs to be changed is the inner barrel (i.e., the cylinder on gas blowback airsoft guns), which is easily removable or replaceable during quick repair/disassembly.
Airsoft replicas have been found at least once in every state, according to AirSplat, one of the largest online retailers of airsoft guns and accessories.