Competitive team shooting sports are often called modern martial arts.
Such sports focus on the use of weapons, mostly guns, for self-defense, military, and police use. It also focuses on various military tactics and the use of teamwork.
So, when most people think about military simulations, or team shooting sports, they think about paintball or airsoft. While there are similarities between the two, there are also some significant differences.
Most people heard about paintball, a competitive team shooting sport in which players eliminate opponents from play by hitting them with paintballs. Paintballs are spherical capsules made of gelatin and filled with dye, breaking upon impact. They are usually shot using a low-energy weapon, called a paintball marker that is powered by compressed gas.
When it comes to airsoft, many players don’t like comparing it to paintball, though paintball is the closes thing to it.
What is airsoft?
Well, similar to paintball, airsoft is also a competitive team shooting sport, but instead of using paintball, the participants shoot opponents with spherical plastic projectiles.
These pellets are launched via a replica air weapon, usually called an airsoft gun.
However, the key difference between airsoft and paintball is that airsoft is much more focused on military simulation and tactics. This also includes a much more realistic gear, like guns and clothing, and much more realistic game setting.
Airsoft originated in Japan in the early 1970s and expanded to the United States and the United Kingdom during the ’80s and the ’90s. It was meant to satisfy the needs of shooting enthusiasts while still conforming to Japan’s strict gun control.
The name airsoft, or “soft air,” referred to the compressed Freon-silicone oil mixture that was used as a propellent. This propellent was significantly weaker than the carbon dioxide used in regular airguns.
Later, this mixture was replaced by a propane-silicon oil mixture, known as “Green Gas”. The pellets were originally designed for target shooting, and being made of plastic meant that they could be shot at humans without causing injury.
Unlike paintball markers, which don’t always look like real guns, airsoft uses Realistic Imitation Firearms (or RIFs for short). These are modeled after genuine firearms, and in many cases, they are indistinguishable from the real gun.
Also, the players are more dedicated to realistic military dressing, including the use of vests, and helmets.
Why choose airsoft?
Airsoft offers many advantages over other competitive shooting sports since it’s more realistic, and much more affordable.
Often, the game sites have realistic scenarios that can be enjoyed by all, from professional shooters to gamers who like to indulge in some real-life first-person shooter action.
The range of weapons available is breathtaking since you can get almost any weapon you want. This includes assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, heavy machine guns, or silenced pistols. You can find just about any type of weapon that allows you to play the military character you always wanted to.
Cost is also significantly reduced when compared to other shooting sports. This is because the ammunition is a lot cheaper, and you roughly get 3000 airsoft pellets at about $12 (though prices may vary). The ammunition is usually included in the gear you hire, and 3000 pellets should last you through the day.
Airsoft offers several game scenarios, like team deathmatch, capture the flag, the last man standing, fortress, etc. These are all different types of games, with different sets of rules, and while some of them last from a couple of minutes, up to a couple of hours, some games can take days to complete.
Overall, airsoft is a lot of fun, no matter the age (still not recommended for kids), gender, or level of physical fitness. It’s a team sport, focusing on teamwork and effort, in which the players quickly learn that to win, they must work together.
Different types of airsoft games
Airsoft is a military simulation sport and offers different gameplay and match types. Gameplay styles range from short-term skirmishes, close-quarter battles, organized scenarios, and field battles. Most of these game types will be familiar to any FPS video game enthusiast.
Team deathmatch is a very basic way to play. The first team to have all their players eliminated by being struck by a BB pellet, losses. Naturally, the other team wins the deathmatch.
In King of the hill type of gameplay, you must be occupying a neutrally located hill longer than the enemy team. Basically, it’s fighting for the territory within a time-limit.
Bomb assault is when you deliver your “fake” bomb to the enemy base, set it up, and protect it while it “blows up”, without being eliminated.
Capture the flag is similar to bomb assault in certain aspects. But instead of setting up and activating the bomb, you must enter the enemy base, take their flag, and return it to your base. Keep in mind that the flag is only captured once you bring it to your base. If you’re hit, you automatically drop the flag, which can be picked up by one of your teammates, or someone from the opposing team.
Milsim games represent Military Simulation. They’re practically played just like any of the games mentioned above, with teams being highly organized, following a dedicated command hierarchy, and specific roles. These simulations last for a few hours, and sometimes, even days.
There are many more scenarios you can play in airsoft, like reenactments of historical battles, target shooting, speedsoft, etc.
What are the rules?
Gameplay may vary in style and composition, and so can gameplay-related rules. For example, in Capture the Flag, a player that has been hit, automatically drops the flag. Every scenario has a specific set of rules.
But there are some general rules for airsofting, which are set to optimize the airsoft experience, and as safety measures.
Firstly, the game relies heavily on a so-called “honor system”, in which a player who has been hit is responsible for calling themselves out. There’s really no other way about this because the pellets don’t leave marks, unlike paintballs. Hit players will often indicate that they’re hit by shouting “hit” and raising an arm or a hand.
Most games have a “medic”, or some sort of re-gen (regeneration) rule, which means you’re out of the game for a few minutes. After a few minutes, you’re allowed to re-enter the game. These rules ensure that you don’t have to sit out the rest of the game when hit. Thanks to the “honor system,” the airsoft community is very honest and friendly.
Secondly, if you saw someone cheating, immediately tell the marshal. Marshals are trained professionals that monitor the game, so it goes according to rules. They will promptly address any concern you as a player might have.
It’s not recommended to shoot people within 10 feet, no matter how low-power your weapon may be. Instead, just shout “Bang!”. This is done to prevent any potential close-up injuries.
Although being shot from a close distance can’t cause any major injury, it can cause bruising and pain. In some cases, it can draw blood, but those situations are extremely rare.
Another rule is always to wear a provided safety gear like a helmet to protect your head and goggles to protect your eyes. Helmet and goggles will most certainly protect your head and eyes, but it’s somewhat a common rule to avoid headshots.
Also, you can’t climb trees or otherwise create unfair hiding advantages that aren’t part of the designed playfield. Airsoft is usually played in woodland areas, and while climbing a tree does seem like a good idea, it’s prohibited. You can use trees as hiding or cover if you’re on the ground.
How do airsoft guns work?
Airsoft guns are replica weapons used in airsoft sports. They are specially designed type of low-power smoothbore airguns made to shoot spherical projectiles often referred to as “BBs”.
Though that is their commonly known name, it’s also incorrect. The name caught on thanks to a Daisy BB gun company to market a newly created pellet rifle that used plastic projectiles, instead of metal ball bearing pellets.
Of course, these new plastic pellets, or BBs, were a lot safer to shoot the opponents with. Today, the pellets are made of (but not limited to) plastic or biodegradable resin materials.
Biodegradable pellets are often required by outdoor fields where sweeping isn’t possible. They are produced with all the characteristics of conventional pellets but are much safer for the environment.
As for replica weapons, airsoft guns are designed to resemble genuine guns in appearance, and it can sometimes be difficult to tell them apart. Still, even with the cosmetic resemblance, airsoft guns can’t be modified into real firearms, thanks to the differences in internal design and mechanics.
Depending on the design mechanism for pellet propulsion, there are two types of airsoft guns: mechanical or pneumatic.
Mechanical propulsion consists of a coil spring-loaded piston air pump, which is either manually cocked or cycled by an electric motor gearbox. Pneumatic propulsion operates by a valve-controlled release of a prefilled bottled gas, such as Green Gas or CO2.
Spring-powered air guns
Spring-powered air guns are single-shot guns that use the elastic energy of a coil spring to drive a piston air pump, which is released when you pull the trigger. In turn, the air inside a cylinder is rapidly pressurized, and “blows” the pellets down the gun barrel.
They are a simplified design of air guns and operate on the same principle. The shooter must manually recompress the spring before each shot, which cocks and readies the gun. Because of this, spring guns are incapable of automatic or semi-automatic firing.
Electrically powered guns
Electrically powered guns are just like spring guns, but instead of manual operation, they use the power of an internal electric motor. The electric motor compresses the pump spring through a gearbox, which propels and cyclically loads the pellets.
This provides for selective firing modes: automatic, 3-round bursts, and semi-automatic. Hence, these guns are known as “automatic electric guns” or “AEGs”.
Gas-powered guns use the pneumatic potential energy stored within a compressed gas, which drives the shooting mechanism.
These guns have an internal canister, usually within the magazine, which releases pressurized gas through a series of valves to propel the pellet.
This also generates a blowback, simulating recoil, and loads the next shot. Gas-powered guns are capable of both automatic and semi-automatic operation.
Protective gear and safety measures
Keep in mind that your safety and health are extremely important. Due to the nature of the sport, and the speed at which the pellets are flying, all participants are required to wear eye protection at all times.
During matches, the participants in both teams are required to put on protective gear like helmets, goggles, or full-face masks. Gear also includes vests, gloves, uniforms, and other tactical gear and accessories.
Protective gear should be worn at all times. If, by any chance, you have some sort of gear malfunction or have to remove a piece of gear for medical reasons, talk to one of the marshals. They will signal to stop or pause the game, and help you with your problem.
Most airsoft fields have a fully trained and professional staff that will brief you at the start of the day. In-game marshals are there to ensure that the gear operates safely, and the game runs smoothly.
However, like with anything in life, protective gear is only useful and safe if you adhere to the rules, and respect them, and other players. Many fields require players to read and sign an insurance waiver fully.
Note to parents
If your child wants to go airsofting for the first time, it’s perfectly reasonable that you might hesitate to let them engage in such activity.
Still, airsoft is not too dissimilar to paintball. Due to the weight difference between an airsoft pellet and a paintball, getting shot with an airsoft pellet hurts significantly less.
However, airsoft is restricted to players over the age of 12, and game sites usually require signed parental consent for players between the ages of 12 – 18. Most fields require a parent to be present, for insurance and safety purposes.
Airsoft competitive shooting sport is a fun hobby that’s based on military simulations of tactics, honesty, friendship, and teamwork. It also helps in developing critical thinking, problem-solving, and control under pressure.
Not to mention all the fitness training you receive through running around with 20lbs of protective gear on your back.