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What is Airsoft? [Helpful Beginner’s Guide]

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What is Airsoft?

Airsoft is both a competitive and a casual sport where teams compete against each other in either objective based or deathmatch type of games using Realistic Imitation Firearms (RIFs).

The pellets used in Airsoft Replicas are called BBs and because they don’t contain any paint or any other sort of coloring, Airsoft is mainly based on honor as players have to call themselves out whenever they’ve been hit by a BB.

“Hit!”

When the word ‘Airsoft’ is first mentioned, it’s easy to believe that it’s just a bunch of mates running around on a field and shooting plastic guns and you would be right to some extent. 

However, Airsoft is a lot more complex than that. It involves communication, understanding your position, understanding the field and being able to work well in a team – sounds perfect for your CV, I know!  By definition, Airsoft is a team shooting game dependent on honour and focused on strengthening team coordination and core traits.

But to truly understand Airsoft we need to delve a little deeper into its history and the laws surrounding the ever – expanding network that it is.

Where did it all start?

A quick recap, Airsoft has been around for a really long time and originated in Japan around the 1970’s. It’s combat style and ‘soft air guns’ allowed it to fit in with Japan’s strict gun policies. The Airsoft craze then spread to the other eastern – Asian countries such as China and Hong-Kong and finally spread to places such as the UK and the United States during the 1980s.

Of course, in terms of the actual Gun Replicas’ history, firstly in 1970 Japan only spring powered and gas guns existed, and then eventually these evolved into fully automatic airsoft weapons powered by batteries.

The first AEG (Automatic Electric Gun) was created by the famous Tokyo Marui in 1991, the one and only Famas F1. Airsoft replicas have since been ever evolving and each brand becomes a part of history through the replicas and innovative designs they choose to produce!

Currently Airsoft is widely known across the globe, yet it still remains quite a niche sport. Here’s a list of countries you might find yourself playing Airsoft in: USA, UK, Spain, France, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Japan, Philippines, Thailand etc.

Who can play?

Airsoft is often listed by a number of names: a game, a hobby, a sport. The aim of Airsoft depends on the person or the team playing it. It is down to the individual whether they choose to practice it as a sport and take part in adrenaline fueled milsim or play it as a hobby with a few mates at a weekend skirmish – whatever the choice, anyone is welcome to play regardless of your experience, fitness level or amount of equipment! 

Airsoft is a perfect, active alternative to a lazy Sunday where you can shoot replicas, have fun, meet new people and make new friends along the way; whilst relatively exercising and staying healthy!

The sport itself is amazing, and fortunately the social side is potentially even better! There is a multitude and events and even international festivals of Airsoft that last for a few days. It’s a community well worth joining! 

Age wise, generally you must be over the age of 13 to play regardless of gender or physical fitness. However, there are some exceptions and certain Airsoft clubs will allow 11+ as long as they’re accompanied by an adult. 

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, I would advise you to contact a medical health care professional to make sure you’re in good condition to play. If you are, gear up and you’re good to go.

Click here to see our Beginner’s Guide for Airsoft Start-up Costs where Ryan Gee discusses the cost of your first rental game and necessary equipment for further play! 

Game Types

So now that we’ve covered the basics and the ground rules, what’s actually involved in the Airsoft Sport? There are three main game types in airsoft: Skirmish, MilSim and Speedsoft.

Skirmish

This is the most popular game type that most sites run on weekends and is a great way for new players to get introduced to the sport. It’s the most simplistic and beginner friendly type of play; a variety of games are played throughout the day which makes sure that there are no stale moments and everyone is constantly active throughout. 

The types of games you can normally expect to see during the day can include: ‘Team Deathmatch’, ‘Conquest’, ‘Capture the Flag’, ‘Capture the Bomb’, ‘Search and Destroy’, ‘Hostage Rescue’, ‘Capture the VIP’, ‘Capture the Hill’ and simple Attack/Defend scenarios.

Click here for a detailed breakdown of Skirmish vs MilSim vs Speedsoft where we interviewed leading UK event organisers to see what they had to say about each category!

MilSim

Milsim is an abbreviation for Military Simulation. While it is a common ground for both airsofters and paintballers, airsoft guns are the most commonly used in MilSim practices to enhance the realism of the situation.

As an Airsoft player you can choose to be part of the MilSim community and take part in the re-enactment of historical dates, military battle sims and a law-enforcement style of combat. Expect long weekends with spaced out objectives, patrols and guard duties where games will continue through the night and your tent might just get raided by the opposite team! Perfect, for adrenaline junkies! 

To find out more specifically about MilSims, click here to read one of our articles where Mark (a MilSim Veteran of 8 years) goes through what to expect from such an event!

SpeedSoft

Speedsoft, although a new kid on the block, it’s growing in its popularity amongst Airsofters due to its intense and competitive nature! SpeedSoft pulls away from the whole military simulation style and takes heavy influence from paintball gear, as it is designed for speed and durability. 

Speedsoft is very aggressive in small CQB spaces where 5v5 teams battle for Capture the Flag or Team Deathmatch; it also uses tactics that are directly created in Airsoft rather than the real world military. Very high paced and incredibly competitive! 

Game Modes

There are a lot of different popular games modes such as Capture The Flag, King of The Hill and Team Deathmatch etc. Some game types will require more experience than others or require you to partake in a specific role such as ‘Medic’.

We recommend starting off with a local Airsoft Skirmish to get a feel for the sport. Keep in mind that you’ll be part of a team and it would be better for you all to play to your strengths, therefore make sure to communicate with your squad mates! 

Airsoft Replicas

There are a few different types of replicas (RIFs) available: gas powered, spring powered and automatic guns powered by a battery. All of them fire 6mm BBs and depending on their ability to shoot in automatic, semi-automatic or bolt action vary in their power output measured in FPS (Feet Per Second). 

AEGs (Automatic Electronic Guns)

Simply put, an AEG is powered by an on-board battery similar to those used in R/C Cars, helicopters etc. The battery sends power to a motor (normally located in the AEG’s pistol Grip) which turns  3 gears within the gun, to compress and release a piston within the gearbox to create a blast of air to propel a BB down the barrel.

Automatic Electric Guns or AEGs for short are the most commonly used guns on airsoft fields around the world, and come in various different shapes, sizes and models – most based on real steel firearms.

GBBs (Gas BlowBack Guns)

Gas Blowback aka ‘GBB’ are Airsoft guns that utilize the power of gas to propel the BB down the barrel and are the best type of RIFs for realistic recoil.

Just like the real steel variants, when the trigger is pulled a hammer/bolt inside, rather then striking a round within the chamber, it pushes against the valve for a very short period of time to allow gas to be released into the barrel and the BB to be propelled down the barrel.

Due to the force that the Gas creates when released from the magazine, it pushes a bolt or slide back (depending on a pistol/rifle etc) at a very fast speed to get ready for the next BB in the chamber. This action causes the recoil felt when firing these GBB airsoft guns.

Spring Powered (Sniper Rifles)

Spring Airsoft guns utilise the power of a compressed spring to propel BBs down the barrel. Spring guns work purely on a mechanical system, meaning they have to be cocked back in the case of a sniper rifle. These can fire up to 500 FPS as they’re single shot only, however, you will need to keep your distance due to the higher output, as most sites will require a minimum of 20 meter engagement distance with these rifles.

Click here to see our recommended Top 5 Starter Guns for Airsoft! 

Airsoft Laws

As I mentioned before, airsoft has to have adequate restrictions, and similarly to 1970 Japan, the UK has also placed a lot of these restrictions on the Airsoft sites and fields we use.

Previously, under the old Policing & Crime Bill, there was an ‘agreement’ of sorts which allowed high 520FPS  (single shot) equivalent to 2.5 Joules and 370 FPS (fully automatic) equivalent to 1.3 Joules to be classed as safe, although this was not explicitly stated there was no ruling against it.

Past 2011, those laws have now changed. Under the new Policing & Crime Act 2011, these are now the official, firm, legal limits on the Airsoft weapons.

However, always make sure to check the site’s specific limits as you simply might not be allowed to play or asked to leave if you replica shoots over the club’s limit.

Most Airsoft sites in UK use the following standard:

  • Fully Automatic (AEGs and Pistols) – 350FPS using 0.20g / 1.2 Joules
  • Semi Automatic (DMR) – 400FPS using 0.20g/ 1.5 Joules – Minimum engagement distance varies between 10m – 20m dependant on site’s policy
  • Bolt Action Rifles (Snipers) – 500FPS using 0.20g / 2.4 Joules – Minimum engagement distance varies between 20m – 30m dependant on site’s policy

The Act itself is not simply a legal imposition but in fact it helped to establish ‘Airsoft’ to be seen as a legitimate sport and be recognised by the UK government. That’s why more recently, there has been a surge in competitive Airsoft and so many variations of game play. 

Remember, if you cannot practice the Airsoft rules safely and adhere to the limits put in place, both the UK Airsoft sites and the government can prosecute you to the full extent of the law. So play safely!

Final Words

There will inevitably be a generic overlap between other combat sports such as paintball and even laser-tag. While there are similarities, Airsoft is very a much a sport in its own right due to realistic replicas, gear and equipment which allows players to immerse themselves into military situations.

There are no official figures on how many people play the sport as it is not currently a worldwide event. However, it is evident from the 150 skirmish sites in the UK alone that the sport is not neglected or forgotten. 

Airsoft may have started in 1970s, but it is still very much alive today!

Written by Georgina Saldanha

Edited by Kamil Turecki

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