What is Airsoft And How Does it Work?

  • Updated February 14th, 2023

We may earn commissions for purchases made through links on our site. Learn more on our about us page.

If you’ve ever seen men and women dressed in military-style outfits shooting tiny plastic bbs at each other, you’ve probably wondered what in the world is that called. Or maybe you are a parent whose child has just informed you that they desperately need an airsoft gun and their lives depend on it, yet you have no idea what they mean. Well, you are not alone. The official definition of Airsoft is a military simulation exercise where opponents shoot 6mm plastic bbs at each other. However, it is so much more than that.

Men Playing Airsoft
Men Playing Airsoft

The Beginnings

Military simulation games have been around for as long as humanity has fought wars. Ever since the beginning of time men have fought “war games” as a training tool to increase their effectiveness in an actual battle. However, airsoft isn’t quite as old as humanity.

The sport of Airsoft was created in Japan using the term “Soft-air,” describing the “green gasses” that was used to shoot the plastic bbs. The term “airsoft” was first employed in the US by the Daisy BB gun manufacturer to describe a new weapon they created that shot plastic bbs instead of metal. The term was supposed to instill a feeling of comfort in the prospective audience, implying that getting shot by a plastic bb wouldn’t hurt as badly as getting shot with a metal one would. However, those who found themselves on the receiving end of one of these new bbs didn’t agree with the soft portion of their name.

Since Daisy first coined the name, Airsoft has seen several innovations that has made it a safer sport while increasing the excitement of playing. The game has evolved from the pump action bb gun to the cO2 powered weapons of today.

It wasn’t until the late 1980s and early 1990s that airsoft began to transform into what we know it as today. Early guns were not able to be purchased whole. Instead, purchasers had to assemble the weapons into the end product once they had all of the pieces at home. As technology transformed, companies began manufacturing and selling the guns fully assembled.

Nowadays, even law enforcement and some military branches use airsoft guns as a training tool, as well as in competitions. In fact, the guns manufactured today for airsoft resemble real guns so much that there are restrictions on how you can transport them to and from your home.

Airsoft Verses Paintball

There are many different military simulation games today. In fact, most have probably heard of paintball but few, seemingly, have never heard of airsoft. There are, indeed, many similarities between the two. However, they are extremely different as well.

Both airsoft and paintball shoot projectiles using stored gas, usually cO2, or electrically-charged gears. However, as the term describes, paintball shoots tiny balls filled with a paint-like substance. Airsoft, on the other hand, uses tiny plastic bbs that shoot from the gun anywhere from 350-700 feet per second. Though both hurt, airsoft pellets have the tendency to sting considerably more.

While paintball leaves the victim with a distinct mark on their person, the game of airsoft depends solely on the victim letting the other players know they have been shot. Therefore, trust is one of the top characteristics needed in the game of airsoft. If a player refuses to call theirs hits, and the other players or the referees find out, it could result in that player getting kicked out of the game and potentially banned from the particular property.

Most of the gear, as far as eye and head protection, are the same for most military simulation games. However, with airsoft, there is limited if any, additional padding worn over the base layer of clothes. Wearing too much padding would lessen the impact of the bb to the point where the person being shot would not feel it.

Another distinct difference in the games of paintball and airsoft is how the guns feed the ammunition. In the game of paintball, the gun has what is called a hopper that houses several rounds of paintballs. Airsoft guns, on the other hand, are more like actual firearms in that they are magazine-fed. The shooter loads as many plastic bbs into the magazine as it can hold and then pops it into the bottom of the gun. Reloading requires the shooter to carry several pre-filled magazines while on the battlefield.

The legalities of Airsoft

Though some countries have strict regulations on the game and build of guns (requiring off colors that do not match real guns), airsoft is allowed in most portions of the globe. However, because the guns used in airsoft are precisely made to resemble actual firearms, they have to be treated as real by law enforcement until proven otherwise.

Even in the United States, some states have banned the public play of airsoft. New Jersey, New Mexico, and Michigan, to name a few, only allow airsoft play on private property with the consent of the landowner. If an airsoft gun is found or played with in public, a person will incur harsh fines and penalties. That’s why it’ important to check on the laws in your particular city, state, and municipalities. In fact, there are even some Home Owners Associations that have outlawed the play of airsoft.

Professional Training Airsoft

With the technologies that have advanced the game of airsoft, many professional law enforcement and military companies have begun using airsoft as a training tool. With the cost to shoot being drastically less, this allows for police and soldiers to fire more rounds down-range and increase their performance. In fact, there is an entire portion of airsoft manufacturing devoted solely to professional uses.

With the manufacturing of guns for the professional sectors, the guns are the exact scale and weight of their firearm counterparts. Furthermore, to make training as real as possible, these professional airsoft guns can be equipped with tools that will increase the decibel of the shot as well as produce a kick to the weapon, giving it a more real feel.

Getting Started Basics

Before getting involved with the sport, take into consideration every aspect involved before spending a ton of money. Many people have spent hundreds of dollars only to find out they didn’t care for the sport. Though we don’t see why anybody wouldn’t like playing airsoft wars, those people do exist. That’s why we recommend trying out the game first before spending your hard-earned money.

Most airsoft clubs and ranges will have equipment designated for rent. This equipment will be everything you need, from the gun to the protective gear. If you are new to the sport, try renting the gear first.

Next, find the best gun to fit your style of play. Some do fine with spring action, single shot guns. However, others enjoy shooting the Automatic Electric Guns (AEGS). Of course, the AEG is more expensive but can prove to be rather enjoyable to shoot. Try several out before settling on a single one.

If you are a parent and your child wants to get involved, get involved with them. Not only will this allow you to keep a watchful eye on them, but it may also prove to be some of the best bonding moments you’ve ever had.

The truth is airsoft has evolved since its inception nearly 100 years ago. With all the advancements and the attempts of manufacturers to make more people aware of the sport, airsoft will no doubt be around for many more years to come. After all, in what game and the old and young alike meet on a battlefield and be equalized and have one exciting adventure after another.