Airsoft. It’s Not Just For Kids: Using Airsoft in Your Firearms Training

by Brett on June 26, 2013 · 62 comments

in Gun Skills & Safety, Manly Skills, Tactical Skills

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One of my sheepdog goals this year is to become proficient with a handgun and to get my carry license.

I bought my first handgun a few months ago — a Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm — and have been taking defensive handgun classes at the U.S. Shooting Academy. One thing I quickly discovered is that firearm training gets really expensive, really fast. First there’s the range time you need to pay for, but what really kills you is the ammo. Holy smokes, that stuff was like gold for awhile. I saw places selling 9mm ammo for $1.50 a round. Sheesh. While ammo prices are beginning to drop as producers catch up with the demand, you’ll still need to fork over a pretty penny for a day at the range.

At one of my classes I overheard some guys talking about how they were using airsoft guns in addition to their live and dry fire training.

“Airsoft guns? Isn’t that what little kids play with?” I asked with some skepticism.

You see, up until that point my only experience with airsoft guns was watching neighborhood kids run around with their neon orange space ray toy guns and plink each other with plastic BBs.

One of the crusty old-timers responded, “Hell yeah, partner. They’ve gotten real sophisticated in recent years — to the point they have exact replicas of almost every real firearm on the market. I’ve got an airsoft version of my Glock. It even simulates recoil when you fire it. Shooting plastic BBs is a hell of a lot cheaper than shooting live ammo. Plus, I can fire it at my house in my garage. It’s been an invaluable tool in improving my gun manipulation.”

He went on to explain that police departments and even the military are using what used to be a kid’s toy as part of their firearm training. Still dubious, I started doing some research, and I’ll be darned if the old guy wasn’t right. Airsoft guns have gotten incredibly realistic in recent years. If it weren’t for the orange tip that’s required on them, you couldn’t tell the difference between a real gun and the airsoft version of it. He was also right about how military and police forces around the world are using airsoft guns to train recruits. What’s more, many of the top gun instructors across the country are encouraging their students to include airsoft training along with live fire and dry fire training. I also discovered there’s a HUGE airsoft community offline and online. Instead of shooting each other with paintball guns, people are getting together for massive airsoft matches that pretty much replicate real-life military scenarios.

Intrigued by what I read, I went online to some Asian website and bought the airsoft version of my Smith and Wesson M&P 9mm so I could give it a try. I also started researching as much as I could and talking to experts about airsoft and how you can use airsoft guns in tactical training. Below I share what I’ve learned.

Types of Airsoft Guns

There are three types of airsoft guns, each with their pros and cons. The type of airsoft gun you get depends on how you plan on using it.

Spring Action

springactionshotgun

Spring action airsoft shotgun

These are the airsoft guns that I was familiar with before my conversation at the gun range. You can find spring action airsoft guns in the toy section of nearly every big box store. To fire the gun, you simply pull the spring back with a lever until it locks in place. When you pull the trigger, the spring releases and pushes a piston forward in an enclosed cylinder in the gun. The piston pushes air out at a high speed which causes the BB to fire out of the barrel.

Spring action guns are cheap (starting prices are $12, although high-end spring action guns can cost upwards of $80), but they have considerable drawbacks. The big one is a slow rate of fire. Every time you want to fire the gun, you have to pull back and cock the spring. I guess that’s not a problem if you’re training to use a bolt-action rifle or a shotgun, but if your real-life gun is a semi-automatic weapon, having to cock every time you fire ruins the simulation. Another drawback is the quality of the guns. Most spring action guns are poorly made with chintzy plastic and feel like toys in your hands. No good if you’re wanting to simulate your real gun.

Automatic Electric Guns (AEGs)

AEG

AR-15 Automatic Electric Gun

A more suitable type of airsoft gun for tactical training is the automatic electric gun, or AEG. AEGs have a rechargeable battery that powers a small motor that turns a bunch of gears. These gears pull back and release a piston which causes air to be blasted out at a high-rate. The air propels the pellet out of the gun and towards the target.

AEG

Animated example of how an AEG gearbox works. Source Wikipedia.

Most airsoft semi-automatic rifles and machine guns are AEGs, though you can find AEG handguns as well. AEGs are the most popular airsoft gun among folks taking part in organized airsoft skirmishes.

The biggest advantage AEGs have over spring action airsoft guns is that you can achieve automatic or semi-automatic firing rates with them. You don’t have to cock anything to fire. Just pull the trigger and PEW! a 6mm plastic pellet leaves your gun. Higher-end AEGs are typically exact replicas of their real-life counterparts and are made of both plastic and metal parts. You can even add tactical accessories from your real gun to your airsoft version. Some AEG rifles even provide simulated recoil. Because of the 1:1 realism of high-end AEGs, they’re a great tool to practice weapon manipulation. Many police and military units are using AEG rifles for training.

From a tactical training standpoint, the biggest disadvantage of AEGs is the trigger pull. With most AEGs, the trigger doesn’t break. Instead, the trigger on an AEG acts like a switch that completes a circuit. Thus, you don’t experience that “wall” like you would with a real gun. Depending on the type of AEG, you might also miss out on the simulated recoil.

Gas

myairsoft

Airosoft gun on top; real gun on bottom. Not much of a difference, huh?

Gas airsoft guns use some sort of compressed gas to propel the pellet out of the gun. You’ll usually find gas-firing mechanisms on pistols and sidearms, though you can find gas-powered rifles too. Many gas-powered airsoft pistols have a blow-back feature which causes the slide on your pistol to reciprocate when you fire it — just like a real gun. You even get a bit of recoil.

insertgas

On gas-powered airsoft handguns, the gas is kept in the magazine. You inject the gas in the bottom as seen in the picture above.

Gas blow-back airsoft pistols can be an invaluable tool in your handgun training as they provide a nearly identical experience to using your real gun. They’re typically 1:1 replicas of your sidearm. You can even put real handgun parts like sights or tactical lights onto your airsoft version. I was amazed that my airsoft Smith & Wesson weighed about the same as my real S&W. Granted, it’s not exactly the same as live fire training, but it’s pretty darn close. One thing I’ve noticed on my gas blow-back M&P is that there isn’t much slack in the trigger. I hardly have to squeeze the trigger for the gun to fire. I’m sure I could tweak the trigger a bit so it pulls more like my real gun.

If you’re wanting to use airsoft to supplement your handgun training, definitely get a gas blow-back (GBB) version. They’re pricier than non-GBB, but the added simulation is worth it in my opinion. To find where to buy an airsoft version of your real handgun, just Google “Glock 17 airsoft” or “Smith & Wesson MP airsoft.” You’ll find plenty of online stores that sell an airsoft version of your gun. I bought mine from this site. It was the only place I could find it. They’re based in Hong Kong (airsoft is huge in Asia) so I had to pay global shipping.

Types of Gas

gas

1.) Propane gas 2.) CO2 cartridge 3.) Green gas

One thing to take into consideration when using a gas-powered airsoft gun is the type of gas you’re going to use as a propellent. There are three types of gas you can use, each with their pros and cons.

  • CO2. The big pro with CO2 is power. You can get the pellet to travel at high velocities using CO2. The downside is cost. CO2 cartridges can be expensive and (compared to other gas types) you don’t get many shots out of a single cartridge. On top of the cost of the cartridges, you’ll need to buy a special converter so you can fill your magazine with the gas. Power is also a downside of the CO2. If you buy a cheap-o gun, the power from CO2 gas can break it.
  • Propane. Propane gives you a decent amount of power and is much more stable and cheaper than CO2. Just buy a small hand-held propane tank and an airsoft adapter for it and you’ll have access to cheap gas to power your gun. Not only is propane cheaper than CO2, it’s also more accessible. Whenever you run out of propane, just head to a nearby refill station and fill up your tank. With CO2, you have to go to speciality sports stores or order online. The downside of propane is that it’s a dry gas. You’ll need to lubricate your gun with silicone after every firing session.
  • Green gasGreen gas is just propane gas with a bit of silicone mixed in. By adding the silicone into the propane, your gun lubes itself when you fire. Pretty convenient. The downside on green gas is it’s expensive. Look to spend $15 a can. You’ll get about a 1,000 shots from a single can. You’re better off just going with propane and spraying your gun with silicone every now and then. Much more affordable that way.

The Ammo

bbs

Airsoft guns typically use 6mm plastic pellets. You can fire them at other people (assuming they’re wearing eye protection and are game) and they’ll just feel a sting — almost like getting hit with a paintball.

Pellets are pretty cheap. You can buy a bag of 3,500 rounds for $7 online.

When buying BBs for your airsoft gun, make sure to go for quality. Low-grade BBs can break and shatter when firing, causing irreparable damage to the insides of your gun. Some signs of low-quality BBs include:

  • seams
  • bubbles
  • dimpling
  • rough surface

Most big box and sports stores only sell the low-quality stuff.

icsbbs

I use ICS BBs during my airsoft training sessions. They’re a good quality pellet: high density, polished, and no seams.

You’ll find high-quality BBs at speciality airsoft stores or online. Quality airsoft BBs are seamless, polished, and high-density. You’ll pay a bit more, but in the long-run it can help save money by avoiding a costly gun replacement. The guys at Airsoft Megastore have a good write up on what happens when you use crappy BBs in your airsoft gun.

Using Airsoft to Supplement Your Firearms Training

militaryairsoft

Soldiers with the US Army 187th Ordnance Battalion preparing to clear a room during urban combat training at the battalion’s Field Training Exercise site. The Soldiers were armed with airsoft weapons. Notice the orange tips.

Let’s sum up the benefits and limitations of airsoft guns in your real life handgun training.

Benefits of Airsoft Guns

1:1 replica of your real gun. You can buy airsoft guns that look and feel like your real gun. They’ll fit in your holster. You can also add real-life tactical attachments to them. 

Provides near-realistic live-fire experience. Gas blow-back handguns do a good job simulating firing a real handgun. Great for practicing gun manipulation and drawing.

Low cost. This was the big selling point for me. A box of 50 real rounds can set you back $20. I can buy a bag of 3,500 airsoft BBs for $7. The low cost of airsoft allows you to experience a simulated live fire session for a fraction of the cost.

Safe. While you should treat an airsoft gun as if it were a real gun and take the same precautions as you would when practicing, you can rest easy that a BB won’t shoot through your garage wall and kill somebody.

You can do it anywhere. Instead of having to trek 20 miles to the gun range a few times a week, I can go to my garage every evening and practice to my heart’s content.

Provides opportunity for affordable, safe force-on-force training. If you want to practice real, force-on-force tactical scenarios, airsoft can help provide that experience. You can fire it at your buddy pretending to be a bad guy in your house and all he’ll feel is a sting (make sure he’s wearing eye protection though).

Limitations of Airsoft Guns

Not identical to real firearms. Let’s not kid ourselves. While airsoft guns provide a decent simulation of firing a real gun, there’s no way it can replicate it exactly. The trigger pull on airsoft guns aren’t the same as real guns, the recoil is nowhere near the same, and the noise level isn’t the same. You also really can’t practice malfunctions or reloading that well with an airsoft gun. Finally, there’s just a “feeling” you can’t simulate with airsoft. I just feel more alert and on edge when firing a real gun. With good reason — I know that pulling the trigger can have lethal results. I just can’t replicate that feeling when I’m firing my airsoft gun.

Because of this limitation, it’s important that you don’t completely replace live fire training with airsoft. You should continue to get to the range as much as you can to fire your real gun. I like to think of airsoft as a step above dry fire training and a step below live fire. It’s just another tool in your firearm training toolbox.

Airsoft Is Fun Too!

Besides using airsoft as a tactical training tool, it can be a hobby in and of itself. Instead of spending a Saturday with your friends paintballing, you can shoot airsoft guns at each other in the woods. There’s a massive airsoft community out there filled with people who get together for airsoft battles. Tulsa Airsoft even has a huge indoor and outdoor facility for people to take part in airsoft skirmishes. Organized battles often simulate actual military and police scenarios. So you get to have some fun and get a bit of force-on-force training too.

I haven’t taken part in any organized airsoft battles…yet. It’s on my list of things to do, though. Looks like fun. Anybody in the Tulsa area care to join me?

Have you used airsoft in your handgun training? Any other tips for folks looking to supplement their firearms training with airsoft? Share with us in the comments!

{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tim Robertson June 26, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Just got my first firearm last fall and am learning myself. Have never heard of these, definitely going to check it out.

2 Xavier June 26, 2013 at 10:38 pm

A word of advice for those going into airsoft! The author is correct about choosing a good BB quality for your your gun; but at the same time, take a look at the weight of the bb’s. Most super stores and Wal Marts will sell .12 gram or .2 gram bb’s. .2 is a pretty standard weight for airsoft ammunition, but depending on the gun you have (AEG vs Gas) and the speed (fps – feet per second) your gun is firing, you may want a heavier weight of bb’s such as .25 or .3 gram. Since the bb’s are merely 6mm plastic pellets, the lighter the weight, the more prone the bb becomes to wind/resistance/and distance. A good bb weight will not only improve accuracy but also the distance of your shots. Enjoy!

3 Justin Stier June 26, 2013 at 10:54 pm

This is really cool to see I follow this site religiously, I have been airsofting for 10+ years. I run a forum and and have a competitive team. Glad to see positive press on the subject. Keep it up!

4 Chris June 26, 2013 at 11:00 pm

While airsoft has it’s place in your training regimen, be very selective as to how much of of your regimine airsoft takes over. A lot of the practice done in airsoft training can be done with your firearm with a snap cap (dummy round) with a more realistic result since you are using your own firearm that will have the same weight, feel, and trigger. In my opinion, the cost of getting one of the close replica gas guns could be better spent on boxes of ammo. Just my $.02

5 Mike Esc June 26, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Airsoft wasn’t and isn’t really just for kids, it only seems like it due to all the kids playing it within the last 10 years. But is has existed as a hobby for adults since the 80s, from what some of the Airsoft veterans in my community show with the equipment and the photos from back in their day.

Truly, force-on-force is the best part of using airsoft; you can be shooting at someone in game, and then have a drink with them after.

6 Guildenstern June 26, 2013 at 11:18 pm

“[...] they’ll just feel a sting — almost like getting hit with a paintball.”

When I was younger I played my fair share of both airsoft and paintball and let me tell you that the felt impact is *not* comparable. A 6mm plastic pellet moving at 400 fps isn’t gonna come close to the punch you’ll get from a .68 caliber paintball moving at 300 fps.

Nitpick aside, this would be a great way to work on things like proper grip, drawing from holster, and manipulation of the weapon. Unfortunately, airsoft is mostly focused on military simulation and therefore most of the replica weapons are as well, so the civilian firearm market is severely under-represented. If you’ve got an M&P or a Glock like you or your buddy then you’re fine, but good luck if you’re like me and use a Kahr as your daily carry.

7 Ron June 26, 2013 at 11:28 pm

I bought a spring launch airsoft pistol several years ago before they became popular. This was when the only thing you could find was big box store cheapos. I still have it and it still shoots great. Even came with a target stand/pellet catch that I can put any type of paper target into and shoot to my hearts content in my living room.

Safety nanny says not to futz with your firearm. Airsoft firearm is perfect substitute for futzing with a “firearm” when you have the urge. EDC sidearm stays in its holster, and I can plink away with my airsoft while sitting at home and watching t.v.

8 Derrick June 26, 2013 at 11:55 pm

You should be able to find *much* better prices for Green Gas if you look around.

The big advantage with airsoft I find is for new shooters who are “afraid” of firing an actual weapon. It gives them a low recoil experience to get started with. It’s also very useful to help teach grip and aim.

9 Steve June 27, 2013 at 4:44 am

Living in Hong Kong, where Airsoft is based, it’s ironic that I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to carry an Airsoft gun in public here – you certainly can’t “do it anywhere”. And coming from a country with real gun control (NZ) I’m not all that sad, even if they are just replicas.

Saying that, down the block I saw an AEG M249 and Vulcan cannon in a shop window. That, my friend, is boss as hell.

But my main point is, your review doesn’t mention the main thing – how accurate are they? Are they capable of anything like meaningful target shooting?

10 Rachel June 27, 2013 at 9:01 am

I enjoyed my brief foray into Airsoft training – I took six seminars over the course of a few years, you can read my write-ups of three of them here:

http://www.new-pony.com/systema/GunpointSupremacyOct2007Friday.html

http://www.new-pony.com/systema/GunpointSupremacyOct2007Saturday.html

http://www.new-pony.com/systema/GunpointSupremacyOct2007Sunday.html

The pellets do sting, unless you cover yourself with padding, which defeats the point of practicing with Airsoft. However DO wear EYE PROTECTION – forgive me for pointing out the obvious. Also please note that Airsoft weapons are illegal in some locations. And they do misfire sometimes – or you simply run out of pellets. Buy an extra magazine, load it, and keep it in your pocket so you can practice reloading. And try to acknowledge good shots from your training partners – point to where they’ve hit you, or otherwise note that you’ve been hit, instead of viewing it as a competitive game, it’s a training tool and learning experience. It’s great for practicing while under fire – very different than shooting a paper target at the range (which I do enjoy, but the targets don’t move nor fire back!)

11 James June 27, 2013 at 9:20 am

@Steve in my experience, even a relatively cheap airsoft gun is plenty accurate at any range where you would reasonably be in a confrontation. The pricier ones are usually quite accurate. Check out videos on youtube they showcase accuracy and function and are pretty cool.

12 ChrisB June 27, 2013 at 9:30 am

Another option to consider is Laserlyte Laser Trainer cartridges. They come in many calibers and fit into your weapon like a regular round. Pull the trigger and a laser shines out for a second. There’s even a target you can get. They’re the price of a few boxes of ammo. There’s no recoil, but you get the correct weight and trigger pull. 9mm sells for ~$80 on Amazon.

13 Colin June 27, 2013 at 9:30 am

I had a Green Gas powered WE Mk 16. It broke down in under 15 seconds like the real one, with a removable bolt and other easily accessible parts. It had a sliding bolt, with 30rd magazines, and felt overall like the real firearm. A great training weapon.

I also have a KJW Beretta M9. That one is actually used by many police forces around the country for the similarities to the real firearms, for training purposes.

14 Phil L June 27, 2013 at 9:56 am

If you’re looking at cheap marksmanship practice, don’t forget pellet guns: They’re far more accurate than airsoft, and are very cheap to shoot.

15 Chad June 27, 2013 at 10:32 am

I got big into airsoft back in college. Had an M4 AEG and a Glock 19 gas-blowback. I gave the M4 to my younger brother but still have the Glock 19 somewhere around here. (I’ve also since added a real Glock 19 to the arsenal :-) )

One thing I’ll note on propane is that while, yes, it’s much cheaper–I got an adapter that would fit on the little coleman tanks you use for camping–the downside is most cheap propane you buy has that nasty smelling additive. I wouldn’t dream of using it inside or in the garage!

Also, while much less common, it’s possible to find electric pistols, even those with a fully-auto function haha. One less consumable if it’s worth it to you.

16 Max June 27, 2013 at 10:53 am

If you plan on playing outdoors try and find the biodegradable BBs. They are ceramic based and should be clearly marked on the package. If you don’t want to endanger the local wildlife (birds, rodents, etc.) look specifically for the biodegradable BBs. Cost is approximately equal but sometimes the ceramic BBs are a touch more expensive.

17 Tadd June 27, 2013 at 10:59 am

Another great article! The trick is to look for as many opportunities as possible to train or apply your training BEFORE you have to use it in real life. Airsoft, in addition to live and dry fire training, definitly has a place in the overall training toolbox!

As far as meeting up for some Airsoft battles, COUNT ME IN!!!!!! I’m in Tulsa and would love to do this!!

18 jestersix June 27, 2013 at 11:09 am

We ran a retail paintball/airsoft store for four year, fielding teams and hosting events on both sides.

AIrsoft is a great training tool. My main pistol is a Springfield XD, so no airsoft equivalent but have copies of my Glocks. They are really a big help if you consider trying your hand at competition shooting, great for improving draw speed and target acquisition. There are tons of improvements to be had for the GBB Glocks especially – improved barrels, etc. One great part is that most field strip just like their real steel counterparts.

AIrsoft will always be a part of my training…

19 Tom June 27, 2013 at 11:46 am

Just for the record, “specialty sports stores” are not where you would need to go to find CO2 cartridges.
Here in Canada you can buy them at Canadian Tire, and even Walmart. I’ve heard that in the States Target even carries airsoft guns and the like. It should be pretty easy to find CO2, I would think.

20 Scott June 27, 2013 at 12:07 pm
21 Matej June 27, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Brett… over the years the more I read your site, the more I respect you.
Yes airsoft is getting big over the last years. And yes, most of the worlds armys and swat teams are using airsoft as training, even the infamous russian spetsnaz has airsoft training and competitions. I have been playing airsoft for 5 years now and I had the oppourtunity to play against our local army, armies of neighbour countries, and PMC guys in training. Our local club is currently negotiating with local police to play against them and local swat team on a regular basis.

22 Ty Myrick June 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm

That sounds like a great way to get some firearm practice in while saving some money, but I guess 50 years ago, people had different ideas. My grandfather had a set of encyclopedias from Popular Mechanics or something that included instructions on how to fill you own ammo with short loads and wax pellets. It went on to provide instructions on how to build a target and trap so you could sit in your basement and plunk wax bullets at a target with your regular sidearm. I’ve always wanted to give that a try.

23 Nate June 27, 2013 at 1:13 pm

I would advise that people absolutely check thier local laws regarding airsoft guns and firearms legislation. “You can do it anywhere” isn’t exactly accurate and can get you in loads of trouble. In many cases those kids running around in their yards are actually breaking laws regarding brandishing firearm replicas in public. When I was into airsoft back in the early 2000′s it was a big deal in the NJ community to not be cavalier about using them in public, and to inform the local police about any organized events. So plinking away at cans in your garage with the door open could possibly get you arrested depending on the location.

24 Nate B June 27, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Although it cannot be used in most garages or back yards like the AirSoft, I purchased a conversion kit for my Kimber that quickly swaps it from a 45 to a .22 cal pistol. I am using the same lower and trigger pull, but the slide, barrel and mag are firing a .22 LR. This allows for inexpensive training on the EXACT weapon you may use for home defense or personal protection.

25 John Waldron June 27, 2013 at 2:07 pm

I got into airsoft since the closest range is 20 miles away! Althiough I have several semi auto military weapons, I just don’t have the time anymore to shoot them regularly, due to my job. Have several springers, AEG’s, CO2 and green gas models. My favorites are the MAC-11 CO2 select fire and my two UZI CO2 select fire, both made in Japan. VERY high rate of fire and plenty of fun. You can set up all sorts of targets in your house and as long as you have foam behind the targets , it’s safe and easy to clean up. I use corregated packing foam in a box, FYI….

26 Persaud June 27, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Airsoft, pellet, bb? I have a Co2 powered gun that shoots metal (zinc plated) bb’s…not considered airsoft or pellet right…so gas powered bb?

http://www.pyramydair.com/s/m/Daisy_Powerline_5693_Kit/303

27 Steven P June 27, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Brett dude! Get on that man! I love my guns. I have a maverick 88 (mossberg 500) 12 ga, a ruger SR40 (40 SnW) a glock 17 (9mm) a rossi 971 (taurus 65, .357 magnum) and a mosin nagant (7.62x54r) thats my baby. Just picked up the ruger about two weeks ago, I love that thing.

I might just look into this. Although I dunno how I’m gonna find my revolver in airsoft… that should be fun!

28 Jorge June 27, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Great Article!

Actually I took a Tactical Handgun course a few months back, which was taught with airsoft guns since most of us didn’t have a Gun Permit. Great course, and the airsoft guns felt like the real deal.
Later, I get to shoot in a range, and the difference between the airsoft guns and the 9mm guns in the range was minimal.
After that, I got a spring action Beretta replica to teach my wife and daughter the correct handling of a gun. It’s a very useful tool to have while the Gun Permit is issued, and while our daughter is old enough to handle a real gun.

I love guns, and being Mexican, the next best thing we have are airsofts.

Cheers!

29 Jack June 27, 2013 at 11:47 pm

I applaud you. Great job! As a defensive firearms instructor I have employed airsoft as a training tool for some time.
The one piece of advice I try to pound into my students is the use of dry fire practice. If all of your steps are correct (position, grip, presentation, sight picture, breath control, trigger squeeze and follow through), then 15 minutes of dry fire 3 or 4 times per week will solidify muscle memory without a round ever being fired. In doing so you develop the basic shooting skill without anticipation of recoil and thus develop a flinchless technique that will greatly improve your live fire.
Happy shooting

30 Rachel June 28, 2013 at 10:45 am

Simply owning an Airsoft gun is illegal in some locations (well, one in particular – ’nuff said http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_issues_in_airsoft#United_States ) and using it in any public place may, at best, get you arrested, and at worst, get you shot and possibly killed by law enforcement. Use discretion, practice in a closed environment, and if there’s even a sliver of a chance of being observed by the public, inform the police ahead of time so they do not waste resources on a pointless 911 call.

31 thefulishbastid June 28, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Just an aside, airsoft is good, but nothing says “You need to work on your cover skills” like being plinked with a paintball at 300 fps! That bruise will remind you all week long!

32 Jason Butz June 28, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Another great way to save ammo and practice is with one of these: http://www.laserlyte.com/products/lt-9

I bought one a week ago and within 5 minutes I could tell what my issue was with my aim. If you don’t have a SA/DA gun then you will have to rack the slide after every trigger pull, but it is a great tool.

33 Pooch June 28, 2013 at 10:36 pm

How great to see one of my favorite websites posting an article regarding one of my favorite hobbies. If you’re shopping around for a practice pistol or rifle, the most realistic would be a GBB or GBBR, but the costs of magazines are really quite ridiculous (upwards of $40 for a STANAG). Some good sites to check out if you’re looking for high quality airsoft weapons are: shop.ehobbyasia.com and redwolfairsoft.com. Those two sites are really well respected in the airsofting community, and always have a wider selection of higher quality pieces.

34 Ryan Grimm June 29, 2013 at 6:49 am

ONE CAVEAT:
I would like to warn folks that airsoft pellets might be picked up and eaten by birds, which can fill their crops and they could then starve to death. This has been a problem for some time with seabirds eating floating plastic trash, and pellets can resemble some natural bird foods.

Try to use them where it’s feasible to pick some of the pellets up. I know it’s a chore, but it saves animal lives….
just a heads-up.

Maybe make degradeable pellets?

35 simon June 29, 2013 at 12:02 pm

also Ive been in to airsoft for a while you can buy a co2 gun which runs on 12 gram co2 cartridges or 88 gram also if your a shotgun guy check this out

http://www.airgundepot.com/walther-sg9000-co2-multi-shot-airsoft-shotgun.html

36 Alex June 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Don’t tout Airsoft as something that is commonly used as a training aid by the military. It requires a lot of technical knowledge to maintain them, and they are not nearly durable enough to be used in most training environments. The fact that it also requires an honor system is just plain laughable.

We use MILES or Simunitions if we need to shoot at each other. Maybe for POG units like a nasty-girl airwing unit, they can afford them for the one time a year they train.

37 Pooch June 29, 2013 at 7:17 pm

In response to Mr. Grimm:
Many companies already make biodegradable pellets that are very high quality. They do cost a bit more, and once opened, should be used rather quickly, because they can deform quite quickly, ruining the inner workings of your gun. A great brand to look at for bio BB’s is Bioval, but they can be difficult to locate.

38 ddcc July 1, 2013 at 9:25 am

Please double check with your local ordinances. I actually live in a county that bans the sales and possession of air soft guns, so purchasing and owning one is not allowed no matter how much I would want to.

39 fuchikoma July 2, 2013 at 2:41 pm

I’d never heard of using propane before… I looked into airsoft about a decade ago and most GBB guns used HFC-134A, or lubricated mixes thereof.

40 Doug July 2, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Great write up! For another outstanding training tool check out the SIRT pistols (www.nextleveltraining.com).
The pros are the weight and the trigger are exact to a real firearm (even the magazines are weighed to feel loaded) and the laser shows you exactly where you are hitting, you can even set it to see if you are taking up slack on the trigger when you shouldn’t. Also no need to recock between trigger pulls like with dry fire.
The down side is they cost more than many airsoft guns and their is no option for blow back and the gun choices are limited but expanding from what I hear.
So like Airsoft they don’t replace real range time 1 for 1 but it is a great tool to practice your draw and trigger pull thousands of times for free (well other than the initial purchase) while seeing if you are actually aiming where you think you are which is huge! Remember practicing something WRONG a 1,000 times is a great way to make it stick!

41 James July 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm

My Victorian Camden Town drains mean I live in a rat-infested “Withnail and I” nightmare. The little buggers get wise to traps, and I don’t like leaving poison all over the place. Scuttling noises in the walls I can cope with, but when a rat ran between my feet while I was watching tv, I got an airsoft M4 with a red-dot site, and turned a problem into an indoor moving-target range. Metal bb’s would destroy everything I own, but plastic ones are enough to really spoil their day without making little round holes in everything. To a rat, it must be like getting hit with a golfball (or loads, at 15 rounds per second) and it’s lethal for mice.
Works great for spiders too.

42 KierO July 9, 2013 at 8:53 am

Having been an Airsofter for over 8 years now it was nice to see an article about it here on AoM.

Here in the UK we have very strict gun regs and therefore it almost impossible for civilians to ever use a firearm. But airsoft is a great replacement. I have played along side serving UK forces (during their downtime of course), played at UK MOD sites and am a member of a long established and well known team.

One particular aspect of Airsoft I now enjoy is “Milsim” or Military Simulation, which is where we play with a great deal of realism built into the games (outdoor survival, long “tabbing” and realistic combat and tactics).

Anyone who likes guns would love Airsoft, mark my words.

43 Kevin July 9, 2013 at 9:24 am

I commend the writer for learning to use firearms. I do however have to your training and thought process is wrong. Airsoft is a great valuable tool, one that you pointed out is being used by the military and police in training yet however you are missing why. Its movement of a squad/platoon in combat situations. This does nothing when it comes to firearms training for personal defense. While you can learn not to sweep green on green, breach movements, and even how to raise your weapon in those situations but that will be it.

My 2 cents on how to become better with your firearms is very simple. First off choose something other than a SW MP pistol (which I am assuming is 9mm) and move into something like a 1911. Yes the 45 will be a lot for you to handle at first but you can also get swappable barrels and convert it to a .22 for target practice. Learn to breath control, drawing from holster, distance, double taps etc…. These will teach you the basics better than any airsoft weapon can because its actually firing something other than a bb. Next swap back out to the 40 or 45 barrel and start again with what you did on the 22.

If you are considering concealed carry you will also want to step up the training to low light firing, drawing from under close (IWB is IMO the best way to carry concealed), confined conditions requiring shooting from the hip not to mention anything else that can happen.

As for listening to every Tom, Dick and Harry on the range (yes I can even fall into this class) just remember most of the people on the range are not proficient with their own weapon. I have seen people talk the biggest talk to only draw on FAL on a target 25 yards away and not even hit it once.

As for my background I am former US Army, PMC Contractor with a company on the East coast and have carried concealed for over a decade.

44 OttO July 10, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Back then, I use airsoft AEG in my back lawn typically for plinking…

However, after having seen Magpul’s Art of the Tactical Carbine, I wanted to do practice runs and scenarios from this show on myself WITHOUT the excessive noise and the expenditure of precious, already scarce, ammo.

Although you really can’t imitate the recoil of 5.56mm ballistics — not even the gas blowback rifles can come close — you still have a chance to really practice the actual handling of your rifle (i.e. thumb, hand, wrist, shoulder, and arm positions).

My favorite part of this training is just how fast I can position my rifle to my target, pull the trigger, and hit a 2-inch size square printed on a paper at a distance of 30 feet. Quick draw and quick precise aim is key to my training, that’s all. I even tried to simulate shooting low down on the ground and shooting effectively behind cover — all with an AIRSOFT AEG!!!

Put it simply, imitate EVERYTHING “The Beard” has taught you except that you’re using an airsoft AEG… After the days of class with him was over, the only way to practice again (making sure you keep what you have learned) had to be “practical” and within easy access. Airsoft made that possible for me to do.

Oh, and thanks to the rail system, any accessory that comes with the real rifle can be transferred to the AEG as easy as 1-2-3. Aimpoints, EOTechs, Surefires, Magpul PTS and/or MOEs, etc… all welcome.

45 Jason July 13, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Good article. Remember, dryfire training is free and easy to do everyday, just a few minutes is all you need.

46 Jackson July 15, 2013 at 5:48 am

Put an apex combat trigger in that M&P of yours and find a quality kydex holster. You’ll thank me later

47 Robert July 15, 2013 at 1:18 pm

You would be amazed at how much people will spend for realism in airsoft. One of the best places to look is American MilSim.

48 Daniel July 25, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Great article; many people underestimate the benefits you get from getting used to handling an airsoft gun and consider it a toy or a juvenile activity, but these article really points out some great things about the tactical use of airsoft guns.

49 Michael July 30, 2013 at 1:25 am

I have an airsoft gun that is a Beretta M92 replica. My dad and I thought about teaching my younger sister how to use a gun incase she was home alone. I had the idea of teaching her with my airsoft gun. She jammed it up by pulling the slide back twice. Carefully I pried it apart and got the pellets out. It was a good thing it was only an airsoft gun.

50 Michael H August 11, 2013 at 1:04 am

I have had a spring bolt action for many years now and it appears to be seeing the end of its days. Now I have an airsoft B.A.R. and it is quite a beauty, fires excellent as well. Goes great with my WWII marine gear. I haven’t gone to my local paintball/airsoft place yet but I plan to.

51 Ian ST John August 13, 2013 at 7:48 pm

The Brits introduced scenario based firearms training in the 1970′s. Force on Force is in fact useful to civilians. Peyton Quinn (no affiliation) has been teaching scenario based, armed self defense for the last 25 years. Its value is that it lets you experience the brain fog on an adrenalized state, so you can fight through an actual experience. You will learn to appreciate the value of point shooting with a high capacity double action handgun. Most SD ammo meets the FBI’s post Miami requirements. There is no appreciable difference between .45acp and 9mm in terms of terminal ballistics. Check out the FBI’s training movie “Fire fight” for salient facts about fighting through injury, getting lost in the gun, loss of communication, losing track of a threats position.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pE4XI1dNWk

Ian ST John

52 David August 16, 2013 at 11:49 am

For anyone interested here’s some good advise on setting up your at home airsoft range

http://www.chuckhawks.com/alternative_practice.htm

53 Reece Monroe August 26, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Good write up for the most part but Iv’e been playing airsoft for years and you can spend FAR more than $80 on a spring gun, try $800 yes $800.

54 Nick September 1, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Just wanted to add my two cents. I keep finding myself returning to this article whenever I research alternative guns. If you want to improve your technique at a low cost try switching your guns up too. Try pellet guns or bb guns as well. You’ll soon discover the quirks of each gun, how they behave. When you go to an actual shooting range with your favorite handgun, by being exposed to the variations of other guns, will be able to utilize the limited ammo, and correct yourself more easily when shooting. Great article and great points! Lock n load!

55 Don Gilbreath September 22, 2013 at 9:51 am

This article is spot on and why we support the airsoft market with wireless targets and applications for the various ways guns are shot: sport, military, law enforcement and combat entertainment. Self-serving plug but scoring of your shooting is helpful and fun when you train with airsoft. http://shootmyash.com

56 John G October 9, 2013 at 4:30 am

Don’t even buy an airsoft gun from Walmart, get yourself a GBB (Gas Blowback) from KWA. These Professional Training Rifles are built exactly like a real AR-15 even down to the internals, the only difference is the plastic bolt and a different firing pin + barrel. When I finally got to shoot a real AR-15, the owner was shocked on my knowledge.
http://www.kwausa.com/ptr/kwa-lm4-ptr

57 chis October 10, 2013 at 2:40 am

can anyone tell me if there is perhaps a kit or something to convert the Taurus PT99AF from nickel plated steel bbs to plastic 6mm bbs?

58 Joe October 29, 2013 at 6:28 pm

If you’re looking for a good sniper rifle look no further than the Type 96 Shadow Ops by UTG. This spring powered rifle is built to last with mostly metal and carries impressive specs. It shoots at an impressive 480 FPS and can carry 23 rounds in the magazine. It’s a little heavy at close to 9 lbs but it’s not like you’re going to be running around with it much as a sniper. With sniper rifles I find the extra weight adds stability and therefore accuracy.

59 Fahia M December 21, 2013 at 3:13 pm

I like that this article highlights all the points of the benefits the airsoft industry has. I find that the ability to train without the danger factor is crucial for developing skill sets in a safe environment and this is offered through airsoft guns. Good read, I agree with a lot of it.

60 Toshi January 11, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Couldn’t agree more. Airsoft arms are infact a great way of learning. So If you are up for some extreme action, you better train yourself with these props first.

61 Matt February 20, 2014 at 12:52 am

You really ought to be able to find cheaper prices for the Green Gas if you look around the online retailers. The big draw with airsoft I find is for new shooters who are afraid of firing a realweapon. It gives them a low recoil experience to get started with and is also very useful to help teach grip and aim.

62 Andrew February 25, 2014 at 10:26 am

Really solid article. No better way of learning how to handle a gun than Airsoft. Cheap, safe and fun.

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