Airsoft is a modern combat sport or recreational hobby in which participants eliminate opponents by hitting each other with spherical non-metallic pellets launched from an ASG or (Airsoft Gun) powered by gas, manual spring-load, or an electrically-powered gearbox.
Airsoft participants organize meetings, either indoors or outdoors, at a dedicated airsoft battlefield to play a variety of games ranging from short-term skirmishes, organized scenarios, military simulations, or historical re-enactments.
Combat situations on the battlefield often involve the use of common military tactics to achieve the objectives set in each game.
Airsoft has its roots in late-1950s East Asia, specifically Japan where firearms were difficult or impossible to obtain due to local laws; sought a legal alternative for enjoying their passion. Airsoft is still today most popular in several Asian regions, such as Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, and to a certain extent, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The vast majority of airsoft guns, accessories, and after market upgrade parts are also manufactured in these countries.
There is also a growing interest in North America and Europe, especially in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Spain, Poland, Lithuania, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Italy, Belgium (which is also visited by Dutch players, as the game is illegal in the Netherlands), and Denmark.
Methods of play
“Skirmishing” is the most common form of play. Players may use methods and equipment that may differ from a realistic battle (Hi-capacity magazines for example). Most players in this group dress in BDUs and have guns ranging for $50 to $2000 in price. These battles can take place anywhere from an abandoned building, an area of woods, to a farm.
MilSim, short for Military Simulation, generally combines airsoft play with some military live-action role-playing elements. Several goals or missions are assigned to each team, along with a basic load-out of ammunition (6 millimeter pellets), rations, batteries, and other suitable equipment, such as short-range radios and head-sets. Sometimes such equipment is provided whilst other times players may bring them at their own discretion.
The ‘honor system’ is employed whereby the players rely on each others’ honesty to admit to being hit, because unlike paintballs plastic pellets do not leave a surface mark distinguishable at a distance. While airsoft pellets that contain paint do exist, they are very rarely used by serious players due to their ineffectiveness, and tendency to damage some airsoft equipment.
Depending on the muzzle velocity of the airsoft and distance from which a person is shooting, the person on the receiving end of the shot will usually feel the impact, but the pellets may sometimes not be felt by a player at very long ranges, when distracted, or when running strenuously, hence the importance of marshals or referees. Honest admission of hits is still required because no one can monitor what happens to every player on the playing field.
To avoid unnecessary disputes that disrupt the game, players are discouraged from calling out hits on their opponent but are expected to signal a marshal to judge how effectively they can hit their opponents. Simulated ‘knife kills’ can, at the venue’s discretion, be performed when a player touches or taps an unaware opponent. This prevents the player being forced to shoot him or her at point-blank range. Similarly a ‘courtesy kill’ occurs when a player refrains from shooting an opponent at close range while enforcing that opponent’s surrender. Players are prohibited from firing blindly when not able to see their target, especially around corners. Players are expected to avoid the shooting of an opponent who has already admitted to being hit. Harsh language and forceful physical contact between players is strongly discouraged and even penalized. Players are expected to resolve disputes politely and with proper decorum.
All airsoft players are required and expected to acknowledge being hit even if they are in doubt. Those who acknowledge being hit are generally expected to do the following: (1) Shout “I’m hit” loudly; (2) Raise their hand or gun high and/or display a ‘hit indicator’ while walking back to the safe zone. A hit indicator can be either a bright-colored cloth during daytime or a blinker or mini-flashlight when in dim light or darkness. Dishonest players who fail to follow the rules or acknowledge their hits run the risk of being labelled and ostracized by the local airsoft community. They will from then on be observed more carefully by the marshals or possibly be even banned from playing in the area.
Another form of cheating occurs when an active player gains an unfair advantage by pretending to be an already-hit player in order to avoid being shot. During night games, active players have been known to turn on their blinker lights to move casually and then to turn them off for combat. Cheating also takes place when an eliminated player re-activates himself within the same game without permission from a marshal. Some players can also gain an unfair advantage by spontaneously joining a game (without authorization) some time long after the game had already started, therefore being in fresh condition and in a position to surprise their opponents.
Due to the nature of the honor system many feel airsoft requires high moral values and honesty to play well without the need for distinguishing hit marks or strict marshal’s calls.
While airsoft guns are safe some of the safety precautions that anyone who is handling or shooting an airsoft rifle followed are: to wear protective lenses or goggles, to keep their finger off the trigger until ready to fire, and to only point the gun in a safe direction. Shooters are advised to never point their weapons at animals, nor at unprotected or non-playing people. There are more safety precautions that are included in the user manuals for airsoft weaponry. The power source of the airsoft gun, be it gas, a manual cocking spring, or an electric motor does not affect how safe or unsafe the gun is
The majority of airsoft guns are operated by an electric motor and powered by a battery. While usually safe when unmodified, any work done to the electrical system can pose an inexperienced airsoft player a shock or fire hazard. This is normally only an issue when the airsoft gun is used with a power source it is not rated for, such as a low end electric gun using a battery with a voltage that is higher than what is recommended.
A close-range (5 ft) shot from an airsoft BB on bare skin from a gun with a velocity over 300 ft/s (91 m/s) can break the skin and cause minor bleeding. If playing with a t-shirt or thin clothing it may possibly make a small bruise. A shot two feet or closer to the eye area can cause serious injury and possible blindness. For this reason eye protection is mandatory for ALL players.
As a rule of thumb energy levels should be fairly below 350 feet per second (110 m/s) or approximately 107 meters per second. While it hurts for a few seconds up close, it only stings for a second from long range on the flesh.
Eye and Face Protection
A standard of safety guidelines and equipment has evolved in the airsoft community to protect the eyes and face. The minimum safe level of gear required to participate in most games includes a pair of fully-sealing impact-rated goggles to protect the eyes of the participants. Traditional prescription glasses and sunglasses are almost never accepted as they will not prevent serious injury. Goggles not designed specifically for use with airsoft or paintball guns may break or shatter upon being struck, causing eye damage.
For this reason many organized groups of airsoft players and fields require that eye protection fully seals the area around the eyes, and also meets or exceeds ANSI’s Z87.1-2003 goggle standard for eye protection: the ability to resist 3 joules of impact energy without damage. Some players instead opt for paintball goggles, which are held to higher impact rating standards, ASTM’s F1776.
According to ANSI publications as of June 2006, The ASTM is currently developing a more specific standard for airsoft – ASTM Z1535Z – Standard Specification for Eye Protective Devices for Airsoft Sports.
The best overall protection is currently offered by paintball masks. However when using a scope you might have to wear safety glasses. These masks provide an additional level of protection by covering the face, teeth, and ears, greatly reducing the risk of injury to these body parts and the chipping of teeth. The lens is a solid piece of impact resistant plastic. Some airsoft masks are made with mesh screens, though these screens do not offer protection from cheaper or bio-degradable BBs that sometimes fragment upon impact on hard objects.
Unprotected Players or Bystanders
A player and any observer near an airsoft game site is required to keep their face mask, goggles, or shooting glasses on at all times. This is a standard safety requirement upon an airsoft site and this rule is always enforced by the marshal in charge to ensure that all players and observers remain safe and no accidents occur during the gameplay.
All players must immediately stop shooting when a person without eye protection is encountered in the playing area. One commonly adopted practice is for players to shout the words “Cease-fire, Blind Man!,” “Heads up, Pedestrian!,” “Noncombatant!,” “Clear man!,” “Walker!,” “Civilian!” or “Unarmed personnel!” and halt an ongoing game if a player or bystander is seen in the designated game play area without proper eye protection: goggles and a helmet. Any player hearing the words must, in turn, stop and also shout the words, resulting in a chain reaction which halts and alerts the whole game. Once the situation is resolved by properly removing the unprotected person from harm, the game is usually resumed at the same point at which it was stopped. It may be smart to move to a different area after a safety call so you don’t give away your location.
Community safety precautions
Some other rules such as a maximum BB velocity and distance guidelines are used in different ways by groups depending on their location. Various locations often offer similar safety rules with slight variations. In order to encourage the mixing of segmented communities into a larger community that can more easily engage each other, certain organizations have created safety rules and guidelines for players to share the field under common understanding and to band together in safe environments.
When not actively playing, some fields require “barrel bags,” also known as barrel condoms, which were first introduced in paintball. Many airsoft guns, especially AEGs, come with small red plastic barrel blockers that fit over the muzzle. The magazine is usually removed as well, and the gun fired to clear the chamber. Many fields also require players to leave their guns set to the safety position when they are not shooting, even during active game play. This is a practice taken from real firearms training, in which one never puts a finger on the trigger or takes the weapon off safe until ready to fire.