What Are Airsoft Guns? A Guide to Airsoft Play and Gear

Airsoft guns are replica firearms used for recreational airsoft games and training. They are designed to shoot small plastic or biodegradable pellets known as “BBs” using compressed gas, battery-powered electric motors, or spring pressure. Airsoft guns provide a safe and realistic simulation of real firearms for sport and enjoyment.

A Brief History of Airsoft Guns

The origins of airsoft guns trace back to 1970s Japan. Due to strict gun control laws, firearm enthusiasts looked for alternatives to enjoy their hobby. Companies like Tokyo Marui began producing replica guns that shot plastic pellets, which were adopted for use in war simulation games.

The airsoft guns grew rapidly in popularity in Japan during the 1980s and 1990s. Enthusiasts formed teams and competed in organized matches. The guns spread overseas and by the 2000s, airsoft had grown into a worldwide phenomenon with millions of followers. Leagues and tournaments are now held globally, with professional teams and sponsored players.

How Do Airsoft Guns Work?

While resembling real firearms, airsoft guns work quite differently. There are three main types of power sources for airsoft guns:

Spring Powered: The oldest and simplest airsoft guns utilize spring pressure by cocking a lever or slide. When fired, the spring pushes a piston to compress air and shoot the BB pellet. Spring guns are inexpensive but weaker in power and range.

Electric Powered: Electric airsoft guns use a battery-powered motor and gears to compress air and fire BBs. This makes them automatic or semi-automatic for faster shooting. Electric guns provide stronger power and better precision.

Gas Powered: Gas airsoft guns use compressed air, carbon dioxide, or propane canisters to pneumatically propel BBs. Gas guns provide the most power and realistic action, mimicking real recoil. Green gas is the most common for pistols while propane or CO2 are used in rifles.

The power source determines the velocity at which BBs are fired, typically from 200 to 500 feet per second for electricity and 300 to 600 FPS for gas. Higher velocities provide a longer range but may be too high an impact for close games. Speed can be adjusted based on field regulations.

Airsoft Gun Types

Airsoft guns come in many varieties mimicking real steel firearms. Common types include:

  • Pistols: Single-handed airsoft guns, usually spring or gas-powered. Popular models include 1911, Glock, Beretta, and Desert Eagle designs.
  • Submachine Guns: Compact automatic electric guns like Uzis and MP5s for close quarters. High rate of fire.
  • Rifles: Shoulder-fired automatic electric guns modeled after AR15s, AK47s, and M4s. Main airsoft primary weapon with range and accuracy.
  • Sniper Rifles: Highly accurate and powerful guns for long-range shooting, often gas or spring-powered. Based on rifles like the Remington 700.
  • Shotguns: Electric, gas, or spring-powered models with wide-spread BBs for close-range encounters.

Other specialty guns include machine guns, grenade launchers, and riot shields for specific game modes and scenarios.

Airsoft Gun Power and Safety

Airsoft guns shoot at lower velocities than real firearms but still require safety measures. Players wear thick clothing, helmets with goggles, and gloves to protect from hits that can leave welts and bruises at close range. Full face protection is recommended.

Most airsoft fields limit guns to 350-400 FPS or below for safety. Guns are choreographed to measure BB speed. Lower-power springs or electric guns can be used for indoor play or restricted fields. Proper eye protection is mandatory.

While airsoft BBs rarely cause severe harm, safety rules still apply. Players should treat guns as if loaded, never point at anyone, keep fingers off triggers until ready to fire and call hits when tagged. Special training guns with less power may be used for practice drills.

How to Play Airsoft Games?

Airsoft games take place on open outdoor fields or in indoor arenas with obstacles, bunkers, buildings, and cover. Games have varied team sizes from small squads up to 30 vs 30 for “MilSim” simulations. Common game formats include:

  • Team Deathmatch: Teams try to eliminate each other. Most hits count as outs. The team with the last player standing wins.
  • Capture the Flag: Teams defend a flag and try to capture the enemy flag, similar to paintball.
  • Objective Games: Teams complete objectives like defending a base, rescuing hostages, and disarming bombs. Adds roleplaying elements.
  • Battle Royale: Free for all last-man-standing matches.

Game lengths vary from 10 minutes for short speed rounds to multi-hour scenarios with planned storylines and events. Organized games feature referees, medic units, and simulated pyrotechnics.

Casual “pick-up” games are also common for small groups of players to enjoy quick matches. Airsoft appeals to players of all ages looking for action-packed outdoor recreation.

Getting Started with Airsoft Guns and Gear

For beginners looking to try airsoft, basic starter equipment includes:

  • Airsoft gun: AEG (automatic electric gun) rifles start at $100-$200 for entry models. Good starter guns include M4s and AK47s. Rentals may also be available at the fields.
  • Face protection: Masks or goggles to protect eyes, mouth, and ears ($30+). Lower mesh masks add teeth protection.
  • Clothing: Wear thick clothing like jeans, long sleeves, and gloves to protect from hits. Tactical gear adds realism.
  • Batteries & ammo: Extra batteries and BBs (at least 2000) for gas or electric guns. High-quality BBs are recommended.
  • Chest rig: To carry extra magazines and gear ($30-80).

Local airsoft fields often have starter sets or packages that come with everything needed to play including rental guns, ammo, and full face protection. This allows new players to try the sport without large upfront costs.

As you get into airsoft more, players upgrade to higher quality replica guns and tactical equipment to match real military and law enforcement kits. This enhances realism and performance for immersive gameplay.

Building and Upgrading Airsoft Guns

One of the appeals of airsoft is customizing guns with various upgrades and accessories. Internal parts like gears, motors, pistons, hop-ups, and barrels can be swapped to increase power, range, accuracy, and rate of fire. External additions like scopes, sights, lights, lasers, grips, and stocks improve aesthetics and ergonomics.

Upgrading the internals provides the biggest performance boosts. Good upgrades for stock airsoft guns include:

  • High torque motor for increased rate of fire
  • Precision inner barrel for range and consistency
  • Hop up bucking for better spin and accuracy
  • Improved compression parts (piston, cylinder, nozzle) for power
  • Higher voltage battery and MOSFET for electronics management

Externally, accessories like red dot sights, flashlights, lasers, and front grips enhance usability. Spray painting custom camo or adding metal body kits can completely transform factory guns.

For the experienced techie, completely custom guns can be built from the ground up, choosing each internal component for optimized airsoft dominance.

Airsoft Provides Exciting Combat Action

Airsoft is an exciting hobby that allows civilians to safely experience highly realistic combat action and simulations. The guns bring military enthusiasm to life in games ranging from close-quarters indoor matchups to massive outdoor battles on wooded fields and abandoned towns.

With continuing innovations in electric and gas-powered guns, airsoft will keep improving in realism and performance. As competitive tournaments and organized games grow worldwide, airsoft promises to maintain its popularity as a challenging recreational activity and sport for all ages.


Airsoft guns provide a fun and realistic way to enjoy simulated combat situations in organized games or casual play. The variety of pistols, rifles, and gear allows players to recreate military and law enforcement scenarios. With proper safety precautions, airsoft delivers an adrenaline-filled outdoor recreational experience through skill-based competition and teamwork. Continued improvements in technology ensure airsoft will keep growing as a sport and attract new enthusiasts.

About Author

Leave a Comment