What Is Airsoft And What Equipment Do You Need?

what is airsoft

What is airsoft, and how do you play? Socom Tactical dives into the gunsm equipment and regulations surrounding airsoft so you can enjoy playing airsoft safely.

Airsoft is a popular sport in which participants eliminate opponents by hitting each other with spherical non-metallic pellets launched from replica firearms called airsoft guns.

Since airsoft pellets do not mark their target and hits are not always visibly apparent, airsoft relies on an honour system in which it is the duty of the person who has been hit to call themselves out regardless of whether or not anyone saw it happen.

Gameplay varies in style and composition but often range from short-term skirmishes, organized scenarios, C.Q.B., field, military simulations (MilSim), or historical reenactments.

They are played in some indoor courses, and outdoor (fields).

Combat situations on the battlefield may involve the use of military tactics to achieve objectives set in each game. Participants may attempt to emulate the tactical equipment and accessories used by modern military and police organizations.   

History Of Airsoft

Airsoft originates from Japanese airsoft guns that spread to the UK in the late 1980s and early 1990s with a company called LS.

These guns were sold in pieces and had to be assembled before they were capable of firing pellets, and what followed was equipment designed to closely emulate real guns.

Since the mid-1980s, these guns have been adapted with a purely recreational application in mind, and the sport is enjoyed by all ages. Airsoft replicas are produced globally, with the majority being manufactured in Asia.

Did you know that many law enforcement agencies in the US use Airsoft for force-on-force training drills!

airsoft history
What Is Airsoft And What Equipment Do You Need?

Airsoft Safety

Many airsoft manufacturers and retailers suggest to treat an airsoft gun like a real gun at all times to help alleviate safety issues resulting in a misfire to an unknowing target or an airsoft gun being mistaken for a real firearm.

Most airsoft manufacturers include an orange tip on the barrel of the airsoft gun for safety purposes and this should not be removed to help distinguish them from a real firearm.

The ‘orange tip’ serves many purposes, one of them being for law enforcement to help discern airsoft guns from real firearms.

The minimum safe level of gear required to participate in most games includes a pair of ballistic eye wear ANSI Z87.1 (impact-rated) goggles to protect participants’ eyes.

Traditional prescription glasses and sunglasses, or goggles not designed specifically for use with airsoft or paintball marker, may break or shatter upon being struck, causing injury to the eye.

Airsoft guns are not to be confused with BB guns, which fire metal BBs and are not safe to fire at a person even with protective goggles.

Community Airsoft Safety Guidelines

Rules such as a maximum muzzle velocity and engagement distance guidelines are used by different groups.

Some organizations have created common airsoft safety rules and guidelines.

When not actively playing, some fields require “barrel bags”, also known as barrel socks, barrel blockers, or barrel sleeves, to be placed over the muzzle of the gun.

The magazine is usually removed as well, and the gun fired to clear the chamber.

Most fields also require players to leave their guns set to the safety position when they are not shooting, a practice common when using real firearms.

In certain countries, such as the Philippines, additional special rules have been adopted.

Airsoft Legal Regulations

Airsoft is legal in most parts of the world, although some countries have specific restrictions, such as maximum muzzle velocity and “unrealistic” colouring to distinguish them from actual firearms.

An airsoft gun is legal throughout the United States, but restrictions do exist in certain cities such as Chicago, Illinois and Detroit, Michigan.

The states of New Mexico, New Jersey and Michigan, however, do not allow airsoft guns to be used or handled publicly because of the resemblance to real firearms, but they may be used on private property with the consent of the owner.

The Customs and Border Protection FAQ page states that airsoft guns are considered look-alike firearms which require the special blaze orange marking.

In October 2013, a 13-year-old boy carrying an Airsoft replica assault rifle was shot and killed by deputies in Santa Rosa, California. In the Republic of Ireland, airsoft guns are classified as Realistic Imitation Firearms but not restricted as much as in the United Kingdom. Under the Criminal Justice Act of 2006, guns for playing airsoft are legal in the Republic.

buying and selling airsoft guns
What Is Airsoft And What Equipment Do You Need?

Buying & Selling Airsoft Guns

You can buy, sell and import guns for airsoft without notifying relevant law enforcement authorities.

They do not need to be painted in fluorescent colours, nor do they need to have an orange tip, but they cannot launch the projectile with kinetic energy exceeding 1 joule.

However, carrying an imitation firearm in public is prohibited, and a gun carry case is required, as for real firearms.

Airsoft shops are spread over the country, and buyers must be aged 16 or over to purchase an airsoft gun. There is no age limit on Airsoft, as long as a minor has an adult’s permission. In the United Kingdom, some guns for playing airsoft are classified as realistic imitation firearms or RIFs.

The sale, manufacture, or importation of these is restricted to activities that are exempted or have been granted a defence by the Home Office under the Violent Crime Reduction Act (VCRA) of 2006.

Airsoft skirmishing has been granted a specific defence against the requirements of the act, and a skirmisher as defined under British law is allowed to sell, import and manufacture airsoft replicas, and convert them into RIFs.

Airsoft skirmishing
What Is Airsoft And What Equipment Do You Need?

Purchase from other vendors is not illegal, but the sale is – the crime is committed by the vendor. All are still, however, crimes under British law that can be defended successfully (in theory – this has never been tried to date) by fulfilling criteria suggested in the guidelines accompanying the VCRA.

The most accepted method of proving entitlement to the defence is to be a member of a site that holds public liability insurance. An association set up by UK retailers, called the United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association (UKARA), in line with the Home Office documentation accompanying the VCRA, recommends that an airsoft site only give membership to a player who has played at least three games over a period of no less than two months.

It is also possible for a member of an insured reenactment society or the film or television industry to purchase an Airsoft replica (this is a full exemption from, and not a defence against, the VCRA).

The right to buy a RIF (or IF) is still reserved for individuals age 18 and over. Many retailers are part of the UKARA scheme and will only sell to players who are registered to a skirmish site that fulfils the desired requirements for the VCRA Defense.

Retailers must renew their membership annually.

What Is Airsoft And What Equipment Do You Need?

Registered Airsoft Players

The Association has a database of registered players from approved airsoft sites that is updated on a regular basis by the sites themselves. Retailers who are members of UKARA have access to the database and can check for proof of eligibility for purchasing access to the player’s site membership number before selling any RIFs to private individuals.

Other schemes have been attempted to allow Airsoft players to comply with the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2007, but none have been successfully implemented.

The use or possession of any kind of replica weapon—loaded or otherwise—in a public place without a valid reason is an offence under UK law and can carry heavy penalties.

As an alternative to RIFs, IFs (Imitation Firearms, including ‘two tones’) are available. These are RIFs which have been painted a bright colour (excluding white/silver/gold) over 51% of the item. No specific defence is required for purchase of IFs.

They cannot be bought by those under the age of 18, and offer an entry to those unable to claim a defence under the VCRA.

In Canada, there are laws pertaining to airsoft importing. All airsoft guns that are bought in Canada are legal, but when importing it, the gun has to have between 366FPS and 500FPS to pass inspection at customs, otherwise, the gun will be shipped back or destroyed.

Registered Airsoft Players
What Is Airsoft And What Equipment Do You Need?

Why Are Airsoft Guns Orange Tipped?

Although these guns in the United States are generally sold with a 6mm (0.24in.) or longer orange tip on the barrel in order to distinguish them from real firearms, this is not in fact required by federal law.

Manufacturers and importers may cite Title 15 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which stipulates that “no person shall manufacture, enter into commerce, ship, transport, or receive any toy, look-alike, or imitation firearm” without approved markings; these may include an orange tip, orange barrel plug, brightly coloured exterior of the whole toy, or transparent construction (part 272.2, formerly part 1150.2).

However, section 272.1 (formerly 1150.1) clearly indicates that these restrictions shall not apply to “traditional B-B, paint-ball, or pellet-firing air guns that expel a projectile through the force of compressed air, compressed gas or mechanical spring action, or any combination thereof.”

This language clearly exempts these guns from these requirements, placing them in the same category as bb-guns, pellet, air, and paintball, none of which are conventionally sold or used with an orange tip, and many of which bear as much resemblance to real firearms as airsoft guns do.

Another difficulty the airsoft-playing community has with a legal or mandatory requirement for any orange-tipped or bright-coloured paint on all airsoft guns is that lawless elements could deliberately paint real guns to have orange-tips or make them look like guns for airsoft and thus cause more harm or alarm for the public.

Airsoft in the military
What Is Airsoft And What Equipment Do You Need?

Airsoft In The Military

Airsoft technology is used in military and law enforcement training.

Due to airsoft’s realism, relatively safe projectiles, and economical ammunition, it is well-suited to war games and scenarios to train troops.

Multiple airsoft inventions were developed originally for military and law enforcement use. Marking rounds were invented by Kerry T. Bowden to allow trainees to see where each projectile landed.

Much like paintball and Simunitions, these marking round BB’s would break upon impact, marking the target with luminescent liquid.

Unlike traditional plastic BB’s, marking rounds are heavier to ensure breakage the of the shell on impact. The weight can be adjusted by adding heavier liquid.

Marking rounds are critical for trainees because they allow the shooter to see exactly where they hit the target.

This allows them to extrapolate their mistakes and improve their aim. Reusable grenades were improved by Scott Frank to emulate the fragmentation of a real grenade in war games and scenarios.

The grenade can be loaded with paint or BB’s. It uses a quick release of highly pressurized gas to break the shell and quickly disperse BB’s or paint in all directions.

Frank’s grenade, although not the first, aimed to be as realistic and predictable as an actual grenade. He developed a more accurate timing mechanism and secondary safety mechanisms to prevent accidental discharge.

Both marking rounds and reusable grenades gave airsoft the edge it needed to enter into military and law enforcement training grounds.

Airsoft Guns For Military Training
What Is Airsoft And What Equipment Do You Need?

Airsoft Guns For Military Training

The airsoft guns used for training differ from civilian models.

Guns manufactured for professional training are made to replicate the weight, feel and sound of its real steel counterpart.

In general, professional training guns are GBB models and enhanced with a weighted blowback mechanism to increase the force of the kick. Although some are AEG’s and are built with a blowback mechanism.

They are also outfitted with muzzle protectors that amplify the sound to a decibel level comparable to that of a real firearm.

The average FPS for professional training guns is higher than civilian models. Economically, airsoft is cheaper than Simunition training.

Maj. Benjamin Kratz, Fort Jackson’s battalion executive officer, said that one blank M16 round can cost as much as 32 airsoft rounds. And with decreasing military and law enforcement budgets, airsoft adds a number of necessary practice hours.

Airsoft Guns

The many airsoft guns used in airsoft are typically imitation firearms with a mechanism for shooting projectiles 6 mm or 8 mm in diameter.

Airsoft guns are classified according to their operating principle, which can be spring-loaded, electric (battery-powered Automatic Electric Guns, Airsoft Electric Guns or “AEGs”), or gas-powered (if these have a blowback feature they are known as “GBBs”).

Some companies produce full replicas of counterpart grenade launchers which fire a projectile spray of 6mm pellets by use of a high-powered spring mechanism or a compressed gas propellant (i.e. green gas, propane, compressed air, or CO2).

There is also a type of airsoft gun known as a “PolarStar” or P* for short. They are powered by a single (HPA) high-pressure air tank and a battery pack to power the internal FCU “Fire Control Unit” computer board.

These guns are often known for their high and adjustable ROF or “rate of fire” and durability.

New Airsoft Guns

Newer guns, especially those made in Taiwan and China, have metal internal and external parts.

Japan has specific rules about producing airsoft guns with metal parts. A typical airsoft gun is noticeably lighter than its “real steel” counterpart due to the use of aluminium, alloy, and plastic, though some have weights in them for a more realistic feel.

Smoke caps, as well as noise amplifiers, are available for certain models of these guns to add realism.

Gas handgun magazines usually contain 10 to 30 pellets in a standard capacity magazine; however, some are high capacity magazines and can hold 50 rounds or more.

AEG Rifles

In the case of AEG rifles, magazines come in either real-capacity (equivalent to the capacity of its real steel counterpart), low-capacity (10-50 rounds), mid-capacity (75-160 rounds), or high-capacity (190+ rounds).

These magazines are spring-loaded. The high-cap magazines often have a ratchet wheel that can be wound up periodically to force pellets up from the holding chamber of the magazine to the feeding chute.

Due to loose pellets in the reservoir, they often make a rattling noise when running or walking.

LMG Airsoft Guns

Some LMG guns have a battery-powered box or drum magazine that holds thousands of pellets, but these are usually only used and allowed on LMGs (light machine gun)type replicas.

It is common for owners to “tech” or modify their guns. The standard gearboxes are made to Tokyo Marui specs and have upgrade parts available. It is also possible to perform DIY modifications.

Gas Powered Guns

GBB models are enhanced with a weighted blowback mechanism to increase the force of the kick. Although some are AEG’s and are built with a blowback mechanism

They are also outfitted with muzzle protectors that amplify the sound to a decibel level comparable to that of a real firearm.

The average FPS (feet per second) for a gas-powered airsoft gun is between 280 and 330 FPS, with some going as high as 450 FPS.

AEG’s generally have an FPS of 250-330. Spring-powered guns have an FPS of about 200 on average, but can range from 180 to over 500.

Gas powered guns are powered by either Green Gas, Propane, or CO2 and are favoured over AEGs for outdoor games because they are not as affected by wind as electric guns.

They are also generally more realistic in terms of weight and feel, as well as having a harder kick (or “recoil”), which can be adjusted by changing the amount of gas used.

Gas Powered Airsoft Guns
What Is Airsoft And What Equipment Do You Need?

Spring Airsoft Guns

Spring powered guns are the oldest type of airsoft gun, and are still used today due to their low cost and ease of use.

They are powered by a simple cocking mechanism that compressess a spring, which is released when the trigger is pulled, firing a BB through the barrel.

Spring guns are generally single shot only, meaning that they must be cocked after every shot.

Bolt action spring guns are also available, which have a bolt that must be pulled back and released to cock the gun, similar to a real rifle.

Multi-shot spring guns are also available, which use an internal magazine to fire multiple BBs before needing to be reloaded. These are generally pump action, meaning that they must be “pumped” after every shot to cock the gun.

Electric Airsoft Gun

Electric airsoft guns (EAGs) are the most popular type of gun, due to their accuracy, range, and fire rate.

They are powered by a battery, which is generally rechargeable, and use a gearbox to compress a spring before each shot

This type of gun can be either semi-automatic or fully automatic, and generally has a higher rate of fire than gas or spring guns.

They are also the most expensive type of gun, due to their complexity.

As you can see, EAG’s are popular for many reasons!

Sniper Rifles

Sniper rifles are generally bolt action, meaning that they must be cocked after each shot. They are also generally single shot only, although some multi-shot rifles are available.

They have a longer barrel than other types of airsoft guns, which gives them a greater range and accuracy.

They also generally have a lower rate of fire than other types of guns, due to the need to cock the gun after each shot.

Sniper rifles are generally used by players who want to play a more tactical game, and are not as suited for close quarters combat.

Assault Rifles

Assault rifles are generally fully automatic, meaning that they will fire BBs as long as the trigger is held down. They can also be semi-automatic, firing one BB per trigger pull.

They have a shorter barrel than sniper rifles, giving them a shorter range but making them more maneuverable in close quarters combat.

They generally have a higher rate of fire than sniper rifles, due to their fully automatic capability.

Assault rifles are the most popular type of airsoft gun, due to their versatility and usefulness in both close quarters and long range combat.

What Is A Hop-up System?

The “hop-up” system, which is installed in most stock airsoft rifles and in most pistols, is used to add extra range by putting backspin on the pellets.

The Magnus effect causes them to rise upward as they are fired.

A small rubber nub protrudes into the top of the barrel through a small hole, and it catches the top of the pellet as it flies past.

Airsoft players can adjust the Hop-Up which makes the nub protrude more or less into the barrel, so that backspin is increased or reduced.

Ideally, the Hop-Up should be adjusted so that the pellets fly as far as possible in a straight line without curving upward too far, or dropping to the ground too quickly.

Hop-Up does decrease the velocity of the projectile (a gun firing 340 ft/s (100 m/s) with the hop fully unwound can drop as low as 300 ft/s (91 m/s)).

Ease and location of adjustment vary by gun design; some weapons provide controls that can be adjusted quickly during gameplay, while others may require partial dis-assembly.

For example, a common location for Hop-Up adjustment is where the ejection port would be on a real firearm, which allows the mechanism to be covered while still allowing quick access to adjust the Hop-Up.

Airsoft Pellets

Most guns that are used to play airsoft fire round plastic pellets, usually white, but black “invisible” or phosphorescent are common as well.

Airsoft pellets mostly range from 0.12 to 0.48 g, however, the most popular weights for AEGs (automatic electric guns) and GBB* (Gas Blow-Back guns) are 0.20 g and 0.25 g (*These weights are generally specified for pistols whose muzzle velocity ranges from approximately 250 ft/s (76 m/s) to 400 ft/s (120 m/s)).

airsoft pellets
What Is Airsoft And What Equipment Do You Need?

Heavier rounds (0.30–0.43 g) are typically used in long-range and sniper applications since they are more stable in flight and less easily deflected by the wind.

They are usually bought in bags or bottles of 2,000 to 5,000, but other sizes are available, such as a 250,000 round (65 kg) package of tournament-grade pellets.

Pellets are typically 6 mm in diameter, though 8 mm pellets do exist.

Pellets vary by diameter depending on the brand (e.g. Matrix pellets are 5.95 mm in diameter and let less air slip past it during travel through the barrel, whereas Crosman pellets are 5.93 mm in diameter and allow more air to slip past during travel through the barrel and allow for less velocity).

Mid to high-end AEGs use 0.20–0.30 g pellets, while sniper rifles work best with 0.30 g or higher. Pellets are used for the majority of play, although foam balls may be used to represent M203 styled grenade launcher shells.

Airsoft Equipment

Airsoft is made up from a variety of different pieces of equipment, each of which serves a specific purpose

The most important piece of airsoft equipment is the gun, which comes in many different shapes and sizes which we’ve discussed, but what other equipment is important?

Airsoft BBs

Airsoft BBs are the pellets that are fired from airsoft guns which come in different sizes and weights, and can be made of different materials such as plastic or biodegradable materials.

The type of BB you use will depend on the type of airsoft gun you have, as well as the type of game you’re playing.

Airsoft Protective Gear

Airsoft protective gear] is essential for anyone playing the sport! You will need to wear a mask to protect your face and eyes from BBs, as well as gloves, long pants, and long sleeve shirts to protect your skin.

You should also consider wearing knee and elbow pads to protect yourself from falls, as well as chest and back protectors if you’re playing a style of airsoft that involves a lot of physical activity.

Airsoft Grenades

Airsoft grenades are used to create a diversion or surprise the enemy team and come in many different types such as smoke grenades, flashbang grenades, and more.

Airsoft Scopes and Sights

Scopes and sights can be attached to airsoft guns to help players aim more accurately. They come in many different styles such as red dot sights, holographic sights, and more.

Airsoft Webbing & Chest Carriers

As you run around the field – you will need a way to carry all of your equipment! Airsoft webbing and chest carriers are a great way to do this, as they allow you to keep your hands free while still having all of the gear you need.

Airsoft Gameplay

There are many different types of airsoft games, but most airsoft is based on either Milsim, or military simulation, where players attempt to emulate a realistic combat experience, or Skirmish, which is a fast-paced game similar to Paintball.

Players typically form two teams (though team sizes can be much larger), and try to eliminate the other team or complete an objective

Objectives vary widely, and can include capture the flag, VIP protection, assault/defense missions, and search and destroy missions

Airsoft vs Paintball

Airsoft is often compared to paintball; however, there are several major differences that distinguish the two sports!

The first difference is that airsoft pellets do not mark their target upon impact the way paintballs do

This gives airsoft an advantage over paintball in that players are not immediately eliminated when hit and do not have to rely on referees to determine whether or not they have been hit

As a result, airsoft games tend to be more realistic and disciplined than paintball games

Another difference is the weight and size of the pellets themselves

Airsoft pellets are much smaller and lighter than paintballs, which makes them less painful when hit and allows them to be fired at a higher velocity

Lastly, airsoft guns tend to be more realistic replicas of actual firearms than paintball guns, which adds to the realism of airsoft games.

Airsoft gameplay is typically more disciplined than paintball too!

airsoft gameplay
What Is Airsoft And What Equipment Do You Need?

The Airsoft Game

We’ve talked about geneal gameplay, but what is Airsoft, and the games played??

An Airsoft game typically features two teams of players who are each given a specific objective to complete

The most common objective is to eliminate the other team, but there are many other types of objectives that can be given as well!

Once the game begins, players must work together as a team to complete their objective while also trying to avoid being hit by enemy pellets

If a player is hit by an enemy pellet, they are typically eliminated from the game and must wait for the next round to begin

Players must use strategy and teamwork in order to win the game!

Airsoft Game Types

Airsoft isn’t just about shooting at the other team until they’re all eliminated!

There are many different types of airsoft games that can be played, each with its own set of rules and objectives

Some of the most popular types of airsoft games include:

Capture the Flag

One team must capture the flag from the other team’s base and return it to their own base. This style of game is enjoyed by people of all ages!

VIP Protection

One team must protect a VIP player from the other team. A simple format that is easy to understand and play.

Assault/Defense Missions

One team must assault the other team’s base while the other team defends it, a great style of airsoft that is hugely popular!

Search and Destroy Missions

A team must find and eliminate the other team’s leader by any means necessary.

These are just a few of the different types of airsoft games that can be played!

No matter what type of game you’re playing, airsoft is always a blast!

airsoft missions
What Is Airsoft And What Equipment Do You Need?

Airsoft Tips & Tricks

Now that you know what is airsoft, and how to play, we wanted to leave you with some tips and tricks to help you up your game!

1. Always be aware of your surroundings. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s important to always know where your teammates and enemies are. This will help you avoid getting hit, as well as help you!

2.Communicate with your team. Airsoft is a team sport, so it’s important to communicate with your teammates at all times! This will help you develop strategies and make plans on the fly.

3. Use cover. One of the best ways to avoid getting hit is to use cover! If you’re out in the open, you’re an easy target. But if you’re behind a tree or a wall, it’s much harder for your enemies to hit you.

4. Be strategic. Always think about your next move before you make it. If you’re always one step ahead of your opponents, you’ll be that much more likely to win the game!

5. Have fun! Airsoft is a game, so make sure you’re having fun! If you’re not enjoying yourself, you’re not going to play your best. So relax, have fun, and enjoy the game!

What Is Airsoft? Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about airsoft and all that the game has to offer! Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a complete beginner, airsoft is a blast for everyone.

However, it is worth noting the rules and regulations around airsoft because safety is really important.

The more you play, the more you’ll learn about guns, equipment and the clothing you need to be a successful and strategic airsoft player.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us! We’re always happy to help out fellow airsoft enthusiasts.

About Laurence

Laurence is a keen airsoft player and has been the owner of SoCom Tactical for over 10 years. He’s played airsoft all over the country solo and as part of teams and is an expert on all things airsoft, like tactics, airsoft guns and gameplay equipment. As one of the UK’s leading airsoft suppliers and retailers, Laurence is the go-to source for airsoft knowledge.