Contest Entry: The Value of Airsoft Training

By The Mideast Beast

Carl and I were the only ones left. The rest of our squad had been wiped out and we were the only ones left to guard the left flank. We crouched in the foliage, straining our ears, hoping not to hear anyone approaching through the brush. About 100 yards way, we could hear the bulk of our team engaging the enemy with constant gunfire occasionally punctuated with explosions and calls for medics. I check my rifle mag, only to see that I’m nearly empty from the last engagement. Suddenly, with mag still in hand, fully automatic gunfire erupts from the bushes toward us at probably the worst possible moment. Immediately, I dropped everything, letting my sling catch my rifle, and drew my HK USP from my chest holster. Not even aiming, I fell on my stomach and fired blindly into the brush . . .

Suddenly, we stopped taking fire. Knowing that I had either killed the shooter or forced him to flee, Carl and I advanced slowly. After 50 feet, I nearly tripped over a camouflaged corpse with a single bullet-wound to his forehead.

Except that’s not what happened.

“HIT HIT HIT!”

I stopped firing as a 6-foot mass of M81 woodland camo emerged, hand raised, and said, “Hey man, that was right between the eyes. That f___ hurt!”

As he walked off back to respawn, I emptied my pistol mag. I only had 4 rounds left out of a 16 round magazine.

As an avid shooter, I’m always looking for good ways to train. However, as a reader of The Truth About Guns I can’t recall a single article expounding the usefulness and limitations of airsoft as a training platform. Searching for “airsoft” on TTAG brings up 132 results. Someone may very well have addressed this, but of 11 pages of search results, I certainly couldn’t find anything.

Amongst the Armed Intelligentsia, airsoft is commonly viewed with disdain, as child’s play for wannabes, valor thieves, and tacticool gibblet-heads. And yes, there are people like that in our community, as there certainly are in the gun community. But overall, the people of the gun should be more charitable to the airsoft community. I’ve met a lot of airsofters, and not one of them has been anti-second amendment. Outside the gun community, you will not find people who are more knowledgeable about guns or believe more strongly in gun rights than airsofters. So cut us some slack will ya?

Now back to the real question: does airsoft have any practical training applications for real world firearm use? I say yes.

A very positive aspect of airsoft is that it gives you some measure of insight into real-world combat situations.

Let’s go back to that first situation I described, but imagine that instead of a 16 round magazine, I was limited to 8 or 10. What probably would have happened was that I would have fired into the bushes, not hit anything, my pistol would have emptied, and I would have been standing there, under fire, with two empty guns. I would almost certainly have been hit and would have to march back to respawn. Ina real fight though, with real lead being exchanged, I would certainly have been killed.

So what did I learn from that encounter? I started shopping for a Glock 19 to replace my full-size M&P 45 as my EDC.

This is just one example, but I’ve learned and, more importantly, had the chance to practice basic defensive shooting skills such as switching from a primary to a secondary weapon, shooting and moving, shooting from cover, how to reload from muscle memory, and how to pin down an enemy and either escape or outmaneuver them.

Also, airsoft is an excellent tool to build teamwork and practice small-unit tactics. Believe it or not, most of the real techniques used to clear buildings (among other things) directly transfer over to airsoft. Honestly, do you know a cheaper, more easily accessible way for you to get together with other shooters and practice what you’ve learned in a force-on-force or tactical class?

Simunitions? Nope
Lasertag? Please
Video games? Get outta here.

Another advantage of airsoft is that you can almost perfectly mimic your real-life loadout. Pretty much every firearm on the market today has some form of an airsoft clone. Not to mention accessories like optics and grips. Run an AK with an Eotech? You can get a high-quality AEG AK and an Eotech knockoff for less than 200 dollars. The beauty of this is that you can practice with your chosen weapons, gear, and accessories platforms in actual force-on-force scenarios for dirt cheap. Next time you’re at wal-mart, compare the cost of 5000 BBs versus 50 rounds of your caliber of choice. If that doesn’t make you consider it, especially with how expensive ammo is, maybe nothing will.

Untitled

That’s me on the left. I’m wearing a 120 dollar Chinese copy of an Eagle Industries CIRAS Plate Carrier. I have crawled through the mud and thick brush, climbed over stone walls, and worn that Carrier every skirmish for the last year and a half. It works. It’s been tested and Its seen extended use beyond my closet or a 4 hour tactical class. Can you say the same for your gear?

Is there a cheaper and easier way for you to test your gear? To see what works and what doesn’t. Trust me, when I first started playing airsoft, I strapped on way more gear than what you see here. But after eight hours of airsofting in the hot Texas sun, you find out real quick which pounds you need to carry and which ones stay back at base camp.

Last but not least, airsoft is FUN. You get outdoors with a great group of people to participate in some friendly competition AND you can leave with insights into how to be a better shooter. What’s not to love? Now of course, there are limitations. There’s simply nothing that can replace putting real rounds downrange and nothing that can replicate the adrenaline rush and stress of actually being in combat. But with those limitations in mind, airsoft is still an informative and enjoyable hobby that many shooters would benefit from participating in.

comments

  1. avatar pwrserge says:

    Very good points. In addition, it’s much easier to set up an airsoft shoot house in your basement then a real one. (With less complaints from the significant other about stray rounds occasionally making their way through the floor above your head.)

    1. avatar B says:

      People really underestimate how much stress will screw with your motor functions thought process. Airsoft is a safe place to realize you forgot to swipe the safety off and you need to train more.

  2. avatar Grant in IN says:

    I appreciate this piece since I’ve been scoffed at for saying paintball has helped me be more prepared for real encounters. Doesn’t bother me because I know it’s true. In my opinion the most valuable thing isn’t the practice on tactics, it is becoming used to operating under the (amazing) effects of adrenaline.

    1. avatar Roy H says:

      I see his logic more applicable to airsoft than paintball, but I guess anything is better than nothing.

      I quit playing paintball over a decade ago, and that was before you could buy paintball guns that mimicked AR15s, etc. Even now though, it’s tough to compare the two when you have 100rd or 200rd hoppers and don’t have to reload or practice reloading with the familiar magazine at familiar capacities of 10, 15, 25, 30 rounds etc. At least with airsoft the firearms are pretty close replicas with the same familiar controls of the real things.

      And then there’s the unreliability of paintball guns. A single broken paintball in the barrel will screw up any chance of getting accurate shots off, and there’s always a broken paintball in the barrel because you can usually shoot faster than the balls can load.

      The thing that got me to give up on paintball was when I realized how the pros play the game. They dump hundreds of rounds of successive paintballs for suppresive fire. That’s actually a great idea, but when I realized how much that costs for me whereas the pros who do it get sponsorships and free paintballs I decided to give up on it and find a different hobby to spend money on.

    2. avatar mark s. says:

      I know that training under stress conditions is COPLETELY different than shooting a target at a range . Everything changes when you put yourself und stress . Just try to tie your shoelace or button up a full button shirt when you are rushed . I also know that playing paintball and shooting at someone while being shot at can be stressful but knowing you will not die if shot changes things up . Practicing ( competing ) while on timer is a great way to practice stressfully . Air guns , while they are different than powder burners in how you shoot them and their felt recoil , are great for staying crisp on trigger pull and general target acquisition . If you can master a powerful air gun , particularly a springer , you should do ok with an AR .

    3. avatar E762 says:

      +1
      When you hear that first slug go *ZIP* past your head, you will contort your body in ways you’d have previously thought impossible to better fit behind cover.

  3. avatar Mk10108 says:

    Good info. The most relevant is small unit cohesion and coordination.

  4. avatar Silo says:

    Respawn?

    Airsoft and paintball teach tactics and habits that will get you killed in the real world. It also teaches you to be trigger happy, the real world isn’t a free fire zone…

    Fun? Sure.

    Valuable Training? Maybe it could be. But I’ve never seen it.

    1. avatar Josh says:

      I think I agree with you. I’ve observed a few different varieties of paintball and airsoft play, and I too question the utility because the guns and the rules of the game seem more likely to train bad habits. On the other hand, I think that one could construct an airsoft exercise that is intended to mimic real-world firearms training. Limiting ammunition and eschewing full-auto would be a couple steps towards more realism (for those of us in the civilian self-defense world, anyway).

      1. avatar MarkPA says:

        I think you are on to the right idea here.

        First off, we ought to recognize the importance of convenience. Teenagers don’t have the money and ability to go to a real gun range or even to a paintball range. Almost all of them could set-up a temporary range in their houses/basements, somebody’s yard. Etc. Just as video games are almost addictive play, air-soft play would be even more attractive because it’s live action with fellow players in quasi-real life.

        Second, your objections to unrealistic play and bad habits are perfectly valid. And, with some coaching from vets and police, they can be self-correcting. There will be blogs where common mistakes in “play” are pointed out with the correct tactics explained by pros. The kids will devour these blogs and propagate the conventional wisdom. Those kids who learn from the pros will be admired; those who carry on with techniques that are disparaged will be themselves disparaged.

        Third, we should pray for a world where we are mostly all prepared but few of us actually need to fire in anger. It’s said that few cops ever fire in self defense throughout their careers. As we popularize guns for self-defense we will certainly increase the number of keepers and carriers who are not correctly trained; but, few of them will be worse-off. Most won’t be threatened. Those who are threatened will draw but not fire 90% of the time.

        We need to take care – while we are fighting for the preservation of gun-rights – not to adopt an elitist mentality:
        – I am an “Only-One” because I am a police officer;
        – I am an “Only-One” because I’m a veteran infantry soldier
        – I am an “Only-One” because I compete in (serious) amateur practical gunfighting competitions.
        – I am an “Only-One” because I scored XX/YYY in a qualifier

        Quite to the contrary, we ought to say to the public that – most likely – you too could learn enough to use a gun to defend yourself. You would – almost certainly – be better off with a gun than without.

    2. avatar Chrispy says:

      Live fire practice on a square range is probably more likely to teach you how to die than airsoft. At least this way you’re learning that a firefight is going to be a dynamic event, and not some old western duel.

      I also have a hard time believing that in a real DGU you or I would be able to hit our assailant with 100% accuracy. Sure, that’s what we strive for and what we train for but being able to suppress adrenaline while fighting for your life isn’t something you can learn just punching holes in paper.

      Of course, I’m not advocating airsoft or paintball training as a replacement to live fire any more than the author of the article did, but I think it would compliment your live fire very well.

    3. avatar JWM says:

      Unit tactics? AK’s and crawling thru mud and vaulting walls? How does this translate to dealing with a tweaker on a 7-11 parking lot?

      Most of us are not active duty soldiers and training and kitting out like one seems to be a bit off target.

      Lastly, you’re engaging a machine. At least when fully kitted with face mask your oppenent appears to be non human. Which will throw you off when suddenly confronted by a real flesh and blood human face over the sights of your weapon.

      It’s a traumatic moment and any hesitation may get you and those you care about killed.

      1. avatar Milsurp Collector says:

        +1. Very insightful. Never thought about it that way, probably because I always looked at airsoft as an opportunity to burn some calories and dick around in the woods with friends.

        1. avatar JWM says:

          Never underestimate the value of a day dicking around in the boonies with family/friends. You may not learn any usefull tactics, but it’s still good for your morale.

      2. avatar Dracon1201 says:

        You say that, but we don’t discriminate against those taking taking combat rifle, precision long range, etc. Those won’t help you against the tweaker either. Not everything is about day to day carry.

        1. avatar JWM says:

          I don’t discriminate. Rifle courses, regardless of title, have value. Do what you have the time, inclination aand funds to do. But I’m willing to bet that the majority of people on ttag see their guns as self defense tools first.

          We aren’t, for the most part, cops or soldiers. Training like either might have grave consequences.

        2. avatar MarkPA says:

          “We aren’t, for the most part, cops or soldiers. Training like either might have grave consequences.”

          We arn’t; for the most part. That’s true. However, I question the constitutionality of laws that infringe on the right to train as a “private company”.

          I think we would agree that the Federal government couldn’t adopt a Constitutional law baring any State from training its militia.

          Does it follow that a State government would still be allowed to adopt a State-Constitutional and Federal-Constitutional law baring any municipality or private company from training its militia?

          Where is it written that State governments are deemed to be immune from behavior that would be regarded as tyrannical? The guarantee of the RKBA rises to the level of ensuring the preservation of a “free state” (lower case). Did the founders intend to limit this applicability to the Federal government alone? If so, why does the Constitution prescribe that the Federal government is to guarantee each State a republican form of government?

          If municipalities can be forbidden to train their militias, the door is opened for a State to become tyrannical with no fear of opposition from municipal militias.

          Similarly, if a municipality can forbid “private companies” from training does this now infringe upon the right – and duty – of their People to secure a free municipal government. What do we make of a situation such as is illustrated by the Battle of Athens? In this particular case the militiamen were recently discharged vets and had little need to muster and train; but this was purely fortuitous.

          Arguably, in some future situation, our vets would need to call the unorganized militia to muster and train in “private companies” without necessarily enjoying the sanction of any formal government that may well be in collusion with other governments in a greater conspiracy toward tyranny.

        3. avatar JWM says:

          Mark. No arguement from me. After all I live in CA which is tyranny defined. I read this post as being a training aid for self defense of the individual. If I was wrong, it wouldn’t be the first time.

          As for vets. Put 10 of us together, tell us the mission and we’ll get organised and on the move rapidly. Put 10 non vets together and lack of training and experience shows.

    4. avatar Mecha75 says:

      Having played paintball for a number of years. I would have to agree with you. The tactics will get you killed. However i am quite sure that where it actually helps is to train people to react under fire and not panic, as well as how to better use cover and concealment. Those are very valuable skills. No one knows how they are going to react once the lead starts flying, however paintball and airsoft can help you train your body to NOT be frozen by fear.

      1. avatar Chris says:

        I’m never surprised by the number of people cowering behind rocks as opponents get the angle on them, stuck like bambi in fear as they are slowly killed in paintball. Someone is coming for you. Either fight back, or beat a strategic retreat.

      2. I agree with you. A lot of people don’t realize that those bb’s can really hurt. The group of guys I played with all had guns shooting 350fps+ with .20g. The prospect of pain is a good motivator. You don’t want to get hit, you fight so you don’t and your teammates don’t. Like real combat there are consequences to being shot. trade death and dismemberment for pain and shame.

    5. avatar ThomasR says:

      The military uses simunitions and the laser tag system to simulate real combat. One could set up the same scenarios by limiting ones amount of Airsoft ammo to what one would carry in real ammo. Then with different scenarios based on use of cover and concealment, fire and movement while shooting on the move while being shot at.

      So if one combines shooting at paper targets, shooting live ammo in the fire and movement training of Three Gun Tactical and Action Pistol type events and then doing Airsoft, where people are actually shooting back at a person, I would say that would give a person an advantage over a person that just focuses on only one of these types of training.

      1. avatar Chrispy says:

        Exactly.

        Airsoft games, paintball, live fire on a range… all of these should be looked at as complimentary to each other if you’re going to do them at all.

        Personally, I don’t do any paintball or airsoft. But I can see how it might prove useful for civilians in the real world if you use the equipment to practice things like force on force training or shoot/no shoot scenarios.

        Of course treating these games like an all out war scenario will only gleam limited useful training to the civilian. Training, any type of training, is only as good as you make it.

      2. avatar Stinkeye says:

        So now I have to go to the square range, compete in a Three-Gun league, *and* play AIrsoft games? Some of you guys must have a hell of a lot more free time than anybody I know… 🙂

    6. avatar bob says:

      Depends on how and who you play with. There are some who take it seriously as a simulation and play with magazines that mimic their real world counterparts, 20/30 rd mags for AK/AR, etc., realistic pistol mag rounds depending on the make copied, and real world limits on load outs.

  5. avatar ThomasR says:

    Ahhh, Airsoft is for children!!

    Just kidding. I actually have only heard good things about Airsoft training. It’s supposed to be good practice for Force on Force scenarios.

    1. I firmly believe that young responsible airsofters become responsible adult gun owners. We should encourage it.

  6. avatar Netman says:

    I played Airsoft for many years. And yes you can learn a lot of bad stuff from it. I have seen it and experienced it many times. But there are also those that play the game that go for full realism where their ammo load out are realistic. I do believe it can be used as a safe training aid. It would need to be made more realistic by making ammo limitation and semi-auto only fire for defensive training. You can use it to practice how you would respond if someone broke into your house and trained how you would respond. I have done that myself and it has help me understand the layout of my home and how best to defend it.

  7. avatar JC says:

    Airsoft for stress inoculation training and watching your skills tank under stress? Absolutely!

    However, playing by Gamer Rules will get you killed in real life. I’ve taken a few local force-on-force classes with airsoft, and while I liked them – I don’t like the Gamer Rules they used in those classes. “I’m hit! Stop shooting.” Scenario over.

    Sure you can debrief, and learn, and try again – but you’re unconsciously training yourself to give up when hit. [pro-tip: you don’t get to re-spawn in real life] Much better to run scenarios where even if you get lit up you fight to the end. Finish the scenario and neutralize the threat – no matter what.

    But that would be real training, focusing on the student, and not a game.

    Don’t confuse the two.

    1. Fighting to the end is a mindset that you have or you don’t. Lot’s of people out there who are professionally trained don’t have it; just as untrained civilians save lives all the time and never quit.

  8. avatar Milsurp Collector says:

    Used to airsoft all the time in high school. Then after I became a gun owner, I had to quit because I couldn’t stand to have people point mock firearms at me anymore. Just a freak reflex I guess and it’s still here. Getting muzzled one bajillion times between rounds didn’t help much either. Regardless, I don’t knock people who enjoy it.

  9. avatar Bob says:

    I use airsoft for 3gun practice in the winter. All I have to do is go downstairs to the garage, and have at it. I use scaled wooden knockdown plates and a Shotmaxx timer because it will pick up the airsoft report. I shoot at 7 yards, and all the targets are scaled to replicate various sizes at various distances. Setup a course of fire and run it till my times come down.

    Xdm copy by WE and a KWA CQR (the long barreled version…MOD2 IIRC).

    Not really into the force on force stuff, but looks like fun if that’s your thing.

  10. avatar Charlie says:

    When I bought my first carry pistol, a Walther P99, I made sure to have enough money left over to also buy one of Umarex’s P99 RAMs. It’s a .43 cal paintball pistol with the same shape, weight, balance, and even DA/SA trigger as the real thing. I use it with solid rubber balls, and its plenty accurate within ~20 yards. Still the only thing I’ll use for close quarters training, cheaper and much safer than using live rounds.

    I don’t understand how this sort of thing isn’t more common.

  11. avatar Geoff PR says:

    “…and tacticool gibblet-heads.”

    Heh. I like that one…

  12. avatar William says:

    There is nothing wrong with using airsoft guns as a training aid. I can think of a 101 ways you could use them productively to train gun owners to better defend themselves. But practicing squad tactics and small unit fire and movement ain’t one of them. Still it sounds like fun if I were 30 years younger and not so fat. 🙂

    1. Airsoft does have limiations. Distance is one. CQB is where it shines. in a house or warehouse its perfect. Use guns that shoot 300fps+ and youre hitting targets accurately and nearly instantaneously. You could practice clearing your house if you wanted. Very close to the real deal, and they hurt like a sumbitch that close.

  13. avatar Bud Harton says:

    yayadayadadaya

    it’s good training it’s bad training whatever

    on the other hand, it’s an excellently written, entertaining and informative article. Because my wife has a broken ankle, I find myself at Walmart a lot lately so now I will go to sporting goods department, get turned down for CCI mini-mags and then look at the airsoft equipment

    Good job Mideast Beast

  14. avatar Pantera Vazquez says:

    Airsoft has been a great tool for force on force training for me personally. When properly used, adhering to the true capacity limits of the weapons in question, realistic scenarios can be practiced with little fear of injury. The quarter size hematomas are a reminder of mistakes made in training which would\could lead to death in an actual confrontation. Fair trade in my opinion. As a person who makes a living wearing a weapon, I enjoy turning my amateur gun enthusiast friends to a form a practice where a mistake is not life altering.

  15. avatar Roy H says:

    Loved the author’s logic here. I’ve never gotten into airsoft, but I always did see it as practical for training and have always kind of cringed to hear 2A guys make fun of the sport and those who like it.

  16. avatar Don from CT says:

    I had the value of airsoft demonstrated to me graphically a couple of years ago.

    At the time a father had approached me to give his 18 year old son the NRA Basic Pistol class. This is the de-facto standard for most carry licenses nationally and was required in our home state of CT. He also asked me to work with his son on defensive firearms use even though he couldn’t carry until he was 21.

    So we did the basic NRA Course and the kid was smart, attentive, humble, an open book for learning. He did a great job.

    A couple of weeks later we got together to practice the defensive shooting. I started to show him proper holster draw and he nodded. He said that he had been watching youtube videos and practicing with his airsoft gun. He was glad to see that what I was teachng was what he had been practicing.

    So I thought, Hmm. I’ve used youtube to see how to do things. I wonder if this is effective. He offered that he had his airsoft rig in the car. I suggested he go get it and that I’d like to watch him. He got all suited up and then proceeded to demonstrate a draw that was better than mine. He was safe, finger indexed on the side of the firearm, he didn’t sweep himself, and he was faster than I was. The gun came up indexed instinctively on the target.

    He said he had practiced for 15 minutes per day every day since our last class. I was astonished and told him so. Needless to say the rest of the day went well. He had already practiced malfunction drills with his airsoft gun as well as shooting and moving and use of cover/concealment. Amazing.

    Needless to say, I’m sold on the idea of using youtube and airsoft to develop skills.

    I did warn him to be careful of what he saw on Youtube. He said to me that even as someone without a lot of knowledge, he could find the bad stuff. He said he stuck to videos by well known acknowledged leaders in their fields like Kyle Lamb and Jerry Miculek. Well done.

    1. avatar mark s. says:

      I couldn’t agree more with your findings . many air pistols are made exactly like their powder counterparts and some even go bang when you pull the trigger . I like shooting those big harry spiders that seem to explode in numbers this time of year here in WV .
      They always come out at night .

  17. avatar Twisted Swifter says:

    Great article – I hope you’ll write more frequently.

    It seems pretty obvious that with just a little thought scenarios could be designed to mimic more everyday, real-world encounters. I’m not interested in training to clear houses, but the attached video sure makes it look like fun!

  18. avatar bcb says:

    Used to AS a little. Never forget a moment in some really thick brush when my “squad” was buried up in the bushes to ambush the opponents squad. they were walking past us (plan was to get them from behind) when my best friend in the other group made eye contact with me threw the tiniest notch in a tree fork. Those three seconds of twenty people in the woods frozen with only two knowing shit just went wrong teaches a lot about reaction under unforeseen high stress circumstances. Five seconds later 19 of 20 people were “hit”. All because someone was staring to long….

  19. avatar Defens says:

    I also see some benefits to airsoft training – in fact, I once helped form a small group of friends who would set up various force-on-force situations. However, I think your example was not the greatest in demonstrating the supposed effectiveness of airsoft as a training aid.

    After you blindly lit up the brush in front of you with a 17 shot HK replica, you concluded that an 8-10 round pistol would have gotten you killed in game plan and/or real life? So you decided to go for a full sized 17 round service pistol for defensive carry?

    How often in real life do you plan on laying down unaimed suppressive fire, anyway? I think in trying to justify airsoft as being “serious” training, you reached a bit too far with that example.

    Try setting up something yourself with a couple of trusted friends. No small group tactics. No “protecting the left flank.” How about something simple, like an attempted robbery at an ATM, or a holdup at the local convenience store, while you’re standing at the adjacent cash register? That’s what our group would do – with the occasional active shooter scenario so we could launch a bunch of BBs. Sometimes we’d set up scenarios that required no shooting at all – just like real life.

    I can’t think of any scenario that we set up that made anyone wish to switch from a compact pistol to a larger cap pistol. In situations where you need a bunch of ammo, you’d be wishing for a carbine. Or a mag change.

  20. avatar Gareth A says:

    Interesting seeing the opinions here on Airsoft.

    Never really thought about how you guys would use it – always thought most “real steel” owners would look down on it, though I think I’m likely biased.

    Always nice to see my local site enjoyed on video – dont think I was there that day though.

  21. avatar Matt says:

    Great article OP. I think you addressed the pitfalls and benefits of Airsoft adequately.

    I’ve played for years and have been to OP Irene Twice, Pine Plains, and innumerable small games ranging from just above backyard tier to very well organized events.

    In addition to the value of small unit tactics and teaching you the dynamic nature of a firefight, you get some insight into things like kill zones, where you should or shouldn’t stand around buildings/windows/doors, gear limitations, and your physical limitations. However, I agree not all of this is necessarily useful to the average CCer.

    The most valuable things IMO is how you react and how your body reacts under a very stressful and adrenaline filled situation. It may be a game with not lasting consequences but when you are the last guy guarding an objective or in a firearm version of single combat with another guy trying to find him in a building your adrenaline is high as you try to work that situation out.

    Here is a great example from my own experience. I was the last man in the ZNN building that was to be guarded as our objective. I have a whole force of guys, 10+ of them, bearing down on me. I’m down to pistol only. My adrenaline is so high I can barely hear anything other than the sound of my heart beating and throbbing in my ears, my focus is intense on that back door as I watch it waiting for some guys to come shoot the shit out of me, and I’ve got a death grip on my pistol. At this point I figure, I know I’m toast so I can try to either run (unlikely to be successful, the building is being surrounded), shoot some of them when they come through the door (I’ll probably only get at most 2 guys this way before getting lit up), or hide and surreptitiously try to take as many with me and bring the fight to them, violence of action and all; I might even get lucky with this one. So I hide, all the guys run in and don’t see me and are looking around clearing the building when I pop out and shoot four of them and engage in a shootout with another while a couple of other guys come from behind and light me up as I turn to meet them.

    So what did I learn from this situation? I learned that even under pressure (it does hurt to get shot by 3 guys simultaneously!) I was able to evaluate the situation and choose the best option that netted me the best chance of survival or at least taking as many of them with me. I was also able to stay aware of what was happening around me and engage and deal with numerous threats at once. I didn’t fully succeed here, I was simply out numbered, but I kept tabs on everyone and tried to deal with them as it became appropriate. I also kept the fight going until I was “dead” or the threat ended. So my take away from this unreal world situation is I am capable of managing a highly stressful combat situation without tunnel vision, firing accurately, and fighting until the threat is done. I don’t know that this would translate to real life and death situations but I hope it would, it certainly could, and I think I have a little more info now on how it might specific to me.

  22. avatar Cameron b says:

    I miss the big events with trucks hummvees, sim bangs and breaching teams. Op lion claws ftw

  23. avatar Scrubula says:

    Playing airsoft I met quite a few veterans. It’s fun and great practice for instinctive shooting without the pain of real bullets.

  24. avatar Fred says:

    I used to play Airsoft when I had more spare time, and first I have to say there is a full spectrum of Airsoft. On one end is strict MILSIM with ammo limits, magazine capacity limits, radio protocols, and tons of teamwork. On the other end you have backyard games and plinking. You can create a scenario for anything, including DGUs and active shooters. That said, the stress is not the same, but there are some useful things you can learn.

    1. You are pretty much screwed alone. Yes, you are. When you don’t have the full information of where your enemies are, how many there are, what they are carrying, where they are looking, you are not going to win. You need a team working together to swing the odds in your favor. In an active shooter scenario you don’t have the information so you don’t have the odds in your favor. That feeling of desperation and trying to think through all the possible outcomes all at once isn’t the same in a videogame, and learning to quickly make the right decisions is important.

    2. Movement can be killer. People spot movement and sound above everything else. With proper camouflage, a good position, and the shade you can be invisible to people three feet away (it has happened before), but move or make a sound and you’ll have all eyes your way. Sit still too long and you’ll be overrun or make no progress. In an active shooter scenario weigh the benefit of moving, you don’t know who or what’s out there but they’ll probably know where you are in a rush.

    3. Know your target. Is that a teammate or an enemy or could it be someone that wandered onto the field? In the real world is it a shooter, a regular person, or a cop? You can’t just shoot at everything that makes a noise. One of the more common mistakes with newer players is shooting at anything they hear, sometimes hitting an opponent, sometimes a teammate, but at all times giving away their position when.

    4. Keep shooting until you are safe. Lets be real. Airsoft doesn’t really hurt, it’s like a pinch, but at range it doesn’t feel like anything. Airsoft guns are also inherently inaccurate, mimicking high stress shooting. That means you have to keep shooting until the threat is neutralized. Don’t expect to pull the trigger once and get your desired result. I personally only use semi-auto with 30-round mags, those that lay on the trigger and use full auto at 35 bbs per second with 300-round mags are training poor habits.

    Airsoft can be helpful if you do some of the right things to make it helpful.

  25. avatar Alan762 says:

    I can’t go to the range and shoot my P226 everyday but.
    I keep my greengas blowback KJWorks Sig P226 Airsoft pistol in my desk drawer at work and shoot it everyday.
    I work on grip, sight alignment and trigger press everyday for almost no money.
    5000 rounds of ammo cost $13.29.

  26. avatar Brian says:

    My experience is that Airsoft is excellent EQUIPMENT when combined with actual firearm and self defense TECHNIQUES. Particularly when you can add force on force, going beyond the blue rubber guns. AS is great equipment for off-range training. As others have said, keep it real, real ammo loadouts, 4 safety rules, no ninja antics. I have a set of G19 clones that my wife and I use to stay sharp. Extra care before practice to make sure all real steel is not in the area. Common sense and a good set of simulation equipment.

  27. avatar Lance says:

    I agree airsoft fire real copies of your duty weapons or your ccw pistol. You get to engage real human targets who wont stand still to be shot like paper. And it adds stress to your shooting. Its good to have realistic fun and know when used right its safe. Even if you lose its all debrief there no real losers the lessons you may learn in fun may save you in a real situation on the streets of tomorrow.

  28. avatar drav says:

    Plates airsoft for a few years when I was younger. Had some very expensive AEGs. That was also back when everyone was using 200rd mags though.

    Now that realistic loadouts are getting more popular (20/30rd mags) and the newer rifles that operate like their real counterparts (charging handle, bolt, loading etc all work like they should, which also gives it some recoil) I’ve been tempted to get back into it.

  29. avatar Roymond says:

    Remember the guns that fired little flying disks?

    When I was in college there were a few ROTC guys in the house who were constantly “recruiting” from the rest of us to be their opposing force as they “assaulted” and “cleared” the house with those. One day the Marine ROTC guys from another school challenged the ROTC guys at our school to “Capture the Flag” played with paintball.

    The other school got creamed. They relied on just spraying fire everywhere; our guys conserved ammo, evaluated their shots, and especially had learned to work together.

    I presume the same would work with airsoft, plus being a bit more realistic, so I’m sold.

  30. avatar Raul Ybarra says:

    Two sides in this discussion.

    1. I didn’t allow my son to by an airsoft gun until he had mastered shooting live ammo in a firearm. Too many people in my neck of the woods treat airsoft as toys – I strongly believe they are not – and I didn’t want any bad habits to develop.

    2. That said, I have found airsoft to be an outstanding tool to teach the basics of shooting. His airsoft has similar controls to the “real” thing. I can teach safety rules, basic techniques and even live fire inside the house in ways that I couldn’t do even with BB guns. When I then put a real gun in their hand, they are much more conscientious and confident their handling the weapon.

  31. Speaking of snipers, Airsoft is a great training vehicle for those budding long-range shooters in your group. From developing effective camouflage, preparing hides, learning patience, sighting through a scope, to scooting to safety after making the shot, they can efficiently practice these basic skills.

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