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?
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.
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.