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There’s a larger showing of Airsoft firearms manufacturers and importers here at SHOT than I would have expected. [ED: Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.] I mean, they’re not REAL guns. But they are REALLY popular. According to Spartan Tactical Imports, firearms classes are cuckoo for air puffs. Two factors are contributing to the training sales . . .

1. Price

Marking ammunition (e.g. Simunition or UTM) is expensive stuff. It requires all sorts of protective gear. With Airsoft, the cost of firing a training gun is VASTLY reduced. Students can train in their standard clothing or uniforms.

The increased demand for training—in no small part due to liberalized carry laws—is driving down prices, prompting Airsoft companies to make more models. More models, more interest, more interest, more demand, more supply, lower price.

2. Realism

In classes without shooting, most trainers use blue “safety” replica firearms to simulate weapons handling. For some reason, blue guns don’t elicit the same response from students as a real gun. Airsoft has the adrenal authenticity trainers need.


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  1. If you follow the indie movie blogs you’d note that Airsoft has hit it big with budget-conscious newbie filmmakers.

  2. I imported a AR-15 and a Sig 228 air soft gun from Japan. Very realistic, and I made a tidy profit selling them here. The lack of an orange tip apparently made the difference and I had two clips for each, extra battery, charger, and even a can of compressed air for the pistol.

  3. Airsoft as a “mil-sim” paintball-like sport is growing in popularity. I can attest that a good number of the higher-end guns do look and feel very realistic.

  4. Some of the very top end pistols and rifles are almost indistinguishable from their real steel counter parts.

    However, there is no recoil, there are 500 round magazines, giggle switches come standard, and unless you want to drop close to a thousand dollars, they are quite flimsy feeling and have nowhere near the same weight and heft.

    Not only that, but as the article pointed out, you don’t need any protective gear. Because they may smart a bit when you get hit, but they don’t HURT. Simmunitions hurt. A lot. And so do real gun bullets.

    So when you have people playing air-soft commando, er, I mean, doing force on force simulations, try as they may, people will take unrealistic actions because they know that worst case scenario, they might get a couple of 6mm welts. That doesn’t happen in the real world.

    That does not strike me as being terribly realistic. I used to play airsoft as a hobby, but then I decided that I could make a much better training program by using real ammunition and-Gasp-real firearms.

  5. Airsoft as a “training” aid is laughable. The minigun up there is for training12yr olds for what, the impending zombie invasion? They started off as neat toys for kids that adults have picked up on. They were a low cost alternative to paintball, but they have since skyrocketed to be as expensive as the real firearm or more in some cases. And as to the “no protection”, that’s bs any field or “training”program insists on safety glasses. These are about as usefull paintball guns, exelcept they are less fun, less realistic, and way more expensive. The only advantages these plastic toys have over nerf guns is that they allow you to shoot at longer distances and feature a more realistic skin. If you really want to train like the pro’s join up, or use simmunition or paintball guns, the qirsoft guns are cheaply made wall hangers.

    • I’d have to disagree. There are plenty of Airsoft products out there that do a decent job in the look and feel department. For practicing certain skills they are a viable alternative to spending the big bucks on Sims. Don’t forget that Sims are generally only sold to LEO and MIL customers.

  6. unless you want to drop close to a thousand dollars, they are quite flimsy feeling and have nowhere near the same weight and heft.
    Airsoft as a “training” aid is laughable

    My airsoft metal Sig 229 seems quite realistic size and heft wise and cost way less than an actual SIG. For folks who are or have been ‘in the biz’ or are accomplished in IDPA/IPSC/3-gun or whatever airsoft may be uninteresting. For lesser shooters it’s something to practice with in the basement.

    • “For lesser shooters it’s something to practice with in the basement.”

      orrrr you could try dry fire practice and a laserlyte system and get to the shooting range more than once a month. I am not going to say that airsoft is not athletic, but it is in no way a replacement for real firearms and a good training class.
      This is why 22lr rifles and pistols sell like crazy these days. i can buy 50 cheap-o federal 22 rounds for $1.67. that is pretty affordable in my book.

  7. I play sometimes at a local indoor field and suggested active shooter, home defense, and personal defense style games. The active shooter was by far the most popular game that week

  8. My KWA USP kicks like my high-standard .22 target pistol. It uses compressed gas (liquid propane) to propel the BB and push the slide back to create recoil. The Gas powered airsoft guns are much more realistic to fire, and often weigh the same as their firearm counterparts.

    There is much more to airsoft than the clear plastic pistols you see in walmart.

  9. Dr. Dave may also have said…” Piss on golf! “Since I heard that, I’ve hung up my clubs for .338 Lapua rifles. I shoot much straighter and farther than I do with my two iron.

  10. Believe it or not Airsoft fights are actually quite fun. I don’t think it will ever be a real substitute for firing the real thing. Like Forrest said above; there is a lot more to airsoft than the clear plastic guns you see at Walmart.
    There are some pretty cool Airsoft guns out there that I’d love to own to compete with if I didn’t already have so much money invested solely in firearms.
    Give an Airsof skirmish a try; it’s a very fun game. I liked it better than paintball.


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