Airsoft is a sport where players engage in simulated gun combat, (not too dissimilar to paintball), with high powered BB weapons.
Whilst many players don’t like comparing airsoft to paintball, it’s the closest thing that can be compared.
Airsoft, is similar to paintball, in that teams of people group together into organised teams at a dedicated and insured field, and shoot small projectiles at each other for fun and sport.
Where airsoft differs from paintball is that airsoft is much more focussed towards military simulation. Where paintball markers don’t always look like “real” guns, airsoft RIFs (Realistic Imitation Firearms) are 99% of the time, modelled after genuine firearms and are almost indistinguishable from the real thing.
The players will also, for the most part, be more dedicated to dressing in more realistic military gear, including vests and sometimes helmets, in order to look more “realistic”.
If you’re reading this, and just seeing it as a bunch of weirdos running around playing with toy guns, I implore that you read on. You will almost definitely know an airsofter in your life, you may not know they have this hobby. You owe it to yourself to not look ignorant to things other people might enjoy.
The Rules of Airsoft
Just like video games or paintball, there are different “games” of airsoft you can play. Such as capture the flag, team deathmatch, last man standing etc etc. We won’t go into these, but it’s important to understand that there’s a HUGE range of different ways the sport is played to keep it interesting.
The first thing to know about airsoft is that safety is the first priority. If it’s not safe, it’s not airsoft. All players must wear a MINIMUM of high-impact rated eye protection (ratings vary depending on country) and most recommend a full-face mask.
Secondly, all airsoft guns are limited in their power (at least in the UK). Airsoft guns capable of full auto (multiple shots on 1 trigger pull) are limited to 1.14 joules of energy on most sites. Guns that fire one shot per trigger pull are limited to 1.68 joules. Weapons which require “cocking” between shots, such as bolt action sniper rifles are limited to 2.3joules.
To put that into perspective, most paintball markers shoot with an energy between 14-16 Joules.
All guns are “tested” before the games and any guns that are too powerful are not allowed to be used.
How do you know if you’re hit?
One of the best things about airsoft is that it’s a sport based on honesty. When you’re shot by another player, there’s no mark from paint, so it’s down to the player and their honesty to call themselves out. Anyone not willing to play properly is not welcome.
This breeds an incredibly friendly and honest game which is rarely ruined by cheaters.
Those are the absolute basic rules, but there are loads of more in-depth ones which make the game what it is. Dead players don’t talk (if you’re dead, you can’t give away another player’s position), No Blind firing (it’s not safe to shoot where you can’t see), etc. All of this is covered in the safety briefings at the beginning of the day.
Types of Airsoft
There are a number of different types of airsoft, each focusing on a different aspect of the game.
Primarily there’s skirmishing. Simply, two teams of players, shooting at each other through some kind of combat scenario. This is the most common form of airsoft and is how most players get started in the sport.
Similar to the above but focussed on Military Simulation. Teams are highly organised, with dedicated command hierarchies and roles, games are usually much longer (sometimes days) and more focussed on realism. We’ve got a whole blog on “What is MilSim”, here.
AIPSC is a target shooting sport, using airsoft guns to shoot at targets whilst timed/scored. It stems from when in some countries firearms were banned, the original IPSC (International Pistol Shooting Championships) was quickly replaced with AIPSC.
Speedsoft is the airsoft equivalent of paintball’s speedball. A fast paced tournament-like game which throws the military aspect out of the window and instead focusses on fast shooting, fast movement in shooting “arenas”. This form of airsoft is relatively new, but is growing in popularity.