What is an Airsoft Gun? | Explained - Ehobby Asia
Airsoft guns are replica toy guns used in airsoft sports. They are a special type of low-power smoothbore air guns designed to shoot non-metallic spherical projectiles called "BBs", which are typically made of (but not limited to) plastic or biodegradable resin materials. Airsoft gun powerplants are designed to have low muzzle energy ratings (generally less than 1.5 J, or 1.1 ft⋅lb) and the pellets have significantly less penetrative and stopping powers than conventional airguns, and are generally safe for competitive sporting and recreational purposes if proper protective gear is worn.
Depending on the design mechanism for pellet propulsion, airsoft guns can be categorized into two groups: mechanical, which consists of a coil spring-loaded piston air pump that is either manually cocked (e.g. spring guns) or automatically cycled by a battery-powered electric motor gearbox (e.g. AEGs); and pneumatic, which operates by valve-controlled release of prefilled bottled gas such as compressed propane mixed with silicone oil (commonly known as "Green Gas") or CO2 canisters (e.g. GBB guns).
As toy weapons, airsoft guns can often be designed to realistically resemble genuine firearms in external appearance, and it can be very difficult to visually distinguish from one despite the orange muzzle tips in some jurisdictions.
Airsoft in the past was used almost solely for recreational purposes, but in 2012, gas blowback (GBB) airsoft technology became adopted by US federal and state institutions as an affordable and reliable tactical training tool for close quarters battles. In 2018, the United States Coast Guard officially adopted SIG-branded P229 airsoft pistol for training. The GBB guns allow for correct weapon manipulation drills, muscle memory training, stress inoculation and force-on-force simulations for a fraction of the cost of conventional bolt conversion kits that use marking cartridges with wax bullets from training ammunition manufacturers such as UTM and Simunition. Airsoft guns also allow basic and advanced shooter training in a safer environment by reducing the risks of accidental injury or death from a negligent discharge.
There are clubs, teams, and even athletic associations devoted to airsoft events around the world. Europe is home to some of the largest events, with skirmishes of over 2,000 people participating. In North America, in 2012 alone, Fulda Gap Airsoft Game in Taylorsville, North Carolina had over 1,100 participants, and Operation Lion Claws Military Simulation Series (OLCMSS) had 800 people attend at George Air Force Base in Victorville, California. American Mil-sim, Black Sheep, and Ballahack also host large games. The attraction of the larger games is due to the intensity and variety in equipment that is used, ranging from small arms to armored vehicles.
In many countries, every airsoft gun owner and active enthusiast must be affiliated with an accredited airsoft association or federation. Most airsoft players host games at a registered field where combat situations are simulated using airsoft weaponry like replica pistols, submachine guns, carbines/assault rifles, DMRs/sniper rifles, light machine guns, grenades and landmines. Great variety and profusion of militaria is usually used. Historical reenactment of famous war situations is another favorite of many airsoft players and clubs. In addition, a number of companies such as Systema Engineering and Celsius Technology manufacture ultra-realistic high-velocity airsoft rifles designed specifically for the police and military for non-lethal training purposes. People today can also use it as props for film making.
Airsoft originated from Japan in the early 1970s, when photographer Ichiro Nagata, an avid shooting enthusiast himself, thought about making model guns that shoot real projectiles that could not kill. These “guns” were trademarked as "soft air gun", tailoring to the needs of shooting enthusiasts while conforming to Japan's strict gun control. The name "soft air" referred to the compressed Freon-silicone oil mixture (later replaced by a propane-silicone oil mixture known as "Green Gas") that was used as a propellant gas, which was significantly weaker than the cannistered CO
2 used in proper airguns (pellet guns and BB guns). Originally designed for target shooting, the plastic balls these "soft air guns" use can be shot at humans without causing injury due to the low muzzle energy. After Tokyo Marui introduced its revolutionary electric motor-gear box design, which allows sustainable rapid-fire using rechargeable batteries, soft air guns became popular for casual wargames, which the Japanese calls survival games (サバイバルゲーム, sabaibaru gēmu).
Airsoft guns spread to the United Kingdom in the late 1980s and early 1990s via a company called LS, and were sold in separate pieces and had to be assembled before they were capable of shooting. These then became available to the rest of Europe and North America and rapidly gained popularity worldwide. Since the mid-1980s, airsoft has 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 East Asia. Many law enforcement agencies and military units within the United States now use airsoft for force-on-force training drills.
Today, Airsoft is enjoyed by millions of people around the world and it is safely enjoyed for recreation, training, and hobby collection.