Airsoft is a product of the Post War weapons ban in the land of the rising sun (JAPAN). It is no surprise that a nation established as a technology powerhouse as well as a hobbyist dreamland would be the birthplace of airsoft. Since Japanese citizens cannot own actual firearms they ended up creating the next best thing. Highly detailed replica models of real weapons with functioning internals capable of firing a 6mm projectile were produced in the 80′s and 90′s. At that time airsoft was very very expensive and only few dedicated players were engaged in the sport. Soon retailers began appearing in the USA on the West coast. Flash forward to today and the sport is quickly replacing sports such as Paintball.
For years players have played games known as MILSIM or Military Simulation. This inherently gives birth to the sports training aspect. The guns, gear, and everything in between are replicated from head to toe. Even the Japanese army or JGSDF has used Airsoft to train against members of the US military. Other big operations are OPERATION IRENE based of the infamous raid and the Battle of Mogadishu. LTC Mcknight as well as MSG Mullen (Veteran Rangers) are key players at that event held at Fort Knox.
Today real steel firearms manufactures are lending an ear and sometimes their own weapons licenses to airsoft. Companies such as Mapgul, H&k , Colt, Armalite, LWRC, Kriss , to name a few. This year airsoft was HUGE at SHOT SHOW 2013 as it was last year. Many are looking at it as an alternative to real steel training.
There are large retailers in California that sell most of the nations airsoft guns. Airsoft GI, Airsoft Megastore, Airsplat, Evike, Airsoft Extreme dominate the market at this point in time with huge selections of weapons and accessories. The nature of the sport has become very much akin to that of firearms, weapons are so realistic that they can be mistaken for real steel weapons. Airsofters have built on that knowledge and become very well versed in Firearms Saftey. Military and Law enforcement have also begun to use Airsoft to Train their forces as Airsoft becomes more mainstream.
Over the years the military has used MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System) gear which is a tactical verison of Laser Tag as well as Simmunitions. MILES gear uses the recoil from firing Blanks to set of a laser device on the weapon system. Draw backs to MILES are the laser can be blocked by something as small as a blade of grass, the expense of the ammo as well as the carbon build up on the weapon. It also doesn’t provide the feedback that incoming projectiles may have on Trainees. Over the years the training of MILES for regular Army units has in ways given the method of training a bad name. The gear often doesnt work and in some cases Invincible OPFOR (Opposing Forces) are not even wearing MILES gear.
Sim rounds or Simmunitions offer feedback on the weapon system as well as launch a small paint projectile. For units with the budget and access to Sim rounds it is a great for CQB. This training method is highly effective in forcing Trainees to react to incoming fire. The cost is probably the biggest drawback as well as the limited access.
Airsoft while having an inital cost buy in for the weapons systems, batteries and ammo, is very effective for training and Very cost effective. For 3-5 thousand rounds it is typically 15-25$. Batteries are reusable and just need to be recharged meaning you can keep them in use for years before having to replace them. Airsoft has an effective range of 150 feet but rounds can travel up to 200 with certain weapon systems. This makes them perfect for short range and medium range engagements in cities and woodland warfare. Every single weapon system most people can think of is available in airsoft. Bolt action sniper rifles, Light machine guns, Carbines, PDWs, Pistols, and other weapons are on the market today. This means there is NO retraining required to operate most of these weapon systems. Give a Soldier an M4 carbine and send that Soldier into a cqb scenario and watch the results. New Gas Operated Airsoft guns such as the LM4 PTR Manufactured by KWA offer a new level of realism greater then the Electric counterparts. This new development in Airsoft has caught the attention of Seasoned operators such as Travis Haley (Magupl Dynamics, Black Water battle of Najaf, Haley strategic, Marine Force Recon).
As mentioned earlier the fire arms industry has taken a good look at airsoft. Companies such as KRISS have given their weapon systems to KWA to replicate to the bolt for airsoft. The KWA Kriss Vector was arguably the most anticipated airsoft gun to date.
So you’re thinking about pickup up this sport or just want to train or demonstrate weapons tactics? Look no further there are Hundreds and Thousands of airsoft fields nation wide. Where do you purchase your rifle? There are many retailers as well. If you are lucky a local retailer will offer everything you need to start out. It is highly recommended to pick your airsoft guns at your local store because holding the weapon will give you great insight on if its the right rifle for you. There are also many places online to get your airsoft rifle. All the retailers mentioned earlier have big websites that are easy to navigate with all sorts of options and deals.
So what does airsoft look like in action?
Here are a few videos to show you what It is all about.
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