Definitions

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Airsoft

Airsoft is a modern combat sport or recreational hobby in which participants eliminate opponents by hitting each other with spherical non-metallic pellets launched from a compressed-air gun (or Soft Air gun) powered by gas, manual spring-load, or an electrically-powered gearbox.

Airsoft participants organize meetings, either indoors or outdoors, at a dedicated airsoft battlefields to play a variety of games ranging from short-term skirmishes, organized scenarios, military simulations, or historical reenactments.

Combat situations on the battlefield often involve the use of common military tactics to achieve the objectives set in each game. Participants typically employ the use of varying types of weaponry designed as replicas of real firearms, tactical gear, and accessories used by modern military and police organizations.

History

Airsoft has its roots in late-1950s East Asia, specifically Japan where firearms were difficult or impossible to obtain due to local laws; sought a legal alternative for enjoying their passion. Airsoft is still today most popular in several Asian regions, such as Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, and to a certain extent, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The vast majority of airsoft guns, accessories, and after market upgrade parts are also manufactured in these countries.

There is also a growing interest in North America and Europe, especially in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Spain, Poland, Lithuania, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Italy, Belgium (which is also visited by Dutch players, as the game is illegal in the Netherlands), and Denmark.

Methods of play

Skirmish

"Skirmishing" is the most common form of play. Players may use methods and equipment that may differ from a realistic battle (Hi-capacity magazines for example). Most players in this group dress in BDUs and have guns ranging for $50 to $2000 in price. These battles can take place anywhere from an abandoned building, an area of woods, to a farm.

MilSim

MilSim, short for Military Simulation, generally combines airsoft play with some military live-action role-playing elements. Several goals or missions are assigned to each team, along with a basic load-out of ammunition (6 millimeter pellets), rations, batteries, and other suitable equipment, such as short-range radios and head-sets. Sometimes such equipment is provided whilst other times players may bring them at their own discretion.

The teams will remain in the field for the duration of play, only returning to a staging area or "safe zone" for medical emergencies, or other such circumstances. Military simulation games often last several days, for example the large BERGET event in Sweden lasts for six days, with no breaks. In large scale MilSim operations players may utilize vehicles such as painted vans and trucks. In some cases, such as Operation Irene, real APCs and tanks are used.

Airsoft games are not only limited to MilSim or CQB, however. There are many alternate game scenarios.

Honor system

The 'honor system' is employed whereby the players rely on each others' honesty to admit to being hit, because unlike paintballs plastic pellets do not leave a surface mark distinguishable at a distance. While airsoft pellets that contain paint do exist, they are very rarely used by serious players due to their ineffectiveness, and tendency to damage some airsoft equipment.

Depending on the muzzle velocity of the gun and distance from which a person is shooting, the person on the receiving end of the shot will usually feel the impact, but the pellets may sometimes not be felt by a player at very long ranges, when distracted, or when running strenuously, hence the importance of marshals or referees. Honest admission of hits is still required because no one can monitor what happens to every player on the playing field.

To avoid unnecessary disputes that disrupt the game, players are discouraged from calling out hits on their opponent but are expected to signal a marshal to judge how effectively they can hit their opponents. Simulated 'knife kills' can, at the venue's discretion, be performed when a player touches or taps an unaware opponent. This prevents the player being forced to shoot him or her at point-blank range. Similarly a 'courtesy kill' occurs when a player refrains from shooting an opponent at close range while enforcing that opponent's surrender. Players are usually prohibited from firing blindly when not able to see their target, especially around corners. Players are expected to avoid the shooting of an opponent who has already admitted to being hit. Harsh language and forceful physical contact between players is strongly discouraged and even penalized. Players are expected to resolve disputes politely and with proper decorum.

All airsoft players are required and expected to acknowledge being hit even if they are in doubt. Those who acknowledge being hit are generally expected to do the following: (1) Shout "I'm hit" loudly; (2) Raise their hand or gun high and/or display a 'hit indicator' while walking back to the safe zone. A hit indicator can be either a bright-colored cloth during daytime or a blinker or mini-flashlight when in dim light or darkness. Dishonest players who fail to follow the rules or acknowledge their hits run the risk of being labelled and ostracized by the local airsoft community. They will from then on be observed more carefully by the marshals or possibly be even banned from playing in the area.

Another form of cheating occurs when an active player gains an unfair advantage by pretending to be an already-hit player in order to avoid being shot. During night games, active players have been known to turn on their blinker lights to move casually and then to turn them off for combat. Cheating also takes place when an eliminated player re-activates himself within the same game without permission from a marshal. Some players can also gain an unfair advantage by spontaneously joining a game (without authorization) some time long after the game had already started, therefore being in fresh condition and in a position to surprise their opponents.

Due to the nature of the honor system many feel airsoft requires high moral values and honesty to play well without the need for distinguishing hit marks or strict marshal's calls.

Safety

While airsoft guns are safe some of the safety precautions that anyone who is handling or shooting an airsoft rifle followed are: to wear protective lenses or goggles, to keep their finger off the trigger until ready to fire, and to only point the gun in a safe direction. Shooters are advised to never point their weapons at animals, nor at unprotected or non-playing people. There are more safety precautions that are included in the user manuals for airsoft weaponry. The power source of the airsoft gun, be it gas, a manual cocking spring, or an electric motor does not affect how safe or unsafe the gun is.

The majority of airsoft guns are operated by an electric motor and powered by a battery. While usually safe when unmodified, any work done to the electrical system can pose an inexperienced airsoft player a shock or fire hazard. This is normally only an issue when the airsoft gun is used with a power source it is not rated for, such as a low end electric gun using a battery with a voltage that is higher than what is recommended.

Damage Effects on Human Flesh

A close-range (5 feet) shot from an airsoft BB on bare skin from a gun with a velocity over 300 FPS can break the skin and cause minor bleeding. If playing with a t-shirt or thin clothing it may possibly make a small bruise. A shot two feet or closer to the eye area can cause serious injury and possible blindness. For this reason eye protection is mandatory for all players.

As a rule of thumb energy levels should be fairly below 350 feet per second or approximately 107 meters per second (penetration level, see Airsoft Pellets Ballistics for details). While it hurts for a few seconds up close, it only stings for a second from long range on the flesh.

Wildlife and Terrain Hazards

Because airsoft games are most often played in natural surroundings, animals can often interfere with these games and potentially be hazardous. These vary between countries and regions.

Whether in natural or built-up urban terrain, airsoft players can be subject to injury from terrain features such as slippery surfaces, steep slopes or heights, falls or trips, collisions with unseen obstructions, snags and sharpened objects, and even noxious substances (animal droppings, etc.). Scratches, cuts, bruises, concussions, and sprains, plus a few broken bones can easily occur in this type of activity. This is another reason for the need for military-style protective gear such as head and neck armor, all-terrain boots, thickened gloves, knee and elbow pads, and full-length rugged attire. Airsoft players are careful when running rapidly as well as moving hastily in the dark to avoid injury from such hazards.

Kinetic Energy

Although there is a considerable difference between Airsoft and paintball energy levels, the type of collisions that occur (elastic airsoft vs. inelastic paintball) must also be considered (refer to Airsoft Pellets Ballistics).

Kinetic energy is the energy that is transferred from the pellet to its target upon impact. One joule of energy will be transferred at a fps of 330 with a BB at the weight of .20g. A typical set of limits on guns might be 330fps for CQB, 400fps for outdoors and 550fps for bolt action sniper rifles, all measured with a .20g BB. The level of kinetic energy goes up and down depending on the weight of your BB and how fast your gun can propel that weight of the BB. There are certain places that play no FPS limit games.

In the United Kingdom, the energy limit for all Airsoft is usually one joule (328fps with a 0.2 gram 6 mm BB) regardless of the type of game play.

Most Airsoft guns are capable of shooting from 150 FPS to 400 FPS, though it is also possible to purchase upgraded springs for some Airsoft guns that will enable 400 to 600 FPS projectile velocities.

A hop-up unit, if present, puts backspin on the BB. This backspin generates lift and gives the BB a greater effective range. With too much applied hop, the BB will arc skywards; too little and it will fall to earth prematurely. Hop up can vary with the weight of the BB, .12 gram BBs are more affected by the backspin than the heavier .20 gram BBs The range of any Airsoft gun depends on both the fps at the muzzle, and the amount of HOP applied. Airsoft guns can have a range of 250 feet or more with enough power, the right barrel, and ammunition as well as a good hop-up unit. The hop-up rubber or bucking is also what retains the BB in the barrel until firing.

Eye and Face Protection

A standard of safety guidelines and equipment has evolved in the airsoft community to protect the eyes and face. The minimum safe level of gear required to participate in most games includes a pair of fully-sealing impact-rated goggles to protect the eyes of the participants. Traditional prescription glasses and sunglasses are almost never accepted as they will not prevent serious injury. Goggles not designed specifically for use with airsoft or paintball guns may break or shatter upon being struck, causing eye damage.

For this reason many organized groups of airsoft players and fields require that eye protection fully seals the area around the eyes, and also meets or exceeds ANSI's Z87.1-2003 goggle standard for eye protection: the ability to resist 3 joules of impact energy without damage. Some players instead opt for paintball goggles, which are held to higher impact rating standards, ASTM's F1776.

According to ANSI publications as of June 2006, The ASTM is currently developing a more specific standard for airsoft - ASTM Z1535Z - Standard Specification for Eye Protective Devices for Airsoft Sports.

The best overall protection is currently offered by paintball masks. However when using a scope you might have to wear safety glasses. These masks provide an additional level of protection by covering the face, teeth, and ears, greatly reducing the risk of injury to these body parts and the chipping of teeth. The lens is a solid piece of impact resistant plastic. Some airsoft masks are made with mesh screens, though these screens do not offer protection from cheaper or bio-degradable BBs that sometimes fragment upon impact on hard objects.

Unprotected Players or Bystanders

A player and any observer near an airsoft game site is required to keep their face mask, goggles, or shooting glasses on at all times. This is a standard safety requirement upon an airsoft site and this rule is always enforced by the marshal in charge to ensure that all players and observers remain safe and no accidents occur during the gameplay.

All players must immediately stop shooting when a person without eye protection is encountered in the playing area. One commonly adopted practice is for players to shout the words "Cease-fire, Blind Man!," "Heads up, Pedestrian!," "Noncombatant!," "Clear man!," "Walker!," "Civilian!" or "Unarmed personnel!" and halt an ongoing game if a player or bystander is seen in the designated game play area without proper eye protection: goggles and a helmet. Any player hearing the words must, in turn, stop and also shout the words, resulting in a chain reaction which halts and alerts the whole game. Once the situation is resolved by properly removing the unprotected person from harm, the game is usually resumed at the same point at which it was stopped. It may be smart to move to a different area after a safety call so you don't give away your location.

Community safety precautions

Some other rules such as a maximum BB velocity and distance guidelines are used in different ways by groups depending on their location. Various locations often offer similar safety rules with slight variations. In order to encourage the mixing of segmented communities into a larger community that can more easily engage each other, certain organizations have created safety rules and guidelines for players to share the field under common understanding and to band together in safe environments.

When not actively playing, some fields require "barrel bags," also known as barrel condoms, which were first introduced in paintball. Many airsoft guns, especially AEGs, come with small red plastic barrel blockers that fit over the muzzle. The magazine is usually removed as well, and the gun fired to clear the chamber. Many fields also require players to leave their guns set to the safety position when they are not shooting, even during active game play. This is a practice taken from real firearms training, in which one never puts a finger on the trigger or takes the weapon off safe until ready to fire.

In certain countries such as the Philippines where large numbers of players often play every weekend in commercial airsoft venues, additional special rules have been adopted to increase safety and avoid unnecessary injury. All "real steel" firearms, explosives, and bladed weapons are banned at any airsoft battlefield to prevent harmful accidents or misunderstandings and confusion between real and simulated weapons. Players are also expected to be discreet in transporting or carrying their gear and combat-style uniforms so as not to unduly alarm the general public and force the law enforcement agencies to investigate an incident involving airsoft guns. Pyrotechnic devices and effects may be allowed under special circumstances, but are rarely employed, because of the added danger to property or to the participants from fire and explosions.

Teams

There are many organized teams all over the USA and in various countries. Some teams consist of just a few players, who just get together and play during weekends. Some prominent teams have 50 or more players, and are able to send delegations to regional or national events. Competitive teams are those who are able to get special funding or sponsorships in order to compete in tournaments or "bivouacs" (big, multi-day events) held around the country. Most of the well-organized airsoft teams adopt special names, logos, patches, uniforms, gear, and websites or forums to standardize their own identity or appearance versus other teams or groupings.

In the Philippines, there are multiple amorphous groups of airsoft players loosely organized into "teams" that range from the size of squads, platoons, and companies, to large regional confederations of multiple teams and associations. These can be organized according to family group, geographic proximity, professional affiliation, school or business organization, or even according to compatible playing styles, economic lifestyles, and personalities. Such teams can form, disband, regroup, and reform, for any reason, but they are now easily mobilized or organized through website forums and cellphone contact. Some players can belong to multiple teams, just to a particular squad, or may act as "lone wolves" who have no particular team affiliation. Some teams adopt formal rules of association but the majority do not.

There have been attempts to lie one large nationwide umbrella organization of airsofters but these have not succeeded nor persisted in the past. However, due to the continuing influx of cheaper and effective airsoft electric guns, more informal players' associations keep on growing in size, number, and influence as more people take up this sporting activity as a hobby. The growing number of airsoft game sites being set up in recent years is also allowing players in the same neighborhood to play steadily and also to roam from one game site to another.

Legal issues

Airsoft guns and playing airsoft is legal in most parts of the world, but not all. Some countries have specific restrictions such as maximum muzzle velocity, aka fps (feet per second) rules against using the trademarks of real firearms, and 'unrealistic' coloring as to distinguish them from actual firearms. They are legal throughout the U.S, but restrictions exist in certain cities such as Camden, NJ, Newark, NJ, Chicago, IL, and Detroit, MI. The states of New Jersey, Illinois, New York and Michigan do, however, allow airsoft guns to be used and handled publicly because of Federal and State laws that regard airsoft guns as toys. In the United Kingdom, airsoft replicas are classified as 'realistic imitation firearms' or RIF's. The sale, manufacture or importation of RIFs are restricted to activities that are exempted or have been granted a defense by the home office under the Violent Criminal Reduction Act passed in 2005 and came into force on October 1st 2007. Airsoft has been granted a defense and a skirmisher as defined under British law is allowed to purchase, manufacture or import airsoft replicas. Usually, the only accepted method of proving entitlement is to gain membership of a skirmish site that holds public liability insurance. A scheme set up by UK retailers, called UKARA, recommends that an airsoft site only give membership to a player who has played at least three games over a period of no less than two months. The right to own a RIF is still reserved to over 18's regarding they are registered.

You do not need to be a UKARA registered player to purchase airsoft replicas from retailers; however, to protect themselves, many retailers will only sell to UKARA registered players. Also, players they personally know to be skirmishers will be sold to. These are because the law penalizes the seller as well as potentially the buyer.

Also, the use or possession of any kind of replica weapon, loaded or otherwise in a public place is an offense under UK law. This can carry heavy penalties.

A measure that is employed by some airsoft players is informing local law enforcement officials where and when airsoft games will take place, so that misunderstandings can be avoided.

Due to a steady entry of lower-cost airsoft guns from abroad, the Philippine National Police has issued in December 2007 its Circular 11 (Airsoft Implementing Rules and Regulations). It regulates the purchase, one-time registration, transport, usage, transfer of ownership, importation, manufacture and repair, marking and branding, as well as commercial sale of airsoft guns by Filipino citizens of legal age. Only airsoft guns with a muzzle velocity of 550 feet per second (fps) or less using 0.2-g BBs can be registered. The PNP AIRR also regulates the operation of airsoft playing fields, registration of airsoft teams, and the enactment of standardized rules and codes of conduct among airsoft players. Foreigners are still barred from transporting or registering ownership of airsoft guns but this does not prevent them from playing with them on private fields or commercial game sites.

Worldwide Regulations

Australia

In Australia, Airsoft is illegal for most practical purposes. Australian law classifies Air and BB guns as "Category A" weapons, placing then in the same class as break-action shotguns and rimfire rifles, and acquiring a licence to possess (e.g.) a pistol requires a rigorous and laborious process of police background checks. You must also have a legitimate reason and be able to prove that reason before you are allowed possession of a firearm, regardless if either Airsoft or live-fire. Anyone found in Australia possessing an unlicensed Airsoft pistol faces the same charge as a person who unlawfully possesses an actual firearm.

Airsoft Australia is aiming to get Airsoft redefined as a sport and allow it to be legally accepted. This will only be possible by restrictions on how replicas can be obtained (an age over 18 and an Airsoft specific licence (is hoped) to be required of the player), for protection of the sport in general and others.

Airsoft Australia has thus far failed to make any significant leeway with the Government, nor any impact whatsoever on legislation due to the federal election being within the next six months (June 07). The official Airsoft Australia website was hacked but is going to be re-opened soon; however, the organization is about to move to its new domain: http://www.airsoftaustralia.com.au/.

Argentina

Airsoft is banned since replicas were used in a bank robbery.

Austria

Airsoft guns and pistols are allowed, but restricted to maximal 0.08 joule for persons <18 years. All users that are at least 14 years old do not need their parent's permission. Airsoft guns and pistols more than 0.08 joule can be purchased in specialized weapon shops only and all users have to be at least 18 years old

Belgium

Airsoft guns and pistols can only be bought at officially licensed dealers, who carry a government permit along with a certified weapon of defense (W.O.D.) to import and sell firearms. Bulgaria

People between 14-18 years old play with their parents' permission and no documents are needed for non-minors. Bulgarian law considers Airsoft guns to be airguns and therefore one does not need any documents or licenses to possess them; however, shooting in "protected" areas is forbidden. Protected areas include public areas, schools, administrative buildings and other public property. There are no restrictions relating to carrying, possessing or using Airsoft guns in Bulgaria. There are no restrictions about the age of the players, although traders do not sell airguns to minors. There are no restrictions about the use of lasers, flashlights etc. in conjunction with a gun in a game of Airsoft. Unlike the game in the US, there is no need for the end of the barrel to be painted in orange and there are no restrictions about the power of an airsoft gun.

Canada

From the Canada Firearms Centre's fact sheet on airguns, Revised April 2008:

If you own or want to acquire an air gun, here is some information you should know about how the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code apply to them.

Air guns (also known as BB guns, pellet guns, spring guns or air soft guns) fall into three categories:

air (pneumatic system), spring (spring-air), and gas (CO2/nitrogen). For purposes of the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code, air guns can be broken down further into the following four categories:

1. Air guns that are firearms for purposes of both the Firearms Act and the Criminal Code.

These are air guns with both a high muzzle velocity (greater than 152.4 meters or 500 feet per second) and a high muzzle energy (greater than 5.7 joules or 4.2 foot-pounds). The “muzzle velocity” is the speed of a projectile at the instant it leaves the muzzle of a gun, normally expressed in metres per second or feet per second. The “muzzle energy” is the energy of a projectile at the instant it leaves the muzzle of a gun, expressed in joules or foot-pounds. Air guns need to meet both standards to be classified as firearms for purposes of the Firearms Act.

These high-powered air guns are subject to the same licence and registration requirements as a conventional firearm.

You are also required to store, transport, display and handle them safely in accordance with the regulations supporting the Firearms Act.

Usually, the manufacturer’s specifications are used to determine what muzzle velocity and muzzle energy an air gun was designed to have. This information may be available in the user’s manual or on the manufacturer’s web site. If the information is not available, individuals can call 1 800 731-4000 and ask to speak to a firearms technician to find out if the air gun is classified as a firearm for purposes of the Firearms Act.

High-powered air rifles are classified as non-restricted firearms. High-powered air pistols are classified as restricted if their barrel is longer than 105 mm or prohibited if their barrel length is 105 mm or less.

2. Air guns that meet the Criminal Code definition of a firearm, but that are deemed not to be firearms for certain purposes of the Firearms Act and Criminal Code.

These are air guns with a maximum muzzle velocity of 152.4 meters or 500 feet per second and/or a maximum muzzle energy of 5.7 joules or 4.2 foot pounds.

Such air guns are exempt from licensing, registration, and other requirements under the Firearms Act, and from penalties set out in the Criminal Code for possessing a firearm without a valid licence or registration certificate. However, they are considered to be firearms under the Criminal Code if they are used to commit a crime. Anyone who uses such an air gun to commit a crime faces the same penalties as someone who uses a regular firearm.

The simple possession, acquisition and use of these air guns for lawful purposes is regulated more by provincial and municipal laws and by-laws than by federal law. For example, some provinces may have set a minimum age for acquiring such an air gun. For more information, please contact your local or provincial authorities.

These air guns are exempt from the specific safe storage, transportation and handling requirements set out in the regulations supporting the Firearms Act. However, the Criminal Code requires that reasonable precautions be taken to use, carry, handle, store, transport, and shipped them in a safe and secure manner

3. Air guns that are replica firearms

These are air guns that are not powerful enough to cause serious injury or death, but that were designed to resemble a real firearm with near precision. Replica firearms, except for replicas of antique firearms, are classified as prohibited devices.

In particular, some air guns that are commonly called air soft guns may fall into this category. These are devices that have a low muzzle velocity and muzzle energy, and that usually discharge projectiles made out of a substance such as plastic or wax rather than metal or lead.

Although replica firearms are prohibited, you may keep any that you owned on December 1, 1998. You do not need a licence to possess them, and they do not need to be registered. However, as an individual, you cannot import or acquire a replica firearm. If you take a replica firearm out of Canada, you will not be able to bring it back in.

The Criminal Code sets out some penalties for using a replica firearm or any other imitation firearm to commit a crime.

The Canada Firearms Centre (CAFC) receives many enquiries from people wondering whether a low-powered air gun would be considered a replica if it resembles a real firearm in terms of its shape and size, but it is made of clear or brightly coloured plastic, or is much smaller in size.

Many of these devices have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. As a general rule, however, those made out of clear plastic and those that are significantly smaller than the real version are not classified as replicas. Brightly coloured paint does not necessarily exclude a device from the definition of a replica.

Direct Link: http://www.cfc-cafc.gc.ca/factsheets/airguns_e.asp

Chile

Airsoft remains largely underground and most people don't know about it. Replicas are usually considered a toy, but most retailers won't sell them to underage customers in order to avoid problems with the police. Shooting an Airsoft gun in public will usually end with a trip to the police station and possibly a small fine.

Estonia

Airsoft guns are not considered weapons, but rather a sports item, similarly to paintball markers, according to Estonian Forensic Institute, and therefore can be freely imported, traded and used.

Italy

Airsoft guns are considered toys, no license being required to acquire them in any form or number, the only restriction imposed by the Ministry of Interior is that their sale is recommended (not mandatory) only to customers over 14 years of age (18 years for some models, like the most realistic ones). All Airsoft guns made in Italy or imported from abroad must bear an orange tip marking; however this requirement only affects the makers (if the replica is made in Italy) or the official importers (if the replica is made abroad); the end user can remove the orange tip at his own will; however, if such Airsoft replica is subsequently used to commit a felony, this is considered aggravation of crime. Modifying Airsoft replicas to enhance their performances is also forbidden as the Italian law poses a limit of <1 Joule of muzzle energy under which the replicas can be legally freely acquired by anyone: any Airsoft replica or air gun delivering >1 Joule and <7,5 Joules of muzzle energy is considered by law a "Low-power air gun", which can be freely acquired by anyone over 18 years without Police license or registration but can be sold only in gun shops where the sellers must require to see the purchaser's ID Card data as a proof of age and take record of it; air guns delivering >7,5 Joules of muzzle energy are considered "High-power air guns", whose purchase and detention is subject to common gun laws. Airsoft skirmishing is illegal in public places and can take place either in specifically-organized grounds or private properties. Depending on several factors such as the number of people involved in an Airsoft skirmish, the purported realism, and the distance from an inhabited area, the organizers must report the local law enforcement about the scheduled activity. All organized Airsoft playing grounds and/or clubs must be registered within the local law enforcement commands.

Hazards of being mistaken for a real firearm

There have been unfortunate instances in which an airsoft replica firearm have been mistaken (by police, and also by armed citizens) for a real steel firearm. In these rare cases players must know how to act; dropping the gun when told to by anyone with a real gun, keeping hands in sight, remaining calm, following instructions, saying that the gun is a toy, but staying still, compliant and otherwise quiet while waiting for the person with the real gun to inspect the airsoft.

Some safety precautions you can take so that no confusion arises are: not removing the orange tip, informing surrounding public about airsoft, and playing in private areas. The major distinction between a real firearm and an airsoft gun is the shape of the magazine feed area, which contains a round circular opening through which the pellets pass. Thus, releasing and removing the magazine can assist in distinction between an airsoft gun and a firearm.

Orange-tipped airsoft gun muzzles

There have been countless cases of airsoft guns being mistaken for real firearms, and many cases where armed law enforcement units have responded to tips of unlawful firearm use. This is the main reason that American federal laws require minimum 6mm (approx. 1/4") orange tips to be present on all "toy guns" (including airsoft replicas) transported within and imported into the United States.

However, the effectiveness of such measures remains open to debate, because these orange tips can be easily removed, covered, or painted away at any time. One prominent case occurred in Longwood, Florida when a student threatened fellow classmates with an airsoft pistol and was subsequently shot dead when he aimed it towards an officer. The orange tip mandated by US Federal law had been painted black. Airsoft players will generally do anything to avoid using the orange tip on their guns because it makes them more visible at a distance when they play. The majority of airsoft guns now lack orange tips even if they originally had them, even in localities that require them, so this type of legal regulation would be impractical to enforce in all instances. This is often the norm if the airsoft gun is used only in private or restricted game locations that are not usually accessible to law enforcers. Furthermore, theatrical or movie productions may require the absolute lack of any markings that would distinguish a replica gun from a real gun, so there are regulated exceptions to the orange-tip rule.

Furthermore, their legal imposition means that criminals can attempt to disguise real firearms as toys by painting the tip of the barrel orange, or vice versa. According to the New Times Broward-Palm Beach, "Federal regulations state that fake guns must be sold with orange tips. But there's nothing in the books to prevent airsoft owners from painting those tips black or, for that matter, from painting orange tips onto real guns. For police departments that are already hampered by a lack of resources to enforce America's laws on actual firearms, the additional task of tracking down and constantly monitoring non-lethal replica guns could result in much more lax enforcement of the orange-tip rules.

Airsoft equipment

Airsoft equipment encompasses many types of equipment used in the sport of airsoft, including the airsoft gun used to shoot airsoft pellets at opponents, safety goggles, and all sorts of tactical gear including vests, equipment holders, and gun accessories.

Cost

To a new player choosing between airsoft and paintball, a beginning package for airsoft is much cheaper in terms of hardware, but for apparel they can be roughly equivalent. They both can range from $20 for a vest, to $180 (expensive version) for a ghillie suit. One major difference, however, can be seen in the cost of ammunition and upkeep of the packages - due to the type of ammunition used, airsoft guns are less prone to "jamming", and airsoft BBs (6mm) are considerably cheaper to purchase than paintballs.

Airsoft rifles and pistols are usually the most expensive piece of equipment. Low-quality electric guns, commonly called LPEGs (low priced/powered electric guns) can cost from $15-$90 USD depending on the quality, the MPEGs (medium priced/powered electric guns) can cost in the range of $80-$180 USD and are usually a clone of an AEG with lower quality materials (e.g. recent CYMA guns, A&K, etc. which are made of pot metal which is weaker than high end plastic.), while a higher quality AEG is usually more than $200 USD. A paintball gun of equal level usually costs between $250-$350. The overall average for a high quality electric gun is around $200-$500 USD (or much higher, if the user decides to purchase a pre-upgraded gun or a specialized gun, such as a sniper rifle or an LMG replica) depending on the model. Some can cost upwards of $1000 and are sold mainly to collectors and those looking for the closest possible replicas for law enforcement weapons and law enforcement training. Some custom guns can cost more than $2,000 USD. Gas rifles start at around $150 but most high quality gas guns start at about $500.

In Mil-Sim games, where the main aspect of the play is realism, equipment is usually much more expensive. Many Mil-Sim players choose to wear real gear (not an airsoft replica) and in some cases, real ballistic protective armor. This can raise the price of the game considerably, with guns and gear sometimes totaling in excess of $1,000 USD.

Airsoft guns

The guns used in airsoft are typically replicas of real firearms, except that they have a mechanism for pushing out projectiles 6 mm or 8 mm in diameter. An example would be the Classic Army M15A4, which is a replica of the M16 assault rifle. Airsoft guns are considered replicas of real firearms but not all replicas are Airsoft guns; some replicas don't have a firing mechanism while others, such as the Real Action Markers, may have a different mechanism and shoot non-Airsoft types of projectiles.

Airsoft guns are classified according to their operating principle which can be either: spring, electric, or gas-powered. An airsoft gun is selected according to the level of performance (battery life, range, rate of fire, magazine capacity, size, and weight) or realism the player requires. Early-generation airsoft guns were mostly "springers." Single action airsoft guns are almost never semi-auto and never auto. Second-generation airsoft guns had gas-powered mechanisms that required either an internal "Flon" (CFC) gas reservoir or an external a high-pressure CO2 chamber. AEGs (automatic electric guns, such as assault rifles) are the most commonly produced type now used and have high-capacity rechargeable batteries to operate plastic or metal gearboxes that displace air to propel the BBs.

Most airsoft pistols which are gas-powered use environmentally safe "green gas" and produce a realistic blowback recoil effect when fired. Each pistol magazine contains a small storage gas cylinder with enough power to propel the 30+ BB projectiles also housed in the magazine. Thus a player can realistically load, fire, and unload an airsoft pistol with similar realism as a "real steel" semi-automatic pistol. A few early-production AEPs (Airsoft Electric Pistols) have been released but these suffer from weaker BB velocities because of the difficulty of fitting a small-enough motor in the housing of a pistol, although the range is sometimes greater than a gas pistol because FPS can equal drag. AEP's often have a higher rate of fire than their gas counterparts.

Most early airsoft guns were often completely made of A.B.S plastic except for some internal moving parts. Newer guns, especially those made in China, have metal barrels, receivers, gearboxes, gun sights, and other external parts. A typical airsoft gun is noticeably lighter than its "real steel" counterpart due to the use of aluminium, alloy, and plastic components. Thus, airsoft guns tend to get scratched, damaged, or broken easily from rough handling. When fired, most airsoft guns have a weak vibration and a much softer whirring sound, without any strong recoil, bright muzzle flash, concussive noise, or smell of burnt propellant as those produced by real firearms, although there are smoke caps available for certain airsoft guns for added realism.

Carrying additional backup firearms is a habit during long-duration scenarios that would prevent the player from going back to the safe zone to replace a defective gun. Each gun would need its supply of magazines and batteries or gas canisters. In the case of AEG rifles magazines come in either low-capacity (low caps: 40-80 BBs), medium-capacity (mid caps: 80-150 BBs), or high-capacity (high caps: 200-500+ BBs). These magazines are spring loaded; the high-cap magazines often have a ratchet wheel that can be wound up periodically to force BBs up the magazine feed chute, but these magazines make a rattling noise when running or walking. Some airsoft guns have electric-powered box or drum magazines that hold thousands of BBs (sometimes up to 5000). Also, many pistols and rifles have metal weights in them for a more realistic feel, effect, and balance.

Grenades and launchers

Players can use grenades, grenade launchers,smoke grenades, mines, and claymores that utilize very minor or no explosives (pyrotechnics). Most of these "pyro" devices are powered by a compressed gas. As with many aspects of airsoft equipment, each item is designed as a playful analogy to the real thing, and many times lack the violence of such. The hand grenades have many faults and therefore not as popular or common as grenade launchers like the M203 which launches a large shower of pellets, NERF or foam slug rounds using compressed gas. And while most players, if they do at all use grenade launchers, will simply use an underbarrel launcher such as the M203, some players purchase heavier support weapons such as replicas of the Heckler & Koch 69 40mm grenade launcher, or a CAW revolving launcher, which can hold up to 6 40mm gas powered pellet grenades, (the pellet capacity of each grenade varies by its producer, and specified use, though grenades by MadBull Airsoft have been known to be able to fire over 200 pellets in a single shot), and shoot them in a semi-automatic mode. By using the Caw launcher, support gunners can get off up to 1224 rounds of 6 mm ammunition in about 3 seconds. Mines are not particularly popular because whilst some mines do fire 6 mm pellets in large amounts, similar to an M203 launcher, others only produce a mushroom cloud when activated without actually firing any pellets. The airsoft claymore mine is more expensive in some cases, but popular due to their effectiveness. Anti-tank weapons exist such as the M72, but they are not common or popular due to their weight and greater expense. These are rarely used in casual play, but can be implemented (with special rules for it in place) when playing on an official airsoft field.

Airsoft projectiles

Most airsoft guns fire spherical plastic pellets ranging from 0.12 to 0.88 grams in weight, though the most popular weights for AEGs are between .20 and .28 grams, depending on the range that the gun is typically used at. Heavier rounds are typically used for sniping, as they are more stable in flight and thus, more accurate at long range. While BBs may be heavier, it is not necessary to have the gun upgraded to a very high FPS level.

One way to increase the accuracy of a rifle is to adjust the "hop-up" to make the rounds fly as straight and as far as possible without curving upwards or downwards at short distances. The hop-up effect is caused by back spin on the BB, which minimizes the drop experienced by the BB (increases the straight flying distance) by increasing its lift according to the bernoulli principle.

Pellets are typically 6 mm in diameter, though 8 mm varieties exist for specialty weapons. Pellet quality is important, as malformed ones could easily damage the barrel of the airsoft weapon and/or the hop up system. In addition to damaging the barrel, malformed, soiled, or low-grade pellets with seams will be much more inaccurate. Because of the hop up mechanism that puts a spin on the pellet, even a small deformity will be accentuated and throw the pellet off course.

Paintball pellets are also available for airsoft guns but are unpopular due to the incompatibility with hop up systems as well as the potential damage they could cause if a pellet were to burst inside the gun, which frequently happens. While airsoft pellets are often called BBs, the BB gun is so named because it originally fired BB-sized shotgun shot or metric ball bearings of .177 caliber (steel BBs are actually between .172 and .173 inches (4.5 mm) in diameter). The price of low grade pellets range from $3.50, for a container of about 5000 to around $10 USD for a large tub of about 10,000. Higher grade pellets can cost as much as $10 USD for 2000 BBs. Most middle to high grade pellets come slightly lubricated with a silicone spray.

Clothing

Some players, especially those participating in MilSims, wear military battle dress uniforms (BDUs) consisting of separate pants and shirts or jackets, because they aid in concealment from adversaries, just as in real military operations. Some players will go as far as to use a ghillie suit, which breaks up the human outline by having sticks, leafs, and similar items in the fabric/netting.

The choice of camouflage pattern of the BDUs is normally determined by suitability to the playing area or local availability. These fall into general categories such a forest (greenish), desert (tan), winter (gray-white), and urban (black or civilian-wear). Aside from the advantage of camouflage, some participants aim to faithfully replicate a specific combat unit (particularly in games such as MilSim).

Typically, military surplus stores are a good source for such items. In the U.S. the most common pattern is "Woodland" camouflage pattern, but recently MARPAT (recently adopted by the United States Marine Corps) and ACU (adopted in 2006 by the United States Army), and CADPAT (Canadian Armed Forces) have also become popular choices in North America, but most European camouflage patterns are suitable with Flecktarn (Germany) being a popular alternative, or even strictly commercial patterns such as Multicam or Real-Tree.

Similarly in Europe, local military uniforms are more readily available and probably more suitable to local conditions. Popular patterns include the German Flecktarn, Swedish M90, British DPM, Italian Vegetata or Swiss Alpenflage.

In the Philippines, civilian airsofters are forced to wear mismatched, commercial or foreign military uniforms (BDUs), because laws allow only military and police personnel to wear official uniforms. It has become popular among civilians and airsoft players to wear only the upper garment or the pants, but not both. Similarly, in Sweden, it is illegal to wear both rank insignias and Swedish flags on civilian uniforms at the same time.

Aside from concealment, Military BDUs also provide protection from typical outdoor elements such as weather, flora and most importantly the impact of the BBs. When not wearing full paintball-type face masks, many players wear neck armor such as a balaclava and military-style helmets, such as the Kevlar MICH 2000 or PASGT helmet. Furthermore, players need to wear the proper field footwear such as combat or hiking boots (not just ordinary athletic shoes) in order to safely and quickly travel on foot in harsh terrain. They also wear padded gloves, elbow pads, knee pads, and protective vests for additional protection.

In some cases, rules are adopted that allow only casual clothes in an effort to encourage realism because players will more actively avoid being hit.

Tactical gear

Players wear tactical clothing and accessories not only for the added realism, but to fulfil the practical needs similar to that of a real soldier. One such example is the ability to carry spare magazines, batteries, propellant gas canisters, water, food, or other equipment in specified vests. The most common are holsters, load bearing vests, and modular rigs such as MOLLE, ALICE, and the British PLCE systems. Many players also wear a hydration system in hot conditions or when they plan on staying out for an extended amount of time.

Gun bags or gun cases that can be padlocked allow airsoft guns to be transported in private or even public vehicles without the risk of damage or careless access by non-owners. Airsoft guns need to be carried discreetly and away from the public eye and it is usually impractical to bring the guns in the original boxes. These gun cases usually have extra padding and multiple compartments to stow the gun parts, accessories, batteries, and ammunition in an organized manner.

Pyrotechnics

Some airsoft sites allow the use of pyrotechnics, which are small explosive-driven replicas of ordnance such as grenades. Unfortunately, home-made devices of this sort are often unsafe and can lead to serious injury. There are several types of pyrotechnics: pellet grenades which fire out pellets to replicate the shrapnel of a fragmentation grenade; smoke grenades which provide cover to move and fire from behind; and flashbangs/thunderflashes which emit a very bright flash of light (often accompanied by loud sound) for the purpose of disorientating and temporarily blinding/deafening the target. The latest Airsoft grenades have much improved since their first introduction. Work has been done by various companies to produce much tougher grenades using rocket star burst shell cases, allowing them to be thrown much farther, ring pull fuses, and filling grenades with dry peas instead of paint balls or pellets, making them mostly biodegradable. The ring pull allows German stick type grenades for re-enactors and adds to the realism of ball grenades.

Some players also create home-made pellet grenades with the use of fireworks and pellets enclosed in a casing, such as 35 mm film canisters. Such items are often frowned upon, however, as they could be harmful to other players or the playing environment due to the plastic and shrapnel often used.

Smoke grenades have also been improved with cool burning and much less toxic smoke. Use of old naval rescue smokes is avoided as the smoke used was never designed for possible inhalation.

Other equipment

A large amount of equipment exists for real world soldiers which is also usable in airsoft games held by private citizens. Military surplus stores can provide many items currently issued to the player's country. Some common examples are scopes, flashlights, picatinny rails (also known as RIS/RAS rails), holsters, mock (non-operational) silencers and red dot scopes.

Equipment is generally for increasing combat efficiency, but can be used to provide enhanced realism.

References

See also

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