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What is Airsoft?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 23, 2024
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As a type of combat game that is considered to be relatively safe as well as fun, airsoft has a loyal following in many places around the world. Here are some basic facts about airsoft, including some tips on how to prepare for a game.

Airsoft had its beginnings in Japan during the late 1970s. Devised to be an example of combat sports that required relatively little preparation but was capable of entertaining participants for several hours, the sport quickly began to spread, and is today found in many places around North America and Europe. Airsoft enthusiasts tend to organize clubs that are referred to as meetings, and often structure their games along military lines. However, there are airsoft meetings that specialize in historical reenactments of famous battles, as well as some meetings that provide choreographed simulations for the wider community.

Just like the popular game of paintball, airsoft is structured along the lines of a military unit fighting against another team. While the guns and rifles that are employed as part of the sport are very similar to the real thing, they are configured to shoot small airsoft pellets that will bounce harmlessly off the individual. Typically, when a participant is shot with an airsoft pellet, he or she is expected to voluntarily declare themselves to be dead and thus out of the game. Once all the members of one team have been eliminated or the remnants choose to surrender, the game is considered to be over.

In most instances, airsoft is conducted in a wooded area or some other terrain that will involve plenty of opportunities for cover and the use of strategies to capture and eliminate the other team from the game. Participants tend to dress in clothing that is not unlike military garb, and may use camouflage gear as part of the strategy. The typical airsoft game can last the better part of a day, especially if the participants are seasoned airsoft players. However, there are some variations of airsoft in which there is a specified start time and end time to the game. When this is the case, the team with the most “live” members is considered the winner.

Airsoft weapons and ammunition is still largely manufactured in such countries as China, Taiwan, and Japan. Generally, these products are processed through independent distributors in countries where airsoft has gained a measure of popularity. There are also a number of online retail sites that feature airsoft equipment, including camouflage clothing and accessories.

Sports n' Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including Sports n' Hobbies, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By matthewc23 — On Oct 24, 2011

Does anyone here have any good ideas for different airsoft match types? My friends and I just started playing airsoft, so we are looking for different things we can do.

If it matters, we usually play in a wooded area that also has a tall grass pasture area next to it, so there is a lot of diversity. Sometimes we also play at a place that has a corn and soybean field next to it. We found out that trying to shoot people in the cornfield can be pretty impossible most of the time, though.

Right now, we usually just play a last man standing game. We also came up with a capture the flag game the other day. Is there anything else we might be able to do? Also, are there any airsoft courses that exist like there are for paintball? How would you find them if there are?

By TreeMan — On Oct 24, 2011

@Izzy78 - There is actually a lot of variation in airsoft pellets and guns. You are right that the pellets are made from plastic, but the density can vary depending on the use you want. Less dense pellets are usually cheaper, but they don't fire as straight and don't hurt as much when you get hit. People who are more competitive buy the high density pellets that are more accurate and fly faster.

The guns themselves can be one of three different types. The most common type of gun uses a spring loaded mechanism. These are common in lower tier guns, since they require the shooter to cock the gun for every shot. The second option is an electric airsoft gun. They use batteries and can fire very fast. The third option uses CO2 like you mentioned. These aren't very common, but I have seen them before.

You can find basic airsoft equipment in the sporting goods section of most stores. If you want higher end equipment, you usually have to look online, though.

By JimmyT — On Oct 23, 2011

@gravois - Great point about wearing eye protection. My friends and I were just messing around with our airsoft guns inside one day, so we were all pretty close to each other. One of my friends thought it would be funny to shoot another friend unexpectedly.

Anyway, the pellet didn't go where he aimed and ended up hitting him in the eye. The friend that got hit in the eye couldn't see right for a couple of hours, and even after that his vision was still kind of blurry. His eye also got really bloodshot from where the pellet busted some of the blood vessels.

He went to the eye doctor the next day who told him everything was fine, but that he was lucky the pellet only hit the white of his eye. If it would have hit the iris or something he easily could have lost his vision from getting hit from that close.

By Izzy78 — On Oct 22, 2011

So, what are airsoft pellets made of? I don't know that I have ever seen them when I was shopping somewhere. It seems like metal pellets, like BBs, could end up hurting someone, so I'm willing to guess they are made from plastic. Is that right?

If I wanted to buy an airsoft gun, where would I need to look? I'm just curious to see what these guns and everything look like.

Last question, how exactly do the guns fire? I know paintball guns use CO2 cartridges. Are there CO2 airsoft guns, or do they have some other sort of firing mechanism?

By SZapper — On Oct 22, 2011

@sunnySkys - I don't know that I would allow a young child to participate in this. But I think it would be fine for a teenager.

It sounds a lot like paintball! In my opinion, teenagers and adults can differentiate between violence and a game just fine. This sounds like a military inspired game. I don't think it would influence someone to actually go around shooting anyone!

I do understand why places have regulations about the way the guns look though.

By sunnySkys — On Oct 21, 2011

I've never heard of airsoft. I don't think my parents would have allowed me to participate in something like this when I was in high school though. My mom was really against play violence, so we weren't allowed to play video games or have water guns!

I was kind of wondering if airsoft players ever have a problem with their fake guns, so I did a bit of research on the Internet. It turns out that some places require the guns to be colored unrealistically. This helps eliminate confusion because bystanders can tell right away the guns are fake.

However, there are a few states that have outlawed public use of airsoft guns. Even unrealistic coloring isn't enough for those states!

By gravois — On Oct 21, 2011

Airsoft can be a lot of fun and I am the last person to tell a person they shouldn't do something. But anyone who is new to it should know that there are dangers involved and you shouldn't go shooting until you have the proper safety equipment.

First and foremost, wear goggles. The biggest risk is that one of the pellets will hit you in the eye and there is the very real chance that you could go blind.

I would also recommend wearing gloves and something to cover your ears. Both of these are sensitive areas and targets that seem to get hit a lot.

Airsoft is a lot of fun, but it is a lot more fun when you know you can fool around with the guns and your friends and not get hurt.

By ZsaZsa56 — On Oct 20, 2011

I have to admit, I am kind of obsessed with airsoft. At this point I own over 30 different airsoft guns ranging from a tiny pistol all the way up to a pretty gnarly looking combat shotgun. I probably have 10,000 airsoft bullets in my apartment at any given time and my backyard is a sea of little yellow dots.

I first got into it in high school. My friend and I got a few guns and too them out to the woods to run around and shoot each other. Once I got older it became more about collecting. I love how many different styles and designs their are. Also, some of the guns are really rare and I have a few in my collection that are really valuable. I don't intend to stop any time soon. There are a few pieces that I am currently saving up for. I just need a better way to display everything I've got.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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