They're so realistic, the U.S. military uses them for simulation training, but they're all the rage during adolescent play.
Toy guns that are marketed to "make you feel like you're 'packing' the real thing," airsoft guns are also fast becoming a problem - actually mistaken for the real thing - and have many fearing big problems could follow these small-pellet shooting guns.
"There is certainly the potential for danger," said Wayne Sampson, executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. "There are several airsoft guns on store shelves. Some of (them) look like real guns, and those are the ones that concern us a great deal."
Airsoft guns are BB-style toy guns that use plastic pellets actually much larger - so less likely to break skin upon impact - than regular BBs. They're sold, over the Internet and in retail stores in some states, in many models, including pistols and rifles, that look just like the real thing.
They're toys, but they're illegal for purchase to anyone under 18, and regularly are sold to law enforcement agencies and the military for training because of their realism.
No one is denying that appeal.
"I think one of the selling points definitely is that it's very realistic," said Kent Woo, marketing director at airsoftguns.net, a California-based airsoft gun manufacturer. "You can't get away from that, it's one of the driving forces of the industry. It's obviously an attractive feature for younger users, but for more advanced users and in training scenarios. It's a double-edged sword."
Woo points out the relative safety of the guns, when used in proper play.
He said the pellets are four to five times larger than paint ball guns - which have caused their fair share of controversy - and the gun-pellet's weight density ratio makes it very difficult to break a certain firing speed.
Also, he said because consumers want to imitate realistic play, they often dress in full military ensemble, which protects skin. Airsoft gun companies also sell protective gear for users' faces and heads.
Most seem to agree that problems could arise when kids get the guns in their hands.
"Any time you have an instrument that has a projectile to it, there's that danger," Sampson said. "The younger they are, the more inclined they are to show them to their friends - and that's where accidents can happen."
North Attleboro resident Laurie Lawes became especially concerned after she noticed several young children in a relative's neighborhood starting to play with them.
A mom to two grown children, Lawes struggled when her then teenage son pleaded for, but was denied a paint ball gun. She said no - based on the potential for dangerous situations - and feels the same way about airsoft guns.
"It sounds like it's a toy, but it's not a toy," Lawes said. "You're talking about something that's going to hit you. What if they shoot it and there's a crowd, or they mistake me for one of their buddies? They could do bodily damage. It's an adult form of entertainment."
Lawes pleaded in an e-mail to The Sun Chronicle, for an open meeting between area towns to come together and make the public aware.
The problem, Sampson said, is that they are not illegal, though the state Attorney General's office last December filed suit against six out-of-state Internet retailers and one state store owner to halt sales to minors.
An alarming concern is when the toy guns are mistaken for the real thing in dangerous situations.
Last month, a Framingham teenager fleeing police tossed an airsoft gun on the ground during chase, and police thought it was an actual weapon. No one was injured.
Earlier this month, police nearly shot a teenage boy in California when they found him and two others playing with the toy guns on an elementary school playground, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
Sampson wants to avoid similar instances, or worse.
"Some kids will get a hold of these or use them for an attempted robbery or that type of thing," he said. "Police will never know if there's a real gun there or not. Our training is to treat each of those situations like a deadly-force weapon."
Then, there are the psychological arguments.
Lawes fears that children who play with real-looking toy guns might start to appreciate the real thing.
Mitch Labrett, a criminal justice professor at Bridgewater State College, said the argument could go either way.
"A social psychologist would say that any behavior that could be looked upon as modeling after violence, that's not a good thing. Others would argue very vigorously against that," Labrett said. "Once they start turning up used in crimes, there will be a move to regulate them rather quickly."
Woo said there are as many measures as possible to keep the guns' sales and play safe.
Safety precautions are posted on his company's Web site, and they require credit cards for all purchases, which theoretically would rule out underage buyers. The company also randomly selects orders for phone confirmation, and does so for all large orders.
Realistically, he acknowledges, children will get them - either on their own, or from a parent. The best hope is for supervision and the knowledge that it's not OK to bring the toys to school or other public places.
"The only problem is when you have it with the younger audience. They have to be very careful with the environment and situation they're using them in," Woo said. "The guns, themselves, are safe."