MARINE CORPS BASE, CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii (Jan. 23, 2008) -- “I need cover fire on that tower now,” a Marine yells out to his team members. “Watch out for the sniper! Get down, get down.” Too late, the Marine takes a hit right in the neck. In real combat, this would most likely be his end, but in airsoft it’s a walk of shame off the field.
Airsoft is a sport enjoyed by military, law enforcement and everyday Joes who like the rush of simulated war games, and the chance to pit tactics against other enthusiasts.
Unlike paintball, this rapidly-growing sport uses realistic weapons from M4’s with M203 grenade launchers, to the M249 squad automatic airsoft weapon.
Marines and Sailors from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific have taken to this sport like ducks to water, forming an “elite” unit called Double Tap.
Three corpsmen stationed here started the unit. These three, who go by their call signs, Los Gatos, El Jefé and Smooth Operator, have spread airsoft fever throughout the command.
“The corpsmen got me hooked when they first showed me their airsoft guns. They were so realistic I had to try it out,” said a Marine who goes by the call sign El Diablo. “I went out and got my own airsoft gun and now my Marines and buddies from my former unit are getting involved as well.”
The unit’s founders have been involved in the sport for more than six months. In a short amount of time, they built up their arsenal and became highly competitive in the Hawaii airsoft community.
“We were playing so much, we decided to form a unit,” said Los Gatos. “A few of us have been in real combat so it goes hand-in-hand with our jobs and previous experiences.”
For these service members, airsoft is not just a fun thing to do on the weekends.
“You can apply military training in a highly-competitive and exciting sport,” said Smooth Operator. “The challenge of having a target, an objective and using basic skills to achieve them makes this sport very appealing.”
“It’s good times for us because a lot of us came from grunt units and we don’t get to do much of that training anymore,” Los Gatos added.
According to the members of Double Tap, their combined military experience gives them an edge over their competition.
“Some of the guys we play against have been playing these kind of sports for 20 years. They try to use paintball tactics that don’t work in this game,” Los Gatos said. “We take the advantage by using basic war-fighting tactics to bring the fight to them. We dominate a lot of the other teams.”
The sport is fairly popular in Hawaii, with ranges all across the island. Some of the more popular ones are in Barbers Point, Kuoloa Ranch and Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Japan dominates the airsoft market. Hawaii’s close proximity to Japan makes it easier to get more and better equipment here than on the mainland, according to Los Gatos.
Airsoft guns are powered by batteries and compressed air, and shoot small plastic pellets. Some of the more powerful weapons, like sniper rifles, can have a muzzle velocity of 700 feet per second. An M16A2 assault has a muzzle velocity of 3,050 fps.
“Even though the rounds are small they are fired at an fps that is hundreds faster than paint ball,” said Los Gatos. “They hurt and leave welts, but cause no serious damage.”
The sport has several advantages over paintball, according to Los Gatos and Smooth Operator. But there is one aspect of paintball they wish could be implemented into airsoft.
“The only downfall the sport has is, unlike paintball, you have to use the honor system,” El Diablo said. “If your opponent won’t go down, you just keep shooting him until he does.”
The sport has a lot to offer military members, according to Double Tap. Besides combat training, physical conditioning and good, old-fashion fun, it can help keep Marines out of trouble.
“A lot of Marines waste a lot of money and time on dumb stuff, like getting wasted on the weekends,” El Diablo said. “This sport is a much healthier and better way to spend your time and money.”