In football, it’s the end zone; baseball, home plate; soccer, the back of the net.
Just like any other sport, airsoft teams work to accomplish a goal, while dodging opponents and pellets fired from their airsoft guns.
“You are so focused on trying to get your job done that you’re willing to do crazy things,” Appalachian State University alumnus and airsoft enthusiast R. Andy Gouge said. “That’s the thrill, leaping over a tree trunk, diving back behind a door to get the job done for your team.”
Gouge unites with about 20 other members to create the High Country Gunslingers, an airsoft team including Appalachian students, alumni, community members and military personnel who share a passion of thrill and excitement of airsoft games.
The team travels across the state to compete in different games or scenarios through the North Carolina Airsoft Organization.
The sport involves shooting 6 mm diameter plastic BB out of replica airsoft guns to prevent the opponents from completing their tasks.
Tasks are any mission assigned to a team, whether it be reaching a certain area or taking over a base.
Many of the scenario missions are based off real military events.
“[The BBs] can bring welts, they can draw blood…but sometimes you can’t even feel the hit,” alumnus and Gunslinger co-captain Eric B. Huffman said. “For us, it is the closest thing to being in the military without the side effects.”
Both Gouge and Huffman have been members of the team since it emerged over two years ago.
They both enjoy the realistic feel of military scenarios.
“We’re so used to playing video games now where it is point and click and you’re sort of detracted from reality… there are no real consequences in the game because you can turn it off,” Huffman said. “In Airsoft, you learn not to be so reckless because you can’t do what you do in a video game.”
The players wear gear that resembles authentic military operators and play in all weather, adapting to the atmosphere as military personnel do.
While some may think a sport that involves simulation killing is violent, the team plays out of respect towards soldiers and works to promote gun safety even within their name.
“The history of the gunslinger was known to take care of their guns and know their guns properly. They know the ins and outs of all their airsoft guns and so forth,” Huffman said. “We treat the airsoft guns as though they are real and can seriously injure somebody.”