Your typical weekend warrior wants the excitement of planning and executing paramilitary maneuvers in a nearby woodland without the danger and stress of actual military operations. Some people have turned to paintball to recreate the thrill of the hunt, but because of its popularity, paintball has become very commercialized.
Airsoft guns use plastic BB pellets instead of real bullets. These BBs are made of plastic (or occasionally a biodegradable material) and come primarily in 6 and 8 mm sizes. A slightly larger caliber is available for sniper rifles. Most of the time these pellets are brightly colored in yellow or orange, so there is no way you can mistake them for real ammunition.
Airsoft ammunition is typically bright orange or yellow plastic BBs. These BBs are found primarily in 6 and 8 mm caliber. It is only larger for sniper rifles, where the added weight helps the pellet fly true even through cross winds. These BBs will sting a little if you are hit by them, and can cause minor bruising if you are fired upon at point blank range. In most military simulations you are so far away from your enemy that if you are hit you may not even feel any pressure.
The only way a plastic BB could actually cause permanent damage is if it were fired into your eyes. However, people who engage in military simulations with airsoft guns are required to wear ANSI approved eye protection that is guaranteed not to shatter if impacted with a BB. This way you can have your fun without worrying about accidentally hurting someone.
The BBs can be fired out of airsoft guns in a variety of ways. The most popular is the gas mechanism. Green gas or pure propane is used to create a pocket of pressurized air that shoots the pellet out at just under 100 m/s. The kickback of a gas powered airsoft gun is closest to the kickback you’d get from the real thing, a major factor in their popularity.
This motor is used to create the force needed to fire the pellets. Electric guns are the mostly likely to get jammed, especially if you use them in damp conditions. Finally, the favorite propulsion mechanism for airsoft guns is gas. Green gas is most often used.
The next innovation in airsoft guns was the electric model. It utilizes a battery to power a small electric motor that propels the bullets forward. While you can achieve a higher rate of firing, it is not as consistently reliable as a spring mechanism. These days the most popular airsoft gun is gas powered. These guns most closely resemble real weapons. When you load your pellets, you also load a small pressurized gas canister onto your gun. The pressure released from the canister shoots out your bullets. Gas is used in nearly all machine airsoft guns.
Regardless of what type of airsoft gun you choose for your paramilitary games or range practice, know that you have chosen a proven and safer alternative to standard weapons.