Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Airsoft: Not just for kids these days

Posted in Firearms and Ballistics on March 6, 2013 by Mike S.

As we all try to cope with the "Great Ammunition Crisis of 2013", will explore and share different methods to help our readers with regard to training. Today, we will take a realistic look at airsoft.

As a firearms instructor the most common question heard is "How do I improve my skills as a shooter?" The answer is often one word: “Practice". When ammunition supply was normal and prices were stable, this typically meant going to the range and sending lead downrange. Although most shooter look back on 50-round boxes of pistol ammunition for less than $10 as "the good old days", there were still plenty of shooters who found that to be expensive.

Instructors would commonly speak of the virtues of hand loading or training with 22 lr instead of the costlier center fire ammunition. Sadly, reloading components and rimfire ammunition are becoming as hard to find or almost as expensive as regular ammunition.

Last week we reviewed a great dry-firing training aid put out by Laser-Ammo, but dry firing is still only one piece of a complete training regimen.

The realities of airsoft

Being a dyed-in-the-wool shooter, I tended to look down on airsoft gear. This was mostly due to frustration when trying to find gun parts and seeing cheap knock-offs made overseas that looked too much like the real thing being sold as something they were not.

That all changed when I met the owner of an airsoft shop who was dedicated to putting real parts on his airsoft guns. While most airsoft guns at their essence are lightweight pieces of plastic that bear a superficial resemblance to real firearms, there are some that have the same weight and handling characteristics of their real counterparts.

The principles behind shooting an airsoft gun are the same as shooting a real firearm. The shooter must acquire and maintain sight alignment, obtain sight picture, breathe and follow-through. This can be accomplished by obtaining spring operated plastic guns at a discount store or by special ordering a custom piece that mirrors the shooter's sidearm in form and function.

As with regular shooting, airsoft shooting requires safety equipment. A good rule of thumb is to keep muzzle velocities under 450 feet per second for safety reasons as a fast pellet can break the skin. This time it is in the form of eye protection in case pellets should bounce back or if they are used as described in the next section.

Force-on-force training

Airsoft can be taken a step further and used in force on force training. This is being performed by tactical trainers in the military and law-enforcement realms throughout the world. However, this type of training is a bit more rigorous than plinking away in the garage with a $10 to $50 spring loaded handgun or carbine. A more rugged and robust airsoft arm is needed for this method with an entry-level price closer to a $200 for a [airsoft] handgun and $400 for a [airsoft] carbine or rifle that runs on compressed gas or is battery operated. Despite this initial investment, the long term cost of airsoft is low as [airsoft bb] pellets can be purchased in the thousands for less than a $20 bill.

Force on force training with airsoft can point out tactical errors such as exposing body parts when moving from cover or how difficult it can be to hit a moving target that is firing back at you.

While airsoft will never be a complete substitute for live firing, it does offer some advantages beyond the low cost and its use in force-on-force training. Most higher end airsoft guns have full-auto capability that may not have much of a tactical or practical use, but can be a fun way to spend a few hours on the weekend.

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