Fairfax, Virginia - Sam and Andy begin a long trip today. Ten hours to be exact. Ten hours down I-85 from Fairfax, Virginia to Marietta, Georgia for the NRA's first official Airsoft 3-Gun event. Hosted by the good folks at the SAS Black Ops Range, the day is divided into two three hour segments; one at 2:00 and the other at 6:00. They'll be traveling with plenty of baggage too. Airsoft guns, Airsoft plans and Airsoft targets.
"We had a pretty good idea where we were going with the [airsoft] guns," said NRA Recreational Shooting Specialist Andy Lander. "It's the targets that provided the real challenge."
Airsoft targets are a challenge because you can't 'cheat' them in the same way you can with the .22 targets. Though not ideal, a range can use the same steel targets for a .22 event that they use in a regular event; you just have to play closer attention. With Airsoft you need something different.
According to Lander's counterpart, one Samantha Olsen, "There are Airsoft target opportunities out there. You just have to know where to look."
Where they're looking is a combination of targets from ShootmyAsh, Challenge Targets, and BAM Airsoft.
ShootmyAsh.com is an electronic Airsoft targeting system. The name comes from the first prototypes. Initially made of Ash, the company changed to more of a hickory based platform following the infestation of the Emerald ash borer.
"When you hit the target, it registers the strike on a computer through a USB," explained Olsen. "It also provides an online leader board … kind of like Call of Duty. That means you can compete here in Fairfax against a guy shooting in Russia, Brazil or Japan.
"They also have a laser based border. There's a laser at the beginning, around the borders and at the end. It automatically starts when you cross the line, stops when you hit the finish, and penalizes you for going out of bounds."
Challenge Targets are your more conventional reaction targets. Simply put, you hit them and they move. Maybe they fall, maybe they swing, but one way or the other there is motion. That means the shooter knows they hit the target and can move on to the next one without losing any time.
"You knock 'em down and they get back up again," said Lander. "Just like the song says."
Finally there is BAM Airsoft.
BAM stands for Burt and Martin … the inventors of the product. And what they came up with is pretty interesting.
"BAM sells metal targets mounted on hard plastic tops. All you have to do is attach the tops to PVC pipes and you're good to go."
Here's the genius part; instead of selling you the PVC pipe, they sell you the design. You buy the PVC at your local hardware store.
"It cuts down on the shipping cost and allows you to customize the pipes to suite your needs."
Now we're not going to tell you which of these targets they'll be using this weekend at SOS Black Ops. For that, you'll just have to make it down to Georgia.