The history of the game of Airsoft can be traced back to the Far East in the end of the 1970s, particularly China, Japan and Hong Kong. A ban on civilian ownership of real firearms led to the development of air-powered replicas and by the middle of the 1980s these replicas became popular in a recreational format.
Today most Airsoft firearms are still produced in Taiwan and China, although there are a few manufacturers in the United States, Canada, Japan and South Korea. The typical Airsoft firearm shoots a six or eight-millimetre projectile, using one of three mechanisms, springs, gas or electrically powered.
The electric gun typically uses a nickel-cadmium battery to power a piston to compress air that forces the projectile from the gun, while gas powered guns use a compressed gas such as carbon-dioxide or propane to fire the gun. The least expensive alternative is the spring-powered gun, which requires the user to manually cock the gun before firing.
Extensive restrictions exist on the power and muzzle velocity of Airsoft guns and the carrying of a replica firearm in a public place is illegal in some countries. Many countries will only allow Airsoft firearms to be purchased by registered members of an Airsoft club.
So what does an Airsoft game entail?
Basically Airsoft enables the combatants to role-play various fantasies using replicas of famous, and infamous, guns without injuries. Except maybe to their pride, of course! An Airsoft player is transformed for a brief period of time from an office worker, a student or perhaps a banker to a member of the Green Berets or an SAS commando.
There are a number of possible scenarios for an Airsoft game, limited only by your imagination. Popular games include capturing an enemy flag, assassination simulation or freeing hostages, in the latter, the “hostages” are often represented by helium filled balloons, so there is no doubt about whether they have been killed or rescued.
Although the Airsoft ammunition is low velocity (typically 300 feet/second) and small diameter, usually plastic, serious injuries could be caused to the participants’ eyes or faces if not protected.
The minimum protection required is a pair of impact rated goggles, although a full face mask is a better alternative, as it gives the wearer protection for teeth, lips, cheeks and ears in addition to eye protection. A balaclava mask or hat to further protect the head should complement goggles or a facemask. Gloves, boots, knee and elbow pads are also recommended.
So, whether you fancy yourself as a commando, RoboCop or Terminator, there’s an Airsoft gun and game waiting out there for you. Get your protective gear, load up your gun and get shooting!