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beats "practicing" on a controller

Thanks to the weather, I did not make it back out to the field this weekend (I finally got tired of tromping around in ridge-to-ridge mud), but it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the airsoft community is one that we are pro-rights advocates are overlooking to our own detriments, primarily through the perpetuation of pernicious stereotypes. While those generalities do have a basis in fact (like so many of them tend to), writing off thousands (millions?) of potential firearm enthusiasts / owners / shooters simply because they happen to recreationally associate with some honest-to-God posers is… well… stupid, especially when the airsoft world has an increasing number of things to offer the "real steel" world.

For example, there is this:

A few days ago, my manager, Tim, handed me a Glock like airsoft pistol and told me to write a review for it. Immediately, I noticed it had the Lone Wolf Timberwolf frame. I was surprised that the Echo 1 Timberwolf is fully licensed by Lone Wolf Distributors. Since I cannot purchase a real Timberwolf frame for my Glock 17, the Echo 1 Timberwolf will do just fine.

And this:

Just like John Browning, KWA USA created the best performance line of airsoft gas pistols. The 1911 Mark Series is by far the best gas operated blow back 1911 in the airsoft market to date. The 1911 Mark Series are also the P.T.P. (Professional Training Pistol) line, which have better performance than the normal N.S. 2 line.

Thanks to the marvels of modern manufacturing, you can now procure airsoft pistols that, externally, are functionally identical to their "real steel" parents – dimensions, weights, slide releases, safeties, sights, serrations, triggers, and so forth are all as close as one can possibly get, and thanks to the airsoft magazines having onboard gas reservoirs, the slides actually cycle every time you send a BB downrange. Sure, the recoil is nowhere near as rough as a full-house .45ACP, but neither are the kicks of the .22 training kits people have been buying up for firearms like these.

So why does this matter? Well, on the one hand, kids out on the airsoft field invariably grow up to be adults, and it is pretty much inevitable that they are going to look at their gas- and spring-powered toys and wonder what the real versions are like. Personally, I would prefer that the step from one world to the next be as seamless as possible to ease the transition, but for lack of a better phrase, you can almost consider airsoft to be a "gateway drug" for "real steel" firearms… only without the whole "shooting at other people" bit (unless, of course, those kids have military aspirations, which most of the ones on the fields I play on seem to have).

And speaking of kids, an arguably good way to break young children safely into the shooting sports – and the safety rules that surround them – is with something that as closely mimics a "real steel" gun as possible without the danger of negligent perforation. Go over the Four Rules. Go over operation. Go over maintenance. And then start punching holes in paper. Then work your way up to a .22 and beyond.

On the other hand, that holster you have for your Glock 17 or your hand-hewn 1911 will fit that airsoft toy just fine, letting your practice your draws, your first-shots, your response times, and all the rest of that good stuff in the comfort of your own home, without having to worry about obnoxious things like setting up a monstrous ventilation system*, hardened backstop, or sound dampening. And while the actual speeds and forces involved are radically different, ballistically speaking, airsoft toys generally perform about equivalent to their "real steel" counterparts out to the 7-yard distances a lot of practice takes place at, and given that good BBs cost all of $0.005 a round (yes, that is the right number of zeros), you can see where I am going with this*.

I would never go so far as to claim perfect 1:1 equivalency between live firearm practice and airsoft practice, but if you, like me, live in an area where no ranges will allow you to practice from the holster, it beats doing nothing.

And speaking of safety:

Like I have mentioned before, safety and respect are Airsoft GI’s primary concern. Over the years, I have seen many airsofters (even real steel shooters) neglect the basic firearm safety rules. I have heard statements such as “oh, it’s unloaded,” and “calm down, it’s only an airsoft gun.” Since we are creatures of habit, if we neglect the basic safety rules on airsoft guns (or any replica firearms), those bad habits will transfer to real firearms.

With the airsoft sport growing, along with the replica gun tragedies happening across the nation, there are going to be stricter laws to regulate airsoft. It is up to us (the airsoft community) to inform all airsofters (and their parents) to promote and practice gun safety. It does not matter if it is an airsoft gun, real gun, or even a transparent water gun. Treat all gun shaped objects as if they are real firearms. There are 5 basic life safety rules that all airsofters and real steel shooters must follow.

(They throw in a rule about keeping your safety on until you are on-target.)

We "real steel" folks may not be aware of it, but the airsoft community is under legislative threat almost as often as we are, what with states trying to define airsoft toys as "firearms" and idiot kids getting shot because they threatened police with a pellet gun, so the stress on safety, safe handling, and safe play is almost as strong there as it is here. Ideally, that stress will carry over into the "real steel" world when people make the transition, and we will be the better for it.

Yes, airsoft is just a game – just like IDPA, USPSA, Steel Challenge, etc. – and I certainly will not deny that there are, indeed, overweight bastards who have never seen the inside of a military base getting all kitted out in "high speed low drag" gear and getting read to "take that hill". However, every game has its real-world application and value and, at the field I play at at least, the majority of the adults have prior military or police experience, with the majority of the former being veterans. And, really, who cares about the dress-up aspect of it? Damned if I am going to make fun of Cowboy Action / SASS folks for going all OK Corral on us.

In other words, get out and have fun. You may not necessarily learn anything at all from airsoft, but if it gets you out of the house and running around rather than slugging out on your couch playing Modern Warfare or whatever the most-recent game is, personally, I call that a win.

(* – You still have to feed airsoft pistols "green gas" or "red gas" which apparently boils down to "propane with a little silicone lubricant mixed in". This is an additional cost, though small (and not being a pistol shooter myself, I have no idea what the cost actually is), and for obvious reasons I would recommend doing your practicing in a well-ventilated area away from any sparks or heat sources.)

13 comments to beats "practicing" on a controller

  • Martin Goodman

    Good Post. I have been thinking of getting a good airsoft pistol specifically for the practice. I’m glad you are out blazing trail for me and the rest of the community. True about the airsofters. We should be “recruiting” them. Keep up the good work.

  • Oh, I am hardly breaking any kind of new ground or anything – using airsoft to practice for USPSA is a years-old concept, there is quite the developed market already, and IPSC already has airsoft rules.

    I was just reminding folks it was out there :).

  • Duane

    8 oz Bottle of green gas runs around $8 and will fill 30-40 1911 Hi Cappa Mags (~1000 rnds), or buy the adapter that holds a little silicon and use the 1# bottles for stoves and shoot all season with the addition of that propane smell.

    Red gas is higher pressure and will destroy an airsoft gun not designed for it.

  • Ian Argent

    The local airsoft shop has a Blackhawk! holster rack and carries 5.11 tactical gear.

  • @ Duane: And there we go… Thanks for the information. Airsoft, even with the upfront costs, is definitely a significantly cheaper alternative than live-fire practice, and is getting more and more realistic every year.

    @ Ian Argent: Condor seems to be the big name around these parts. But, in all cases, it is “real steel” gear, which just goes to show the parts commonality at play.

  • I have one of those adapters, but don’t use it since I do my airsoft plinking in the basement, and the green gas doesn’t stink up the place as bad. Shame that I bought a cut-rate airsoft gun and the front sight fell off at some point. I want to get a decent Glock knockoff to match my “real steel” model, but for the money I could get a lever .22 or possible a SUB 2K, which are both on my “do-want” list

    One interesting thing I saw at #NRAAM last year was that Crossman was displaying a .177″ BB gun that was feel and weight identical to the G17, though they had apparently not paid off Gaston Glock, as it was “clearly not” a Glock, wink wink, nudge, nudge. So the airgun manufacturers are beginning to take note as well. It was close enough that

  • Airsoft manufacturers have been having problems with copyright/trademark infringements as well… the above handgun is only doable because Lone Wolf licensed it, but one of the big airsoft companies ended up with a warehouse full of Glock-ish parts and no real idea of what to do with them. They ended up creating an XD/Glock/M&P hybridized bastard that would fit in Glock holsters that they could sell without getting slapped with a suit.

    I do not have an air pistol for pretty much the same reason, but I figure it is just a matter of time.

  • Well, it’s a good deal more convenient for me to buy airsoft or BB handguns – I have to go out of state for the BB guns, and be careful transporting once I cross the Delaware, but it beats hell out of the Permit to Purchase process. Not to mention being cheaper to shoot… Airsoft I can and have bought OTC, and quite frankly, for the purposes I’m using them for, there;s no reason I need .177 steel vs 6mm .25g plastic. I do need to use the heavier airsoft pellets, the lighter pellets won’t reliably punch paper.

  • Ted N

    Look forward to having fun money and starting airsoft over the summer.

  • Geodkyt

    My daughter started with a cheapie springer Airsoft “Glock 36″ before her 4th birthday. My original intention was to show her why I was going to get her a Nerf gun, because her hands were too small for a gun, “That puts hole sin paper, like Mommy’s!” (For backstory, see Jay G’s posts on MA-rooned, and Nancy R’s posts on Excels at Nothing.)

    Long story short, using the living room as a range, a disposable pie tin hanging from her rocking horse as a target, she learned The Four Rules, and how to clear a range, deal with unforseen issues (“Mommy, you have to stay in the kitchen. The range is hot!”), etc., before she ever got to try out a “. . . gun that puts holes in paper, like Mommy’s!” on her fourth birthday. (Crosman 1377. Moved up to a Cricket .22 for her 6th b-day.)

    Airsoft is a useful tool in the bag, when used properly. Just like .22 adaptors, .22 versions, pneumatic .177 pellet rifles, and laser training systems. More tools = more options = better opportunities to fulfill your particular needs.

  • @ Ian Argent: And that is a largely unexplored aspect/benefit of airsoft as well – the ease and simplicity of procuring them in states where “real” firearms are significantly more difficult, if not outright impossible, to purchase. If nothing else, it lets you “own” a model you might not otherwise be able to, but, in the best case, it lets you have spares / practice materials for something you do have, or will have soon.

    And I generally shoot .25s on the field as well – better ballistics and higher resistance to wind, without sacrificing too much range. ‘Course, one guy’s “sniper” rifle outranges my stuff with .35s, but he has a very long minimum engagement distance.

    @ Ted N: It is a good workout, and a hell of a lot better for you than vegging out in front of a game machine… Recently, the weather has been completely screwing me over (either with ankle-deep mud or sub-freezing temperatures or both), but I am hoping it will improve here soon.

    Geodkyt wrote:

    Airsoft is a useful tool in the bag, when used properly. Just like .22 adaptors, .22 versions, pneumatic .177 pellet rifles, and laser training systems. More tools = more options = better opportunities to fulfill your particular needs.

    QFT. Too many people are too eager to dismiss the airsoft community as a whole just because some overweight dorks get kitted out and pretend to be Seal Team 6. In the end, what the hell is wrong with that? After all, firearm owners are something of champions of the whole, “Who are you to tell other people what they can and cannot spend their money on?” movement. But even looking past that, they give the owners/user flexibilities that even a suppressed .22 cannot always grant, and I, for one, am not going to overlook those capacities.

    Especially when they prove so fun to actually employ :).

  • I understand that the whole Airsoft industry exists because of Japanese firearms otaku… If you can’t get real, get as close to it as possible.

    I will admit that it’s convenient that airsoft are not firearms in NJ (so far, there’s an idiot in the legislature that wants to change that). Though, I will have to say that the only ND I’ve seen was at the local airsoft store, and the clerk who was responsible got rapidly yanked into the back room, presumably to be reamed, steamed, and otherwise told to not be an idiot.

  • Pretty much yeah. We Americans naturally took the sport and gave it MOAR POWER, what with most of our velocities and energies being completely unacceptable over in Japan, but they started it, and, by and large, they still drive it, with Tokyo Marui still being something of the industry standard. Taiwan is close behind, and China, of course, makes anything they can copy.