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.)