Editors Note: We’d like to welcome (and thank!) Vicki Clain for this article. Vicki is a self-described “blogger, geeker, and freelance writer.” You can keep up with Vicki on Twitter – @VickiLClain.

Use of air-powered and less lethal equipment opens up all sorts of more realistic training opportunities.

Use of air-powered and less lethal equipment opens up all sorts of realistic training opportunities.

If you’ve only seen kids using airsoft weapons then you’re probably thinking they are toy guns designed only for children. Still, the airsoft market is incredibly rich in models and designs that range from small plastic guns for kids to high-end metallic weapons that replicate the features of a real gun to a tee.

Even more, guns are so realistic that they are used in military training and in the training of recruits for law enforcement agencies. But why does this happen? Why are our soldiers and police officers training with what’s supposed to be a gun replica?

Below, I listed all the reasons why airsoft guns seem to be among the best training weapons available right now.

#1: The realistic design

I think you can imagine that no one in the military will train using a pink plastic weapon! No, the guns used to train military personnel are different from the ones you’ll find on the market at a medium price level. These are specially designed to replicate the weight, sound, and feel of the real steel gun because these aspects are important when you want to improve accuracy and gun maneuverability.

To bring the airsoft weapons closer to the real ones, most are gas blowback models (or GBB) with a weighted blowback mechanism that will mimic the recoil of a real weapon. Still, you’ll also find some AEGs but with the same powerful blowback mechanism.

The airsoft weapons designed for military training are enhanced with special muzzleloaders that will amplify the sound of a shot to make it as real as possible. This adds to the realistic design and, if you remove the orange tip, it will be difficult to make the difference.

If you still don’t think airsoft weapons can look real, take a look on Goog Gun airsoft and you’ll be able to see for yourself.

#2: The Level of Power

Professional air guns are more powerful than the models you can find on the market. This means the muzzle velocity is higher allowing for ranges similar to what you can find in real weapons. While you’ll probably never find an airsoft gun that shoots as far as a real one, the increased FPS is great in training people who need to improve their shooting skills.

#3: Safer than Real Weapons

If you’ve never shot at anything by accident, then you didn’t handle too many firearms! With all the safety measures, an accidental discharge can happen to the best of us. Now, try to think about a recruit who just joined the force or a newly enlisted soldier and you will see why airsoft weapons are the better for training.

First, you don’t have the risk of killing someone by accident and second, you take the pressure off. Yes, airsoft ammunition hurts and can injure if not used properly, but it’s not a bullet.

Just because it's air-powered doesn't mean it won't hurt. Safety gear is still a must.

Just because it’s air-powered doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. Safety gear is still a must.

#4: Makes More Sense From a Financial Point Of View

According to specialists who work in the military, airsoft is cheaper when it comes to training. For instance, one blank round for an M16 costs as much as 32 airsoft rounds. With the military budget going through so many changes, airsoft brings the possibility of cheap training which is important because it keeps skills sharp and people ready for action.

#5: You can Train Anywhere

Firearms can’t be used anywhere, even if it’s just for training! You must be at a shooting range or in a specially arranged location in order to train with live ammunition. And, while dry fire is recommended, there comes a time when you need to start shooting.

With an airsoft weapon (even a professional one) you can train wherever you want. You can even set up a target in your backyard and test your accuracy. Anyone in the military will tell you that training is extremely important for weapon manipulation and muscle memory, and airsoft offers the possibility of adding more hours to the regular schedule.

#6: Easier to Teach Tactics

Military personnel and police officers must learn how to think in various situations and they can only do this by creating various battle simulations like force-on-force.  With airsoft weapons, simulations are cheaper and safer to put together and instructors can focus more on teaching tactics.

Even more, airsoft is a huge community and you can easily find teams to join if you want to train outside work. It will be fun for you and you’ll get to train a little bit more than your colleagues.

#7: Innovation

The main reason why the airsoft market is so well-developed today is the fact that the US federal and state institutions decided to use GBB airsoft technology for tactical training in close quarters battle situations (this happened in 2012).

Once the military got involved, air gun designs developed faster and new devices showed on the market.  For instance, the marking rounds were invented to allow military trainees to see where their ammunition lands. The marking round breaks on impact and marks the place where it lands with luminescent liquid.

Nowadays, you can find similar rounds in some airsoft games and they are used to confirm a ‘shoot and kill’. Still, you should know that these rounds are heavier than usual BBs and they are mostly used in training exercises so recruits can extrapolate from their mistakes and improve performance.

Another device that was improved for military training is the reusable airsoft grenade. These were specially designed to emulate the dispersion of a real exploding device and they are heavily used in war game scenarios.

Such grenades are usually loaded with paint, but some use BBs and use highly pressurized gas to emulate the dispersion patterns of a real-life grenade. While I don’t recommend using this type of projectile in a civilian game, it is amazing in training military personnel and teaching them the proper protocol in such cases.

Limitations of Airsoft Weapons

Yes, they are used by the military in various training situations, but once you pass the recruit stage, you’ll be given a real weapon for training. This happens because airsoft guns have their limit and here are some of the most important ones:

  • Realistic design but still not a real weapon
  • Knowing you hold an airsoft gun reduces the pressure and gives room for reckless behavior – after all you can’t kill or be killed for real.
  • Trainees may get used to the idea that there’s no need to use the safety on your weapon if you don’t have real bullets and this can increase the level of danger in real missions.
  • The range is close, but not the same compared to real weapons.
  • Airsoft weapons don’t require the same level of maintenance as real guns do

Overall, airsoft is a great way to start your training and keeps your skills and reflexes sharp, but you shouldn’t get used to it too much. Training with a real weapon and live ammunition is a lot more important considering that you will be responsible for protecting real-life objectives.

Airsoft is also great for entertainment so don’t forget that you can always blow off some steam with your team at the local field. After all, you already have the training, right?