Serious shooters are always looking for ways to shoot more often and for less money. Most shooters are aware of airsoft, but can it actually make you a better shooter?
Airsoft, when done correctly, can help you become a better shooter. It allows you to practice real-world shooting techniques in a controlled setting. It is also a way to teach fundamentals to new shooters.
This article will cover what makes airsoft a good training option for shooters as well as how to get the most out of it. I’ll also go over some mistakes some people make that could be harmful when they transition to real guns.
What Are Airsoft Guns?
Airsoft guns are replicas of common firearms that shoot plastic BB’s. They are often far less powerful than traditional BB guns that shoot metal projectiles. This is because Airsoft started as a competitive team shooting sport similar to paintball.
Airsoft guns come in several different types, including pistols, rifles, and shotguns. Some are cheap plastic imitations that break easily while others are constructed of metal and closely resemble the weight and feel of the firearms they are based on.
Airsoft guns also operate in a variety of ways. The most common and inexpensive ones use a spring action that requires the gun to be cocked each time it is fired. Others are powered by batteries or a gas-blowback action.
For training purposes, the best ones to use are the more expensive and well-built gas-blowback powered guns. Those will feel very similar to the real thing and allow the shooter to fire repeatedly like they would with a real gun.
You can find some examples in the links below:
Important Rules for Training with Airsoft
If you are going to get the most out of training with your airsoft gun, here are some rules that you will need to follow.
Make It As Realistic As Possible
If you plan on using an airsoft gun as a training tool, you need it to be as close as possible to the real thing. Start by making sure that the airsoft gun that you get is based on the firearm you use for defense.
You can find airsoft replicas in several places. Hobby shops, sporting goods stores, and even large retailers sell them. However, the best quality ones are going to be found at businesses that specialize in them.
In addition to looking like your firearm, try to find an airsoft gun that matches the original’s weight as much as possible. This will make your training much more realistic.
Sights and how the gun operates are important considerations as well. The sights should be as close as possible to those found on the actual firearm. Getting a gun that features blowback action will allow you to shoot repeatedly and (partially) simulate recoil.
Don’t Neglect Gun Safety
When you are training with airsoft guns, you absolutely must treat them like they are actual firearms. Failure to do so could result in serious injury or death to you or a bystander.
The whole purpose of training is to condition your body and mind to react in specific ways. The phrase, “you fight the way you train” is very true. If you handle a replica gun unsafely while training, you are very likely to do the same when you have a real firearm in your hand.
Airsoft Cannot Replace Shooting Real Firearms
Shooting airsoft guns should be a supplemental way to train with firearms. It should never completely replace shooting real firearms at the range.
Shooting a real firearm is different from shooting airsoft in many ways. The sound, recoil, and sometimes adrenaline that accompanies firing a real weapon is nearly impossible to replicate.
Airsoft Is Used Professionally for Training
Many people don’t realize that many professional firearm instructors and even the police and military use airsoft for training purposes. While they don’t serve as a primary method of training, they do have their place.
The instructors and organizations who use them to train their students and members understand the advantages of using airsoft for training which I’ll detail below.
Advantages of Using Airsoft For Training
It Is Cheap
One of the biggest advantages of training with airsoft is how cheap it is compared to shooting real guns. The guns themselves are much less expensive and the ammo is a fraction of the cost of real ammunition.
This cost difference means that shooters, especially those on a tight budget, can afford to shoot more often than they could without airsoft. This will help a shooter maintain their skills even during long periods without a trip to the range.
More Places to Shoot
When shooting a real firearm, you are limited on where you can shoot. Unless you have a bunch of property you will need to go to a shooting range or gun club to practice.
Airsoft, on the other hand, is far less restrictive. In many places, you can practice with it in your backyard, as long as it isn’t restricted where you live.
I actually practice draw and shoot drills in my garage. I hang an old hoodie or sweatshirt on the garage door (while it is shut) and shoot at it. This allows me to practice shooting at home safely. (It is still a good idea to wear safety glasses in case a BB bounces back.)
Even something as simple as a plastic coffee can in the backyard can serve as a suitable shooting range. It will give you the opportunity to shoot daily, even if is only a few shots while letting the dog out to use the bathroom. Just don’t shoot the dog…
Safely Practice New Skills
After you learn basic firearm safety and how to shoot on a range, the next step is to learn how to use a gun in real-life situations. Airsoft is a perfect way to learn these new skills.
Shooting while moving and draw-shoot drills can be dangerous, especially when you haven’t done them very much. Using an airsoft gun to learn how to do them allows you to practice them in a controlled setting.
If you are going to make a shooting mistake, it is far better to do it while using a replica than an actual firearm. It is the difference between having a small bruise and a hole in your leg.
Teach New Shooters
Airsoft guns are also excellent tools to use when teaching new shooters. Since they are replicas of actual firearms young or inexperienced shooters can learn proper firearm manipulation and shooting techniques.
This is especially useful when teaching new shooters how to load and unload semi-automatic handguns. Many people look like a fish out of water when handling a gun for the first time, and using airsoft allows them to learn how to do so with very little chance of injury.
Build and Reinforce Fundamentals
Another reason why training with airsoft can make you a better shooter is that it helps build and reinforce shooting fundamentals.
Shooting is a perishable skill, meaning that you will lose proficiency if you don’t practice for long periods of time. While airsoft isn’t a substitute for shooting a real gun, it can be a good filler while you are away from the range.
Important shooting fundamentals, such as proper grip, trigger control, and sight alignment can all be practiced using airsoft replicas.
Reduces Wear On Firearms
Another good thing about using airsoft guns for training is that it reduces wear and tear on firearms that are meant to be used for defensive purposes. Firearms, just like cars, are mechanical devices that are subject to extreme forces and break down from time to time.
Using airsoft for some of your training will extend the life of your firearm and reduce the chances of experiencing part breakage when you need your gun the most.
Disadvantages of Using Airsoft for Training
While using an airsoft gun for training can make you a better shooter, it isn’t a perfect solution. Here are some pitfalls of using airsoft and ways to avoid them.
Learning how to manage recoil properly is an essential skill for shooters. Unfortunately, airsoft guns do very little to help with this.
When you fire a real gun, you are initiating an incredibly violent (but well-controlled) process. With pistols, the firing pin slams into the primer, triggering a small explosion. That explosion ignites the gun powder which propels the bullet out of its case and through the barrel.
As the bullet exits the barrel, the same gasses that propelled it forward also drives the slide back so fast it is almost impossible to see without a slow-motion camera.
All of this happens less than an inch from your hand, resulting in what we perceive to be felt recoil. Since an airsoft gun uses far less energy to propel a BB, you will experience less recoil than with a real gun.
Because of this, you absolutely must practice with a real firearm to learn proper recoil management. This will help you learn how to maintain a proper grip on your firearm as well as make fast and accurate follow-up shots.
May Create Bad Habits
Probably the biggest disadvantage of using an airsoft gun for training purposes is that it could cause a shooter to develop bad habits.
The most obvious bad habits that it can create relate to safety. The phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” is very true when it comes to guns.
When shooting airsoft, the consequences of an accident are far less severe than when using a real gun. While an airsoft gun can put your eye out, the same accident with a gun could be fatal in an instant.
This reduction in danger could cause a shooter to become complacent and start to develop poor safety habits. These poor habits would likely remain when handling real firearms, which could result in tragedy.
Another way that airsoft could result in bad habits is that they allow shooters to get away with poor fundamentals. While it can be used to practice good fundamentals when used properly, the lack of recoil can cause poor technique, especially a bad grip to go unnoticed.
Easy to Mistake for a Real Gun
The same thing that makes airsoft guns so valuable from a training perspective can also make them incredibly dangerous. A tragedy could occur if someone, especially a child, picked up a real gun thinking it was a replica.
Because of this, you must take proactive safety precautions when using airsoft for training. An example of this would be locking your real firearm in a safe when doing airsoft training. This will prevent you from firing the real gun during a moment of carelessness.
If you have children, you absolutely must store all guns, including your airsoft trainers, so that they cannot access them. A tragedy could result if one of your kids or a friend picks up the real gun thinking it was the airsoft version.