Airsoft as we know it today essentially began in Japan in the 1980s. Over time, and with the help of the Internet, Airsoft grew to become not only a popular sport but also a key training tool for the police and military.
What began as another way to practice target shooting has grown into competitions where score is kept and people get shot. Many people enjoy Airsoft as a way to act out strategy discovered in video games. Airsoft offers an outlet for individuals wanting real-life action in a non-lethal atmosphere.
This same leisure activity also provides a safe environment for tactical simulation exercises by the military & police where they can hone skills, strategies and awareness. Guns look & feel like real guns that shoot bullets, allowing for a realistic way to train military personnel and police officers.
(Note: Check out The History of Airsoft for more details on the games origin and growth.)
Many people do not consider Airsoft guns to be toys and instead call them “high detailed firearm simulations.” They insist on this nomenclature because the guns fire plastic BBs at muzzle velocities of 100-400FPS, enough to severely injure an eye, chip a tooth and hurt the skin.
Even though Airsoft is considered non-lethal because of the BBs’ inability to pierce skin and damage internal organs doesn’t mean they are absent of safety issues. Let’s explore those issues along with some solutions.
While Airsoft BBs may not be life-threatening, they can seriously damage eyes. In fact, eye damage is the number one danger from Airsoft guns. Damage that unfortunately sometimes results in permanent blindness.
The Center for Disease Control reports that more than 19,000 people were treated for eye injuries caused by guns that don’t use gun powder, such as Airsoft guns. Of those treated, 71% were under 20 years old.
Because of the potential for eye damage, anyone using Airsoft guns should use eye protection, even when shooting at targets. Proper eye protection can prevent serious eye damage whether from a direct shot to the face or from a BB ricocheting.
The best eye and face protection for Airsoft users ranges from ballistic-rated safety goggles to full face masks. At a minimum, eye protection should wrap around sides of the eyes to protect from ricocheting BBs.
While not usually penetrating the skin, Airsoft BBs can also cause painful welts and occasionally bleeding when they strike skin. For this reason, covering skin with loose clothing is a good idea. Many individuals even wear battle fatigues when playing Airsoft.
Airsoft BBs also travel fast enough to chip a tooth. Many Airsoft experts recommend wearing face masks to protect the entire face from the pellets.
While eye, face and skin protection will prevent the majority of safety issues that arise from Airsoft guns, a few additional – but significant – concerns exist that are addressed in Airsoft Safety, Part 2. The second installment of Airsoft Safety will also review the basic rules of Airsoft safety.