The idea of airsoft training or using airsoft pistols for inexpensive practice is not exactly new. I wrote an airgun column for a print firearms magazine for several years and wrote dozens of articles extolling the virtues of using airguns for inexpensive and convenient practice tools.
In the year 2020, more citizens bought more ammunition in the United States than during any time in our nation’s history. Most of these people are sitting on said ammo, “just in case.” What that means for the folk who like to train is that they need to use their ammunition stash wisely.
The Great Ammunition Shortage of 2020.
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Thanks to the nationwide ammunition shortage and the insane price spike in available ammunition, particularly 9mm practice ammo, people are using their live rounds sparingly. This does not mean that you should stop attending training or conducting live-fire practice. What it means is that we could all use some alternatives to make sure that every round counts.
I have spoken to people in the ammunition manufacturing business and they have advised me that the current shortages/massive demand are not expected to just go away the day after the Presidential election. Industry insiders are anticipating the current ammo situation to carry through well into the year 2021. So, that means we, as Students of the Gun, may need to adjust our training regimen to remain proficient.
The Airsoft Solution.
Thanks, primarily to the Japanese fascination with firearms coupled with the fact that then cannot own them, extremely realistic 1:1 airsoft replicas of nearly every currently manufactured firearm can be purchased. At first, American firearms makers sued to keep Japanese replicas of their guns out of the United States. However, most of them eventually figured out that it was better to work with the airsoft makers than against them.
Since the early 2000’s, we have seen US gun makers license copies of their firearms in airsoft configuration. That is a good thing for the consumer and for people who would like to practice with an airsoft pistol that mimics their carry gun. The higher end ($75 and up) airsoft pistols are so close to the originals that they fit perfectly in the holsters for the real guns. Naturally, you cannot expect the same to be true with the $20 plastic guns from your local discount store.
If you’re considering supplementing your training with airsoft, make sure you get a quality product right out of the gate. Buy once, cry once.
Green Gas or CO2.
Spring-powered airsoft guns are cheap and easy to find. However, I will assume that most readers would prefer some type of reciprocating slide model and functions in a semi-auto fashion. When it comes to realistic 1:1 replicas for airsoft there are two primary power sources, at least for handguns.
CO2 powerlet that most of use grew up on is one choice. The great thing about CO2 powerlets is that you can find them just about anywhere; hardware stores, sporting goods, discount outlets, etc. I have found that, depending on the make and model, you will get about 50 to 75 shots from a single CO2 cartridge before it needs to be replaced. A 5-Pack of CO2 powerlets will run you about $6.00.
Why use Green Gas?
Green Gas is the preferred power source for airsoft guns in Japan and Europe. This term, “Green Gas” is the polite term for compressed propane. Specialized Green Gas canisters are deliberately made for the airsoft maker. Airsoft guns that use propane have a brass fill port (nipple) at the base of the magazine. Not unlike filling your favorite butane lighter, you hold the magazine upside down and fill it with gas until it spits back at you.
Because Green Gas is propane, some shipping restrictions will apply and you may have to pay a hazardous materials shipping fee. If you live in a city with an airsoft hobby shop, just swing by and pick up some. A 2-Pack of Green Gas canisters will cost about $30 and give you thousands of shots. It’s the far superior option for extended training sessions.
Practical Use for Airsoft
Naturally, the effective range of an airsoft gun is limited. Handgun distances of five to ten yards are the most practical. Yes, I know there are electronic airsoft rifles that shoot farther, but we are talking about practical accuracy.
The standard airsoft pistol uses 6mm plastic BB’s. These are available by hundreds and thousands and effectively cost a fraction of a penny per shot. You should be able to find 10,000 BB’s for around $25. Therefore, the cost of airsoft if the initial investment in the gun and the gas.
No, an airsoft pistol is not going to give you the same felt recoil as a live firearm. That should be a given. However, the higher end replicas do have triggers that function and feel very much like the real thing. The slides do reciprocate and the quality models are made with aluminum as well as polymer and most of them have a similar weight to the actual guns. For instance, I have a very nice Beretta M9 airsoft pistol and the weight is within one ounce of a genuine, fully loaded pistol. The airsoft M9 also fits in holsters made for the actual NATO handgun.
Airsoft handgun practice should be conducted seriously, as if you were using a live gun, if you hope to benefit. Take the time to apply proper trigger press and sight alignment for every shot. Hold the gun steady and follow-through just as you would with your genuine pistol.
There are some instructors that do not recommend airsoft for practice because shooters can develop bad habits such as trigger snatching or slapping. If you are using an airsoft gun to supplement your live-fire training, you need to take it seriously if you hope to benefit from it.
Use Caution – Conclusion
Velocities generated with CO2 and Green Gas will generally be in the 300 plus feet per second range; 325-350 is normal. That means that they do hurt if you are hit with one and they could injure an unprotected eye. The BB’s will ricochet off of hard objects. Always wear eye protection when using or observing.
One of the biggest benefits of airsoft practice is that it can be conducted indoors or out. There is no noise to bother the neighbors and all you need is a big cardboard box to use as a target. *A word of caution; airsoft BB’s from a CO2 pistol WILL go through both sides of an empty cardboard box. To trap them inside, fill the box with crumpled newspaper or packing paper. If you do that, you won’t have to sweep up a hundred BB’s off of the basement or garage floor.
Professor Paul Markel
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Very interesting! My son and I have set up a mock-up
range in our basement and it has helped both of us
to make the adjustments with regards to sight alignment.
As you state in your article it is an inexpensive way to work on those perishable skills.
That’s awesome. What model airsoft guns did you pick up to train with?
Sorry been a shooter and collector for 30+yrs and air-soft for drawing from the holster,loading, unloading, safety handling and malfunction drills sure IF its the exact same model as you use for self defense. But the weight will not be the same.
BUT for shooting don’t agree you will pick up bad habits as theses air-soft guns are smooth bores and highly inaccurate past 3 meters (handguns) and no gun blast and NO recoil.
When in the military Force on Force was done using simulation rounds or paintball rounds which have the same bang and recoil and uses your same service weapons.
For Air-soft rifles these guns are no more accurate than rifles from the 1700’s even the US civil war muskets are more accurate than an Air-Soft rifle as it has rifling Air-Soft does not.
But its just my opinion if you do and like this more power to ya.
I do not hate AS I have a couple to train my family proper gun handling and malfunction clearing, loading and unloading drills before handling the real thing.
But after that we use the real guns for the same drills as you need to feel the weight of the real thing just make sure NO ammo is in the same room even if its in storage cans.
I for decades have always kept ammo and guns in separate storage areas and use high vis dummy rounds for malfunction drills etc.
Ready use defense guns being the exception of course.
And again we shoot live ammo at the range. NOTHING beats shooting your actual carry or defense gun with the same live ammo you carry, even a .22 version of your carry gun will not have the same weight and or recoil.
Again its just what WE do. Not saying anything against what others do. Just be safe everyone!