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Step 1: What Is Airsoft?
Well, airsoft is a game very similar to paintball. The main differences are;
- Most airsoft rifles are powered by an electrically wound spring, as opposed to CO2 tanks
- Instead of a .43 or .68 caliber paintball, airsoft guns fire 6mm plastic BB's weighing between a tenth and a half of a gram (roughly).
- Airsoft guns are far more realistic, often having the exact same look and scale (minus the blaze orange flash hider) and sometimes even the real weight of a real steel rifle.
Capture the Flag
Search and Destroy
Unlike paintball, however, the BB's do not splatter when they hit, and there is no mark showing that the BB hit. This means the game relies heavily on the honors system for everybody to call their hits. There are 6mm paintballs for airsoft guns, but they have been known to break inside the guns and ruin them. I don't suggest these.
Airsoft guns are powered by one of three different methods:
The gun must be cocked before every shot. When you pull back the cocking bolt, slide, etc. it pulls air into a plunger. When you pull the trigger, the air is released. With the exception of sniper rifles and some multi-shot shotguns, spring guns are usually classified as beginner weapons. Usually referred to simply (and condescendingly) as "springers".
These work very similar to spring. The only exception is that, instead of manually having to pull back the spring, it uses an electric motor to pull back the string at hundreds of times per minute. When you see an assault rifle, SAW, or SMG out on the field, it's probably electric. These are the most common and range from $30 Low Powered Electric Guns (LPEG)s to $1,200 SystemA training weapons. An Electric gun is usually referred to as an Automatic Electric Gun (AEG) or Automatic Electric Pistol (AEP) though the latter can cost hundreds for a decent quality version.
Used mostly in pistols and some high end rifles/shotguns. The most common use is for a pistol. They are divided into two types: Non Blow Back (NBB) where the slide is fixed, and there is no recoil. Then there is Gas Blow Back (GBB). On a GBB pistol (or some incredibly rare rifles), some of the gas is used to push back the slide in order to create realistic recoil, usually around that of a .22LR. Usually just called gas pistols/ weapons.
Note: there are other weapons such as grenade launchers and land mines that also use gas as a propellant.
Step 2: What Do I Need to Know Before Getting Into Airsoft?
- Airsoft is still sort of an underground game. It's frowned upon by a large group of people (I wouldn't quite say the majority) and it can be hard to find a place to play at. However, most states have one airsoft organization with smaller teams for each section of the state. Make sure you do some research before dropping $200 on a gun.
- Airsoft is *generally* a lot more tactical than paintball. It's like choosing Ghost Recon or Rainbow Six over Halo 3 and Quake. Expect the games to last longer, and less rounds to be fired. It's also not uncommon for people to roleplay entire games or storylines such as rescuing a downed pilot, or preventing Russians from charging the border, etc. etc.
- Airsoft hurts. A lot of people say it just feels like a sting. To an extent it does. However, anything 300 FPS or higher (with .2g or heavier BB's) it will feel like a bee sting from 20 feet away, and leave welts, blood boils, scars, etc. I have a pretty low pain tolerance, but I usually don't mind being full autoed from 400 FPS guns. When you're shot by so many at once, your mind just kind of ignores most of them. The trick is just to get used to being shot, and not be too afraid of the BB's.
- A lot of people get into the sport, just to find they don't like it or don't have the time. Instead of going all out and getting a $400 professional level gun, I would suggest getting something cheap. A lot of people start with spring weapons. My personal preference is NBB pistols. These can be bought for as little as $20, plus $50 for accessories (extra clips, holsters, gas, gun case, a target, maybe even a laser on bottom). I got mine from Dick's Sporting Goods for $40. It shoots 350 FPS semi-automatic, and can hit a quarter from 25'. Pistols such as this are perfectly acceptable for beginners. If you want to get into the feel of airsoft (more specifically having a rifle to carry) you can buy an LPEG, but I warn against it. Anything under $100 often breaks and is low quality anyways. If you want to get into the feel, I'd get a spring rifle (if you go for a tad more expensive one, it can often be used as a beginner's sniper rifle) and a gas pistol. Play a couple games of whatever style you'll prefer. If you like it, then you can get a better gun.
- By law (at least in the U.S.) all guns must be sold with a blaze orange tip of a certain length coming off the end of the barrel of all airsoft guns. While it's not illegal to remove this orange tip, it's not a good idea. Even if you're going to remove the orange tip for play on private land, I suggest to not do it. If you still decide to, I recommend that you at least keep the orange tip to put back on for travel, or buy a silencer/ flash hider with an orange tip.
Step 3: Getting Your First Gun
Budget: A spring sniper rifle can be yours from $100-$160, and many tri-shot shotguns are $80. However, decent AEG's run from $140-$1200. This is often the biggest deciding factor.
Your body type: I'm a very small person, so small that I can't put the butt of an M14 against my shoulder and reach the trigger at the same time. And full metal M16's pose a problem to me because of the weight. So I got an Echo 1 Mp5 made mostly of very strong plastic. It is perfect for my body size and so small I can hold it with one hand while I brush away branches.
Where you're going to play: In the areas I play, there are a lot of very thick woods, with some open areas. However, since most of our encounters happen in the woods, the small design of my MP5 worked well for me. Anything with a medium barrel has worked well. However, my friend with the M14 often has trouble moving it around. If you're playing in desert, or areas with flat patches of land, you may want to consider a long weapon. If you play urban/ indoors, you'll want to consider switching to SMGs and carbines, along with shorter barreled sniper rifles such as the SR-25
What's your role?: Support gunners are going to want long barreled weapons with high Feet Per Second (FPS. It's used to tell how fast a BB leaves the barrel) and Rate of Fire (ROF) in order to put a large number of BB's very far down range. Scouts want camouflaged carbines, with plastic mid cap magazines to avoid noise. It's a very difficult thing, picking out guns and accessories to suit your role, but it's also very fun and adds to the antiquity and realism of the game.
User friendliness: If you're left handed, you need a weapon such as an AUG or MP5 with fully ambidextrous controls. It needs to be easy to use, the hop up needs to be easy to locate and tune, and you may want a gun that can be broken apart easily for upgrades/ repairs. Often times, anything that can break down easy is more expensive (or vice versa-- expensive guns tend to break down easier).
Upgradeability: One of my biggest gripes about my MP5 is that it's very hard to upgrade. It takes me in excess of 20 minutes to take off the barrel and everything, and after that, you need a 1.5mm hex key to get at the internals (which I don't have) so I can't upgrade the internals without paying a professional. And there are no Rail Access System (RIS) rails either. I would have to pay upwards of $100 to get an RIS on the top and bottom of my gun.
If you need an upgradeable gun you want to make sure it:
Has RIS rails, or they can be attached easily; RIS rails are little raised portions of metal that accessories are attached to. They stick straight up from the gun about 1/3 of an inch, and then they branch out. You slide the accessory over the rail, and then tighten it so the branches hold it in. If you want to add a laser, red dot sight, flashlight, grenade launcher, etc. you will need these 99% of the time.
Has a 14mm CCW thread. Often times, you will need to take off the orange flash hider to get to this (not recommended unless you plan to put a silencer on with an orange tip. Doing so will still void your warranty). This is a threaded end to your barrel for mounting silencers, tracer units (which often look like silencers) flash hiders, etc. These are CCW which means lefty tighty, righty loosey (for all of you familiar with the original rhyme.) These accessories can be anything from $5 plastic flash hiders to $60 machined aluminum silencers to $100 tracer units that make BB's glow in the dark. Most silencers serve no function in airsoft except look. Some of them placed on gas guns will make the gun louder. However, if you want to add an extended barrel (for instance, if I wanted an 11 inch instead of 7 inch barrel on my MP5) I could add the longer barrel and cover it up with the silencer. That's not recommended except for advanced hobbyists, though.
For more into choosing a gun, here's another instructable I made: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-choose-an-airsoft-gun-extended-version-of/
Step 4: Firing a Gun.
A pistol is a relatively simple weapon to use. Here's how you would operate a standard airsoft pistol:
Make sure the battery is in/ the gas is in the gun or clip, if you need to.
Load the BB's into the clip, insert the clip into the grip.
If it's spring or has a movable slide at all, you will probably need to rack that once.
After this, make sure the safety is set to fire-- either semi auto (usually the only option) or 3 round burst/ fully automatic on some models. The safety is usually found on the grip, just below the slide. On most models, it's a round button that you turn with your thumb to the fire position. On Glock pistols, it's located on the bottom of the frame. My generic CO2 pistol has it located on the side of the frame. The instruction manual should tell you where it's at.
To fire it:
Standing; Step forward with your non-dominant foot, and place your dominant foot behind you and turned sideways. Lean back just slightly with your upper body (this is to eliminate recoil from real pistols, but it's still the standard firing position.). Raise the pistol with both arms fully extended and line up the sight towards your target. For the proper sighting position with a pistol, you are going to want to look down the barrel so that all three notches line up at the same height. The middle notch (which is on the front of the barrel) should look like it's perfectly in between the two back notches (at the end of the pistol which is hopefully towards you). See picture #1
You have no idea how hard it is to find a picture of lined up pistol sights-- the same reason i was looking for them, because they're hard to take.
Step 5: Playing the Game.
Airsoft is meant to be a fun game. Rules are designed not to restrict but protect the safety of its participants and ensure each player has a good time. In developing these rules, we tried to cover realism, game play and safety.
400 fps limit with .2 gram Marui BB for all full-auto airsofts.
500 fps limit with .2 gram Marui BB for all semi-auto sniper airsofts.
350 fps limit with .2 gram Marui BB for all indoor CQB style games.
Goggles REQUIRED. Impact rated (meets or exceeds ANSI standards) fully sealed goggles must be worn at all times on the game fields.
Full face protection REQUIRED - either a balaclava or a full paintball mask that covers both your ears and mouth - must be worn at all times on the game fields.
Minimum Shooting Distance
No shooting less than 5 feet.
In outdoor, or non-CQB situations, an order to surrender can only be given within 5 feet and from behind. All players ordered to surrender MUST COMPLY. It is conceivable that player can sneak up to within 5 feet of a group of players and order all of them to surrender.
Any hit from a BB anywhere on your body is an elimination.
Gun hits do not count.
Ricochets count. Any hit from a BB ricochetting off an object close to you (wall, tree, your gun, etc.) counts.
Friendly fire (hits from teammates) counts.
In the event of an elimination, the eliminated player must yell "HIT!". No false calls.
If the area is clear, the eliminated player immediately exits the playing area in the most direct route possible. Either hold both hands or your airsoft above your head. If necessary, call out "HIT!" numerous times to prevent from being shot again.
If the area is "hot", the eliminated player(s) lay down on the ground and wait. It may be necessary to keep yelling "HIT!". When the area clears, exit as described above.
While exiting, the only word from an eliminated player must be "HIT" and nothing else. Dead men tell no tales.
Eliminated players may leave equipment at the spot of elimination for use of the "surviving" members. This is at the discretion of the eliminated player. Equipment must be retrieved at the spot where the player was eliminated.
A note on identifying hits:
When you THINK you may have gotten hit by a BB you should declare yourself hit and walk off the field. Sometimes it is VERY hard to tell if you have been hit. However, if someone fires a full-auto burst at you and you have nothing but soft cover (ie bushes, tall grass, etc) you probably got hit and could not tell. About the only exception is if you are lying prone on the ground and facing your attacker. Since about the only thing you have exposed is your head feeling a BB hit is MUCH easier and much less debateable.
Variations (rule variations will be announced prior to game start)
Nashville Rules: Only hits to the head and torso count. Hits to the limbs DO NOT count. All other rules apply.
Instead of exiting the playing field, the 'wounded' player lays down, stays where he/she is, and calls "MEDIC!" The team's designated medic must get to the player to reactivate the player.
The wounded player cannot fire.
The wounded player may talk to teammates regarding enemy positions, etc.
The wounded player may move to a new location only if escorted by live players.
No paint grenades allowed.
Smoke grenades allowed. Smokes must either be activated in a metal bucket. Alternatively, it can be attached to 2 foot long stakes (minimum) to elevate the device above ground.
All other pyrotechnics subject to prior approval before use. Use of unauthorized devices is subject to immediate dismissal and disbarrment from future events.
Well, those are just the boring necessary rules that everybody has to follow. But make sure you follow them so airsoft continues to be a fun and safe game for everybody to enjoy.
So, how do you play a game? Well, there are some popular game types, each with their own rules.
Free For All:
There are several common spawn points. At the beginning of the game, each player chooses their own spawn point from the pre-set ones. Preferably, these are a couple hundred feet away from each other and the middle meeting ground. You will then precede to shoot each other, and then respawn every 5 minutes or so after being killed. You can keep track of points (gets tricky, because quite a few people would cheat) or simply play until it's decided to end the game. This is more a backyard style, which I tend to shy away from. Because of the fast paced style of game, and the very high chance of meeting people, I think this is best played with 5 hit kill, but 1 and 3 can be good, too. 1 could be fun, because you have to be very careful not to get shot with bullets flying everywhere.
Kind of like Free For All, except there are 2-4 teams (any more can get pretty complicated) and one spawn for each different team. Because of the dynamically fast paced games, but with more people to cover your back, I suggest 3 hit kill. 5 Still works pretty well, too.
Squad on Squad MilSim:
MilSim stands for Military Simulation, and it's the most popular game amongst veteran airsoft players. Basically, this is a more realistic incarnation of Team Death Match. The first big difference is that there are no respawns. This makes the gameplay much more tactical because nobody wants to die right away and be out for the rest of the game. Both teams will start at opposing ends. Preferably, it will not be an open rush, but this can be worked too. When the signal is given-- an airhorn blasted, a red sign held up, even just the word "go" said through a walkie-talkie-- both teams will make their way to the other team while trying not to be spotted. This is harder than it sounds. This can be played with any team size. Even teams of 2 are fun, it gives it more of a tactical air, and it's fun if you're with somebody you can trust.
This game is played with two teams: one is larger than the other (preferably a 2-3 or 3-5 ish ratio). The smaller team will head off into the woods, and will be given a 3-10 minute head start. I prefer 5, myself. When the 5 minute time period is up, the larger group will then head off into the woods hunting the smaller team. At this point, it assumes the rules of the Squad on Squad MilSim, except that the smaller team is supposed to use guerilla tactics to hunt the larger team. It's more fun for the guerillas to have guerrilla weapons such as Ak's, Shotguns, etc. Or you could try giving the weaker team semi automatic pistols instead of automatic rifles.
Capture the Flag:
With the same rules as either Team Death Match or Sq v. Sq, there is a flag placed in the middle of the field (or in the other team's base, depending on play style) and the job of your team is to capture that flag and bring it back. When this is done, the round/game has been won. Another fun game type is a Free For All Capture the Flag, though prepare for people guarding the flag with a sniper rifle, and lots of flag-dropping.
After that, it's up to you how you play. There's hostage games, Assassin, VIP, etc. etc. It's up to you and your friends to find a game type you all like.
If I can make a note here, those rules are copied from Florida Airsoft. However, a full face mask isn't required on all fields. It is at any FA event, but your state's/ site's rules may be different. I recommend getting a full face mask. If not, I would at least invest in a mouth guard for football, soccer, etc. because I have heard of people that got their teeth knocked out by airsoft guns (when playing with AEG's at 360 or more FPS, or sniper rifles, it is a real possibility)
Step 6: Safety First
#1: Always, always, always wear AT LEAST fully sealing goggles designed for paintball/airsoft. For full protection, it should be fully sealing, wrap around your ears with a thick rubber or other fabric band, and have a plastic chin piece that comes down an inch or so past your chin. They should also be fully sealing, to eliminate BB's bouncing in at even the weirdest angles.
#2: There are certain things you can do to make sure the gun doesn't accidentally go off. Always keep it unloaded, with the battery/ gas out of the gun. This ensures that even if there is a BB left in the chamber from the last game, there is no power to fire it. Turn the safeties on. Keep the magazines out. Always know, however, that they work similar to real guns in that there is a 90% chance there is a BB left in the magazine if you haven't cleared it. If it's a gas gun, or got a locking slide, take the magazine out and lock the slide. When bringing it to events or games, always carry it in a gun bag, or at least a zipping backpack big enough to fit the entire gun. A good general rule is to keep the safety on until you're about 50 feet from the spawn, unless you expect enemies to be there right away.
#3: Treat your airsoft gun like it's cocked, loaded, and ready to go off. Always point it down and away from anything. Keep the safety on when it's not in use. And never, ever point it at something you don't want to see destroyed (although there's a lower chance of this happening with an airsoft gun, you should treat it like a real gun anyways)
#4: Don't play in public areas. These include parks, backyards, camp grounds (unless you alert ALL of your neighbors and law enforcement) cul-de-sacs, streets, shopping malls, etc. etc. If you have to play on a "public" area, try to do it in a secluded area, surrounded by woods, with very very little chance of anybody seeing you. Make sure all of the neighbors are aware of what's going on and that they will allow you to do it. I know it's a lot of hassle, but it's worth it having people who won't hassle you, and not having to worry about cops.
#5: Worst case scenario; Nobody but you and your friends knows you're playing airsoft, and several concerned people have called cops about "some kids walking down the street holding guns". The cops have pulled up, and whether they have weapons drawn or not, they tell you to drop your weapons and get on the ground. Do it. Don't argue, or try to tell them the weapons are fake. They'll discern that for themselves when they take it. They'll usually tell you to drop the weapons. Don't slowly lower them. If you are concerned about breaking a $300 gun, put it down in a way that you can't reach the trigger, such as by the stock or sling. Get down on the ground. At this point, they may or may not handcuff you, but will ask what's going on. Very calmly explain to them what was going on, and that they're legal airsoft guns. If you're under 18, they'll most likely let you off with a warning. Over 18, and you may have problems with them. If you're over 18, you should have the sense to carry it in a backpack, gun bag, or even a guitar bag or suitcase if you want to be inconspicuous.
Step 7: Closing Notes
Also, you'll notice I use a lot of internet pictures. The truth is, a lot of these pictures are very hard to get because it requires gearing up and going out into the field, which can take hours of planning. While I do spend hours working on each of these, I don't put too much faith in the pictures (unless you're creating something, of course, when they're needed) so I'll just borrow some. I don't own 99.9% of them, so for liability reasons, we're going to assume I don't own any of these images.
I also like using some of them just to keep people entertained. I know it helps in a guide when it's entertaining, so it's just another small step.