Airsoft guns were first established in Japan during the 1970s. Following the country’s ban on all firearms, Japanese companies had the foresight to produce a legal alternative that offered similar benefits as a regular gun. When Japan outlawed firearms, a safer substitute to protect oneself was highly demanded.
As oppose to a lead based bullet, airsoft guns fire plastic or rubber BB pellets at varying speeds-160 feet per second for a beginners model to 550 for a top of the line model. The first model of the airsoft gun had a spring based firing mechanism that required a pump for a single shot. The imitation gun then morphed several times over, gaining popularity with each innovation.
Airsoft guns soon took the form of three unique styles-gas powered, electric, and customized hybrids.
Electric airsoft guns are the most widely distributed form of replica firearm in the world. Unlike a spring based gun, the electric model runs on a rechargeable battery and can fully support automatic fire.
The gun has a series of gears which rotate through a box inside the gun. There are a few variations of electric airsoft guns-automatic (AEGs), low powered (LPEGs), blow backs (EBBs), and pistols (AEPs). Gas powered models are considered the most efficient form of airsoft guns. Pressurized by HFC-134a and Green Gas, this form of replica is most commonly found in rifles, pistols, or shotguns.
Unlike the other models, the gas supported airsoft is vibrantly colored and crazily designed. The most specialized model is a hybrid version which is fully customizable. One of the contributing factors in airsoft’s surging popularity is the amount of personalization that can go into one’s gun. The accessories and attachments available are seemingly endless.
From grenade launcher attachments, laser sites, scopes, and magazine alterations a player has an opportunity to immerse himself in a plethora of options.
Airsoft guns eventually hit the United States market in the early 90’s and quickly took on a multitude of functions. Airsoft guns can be used for:recreational activities, military training, and as a self-defense substitute.
Like paintball, the participation in airsoft leagues and competitions has increased dramatically. The airsoft market has benefited greatly from recreational use; competitive leagues, shooting games, and games between friends have bolstered the replica’s popularity. As opposed to just team matches or capture the flag, the games involved in airsoft range from friendly to highly tactical.
In addition to recreational purposes airsoft guns have made their way into police and military training drills as well as Hollywood. Due to their uncanny resemblance and weight to real firearms, movies and enforcement agencies have adopted airsoft guns as a safe and effective substitute to real weapons.
Although relatively safe, airsoft guns do pose both physical and social threats. The pellet rarely breaks skin, often leaving only a small welt, but the most common injury associated with airguns is far more serious. Eye injuries unfortunately have been common place, both in mishaps and during competitions.
The industry has made strides in curbing this unfortunate incident by insisting players where goggles but accidents still occur. A blow to the eye with an airsoft pellet can result in serious injury, often times irreparable damage.
Physical damage aside, the airsoft gun’s biggest detriment is left on society in the form of fear. Because the guns look so similar to their real counterparts, situations often times arise where a harmless replica is mistaken for a dangerous firearm. Due to it’s resemblance, the airsoft gun has been regulated by federal and state law.
Federal laws in regards to importation require that all airsoft guns transported within or imported into the country have barrels with a minimum 6mm wide blaze orange tip. Local airsoft gun laws will vary based on whether or not the orange tip can be removed. These physical renditions to the replica were instituted to help an individual differentiate between the replica and the real thing.
Airsoft gun laws (like regular gun laws) vary based on state and city. Most major cities have limitations placed on guns, and some places such as Washington D.C. and Chicago have gone as far as to consider any sort of possession illegal. Although replicas, airsoft guns used in crimes are susceptible for criminal prosecution with a deadly weapon.
Airsoft is a unique creation that is only bound to get more popular. It’s a rare combination of educational and fun with a slight dash of dangerous implications. Before purchasing an airsoft gun one should know the risks and dangers involved with participation. The industry has made many advancements in terms of precautions and player safety.
Equipment is more durable, goggles are mandatory, and the pellets must meet specific regulations in order to be discharged. That being said, their uncanny resemblance to their dangerous substitute, is perhaps both their best and most dangerous feature.