From Academic Kids

Airsoft is a military simulation sport in which players participate in mock combat with military-style mock weapons and tactics. Airsoft guns usually use 6 mm spherical pellets typically made of solid plastic.

The sport is extremely popular in eastern Asia, in Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, where real arms are difficult or impossible to obtain because of local laws. For this reason the vast majority of airsoft guns, accessories, and aftermarket upgrade parts are made in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea. Airsoft has been since made illegal in most parts of Mainland China (the Hong Kong SAR being apparently excepted). There is currently a growing interest in the West again, especially in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Denmark, bolstered by an active and expanding Internet scene.



Early history

Airsoft began in Japan during the mid-1970s where real guns are prohibited by Japanese law. It can trace it roots to 1:1 scale plastic model kits of popular real firearms. From that point on it went into three separate directions; air-driven pellet guns, cap-type guns, and pellets driven by a spring.

The guns which had bullets driven by a spring had a spring in each shell. The bullet was forced into the shell and held by a two small locks. Placing the loaded cartridge into the chamber, and firing the gun, would force the cartridge forward and releasing the locks on the bullet. The spring would propel the bullet forward. Pulling back the slide would cycle the next cartridge. The drawback with this design was that this bullet would have a maximum range of 20 feet (6 m).

The cap-type guns used a powerful explosive cap to make the noise of the gun and in later versions, to actually eject the spent cartridge from the gun. More sophisticated versions included the MAC-11, and CAR15 with a fully loaded magazine, can fire fully automatic. These guns were good alternate movie-prop guns. But since these guns did only cycle the action and make a bang, the popularity of these cap-type guns never really caught on because no projectile was fired from it.

Early Japanese air-driven pellet guns had a soft plastic bullet shaped like a pointed mushroom, which was then inserted into a hollow cylindrical plastic shell, which approximated the size of a real gun cartridge and had the look of one. These guns were based from semi-auto pistols, and the plastic cartridges were loaded into a magazine which was then inserted into the gun. The number of cartridges loaded into the magazine would be similar to a real firearm magazine. The gun was spring-powered normally by pushing the slide forward to strip the cartridge off of the magazine, loading it into the chamber to fire, and simultaneously cocking back the spring air piston. Pulling the trigger of the gun released the spring piston, the air went through the rear of the hollow cartridge and expelled the plastic pellet through the barrel. By continuing pulling back the trigger, the locking mechanism for the slide would release, the slide moving rearward and the empty plastic shell would be ejected. By repeating this process, another pellet can be fired until the magazine was empty.

Unfortunately, this process had some drawbacks. The shells were easy to lose, and the pellets were few and expensive. The next evolutionary design step was to replace the plastic bullet with a round BB. The shell was kept and the BB was inserted into the shell to make a cartridge. A rubber O-ring in the lip of the hollow shell held the BB in place. BBs were plentiful and easier to manufacture compared to the plastic pellet. Eventually, the plastic shell was altogether removed from the design to evolve into the airsoft guns we know of today.

Airsoft in American culture began with several abortive attempts in the 1980s by the Daisy BB gun company of the USA to market a BB gun that could be safely shot by opposing players at each other. It was known then as "Replisoft" and "SoftAir," a name which airsoft is now rarely known by. These spring guns used the plastic shell and BB design. The products did not prove popular in the U.S. market. However the sport continued to prosper in Asia and gained significant popularity. Most modern airsoft technology developments were created in 20 years of expanding interest in Japan.

Growth in the West

Starting with early 2003, Daisy has once again begun marketing airsoft guns for sale in the US, under their "Powerstrike" brand name. This and other models have begun appearing en mass in major brick and mortar distributors, expanding what in the US was traditionally a generally Internet based operation. US-based manufacturers of tactical gear and equipment have also begun to recognize the sport, some marketing products specifically for use in airsoft. On the Internet, the online auction site eBay has noticed airsoft as well, and has created several categories specifically for the thousands of listings of airsoft gear and guns. Popularity in the UK and some Scandanavian countries has grown with similar measures.

Airsoft guns

The guns used in airsoft are typically replicas of real firearms. Airsoft guns can be divided into three groups by what powers them: spring powered, electric powered, and gas-powered.

Spring powered

Spring-powered airsoft guns (often called "springers" or "spring guns") are single-shot devices that use potential energy stored in a spring to launch an airsoft pellet down the barrel of the gun. The user must cock a spring gun prior to each shot much like you would a real shotgun or bolt-action rifle. This is typically achieved by pulling back the slide (pistols) or bolt (rifles), which in turn compresses the spring and makes the gun ready to fire. Because of this these guns are incapable of automatic or semi-automatic fire.

While most electric guns also use springs for this they are not considered to be in the same category as the single-shot spring-powered guns. Low-end spring guns tend to be much cheaper than their electric-powered equivalents due to their simplicity and cost of components (spring assembly vs. spring assembly, electric motor, battery, and battery charger) and thus are widely available. These guns are less suited for competition because they are at a disadvantage against automatic guns in close combat and don't provide enough accuracy and power for long-range uses. Higher-end spring-powered airsoft rifles can be quite expensive; these guns are typically suited for "sniper" applications in airsoft matches and can provide competitive muzzle velocities.

Gas powered

Gas-powered airsoft guns use pressurized gas to propel pellets. These guns are capable of automatic and semi-automatic operation. The most common gas used is propane (usually referred to as "green gas" by airsoft players). Less commonly used gases include CO2 and nitrogen.

Gas power tends to be used in airsoft pistols where size constraints make electric-powered mechanisms impractical. Other instances where gas is favored are where adjustable velocities are required or where a blow-back feature is desired. A blow-back feature is a mechanism which cycles a slide or bolt to better simulate a real firearm's operation. Because of the mechanical complexities involved with distributing and regulating gas these guns have largely given way to electric guns for less specialized applications.

Electric powered

Missing image
Tokyo Marui MP5-SD5 AEG

Electric-powered airsoft guns typically use a bank of rechargeable batteries to drive an electric motor, which cycles an internal piston/spring assembly in order to launch pellets. Automatic and semi-automatic operation is possible which gives these guns the popular name "automatic electric guns" or AEG's. These guns often attain muzzle velocities of 200 to 300 feet per second (60 to 90 m/s) and fire rates of 300 to 700 rounds per minute and are by far the most common and widely available airsoft guns in serious competition use today.

Missing image
An MP5 replica AEG partially disassembled, showing battery pack concealed in foregrip

These guns were originally developed in Japan, and the Japanese model giant Tokyo Marui dominates the market today with many quality models. In a Marui AEG, the motor drives a series of 3 gears mounted inside a gearbox. The gears then compress a piston assembly against a spring. Once the piston is released, the spring drives it forward through the cylinder to push a pellet into the chamber, through the barrel, and forward from the muzzle. Many manufacturers have now more or less replicated this basic model, adding reinforced parts or minor improvements.

Becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to the Japanese Toyko Marui guns are the Chinese airsoft guns, made by manufacturers such as CYMA and WELL. While these are much cheaper than the high-end Toyko Marui guns and come with all sorts of bells and whistles (laser sights, silencers, etc.) they are of much cheaper quality and cannot sustain heavy use like their Japanese counterparts.


The various internal components of airsoft guns can usually be replaced or upgraded. The following is a short list of commonly referred to parts. Not all of these parts apply to all airsoft types (spring-powered guns don't use batteries, for example).

  • Barrel - Serves the same purpose as in real firearms: guides the pellet and also maintains gas pressure behind it.
  • Battery - Powers the motor that moves the spring assembly. These are typically NiCad rechargeable batteries but may also be NiMH.
  • Gearbox - A gear assembly that transfers the electric motor's drive to the spring assembly.
  • Hop-up - A small detente that applies a backspin to the pellets to improve ballistics.
  • Electric motor - Used to provide energy to cock the springs in AEG's.
  • Nozzle - A plastic or metal piece that connects the barrel to the air piston.
  • Spring - Spring and electric guns both use springs to propel the pellets. The stronger the springs generally the more powerful the gun will be.

Airsoft pellets

Missing image
Some 6mm plastic airsoft pellets

Airsoft pellets (often referred to as "BB's", short for "ball bearing" or "big ball" in reference to smaller shotgun shot) are typically made of plastic and are almost always 6mm spheres. Pellets of a given size come in different weights ranging from 0.12 to 0.43 g. In addition to standard plastic pellets, starch-based biodegradable, metal coated, graphite coated (often used by snipers), and steel pellets are also available. Pellets other than 6 mm, 0.12 g, 0.20 g, or 0.25 g plastic or biodegradable pellets are not commonly used.

Glow-in-the-dark tracer pellets are also used in conjunction with a special device that charges the pellets up by flashing it with a quick burst of UV light prior to firing so that they remain luminescent in flight for use during nocturnal operations/games.

There have also been guns made that shoot aspherical pellets. The best known of these is the Asahi "Blade Bullet", which are now extremely difficult to find and quite expensive to buy. These were designed to be shot from the short-lived Asahi M700 and M40 premium grade rifles, which were produced in 1993. Compatibility with other airsoft guns is highly limited, especially due to their inability to be used with hop-up features.

Paint pellets are available but are incompatable with guns with hop-up features as the hop-up will break the pellet in the gun. Paint is very unpopular with airsofters because it tends to stain gear and clothes.

Pellet weights and their usage

  • 0.12 g - Used by some gas and spring weapons. High velocity and low stability.
  • 0.15 g - Same uses as 0.12 g. Uncommon.
  • 0.20 g - Standard weight for most weapons. AEG's uses these or slightly heavier pellets.
  • 0.22 g - Western Arms pellets for their gas blowback pistol series. Uncommon.
  • 0.23 g - Heavier pellets for AEG's. Blends range of 0.20g with accuracy of 0.25g.
  • 0.25 g - Heaviest weight for standard AEG's, blowback and spring guns.
  • 0.29 g - Maruzen’s pellets for their APS series. Uncommon.
  • 0.30 g - Standard weight for most sniper rifles.
  • 0.36 g - Heavier pellets for sniper rifles. Very slow but high stability.
  • 0.43 g - For the highest level of upgrades in spring and gas sniper rifles. Aluminum coated.

Pellet ballistics

Pellet velocity, energy and weight

The pellet velocity of automatic electric guns is determined in large part by the tension of their main spring and so there tends to be a stratification of values. The most common airsoft velocity limits are between 300 to 400 ft/s (90 to 120 m/s) for AEGs and 400 to 500 ft/s (120 to 150 m/s) for single shot guns (sniper rifles). Here are some common levels of airsoft gun pellet velocity.

Unit equivalents

Pellet velocity 76 84 85 91 100 107 115 122 137 152 168 (m/s)
250 275 280 300 328 350 377 400 450 500 550 (ft/s)
0,12 g 0,35 0,42 0,44 0,50 0,60 0,68 0,79 0,89 1,13 1,39 1,69
0,15 g 0,44 0,53 0,55 0,63 0,75 0,85 0,99 1,11 1,41 1,74 2,11
0,20 g 0,58 0,70 0,73 0,84 1,00 1,14 1,32 1,49 1,88 2,32 2,81
0,23 g 0,67 0,81 0,84 0,96 1,15 1,31 1,52 1,71 2,16 2,67 3,23 Energy
0,25 g 0,73 0,88 0,91 1,05 1,25 1,42 1,65 1,86 2,35 2,90 3,51


0,30 g 0,87 1,05 1,09 1,25 1,50 1,71 1,98 2,23 2,82 3,48 4,22
0,36 g 1,05 1,26 1,31 1,51 1,80 2,05 2,38 2,68 3,39 4,18 5,06
0,43 g 1,25 1,51 1,57 1,80 2,15 2,45 2,84 3,20 4,04 4,99 6,04
3,00 g 8,71 10,54 10,93 12,54 14,99


  • 3.00 g is the typical weight for a paintball pellet. This weight is for comparison purposes only and is not used on Airsoft. Higher energy but different collisions read Elastic collisions (airsoft) and Inelastic collision (paintball) topics for further information.

Dangers to humans

Airsoft pellets typically leave small welts on human targets. While only mildly painful this isn't especially damaging to the skin. Eye protection is universally required to prevent damage to eyes. It is also often recommended that face masks be worn while during airsoft matches to protect the players' teeth as on very rare occasions players have had teeth chipped or knocked out by a well-placed pellet. The pellets can easily punch through a soda-can.

The following excerpts are from the United Kingdom Parliament's "Principles of firearms control", Home Affairs Select Committee Second Report, 6th April 2000, expound on the level of danger involved with low-energy projectiles:

"25. The Firearms Act 1968 defines a firearm "a lethal barrelled weapon of any description from which any shot, bullet or other :missile can be discharged".[51] In this context, a "lethal weapon" means a weapon capable of firing a projectile with sufficient :force to inflict more than a trivial injury, i.e. with a force sufficient to puncture the skin.[52] The force with which a firearm :is able to deliver a projectile is normally expressed in terms of the kinetic energy it generates at its muzzle—the "muzzle energy". :This force is normally expressed in units of foot-pounds (ft·lbf) or joules (J).[53] <p> "26. The Home Office and the Forensic Science Service considers that the lowest level of muzzle energy capable of inflicting a penetrating wound is one foot pound force (1.35 J): below these power levels, weapons are "incapable of penetrating even vulnerable parts of the body, such as the eye".[54] However, more recent analysis by the Forensic Science Agency for Northern Ireland has indicated that a more reasonable assessment of the minimum muzzle energy required to inflict a penetrating wound lies between 2.2 and 3.0 ft·lbf (3 to 4 J).[55] We will deal more fully with this discrepancy at paragraphs 123 to 130 below. <p> "123. The power level at and above which an air weapon is considered a firearm in law is presently set at 1 ft·lbf. However, we note above that the Forensic Science Agency of Northern Ireland has more recently assessed the power level at which a barrelled weapon is capable of inflicting a lethal wound as between 2.2 and 3 ft·lbf, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has proposed that the law relating to firearms in Northern Ireland be amended to take this into account.[201]" </blockquote>


Eye protection is typically a mandatory requirement in airsoft matches and is usually used without question to prevent eye injuries. Mouth protection is also often worn to prevent chipped teeth. Clothing may also be chosen to insulate skin from collisions with high-energy pellets.


Airsoft guns shoot 0.2 g BBs at velocities from 100 ft/s (30 m/s) for a low-end spring pistol, to 550 ft/s (170 m/s) and beyond for heavily-upgraded customized sniper rifles. Most non-upgraded AEG's using the Tokyo Marui system are in the middle, producing velocities from 270 to 300 ft/s (80 to 90 m/s), but upgrades to the internal components can increase the pellet velocity significantly.

Hop-up & Bernoulli's principle

Bernoulli's principle as applied to an airsoft pellet is as follows. As a spinless spherical pellet flies along its trajectory through the air (the air being the "fluid" in this case) the pressures on all sides of the pellet are equal because the air is traveling the same velocity relative to the surface of the pellet. If a spin is applied to the pellet about an axis perpendicular to the velocity vector (e.g, a backspin) the air will be rushing faster (relative to the pellet surface) on the side that is spinning away from the velocity vector and slower on the side that is spinning towards the velocity vector. Bernoulli's principle says this difference in fluid velocity implies a difference in pressures, which is a force that will cause the pellet to move in a direction perpendicular to the velocity vector.

Airsoft hop-up devices apply a backspin to the pellet so that the pressure force acts on the pellet opposite the direction that gravity is pulling it. This causes the pellet to fall less over a given distance than it would without the spin applied to it.

In airsoft guns this is often implemented as a rubber piece at the rear of the barrel that is thicker at the top of the barrel than the bottom. As the pellet moves past this piece it tends to roll, inducing a backspin. This is usually adjustable so that the effect can be tuned.

Legal issues

Airsoft guns and playing airsoft is legal in many parts of the world, but not all. Some countries have specific restrictions such as maximum muzzle energy, rules against using the trademarks of real firearms, and special marking requirements (such as brightly colored barrel tips). In addition, the similarity between genuine firearms and airsoft replicas is close enough to provoke interaction with law enforcement personnel if an airsoft gun is mistaken for its real counterpart.

Airsoft variants

Paintball is a sport similar to Airsoft, but uses a different type of projectile and gun.

External links

  • E.C.H.O. - East Coast Homeland Operations ( - Virginia's Elite Airsoft Team
  • Virginia Airsoft ( - The meeting place for Virginia airsofters.
  • Milsim Airsoft ( - The Hunters Dutch Airsoft Team
  • Airsoft BB Gun Authority ( - Airsoft BB Gun Authority
  • Airsoft News in Media ( - Airsoft Local News
  • AirsoftSplat Information ( - General Airsoft Information
  • Airsoft Information ( - Airsoft Information
  • Airsoft Arizona ( - Forum for airsofters in Arizona, but milsim players from anywhere are welcome.
  • ( - World wide Airsoft & MILSIM discussion board with more than 4,000 users online to meet and talk with.
  • Softair Forum ( - Airsoftportal for Germany, Austria and Switzerland (German language)
  • Tiroler Gotcha Club ( - Airsoftportal for Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
  • Airsoft Hawaii ( - The oldest airsoft group in the United States, founded in 1987.
  • New Jersey Airsoft Operations Command ( - A New Jersey message board, used goods marketplace and retailer's site. Contrary to most people's beliefs, Airsoft is perfectly legal in New Jersey
  • Airsoft Canada ( - A Canadian message board, used goods marketplace and retailer's site
  • 858Airsoft ( - Resource site for San Diego, and SoCal Airsoft Players.
  • Milsim Airsoft ( - Military Simulation in Airsoft Interest Group
  • Minnesota Airsoft Association ( - The MAA site has a message board, reviews, and an online Safety Manual that is a "must read" for any Airsofter.
  • Airsoft SitRep ( - An Airsoft Blog Site
  • Action Games League ( - Manila, Philippines; first airsoft organization outside of Japan
  • AirSoft Community United Kingdom ( - The airsoft community of UK.
  • Arnie's Airsoft ( - A major, and one of the best airsoft hubs located in the UK but provides excellent worldwide airsoft information as well.
  • Airsoft Pacific ( - A Professional Airsoft League based in the Pacific Northwest. Has detailed Team/Player Listings, Pictures/Videos of local games, Events Calendar, and Local and Worldwide Airsoft News. Along with a well populated Discussion Forum.
  • Airsoft Players of Hawaii ( - A news site for Hawaii Airsoft Players
  • Airsoft Retreat ( - USA airsoft news, articles, discussion forums
  • Airsoft Core ( - Big Airsoft forum
  • PAairsoft ( - An airsoft forum for airsofters in PA
  • Airsoft Related Links ( - Good resource for retailers, gear, forums, and manufacturers.
  • Airsoft Players ( - Airsoft news, articles, and discussion forums.
  • Seattle Airsoft ( - An airsoft information site for the Seattle area.
  • Team Omega Zone ( - Omega Zone Airsoft, Philippine Premier Airsoft Site, based in Metro Manila .
  • Airsoft Guns ( - Airsoft guide for new players. Emphasis on airsoft safety -- specifically eyewear. Also information about using military gear such as tactical vests and combat boots in airsoft games.
  • Airsoft for rookies ( - A short handbook on the subject of Airsoft by Ronny "Thinker" Ohlsson
  • Airsoft for rookies ( - Ronny "Thinker" Ohlsson Airsoft Handbook ZIP file. (very good)
  • TM Mech Box Version 2&3 Disassembly Instructions ( - Francis Zhou (skyfire) translation of the "Airgun Custom Parts Catalog '98" by Seibido Mook in Japan.
  • Filairsoft ( - Philippines
  • Airsoft Philippines Blog ( - Philippines
  • North East Airsoft Club CH ( - Switzerland
  • Gotcha Adventure Game Club ( - Switzerland
  • Airsoft Club Ru ( - Russia
  • Airsoft in Russia ( - Russia
  • ( - Russia
  • UN Friedenstruppe Edelweiss ( - Russia
  • UK government consultation 2004 'Controls on firearms' (
  • Home Affairs -Second Report ( - Principles of firearms control
  • Airsoft New Zealand ( - Airsoft New Zealand Community Website
  • Airsoft Communities of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania ( - Baltics (russian language)
  • Low End Airsoft ( - small site devoted to low-cost Chinese guns (reviews and other info)
  • North Eastern Airsoft Group ( - The North Eastern Airsoft Group (NEASG) is an association of airsoft enthusiasts in the northeast region of the United States
  • Airsoft Argentina ( - Site with airsoft events in Argentina. Also includes forums and reviews. Spanish language.
  • MilSim Sweden ( - Organizers of milsim airsoft games in Sweden with a healthy dose of roleplaying.


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