Nothing can be more exciting than grabbing your trusted Airsoft replica(s), gearing up, and heading out for a day out on the battlefield with friends. The game of Airsoft has structure. As fun as an impromptu game can be, there are some very basic rules that help ensure Airsoft games are both fun and safe for all players. So, know the rules!
When it comes to Airsoft, some rules may vary from region, playing location and even by the type of game played. The following are some basic rules and practices that can serve any player well. They are in no particular order.
PROTECT YOUR EYES AT ALL TIMES
This is one of those rules that simply goes without saying, but is one of the most important, basic rules. Always wear proper eye protection. You only have two eyes and should you take a hit to either eye (or both for that matter), it is guaranteed that you risk irreparable damage. Is it really worth it? There are many different types of eye protection gear available. Gear ranges from ballistic glasses all the way to full-face masks. Keep in mind that while prescription glasses would be better than nothing at all, they are not typically an acceptable type of protective eyewear at most playing venues.
Beyond having eye protection rules in place, some Airsoft locations also have specific restrictions in place regarding what protective eyewear will allow you to get into the game. Eyewear restrictions can be anything from requiring a specific type of protective eyewear, ie. full face mask, full seal goggles, etc., to a specified ANSI (American National Standards Institute) rating. ANSI ratings ensure that the eyewear provides a specific level of protection from hazards resulting from potential impact, liquid, and dust. To pass the rating standard, the eyewear is put through a series of tests. Eyewear testing that would be related to Airsoft, would include impact testing such as drop tests, high mass tests, and high-velocity tests.
Never remove your protective eyewear on the field or during game play! Only remove your protective eyewear in the designated “Safe Zone” or at the conclusion of gameplay when weapons are stowed away safely. The “Safe Zone” is a designated area where no shooting is permitted.
KNOW YOUR LOCAL LAWS & REGULATIONS
While nothing beats a great game of Airsoft, things can go south pretty quickly if you unknowingly violate some local law or regulation. Your local playing location is a designated venue where players can go to engage in the sport, and therefore should be abiding by local laws and regulations. However, while it may be legal to possess and shoot your Airsoft gun at your local field, there may be laws or regulations that apply to Airsoft weapons once you are outside of the designated playing area that you should be aware of.
Local requirements may be anything from age restrictions, transportation & carrying requirements or even some shooting restrictions. For example, it is pretty commonplace while transporting your Airsoft gun, to do so while the gun is stored in an appropriate container and away from public view. In many places, it is a crime to brandish Airsoft guns in public view. This is due to the uncanny resemblance that some Airsoft guns bear to their real counterparts. So, displaying them in public is asking for trouble. Simple observers may not be able to distinguish between your Airsoft replica and the real steel. This extends to law enforcement officers as well. In many cases, law enforcement officer has been fooled by Airsoft weapons and people have been shot.
Also, know your local laws & regulations as it relates to where you can play (if you are intending to play somewhere other than a designated Airsoft field). Know where you can and cannot go. Some local parks and property may be appealing, but might be strictly off-limits. If you do stumble on to a location where you can play, make sure to get permission first. It is always wise to document whom you spoke with and their contact information. If possible, I would go as far as to suggest that you should make sure the person giving the o.k. has the authority to do so. This would extend to both public and private land. I’ve always heard it is better to ask permission than beg for forgiveness. Nothing would be worse than to be in the thick of battle only to be interrupted by local law enforcement with their real steel pointed in your face as you come out from cover.
As it pertains to local laws & regulations, it is the player’s responsibility to become familiar with them. As such, naivety is rarely an acceptable excuse for “not knowing”.
CALL YOUR HITS
Call your hits, Always! Everyone engaged in the game is out to have a good time. Airsoft as a sport relies on every player abiding by an honor system. Players sometimes wear a lot of gear. Airsoft bb’s leave little evidence of impact, occasionally a player may not know they have been hit. If you are unsure of a hit, call it anyway. It is better to call a hit than to be perceived as someone who may be cheating. Failing to call a hit knowingly is cheating. Cheating is frowned upon regardless of what sport you are engaged in. As a cheater, you may be asked to leave the game or worse, not permitted to play at the location ever again. Once you have called your hit, head to the designated safe zone. Some games or locations require a specified flag or death/dead rag to be on display while moving from gameplay to the designated area. Specific rules governing this will vary by location, group or even game. Typically there will be a safe zone which can be known as a respawn point. In some games, a medic can come to you for respawning. It will vary.
RESPECT OTHER PLAYERS
It all boils down to good sportsmanlike behavior and the Golden Rule (do unto to others as you would have them do unto you). Airsoft can be a faced paced and exciting sport. As such, on occasion, emotions can run high. Misunderstandings can happen. However, players should refrain from physical contact, aggressive/abusive behavior, screaming, or the excessive use of foul language. Occasionally a little smack-talk between teams during gameplay is normal. So long as it doesn’t get out of hand, it’s just part of the game.
Players may also show their respect to other players by not being overly critical of other player’s gear or load-outs. Every player is different and as such, may have picked what suits their needs, style or budget. Just remember, everyone is out to have a good time and disrespecting others takes away from the fun of this sport from others.
In order to prevent serious injury during gameplay, players will be required to engage only with an Airsoft weapon limited to a specific FPS at a specific distance. It is not atypical to find that many outdoor locations will set FPS limits below 400 FPS with indoor locations set slightly lower. While some locations will abide by the “honor system” when it comes to FPS, others will chronograph players Airsoft guns prior to the start of the game.
Typically, each playing location will mandate the minimum engagement distance based on FPS for safety. For example, an outdoor field location may enforce a minimum engagement distance of twenty (20) feet for an Airsoft weapon with a muzzle velocity of fewer than 400 FPS.
There may be times when you cannot fire upon an enemy because you are close enough that engagement would break the rules. Alternatives can be used in these instances that allow for safe gameplay to continue. “Knife Kills”, Grenades, and “Safety Kills” are all examples of alternative ways to safely dispatch your opponents.
REMOVE TRASH, ESPECIALLY YOUR OWN
This is more about respect for the location where you play and others more so than a safety or gameplay rule. That being said, safety can be an issue if debris can cause injury. If you bring something on location, take it with you. If you come across trash, debris, etc. just pick it up and dispose of it properly. Everyone doing their part will keep the game location safe and refuse free for all to enjoy.
Knife Kills are a fun way of executing a stealthy kill. They can also be used when your area of engagement is too close to an opponent. Knife Kills can include some personal contact. Check your location’s rules first regarding both knife kills and personal contact. You can make things even more realistic with the knife kill by using a rubber prop knife. This again can depend on the location where you play. Alternatively, you can place your hand on your opponent’s shoulder and let them know they have been knife killed. Just as you can use this method to make a kill stealthy and within rules of engagement, the player on the receiving end of the knife kill, should not call out that they have been hit. They should proceed back to the designated safe zone, respawn point or medic, depending on what is prescribed for your game.
Excessive fire can only be described as continuing to pelt away at someone who has already been hit or has called a hit. Besides, being a complete waste of bb’s, it is more skillful to employ hits that are one shot, one kill. From a safety standpoint, spray and pray methods of laying down fire can be a concern as well. Especially when spray and pray meets blind fire. It can also be a display of disrespect or even lack of discipline. This may or may not be a rule where you play, but just isn’t good form and is best to avoid.
This will vary based upon the location. Typically the age group twelve (12) or under would require that the Parent or Legal Guardian be present and within sight of the player at all times. This may occur on the field in a non-combat capacity and while wearing protective eyewear and something to identify them as a non-player. The teenage group of thirteen to seventeen would have someone eighteen or older who would agree to be responsible for the player. They would not have to be related and would not have to be within sight at all times. Players eighteen or older are responsible for themselves.
All players regardless of age will have to wear eye protection. There may be different levels of face protection required based upon the age of the player. This may also vary from location to location. Here is an example of what specifications are required by age that a typical location may have:
- Players ages 12 or younger may be required to have full-face protection. Typically this is a complete mask.
- Players ages 13 -17 may be required to have a minimum of full seal eye protection and lower face protection.
- Players ages 18+ may be required to use an ANZI rate eye protection with no required face protection.
Safety is the main concern in Airsoft. Aside from safety, respect, as it relates to personal contact, can be a concern for some as well. Rules regarding personal contact can vary from location to location. Typically you will find that some locations will tolerate some physical contact. I would say, however, that locations typically will not tolerate aggressive behavior, violence or rough horseplay. It is not uncommon for anyone breaking this rule to be removed or even banned from the location.
Game Officials and or referees have the final say. These important positions go by many names. Regardless of what they are called, these are positions held by those who make sure games are conducted safely, fairly and by the rules mandated by the location. Conflicts or issues may arise during gameplay and these officials are responsible for finding a resolution. Game officials should be afforded with the same respect afforded to players. They have the final say, and no player should argue with them. Disrespectful behavior, fighting and or arguing can ensure ejection from a game or location for the day, possibly longer.
Blind firing is a tactic that is more of a safety rule than a gameplay rule. Blind firing is basically sticking your gun out from a point of cover where you cannot see the opposition and then firing on the opposition in an effort to get a hit without being hit in the process. Blind firing tactics are typically not allowed because they open up the opportunity for accidents and injury to occur. As you cannot see whom you are firing upon, you don’t know how close they are to you or if they have their eye protection on. Blind firing tactics sometimes take on the “spray and pray” approach in an effort to suppress fire from the opposition and provide cover.
This definitely goes without saying and is one of those things that will never vary from location to location. Do not bring any real weapons to an Airsoft game location! There is a no place for a real weapon(s) amongst Airsoft guns. Having a real firearm presents the potential for an accident. While your real steel may be awesome, all it takes is one accident, one oversight to injure or even kill someone.
DRUGS & ALCOHOL
Just like real weapons, Drugs and Alcohol have no place at the Airsoft location. Likewise, they should not be used or consumed before a game or on-site. Accidents can happen when people are not with their full faculties. Airsoft is a safe and exciting game. Adrenaline should be the only thing you need.
This is called when something has happened that requires a game to be temporarily stopped. This could be anything from a player’s eye protection coming off, a real injury occurring, or even a non-player walking through the gameplay location. Once this is called, gameplay should cease. Airsoft guns should be put on safe. The game should remain on hold until the situation is resolved and everything is safe. As such, the game official/referee will call for the game to resume.
A Safety Kill can be deemed both a courtesy as well as a safe way to engage another player when you are too close to safely fire upon the other player as it would break the rules of engagement. This is one of those types of rules that create controversy in a game as sometimes both players will have their guns pointed at one another and both call “Safety Kill”. The honorable thing to do is to call the hit. Safety Kills should never be called from a distance farther than the area of engagement. This would assuredly be considered poor form and at bare minimum cheating. If someone is seventy-five feet away, and the shot is legal, then take the shot. However, if you get the drop on them while they are two feet away, a Safety Kill is acceptable.
GAMEPLAY & PARKING BOUNDARIES
Always observe the designated boundaries for the gameplay area as well as for respawning points, etc.. Boundaries are set to ensure safety for those who may not be playing or may not have their safety gear equipped.
It is good practice while in the parking lot, to have your Airsoft gun unloaded with the safety engaged. Transport in the appropriate container if possible. Make sure before returning to the parking lot after gameplay that you make sure your weapon is empty and safety on. If you need to do any type of test-firing or adjustments that require you to fire your Airsoft gun, it is best to do this in the gameplay area.
TRANSPORTING YOUR AIRSOFT WEAPONS
As innocent as this may seem, transporting your Airsoft weapon can be a potential risk to your personal safety. At the very least, it can get you into some unnecessary trouble. In many cases, Airsoft weapons can look a lot like their real steel counterparts. Openly carrying your M4 replica in public can certainly be alarming to the some. It can bring you an unwanted visit from the local authorities. Airsoft guns should not be publicly displayed. Your Airsoft weapon should be transported in a case or bag.
As an added measure of personal safety, you should not use public transportation like the city bus or a cab when transporting your replica. When you are driving or riding in a private vehicle, stow your replica in the trunk or secured area away from your immediate access. Avoid having your Airsoft replica with you when you visit sensitive areas like Government Buildings, Military Bases, Cruise ports or Airports.
IF THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES SHOW UP
This is a safety item that I found interesting. I have never had this happen nor have I heard of it happening. However, it can only be surmised that this would present itself as a potentially dangerous situation if law enforcement was to walk onto a location during gameplay. It is only my guess that this does not happen a lot at established locations. It’s like when you go to a bowling alley, you know what’s going on inside. However, if you are playing at a location where typically you don’t see people running around with what appears to be real guns, then it is quite possible that law enforcement could potentially show up at some point.
When this happens the best practice would be to put the Airsoft gun onto the ground and follow direction from law enforcement. Supposing you see the Police arriving and they have not exited their vehicle with guns drawn, then it is best to put the Airsoft guns onto the ground and then walk away (staying in clear view) to the safety zone. Placing your Airsoft weapons onto the ground and then follow direction or simply by removing yourself from the area, can help remove what could be perceived as a potential threat. Gameplay should not resume until the situation is completely resolved.
Airsoft relies on some very basic core concepts such as honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, and safety. While every rule herein may vary from location to location, adhering to rules falling under each of these concepts can provide for fair, fun and safe gameplay.
See you out on the battlefield!