For those just getting into Airsoft or those stumbling upon Airsoft online, will often marvel at how realistic Airsoft guns appear when compared to their real-steel counterparts. There have been many observations made both by those online and in the media that compare real firearms to Airsoft replicas. There have also been many times when law enforcement (even some weapons experts), were asked to pick out a real firearm from an Airsoft replica and they were unable to determine (without handling either) what was the real firearm.
With Airsoft replicas closely resembling real firearms, it brings to mind the possibilities of other similarities between the two. While it may be the furthest thing from most people minds, it may make some folks wonder, can Airsoft guns kill?
No, Airsoft guns cannot kill. Airsoft guns fire plastic BBs at a lower velocity than what would be needed to be lethal. Chances of a death occurring from an Airsoft hit would be extremely rare and would be a freak occurrence.
I myself am not looking to use an Airsoft replica for killing. Most others aren’t either. While Airsoft guns are not designed to “kill”, they can indeed cause injury to people when not used properly or as intended.
My research and some reasoning have brought me to conclude that you would be able to kill insects and may be some very, very small animals, but larger animals or humans are highly unlikely.
However, injury is possible as in any sport. In a game of Airsoft, a replica gun can easily shoot out an eye, rupture ear drums, and chip teeth, just to name a few injuries one can sustain.
Why Airsoft Guns Cannot Kill
Airsoft guns are not fatal by their very design. The BBs are manufactured out of materials that do not have the mass required to cause damage sufficient enough to kill. While they may kill some smaller animals, even the probability of a clean kill is not guaranteed. An animal could be injured or in the worst case, suffer greatly before eventually passing. For insects or small lizards, sure, it will accomplish killing them. Airsoft replicas simply lack the power needed to get the job done on bigger animals. If you are still in question, just make a comparison between Airsoft guns and other types of air guns or even real firearms.
There is a wealth of information available online regarding the topic of muzzle energy. Finding the muzzle energy along with other units of measure, will allow for calculation which will further illustrate how it is not possible that an Airsoft replica can kill larger animals or humans.
Muzzle energy is the measure of the kinetic energy of a bullet when expelled from a firearm. This energy is measured in foot pounds (ft•lb). Using muzzle energy calculations for an Airsoft replica can give a rough idea of how likely (or unlikely) that a projectile would damage sufficient enough to kill.
Let’s start with the Airsoft replica…
I’ve calculated that a plastic Airsoft BB (.30 gram) that is fired at 400 feet per second, can achieve muzzle energy of about 1.63 foot-pounds force (2.22 joules).
A 230 grain (15 gram) .45 ACP bullet fired at 835 feet per second, can achieve muzzle energy of about 355.2 foot-pounds force (483.26 joules).
As you can see the muzzle energy of a .45 ACP is about 217 times more than that of the Airsoft BB. Also take into consideration that the Airsoft BB is manufactured in plastic and does not have the same mass as a .45 ACP bullet. So to put this into perspective, the Airsoft BB does not have the stopping power or ability to cause a wound sufficient enough to kill due to a lack of mass and velocity.
Can Airsoft Guns Kill Small Animals or Pests?
Airsoft guns can kill smaller animals or pests when hit with a higher FPS replica and closer range. It would also require greater accuracy. Whether or not an Airsoft replica can kill a small animal will depend on the size of the animal, the weight of the BB, and the power behind the projectile. As shown above, the muzzle energy is typically not sufficient enough to do enough damage to be lethal for a larger animal or a human. As it would not be humane, we would not recommend you shoot or try to hunt any animals with an Airsoft gun.
Here is where the “it depends” part comes in… An Airsoft replica sporting a high FPS, use of a heavier BB, and a carefully placed shot, may be effective on small pests such as birds, lizards, frogs, etc.
Now if you were to ask if an Airsoft replica can be used to scare away animals, then I would say, it could do the job. Consider that it may be easier to get rid of the pest in various other ways that would not involve using your Airsoft gun.
For example, if birds are a nuisance to you, then try an owl or hawk decoy (see an example decoy on Amazon). These would be more effective at keeping birds away and would not harm them.
Indirect Ways Airsoft Can Kill
We have already determined that Airsoft replicas are not designed to kill and for the most part could possibly only kill small birds, lizards, etc. However, Airsoft replicas can get you killed.
Death by Law Enforcement
Airsoft replicas are manufactured to resemble real guns and can be almost indistinguishable from them. Law enforcement officers have only a fraction of a second to determine if the treat is great enough to warrant deadly force. If you brandish your replica and a threat is perceived, then the Airsoft replica may wind up getting you killed.
Attempting to use an Airsoft replica for self-defense is foolish. When you bring an Airsoft replica to a situation where the assailant is carrying a real gun it is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. While there have been some stories where homeowners have warded off burglars during a home invasion with nothing more than a full-auto Airsoft replica, are the rare cases that went well for the homeowner. Chances are if you pull a fake gun, the person on the other side of the real gun will shoot and kill you. I wrote about Airsoft for self-defense here if you would like to read more.
What Happens When You Are Shot?
So, if Airsoft guns cannot kill, then what happens if you are shot by one? Well if you are shot by one, typically you get hit! All joking aside, when you are shot by an Airsoft gun you may or may not even feel it. How much you feel is going to depend on how powerful the Airsoft gun is, the distance from you when the shot was taken, as well as what outer vestments you are wearing.
So if you are decked out in various gear, clothing, and standing fifty feet away when you are shot by an Airsoft replica sporting 200 fps, then chances are what you feel may be nothing more than a light tap. However, bring it in closer then drop the gear and it may very well sting, possible leave a welt.
Does getting shot by an Airsoft replica Hurt?
Pain is subjective. What may really hurt for some, may not for others. However, there are always those keys areas where being hit by an Airsoft BB is going to hurt, sometimes hurt like hell. Ears, eyes, facial areas, neck, knuckles and knee caps are generally areas that if hit by a BB propelled by a decent FPS, it will sting. I wrote more about this previously, here.
Other Ways Airsoft Can Hurt You
While no one likes falling, this is definitely something that can happen when you are out on the Airsoft battlefield as you will be running, jumping, and maybe even climbing obstacles. Even a fall from 3 to 5 feet can cause injuries sufficient enough to warrant a trip to the hospital.
Sprains & Strains
These are another type of injury that can happen anytime you are in motion. Additionally, they can take you out of the game just as quickly as being hit by the opposition…only for a lot longer. Ankle sprains and muscle strain while common can be prevented. A little warm up before the battle, wearing good footwear and being aware of your surroundings will help keep you from experiencing these types of injury.
Eyes & Ears
Without a doubt injuries sustained to your eyes and ears can have lasting if not devastating effects. Being hit in the eye can result in permanent loss of eyesight. Having a BB make it through your ear canal to your ear drum, would not only hurt like hell, but could damage your hearing permanently. Of the two, taking one in the eye is probably one of the most common occurring of the two.
Airsoft replicas are not designed to be fatal. They fire plastic BBs at very low velocity and the BBs do not have the mass needed to cause wounds that would kill. This means that by some extremely rare, freak accident, or by some crazy infection, would this be possible. While Airsoft itself cannot kill, you could be killed as a result of brandishing a very realistic replica of the real –steel. You may also sustain other injuries while engaged in Airsoft, but that is to be expected in just about any sport.
See you out on the battlefield!