For those thinking about getting into the Airsoft sport or even those already starting out, this certainly is a reasonable question that can come to mind while putting together a loadout. While it is not a topic that will come to everyone’s mind, if your reading this you may have already wondered does Airsoft damage clothing?
The short answer is, No. Airsoft guns fire plastic BBs at a low velocity. With clothing worn loose enough to permit movement while remaining comfortable, the energy from the Airsoft BB’s is readily absorbed by the fabric leaving only a minimal indentation in the clothing.
My experience has brought me to conclude that it would be unlikely for an Airsoft gun to cause damage to quality made clothing. I have yet to come across another player (or myself for that matter) whose clothing was penetrated by an Airsoft BB during normal gameplay and under normal conditions.
The reason that BB penetration is unlikely and at best extremely rare is simply because Airsoft replicas are not powerful enough to inflict damage to clothing. Consider that if you are following some basic rules of engagement for safe skirmishing, you would not be firing at close range, with a replica capable of firing with sufficient energy to cause penetration of a garment. No penetration of the clothing, means no holes. However, other aspects of the sport can cause clothing to become damaged.
First let’s review further why it is rare or unlikely…
WHY AIRSOFT GUNS WILL LIKELY NOT CAUSE DAMAGE TO CLOTHING
Airsoft guns are not designed to harness the type of power needed to penetrate most things. Notice I said most things. This is also why when used as intended, Airsoft guns cannot kill. (If you would like more information about on why Airsoft guns cannot kill, just check out my post, here).
Airsoft BBs are manufactured out of light-weight plastics that not have the mass required to carry sufficient energy which would ultimately cause damage. Airsoft BB’s are spherical shape, small in size and do not have edges or pointed tips. The Airsoft replicas themselves provide insufficient Muzzle energy when compared to BB guns and firearms. There is plenty of information available regarding muzzle energy available on this topic.
In short, 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). By using muzzle energy calculations for an Airsoft replica, we are given a rough idea of how likely (or unlikely) that an Airsoft BB would penetrate and cause damage. Keep in mind that muzzle energy is how firepower is measured for firearms. Airsoft replicas are not firearms. However, we can use this to put this into perspective.
For example, let’s take an average Airsoft replica shooting at 400 FPS…
We can calculate that a plastic .30 gram Airsoft BB fired at 400 feet per second, can achieve muzzle energy of about 1.63 foot-pounds force (2.22 joules).
As you can see from this example, the energy of the Airsoft BB is quite low. If we consider this in conjunction with other factors such as basic rules of engagement (ie., FPS limits, engagement distance limits), then you can see how unlikely it would be for the BB to penetrate or cause damage to the clothing since the low level of energy would be absorbed by the fibers in the clothing.
The example above also takes into consideration that the clothing worn is of good quality and in good repair. The most damage the clothing could suffer would be indented fiber weave which usually rebounds when laundered or allowed to relax by gravity and rest. About the only condition where I would consider damage as plausible, would be if the player was wearing thinner garments that were stretched tightly and fired upon at close range. However, even though plausible, the conditions would not be realistic in normal game play.
THEN WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GET SHOT?
Since Airsoft guns do not have sufficient power to do damage to clothing, then what happens when you are shot? When you are shot by an Airsoft replica, the BB will strike you, hopefully on your clothing. You may or may not even feel it when it happens. What affects how much of the shot you’ll feel will depend upon a few factors such as the FPS of the firing replica, your distance from the shooter and the type of clothing you are protecting your body with.
Let’s say you’re outfitted with various tactical gear, camouflage garments, underclothing and standing twenty-five feet away from the shooter when you are shot by a replica sporting 300 fps. Chances are what you feel may seem like nothing more than a slight rap because the gear you are wearing as well as the clothing will absorb the energy that powers the striking BB. Now, bring yourself in closer, drop some of your gear, change up the type of clothing worn, and then the hit may very well sting some. However, it still would be unlikely that your clothing would take on any damage.
SO, HOW DOES AIRSOFT AS A GAME CAUSE CLOTHING DAMAGE?
While Airsoft replicas themselves are not a cause for concern in regards to damaged clothing, there are other aspects of the game that can lend to clothing being damaged during a skirmish. We won’t restrict clothing damage to just penetration.
Staining can occur while in game. Not necessarily from Airsoft BB’s. Although, there are Marker BB’s available on the market. However, I have not had any experience with, nor have I heard of anyone having Marker BB’s stain their gear or clothing. While no one likes to take a fall, it can happen and is just part of what is possible during game play. Falling in grass or dirt can damage your clothing through staining. While some may not consider a stain to necessarily be damage, it all depends on the article of clothing and its wearer. If you are playing in jeans and they not just your dedicated skirmishing attire, then yes an unsightly stain can be considered damage. Staining is hardly the worst case scenario, but is considered damage none-the–less.
Fabric Abrasion damage is nothing more than surface wear on the clothing fiber. This occurs when you have abraded or rubbed the fibers of the clothing in such a way that it does not tear or cut, but wears on the clothing fiber through friction. This is usually enough to damage the integrity of the fiber weave. This is probably one of the most common ways for clothing to take on damage during game play since most maneuvering is done through terrain where rougher textures are present. Clothing is most likely to rub against the various textures causing fabric wear. Fabric abrasion is noticeable and weakens the fibrous weave of the clothing making it susceptible to holes, rips or tears.
Rips & Tears
This goes without saying, but by far, this is probably one of the worst ways possible to damage clothing during a skirmish. Much like Fabric Abrasion mentioned above, this can occur when running, jumping, rolling, and by most movement through terrain during the game. It is not impossible to snag your clothing on something during game play. Tree branches are notorious for this. Structures also are common snag-points. Sometimes you get lucky and you come out of it with stretched-out fabric. This usually rebounds once laundered. However, snags can also result in cuts and tears in clothing. Depending on the severity these may be able to be repaired by sewing or mending. However, this is not always a repairable type of damage and renders the article as no longer wearable.
Airsoft replicas are not designed to have the power necessary to cause damage to most things. They fire small, plastic BBs at very low velocity. The BBs themselves do not have the mass needed to penetrate clothing. This would only be possible in either unrealistic conditions or in very rare/freak occurrences. While Airsoft guns typically do not damage clothing, the game itself does afford the opportunity for clothing to be damaged during gameplay. While this can happen during an Airsoft skirmish, it is something that should be expected as it would be in just about any vigorous sport.
See you out on the battlefield!