What is Airsoft?

Do you like sports that impart realism, incorporate strategy, and are to be blunt, awesome?  Whether you are a newbie, beginner, or just never heard of the sport until now, you may be curious to know more about the Airsoft sport.  What is Airsoft?

By definition, Airsoft is a safe combat focused sport whereby participants engage in simulated battle scenarios with replica weapons that shoot small plastic BB’s. 

The term “Airsoft” is an interchangeable term.  Depending on how it is used, it may be understood as the sport or as the replica weapon.  As a sport, Airsoft is often compared to paintball.  While similar, there are some differences between these two sports.  Unlike paintball guns, Airsoft replica weapons take on the realism of their real-world counterparts.  Also, Airsoft ammunition does not mark targets like paintball projectiles. Airsoft players rely on an honor system for registering hits. Airsoft guns are magazine fed and are powered by spring, electricity or pressurized gas. Paintball weapons are powered by pressurized gas and ammunition is hopper-fed.  In terms of realism, the paintball markers are a far cry from what is available in the Airsoft market.

I realize that there are many different people, from many different countries interested in playing this sport (or already playing for that matter).  My experiences and knowledge of the Airsoft sport may vary from how the sport is played around the world.  As such, I will provide as much universal information about the sport so that everyone may benefit regardless of where they are at and what level of experience they are at.  If there is anything that you feel I have missed, let me know!  I love learning new things and hearing about how others engage in the sport!

In this article we will discuss:

History of Airsoft

The concept for a gun that could shoot plastic pellets originated in Japan in the 1970’s.  It has been said that Daisy (a maker of pellet guns in America) had the first trademark on soft air guns.  It has also been said that Daisy’s Replisoft/Softair guns may actually have been rebranded Maruzen replicas.  In Japan, Airsoft was born out of a need.  Avid shooters were looking to possess guns for target practice.  Strict Japanese gun control laws made owning a gun illegal.  The first weapons were constructed by hobbyists and were made to shoot small plastic pellets. Used mainly for target practice in the beginning, the use of Airsoft guns would later spawn from target practicing to a game that many would come to enjoy.  Hobbyists continued producing replica weapons honing in on their craft.  As more and more of these replicas weapons hit the market, companies took notice of their popularity and started mass-producing Airsoft replicas. By the 1980’s, Airsoft weapons were being exported and it didn’t take long before the replicas made it all over the world.  Airsoft has evolved over the years and today’s replica weapons are rather sophisticated when compared to the weapons of yesteryear.  Nowadays, aside from the recreational combat simulation, many law enforcement, and military personnel safely train with Airsoft weapons.  Airsoft weapons have also found their way on the silver screen as movie props.  One could say that Airsoft has come a long way since it’s creation of replicas in response to gun control laws of the past.

Replica Weapons

No sport would be complete without the necessary equipment and accessories needed to play.  Airsoft weapons have evolved greatly since the hobbyist produced replicas of the 1970’s.  In the beginning, Airsoft guns were very basic and were not mass produced.  Since their rise in Airsoft popularity, there have been many weapons manufactured to replicate well-known firearms.  With every replica comes a variety of accessories have also found their way into the sport.  Accessories include everything from extra capacity magazines to scopes.  Many replica weapons are also upgradeable.  Airsoft replica weapons have certainly evolved from hobbyist-made weapons with rudimentary shooting mechanisms to sophisticated replicas sporting one of three main mechanisms of propulsion.  The three ways that Airsoft guns can be powered are Spring, Electric and Gas powered.

Spring Powered Guns

Some of the first Airsoft weapons were produced with coil springs as a means to propel the spherical BB’s.  Spring powered replicas work by compressing a large coil spring inside the weapon.  Once the weapon is cocked, the spring stores potential energy.  When this energy is released (after a pull of the trigger), a piston compresses air which in turn, expels the plastic BB from the weapon.  Spring-based replicas are one-shot weapons requiring the user to compress the spring each time, before shooting the weapon.  Spring powered Airsoft replicas have often been considered by some die-hard Airsofters as “toys” due to their often cheaper pricing and lower FPS rating.  They are often thought of as entry-level weapons.  However, more powerful as well as costly spring replicas are available.  These rifles are often used by those playing as the role of a sniper.

AEG(Automatic Electric Gun)

AEG’s are one of the more popular Airsoft weapons used out on the battlefield.  They are very similar to Spring powered weapons as they contain springs but do not have to be manually cocked by the user for each shot.  An AEG uses gears, motors, and batteries which are often referred to by Airsofters as “internals”.  The internals set up the plastic BB to be fired.  While the BB is being loaded, a plunger inside the gun is pulled back by the gearbox mechanisms against a spring inside the gun.  Once the spring is released, it pushes the plunger forward through a cylinder which compressed air.  The compressed air, in turn, expels the plastic BB from the barrel of the weapon. AEG’s are popular amongst beginners as they are more powerful, provide a better rate of fire and accuracy.  Unlike Spring powered weapons, AEG’s can be either semi or fully automatic.

Gas Powered

Gas powered Airsoft guns are often viewed as the creme de la creme of replica weaponry by Airsoft enthusiasts.  Gas powered replicas use the potential energy stored in compressed gas to expel a plastic BB from the barrel.  Gas guns operate smoothly and have a more realistic feel.  Features such as blow-back, create realism through simulated recoil.  This recoil also loads the next shot.  Gas Airsoft weapons can be either semi or fully automatic.  While this type of weapon can provide the ultimate feel and realism as compared to a real weapon, there are some drawbacks.  One should consider that temperature can affect how well the gas operates.  Also, accessories like additional magazines can be quite expensive compared to AEG magazines.


Airsoft of yesteryear started out as purely recreational.  Hobbyists fashioned together their weapons and plinking or target practice was a primary usage of early Airsoft weapons.  As Airsoft popularity increased,  those interested in Airsoft united together and transformed Airsoft into what we know today.  Nowadays the beauty of the Airsoft sport not only lies in the variety of Airsoft weapons but also in the endless gameplay possibilities.  Gameplay can range from Historical Reenactments all the way to fictitious nighttime scenarios.  Depending on the gameplay scenario chosen, game locations can be anywhere from wooded areas to open flatlands.  Add in vacant or other man-made structures, a variety of terrain and gameplay can become quite challenging.  Where outdoor gameplay may not be possible or a preferred terrain unavailable, indoor Airsoft arenas exist.  Whether the location is found outdoors or indoors, Airsoft gameplay will usually have it’s set of rules and regulations.  Some restrictions on replica usage can occur by location.  Rules and restrictions are typically based on a variety of factors such as player safety all the way to the lesser thought of factors such as environmental issues.


Airsoft is a safe combat focused sport offering realistic weapons, team play, camaraderie, and endless fun.  The sport of Airsoft was born and has increased in popularity following weapons conceived decades ago in Japan.  The concept of shooting plastic BB from a replica gun has been transformed from a simple solution into a fun sport that offers a variety of replica weapons. Airsoft offers some of the most realistic weapons available that are based on many popular real weapon designs. Whether you play outdoors reenacting Historical battles, or simply engage in urban warfare in an indoor arena, the trill and excitement of Airsoft are unlike no other sport.

See you out on the battlefield!