7 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Airsoft Guns
Often kids come home and inform their parents they NEED an airsoft gun, and most parents then ask, "What is an airsoft gun and why do you need one?"
1. Airsoft Is Older Than Paintball.
A little history, airsoft was invented before paintball back in the '80s. Tokyo Mauri in Japan created the first airsoft gun, about eight years before paintball was invented. The early guns were powered by a compressed air cylinder which was connected to the gun by a hose. They were used for target shooting and playing war games in the woods. It became popular in Japan along with paintball. Years later Tokyo Mauri came out with a M16 replica gun that ran on a battery they called it an AEG (automatic electric gun), and airsoft took off worldwide.
2. These Are Low Velocity Non-Lethal Guns.
Airsoft guns were created to be low velocity non-lethal guns. This is accomplished by using a 6mm or 8mm plastic BB that is very light (.12 to .45 grams), fired at low velocities 170 to 550fps (feet per second). In Japan, the fps limit is 300fps with a .20 gram BB for all guns. Kids large and small have always wanted to play soldier, and these guns give them an opportunity to do that with the right protective gear. They should not be confused with Daisy BB guns sold in the US for years which at close range are lethal.
3. Be Aware of Safety Concerns.
There are safety concerns that parents need to be aware of. Children need to play with full clothing, long sleeve shirts, pants, and gloves. BBs will only leave a red spot through clothes, but on bare skin it can cause a blood blister and can bleed, if hit at close enough range with a high enough velocity gun. This is one reason airsoft fields in the US and around the world have a 10 to 20ft minimum engagement distance and any gun shooting .20 gram BBs at more than 400fps must observe a 100ft minimum engagement distance. This may sound bad or scary to some, but in reality it is a minor issue, and you find adults (18-22 year olds) on the field all the time in shorts and short sleeve t-shirts. However, this is also why I personally do not allow my children to play in the backyard, unless there will be an adult supervising.
The greatest danger in airsoft is being shot in the eye with a BB. That is why all fields indoor and outdoor require full seal goggles designed for paintball or airsoft. Even if your child is only doing target shooting, he and anyone in the area should at a minimum have shooting glasses on. This is because the low velocity plastic BBs bounce off hard objects, wood, stone, etc. I have personally shot at a wood board 60 feet away and had the BBs bounce back and hit me on the head. The danger to the eyes cannot be overemphasized, and this needs to be communicated to your child, and your child needs to fully understand this before he touches any airsoft gun!
4. Responsibility and Gun Safety Are Critical.
Since there is an element of danger with these guns, this was an excellent way to teach responsibility and gun safety. I have personally found with three of my children that my imposing strict gun safety rules with them has helped them to be safe, mature, and see that they need to be careful even when playing a "game" that is "safe." In fact, they are now actually more careful than I am which is comforting, and yes, I did have to ban them occasionally.
Gun safety rules:
- Always wear eyewear when shooting.
- Always point the gun in a safe direction.
- Never look down the barrel.
- Always have the gun on safe (safetied) until you are about to shoot.
- Never put your finger on the trigger until you are aiming at the target and are ready to shoot.
- Always treat the gun as if it is loaded.
- Always treat your airsoft gun like a real gun.
If you follow these rules, you can be safe and have a lot of good clean fun.
5. Airsoft Guns Bear Resemblance to Real Guns.
Like any gun owner, airsoft players enjoy the pleasure of owning a respected gun, whether that is a M16, SCAR, AK47, MP5, G36, etc. Adding rails, handles, barrels, zero-point triggers, etc. All the things that you can do with a real guns are also the rage for airsoft guns. This is what has made the sport so popular. Heckler & Koch makes the guns used by special forces units around the world and some of the most reliable guns in the world; the airsoft replicas perform up to that reputation and are very popular.
There are many countries that ban their people from owning real guns, Japan and England to name just two, so airsoft guns with their close resemblance to the real steel guns is the closest people in these countries can get to owning a real gun.
6. Airsoft Guns Can Be Fun: Target Shooting, Outdoor Play, and Indoor Play.
I have spoken about the dangers involved now let's talk about the fun you and your child can have. Target shooting is where we started, with a spring pistol from BassPro Shop. I next purchased an AEG because I could do target shooting and play on an airsoft field with it (I thought), then a shotgun and finally a sniper rifle. The most fun per dollar has always been using my Double Eagle shotgun and I would highly recommend any shotgun that has an adjustable hopup. For accurate shooting and learning how to apply all the shooting techniques of a real gun the sniper rifle has been the most fun.
Having small skirmishes in the backyard is also fun and good preparation for going to an organized outdoor airsoft field. These fields may be a property owned by the person putting on the game day, or land rented from the county, or state, or a piece of land where the owner allows organized play. This type of play will usually be based on simulated military type missions.
Indoor fields allow younger players to play in a more paintball like way. Games normally last 5 to 10 minutes. Although dressing with layers of clothing would be recommended, since minimum engagement distances are shorter than those in outdoor play.
7. Know Your Laws.
Before purchasing an airsoft gun you also need to find out what the laws are in your city, your state, and for those outside the US, your country. For instance, in Massachusetts it is illegal for anyone except the child's parent to give a child an airsoft gun: grandparents, aunts, or uncles will go to jail if they buy one and give it to a child. In many cities/towns it is illegal to discharge ANY BB gun even airsoft guns, so target shooting in the backyard is illegal. And some states do not allow an airsoft gun to leave the store except in a gun case.