- Team Member
- Oct 2008
- Posts: 622
Posted: 3/4/2010 8:51:18 AM EST
[Last Edit: 3/10/2010 5:34:50 PM EST by Kalmar]
This thread is intended to be an informative resource discussing the practical use of airsoft as related to actual firearms training. Although its recreational background will be touched upon, this thread IS NOT about playing dress up commando or ridiculing those who do. If you care to do that, please make your own thread and DO NOT trash this one. Now with that said let's start with the basics:
What is Airsoft?
Airsoft is a recreational military-simulation game similar to Paintball in that two or more opposing teams compete against one another to complete a certain objective or eliminate the opposing team. There are many distinctions between the two, the most notable being that Airsoft guns shoot small plastic bb's rather than larger paintballs to hit the target. Beyond that, the differences become largely subjective and are the source of much debate between the players of each. For that reason we will only focus on the specifics of Airsoft right now.
How do you play Airsoft?
Again, this is no different than Paintball or any other game of tag for that matter. Games can be made to reflect real world scenarios or can be made just for fun. More often than not, you are eliminated from the game once hit by the opposing teams fire. One might question how players know when they've been hit, or know when they've hit someone else without the use of paint to mark the target. The answer to this is simple: You call your own hits, and expect others to do the same. Airsoft is a game of honor and personal integrity is a must if you expect to be playing for very long. Believe me, you know when you've been hit... and when you don't call yourself out, you can expect a long string of bb's headed your way until you do. Cheaters are quickly outcast from the Airsoft community, if you feel the need to 'wipe' as they call it, I suggest you go play paintball.
If you do still feel like playing Airsoft for a hobby, the best way to get started is to Google 'Airsoft' and your local area. This will turn up playing fields, teams and local forums in your area - these are the best people to talk to for just getting into it and they will more than likely be willing to offer much further advice and guidance on joining the sport.
Now with that out of the way, let's get down to business and discuss how Airsoft can be used as an effective training tool in bettering your real world tactics and firearms proficiency. We can do that in three ways:
Force on Force - Tactics/Small unit training
Target Practice - Indoor/Close range shooting drills
Weapon Handling - Reloading/Malfunction clearing drills
MAKE NO MISTAKE. Airsoft is in no way a substitute for putting lead down range. It is only something by which you may compliment your live fire training. ARE WE CLEAR? Ok then, let's discuss these three ideas and then learn what you need to perform them. Later we we will go over information to help you devise your own training methods.
Force on Force Training
Simunitions are cool. They are also dangerous and extremely cost prohibitive. Whenever you take lethal weapons and convert them to fire less-lethal ammunition the potential for mishap is always present. Because of this, special training is needed. Simunitions are only available to MIL/LE, certified FX Instructors and Safety Officers are required to be present. Not to mention proper insurance, the cost of weapon conversions, safety equipment, and the price of ammo itself. Sim rounds cost an average 57-cents a shot, and are available only in crates of 1,000 rounds. 6mm plastic bb's on the other hand cost about $5 for a bag of 2,000 rounds.
You can see how Airsoft might provide a more practical tool for small unit training where cost, location or safety is the issue. It's important to keep in mind that Airsoft does in fact have several inherent limitations when used in this effect. Airsoft bb's are light and often effected by strong winds. Therefore it's best used with indoor training environments. Airsoft bb's typically travel anywhere from 400-600 fps depending on make and model of the gun. This can be tooled up when used by departments or units not concerned with liability issues. This will also effect the maximum range which is usually 50 to 75+ yards.
The benefits however often displace the imperfections when using Airsoft for this type of training. Airsoft guns are both cheap and safe. There is no danger whatsoever of an Airsoft gun chambering a live round of ammunition. Yet still Airsoft guns are almost 100% identical in feel and operation to the real thing. In fact, the Army has already begun integration of Airsoft training for future deployments (see photo.) They are an excellent choice for practicing force on force engagements where other means would be so impractical. Of course not everyone works for a Police department or the US Military so this information is of little application to you. That's where the next step comes in. Keep reading to find out more about...
Yes, simple target practice. Do I need to say more? Ammunition is expensive, and you can't do mag dumps in your living room. But the need to train is a constant. So why not practice on the cheap, in the comfort of your own home? If you carry concealed, and want to work on your draw or snap shot - you can easily obtain an inexpensive and accurate replica of your personal sidearm whether that be a Glock or Kimber - you will find them all being produced overseas and readily available to you. Most of these are what is known as "Gas Blow Back". As in the slide blows back like it would on the real thing. These are not electrically operated like most rifle replicas but work on compressed gas stored along with the bb's in the magazine. Manual of Arms is the exact same as your "real steel" firearm. I will get into both of these topics later, for now lets concentrate on your training.
It's easy to set up some targets around the house and practice whatever drills you find necessary. Shooting airsoft pistols inside the house poses no risk to walls or furniture as long as you take reasonable caution when firing them indoors. i.e. Don't set up a target in front of your plasma screen and don't go around shooting with others inside the house when they are not wearing proper eye protection.
Under 10 yards the difference in velocity will be hardly noticeable. Once again Airsoft provides a cheap and safe way to practice on your own time and at your own leisure however you see fit. Besides, who wouldn't like to plink in their garage? The greatest advantage of this training is to become very familiar with your weapon, which brings us to the last and most important point...
The key to being proficient with your firearm is being proficient with your firearm. In other words, PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. The more you handle and become familiar with your weapon - both in terms of feel and operation - the more comfortable you will be when the time comes to actually use it.
We already talked about using gas operated airsoft pistols to practice skills on those, did you know the same is true for your AR-15? You are probably used to seeing the cheap see through M4's at Walmart or the low cost imported AEG's that sound like an electric vibrator. Both of which can be used for this type training but are no where near optimal. Today we have something that few outside the Airsoft community have ever heard about. Only now is word getting round since they've been in the news with the ATF and all (believe me I've got to say a thing or two about that later). I'm talking about Gas-In-Mag M4 series Gas Blowback Rifles, or GBB's for short.
These rifles both look and operate very closely to the real thing. For that reason they've come under legal scrutiny which I will address later. What you need to know right now is that these guns are quite literally the perfect training tool for when you're not at the range.
The manual of arms is IDENTICAL to that of a real AR. That even includes MALFUNCTION CLEARING you can perform as well. So in the same way you practiced pistol drills at home you can now do the same for your rifle too! Of course these aren't the only Airsoft guns out there, so lets dig a little deeper shall we....
What are different kinds of Airsoft
There are three main types of Airsoft rifles: AEG, GBB, and Classic.
Classic's are what started the hobby. Stemming from Japan in the early
90's, these guns look realistic - but operate in a manor much similar to
paintball guns of the time. Classic's feed from a box magazine but used
compressed CO2 or air tanks connected externally via a hose. It wasn't
long before something else came along and took over the market and
The most common of which now are AEG's or "Automatic Electric Gun".
These come in the two forms - mid to high end import guns bought online,
and lower end cheap toys you find at Walmart (Also called LPEG's or
"Low Power Electric Guns"). Both of these electric guns use a mechanical
gear boxes housed inside the receiver along with an electric motor
mounted inside the pistol grip.
These are often very complicated to maintain or upgrade without
extensive knowledge or experience in their operation. However they are
cheap to buy, and cheap to run. Most Airsoft players ranging from the
very first beginners to the oldest veteran players use AEG's because
they are reliable and well established.
BUT THIS DOES NOT MAKE THEM
SUITABLE FOR TRAINING
Airsoft AEG's in most cases are not dimensionally accurate to the gun
they are replicating. You will find most AR type AEG's are wider than a
real one and the magazines are thicker too. You will have difficulty
with standard mag pouches and equipment, not to mention AEG's are
incapable of fitting real buttstocks, grips, handguards, rails and other
accessories. That is because the batteries must be stored there which
often leads to a significant balance issue on the weapon.
Did I mention bb's spit out at you every time you change magazines? Or
have you noticed the significant lag time between the trigger pull and
the time the gun shoots?
Overall, AEG's make great skirmish guns if you're an Airsoft player...
but horrible training guns if that is what you're looking for.
Thankfully there is an answer:
GAS BLOW BACK RIFLES
Praise Jesus. These airsoft guns are amazing... both in terms of design
and operation, they are incredibly accurate and very useful when it
comes to practical training.
"Gas Blow Back" again refers to the power source and method of
operation. Gas and bb's are stored in the magazine which has a valve on
the back, and gas port on the top.
Normally the hammer inside your AR would strike the firing pin, detonate
the round and start the cycle of operation to chamber the next bullet.
There is no firing pin inside the GBB M4. Instead there is a valve
knocker located inside the lower receiver just in front of the hammer.
When the trigger is pulled releasing the hammer, it strikes this knocker
which then depresses the valve on the back of the magazine. Whatever
gas you are using (Green gas, aka Propane or Duster gas aka hf134a) will
then be vented through the port on the top of the magazine. This port
is mated to another gas port located on the underside of the bolt.
Inside the bolt the gas will be sent in two directions; First, the gas
is sent forward through the bolt nozzle into the chamber where the bb
sits inside the barrel. This gas will then propel the bb through the
barrel and out the gun. Next (or at the same time depending whether it's
a negative or positive pressure system), gas will be sent towards the
rear of the bolt into an expansion chamber insdie the bolt carrier. This
expansion sends the bolt carrier back creating the momentum move the
bolt back as well.. both are pushed forward again by the buffer spring,
thus chambering a new round and readying the process again.
It's important to note that the gas from the mag is being vented the
whole time the hammer is down. Only being stopped when the bolt carrier
pushes the hammer down. That is why you sometimes see gas being vented
out the ejection port when the bolt is reciprocating. (There are fixes
for this and not all guns are like that.)
Well, that's the entire system in a nutshell. It's quite difficult to
explain without having you pull the trigger yourself. Western Arms, the
company who first developed this system is said to have spent over
1Million USD on R&D in order to most accurately replicate the
cycling of a real Colt M4. Although I'm not sure what they spent all
that money on, they basically copied the entire gun but changed only the
gas system to make it shoot plastic bb's instead!
What are the different brands of GBB
First you must understand the two different types of GBB M4's: WA type
and WE type.
WA, short for Western Arms, was the first GBB M4 developed and released
in Japan back around 2007. Since then, there have been many other
manufacturers jumping on the GBB bandwagon. Virtually all of whom have
copied the WA either directly or indirectly in some way. The Airsoft
industry is notorious for it's 'clones' of real firearm accessories,
however the same is true of Airsoft guns themselves. There are many
companies producing clones of the original WA M4, all cheaper, some even
better than the original. However, for all practical purposes they are
considered "WA type's". 99% of their parts are interchangeable while
upgrades and accessories for one will fit the rest.
WE, short for WETTI TECH, is the second type of GBB M4. Designed after
the WA, but implementing a modified Escort type gas system similar to
that in use by many Classic Airsoft guns. Some consider this system to
be more reliable, although much less realistic. There is one surefire
easy way to tell what kind of GBB you are looking at: If it's a WE, it always has a big ass ugly
brass tube fake "bullet" running down the chamber.
From a training stand point, this is extremely obnoxious.
WA type guns feature an open chamber and realistic bolt... Double
stacked mags that are loaded via feed ramps into the barrel. The WE uses
a single stack mag that pops bb's into this brass tube one after the
With the WA, you can reload - chamber check, and clear if necessary. Not
possible on the WE. In fact, for all practical purposes, the WE
indicates loaded ALL THE TIME. Again, not very practical if training is
I must say, WE's are relatively cheap.. and there are lots of them. They
even offer a SCAR, KAC PDW and soon an M14 in GBB. They achieve this
however by utilizing the same brass tube, and the same trigger pack and
the same simple operating system on all these guns. It's essentially
swapping out the body for the same motor in each rifle.
WA on the other hand was specifically designed to replicate the AR
platform. For that reason, I believe they are best suited to actually
training for the AR. It also so happens that WA, being the first to
market, also has the broadest user base and most aftermarket support of
any GBB. That means CHEAP guns and CHEAP parts.
So lets go over the different WA types and the differences between them:
WESTERN ARMS - The first to
introduce the GBB M4 and the standard for which all others are compared
to. This gun was initially marketed only towards Japan. This meant the
gun sold with a plastic receiver that was 2mm shorter than the real
thing. Internal parts were rust proof zinc alloy also known as Pot
metal! However this was rarely an issue, the gun was designed around
Japanese 1Joule energy limits. The magazines while high quality, were
only capable of holding the lower pressure Duster gas (hf134a).
This made the gun perfectly suited for its intended market.
Unfortunately when people began using the gun stateside, along with
higher pressure Green gas (propane), the magazines started to leak and
accelerated parts wear began to occur. Being an expensive gun to import,
around $600 at the time, they earned a bad reputation for all the
problems occurring. Of course, if people followed directions and stuck
only to Duster gas there wouldn't have been any.
Nevertheless you will always hear bad things when asking about the
original WA here in America. It is actually one of the highest quality
GBB rifles if used appropriately but the cost is also priced
accordingly. You can find them for sale used or buy new for around
$450-500 dollars. Though I would also not recommend this for your first
INOKATSU - Inokatsu was the
first manufacturer to 'copy' the WA design. They are known for their
very high quality and very expensive
machine gun replicas and ads filled with scantily clad women. Their
take on the WA ended up being the most accurate replica to date. - Or at
least that's what people will tell you. Truth is the Inokatsu receivers
are actually 2mm longer than
the real thing. While their fire control parts are the same, the
Inokatsu bolt introduced some changes to enhance reliability. Being that
the receiver is 4mm longer than the original WA, it is important to
note that Inokatsu bolt carriers will not work with WA receivers -
However an adapter can be obtained to fit WA bolt carriers into Inokatsu
Inokatsu is the most expensive of the WA types, although much like real
AR's, you pay for what you get. If you want a top quality training gun
and have $900 burning a hole in your pocket, this is the gun for you.
PRIME - Prime is not actually a
GBB manufacturer but rather makes parts for them. One such part is the
Prime Upper and Lower Receiver set for the WA type GBB series. These
receivers are 1:1 scale and identical to the real thing. Several people
in fact have mated a real AR-15 upper receiver to the Prime Airsoft
lower. The barrel nut of the Prime upper is also threaded to accept real
RIS systems and hand guards. Being that this receiver set is 2mm longer
than the WA, and 2mm shorter than the Inokatsu.. it requires it's own
length bolt carrier as well. WA BCG's can use an adapter while Ino's can
The Prime receiver set is top quality airsoft product. Fully CNC'd
billet aluminum you will pay about $500 for the set alone.
G&P - The PERFECT gas blow back gun for beginners and experts alike. High quality, reliable and infinitely customizable. The G&P "WOC" guns come ready to go right out of the box, no upgrades needed and will last a very very long long time. The only troubling bit about the the "Western Arms Original Custom's" is there are just so damn many of them! Seriously, if you can think of an AR variant rifle.. whether that be a Block 1 SOPMOD, or Stag 2L, or Knights SR-15, or a Patriot Pistol.. there's a WOC version of it. These complete rifles cost an average $500, but when it comes to Airsoft - especially GBB's - that's $500 well spent.
AGM - AGM was the first official
clone of the WA. Full metal receiver, WA spec parts with reinforced
magazines capable of holding high pressure Green gas. These retailed at
$125 and were an absolute steal! For 1/5 the price of the original WA
you got all the same and more. While they did have some of the same
issues, there was nothing that couldn't be easily fixed or replaced as
parts wore out (I'll discuss this later as well.)
JING GONG - JG, a clone of a
clone, produced an even cheaper $80 WA type GBB rifle.
Both AGM and JG were raided by Chinese officials. Supply of these guns
were cut off but they are now beginning to find their way into the
market from various sources again.
OTHER CLONES - There are many
other clones of the WA system popping up all the time for cheaper and
cheaper prices. Keep in mind you are often paying a reduced price for
cheap labor, non-existent quality control and questionable business
practices. If that doesn't bother you, there shouldn't be any problem
finding an endless supply of these online.
BUILD YOUR OWN! - Yes, build
your own! GBB rifles have come a long way since first being introduced a
couple years ago. The market is now flooded with them. Upgrade parts,
accessories, you name it, all available for CHEAP online at various
Building your own GBB is much like building your own AR, it's the
cheapest and most effective route if you know what you want and know
what you're doing. However for a novice or someone just getting into it,
I would suggest first buying one of the cheaper models to build and
base your gun off of.
Why is the magazine so important?
The magazine is the heart of the Gas Blow Back rifle's operation. It's
also the gas tank that feeds the beast. Both bb's (ammunition) and gas
(propellant) are stored in the magazine.
Unlike your typical stamped steel USGI mag with a simple spring and
follower, GBB rifle magazines contain both this - and high pressure
storage vessels to hold the gas along with fill and release valves
necessary to cycle the weapon. This makes them both heavy and delicate.
It's important to find a good quality magazine that feeds well, and
holds pressure without leaking.
On average GBB magazines weigh about 1 pound each, making them very
close to a real fully loaded 30 round mag. They are also the same size
and dimensions. Depending on whether this mag is steel, aluminum or pot
metal, it may weigh more or less.
There are also different designs of magazines: The original WA type and
its clones, as well as different aftermarket versions too.
Western Arms Standard - The
first GBB rifle magazine for the first GBB rifle. The original WA
magazine was only intended to hold Duster gas. Propane will hold, but
leak over time.. and eventually blow out your o-rings. Expensive, but
very high quality - $120 each. (2 year old pries, probably much less
Western Arms Delta - Same as
original but sold with the Delta series WA guns. This magazine lacks the
bolt lock feature on the last round. Duster gas only. ~ $80 each.
Western Arms Super HD - Latest
Western Arms version. Very high quality, and capable of holding Green
gas. (Not sure on price.)
One thing I must say about the WA produced magazines: Their quality is
out standing. These are some of the most consistent feeding mags out
there - gas feeding that is. You will get the most steady velocities
using these magazines.
AGM - Clone of the WA original
type magazine. Made of pot metal and noticeably heavier. Capable of
holding Green gas though sometimes inconsistent. ~ $50
Other Clones - There are many
other clones out there now that I am not familiar with. Some are pretty
cheap, I suggest doing your research before buying, you never know what
you might get.
GHK - Some of the best
aftermarket mags yet. These feature an alternate design that is lighter,
stronger, and more consistent. It is also capable of being modified to
fit real Pmag shells, although this does require some extensive work. ~
Pro Win - Considered vapor ware
from the start, these have finally come out to much praise. CNC'd from
aluminum these are supposed to be both affordable and AWESOME.
If you wind up buying some of the cheaper clone magazines, the most
important thing for you to do BEFORE USING THEM is take them apart and
thoroughly lube each of the valves and o-rings with silicone oil. This
will help prevent any leaks from occurring and also make sure you got
everything you were supposed to.
Magazines from GHK and Pro Win can be abused more so than others. I
wouldn't drop a WA type on the concrete - or your foot - and most
certainly not the hard wood floors. Just be aware of what your doing and
take reasonable care of these magazines and they will do the same for
Where can I buy these GBB rifles?
When buying Airsoft products from overseas it's always best to use known big name distributors - It's even better when you can buy guns and parts domestically. Avoid smaller outlets when possible, and ALWAYS do your research before you buy.. both on the product AND the seller. With that said, you can't go wrong with any of the following:
Local retailers include:
That's it for now, I'm sure we will be going over much more as this thread progresses. If you have any questions or need clarification on any subject don't hesitate to ask!