Airsoft target practice does not require full face protection. Some form of eye protection is still recommended to guard against ricochets. Using targets that trap BBs or sticky targets that are often included with the gun decreases the likelihood of ricochet.

Eye protection should be in the form of goggles or masks that fit without leaving gaps. Paintball masks work well, but there is also airsoft-specific equipment on the market now. A layer of fabric is enough to stop an airsoft BB, so goggles and a balaclava can work as well. Normal clothing is also enough to protect skin.

Shooting an Airsoft guns at an unprotected person is not safe. Some of the higher-powered guns at close range can chip a tooth or break skin. An airsoft BB fired at an eye, even from a low-powered spring gun, can cause serious damage and at point blank range is potentially lethal if you are not wearing proper equipment. Fabric gloves are also recommended.
In addition to safety equipment game rules usually prohibit shooting at close ranges, substituting a tap with a hand that counts as a "knife kill". Some players actually use soft rubber training knives for this.

An important safety consideration is the fact that airsoft guns can be very realistic and scare people who are not aware of them. If the police show up keep your hands visible and away from the gun. Better yet, put it down and take a couple of steps back.

As with most other things in life, do not do obviously stupid things and you will be OK.

One – “Plinking” - Many simply plink with them, shooting cans, sticky targets and random (hopefully safe and appropriate targets) in their back yard and such. This is often the very first use of Airsoft by new owners.

Two – “Target Shooting/Competition” - Many Airsoft enthusiasts step into a more formal type of shooting rather than just plinking. They set up ranges, courses of fire or simply more formal targets. Competition and formal target shooting range from a few guys shooting for bragging rights in a back yard, to organized high end leagues with very expensive rigs to everything in between. Think of this like folks that play darts, some just play at home, some meet in a bar, some play in small local leagues and tournaments and some are professionals and among the best in the world. Airsoft target shooting is evolving slowing into this same type of format. This sport is huge in areas like Japan and Korea where ownership of firearms is all but in possible.

Three – “Airsoft Combat Gamers” – Many people eventually decide to “play airsoft” in a game very similar to paint ball competitions. Yet Airsoft gamers are generally more “militant” in look and feel. In these games shooters actually shoot each other in an adult form of the game we called, “guns” or “cops and robbers” as kids. Organized leagues have “rules of engagement”, require safety gear and limit the top velocity of various classes or weapons. Some leagues and groups are very informal in their authenticity and others are very realistic. Combat gaming is probably the most popular form of organized Airsoft sport today.

Four – “Airsoft Training for Combat, LEOs, etc” – Due to the highly accurate form, fit and function of Airsoft weapons many law enforcement and military groups are using them for more formalized training exercises. The biggest difference in these groups and gamers is that this training is formalized and designed to be used in real world scenarios. Airsoft has become a huge asset for SWAT teams and specialized military units. The guns have realistic rates of fire and give acute real time results in close quarters combat training exercises.

Are Airsoft Guns safe? Airsoft guns are perfectly safe if used properly. Safe use of airsoft guns requires using at least eye protection. Full face protection is recommended.

Airsoft guns shoot plastic pellets at velocities from 100 ft/s (30 m/s) for a low-end spring pistol, to 500 ft/s and beyond for heavily-upgraded customized sniper rifles. Most non-upgraded AEGs using the Tokyo Marui system are in the middle, producing velocities from 270 to 300 ft/s (80 to 90 m/s) with the exception of companies such as G&G, G&P, Cyber gun, Aftermath Airsoft, D-boys, Cyma and Jing Gong which manufacture guns that produce velocities of over 328 ft/s (or 1J with a .2g pellet) stock. The internal components of most guns can be upgraded which can increase the pellet velocity significantly. Using heavier pellets (.25g, .3g, etc.) will significantly reduce the gun's muzzle velocity, but can increase accuracy at range and reduce susceptibility to wind drift. Conversely, lighter pellets may travel further but are less accurate. High-velocity AEGs often employ heavier pellets, as the velocity penalty does not affect them as much, while the accuracy benefits remain. Most high-end AEGs, such as Classic Army and Tokyo Marui, should not be loaded with anything lighter than 0.2 g pellets, as the lighter pellets (0.12 g, 0.15 g) are typically made for low-end guns, and are not built to the same quality (such as surface smoothness). The stresses the pellets go under upon firing could shatter lighter or poorly made pellets as they leave the barrel, potentially damaging both the weapon and the target.

Airsoft guns can be modified to increase pellet velocity, rate of fire, or reliability. For an electric airsoft gun, the pellet velocity can be increased by simply upgrading the mainspring. Doing this will increase the air pressure subjected to the pellet produced during operation. But due to the higher forces at play, it is advised that other parts should be upgraded together with the mainspring in order to maintain a high level of reliability. The rate of fire is increased by using a battery with a higher voltage, high speed ratio gears and/or a high speed motor. Rates of fire can be increased to over 20 rounds per second with very few upgrades, but with careful selection and extreme modification of gearbox components, rates of fire in excess of 50 rounds per second are not unheard of. In the case of gas guns, a higher pellet velocity can be achieved through the use of different types of gases and/or changing the valve. It must be noted that some gases have detrimental effects to some plastic components inside the airsoft gun.

Airsoft guns commonly come with mounts or rails on which you can add external accessories. Some common customizations added are flashlights, scopes and lasers. Since some airsoft guns have the exact external frame as real guns, you can use these external parts meant for real guns, but the opposite does not apply. In no way can an airsoft rifle be modified to shoot real ammunition. In most cases, add-ons are more for aesthetics rather than performance. However, some scopes must have scope rings (which are not usually included in airsoft gun packages) that are used to mount the higher end scopes to a default rail mount.

For those who are new to airsoft, these guns shoot 6mm round pellets commonly known as “BBs.” They travel at speeds much lower than real bullets and although a bit painful when hit by one of these pellets, they cannot kill someone nor cause heavy-bleeding injuries unlike real guns. Even though airsoft is considered a toy gun, safety precautions should still be taken into account when playing with these replicas.

As mentioned most airsoft are the exact copies of the actual guns. Some manufacturers even use real mould of the originals in order to create the look, feel and even weight of their real-steel counterpart. Automatic Electric Guns can only cause welts. It is still painful however when the BB pellets hit the skin, since they travel at high speeds. That is why during "skirmishes," protective gears must be worn to avoid serious injuries, especially around the eyes. Also, thick protective outfits are also recommended to be worn. There are special camouflages similar to those used by cadets that can be worn. Sweatshirts and thick pants can also protect the skin from being directly hit.

Airsoft guns can be categorized into 3 types. They are:

Automatic Electric Guns (AEG)



The Automatic Electric Guns (AEG) is among the most popular, although the most expensive, gun out of the three. Ranging an average of about $300, these guns are not anywhere cheap. Tokyo Marui is by far the most popular manufacturer of these guns. AEGs are powered by the Nickel Cadmium battery. It operates the motors that run the three gears inside the gun. These gears, in turn, compress and release the piston creating a blast of air that propels the BB pellets out of the gun barrel. The system allows the gun to function efficiently with its fully-automatic features in compare to most AEGs resulting in a realistic Rate-of-Fire. It can reach anywhere from 600 to 900 Rounds-per-Minute replicating the capabilities of the real-steel gun. For those who are advanced in the field, these are the guns of choice because even though pricey, they are worth it.

The next most popular gun is the gas-powered ones. Designed for those who are intermediate to the field of airsoft guns, they are less expensive than the AEGs. There are several types of gas-powered guns. The most popular one is the Gas-Blowback, also known as GBBs. They operate using CO2 to compress the air used to propel the BBs out of the barrel. The same gas is used to cycle back the slide, creating a recoil by cycling the slide back and forth. The gas is either stored in the magazine or on-board. Similar to AEGs, the Gas-Blowbacks allow realistic semi-automatic firing. The gun allows the ease of magazine reload and making it very appealing to its users.

Finally, the Spring-powered airsoft guns are among the least expensive. They can go as low as $20 for a pistol. They are among the guns that novice or beginners use to start out with. They work by and finally the spring-powered Airsoft gun. Spring-cocking guns are true to their name in that you cock the spring first, and then fire. Cock spring, fire, cock, fire, cock, fire, etc. These guns are usually magazine fed and semi-automatic, but they must be hand-cocked after every shot. This system is very cost-effective, and the guns are surprisingly sturdy. Every Airsofter, in his lifetime, has owned at least one spring-powered gun, either a pistol or a rifle. Due to its relatively cheap price-range, this is usually the gun of choice for the person just starting to play airsoft. A spring-powered handgun can be purchased for as little as $20.

In 1980s Japan it was illegal to own a firearm, but there was a large interest in them. Because of this interest, manufacturers started to produce realistic looking spring-powered guns. These guns fired several calibers of plastic or rubber BBs, but were eventually standardized into 6 mm and 8 mm sizes. The early spring-powered weapons then morphed into gas-powered ones, using a variety of systems. The hobby then migrated to North America in the mid 1990s. Then low powered spring guns transformed into Classic airsoft gun. About ten years after this time, Japan hit a recession just as AEGs, or automatic electric guns, hit the market. Many old manufacturers were lost, leaving Tokyo Marui, inventor of the AEG, as the primary manufacturer. Marui then invented an improved Hop up system, further improving the accuracy and range of the weapons. In the early 2000s, Classic Army of Hong Kong entered the scene and gradually improved its quality of guns until it now rivals Tokyo Marui. A few years later countless Chinese brands flooded the market with cheap entry level weapons.

The guns used in Airsoft are typically replicas of real firearms. Airsoft guns can be divided into three groups by what powers them: spring powered, electric powered, and gas-powered.

Spring Powered
Spring-powered airsoft guns are single-shot devices that use elastic potential energy (EPE) stored in a spring to compress air to launch an airsoft pellet down the barrel of the gun. The user must cock a spring gun prior to each shot. This is typically achieved by pulling back the slide (pistols), bolt (rifles), or the grip on a shotgun, which in turn compresses the spring and makes the gun ready to fire. Because of this, these guns are by definition incapable of automatic or semi-automatic fire. Spring-powered airsoft guns are generally not as powerful as gas and electric models, although some spring shotguns and sniper rifles can be very powerful and shoot at velocities of 400–1000 FPS. These are not hard to find and are generally inexpensive, and don't usually last long because of the tension created by a powerful spring.

While most electric guns also use springs for propulsion of the airsoft pellet, they are not considered to be in the same category as the single-shot spring-powered guns. Low-end spring guns tend to be much cheaper than their electric-powered equivalents due to their simplicity and lack of electrical components (spring assembly, electric motor, battery, and battery charger) and thus are widely available. These guns are less suited for competition because they are at a disadvantage against automatic guns in close combat and do not provide enough accuracy and power for long-range use. There are some exceptions, however, as higher-end spring-powered airsoft rifles can be quite expensive; these guns are typically suited for "marksman" applications in airsoft matches and provide competitive muzzle velocities. Additionally, pump shotguns are sometimes used, especially in CQB (Close Quarters Battle). In colder weather, spring pistols are more reliable than gas-powered pistols and even the batteries on AEPs (Automatic Electric Pistols) both of which can be adversely affected by extreme cold.

This represents one of the major advantages of spring-powered airsoft gun, as it can be fired in any situation, without reliance on an external source of power, such as batteries or gas. The lack of reliance on external power sources causes some players to favor spring powered guns. Spring guns are also less susceptible to the effects of water, where a battery-powered gun could malfunction when wet.

Spring-powered weapons are often cheaper than electric or gas powered weapons. They are also more readily available in most department stores. Because of their price and availability, spring guns tend to act as "training guns" to bring new players to airsoft games and are considered the primary weapon of "backyard skirmishes". Almost all airsoft players at some point owned a spring weapon, whether for its actual use in the sport or for the replica value since some airsoft weapons are only available as spring versions.

Electric Guns
Electric guns, in their varying forms, use an electrically powered gearbox to compress a spring, which, when released, propels the pellet out of the barrel.

Automatic electric guns

An illustration of the working of a Version 2 gearbox

Electric-powered airsoft guns typically use a rechargeable battery to drive an electric motor, which cycles an internal piston/spring assembly in order to launch pellets. Automatic, 3 round burst, and semi-automatic operation is possible which gives these guns the popular name "automatic electric guns" or AEGs. These guns often attain muzzle velocities between 150 and 650 ft/s and rates of fire of between 100 and 6000 rounds per minute. They are the most commonly used and widely available type of airsoft gun.

These type of guns were developed in Japan and the Japanese company Tokyo Marui dominates the market. In a Tokyo Marui AEG, the motor drives a series of 3 gears mounted inside a gearbox. The gears then compress a piston assembly against a spring. Once the piston is released, the spring drives it forward through the cylinder to push a pellet into the chamber, through the barrel, and forward from the muzzle. Many manufacturers have now more or less replicated this basic model, adding reinforced parts or minor improvements. These guns are powered primarily by nickel metal hydride (NiMH) with varying voltages and milliampere hours ratings. The most common battery is an 8.4 V large battery (between 2200-5000 mAh.) Also available are "mini" and "stick" batteries, which generally have 900-1600 mAh capacities. Voltages for NiMH batteries range from 7.2 V, all the way up to 12 V. The rule of thumb usually is the higher the mAh, the longer the battery lasts while the higher voltage, the higher Rate of Fire (RoF). Recently, however, Lithium-Polymer, or Li-po, batteries are becoming more popular in the airsoft world. These batteries can last longer and have higher mAh and Volts while at the same time, being small and light. Li-po batteries are usually at 11.1 V or 7.4 V and at varying mAh from 500 mAh to 6500 mAh.

External modifications, such as metal bodies and reinforced plastics that make AEGs look and feel even more realistic, have become very popular. AEG manufacturers such as Classic Army and Tokyo Marui produce replicas that are visually nearly identical to their real counterparts. Tokyo Marui, however, sticks with a durable ABS plastic, whereas Classic Army features full metal bodied guns and stronger furnishings. Most AEGS produced as of late are designed to be as visually realistic as possible.

The three most common AEGs on the field are the AR-15 series (M16 rifle, M4 carbine, etc.; sometimes referred to as the ArmaLite or Colt series), the Heckler & Koch MP5 series, and the AK or Kalashnikov series. Also increasing popular is the Heckler & Koch G36 and more recently, FN P90. Subsequently numerous parts for repairs and modifications are commonly available for these rifles.

Gas Powered Airsoft Guns
Gas-powered airsoft guns use pressurized gas to propel pellets. These guns are capable of automatic and semi-automatic operation. The most common gases used are "green gas" (which consists of a mixture of propane and a polysiloxane lubricant) and HFC-134a. Less commonly used gases include "red gas" (which is actually HCFC-22), CO2 and nitrogen/high pressure air. Red gas is usually avoided unless the airsoft gun has undergone modification, as its relatively high critical pressure can cause damage to the airsoft gun, such as breakage of the slide or bolt. CO2, nitrogen, and high pressure air are less common because they need to be stored at higher pressures than "green gas" or HFC-134a.

The first ever gas powered airsoft guns were commonly referred to as 'classic' guns, owing to their age. These guns were most commonly powered by liquid propellants such as R-12 (Which was marketed by the Japanese as FLON-12 or brand name Freon-12) Freon feed system with a majority of the configurations containing two tanks, one containing the R-12 and one used as an expansion tank, and the gun itself. R-12 was commonly used in car air conditioning systems. It is also illegal in some states and parts of the world because it is not environmentally friendly. Later users modified these old guns to be powered by regulated CO2 canisters or nitrogen/high pressure air bottles to increase power and consistency. However, these guns have largely been superseded by the newer and more versatile AEGs, or automatic electric guns. One of the reasons for this is because the most commonly available propellant, R-12, is costly. Additionally, at high flow rates, liquid propellants tend to cool down, eventually freezing. As cooldown progresses, the rate of fire gradually decreases until the gun ceases operation. The user would then be forced to wait for the propellant to warm up again. CO2 is not affected as badly by this tendency, and nitrogen/high pressure air is immune to it. Furthermore, if liquid propellant is introduced into the gun's mechanism, rubber parts can freeze and eventually damage the gun. However, it is unlikely for this to occur since once the gas is released from the containing cylinder it instantly turns back into its gaseous state, and expands rapidly. It is doubtful whether the retained pressure behind the pellet before it begins to accelerate down the barrel is enough to keep the gas in a liquid form. Also, any gun that is expected to be exposed to the intense cold of de-pressurizing gas should have materials that can handle it.

Gas power tends to be used in airsoft pistols where size constraints make electric-powered mechanisms impractical. Other instances where gas is favored are where adjustable velocities are required or where a blowback feature is desired. A blowback feature is a mechanism which cycles a slide or bolt to better simulate a real firearm's operation. Because of the mechanical complexities involved with distributing and regulating gas, these guns have largely given way to electric guns for less specialized applications, however, they still remain favorable amongst some airsofters. They are not just limited to pistols; submachine gun airsoft replicas and sniper rifle airsoft replicas commonly use gas mechanisms. Whilst the submachine gun replicas typically feature a blowback mechanism similar to the pistol replicas, sniper rifle replicas usually omit the blowback mechanism in favor of reduced recoil and increased muzzle velocity.

Along with using gas to power guns, it is also applied for use in replica grenades. These grenades are both projectiles, fired from a grenade launcher such as the M203 or GP-25, or throwable. The shells work on the system of an internal piston, filled with gas. Either a series of pellets or in some cases a rubber or soft foam head is seated in or on top of the shell. When the pressure is released the projectile(s) are shot from the launcher sent downrange.

In the case of the throwable grenades, inside the grenade there is a similar piston to the one used in the shells, but is on a literal "timer" that allows the user to clear the area of effect. Pellets or powder act as the projectile in the case of these grenades. Currently both types of grenades are not very common, mostly because grenade launchers are quite expensive and the throwable grenades are not very reliable.

Classic Guns
Classic airsoft guns which are gas powered. Unlike the gas pistols of today, they can run on either an internal tank using conventional airsoft gas or use an external CO2 tank much like a paintball gun. They generally cost more than the standard AEG but provide a more realistic approach to airsoft. Some models, such as those made by the Sun Project, feature a type of "recoil" provided by these guns. While these guns can become more powerful than AEGs, almost all users operate them at AEG power. These replicas often are fitted with a LRB (Long Range Barrel) instead of a traditional hop-up unit. The LRB turns the entire barrel into a hop-up system, giving a consistent spin on the BB. The rate of fire on these can be regulated by the amount of air being fed through the system, versus the motor strength of an AEG.

The "Hop" system, which is installed in most stock airsoft rifles and pistols, is used to add extra range to the pellets, by putting backspin on each as it is fired. This operates through a small rubber nipple, which protrudes into the top of the barrel through a small hole. Adjusting the Hop-Up makes the nipple vary in size, so that backspin is increased or reduced. Ideally, the Hop-Up should be adjusted so that the pellets fly as far as possible in a straight line. The Hop-Up adjustment is usually relatively easy to access, so that players can adjust it during play. On the majority of airsoft guns it is located underneath the innate bolt cover, but sometimes is only accessible by an Allen key.