Shoot Better with Airsoft Training

Without a doubt, the best part of being a firearms hobbyist is the actual shooting.  Unfortunately, shooting can also be an expensive pastime.

Plinking ammo runs around twenty cents a round for 9mm and fifty cents a round for .308.  For a few shots here or there that’s not much, but it adds up fast for more frequent shooters.  For example, if you shoot 200 rounds of 9mm ammo a week, you’re looking at a minimum of $2080 in ammunition over the course of a year.

Training with a Pistol
Training with a Pistol

So what do you do if you want to really get out and hone your skills, but don’t have room in your budget for a couple grand a year?  You might want to consider airsoft.  I know, I know.  Airsoft has a reputation as being for kids, but hear me out.  Airsoft really can be a valuable – and affordable – training tool.

Benefits of Training with Airsoft

Cost Effectiveness

Quality airsoft ammunition runs around 0.17 cents a round.  Seriously, it’s stupid cheap. 

So are the guns themselves.  An M4 replica can be had for less than $200 and a semi-auto pistol replica can be had for $60 to $150 depending on the model.

170
at Airgun Depot

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Realistic Replication

There are some very realistic airsoft replicas that look and function just like their firearm counterparts.  Because of this, you can easily transfer your skills from the airsoft gun to your firearms almost seamlessly.  The safety will function the same, the sights will be similar, the ergonomics will be correct, and they will work with accessories you may already have, such as holsters, optics, or other rail-mounted devices.

Training with Airsoft Gun
Believe it or not, that’s an airsoft gun.

The Law

If you can take your 9mm into your backyard for a little target practice is between you and your local legal statutes and law enforcement.  Thankfully, airsoft guns do not fall under those same legalities as they are not (usually) classified as firearms.

More than likely, you can do some shooting in your yard, garage, or even a long hallway – just put that heirloom vase somewhere safe first.  As always, consult with your local law enforcement to make sure you’re free to do this.

Practice Makes Perfect

Shooting is a perishable skill.  While you may never forget your fundamentals, if you’re not practicing frequently you’ll see slow, or no, improvement in your skills,  and you may even get worse over time.   The luxury of having a home range you can use will make you far more likely to get some training in on a near daily basis.

Check out the pistol range this guy set up in his garage:

Give Your Firearm a Break

Every time your firearm goes “bang” you’re putting wear on those parts.  For those who can afford to shoot on a regular basis, replacing a $200 barrel after a few thousand rounds is no big deal.  Most of us don’t like putting that kind of use on our firearms, which may make us less inclined to go shoot. 

Airsoft offers a way to keep training without wearing down parts on our favorite, more expensive guns.  That’s a great thing – especially for the carry pieces you may put your life behind.

Safety

An airsoft gun can injure you, but it’s not very likely to kill you or your buddy.  This is why many police and military units use them for force on force training exercises.  With the proper safety equipment and precautions, you can get out there with your friends and train on a two-way range without fear of serious harm.

Selecting the Right Airsoft Gun

There are so many different types and options when it comes to airsoft guns it can make your head spin if you’ve never looked at them before or aren’t familiar with them. 

Variety of airsoft guns
These are all airsoft guns, too.

In the interest of not making things even more confusing, I’m going to just recommend that you go with a gas gun. Gas guns are plentiful and easy to find.  They work by either accepting a cartridge you load into the gun itself, or via an adapter that allows you to transfer gas from a cartridge to the gun. 

Either way, you get nice semi-auto fire with no springs, no pumping, and no having to break form to fire the next round.  Just load up your magazine and gas, and start shooting until you run out of one or the other.  It’s that easy.   

Your airsoft gun can operate primarily on CO2/red gas, green gas, or propane.

Propane

Propane Tank with Airsoft Adapter
Propane Tank with Airsoft Adapter

This is the cheapest and easiest to find nearby.  You can keep a tank at home and self-fill until you run out, then just go to a nearby filling station and do it again.  Propane is a dry gas, so you’ll need silicone to lubricate your gun when you’re done shooting for the day.

CO2

Airsoft CO2 Cartridges
Airsoft CO2 Cartridges

CO2 is little bit more expensive than propane, but is usually easier to find.  Full cartridges need to be purchased through a specialty retailer, but are more common than the alternatives.  Empty reusable cartridges can be purchased easily online.

12
at Airgun Depot

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Green Gas

A Few Green Gas Brands for Airsoft
A Few Green Gas Brands

Green gas refers to propane with silicone added, which removes that propane smell, but also drives up the price.

The Guns

For this article we’re going to take a look at the Smith and Wesson M&P 40 BB Blowback Pistol and the Winchester MP4 both driven by CO2.  Both are affordable, feature removable magazines, and look like the real thing.

170
at Airgun Depot

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing


One difference, however, is that the M&P is a blowback and the MP4 is not.  So what does this mean?

Well, the M&P has realistic slide action, so when you shoot the slide will come back just like the pistol itself would.  This does use up extra gas so you’ll see reduced round count per cartridge or refill.  The MP4 however, does not have a typical bolt carrier group like an AR-15 would, so it isn’t technically considered blowback, but it’s semi-auto and the mechanics the user interacts with function the same.

Chances are good that if you shoot regularly with a popular model firearm, you’ll be able to find an airsoft replica of it, so look around.  If you’re lucky, you may even be able to find your firearm in a model that breaks down for cleaning and maintenance just like it.

Ammunition

Plastic Airsoft BBs
Plastic Airsoft BBs

Now that you’ve pick the right airsoft gun for you, we need to find something to shoot out of it!  There are two types of ammunition: BBs and pellets.  Pay attention to the specs of the gun you pick to know which is best for you.

In our case, the M&P only accepts BBs, while the MP4 takes both. They are also both .177 caliber, which is the most common. Thankfully, selecting ammo is relatively straightforward, just follow your gun manufacturer’s guidance and you’ll be all set.

Lead Airsoft Pellets
Lead Airsoft Pellets

Targets

Now that you’ve got your gun and your ammo, it’s time to do some shooting, so let’s pick out something for you to shoot at.

Paper Targets

This is very simple and is the most basic type of target.  They come in all shapes, sizes and prints.  Personally, I like to buy in bulk.

6
at Airgun Depot

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Target Traps

These are handy to have so you don’t leave BBs or pellets everywhere.  Traps mean you don’t have to worry so much about what’s behind your target, and make clean up much easier.  Set a trap that’s heavy duty and features a clip for your targets on it and enjoy a painless setup to shooting.

Reactive or Resetting Targets

These add some variety and interest to potentially repetitive shooting drills.  Whether they spin, reset themselves, or even have a motor so they spin automatically, you’ll find these to be enjoyable, entertaining, and quite affordable.  I like this rotating one the best!

Conclusion

That’s it!  You now have a foundation to get out there, grab your own airsoft gun and get to training right at home.  Remember to take this as seriously as you do a trip to the range and, if you’re consistent, you’ll see continued growth in your skills.

Keep in mind airsoft is not a total replacement for live fire training, so make sure you still hit the range to keep yourself familiarized with your trigger pull, recoil, sight picture and grip.

Marine Training with an Airsoft Rifle
Marine Training with an Airsoft Rifle

You should also be sure to treat your airsoft gun just like a real firearm.  While an accident is extremely unlikely to kill you, serious injury can occur and proper firearm safety is something you never go lax or complacent on.  Wear eye protection at a minimum, and consider full face protection if you’re shooting indoors.

Happy shooting!

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5 Leave a Reply

  • Billy

    You recommend gas guns, then then two specific guns you recommend are CO2. I recommend gas, too. They're cheaper, even if you use cans of green gas. If you get set up for propane, they're far cheaper. I also like that I can top off the gas in a magazine before the pressure drops, unlike with CO2. I hate to be shooting a drill, and have my magazine run out of gas before the end. VFC makes a gas M&P 9 replica, which I have and like. The manual of arms is the same as my real M&P 9.

    1 month ago
  • Tommy

    I needed to know how to load this air soft gun it says R91

    1 year ago
  • tom

    Cameron, which airsoft is the best replica to imitate handling of the AR15? Not too concerned with the actual shooting and accuracy - get enough of that on the range live fire.- just looking for the most realistic for feel, loading unloading, mag changes, stoppages, switching between pistol and rifle ext.. Love to hear your recommendation.

    2 years ago
  • David

    Big Airsoft fan here, as well as former LE. As stated by previous commentator, there’s are major differences between 6mm Airsoft replicas and airguns. The former uses only plastic 6mm bbs and is suitable for force-on-force training (with the appropriate safety gear). Airguns shoot metal ammo and will penetrate eye protection gear as well as skin/bones, esp at CQB distances. If you want to use replicas for weapons handling/training/memory muscle/reloading, a gas-blowback (GBB) gas-in-magazine Airsoft pistol or rifle is your best bet. They function exactly like their real steel counterparts (but with one MAJOR safety exception). Do not buy an electric replica; their internals and handling are completely different than a real pistol/rifle, although they are fine if you just want to practice sight focus and marksmanship at shorter distances. The major safety caveat for a GBB replica is that with a round chambered and no magazine inserted, the replica will/cannot discharge. This is a MAJOR difference from a real gun, and must be taken into account.

    2 years ago
  • Joel B.

    So, I’m a big fan of Airsoft, and would like to point out some things. First off, all airsoft guns use 6mm BBs, so what you suggested was probably Airguns. Secondly, I’d recommend gas pistols, but if you’re just going to get a non blowback rifle, then an Electric gun would be better, and cheaper. And lastly, if you’re going to buy one, then Evike is the way to go. Other then that, hope y’all have fun!

    2 years ago
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