Note from JTT: I know just enough about airsoft to see the training potential in it but not enough to venture into the unknown territory alone. The airsoft market seems little familiar to a shooter like me but it also seems like it is laden with traps like poor quality equipment, knock-offs, and people who aren’t what they seem. That is why I reached out to Eric from TheGearLocker.net who knows the topic inside and out. I asked him a series of questions that I had and I suspect that they are the same questions that some of you have about airsoft.
I have already taken some of his advice and you will likely see some airsoft related content on JTT in the near future. Rest assured that this will not become an airsoft blog. I only intend to explore some of the training potential of airsoft and none of the gaming aspects.
Using Airsoft as a Training Tool
Are you unable to hit the range as often as you would like? Are you looking for something more exciting than dry fire training? Then I have the answer for you, training weapons. Some may call them airsoft guns, but the higher end airsoft guns are a great training tool when you cannot get to the range. In this article, I hope to answer some of the questions that people have when looking to purchase an airsoft training weapon.
The first question that people ask is, “Can I use the same gear that I use when at the range?” The short answer, yes you can! If you are looking to purchase equipment, you can choose a chest rig like the HSP D3 or a Plate Carrier like the Crye Precision AVS. The M4/AR magazines that are used with training weapons can be utilized with your current equipment.
When it comes to the airsoft training weapon itself, you have several different flavors that we will touch on in a bit, but if your goal is to outfit your training weapon to be close to or the exact replica of your real steel AR, that is possible. You will be able to utilize almost all the same parts and accessories for both. For example, I have a H&K 416 Airsoft platform that uses a real Geissele 416 rail, INFORCE WMLx Light, and Cetacea Rabbit Sling – all products that can be used with a real weapon platform.
When it comes to stocks, most will go with either the commercial or mil-spec buffer tubes, so you can put your Magpul CTR or B5 SOPMOD stock on your training weapon and start shooting. I know of some people that shoot both real steel and training weapons and they remove accessories from one platform to another when training or hitting the range.
To stay as close to shooting a real AR as possible, you will want to look at purchase low/real or midcap magazines. These are Airsoft Training Weapon magazines that hold as low as 75 or as much as 150 rounds. You can load less and simulate magazine changes as you see fit. Some magazines are more durable than others. From my experience, the PTS magazines are solid and hold up to dropping and throwing to your buddy. KWA K120s, and Mag Magazines are also excellent and fit a wide range of training weapons.
Training Weapon Types
There are two different categories of airsoft training weapons. They are Gas Blow Back (GBBR) Rifles and AEGs, Electronic Airsoft Guns. The GBBR uses either CO2 or Green Gas and gives the user a very realistic feel of recoil. There are several down sides to using GBBRs, one is their initial cost. You can be in the $400 and up range. Magazines can also be costly to purchase and if you are located in cooler climates, that could affect the effectiveness of the platform.
AEGs are powered by batteries that are located in the front or the stock of the weapon. They will work in all weather environments, and from a cost perspective, are at a lower price point to purchase. Batteries are also fairly inexpensive to purchase.
For shooters that want to have more realistic recoil, but do not want to use a GBBR platform, there is an AEG category that simulates recoil. PTS has their ERG Scout that uses a battery to power the weapon and provide the recoil feel to the shooter.
For the shooter that wants to have as close to real as possible, the GBBR and then the AEG-Recoil platform are the 1 and 1a choices. Both simulate recoil, and the AEG-Recoil platform will work in cooler environments, where the GBBR could not.
The next question that is raised is cost – which is more budget friendly. Most of your mid to higher end Airsoft Training Weapons will start at $300 and go up from there depending on the manufacturer, the trade marks, or included accessories. Where to purchase is also important. I highly recommend staying away from your big box retailers and looking for your local Airsoft store or some of the bigger internet sellers.
After you have selected your Training Weapon and your gear, you need to think safety. Shooting glasses or full seal goggles are a must. I use Oakley M-Frames with their helo kit to get the full seal around the eyes. If you decide to do any force on force training, full seal goggles or a paintball style mask is a must. So are gloves if training against others. I strongly recommend that you treat your Airsoft Training Weapon as you would your real firearm. They should always be treated the same. Both can hurt someone if not used properly.
To setup your training space, you will need to go outside or use a garage/out building as your back drop. You can use your current targets that are backed with cardboard to prevent the BB from traveling to areas they should not be in. A good friend has rigged a BB catcher that is a tarp and he made a small lip that the Bbs fall into after hitting the target. It took him a few tarps and about 10 minutes to setup. If you are looking for reactive targets, there are products like metal targets or a company called “shoot my ash” that makes a reactive target system.
If you don’t want to catch your rounds and then toss them, you can get your handy-dandy leaf blower out and blow them into a corner.
Unlike a real firearm, airsoft training weapons do not have rifled barrels, and wind can start the affect the flight of the BB. That is why people will use .28 or .32 gram Bbs when shooting at targets. As to what skills you can train effectively with your Training Weapon – you can practice magazine reloads, transitions from your strong to weak side, transitions from your rifle to your pistol, recoil control, trigger control and more. You can replicate your best Costa or Haley Magpul moments if you want.
If you are looking to purchase or see what is out there, I strongly suggest checking out the following reliable retailers and brands.
The internet can be a great resource, but so are your local airsoft retailers and fields. They can help guide you through the process and decision making. Once you start looking at a platform for training, you will be amazed at how many there are to choose from.