My uncle is a retired police firearms instructor. In his retirement he got into shooting airsoft and air guns at his home to keep his marksmanship skills sharp. It was cheaper and easier than going to the range for him most of the time. I was skeptical at first of how well airsoft could replicate shooting real guns. Last summer he invited me to attend an indoor airsoft 3 gun match hosted by Shoot Right American Jr. & Adult Air Gun Shooting Club. The event convinced me that airsoft is a useful training tool for novices and juniors.
When I attended the event there were a lot of junior shooters attending with their parents. Watching both the juniors and adults handle the airsoft guns it became apparent that most would benefit from some instruction on firearms fundamentals including grip, stance, sight alignment, and trigger control. Talking to the event organizer, Rob Potter, we turned the match into a clinic to work on the skills required to compete successfully
If we want the shooting sports and gun ownership to continue in the future, getting youth involved and excited about shooting is critical. .22lr ammo remains in short supply, the cost of ammunition over all is greater and the industry is continually racked with various shortages. Getting today’s generation into shooting sports simply isn’t as economical as it was for the previous generation. Action shooting sports are on the higher end cost wise. Airsoft is the answer for cost savings so juniors don’t have to learn the basics at $0.25-0.50 a shot. Working with the juniors at Shoot Right, it was easy to give corrective action and let them try again. Number of airsoft BBs or CO2 consumed was never really a concern.
No Ear Protection Required
Without ear protection communicating with students is a lot easier. Unless people have electronic hearing protection in large groups having everyone hear and understand the instructor can be challenging. Novices rarely have electronic hearing protection. Using airsoft immediately allows for more effective instruction in this regard. Muzzle report firing live ammunition also causes a flinch response in most novices. Without the noise and blast it’s easier to get fundamentals right before going to live fire.
Airsoft guns can hurt people, and eye protection is required at all times. However, the chances of fatal or life threatening injury occurring from airsoft are minimal. Action shooting sports require learning how to move safely with firearms and getting into and out of shooting positions safely without breaking the 180 or sweeping ones self. For novices, airsoft is a great training aid in these areas. I would rather watch a novice exercise these skills and take corrective action with an airsoft gun first, than doing this initial training with real firearms.
At the end of the clinic we held a man vs man elimination shoot off. The juniors really enjoyed shooting against their parents. To keep things fair I had the top two shooters shoot off against me at the same time.
Using airsoft is not without it’s limitations and it is not a substitute for live fire. Accuracy was good enough within 10 yards, past that it seemed the flight path of the airsoft BBs were unpredictable. Malfunctions with airsoft guns are not cleared the same way as real firearms, care must be taken to emphasize these skills when transitioning to real firearms. Similarly unloading airsoft guns is not exactly the same either; racking the action doesn’t necessarily get the BBs out of the barrel. Magazines can’t be dropped because they are too fragile. The pistols were the closest to using real firearms with their reciprocating slides and blowback action. The airsoft rifles were OK, but the point of aim vs point of impact was not exactly the same as a similarly zeroed real rifle. The CO2 powered rifles performed the best. Electronic Airsoft rifles have a noticeable delay between pulling the trigger and firing as the motor spins up. The airsoft shotgun we had at this event did not really work that well and was hard for the juniors to operate. Rob told me he has since gotten a better airsoft shotgun that is more reliable and eaiser to operate. Still I don’t think firing 3 pellets at once realistically replicates using a real shotgun, and the way these guns load is nothing like working a real tube fed shotgun. If I was teaching an intro class with airsoft I would make it a rifle/pistol class.
Junior Shooter Camp Concept
If I were to run a junior shooter camp for youths that had no practical firearms experience, I believe doing the first 3 days of a 5 day camp as airsoft only would be most beneficial from a cost/benefit perspective for the reasons listed above. After the students had the fundamentals down by day 4, I would then transition to using real firearms that were the same basic models as the airsoft guns used. Interested in the concept? Leave a comment below.
Shoot Right has a number of events planned this year. Like their Facebook page to keep up to date on what they have going on.