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Airsoft is a combat sport similar to Paintball in which participants eliminate opponents by hitting each other with (6 or sometimes 8 mm) plastic ball bearings (BB's - although BB stands for 'bullet ball' in reference to Airsoft), launched from airsoft guns, that can be powered by CO2, Green Gas, spring, or electrically powered gearboxes. Participants typically use varying types of weapons designed as replicas of real firearms, tactical gear, and accessories used by military and police organizations. In North America and Europe, there is a growing interest in airsoft. History Airsoft was developed in Japan in the late 1970s[1] to provide an alternative for gun hobbyists because local laws prevented individuals from privately owning firearms. A heavy emphasis was therefore placed on making accurate replicas of real firearms. Many new Chinese guns are dominating the airsoft market because they are more affordable. They compete against established companies like Classic Army, I Chih Shivan (ICS), Guay Guay, G&P, and Tokyo Marui (TM). In contrast, paintball was developed in the United States in 1981[2] as a variation of hide and seek tag, through the use of utility companies' paint marking guns, which mark power/utility poles, and continues to focus more on their function than their form or aesthetic qualities. Paintball has quickly gained greater popularity than airsoft in the United States. In East Asia, airsoft is much more popular and paintball is nearly non-existent. In the interests of a more family-friendly image, paintball as an industry usually avoids direct analogies to the military and war (seen by the movement towards spectator-friendly speedball); whereas Airsoft runs the gamut from Airsplat to full MilSim play. The ballistic flight properties of airsoft pellets comes very close to real bullets without destroying the target. The physical impact of airsoft pellets on targets provide the authenticity and realism of actual bullet hits because they can hurt, cause a small amount of damage, and heighten mental and emotional excitation and/or distress as with the use of real firearms. This characteristic makes airsoft very effective for combat training as well as very frightful and worrisome for unaware by-standers or zealous public officials. Thus, despite its growing popularity, airsoft is strictly regulated or even prohibited by various governments. MilSim Military Simulation generally combines airsoft play with some military live action role playing elements. Several goals or missions are assigned to each team, along with a basic loadout of ammunition (6 millimeter pellets), rations, batteries, and other suitable equipment. The teams will remain in the field for the duration of play, only returning to a staging area or "safe zone" for medical emergencies, or other such circumstances. MILSIM-games often last several days, for example the large BERGET-event in Sweden lasts 6 days in a row, with no breaks. In larger scale MilSims vehicles as simple as painted vans and trucks will be used. But in some cases, such as Operation Irene, real APCs and tanks will be used. Airsoft players at a World War II re-enactment. The player is holding a SIG 552 rifle. Airsoft players at a World War II re-enactment. The player is holding a SIG 552 rifle. Private vehicles representing an armoured personnel carrier. Private vehicles representing an armoured personnel carrier. [edit] Airsoft for combat training Many law enforcement departments, military units, and protective security companies are turning to airsoft for an effective, low cost, anti-inflammatory, and safe means of force-on-force training.[3] The low-impact, projectiles allow military/law-enforcement/protection agencies to train anywhere - schools, businesses, airplanes, etc. Training in real-life environments conditions them to deal with real life situations and improve their skills. The inexpensive ammo lets military/police train more frequently and repeat drills dozens of time in each session with minimal budgetary impact, to the relief of taxpayers. Since minimal protective equipment is required, this allows them to train with their actual duty gear and equipment. Using airsoft guns for training minimizes liability to both trainees, instructors and by-standers, as well as property owners. [edit] Honor system An "honor system" is employed whereby the players rely on each others' honesty to admit to being hit, because unlike paintball, the plastic pellets do not leave a surface mark distinguishable at a distance. Depending on the muzzle velocity of the gun and distance from which a person is shooting, the person on the receiving end of the shot will usually feel the impact but the pellets may sometimes not be felt by a player at very long ranges, when distracted, or when running strenuously, hence the importance of marshals or referees. However, honest admission of hits is still required because no one can monitor what happens to every player on the playing field. In certain countries such as the Philippines where large numbers of players often play every weekend in commercial airsoft venues, additional special rules have been adopted to increase safety and avoid unnecessary injury.[4] All "real steel" firearms, explosives, and bladed weapons are banned at any airsoft battlefield to prevent harmful accidents or misunderstandings and confusion between real and simulated weapons. Players are also expected to be discreet in transporting or carrying their gear and combat-style uniforms so as not to unduly alarm the general public and force the law enforcement agencies to investigate an incident involving airsoft guns. To avoid unnecessary disputes that disrupt the game, players are discouraged from calling out hits on their opponent but are expected to signal a marshal to judge how effectively they can hit their opponents. Simulated "knife kills" can be performed when a player touches or taps an unaware opponent instead of shooting him or her at point-blank range. Players are prohibited from firing blindly when not able to see their target, especially around corners. Harsh language and forceful physical contact between players is strongly discouraged. Players are expected to acknowledge being hit even if they are in doubt. Dishonest players who fail to follow the rules or acknowledge their hits run the risk of being labelled and ostracized as "zombies" by the local airsoft community. [edit] Game management Airsoft games can be run by the players themselves using agreed upon rules. However, games become more realistic and fun for the participants if a game marshal controls the flow of play and provides on-the-spot impartial rulings. Airsoft game scenarios can vary widely according to mission type, number of teams, number of players per team, in-game objectives or victory conditions, and game durations. Popular game scenarios include center-flag capture or recovery, team flag delivery, hostage-rescue, ambuscades, raids or assaults, and death-match (all-out elimination) skirmishes. It is the marshal's task to segregate the players into teams, determine the game scenario and its victory conditions, assign game objectives to various teams, brief the participants, delimit playing boundaries, and set the game duration. By means of whistles, flags, megaphones, and walkie-talkie radios, a group of marshals can handle dozens to hundreds of players in a series of episodes or nonstop play. Depending on the game scenario, players may be eliminated with a single hit, taken out of and returned to action with the aid of "medics," or allowed to "respawn" (re-enter the game) at certain places or times. A good game marshal strives to maintain a high level of excitement and activity for all the players involved while maintaining safety, impartiality, and "in-game realism." Furthermore, those intending to operate game sites or hold game events should coordinate with local public authorities, designate safe zones and boundaries, invite the players to the site, and supply players and guests with adequate parking faciities, toilet facilities, water and electrical supply, as well as sell food, ammo, or other provisions needed (especially if the game site is relatively inaccessible to commercial establishments). [edit] Kinetic energy Kinetic energy transfer is relatively minimal in airsoft compared to that of paintball. An airsoft projectile weighing .2 grams and traveling at 300 feet per second (90 meters per second) transfers about 1 joule of energy. A paintball projectile weighing 2.84 grams and traveling at 300 feet per second transfers 11.8 joules. Although there is a considerable difference between airsoft and paintball energy levels (1 joule verses 12 joules), the type of collisions that occur (elastic airsoft vs. inelastic paintball) must also be considered (refer to Pellet Ballistics). Most airsoft guns are capable of shooting from 150fps to 400fps, though it is also possible to purchase upgraded springs for some airsoft guns that will enable 400 to 700 fps projectile velocities. A hop-up unit, if present, puts backspin on the pellet giving a slight upward arc. This gives an airsoft gun more range than a paintball gun without a hop-up unit. Airsoft playing fields usually have rules specifying what velocity is allowed for each player position. [edit] Cost To a new player choosing between airsoft and paintball, a beginning package for airsoft is much cheaper in terms of hardware, but for apparel they can be roughly equivalent. One major difference, however, can be seen in the cost of ammunition and upkeep of the packages - due to the type of ammunition used, airsoft guns are less prone to "jamming", and airsoft bbs (6mm) are considerably cheaper to manufacture than paintballs. Air soft rifles and pistols are usually the most expensive piece of equipment. Low-quality electric guns, commonly called LPEGs (low priced/powered electric guns) can cost from $5-70 depending on the quality, the MPEGs (Medium priced/powered electric guns) can cost in the range of $80-180 dollars USD, while a higher-quality AEG can be more than $200 USD. A paintball gun of equal level usaully costs in the midst of 200-300%. The overall average for a high quality electric gun such as a Classic Army or Tokyo Marui, is around $200-$500( or much higher, if the user decides to purchase a pre-upgraded gun or a specialized gun, such as a sniper rifle or an LMG replica) USD, depending on the model. Some custom guns can cost more than $2,500 USD. In Mil-Sim games, where the main aspect of the play is realism, equipment is usually much more expensive. Many Mil-Sim players choose to wear real gear (not an airsoft replica) and in some cases, real ballistic protective armor. This can raise the price of the game considerably, with guns and gear sometimes totaling in excess of $10,000 USD. [edit] Safety Although airsoft guns operate on completely different principles from real firearms and are not lethal. To prevent injuries on and off the field, there are common safety issues used by the airsoft community. Most airsoft venues have standard basic rules to assure the safety of all involved. They are usaully as follows: * At all times during a game wear eye protection. * Treat all firearms as if they are loaded and ready to fire. * Always point the gun away from anything and everything that is not intended to be shot. * Keep fingers away from the trigger and outside the trigger guard until ready to play. * Always be sure of the target and what is behind it. * Though airsoft bbs are designed to hit people and not injure them, shooting a person without proper protection can cause minor and in some cases permanent damage. A very close range shot from a BB on bare skin from a gun with a velocity over 400 FPS will usually break the skin and cause minor bleeding. Shots from over 100 feet will not likely not cause bleeding, but will leave a small bruise, depending on the power of the gun. A BB can easily cause damage to the eye of a person not wearing eye protection. Therefore, a standard of safety guidelines and equipment has evolved in the airsoft community. Like many competitive sports, airsoft inherently involves a certain risk of injury. With proper use airsoft is a very safe sport. Airsoft player shooting from behind cover wearing goggles that fully seal the area around the eyes and a balaclava to protect the face. Airsoft player shooting from behind cover wearing goggles that fully seal the area around the eyes and a balaclava to protect the face. [edit] Eye and Face Protection The minimum safe level of gear required to participate in most games includes a pair of fully-sealing impact-rated goggles to protect the eyes of the participants. Traditional prescription glasses and sunglasses are almost never accepted as they will not prevent serious injury. Goggles not designed specifically for use with airsoft or paintball guns may break or shatter upon being struck, causing eye damage (although rare and easily prevented). For this reason many organized groups of airsoft players and fields require that eye protection fully seals the area around the eyes, and also meets or exceeds ANSI's Z87.1-2003 goggle standard for eye protection: the ability to resist 3 joules of impact energy without damage. Some players instead opt for paintball goggles, which are held to higher impact rating standards, ASTM's F1776.[5] According to ANSI publications as of June 2006, The ASTM is currently developing a more specific standard for airsoft - ASTM Z1535Z - Standard Specification for Eye Protective Devices for Airsoft Sports.[6] The best overall protection is currently offered by paintball masks. These masks provide an additional level of protection by covering the face, teeth, and ears, greatly reducing the risk of injury to these body parts and the chipping of teeth. The lens is a solid piece of impact resistant plastic. Some airsoft masks are made with mesh screens, though these screens do not offer protection from cheaper or bio-degradable BBs that sometimes fragment upon impact of hard objects.[7] [edit] Other Safety Precautions Some other rules such as a maximum BB velocity and distance guidelines are used in different ways by groups depending on their location. Various locations often offer similar safety rules with slight variations. In order to encourage the mixing of segmented communities into a larger community that can more easily engage each other, certain organizations have created safety rules and guidelines for players to share the field under common understanding and to band together in safe environments.[8] Airsoft replica of a H&K G36C. Note that this replica is not in use on a field, and therefore has the magazine removed (and the chamber cleared), and has a barrel bag placed over the muzzle Airsoft replica of a H&K G36C. Note that this replica is not in use on a field, and therefore has the magazine removed (and the chamber cleared), and has a barrel bag placed over the muzzle When not actively playing, many fields require "barrel bags," also known as barrel condoms, which were first introduced in paintball. Many airsoft guns, especially AEGs, come with small red plastic barrel blockers that fit over the muzzle. The magazine is usually removed as well, and the gun fired to clear the chamber. Many fields also require players to leave their guns set to the safety position when they are not shooting, even during active gameplay. This is a practice taken from real firearms training, in which one never puts a finger on the trigger or takes the weapon off safe until ready to fire. [edit] Blind Man One commonly adopted practice is for players to shout the words "Cease-fire, Blind Man!", "Heads up, Pedestrian!" or "Walker!" and halt an ongoing game if a player or bystander is seen in the designated game play area without proper eye protection; goggles and a helmet. Any player hearing the words must, in turn, stop and also shout the words, resulting in a chain reaction which halts and alerts the whole game. Once the situation is resolved by properly removing the unprotected person from harm, the game is usually resumed at the same point at which it was stopped. A player is required to keep their face mask/goggles/shooting glasses on at all times. This is basic safety upon an airsoft site and this rule is always enforced by the marshal in charge to ensure that all players remain safe and no accidents occur during the gameplay. [edit] Wildlife and Terrain Hazards Because airsoft games are most often played in natural surroundings, animals can often interfere with these games and potentially be hazardous. In the Southwestern United States, snakes offer one of the most significant threat especially the potentially deadly Diamondback rattlesnake. Many games in California institute a "snake call", whereby players have to yell "snake" when one is encountered to mark the location and warn other players.[citation needed] After a snake has been identified, that section of the field may be marked as out-of-bounds, or the game may be delayed until the threat is dealt with. Whether in natural or built-up urban terrain, airsoft players can be subject to injury from terrain features such as slippery surfaces, steep slopes or heights, falls or trips, collisions with unseen obstructions, snags and sharpened objects, and even noxious substances (animal droppings, etc.). Scratches, bruises, concussions, and cuts, plus a few broken bones can easily occur in this type of activity. This is another reason (aside from high-velocity pellets) for the need for military-style protective gear such as head and neck armor, all-terrain boots, thickened gloves, knee and elbow pads, and full-length rugged attire. Airsoft players must be careful when running rapidly as well as moving hastily in the dark to avoid injury from such hazards.
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