Here’s a question that pops up every now and then on various forums and Facebook pages. Do real life tactics translate to Airsoft, and if so, how well? For the most part, yes they do, however there are many, many real life tactics that just do not work in airsoft due to either the limitations of the sport or because they actually put you at a disadvantage within airsoft.
Often I’ve heard people talk about how one method should be chosen over another because it’s more “realistic” or because it is simply better. The overhand C-Clamp grip on a rifle and the way people describe it as “the best” is a major pet hate of mine (for more info on this read my Best Shooting Stance and Grip article). The fact of the matter is that there is no one way that is better for any tactical environment, whether it be a simulated environment like airsoft or a real world engagement in Afghanistan (from here on I shall refer to real military/law enforcement scenarios as “real world”). There are multiple ways to do things right and a million ways to do things wrong. So what transfers over and what doesn’t?!
Tactics That Work
As I have already said, for the most part, real world tactics and methods work within airsoft. Things like snap shooting (the method of shooting a target without using your weapon sights) work very well. In fact that type of shooting style is more suited to the close range set up that airsoft happens to provide and is the only way that I really shoot in game. Rarely do I aim, and I am pretty accurate shooting like that in both airsoft and with real firearms. It’s not for everyone, but it does work and is something that almost anyone can practice at home, providing they have adequate space and can do so safely. Standard methods for clearing corners work well too. Step away from the corner and don’t break the line of the corner too quickly. Slowly and methodically clear around the corner step by step with your weapon up ready to snap shoot. If you do this expecting to engage someone you can often get the drop on someone who has been sitting there waiting for a while.
Covering fire tactics work to an extent as well as bounding (one person or group fires, while another person or group moves meaning you constantly have rounds going down range). But these two tactics in particular do not work how they are intended due to the short distances of engagement involved in Airsoft. Speak to any soldier and they will tell you that they have, on exercise or in real life, bounded or pairs fire and manoeuvred for hundreds of metres. It’s a tactic that is designed to keep the enemies heads down while you close up to them to ultimately allow you to engage and kill them. It works because when a real bullet flies over your head it makes a very loud cracking noise. On top of this your enemy knows that they might be killed if they poke their heads up out of cover. In essence you scare them into hiding so you can get closer. In airsoft, the bb’s that you fire are not lethal and your enemy knows this. This means that they are more likely to poke their head out thus making the whole concept of covering fire a little less effective. Also it is possible to poke your head out for a look and get back behind cover before a bb hit’s you due to the relatively low speed (compared to real bullets) that they travel. I have on many occasions taken a peek before shooting and seen someone aiming at me, heard them fire and still managed to get my head back behind cover before the bb hits.
Peek and Shoot
This is a tactic that works very well in airsoft, in fact it works better in airsoft than it does in real world. This tactic is useful for peeking around a corner or doorway before committing yourself to either fire around it or move. You basically get as close to the corner as you can and then quickly poke your head round your cover and then quickly snap it back to avoid being shot in the face. You have to be very quick at observing what is around the corner/cover and if done correctly and practised enough you can build up an accurate picture of what you are moving into from a half second peek. If you spot someone there then you can pop and shoot to take them out. This involves the same tactic of popping out quickly except this time with your weapon so you can take a shot (this works bets with a pistol). A key point to remember with this move is to never peek and pop and shoot in the same place. So if you are standing when you peek round the corner and spot someone. When you pop out to shoot, do it from a kneeling position. This way if the person has seen you, chances are they’re aiming where they saw your head poke out and won’t be expecting you to be lower down. So why does this work better in airsoft than it does in real world?! Ballistics! In real world scenarios bullets travel up to and faster than the speed of sound. A bb from your airsoft gun travels at a fraction of this speed which means you have less chance of getting shot in the face!
This is something that I see a lot of people within airsoft getting right in terms of how it should be done for a real world scenario, but it isn’t really best suited to airsoft. In real world tactics shooters are taught to stand square on to their target. The reason for this is because modern day shooters/law enforcement officers/soldiers have large armoured plates fitted inside their body armour at least on their front side, and in most cases on their back and sides too. This plate offers the most amount of protection to that individual and because of this it makes sense to have that armoured plate square on to the direction of threat. This also means that should a round/bullet penetrate the shooters body armour, it is less likely to do as much damage as it would if the shooter was side on to the target. So why is this less than ideal for airsoft?! Well, airsoft isn’t lethal and most airsofters don’t even wear genuine body armour. By standing square on to the direction of threat you are actually making yourself a larger target and since in airsoft we don’t need to worry about the preservation of life, all you’re doing is making it easier for your enemy to hit you. By standing in a sideways stance you lower your profile making yourself a harder target to hit. If we’re talking about airsoft as a competitive sport then the latter makes more sense than the former.
Room clearing is a tricky one for airsoft. In some respects it works better than real world, and in some areas it doesn’t. If we take an urban law enforcement type operation for an example. Something that, in real world, a SWAT team would deal with, it works very well. Most airsoft sites have a grenade rule where grenades have a kill radius of 5 metres. Throw a grenade into a room, and most of the time everyone in that room will have to call themselves dead before you even get into that room. In this sense the room clearing tactics work better than real world because in real world scenarios a non lethal flashbang would only be used to enter a room and as such there would, or could, still be a live shooter(s) inside. If however the room is above 5 metres then unfortunately airsoft grenades do next to nothing because they create no-where near the level of noise and confusion that a real flashbang creates. In a real world scenario the flashbang would still have some, albeit minimal, stunning effect on your enemy. If we now take the example of a military type room clearance where in a real world scenario a fragmentation grenade would be used, the airsoft equivalent can fall apart a little if the room is larger than the determined kill radius rule. In real world scenarios fragmentation grenades are so violent and loud that even inside a room as large as a sports hall they can be deadly when one detonates, and at best would cause serious disorientation and some minor injuries. This still gives the entry team in real world scenarios an advantage. Yes they’re entering a large room where the enemy may still be alive, but that room has just had a very loud and violent explosion happen inside which has thrown shrapnel bouncing around within the room. Anyone left alive inside will be very disorientated. Airsoft, for obvious reasons, just cannot replicate that force, violence and noise level. This means that in airsoft you’ll either end up killing everyone in the room with your grenade or end up running into a stream of fire as those left in the corners are still fully alert and are now waiting for you to enter. Either way, it’s still great fun and can add extra elements to the game, for example, you may have to take a slow and methodical approach to clearing the room slice by slice as with the corner clearing method.
These are just a small handful of tactics (it would take a whole website to list them all) that can be used to great effect within airsoft and in some cases, as discussed, they can be detrimental to your game. The key point to remember here though is that just because a certain tactic is done in real world scenarios, doesn’t mean that it is suited to airsoft. That’s also not to say you shouldn’t use real life tactics. If you want to make the game as realistic as possible then crack on with the real world tactics and methods, likewise if you want to “play” the game as competitively as possible do the same using those tactics and methods that work best for airsoft. The beauty of airsoft is that there is an area of the sport for everyone!
Comment below with tactics that you like to use!