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Is Airsoft Like Real Combat? Part 1

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing an article on the comparisons between airsoft and real life combat for a while now and what has finally prompted me to do this was a debate I saw on the No Nonsense Airsoft News and Reviews Facebook page. They posted a link up last week from an airsofter who had written a piece on how airsoft can be compared to real life combat and that people shouldn’t bash the sport or those who wish to play milsim events. The jist of the article (I can’t find it now so am having to do this from memory so if I am wrong, please correct me) was that airsoft can prepare you for combat by getting you thinking along the same lines as a military team would, and in theory this is correct. BUT, and it is a big but, there are so many other factors to consider. My opinion, is that airsoft doesn’t even come close to combat. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that it doesn’t even come close to a military exercise, and I’ll explain why in a minute, but before I do I want to make something clear. This is not a bashing of the guy who posted the original article I mentioned, because he made some good points which I will cover later on. This is just my opinion from what I have experienced. His article, and the ensuing debate, just prompted me to finally write this. I also understand that to a lot of people this will all seem like common sense, but for the newer, younger guys to the sport, or even some of the old and bold who have never thought about it, hopefully this will give you a little bit of an insight into the differences between airsoft and real combat. And finally, because of the length of the subject, this will be a 2 part article!

Airsoft Kit Weight

The great thing about airsoft is the fact that we can use RIF’s to play our sport. When compared to the real world counterparts this is a good thing. Our AEGs weigh the same as their real world counterparts and because of this, handling them is pretty much the same. Firstly, using the M4 as an example, you can only hold 30 rounds in the magazine of the real world counterpart, although generally you only fill each magazine with 25 rounds to prevent stoppages, where as airsofters generally use mid-cap magazine s which can hold 120 rounds. Most milsim games seem to have an ammunition limit of 600 rounds which can be spread over 5 magazines. 5 magazines in a real world scenario would only give you 125 rounds to play with and while 600 rounds is about right for what I was carrying in Afghanistan, that ammunition was actually spread over 12 magazines and 2  bandoleers and not all of it on my person because of the weight. Also kit that 90% of airsofters use comes nowhere near the true weight of the kit that a soldier would use, and that in itself, would dramatically alter how you fight. Running 60 – 100lbs of gear is not easy and it’s not fast! Even as a “rebel fighter” the weight difference would be massive and would cause a great shock to the system.

Weapon Control and Fire Discipline

All that added weight will also alter how you handle your weapon. I’m sure every one has seen pictures of troops patrolling in Afghanistan with their weapons held low. This is because the guys are exhausted, both mentally and physically. Most of the stuff that you have practised in airsoft would change when introducing added weight. Then we have the very act of firing your rifle. An airsoft gun has no recoil. A Gas Blow Back has very little recoil. A real rifle has enough recoil to smash your face if you’re not careful.

In 2007 while on operations in Afghanistan a friend of mine who had had problems with his SUSAT (British army issued rifle sight) had to remove it from his weapon. As he placed it back on his weapon the Taliban launched an ambush. In his rush to get back in the fight he mounted his SUSAT too far back and as a result the eyepiece of the weapon sight struck him on the top of his eye socket every time he pulled the trigger. An hour later he had a large gash running through his eyebrow.

For those who have never fired a live weapon before, hopefully that will go some way to give you an idea of what it takes to control your shots and how much energy is dumped into your body when you pull the trigger. It’s not as easy as point and shoot and not everyone can handle it. Along with weapon control comes fire discipline too. In a real world situation you can’t fit 3,000 rounds inside a small bottle in a single pouch on your kit. A fair amount of airsofters go through a hell of a lot of ammunition on game days which in a real world scenario would see you out of the fight very quickly.

Airsofters Are Fearless

This is something that I personally find a little frustrating at times: fearless airsofters who wear face masks, goggles, ear defenders and helmets. Don’t get me wrong here, I have no problem if someone wants to protect their teeth and face from chips and scars. Personally, I’m a 32 year old married man with 3 kids. A few extra scars on my face is not going to make the slightest bit of difference to me, but I do understand those who have a fear of ruining their good looks. My frustration with this is that over my 2 years in airsoft I have noticed that players who wear full face and head protection have no fear of being shot. They know that if they get hit in the face it won’t hurt, and this is where I, as someone who tries to play as realistically as I can, find it frustrating. It causes them to play a little unrealistically and do things without concern over getting shot in the face. But that is the game, and that is everyone’s right to play like that, so for those like me, we just have to adapt and overcome. But, in real life, sticking your head round the corner to take look could wind up giving you a new breathing hole, likewise rushing a room to throw an impact grenade inside is going to ruin your day.

Airsoft Drills

In airsoft we can replicate what soldiers do on an individual level to some degree. The problem here though is that as airsofters, unless you are willing to pay a lot of money to be trained, you can only watch videos, read diagrams or articles. This, unfortunately, doesn’t always translate very well to the airsoft battlefield, let alone a real world battlefield. A prime example here is most milsim teams I see on YouTube have some major flaws in their methods and SOPs. It’s not often I watch a video of teams without spotting a basic error. For example: mobile stacking in an area where a mobile stack isn’t appropriate, or not clearing rooms effectively making so called “school boy errors”. This is in no way a dig though. Lets not forget that most milsim’ers are not trained soldiers. This is a hobby for them and a hobbyist will never reach the same level of performance as someone who does the same task day in day out. It’s a simple fact of life and I think most reading this will probably agree.

Well that’s part 1 for now. To continue reading, head over to part 2: Is Airsoft Like Real Combat? Part 2.

Thanks for reading, Stay Safe!

Michael Perridge
About the Author
Mike is an ex British soldier who now works full time as a private security contractor. He has carried out numerous tasks within the military and within the private sector that involve similar tactics to which can be used in airsoft. He started playing airsoft in 2012 and has since launched this website to share his knowledge with the airsofting community. To find out more about Mike, visit the About Templar Airsoft Page.

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