This article is the second part of a 2 part article on the differences between airsoft and real combat. If you haven’t read part 1 yet, you can do so by visiting the article: Is Airsoft Like Real Combat?
If you have read part 1 then read on for part 2!
Airsoft Gun Limitations
One of the things that first frustrated me when I started to airsoft was that as a trained soldier and security contractor, I’m used to being able to shoot what I can see. Unfortunately with airsoft we have a limited amount of range. This means that, especially on big airsofting sites, you can often see your enemy but can’t shoot them. The old military saying of “if you can see your enemy, he can see you” isn’t always a primary concern in airsoft because of this limitation. In the real world however, this limitation does not exist and if your enemy can see your he can kill you.
The Fog of War
This is probably one of the largest defining factors on why airsoft falls short for realism. During combat things get very, very confusing. The noise alone is something that airsoft, for health and safety reasons, will probably never be able to replicate. Outgoing fire, the sound of your own weapon system, explosions, incoming rounds, incoming artillery etc, all combine to make one hell of a noisy environment. This noise causes mass confusion at the best of times. Messages become blurred and instructions can become lost. Likewise trained soldiers can mistakenly identify sounds as something they are not.
In 2007 my section, while engaging the Taliban in Afghanistan, had to call in Close Air Support (CAS) in the form of an A10 Warthog. The jet came in low and close, causing the scream of it’s engines to sound similar to the scream of an incoming rocket. Half of my section, who had not seen the A10 rolling in, stopped firing and took cover thinking we had an incoming enemy rocket.
This incident, although very funny at the time, could have caused us serious problems and just goes to show how confusing battle can be.
Again in Afghanistan my callsign were being targeted by the Taliban using mortars and rockets. At the same time, however, we had friendly artillery passing over us from a nearby FOB, providing fire support to another unit in contact. In the confusion of battle, we assumed that the Taliban rounds landing near us were friendly artillery rounds dropping short. This caused major confusion on the artillery gun line when they received one report saying their rounds were on target and another report from us warning they were dropping short and nearly hitting us. This went on for about 10 minutes until we realised through relayed communications that were were actually being engaged, through IDF, buy the Taliban.
Both of these incidents involved experienced soldiers and both illustrate how confusing a combat environment can be due to noise alone. Now add in trying to make sure you don’t die and all the other elements, such as exhaustion, dehydration, fear, stress, etc, etc, and you can see by using just noise as an example, how different it is to airsoft.
The Realities of Combat
The realities of combat are pretty nasty. Bullet wounds don’t just make little blood splats on your shirt like you see in the movies or on games. They tear massive holes in flesh. The stress of combat alone can cause fully trained, experienced soldiers to snap. I’ve seen soldiers cry because of what they’ve had to deal with. Not only that but the stress is exhausting. It is the single most exciting yet fear filled thing you can do and This takes its toll on the body. The things you have to do are not nice, and the things you witness are pretty shitty. Everyone flaps a little during their first engagement with enemy troops and when you consider that every soldier, after at least a year of day to day training, and training on dealing with severe combat casualties, has a little bit of panic during their first contact, it stands to reason that airsofters, without that level of training, unfortunately would not do very well in most cases.
But Airsoft Can Help To Prepare For Combat
Hang on a minute, I hear you cry, aren’t I just contradicting myself now?! Well no I’m not, because airsoft can be beneficial to combat training if used properly and alongside other methods of training. Remember earlier I said that Airsoft doesn’t even come close to military training exercises? Well, that’s because of the noise levels like I mentioned earlier. A blank round is still pretty loud, and in some cases is louder than a live round (can anyone spot my deliberate mistake there?), and again airsoft will likely never replicate that. But what it can do is replicate force on force training. It doesn’t hurt at all getting shot with a blank round because nothing is fired. It’s also frustrating being on exercise with blank because your enemy don’t know when you’re shooting at them.
I’ve been on countless exercises in the army where I’ve taken up my fire position and fired 30-60 aimed shots into a single enemy only for him to eventually spot me, fire one burst at me, and the safety staff then tell me I’m wounded.
It’s very frustrating to have that happen to you and the benefit of airsoft is that you can hit your enemies. If used correctly and in the correct context it can provide a great addition to training to prepare for real world combat, and I think that, in part, is what the young lad was trying to get at with his article, and that is something I do agree with. Another point he was trying to make is that people shouldn’t bash airsofters, and this is true. No-one, no matter what they do for fun, so long as it doesn’t involve hurting people or breaking the law, should be mocked for what they do. Airsoft is a great sport and often those who mock it, have never tried it. Unfortunately airsoft also breeds bullshitters who claim to know people in the special forces or think they’re “operator as fuck” and these are the people who can sometimes cause the community to get a bad name from real world shooters. It’s an unfortunate side effect for a sport that involves dressing up as soldiers, but remember, airsoft is there for our enjoyment. It’s a bloody good laugh with your mates and shouldn’t be looked at as something that will make you an “operator”. If that’s what you want, then join the military and become an operator, you’ll have a great time and probably won’t regret it. But compared to real world combat, aside from running the same tactical gear and being able to use some of the same tactics, airsoft doesn’t come close.
Well, there we have it. That’s my take on whether or not airsoft is similar to real life combat, and hopefully those of you that didn’t already agree, do now. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the read and please post any questions you have in the comments below. Likewise, if you would have any suggestions about articles you’d like to see in the future, then let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to give my thoughts.
Remember guys, realistic or not, airsoft is a great way to spend the day. It’s a great sport that accommodates so many different people form all walks of life. Lets keep it that way and lets keep the sport thriving and enjoyable.