By
Ryan
January 3, 2022

Beginners Guide to Airsoft

If you're considering a new hobby in 2022, airsoft might be the best thing you do. It's an adrenaline-filled sport that's enjoyable for everyone. 

It can keep you fit, your brain sharp and a smile on your face; all for a reasonable price.

If you've never heard of airsoft, don't worry. The objective of this beginner's guide to airsoft is to give you everything you need to get started.

What is airsoft?

Airsoft is a team game based on live combat simulations. Airsoft normally involves two opposing teams of up to 40-50 players. Using airsoft guns to eliminate the enemy players and complete the objective. 

Airsoft is a game of strategy, skill, military-like tactics, teamwork and the desire to win.

There are three 'levels' to airsoft. 

Weekend skirmishes: perfect for beginner players. Games are played throughout the day with regular breaks, game briefings and lunch.

Battlesims (battle simulation): an all-day event for more serious airsoft players and teams. Games normally start at 8am and last until 4pm. There are no set breaks and gameplay will often continue for a solid 8 hours.

Milsims (military simulation): often played over an entire weekend. A milsim event has player requirements and limitations. It's as close to being on a real-life battlefield as you can get. This type of game is best suited for seriously experienced players.

Airsoft rules

Airsoft is a sport based on honesty and respect. Most airsoft sites have similar rules for a weekend skirmish. 

When you are 'dead' in airsoft, you have to announce this to enemy players by declaring yourself 'hit'. 

Being hit means where a BB has hit you directly. It means clothing and anywhere on your body.

We recommend an audio and visual cue. Put your hands up, lower your weapon and shout loud enough for other players to hear you.

Being hit means you are no longer in the game. Unless there are medic rules in play. A medic can save you from going back to your spawn point. 

Medics are allowed to revive you (all of the Call of Duty fans will be familiar with this) and bring you back into the game immediately.

However, not all skirmish sites allow medics.

To make gameplay fair, once you've been hit, you are no longer able to communicate with your team. This is commonly referred to as 'dead men don't talk'. This is to stop you from giving away enemy positions.

Don't worry though, being hit doesn't mean your day is over.

It means you simply go back to your respawn point. Your respawn point will be outlined by a site marshall at the start of every game. 

You make your way back here each time you're hit and simply rejoin the action once you've spawned again.

There are some important things to keep in mind during most airsoft games:

  • If a BB hits your rifle, it can be classed as a weapon hit. If your gun is in a window and a BB strikes the barrel, this is not a hit.

  • Playing airsoft indoors means BBs will bounce off walls, doorframes and the floor. These are called ricochets. If you're hit by a ricochet, this is also not a hit. However, if you're in doubt about whether you've been hit or not, we recommend declaring yourself hit. This avoids accusations of cheating.

  • If a grenade is thrown into a room you're defending, you can hide behind hardcover to stay alive. Hardcover is usually doors, walls, and anything you couldn't physically move. If you're unable to get behind cover and you're within 5 meters of that grenade, you've been hit.

  • You cannot shoot what you cannot see. This is called blind fire. You're not allowed to hold your airsoft gun out of doors, over objects or through windows without being behind the gun. This rule is for safety. You have to be behind the weapon system before you start unloading your magazine.

  • You cannot shoot through small gaps. Most marshalls on game day will define what a small gap is (typically nothing smaller than an A4 piece of paper). This stops players from shoving a replica assault rifle through the crack of a door and firing BBs at people.

  • Smoke grenades are a great use of cover but can be extremely toxic. Most airsoft sites do not allow smoke grenades to be thrown into rooms for player safety. Because smoke grenades can be purchased on-site, it's worth checking the rules on where you can and can't throw them first.

Sidenote: we've generalised rules here to give you an idea of what a typical gameday looks like. Every airsoft site in the UK will have its own rules. 

Licenses and Laws

Airsoft guns can be extremely realistic. For this reason, the UK Government has introduced a number of laws for the safety of the public.

You'll see and hear the term RIF (realistic imitation firearm) used throughout the airsoft community. This means when an airsoft gun is a replica of a real firearm.

Firearms act

The Policing and Crime Act 2017 helped define the maximum power levels that replica firearms are allowed to have. 

Exceeding these FPS limits is an illegal offence and could result in a prison sentence. 

We've detailed the maximum FPS limits (feet per second) and joule output (power limits) for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland below.

Location

Max FPS and joules for auto

Max FPS for semi-auto

England and Wales

374fps with 0.20g BBs (1.3J)

518fps with 0.20g BBs (2.5J)

Scotland

374fps with 0.20g BBs (1.3J)

518fps with 0.20g BBs (2.5J)

Northern Ireland

328fps with 0.20g BBS (1.0J)

328fps with 0.20g BBs (1.0J)

Violent crime reduction act (VCRA)

The introduction of the Violent Crime Reduction Act (VCRA) 2006 meant people had to have a valid reason (or defence) for purchasing a replica weapon. 

Airsoft players can use a UKARA membership which we detail more later in this guide.

Transportation of airsoft guns

You must have a valid reason for bringing your airsoft gun into a public place. If you are travelling to and from an airsoft site, you can either keep it in the original box or buy a case for your gun. If you do not have a valid reason for having your airsoft replica, it could result in either a fine or being banned from playing the sport.

Costs

For airsoft beginners, you can get into the sport at an affordable price. You don't need to purchase thousands of pounds worth of gear or guns to have fun. A full day of airsoft will usually cost between £30 - £40.

This price will include a hire weapon, eye protection and a bag of BBs. You'll normally be given 3,000 BBs which should be enough. 

But if you've got a heavy trigger finger, you can purchase additional BBs for between £8 - £12 per bottle.

For 8 hours of combat-style fun, not many other activities offer the same adrenaline rush in the same price range. 

If you decide you love playing airsoft, and want to buy a beginner rifle and invest in a new loadout, it can become an expensive hobby. 

However, this is personal preference!

Airsoft can cost as much as or as little as you like.

You certainly don't need expensive chest rigs and airsoft riles to stay in the game. In reality, your ability to navigate the battlefield is where you'll have the greatest advantage.

Buying A Gun

If you've fallen in love with your airsoft hobby then, chances are, you'll want to buy your first airsoft gun. Don't worry, we've been there too.

There are a huge amount of UK retailers to choose from. But, before you do, there are rules you need to follow.

Airsoft retailers and UKARA

We have a full guide on what a UKARA membership is, so we won't go into too much detail here. In short, purchasing a RIF became difficult with the introduction of the VCRA.

But airsoft players can register on the UKARA database after playing 3 games within 2 months.

This proves that you're a regular player and that you're not using your weapon for anything other than airsoft skirmishes.

If you're not likely to play regularly, you can still purchase a two-tone gun without a valid defence. 

Due to the bright colours, it's unlikely that this type of weapon will be confused with a real firearm. But you cannot (and it's an illegal offence to do) spray your guns to look more realistic.

Second-hand Purchases

We wouldn't recommend buying a second-hand airsoft rifle if you're just starting out. Firstly, you get no guarantee the weapon is fully functioning. 

Secondly, you don't know the origin of the rile. Its condition or if it's been resprayed. 

Most airsoft retailers will have beginner guns and starter kits to choose from. They'll also be able to guide you toward the best model and brand for your style of play. Usually at more affordable prices than buying a second-hand gun with a premium.

Types of airsoft guns

Just like in Battlefield or Call of Duty, there are hundreds of guns to choose from. There's snipers, pistols, automatic rifles and so much more. 

It can get confusing for beginner players.

Have no fear though. Below you'll find each type of gun available and what the benefits/features are for that type of weapon.

AEG (Automatic Electric Gun)

The most common replicate found is the trusty AEG (or automatic electric gun). These guns are powered by batteries. 

The same style battery you find in RC cars. They're relatively inexpensive to buy and the vast majority of players you meet will have one.

Most AEGs have three firing modes: safe, semi-auto and fully automatic.

AEGs are simple to run and easy to use. All you need to do is make sure your battery is charged before game day and that your magazines are loaded! 

Spring

The most basic airsoft replicas are spring powered. You're unlikely to find a spring AEG. But a spring sniper rifle or shotgun is likely. Spring-powered replicas are normally less powerful than their AEG counterpart.

They are normally cheaper and great for players who play CQB (close quarter battle) or indoor events. 

We wouldn't recommend using a spring-powered weapon (like a pistol or shotgun) where the vast majority of people are using AEGs.

Gas

Gas-powered replicas are a great deal of fun but require a little more maintenance. Gas weapons use different types of gas (green gas or black gas) to release gas into the hop unit. 

If you're not sure what the hop unit is, we've got a handy guide all about hop up units.

Gas weapons are more realistic because they offer a slight recoil when firing the gun. However, they require regular cleaning and can often lose power in colder months.

The most common type of gas-powered gun is a pistol. The gas causes the pistol to mimic a real firearm with the slide moving back before firing a BB. 

GBB (gas blowback) rifles are expensive and less common. They have a smaller magazine capacity (usually 30 maximum) which can put you at a distinct disadvantage on the field. 

They're best suited for milsim game days.

HPA

HPA means high-pressure air. These types of airsoft guns use an external canister of high-pressure air; instead of internal gas canisters. 

Similar to gas-powered weapons, HPA guns offer a level of realism that AEG guns can't. It also allows players to have an improved fire rate and improved accuracy (air is more consistent than gas). 

You'll normally see HPA players in close-quarter game modes. 

Gamedays

Most gamedays take place on a Saturday or Sunday. We prefer Saturday games because it gives you Sunday to recover. 

If you've finally made it out to your first airsoft skirmish, well done.

You won't look back.

We recommend you bring lots of water and snacks to keep you hydrated throughout the day. 

You'll meet some amazing people at an airsoft game. More experienced players who can help answer questions about your gear, the game objectives and general advice.

A typical day looks like this:

  • Turn up at least an hour before games start. This gives you the opportunity to prepare your equipment (if you have some with you) and find a place to put your belongings. Most games start between 9:30am - 10:00am.

  • If you have your own gun, you'll need to have it chrono'd. This means a marshal will fire your gun into a device called a chronograph to see if it's within the site's limits. If you're hiring a gun from the site, you won't need to have it checked.

  • Safety briefing can last anywhere from 15 - 20 minutes. Depending on the rules of the game and how many new players are at the site. It's important you pay attention here. This is where specific site rules about injuries, objectives, on-site behaviour and, marshalling are given.

  • Games can last up to 1.5 hours or as little as 30 minutes. Most airsoft sites will have a warm-up game for 30 minutes at the start of the day. This gives people the opportunity to get rid of some of their nerves and learn more about the site.

Fitness

A day of airsoft is extremely physical. You'll be running most of the day and your adrenaline will be sky-high.

On an average day, you could burn up to 2,000 calories.

We're not saying you have to be a veteran athlete to play airsoft. You really don't. But if you'd like to get stuck into the action, fitness definitely plays a huge role. If you're struggling with the pace of play, have a breather.

Theres' no harm in catching your breath before heading back out onto the field.

Types of games

Airsoft games aren't limited to team deathmatch. 

There's plenty of fun and inventive types of games that you're likely familiar with already. For example, capture the flag (CTF) or domination. 

These objective-based games are great fun and require teamwork and communication from start to finish.

Sometimes games have a single objective, other times there are multiple objectives to complete.

Clothing and protection

Aside from buying your first weapon, your safety, and the safety of others, is paramount. 

Airsoft can hurt and leave bruises and welts on your skin. Depending on how and where you've been hit.

Throughout the UK, airsoft sites have introduced mandatory requirements for beginner airsoft players under 18. 

If you're under 18 you must wear full mask protection. This is to stop you from being seriously hurt. Airsoft players have had teeth shot out during games. And most insurance waivers that you sign do not take responsibility for this type of injury.

If you're over 18 in the UK it's your choice to wear full face protection or not. The only mandatory piece of safety equipment you're required to wear is eye protection. Either mesh glasses or ballistic-grade plastic goggles/glasses.

Boots

It's always recommended that you wear boots with proper ankle support. You'll likely be playing in a derelict building or a woodland environment. 

There will be holes, uneven flooring, trip hazards to look out for. 

If you roll your ankle, it's game over for you. 

A great pair of boots will give you grip and support for most situations. They keep your little feet warm and dry (playing in the UK, this is a God-send). 

If you decide to wear trainers, this is at your own risk. You're almost guaranteed to end up with a leg or foot injury if you do.

Don't be that person! Look after your feet and they'll look after you.

Load-carrying equipment

The most complicated part of your kit will be your load-carrying equipment. By this, we mean chest plates or chest rigs. 

This will be where your magazines, loose ammo and grenades are stored. It also acts as an extra form of protection.

Buying your tactical vest can be tricky. Lucky for you, we've made it a lot easier.

  • Chest rig: a strip of pouches that sit across your torso. Chest rigs offer little protection from BBs but are great for agility and speed.

  • Assault vest: fully covers and protects your torso. Due to the size of an assault vest, you have more places for storage. It can (and does) impede movement.

  • Plate carrier: in the real world (i.e., the military) plate carriers are designed to carry plates for ballistic protection. In airsoft, a plate carrier will protect your chest and mid-torso.

  • Shooter belts or belt kit: if you don't fancy (or need) a heavy vest, a belt offers a more traditional way of carrying your magazines. You can buy extra molle pouches and admin pouches for holding empty magazines if you need them.

Summary

Starting airsoft can become an amazing long-term hobby for you and your friends. If you're in a position where you have the time (and money) to get started, we highly recommend it.

Airsoft is a great way to find new friends and keep fit without breaking the bank.

We hope you're now ready to take the next step in learning how to play airsoft.

If you have any feedback for us, please let us know. If there's anything you'd like to know more of or if you have questions, we're here to help.

Welcome to the airsoft community!

First Airsoft is the go-to source for everything airsoft. We're a small team of experience airsoft players committed to helping you become a better play. Move fast, stay low, aim straight.
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