The definitive airsoft guide for entry level players.

What is Airsoft? We’re glad you asked!.

Airsoft is a shooting sport where players compete by shooting little plastic pellets (BBs) using a dummy firearm known as an airsoft gun. You shoot at other players in an attempt to tag each other out. It’s like paintball, but more fun (IMO of course).

Ever wanted to try to live out your modern first-person shooter fantasy? Airsoft is about as close as it gets outside of expensive simunitions. Check out this video by Jet the Desert Fox to get a glimpse of the great fun you can have.

We’ve been playing airsoft for over 2 decades at Airsoft Core. We have written guides on everything from what airsoft gun beginners should buy to what is Milsim and what you should try it. We’ve gotten hundreds of people into the sport – and we’re happy to tell you all about it!

Below is our airsoft beginner guide.

beginner's guide to airsoft intro header

What is Airsoft?

This game emerged in Japan in the 1980s before moving to Europe, then North America, and finally became popular worldwide. While it is very close to paintball, several elements set these games apart, including:

  • Airsoft is considered an “honor sport” as players get to call their hits since the plastic projectiles used do not leave any mark or mess on the target, as is the case with paintballs. 
  • Most airsoft players get to buy their own BBs and guns, allowing for more fun game time. However, since most airsoft guns look realistic, some states will require you to obtain a license, making it essential to check your local laws.
  • Airsoft has outstanding military simulations as it can be used to pit groups of players against each other in a tactical setting. Milsim West is one of the premier milsim organizations and they have events occurring every few months.

Types of Games

A defining strength of airsoft (in additional realistic-looking airsoft guns) is the numerous game variations that you can play depending on your interests, field size, and how much time you have. While the primary rule is to eliminate opponents, each game variation has unique rules to add spice and variety.

Nevertheless, there are three main types of these games from which all other variations are based, and these are:

airsoft sniping tips conclusion image by timothy hackett

Casual

The first organized or semi-organized airsoft game you are most likely to play as a beginner is the casual force-on-force. This game is centered on having two teams battle it out in a field or indoor space until a winner emerges, much like a team deathmatch.

You can play the traditional variation of this game in the simplest settings, as all you need is enough space to accommodate the players. It often takes the shortest time to play as players and do not have to overcome daunting hurdles or deal with complicated rules. These games are mostly simple.

Some of the popular variations of this game include:

  • Free-for-all

In this game variation, all players get to act as individual combatants competing against everyone else. Since there are no teams, the last man standing will be declared the winner. 

  • Capture the flag

As the name suggests, this game aims for the competing teams to try and capture the opponent’s flag. The flag must be visible during the game and can be carried by any player. Once a flag-yielding player is shot, they can either drop the flag for another player to pick in a live flag game or return it to the opponent’s base in a dead flag game.

  • Hostage rescue

The theme of this game is based on the classic rescuers and hostages situation, where one team guards the captives while the other tries to retrieve them. Often the team that has the hostages will have a secure base, which they will try to protect for as long as possible.

  •  King of the hill

This is a siege game where one team plays the role of an attacker trying to gain control of the hill by eliminating the team defending it and taking down their flag.  

  • Seek and destroy

In this game, one team sets out to hunt a hiding team who has to ensure they are not caught or shot. In the end, the winning team will be the one with the highest number of players.

Preparing for a casual airsoft game

  • Familiarize yourself with the rules of the specific game you will be playing. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification from more seasoned players.
  • Learn about your airsoft gun and spend as much time as possible working on your accuracy, weapon handling abilities, and speed before you participate in a game.
  • If you are a beginner, keep everything simple and focus on having fun. This means avoiding those complicated weapons and equipment for as long as possible.
  • Master how to get your head in the game, study your environment, and communicate with your partners.
  • Remember, safety is a top priority even when using a non-lethal training weapon. 
milsim west image of nato forces assaulting a building

Read our guide on how to build a beginner airsoft loadout.

MilSim

MilSim, which is short for military simulation, refers to airsoft game variations that are designed to mimic military operations. Since the primary goal of these games is to attain near realistic scenarios, they are typically marked by:

  • Players who wear distinctive team uniforms that are inspired by renowned military or police units
  • Specific game objectives, backstory, and roles for the players
  • Unique caliber of weapons and equipment that each payer can carry
  • Intensive team preparations, chain of commands, and the need to act like you were in a real-life scenario
  • Longer playtime as most missions are involving and require plays to overcome several hurdles before it comes to an end

Since a MilSim game can be based on any event that requires the attention of a military or police unit, there are countless variations to be played. As such, you have the flexibility of engaging in a mission that could take a couple of hours to complete or one that will see you spend your entire weekend at the battlefront. Some game scenarios played on the casual airsoft can also be included in your missions, and these include:

  • Defuse the bomb
  • Capture the flag
  • Defend/Attack the hill 
  • Rescue the hostages

Preparing for a MilSim game

  • Get the proper clothing and miscellaneous. You will likely be spending several hours or days in your combat uniform, necessitating quality kits that can see you through rugged terrains and extreme weather conditions. Do not forget to equally pay attention to the quality of your inner layer of clothes, including your socks, underwear, and vest.
  • Invest in a “battle-ready” second line of kit that has everything you will need when out on a mission. This often consists of a load-bearing vest, duty belt, tactical gloves, and protective gear.
  • Arm yourself as per the mission you will be part of. Typically, the more challenging your mission, the more battlefield equipment you will need.
  • Have a big enough backpack to carry all your essentials and sustainment items without being too heavy to carry while on the battlefield. Remember to pack wisely and prioritize weatherproof items as you will be spending your time outdoors in a “battle-like” environment.

Read more in our introduction to Milsim.

speedsoft airsoft alternative
Photo by Rodolfo Candido Ochoa

Speedsoft

Speedsoft is a fast-paced and more aggressive airsoft game that requires players to achieve their objectives in the shortest time possible. This game primarily involves fast shootings, minimal loadout, and rapid movements that often see most rounds only last a few minutes. 

You can expect less real-world military tactics during a Speedsoft game and more creative play styles that involve a lot of running, sliding, diving, and vaulting. Since this game offers a more athletic experience, most players tend to opt for athletic and colorful gear over full-military gear.

There are two main styles of this game, namely:

  • The SupAir Speedsoft, famous for imitating a competitive paintball game, and players use inflatable barricades as covers.
  • The SpeedQB.  Players use wooden barricades as cover in this game and focus more on efficiency, creativity, and team collaboration.

Preparing for a speedsoft game

  • Get in shape as you need to move fast for optimal gaming.
  • Opt for lightweight, high-capacity, and powerful weapons that allow you to spray as many BBs as possible without hindering your speed.
  • Learn how to be a good team player as those few minutes in each round require maximum coordination and high levels of efficiency.

Read more in our speedsoft guide.

Where can I play Airsoft?

Airsoft can either be played indoors or outdoors, depending on the specific variation of the game you engage in.

airsoft-outdoor-field

Outdoor Fields

These fields range from simple settings with strategically located barriers or obstacles to more complicated ones that offer players the touch of being in a real-world military mission. A defining advantage of an outdoor field is that there is always room to take advantage of camouflage, stealth, and near-realistic creativity to take out your opponents.  

what's the difference between airsoft and real body armors

Indoor Fields

These are specially designed indoor arenas with close quarter combat (CQB) simulations, barriers, and other features that allow you to enjoy an airsoft game. Since you will be playing in limited area coverage, you can expect more intensiveness and speed to give you the thrills you desire.

How much does Airsoft Cost?

On average, you can expect to spend at least $300 as an airsoft beginner. These costs will cover:

  • Airsoft guns in the beginner range can cost between $100 and $250
  • A battery and charger for your gun will cost between $30 and $50
  • BBs, which can cost $15 for a bag containing 5000 0.2g BB’s.
  • Safety Gear which can vary in cost, but doesn’t need to be expensive.

Note: Some airsoft fields allow you to rent their equipment, which will significantly reduce your initial costs as a beginner.

Here are some buying guides for someone new to airsoft:

russian loadout by chris bast with lmg / pkm

Types of Airsoft Guns

Since airsoft guns mimic real-life military firearms, they range from pistols and assault rifles to sub-machine guns and sniper rifles. You will have various options to choose from low-end categories to high-end options, all designed to suit different players and game requirements. 

Gun Styles 

There are two main airsoft gun styles, namely:

Rifle & Carbines

Airsoft rifles are designed to be wielded with both hands given their length and can offer varied fire modes or single-shot long range, depending on the build. Read our guide on the best airsoft rifles.

Pistols

Similar to real-life pistols, these airsoft guns are small-sized and can be operated with a single hand. Most models offer single-shot formats, lacking the firepower of automatic or semi-automatic rifles. Read our guide on the best airsoft pistols.

Sniper Rifles

Made famous by video games, these airsoft guns are for plinking a handful of rounds accurately. While there are considerations in airsoft to consider (a spherical BB can only fly so far), airsoft sniper rifles make up a large chunk of the type of weapon systems out there. Read our guide on the best airsoft sniper rifle.

Shotguns

Another staple of video games, airsoft shotguns are capable of firing multiple BB’s in a single shot. Some of the best airsoft shotguns are gas operated and are LOADS of fun. Read our guide on the best airsoft shotgun.

milsim west what to expect with NATO forces assault a location

Types of Airsoft Systems

There are three distinct categories of airsoft guns determined by their working mechanisms, namely:

Spring

These airsoft guns use a spring-loaded piston that you have to manually cock into position before shooting your BBs. Often these guns are used for entry-level games or plinking as they are inexpensive. They can also be used in higher-caliber sniper rifles to simulate their bolt-action nature.

Electric

Electric-powered airsoft guns, commonly known as AEG (Automatic electric guns), are the most common variations used in most gameplays. They rely on a battery-powered motor to create tension and compress air in the cylinder to fire the BBs. Since it relies on a hop-up system, it is more stable for most games as it can fire many rounds without any problems. Some models have further been designed to offer a recoil effect, similar to real-life military firearms.

Often, you trade great performance for great realism when deciding on AEG vs GBBR.

Tokyo Marui 1911 MEU Image

Gas

These airsoft guns use compressed green gas or CO2 to shoot BBs and can fall under the following categories:

  • Non-blowback. These guns do not require any mechanical operation (the slide does not reciprocate) while firing BBs, resulting in a higher FPS as no gas is wasted. 
  • Gas blowback. These guns have to utilize the compressed green gas or CO2 to shoot a BB and cycle the slide. They offer a strong recoil because of this mechanism, but this comes with reduced performance and a lower magazine capacity.
  • Gas sniper rifles. These rifles use compressed gas to fire BBs but require manual operation to reset the bolt and fire again.
Airsoft Safety Gear for Newer Players

Does Airsoft Hurt?

Yes, airsoft guns might be considered low-power weapons, but their operating mechanism means they can fire plastic BB’s at a high force. In turn, depending on the impact, you will definitely feel some pain. The primary factors that determine how much pain you will feel are:

  • Area of impact. If you are hit in sensitive areas such as your face, groin, thighs, or neck, you will feel more pain than when you are hit in a covered area. Being hit on the eye can actually be dangerous and even result in blindness, which is why you always need proper eye protection equipment at all times.
  • Range of shooters. An opponent who is closer to you will hit you with BBs at a higher force, which will hurt more.
  • Clothing. Proper clothing will minimize the impact of the BBs shot at you, which is why you always need to gear up correctly before a game. Read our guide on essential safety gear for airsoft beginners.

Also, see our guide on “Does airsoft hurt?”

What Are Some Good Airsoft Videos?

To learn the ins-and-outs of airsoft as a beginner, here are some good videos for you:

Timothy Hackett

Timothy Hackett

Tim has been playing airsoft since 1994. With over a thousand (no lie) airsoft games under his belt he has spent countless hours testing various airsoft guns and tactical gear. He's gotten hundreds (still no lie) of people into the airsoft hobby and is more than willing to spread the love of slinging 6mm plastic to any new player.

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