A few months ago, I had the pleasure of testing some new products from a couple of different Airsoft equipment companies and seeing just how useful they might be for serious training and development of shooting skill with the handgun.
I am no stranger to Airsoft products and have tried out many of them over the years. From force on force drills and scenarios to working on increase a range of other shooting and processing skills, there are a host of things that can be improved. However, the early products themselves were fragile and did not lend themselves to extensive use. In particular, the magazines which store the green gas seemed to break whenever they hit the ground.
While the magazine issues remain the same as far as being fragile, the Airsoft “guns” themselves have come a long way.
I chose to try out a handgun that is a copy of the handgun I currently use. The brand of the Airsoft pistol was a Tokyo Marui that had been worked on by the guys at BAM Airsoft to make it more serviceable for extended use as well as more efficient. I believe they also hopped up the velocity a little bit as well. I also tried out a couple of Airsoft handguns from another manufacturer.
I was impressed by the quality of the gun itself, particularly the sights and trigger. After filling the magazines with gas, I put the gun through its paces. Accuracy wise, the gun could easily hit within a few inches of what I was aiming at out to 20 yards. On slow fire strings, shot after shot, the speed of the pellets remained consistent until I neared the end of the gas capacity of the magazine. The trigger was light and crisp and perfectly serviceable for the type of shooting I was doing. The sights were excellent. You can even put in a fiber optic front sight if you choose to make it more rapidly visible.
One of the problems I had noted on previous Airsoft pistols, particularly the 1911 models with the single stack magazine gas reservoir, was how quickly velocity from shot to shot decreased when shooting rapidly. This is not as big a problem on the bigger magazines but still happened.
More Bang for Your Training Bucks
On this particular model, with its bigger magazine, I found I could shoot very rapidly for almost the entire magazine before the velocity noticeably decreased. At this point, by swapping magazines every 15 shots or so, I could continue a high rate of velocity shot to shot for extended strings of fire. Having multiple magazines and swapping them out as they cool is a key part of extended usage.
However, where you can really get literally more bang for your training bucks and make it convenient is getting some of the new Airsoft targets that are now available! Now you can set up an array of light aluminum knockdown targets and really practice in your garage, basement or other appropriate place with a decent backstop.
Shooting steel has always been a great way to increase speed and reactive shooting ability. It is also great fun and you can go through a lot of rounds in a day and not even realize it.
With the new, reduced-scaled Airsoft targets, you can set up a variety of targets of different sizes and shapes. The ones that I tested were a copy of the Steel Challenge Speed Shooting event, complete with appropriate scale and diagrams for setup. You simply supply the PVC pipe from your local hardware and they have the targets and bases in the kit. I also have a supply of some of their other targets.
I found real value in this arrangement. Not only is it a break from the regular routines of dry fire, but it also forced me to concentrate on really good follow-through after breaking each shot. Using the black pellets forces you to use your sights and not follow the pellet downrange with your eyes. Being able to practice at home allowed me to fit the Airsoft training into my regular dry fire program. For outdoor practice, they are selling biodegradable pellets as well.
You can set up a variety of different drills and exercises very quickly and easily. All you need is a spare room with an appropriate backstop to stop the pellets. You can use a combination of paper and reactive targets and are only limited by your imagination as to combinations.
Fast, Economical Practice
I also experimented with training new shooters with the Airsoft firearms prior to going to live fire. The results were impressive. Not only did they quickly grasp the concepts of sight alignment and trigger control, but the lack of recoil, noise and pressure wave allowed them to focus on shooting well. Before long, they were making precise hits on target and we could move into more advanced drills.
After shooting for a while with the Airsoft guns, students were able to graduate to special reduced practice ammo we manufacture and then on to factory loads. I would have to say that Airsoft guns have a place in law enforcement firearms training programs and I certainly will use them in the future.
For fast, economical practice in settings that involve minimal setup, for practice indoors when the weather is snowy, raining, etc., for training higher volumes of shooting without the wear and tear on the hands, joints and body, and for force on force training, Airsoft has real advantages. No longer is it just a game. I see it as a part of training smarter, not harder. Besides, it is just a blast to train with!
While you can find different vendors for Airsoft guns, I used the following company as I felt they have a better grasp of actual training needs. They also make a full set of different reactive targets for shooter. Tell them you saw it on PoliceOne!