Throughout Colorado and the nation, there exists a large group of people who enjoy airsoft — people who spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on toy guns, military surplus camouflage, less-than-military-grade equipment, survival gear and even vehicles specifically for use in the sport. There exist people who wake up in the wee hours of the morning every weekend to travel far and near to different so-called “area of operations.” They are business owners, field managers, former military, college students, grade school students, parents and more.
I, too, love and adore the sport of airsoft. Airsofters generally love guns, have an admiration of the armed forces, love the outdoors and even love video games. More importantly, most of us abide by a code of integrity that allows us to enjoy the sport to begin with.
Airsoft, the cousin of paintball, is a sport where 6 mm plastic pellets are shot from ultra-realistic weapons by a mechanized internal gearbox which compresses air enough to shoot these plastic pellets at a speed of 400 feet per second. However, these airsoft pellets, or BBs, don’t hit as hard or make as much of a mess as a paintball does, namely because BBs are smaller and don’t contain paint.
Airsoft’s smaller projectile size allows for more realistic weaponry, as they do not require a large external compressed air tank or wider barrel than what you would commonly see on the real weapons themselves; airsoft BBs are able to fit inside a regular gun’s magazine, whereas paintballs usually reside in a fist-sized hopper above the paintball gun which feeds the paintballs into the paintball gun.
Despite the advantages the smaller projectile size brings, there are plenty of disadvantages, namely that it simply does not hit as hard as a paintball does and has no way of “marking” a player. Thus, airsofters have developed a serious code of integrity, which all players must follow in order for the game to function. Essentially you must call your “hits” and be honest about when you have been tagged. Surprisingly, most airsofters follow this code; although cheating does happen, it’s rarer than one would think.
Airsoft games are usually run by separating two teams that have a similar color scheme of camouflage, such as the tan team for tan style camouflage and green team for green style camouflage. Players are then given objectives by the field hosts that they must complete in order to win or lose the game. The most common game types include eliminating the enemy team, capture an objective, escort an objective, or defend a fortified area for a set time against improbable odds.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about airsoft is the feeling of immersion that sets in once the game starts. You’ve got a rifle, some ammunition and a group of players in military uniforms all with the same objective in mind. Yet, on the other side there’s a team consisting of the same materials determined to fight you every step of the way. This makes for incredible scenarios and creative thinking since you’re now exchanging fire with the enemy team in an effort to complete your objectives.
It’s different from video games where you’re controlling somebody and suffer virtually zero consequences from things like sprinting, bad positioning and poor awareness. In airsoft, you must take into account everything associated with being outdoors (read: stamina) as well as keep your head down to avoid getting hit and protect your team.
Although sitting in a ditch in a Colorado forest with toy guns and less-than-military-grade gear and training is certainly a far cry from what the men and women of our armed forces do abroad, it is perhaps as close as one can get without the consequence of death or without having to actually join the military.
If you’ve been looking to find a new outdoor hobby, I would highly recommend trying out airsoft some weekend as it’s among the most satisfying weekend entertainment that I’ve had the chance to partake in.
Entertainment writer Diego Carrera can be reached at email@example.com