HOW AIRSOFT GUNS FIT INTO FIREARMS TRAINING
Over the past three chapters, we’ve been preparing you for this final lesson: how to use airsoft guns to supplement your training. This might seem like a short chapter, but we promise it won’t be anti-climatic.
While we won’t include absolutely everything you need to know for firearms training, we will cover everything relevant to how airsoft guns fit into that regime.
FIREARM SAFETY 101
First, let’s do a quick recap of gun safety rules. As we stressed several times already in this course, these are the same no matter what type of gun you’re using.
- Never let your firearm point toward something you don’t intend to shoot. Consider shooting something to destroy it entirely, even if it won’t realistically be able to do so.
- Other than your primary self-defense weapon, your firearms should always be unloaded unless you’re using them. Even with your primary self-defense weapon, it should only be safely and securely stored while loaded if you have a relatively high level of competence as judged by a reliable tutor.
- Even if you’re 100% certain the firearm is unloaded, treat it as if it were loaded.
- Never place your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to fire. Do not rely on any safety mechanisms to prevent an accident if you accidentally squeeze the trigger.
- Always be as aware as possible of what’s behind your target and what your target is exactly.
- You should aim to know your firearm better than the back of your hand.
- Always ensure your firearm is operable and safe to use before doing so.
- Never make any upgrades, modifications, or other alterations to your firearm. For airsoft guns, make sure any real firearm accessories (such as a scope or laser sight) are compatible before using it.
9. Only use the correct ammunition type, as prescribed by the manufacturer for your exact model.
10. If your firearm fails to discharge, wait 30 seconds before carefully removing the problematic ammunition round. For airsoft guns, this could mean a faulty gas cartridge.
11. Always use the appropriate safety gear, especially ear and eye protection.
12. Never handle any firearm while under the influence of any substance likely to impair your physical and mental state.
If there’s one thing you should memorize in this course, it’s these rules. Repeat them like a mantra if you need to, but make sure you have them in mind every time you’re anywhere near a firearm.
AIRSOFT TRAINING SAFETY
Now we can get into the specifics of airsoft training safety.
This primarily has to do with where, when, and how you practice with your airsoft gun.
We won’t be covering competition and mock-battle training and participation, as these might have additional safety rules. The organizers will ensure all relevant safety information is readily available to you.
If you’ve already been practicing dry-firing, then you’ll be glad to know there aren’t any additional steps to be taken for transitioning to airsoft training.
However, this might serve as a brief revision for you, though there are additional safety rules not applicable for airsoft use and therefore not included below.
- Select a designated area for dry-firing and/or airsoft training. This should preferably be outside, against a backdrop that’s capable of absorbing or stopping a bullet if you accidentally fire your real gun.
- Use designated target patterns for each type of firearms training: one for dry-firing, a different one for airsoft guns, and a third type for live fire. For the latter, this will largely be dependent on what your range offers, so be sure not to replicate their design when choosing your dry-firing and airsoft targets.
- Never allow any ammunition to enter your designated area with you, other than your airsoft ammunition. This is the only ammunition that should ever be in this area. No other ammunition should be within sight, including in your pockets.
- A dry-firing session should never last more than 15 minutes, which is a good limit when starting airsoft training as well. You can slowly increase your airsoft session duration as you progress, but never do so with dry-firing. This allows you to maintain the highest possible level of concentration during your training sessions at home.
- Remember to include an extra 10 to 15 minutes at the start and end of your sessions when setting a schedule for yourself. This allows for preparing your firearms, yourself, and your designated area, as well as closing the session properly.
- If you’re combining your dry-fire and airsoft session, end it by setting your firearm aside and telling yourself (out loud) that the session is over and you will not be practicing again today. Once you’re 100% in that mindset, you may remove yourself and your firearms from the area, clean and reload them as appropriate, then store them.
- Never, ever allow yourself to take “just one more shot” after ending a session. This is the number one reason for accidents, especially with dry-firing.
We find it useful to have these rules printed out and posted in your designated area as well as where you store your firearms. If you are planning on combining dry-fire sessions with airsoft training, however, we recommend using the full set of dry-fire safety rules. You can find these in our Handguns 101 course.
In the previous section, we alluded to combining dry-firing and airsoft training sessions. To ensure you do so in a safe, responsible manner, here’s how we suggest doing so.
Bear in mind other practitioners might have different approaches to combined sessions. This is merely the way we find works best for us.
Start with an abbreviated dry-firing session. Whereas your normal dry-firing session might last up to 15 minutes, keep it down to 5 or 10 minutes here. You can then switch to airsoft training, making sure to change targets as well.
When starting out, we recommend keeping the airsoft training part of these combined sessions down to 5 or 10 minutes too. This helps keep your focus as sharp as possible and prevents bad habits from creeping in and compromising your efforts to build positive muscle memory.
As you progress, you might choose to extend your airsoft training duration. Do so slowly, building your way up to as many as 200+ shots and alternate between shorter and longer sessions. Never give in to the temptation to increase your dry-firing duration!
If you prefer, you can also close your sessions with another brief dry-firing. We recommend sandwiching your airsoft training with two 5-minute sessions of dry-firing if you do decide to go this route.
Whether doing combined sessions or focusing purely on using airsoft guns to supplement your firearms training, there’s a simple session structure we find works best. This isn’t merely based on our own experience, however – it’s inspired by the way the professionals structure their sessions.
Especially as a beginner, you’ll want to start by reviewing the absolute basics. Your first several sessions should be focused entirely on things like precision shooting (holding your target) and trigger control.
As you progress, your basics revisions can start giving way to practicing more advanced skills. However, don’t stop going through the basics – this is something even the experts start every session with.
A good way to transition into more advanced techniques is to start with practicing your draw. Go slowly, making sure you’re able to draw and shoot on-target with a relatively high level of accuracy (anything above 70% will do – 85% if you’re something of a perfectionist).
As you find yourself hitting 90% accuracy, start speeding up until you’ve started dropping down to around 80% again.
Once you’re able to draw to shoot with between 85% and 90% accuracy at a decent speed – fast enough to put down a dangerous assailant – work at maintaining this level of competency.
You don’t need to shoot as fast as the Sundance Kid (remember that movie?) unless you’re participating in quick-draw competition shooting.
Remember to vary your distance from your target as well. Airsoft guns lose accuracy after a certain point (as well as when your gas cartridge starts approaching empty), so establish the furthest possible distance you can still match with your best speed and accuracy ratio.
With this distance in mind, start switching between firing from close-range up to that same point. It’s best to begin with expending at least one full load of ammunition before moving to the next distance point.
But as you progress, start adding some dynamic movement to your sessions by constantly shifting your position in every direction while aiming to match your stationary best score.
At the end of the session, no matter its length and complexity, always spend some time reviewing the basics again. This is to help you pick up on any deviations that need attention, especially when it comes to trigger control and sight-focus (maintaining your target).
If you’re doing a combined session and ending with dry-firing, then do the basics twice – first with your airsoft gun to benefit from its shot accountability, then again with your firearm.