Modern Airsoft guns
If you haven’t considered Airsoft replica guns lately, or at all, you might be surprised at what you can get for a relatively small investment. Before we go any farther, when I’m discussing Airsoft replicas I’m not talking about the cheap spring and “AA” battery operated toys you give your kids.
Modern Airsoft replica guns are constructed not just from plastic, but from aluminum as well. These semi-automatic pistols are offered in CO2 configuration. That’s right — they use the very same CO2 powerlet cartridges you used for your BB gun as a kid. The older “Green Gas” Airsoft guns use a fuel that is essentially canned propane, but tough to find locally.
Crosman has a number of CO2-powered, semi-automatic Airsoft guns that will work as FOF replica trainers. I’ve had the chance to work with their Models CP02 and GBB. The CP02 is a near replica of the S&W M&P, and the GBB is essentially the Beretta 92. Both are made of aluminum and polymer, use detachable magazines and fire 6mm plastic BBs at around 300 feet per second. Three hundred feet per second seems to be the “just right” mark for Airsoft replica training. The BB is traveling fast enough to produce the desired pain stimulus needed for realistic training, but not so fast as to create a penetration hazard.
Every marking cartridge company offers their own style of safety gear. My experience has been that the gear is about three to four times the cost of paintball safety gear, while performing the same job. I prefer to hit the local sporting goods retailer and purchase the paintball goggle/mask sets. If they can stop a .68-caliber paintball at 300 FPS they can stop a 20-gram BB. There are some new mask kits with a skull cap to protect the top of your head. I like that option. Other than a neck wrap and optional athletic cup for the guys, that’s all the safety gear you need. Protecting the cranial/facial region is most important.
The worst thing you can do is let your people dress in multiple layers like they are going on an arctic expedition. If they can’t feel the sting from the hit they won’t be worried about getting “shot” and the training will have little value. Negative reinforcement via pain is an excellent motivator to use cover and move your feet to get away from the incoming rounds.
Adding it up
I’ve found the Crosman CP02 pistols at my local Academy Outdoors for about $59 each. Protective masks average from $30 to $50, depending on how ninja you want to be. The BB ammunition is priced a thousand for a few bucks. Finish the package with a box of CO2 powerlets for $3 and you have an investment of about $100 per kit per man.
As long as you maintain your gear, the only thing you’ll have to replace are CO2 cartridges and BBs, and that will cost a couple pennies a shot. This is naturally a significant savings over Sims marking cartridges and firearms conversion kits.
Are Airsoft replicas the final answer? Of course not, but they are definitely a viable option for training departments with tight budgets. The value of the training is not in the cost of the gear, but the scenarios and training routines that you, as the individual instructor, put together.