Since I own several Airsoft guns and frequently drool over Pyramid Air’s website myself, it’s important to discuss what responsible Airsoft, bb gun and pellet gun users say about their use. Airsoft users like to fly under the radar by responsibly casing their tools. The forums always have an experienced user who tells others they should treat their instruments like the real thing, never exposing them in public. It is well known that they will be treated like firearms until empirical evidence says they aren’t.
It is important to go into “it’s a replica, not a real gun” mode as soon as possible, despite the adrenaline flow. The best way for an officer to do this is to completely “out-skill” the suspect. How does one do that? Train, train, train.
Constant training means an officer’s skill is better than the best shooter out there and one only has to overcome a suspect’s dumb luck. Decision making also keeps an officer’s upper hand. For example, I always had a magazine of eight one-ounce slugs (plus 12 additional rounds on the gun) for a “person with a gun” call. This was a result of a decision made long before getting in the car. This gun was (and still is) sighted at 100 yards, my preferred standoff distance. Since I was toting a shotgun, I was often cover for someone handcuffing. For the record, it’s always been a Remington 870 Express Tactical. If I was still in a patrol car, I would switch to a Versa Max, a more flexible platform with the same reliability.
Do not be politically correct
In police work, political correctness is dangerous. Communication has to be brief and direct, and pointing a gun at unarmed people can be tactically sound. I know that armchair quarterbacking does not support this, but I tell students to point their guns directly at suspect, finger out of the trigger until it’s time to do otherwise. Later, the weapon, or replica, can be determined. If this does not play well in local newspapers, that’s too bad.
Replica firearms have their place in the world, but like any other instrument, they are subject to the discretion of the user. They create a special issue for the law enforcement officer. Like any special law enforcement issue, training is the key.
Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer who teaches at Hartnell College in Salinas, California. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.