What is Airsoft?
Airsoft is a team shooting sport in which players eliminate members of the opposing team by hitting them with bbs, fired from a replica air weapon, otherwise known as an airsoft gun. As bbs are so small and leave no apparent mark on a player, the game relies on honesty and the players acknowledging when they've been shot. In terms of gameplay, in particular, the types of missions and objectives played, Airsoft is very similar to paintball. Many players notice that Airsoft is more tactical, often following a sort of military simulation, in comparison to paintball which tends to be more aggressive and sport-like.
How do I get into Airsoft?
Like most things, the best way to start doing something is to ... start doing it! Head out to your local site and get playing! Of course we recommend starting your airsoft journey here at Mayhem, but if you're not local to our end of the country, you can find your closest here! Many airsoft sites offer rental packages, so you don't need to worry about buying your own equipment to try it out. If you have a friend or two that you can rope into coming along with you, we'd love to meet you all! If not, don't stress, the airsoft community is renowned for being an open, diverse, and super friendly bunch. Don't be shy about letting people know it's your first time, everybody has to start somewhere and it's a great way of introducing yourself to the community. Staff and other players will look out for you and point you in the right direction. As I said, the airsoft community is an incredibly friendly, chatty bunch, so ask all the questions you like!
Another good way of getting to know people and getting answers to your questions is to join our page, Mayhem Airsoft, on Facebook. Here you'll be able to meet our regular players, introduce yourself, get gameplay tips and advice on equipment! You'll also be able to keep up to date with all of our Airsoft related events. It's a great resource, even if you're not local to our site.
Once you've decided you'd like to become a fully-fledged airsofter, you'll need a UKARA license. Airsoft guns are normally replicas of real weapons, because of this, a license is needed to purchase one. UKARA (United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association) is essentially a big database of all the people that have a legitimate reason to purchase a RIF (Realistic Imitation Firearm). Once you have a license, you'll be able to purchase all your airsoft kit and equipment fairly easily. To get a license, you have to have played 3 (or more) times, across a period longer than 56 days, and be over the age of 18. Talk to your local site and log your days. On or after your third site visit, the site will be able to process your application and sign you up, you'll receive an email with a UKARA number and then you're good to go! A more detailed version of this information can be found here!
What to buy first?
Surprisingly to many, the most important part of your airsoft setup isn't your gun. Eye protection, without a doubt (in our humble opinion anyway) is the most important piece of kit and should be your first purchase.
Being shot in the eye will result in serious injury, if not blindess. It's that simple. If you don't want to blind yourself, always treat your RIF as if it is live, even if the safety is on; wear your eye protection whenever you're handling an airsoft gun. Eye protection MUST ALWAYS be work when in a live play area.
Now that I've sufficiently scared you, let's have a chat about the types of eye protection. There is a multitude of options, asking other players is a good place to get some honest reviews on products, but people will always advocate for their choice of protection. If possible, try out different styles of protection and find what suits you, before purchasing your own. Now would probably be a good time to mention that under 18s MUST wear full-face protection at all times when in the game zone.
Being that I also love playing paintball, I find that my paintball goggles double up as airsoft eye protection perfectly well. Personally, I play in Dye I5's, but there are a ridiculous amount of super comfy paintball goggles that will do the same job (and are considerably cheaper). Paintball goggles offer the most protection as they cover the entirety of your face and, depending on the type you go for, often your ears and the top of your head too. That being said, airsoft is a tactical game, and once you've played a few times you'll see that your outfit can actually give you a tactical advantage (or put you at a disadvantage). Completely opposite to paintballers and their bright, colourful playing clothes; it's rare to find an airsofter that isn't head to toe in camouflage. Wearing paintball goggles often means you break your stealth camouflage and so many players opt for smaller, more discrete eye protection options so they can keep their camo paint on.
Mesh goggles or glasses are a favourite for many players as they are impossible to steam up. Steam or fog occurs when your body heat gets trapped in your goggles and leaves a mist on the inside of your lenses, making them quite difficult to see through. However, there is always a possibility of bbs shattering, and should a bb shatter as it collides with your mesh, there is an opportunity for eye injury, so the amount of protection they actually offer is variable.
Smaller goggles that just cover your eyes may be the optimal choice if you want to keep your eyes safe but don't want to surrender your camo paint. They are less likely to fog-up as it's pretty hard to breathe into them if they're on your face properly and they are a lot more secure than plastic glasses. I prefer paintball goggles as they prevent you from taking a bb to the cheek, but there are various types of mesh face shields available that offer similar face protection.
This follows on from the eye protection debate. Players that are over 18 are technically only required to protect their eyes, but I think it'd be silly not to take all the protection you can get. There will always be a compromise between protection and your ability to play efficiently. If you're head to toe in armour, you've probably gone too far; a set of full-face goggles will suffice.
If you like to feel the wind on your cheeks and like the breathability of mesh, there are plenty of options out there. Check out I am Airsoft for an up to date debate on new types of face and eye protection.
Now for the good stuff... Guns!
Airsofters of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels turn into absolute geeks when talking about our guns. For many people, it's the RIFs that pique their interest and draw them into the game.
Airsoft guns or RIFs fall into 5 main categories; these categories depend on the type of original gun they are based on:
The beauty of airsoft guns is that they are highly customisable. Starting off with a pretty basic gun allows you to add the upgrades that will actually improve your playing. When you start playing more regularly, you'll quickly realise that guns go down and require maintenance surprisingly often, so I'd recommend starting off with something simple and reliable while you learn the ropes. Exactly what that simple and reliable gun is, I couldn't possibly tell you as it's pretty much entirely down to personal preferences, so here's a nice article for some inspiration.
Airsoft guns are powered in one of two ways; AEGs (Automatic Electric Guns) are powered by battery, other guns by HPA (high pressured air). This is yet another controversial topic among airsofters. Some players find that AEGs are closer replicas to the original guns, others find the performance of modern HPAs is too good to even consider anything else. Most of the time, the deciding factor will be your budget. HPAs are, on average, more expensive than their AEG counterpart. You can very quickly get lost down the rabbit hole of online debates, so my best advice would be to make friends with people who already have these guns and test them out yourself, see what you prefer, and go from there
Some guns have a ‘Blowback’ feature, meaning that they simulate a recoil when fired, making the shot feel more realistic. This feature can be found in both AEGs and HPAs.
The airsoft elders love a good abbreviation, so I've compiled some of the common ones below. These are all various terms for different types of guns. They're often classified by their method of power, the original they were replicated on, or whether they have blowback features or not.
Batteries, what's the difference?
So you've finally decided you're going to purchase an AEG. You've considered the options, weighed the pros and cons and you're ready to commit! Congrats! But now comes the issue of batteries.
There are various types of batteries available for airsoft guns, each boasting about their unique properties that make your gun shoot faster, your hair shinier and your teeth whiter. As always, there are pros and cons to everything. Whatever you choose, all batteries will generally hold their charge as long as they are left disconnected from the RIF. If you leave your battery in your gun when you store it, the charge will slowly deplete and you'll eventually drain the battery. So don't do that. It's also a sensible idea to have a few, fully charged batteries with you whenever you go out to play. If your battery dies while on field, it can be quickly replaced and you can continue playing with your weapon of choice.
You'll find som
NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride)
NiMH batteries are a cheap and reliable way to power your airsoft gun and generally give a decent charge, although they may slowly discharge over time. Unlike some others, NiMH batteries allow you to recharge even if the battery is only part drained, without decreasing the overall capacity. Although slower to charge than LiPo batteries, a NiMH battery offers the safest option. If you are just getting started in airsoft a NiMH battery is perfect for you!
LiPo (Lithium Polymer)
LiPo's, on average, offer the highest voltage supply and so are a great upgrade for users with advanced airsoft guns. They allow for the highest charge in the smallest possible package and can be charged at an incredible speed. LiPo batteries have absolutely no memory issues and can be charged from a partially full state without negative effects. Although dramatically increasing capacity and voltage, LiPo batteries are less durable than NiMH batteries and are prone to failure due to charging issues.
LiPo batteries are an incredible upgrade, although are only typically used by experienced airsoft players with upgraded airsoft guns, as as they often require gun upgrades such as MOSFET units to run larger capacity LiPo batteries. If your gun does not have a MOSFET and you wish to run a LiPo battery the maximum voltage that should be used without causing harm is 7.4V.
NiCAD/NiCD (Nickel Cadmium)
Do yourself a favour and avoid these batteries. They are no longer used in modern airsoft guns. Nickel Cadmium batteries suffer greatly due to the need to discharge the battery completely before recharging. If this isn’t completed correctly a portion of the storage capacity (memory), will be lost during each charge. With the risk of exploding when charged too quickly and a tendency to slowly discharge over time Nickel Cadmium batteries should be avoided at all costs.
1. How important are goggles/face protection?
A more detailed discussion can be found above. But, to cut a long story short, the real question here is how important are your face and eyes to you? Face and eye protection come in a variety of forms, and while it is down to personal preference on which you opt for, it is crucial that you have them. You don't need to spend an arm and a leg on the newest, top of the range set of goggles, but you do need quality protection. Don't buy super cheap plastic on eBay and expect things to go well. Stick to a recognised brand, preferably one that designs specifically for airsoft (or paintball), do your homework, and keep your eyeballs intact.
2. Why should I wear mesh goggles or lenses?
This is an endless debate in the airsoft world. To keep it simple, goggles offer maximum protection, but mesh is lightweight and does not fog up. I personally recommend Dye I5's (or I4s) as they are a super comfortable (and secure) fit and offer great protection. That being said, there are cheaper alternatives. The best way to find out what works for you is to try out different styles. Make friends, borrow their kit, and see what works for you before purchasing something. If you go for a paintball style of goggle over mesh, choose something with double glazed lenses (this will drastically reduce the amount they fog up).
3. Is it expensive to play?
In comparison to similar activities, airsoft is incredibly cheap. Here at Mayhem, a day of airsoft will cost you £25 if you have your own equipment and bbs. If you don't yet have your own equipment, we also offer rental packages. Unlike paintball, many sites allow you to use your own bbs, so you can cut costs by buying in bulk if you plan to play regularly. Kit and equipment are also reasonably priced - a Tippman Commando (M4) can be purchased from around £140.
4. How old do I have to be to play?
The minimum age for players is 12. That being said, restrictions and limits vary between sites, so it's best to call ahead and double-check if you're planning to play with younger players. Players under 18 must wear protection that covers their face, temples, and ears alongside their eye protection. You have to be at least 18 to get a UKARA license.
5. Is it a kid's game?
Put simply, no. Whilst there are younger players (and we do encourage younger players to take up the game), the average airsofter is well into their adult years. The airsoft community is large and incredibly diverse, with a love for the game as our unifier. Because of this, you don't have to bully your children into playing if you want to test it out. You don't need to come with a group to really join in, and by the end of the day you'll be talking to your fellow airsofters as if you've known them for years.
6. Does airsoft hurt?
BBs are light and lose power over distance, so whether it hurts or not depends on your own pain tolerance, where on your body you get hit, and from what distance. If you're comparing airsoft to paintball, it doesn't hurt at all. If you're worried about the impact, wear some extra layers and you'll hardly feel it at all.
7. Do women play airsoft?
Yes, there are women that play airsoft. That being said, at any given site there will be considerably more men playing. This is something we're actively trying to change, so if you have any tips or suggestions on how we can encourage women to play airsoft, we'd love to hear from you! Get in contact with us via our Facebook page
8. What is UKARA?
UKARA is the United Kingdom Airsoft Retailer's Association. As airsoft guns are technically RIFs (Realistic Imitation Firearms), by law, retailers are required to check that the person buying them has a legitimate reason for doing so (such as being an airsoft player). Because of this, regular players have to get a UKARA license before they purchase a RIF. UKARA is essentially a large database of all players who can purchase a RIF. To get a license, you must have played 3 or more times across a period of longer than 56 days and be over 18. You can check out their website for more information here.
Whether your an airsoft veteran or a first-timer, we want to hear from you. Follow our Facebook page to meet the wider community, learn tips and tricks, and be part of the conversation!