You can’t deny that Airsoft guns look real, and there is, in fact, a raging debate about the implications for law enforcement agencies and kids throughout the country. Still, Airsoft is a sport, and players know they shouldn’t brandish their guns in the open nor aim at anyone beyond the arena. But if it is just a sport, why do the guns look so real?
Here are four reasons why airsoft guns look so real:
- Airsoft guns are official and licensed replicas.
- Airsoft guns use bespoke and retrofitted craftsmanship.
- Premium-quality airsoft guns use similar materials.
- Airsoft guns are compatible with real accessories.
Toy guns or replicas of actual weapons predate airsoft, such as the Mattel Shootin Shell .45 from the 1950s, but those Fanner cap guns didn’t look or feel authentic. Modern airsoft guns don’t just look or feel like real weapons; they also function as such. Let’s look at why that is.
1. Airsoft Guns Are Official and Licensed Replicas
Many popular airsoft guns are official and licensed replicas of the originals.
The companies that own patents for the originals have licensed airsoft makers to leverage their branded guns. This includes the designs, technology, and engineering, and names or trademarks.
Check out this list of best-selling airsoft guns on Amazon.com. Most of the best sellers on the top 10 or even 20 are licensed replicas, from pistols to semi or fully automatic AEGs. These guns are precise imitations, not derived versions like the toys of the 20th century.
Common Airsoft Gun Brands
Airsoft gun makers pay a hefty fee for the licenses granted by companies such as:
- Sig Sauer
- Heckler & Koch
- ArmaLite or Colt
- Magnum Research
- FN Herstal
Such licensing is futile if airsoft brands don’t make genuine replicas. Why would anyone pay so much for something that doesn’t look real, after all?
Leading airsoft brands like Laylax, Krytac, PTS, ASG, G&G, and Lancer Tactical could design their guns to look like toys. But no airsoft enthusiast is even remotely interested in buying toys.
Plus, that would prevent them from branding the products as Desert Eagle, Glock 19, AR-15, M4 or M5, AK47, or SIG1 MPX submachine gun.
2. Airsoft Guns Use Bespoke and Retrofitted Craftsmanship
Airsoft guns use what’s academically known as backward design.
The licensed airsoft manufacturers have pre-existing plans of famous guns, and backward design enables them to engineer guns with internal components that fit into the precise forms.
Take the gearbox, for example. Real guns don’t use the same gears, pistons, rails, or springs. So, airsoft manufacturers make bespoke gears and retrofit them into the shapes and dimensions of real guns.
Airsoft guns won’t look natural if the manufacturers fail in bespoke retrofitting.
Paintball Guns vs. Airsoft Design
A fitting example is a paintball gun or marker. Paint or paintball air guns don’t look like real rifles because the technology used for these markers demands distinct engineering, which cannot retrofit the internal gears or external components into or onto pre-existing designs.
Thus, you’ll find paintball guns sporting hoppers, compressed air tanks, regulators, and the barrels have bigger bores.
In contrast, airsoft manufacturers have successfully designed and engineered the requisite gears, pistons, compression systems, rails, and other components.
Airsoft Guns Have Better Compatability With Necessary Components
What’s even more commendable is airsoft guns’ compatibility with various motors, batteries, and springs. The companies tweak the internal contours of their gearboxes, motor enclosures, and stocks to snugly accommodate available gears, motors, and batteries, respectively.
Furthermore, companies are making motors and batteries that can conveniently fit into airsoft guns that are licensed replicas of the originals. If the motors and batteries demanded dimensions different from those of the actual firearms, airsoft would have shaped products very differently.
3. Premium-Quality Airsoft Guns Use Similar Materials
The Mattel Fanner series rolled out in the 1950s sported a chrome-plated body and plastic revolving cylinder. But, of course, real guns don’t have such plastic components.
In contrast, many airsoft guns use metals like aluminum, alloys, and other materials that retain the look and feel of the originals.
Airsoft guns aren’t as heavy as real firearms, but if they are built with sturdy materials, they aren’t the lightest either. Check more about the weight of airsoft guns in this article.
Plastic Airsoft Guns
Not all airsoft guns are made of similar materials as the originals. Instead, you’ll find many that are plastic and generally much more affordable. Plastic airsoft guns look like the originals with accurate design and appropriate paint, yet they feel like toys due to the material and weight.
This Elite Force HK Heckler & Koch VP9 from Amazon.com is under $20 and made entirely out of plastic, except for the trigger and firing mechanism, which are metal.
Unfortunately, plastic gears don’t last long, and their efficiency is always up for debate.
Metal Airsoft Guns
On the flip side, premium-quality airsoft guns that use the same or similar materials as the originals are somewhat expensive.
For example, this Evike KJW Full Metal M9 Elite from Amazon.com is all metal, with either aluminum or reinforced steel parts. At almost $150, you should know that this will last a long time.
If you go for a semi or fully automatic airsoft rifle, the price could easily be a few hundred bucks. Count the accessories, and you will spend much more.
4. Airsoft Guns Are Compatible With Real Accessories
There’s a difference between appearance and feel. A critical aspect of why airsoft guns look real is how these replicas feel when you hold and wield them. Using similar materials naturally enables the manufacturers to replicate the designs and also the weights of real guns.
A toy gun isn’t as heavy and sturdy as a real one. However, airsoft guns feel real, too.
The materials, designs, and engineering aside, airsoft guns are compatible with genuine accessories. You will probably find it tough to distinguish an airsoft rifle scope from those used for real firearms.
The exact design and similar craftsmanship, including the materials, enable airsoft manufacturers to make their guns compatible with real sights or scopes. Most airsoft gun scopes have the same rangefinding or reticle technologies used by the military. A few even have laser and night vision.
Naturally, a complete kit for an airsoft gun makes it look and feel real.
In addition, an airsoft BB undergoes the same bullet drop phenomenon as real bullets due to gravity, wind, elevation, range, and the projectile’s path.
The only visible element separating airsoft guns from the originals is the orange tip on the muzzle. You can paint this to sport the same color as the body. However, it’s safer to retain the orange tip, so others know the airsoft gun isn’t a real weapon but sporting equipment.