Day at the Range

The Art of Airsoft.

A year ago I wrote a review of the Umarex Glock 17 Gen 4 GBB Airsoft gun and promised I would explore later how I use an Airsoft gun to further my own personal pursuit of firearm excellence. And though I have recently been working largely with the MantisX firearm training system, I still break out the Umarex Glock GBB pistol on a regular basis. I am a believer when it comes to using an Airsoft gun for practicing realistic gun manipulations and skills to improve one’s proficiency with real firearms. Even with a lack of recoil Airsoft is capable of helping shooters learn shooting skills like stances, reloads, proper grip and holster draws, target acquisition and sight picture. The reality is that actually firing your pistol takes only a fraction of the time one spends manipulating or even moving with your firearm overall.

Recently I came across an astounding video on Instagram that further convinced me. Conventional wisdom holds that Airsoft is especially effective at helping to train team tactics against “sentient enemies” as well as learning things like the effective use of cover and barriers. It is at risk however with issues such as reinforcing notions that heavy brush is effective cover or effective range is only 50 yards. Airsoft is considered of little use in terms of truly mastering the art of firing a real firearm. Primarily of course due to an Airsoft gun’s lack of a recoil impulse. Even the most robust and powerful gas blowback pistol can’t remotely simulate the recoil of a real firearm. While I don’t entirely disagree, the video at the end of this post is ample evidence that Airsoft guns can help a practitioner master many fundamentals related to firearm manipulation and use.

My original inspiration for purchasing my first Airsoft pistol was the video below.

Growing up we had our fair share of BB guns. When paintball became the rage it was for the most part prohibitively expensive. Airsoft came much later and by then held little interest for me and my friends.  After watching this video though I realized that Airsoft might be a great way to supplement my firearm training. It’s cheap (comparatively), it wouldn’t be weather dependent, and it’s ready when I am, conveniently located in my basement. Now I don’t have anything set up nearly as extravagant as the gentleman in the video but with a couple of target traps and target stands I can now practice many skills that I can’t easily practice in a conventional range setting. Airsoft RangeDrawing from a holster, presentation, target transitions, working on cadence, doing reloads and simulating malfunctions can all be practiced effectively with an Airsoft pistol. All that at full speed and with a pistol that feels and operates nearly identically to the real thing. You very well may have the fortune of having a range that allows you to practice all of these skills at your leisure but I don’t. Most importantly though, Airsoft guns give you the opportunity to flat out practice more. Repetition is the key to mastering any skill. I can easily put in 30 minutes downstairs in my basement every night but I’m only getting to the range once or twice a week.

My setup is simple. Three target traps, three target stands, and some paper silhouettes.  I highly recommend these inexpensive PForce Portable Airsoft Target with BB Traps. They work exceptionally well and easily attach to a target stand using a couple of binder clips. Strictly speaking, you don’t need target traps but it keeps the mess to minimum and is safer than having plastic BB’s ricocheting around. I also recommend using targets that are a little more substantial than regular paper targets. Something made from a heavier card stock material hold up much better and can be used for far longer than standard paper. With my Umarex Glock pistol, holster and magazine pouch I can now practice a variety of pistol drills. Here are a couple of my favorites:

  • 1 – Reload – 2: Begin with pistol aimed at the target, the inserted magazine loaded with 1 round. Fire and immediately do a slide lock reload firing 2 additional rounds at the target.
  • El Presidente: Starting with your back to the target, turn and draw your pistol firing 2 rounds into each of the targets. Reload and fire another 2 rounds into each target.
  • Three Target Transitions: Draw pistol from holster for each of these three strings of fire. Fire 1 round into each target going left to right. Then right to left. Finally shoot middle, then left and right.
  • Changing Gears: Draw pistol and perform 4 rapid fire shots at the target. Reload and shoot the target with 2 slower precise shots. The drill can be performed slow to fast as well and can incorporate different targets.
  • Switch Hitting: Draw pistol and fire 2 shots at the target with strong hand only. Reload and fire 2 more shots with the weak hand only.
  • Primary to Secondary Weapon Transitions: Aim slinged rifle at target with empty magazine loaded and bolt locked back, draw from holster and transition to pistol firing 2 shots at the target. Reholster and transition back to rifle doing a magazine reload, dropping the bolt, and get rifle back on target.

With a little creativity the sky is the limit in terms of what can be practiced. I also recommend a shot timer. One that has the ability to set par times works very well because the report of a gas blow back Airsoft gun isn’t loud enough for most shot timers to pick up reliably. By setting a par time though you can work on improving speed regardless of this limitation, steadily reducing the par time as performance improves.

So just how much can practicing with Airsoft translate to actual skill with a real firearm? The video below is an excellent testament to it’s potential. The Japanese gentleman featured in the video has never shot a real firearm but has been practicing with Airsoft for the last three years. And although he struggles somewhat in the beginning as he gets accustomed to the recoil impulse of real firearms and the nuances of the trigger, he progresses astoundingly fast. Watch until the end, it only gets more impressive as it goes.


Categories: Day at the Range

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