Airsoft Training: Guest Editorial by Dan Brady

I ran across an argument between a couple instructors recently about the inclusion of Airsoft replica pistols as legitimate training tools in training for deadly force encounters.
I ran across an argument between a couple instructors recently about the inclusion of Airsoft replica pistols as legitimate training tools in training for deadly force encounters.

One side states : Even without recoil, a duplicate training tool will provide repetitions in draw, sighting, grip and firing mechanics; and that any errors in trigger control would translate into accuracy just as they would in an actual firearm. Use frequently to supplement live-fire drills at an indoor range and in place of Simunitions for Force on Force training.
The other side states: lacking recoil, total weight, and with the trigger pull being lighter, it teaches firearm skills without recoil and in live-fire, you end up with recoil anticipation, flinching, and a grip that has been learned as being looser than it needs to be with a live weapon. Without the recoil, the grip doesn't have to stay tight, and is learned to be loose. Without the recoil, the student is surprised by the recoil and noise on live-fire and anticipation of same makes Airsoft training for accuracy worthless. Shooting peers is still acceptable in a training environment, and it trains to not reload under stress because they don't lock back when out of ammunition.

I’ll say it this way: All training is artificial to some degree or another. That I am aware of, no singular training scenario or tool can accurately simulate the combination of stress and mechanical skills required to prevail in a gunfight. There is just no way to simulate the fear of dying or being grievously injured in a training environment. However, a comprehensive training program using accepted training methodologies, tools and simulators combined with live fire, square range instruction in the mechanical manipulations of a live weapon and the basics of marksmanship has and continues to impart the skill sets needed to win a deadly force encounter. Airsoft is an appropriate tool to be used as PART of a comprehensive deadly force training program.

No, Airsoft doesn’t have the muzzle blast or recoil impulse of live ammo. No, Airsoft pistols don’t have the total full weight of a service pistol. No, they don’t have the same resistance in the trigger as a service pistol. Even granted those limitations, the external dimensions of the Airsoft replicas are accurate enough to allow for use in a duty or concealed holster to allow for practice drawing the weapon and since it also fires a projectile with similar accuracy (in my experience out to about 10 yards), it allows for extremely cost effective “live scenarios” in any environment. Since the projectile carries only a minimal sting even at point blank ranges, safety equipment can be limited to safety glasses and a dedicated training facility is unnecessary.

The argument against the use of Airsoft as a training tool seems to be centered on its short comings combined with the assumption that it will be the primary or even ONLY tool used to train with. I use Airsoft all the time, to the tune of 20,000 pellets a year probably. I recognize the short comings of it and use live fire competitions, drills, standards and qualifications as well as Video F.A.T.S. trainers to round out my training regimen for deadly force training. I also used a Glock NY-1 trigger return spring epoxied behind the trigger of my Airsoft to drastically increase the pull weight of the trigger and ensured that the model I purchased did slide lock when out of ammo.

Airsoft is not the “Be all, End all” training tool but it can help and is in my experience an extremely cost effective training tool. I have used it to teach basic firearm safety as well as pistol nomenclature and marksmanship to my children. I find it invaluable for myself in training on moving targets and doing “Tueller 21 Foot” drills with a live adversary with a chalked up training knife.
In the end, any trigger time is better than no trigger time as long as you have an instructor there to assist with the specific tactic or mechanics you are attempting to improve on and recognize the limitations of your training environment. As always train hard and be safe.

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