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Education / Training What are airsoft guns used for? – Part 2

What are airsoft guns used for? – Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Reader DSW requested this report. Part 1 was written way back on December 26, 2006. If someone hadn’t called my attention to it, this part would have slipped by. I ended the first part with Hollywood, where airsoft guns have greatly replaced the use of firearms shooting blanks. Blanks fired from a firearm are dangerous by themselves, because they do expel hot gas and burning wads at high speed. Gunfighters in western amusement parks have to be extremely careful, as a blank fired in a firearm can serious wound and even kill at close range.

Blanks can be dangerous
In 1969, the marshal of Frontier Village in San Jose, California, accidentally fired his revolver before the barrel had cleared the holster in a mock gunfight. The blank blast ripped open his heavy wool trousers and tore the skin from his upper thigh, leaving a surface wound the size of a football. Marshal Westin used a genuine Colt .45 Single Action Army revolver for his gunfighting weapon, and the blast from 40 grains of black powder produced a fireball three feet wide and eight feet long from the muzzle of his gun. So, you can see that even a true blank is not safe when it’s fired in a firearm.

Blank-firing guns are made in such a way that none of the blank force can project straight ahead, nor can it propel a missile of any kind. But Hollywood used real firearms because they needed the authentic look for the silver screen.

Midrange wadcutters
However, when actor Brandon Lee was killed, someone had loaded a midrange wadcutter cartridge in the revolver that killed him. A midrange wadcutter cartridge has a bullet loaded flush with the top of the case. To someone who doesn’t know better, it could appear to be a blank, though the bullet inside is as deadly as any bullet fired from a handgun. Hollywood can’t take chances, so when realistic airsoft guns became available, they jumped on them.

This .38 Special midrange wadcutter has a 148-grain lead bullet seated flush with the top of the case. I use bullets like this for home defense, because they are more reliable killers when fired at slower velocities. The cut a very round and large wound channel.

This is what the midrange wadcutter bullet looks like in .38 Special caliber.

Other theatrical events
Hollywood lobbied the federal government to let them own and use airsoft guns without the orange marking at the muzzle. When exclusions to the law about visible markings on airsoft guns were written, they were expanded to include “other theatrical events,” such as high-school plays, dinner theater, etc. Many others besides Hollywood are using airsoft guns for their incredible realism and safety.

Airsoft is now an industry of its own!
Consumers being what they are, it wasn’t long before airsoft buyers began wanting to modify their guns, so the parts were created and airsoft gunsmiths sprang up. More robust parts were made when gamers complained about reliability problems. Today, the entire airsoft industry overshadows the airgun industry by virtue of the fact that gamers spend hundreds of millions on gear, tactical clothing, vehicles, radios and an endless list of mil-spec hardware. Not yet 30 years old, the airsoft industry has passed conventional airguns that have been around almost 500 years.

Airsoft’s future
The future of airsoft in the U.S. is threatened by legislation. It was killed once before in the 1980s, which is where the orange-tipped muzzles came from. Some companies are making guns with clear bodies that cannot be mistaken for firearms, but that’s just a delaying action. What airsoft needs is guidance and direction. Currently, there is none. It’s a grassroots free-for-all with war games being the No. 1 attraction and problem. The NRA will never touch airsoft as long as it is used to promote people shooting people, and I agree with their sentiment.

What airsoft needs, if it is to survive in the U.S., is an action sport that doesn’t involve shooting at other people. If that were to happen and if the NRA were to then throw their weight behind the sport, airsoft guns might have a chance. Popularity, alone, is not enough to keep the guns coming in!

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

27 thoughts on “What are airsoft guns used for? – Part 2”

  1. My “go to” for home defense is a 1940’s era Colt DA .38 special that I keep loaded with WC’s. Seems I made a passable choice…

    I believe you’re right about airsoft legislation only being a matter of time. The fact that nobody can get seriously hurt with these things (well, except for eye injuries) will matter little. The fact that they look scary will be sufficient. After all, it’s all about appearances…

  2. BB-
    Thank you for this post! My nephew is gaga about airsoft and I was telling my brother to be strong against it. My Dad had me start shooting at 6 (a single shot,bolt action .22) and he was adamant about gun safety. Your comment about airsoft, “The NRA will never touch airsoft as long as it is used to promote people shooting people, and I agree with their sentiment” speaks to the issue that my Dad drilled into my head about even POINTING a gun at anyone. I just can’t get behind airsoft or paintball skirmishing because of my upbringing. I’ve sent a link of your blog to my brother and I hope he will have his son read this entry. By the way, his tact so far has been to go the route that our father took. He takes him shooting at a range and is teaching him gun safety first, last and always. I can’t thank you enough for the time you put in to maintain this blog!

  3. B.B.,

    More questions about the talon. I’ve heard that using the 12″ barrel on the SS wastes air at the higher power settings, is this true? If so does that mean you get more shots at the lower power without wasting air?

  4. The.Man,

    Instead of saying it wastes air, let’s say the upper power settings are useless. On some guns that’s after setting 10; on others it’s 11 or 12 on the power wheel. Install a 24-inch barrel and you get the full range of adjustment.

    Naturally if you shoot with a lower setting you use less air, which is why a chronograph is so important.


  5. I have to agree that I don’t like people shooting people, either in airsoft or paintball. However, there is one good thing I’ve seen from paintball. It seems to be a good information and parts resource for those who want to modify their air guns.

  6. B.B.,

    So let me ask it this was. Im going to be using a hand pump, so the value of air is high 🙂 my question is would I get more shots with the optimal power level and kodiak pellets from a 12″ barrel or would I be better to go to a 24″ barrel and dial the power down to equal the max of the 12″. I guess Im asking is the 24″ more efficient when it comes to equal FPE? Im not really sure how to ask what I want to know. Will the 24″ barrel save me “air” if I use it in the same power ranges the 12″ barrel is capable of? or is this a no-brainer


  7. dm20,

    I owned a 60 years before the 61 became available. Now that the 61 is imported, EAA no longer brings the 60 in.

    The rifle has changed over the years, so I looked at the IZH website, and it does look like the 60 has a longer base for a scope. The 61 base is long enough for a very shot red dot sight, but the 60 looks like it would handle a compact scope.


  8. I noticed in a firefight in an episode of Stargate,the muzzle flashes were fake,no ejecting of casings,etc,possibly they were using airsoft props,however it took away from the realism and just didn’t look “right”,I’m sure even non shooters would realize something was amiss.Dunno if it’s common on that show,I never watch it.

  9. with advancing special effects and good actors, the fakeness of it all is lesening. in any of the more recent 007 movies, for example, the good acting coupled with the better effects makes it almost realistic. i found myself telling everyone why you dont hold an mp5 like an 870, but they were too fixated on the action to care.

    i like your blogs, btw, harley ayre/B.B. very similar to this one 😉
    not to worry, i might know how it works now, but nothing in life is free, and the blog is still unbiased, which is all that really matters.

    i’ve sent an e-mail to baikal to check on scope rail length and material. baikal, the canadian importer, is still importing the 60, and hopefully they will include the usual goodies.
    this effectively turns my diana into a $200 paperweight, as soon as i get it from the delivery truck. just oen last question about the izh: how are the arperture sights compared to the daisy arperture?

  10. I never heard the Brandon Lee/midrange wadcutter version of the story. The story that I heard (and I work in the entertainment industry in LA) was this:

    The revolver that killed Brandon Lee was loaded with dummy rounds for scene that was shot earlier. The dummy rounds consisted of an inert cartridge with a lead bullet head. This was necessary because the revolver would be filmed from the front, and they needed the bullets visible on film.

    The revolver was then unloaded that night and was soon prepped for the next scene that it would appear in. In this scene the revolver would fire blank cartridges. Unfortunately when the dummy rounds were pulled out the cylinder, one of the lead bullets detached from the cartridge and remained stuck in the cylinder.

    In the next scene the blank was fired that shared the cylinder with the lead bullet, and the bullet was propelled out of the gun, killing Brandon Lee.

    This does sound more plausible to me (I am not sure why anyone would have live wadcutter ammo on film set) but certainly doesn’t make the accident any less tragic. It also reinforces your point about the danger of blanks.

  11. There must be more versions of Brandon Lee’s death than Rocky films. The version I’m familiar with (and I know a man who has a cousin who lives three doors down from the guy who…) has Brandon “goofing around” with the revolver (loaded with blanks), showing off to to some cast members on set, during a lull, when he playfully put the gun to his head and fired (no doubt thinking blanks are harmless at any range, even inches.

    Blanks (paper wad, a grain or so of powder, and primed case) are harmless when shot to the torso from six or more feet away, but to put one to your head and fire it would be the definition of SCHMUCK.

    Of course, this version could be just another urban legend. Maybe Brandon is alive and working for the C.I.A. Yeah, that’s it.

  12. dm20,

    The apertur sight on the 60 consists of a plate with a hole drilled in the middle. This plate is attached to the rear sight in place of the notch, so it isn’t as precise as even the Daisy aperture sight.

    f you do happen to get it sighted in, though, it works well. Don’t forget to relocate the rear sight to the back of the gun when making this conversion.


  13. Brandon Lee,

    Okay, I guess I bought into an urban legend. I didn’t know this story was so popular.

    As for the dummy rounds, I would hope that property handlers would handle firearms more carefully than that, but knowing human frailties, I can see how it might happen that way.

    Someday I’d like to know for certain what happened.

    Thanks for your input and thanks to Mr. Mothra for his insights into blanks. I hope what he said resonated with my description of what happened to the Marshall of Frontier Village, because I was there the day that it happened and I saw the injuries. The blanks he used were handloaded with black powder (they loaded them at the Village) and regular blanks are loaded with a fast-burning smokeless powder that has different burning characteristics. But still a regular blank fired in a firearm is dangerous at close range.


  14. Thanks for alienating a entire sport with your nice big pile of assumptions BB!

    I know now that my next “airsoft” gun purchase won’t be from any airgun retailer!

  15. B.B
    I recently purchased a HW77 and am achieving very tight groups which is great BUT the groups I shoot with H&N Barracudas (Kodiacs) shoot 10mm high at 10m as compared to the H&N Field & Target trophy pellets (14.6gr)which are obviously lighter. Why would this occur? Logic tells me that the heavier Barracudas should group below the lighter pellets.!!

  16. Mr. Mothra,

    You have the Brandon Lee accident confused with that of Jon-Erik Hexum, the star of the CBS series “Cover Up”. Jon was killed by a self-inflicted gunshot to the head between scenes on the set. He was horsing around, and did not realize that blanks use paper or plastic wadding. He was severely wounded by blunt force trauma.

    SOURCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon-Erik_Hexum


  17. Does anyone here have any experience with the UHC 900-series of airsoft revolvers sold by Pyramid? They’re Colt Python look-alikes and for under $30 look like a good deal. Anyone know how accurate they are? I assume you have to cock them single-action-only by pulling back the hammer; no where does it say you can shoot them double action. I’m interested in the 8-inch bbl version.



  18. Joe,

    I called Pyramyd AIR and a Tech walked out into the warehouse to look at a 937. It fires single-action only, as you predicted. Just pulling the trigger will advance the cylinder but not cock the hammer.

    Accuracy should be where most of the guns in this price range lie. They’ll usually hit a three-inch by three-inch target at 30 feet, if you do your part. But the sights will probably be off a bit.


  19. Thank you, BB.

    I’m assuming that cocking the gun by thumbing back the hammer also rotates the cylinder. I don’t suppose the Tech mentioned how the trigger pull was?

    I wish I could find a 937 from some outfit that ships via USPS. I don’t mean to sound whiney but $35 to have Pyramid ship a $30 gun by 2nd day air here to Hawaii (the cheapest of their options) just rubs me the wrong way. It’s like being a kid in front of a candy store filled with goodies that you can’t have.



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