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!