Airsoft guns are replicas of firearms developed for recreational purposes. They are designed after actual firearms but propel non-metallic bullets or pellets. Replica Airsoft guns come in various models and are operated based on the mechanism that drives the pellet. They can be operated manually, via a spring, electric motor or using compressed gas. Airsoft guns can shoot pellets at velocities within 100 to 600ft/s. The fire mechanism of the guns fire pellets using a piston that compresses pockets of air behind the BB. The standard weight of the guns is .12 – .30 grams although some models can weigh as up to .43grams
The history of Airsoft guns can be traced back to Japan during the 80s. Back then it was illegal to own firearms although there was huge interest in them. Spurred by the available interest in firearms, manufacturers began to produce replicas of the real thing. The guns they produced looked real enough but were designed to fire various calibers of rubber or plastic BBs. Over time the design and capacity of the guns were improved and standardized 6mm and 8mm sized bullets were used and a lot of discussion about these changes can be found over at airsoft forums uk. The first models were spring powered but they later were largely replaced by gas powered models. Now there exist various models in different shapes using various systems and mechanism. Airsoft guns were introduced into North America around the mid 90s.
Airsoft guns are considered safe for players above 10 years. The pellets or BBs travel at relatively low velocity so that impact is not enough to pierce the skin. Some Airsoft guns make use of heavier projectiles such as metals or copper which can penetrate the skin. Such heavy projectiles are usually banned from all Airsoft games events. By law most states in America require that an orange marker be placed on the tips of Airsoft guns to differentiate them from real firearms.