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Airsoft FOF Training - What Equipment?

Discussion in 'Tactics and Training' started by HolvikArms, Jul 13, 2012.

  1. HolvikArms


    Mar 7, 2012
    Edgewater FL
    I have been interested in starting some force on force training utilizing blow back airsoft guns (pistols). Does anyone have any recommendations regarding equipment, manufactures, etc? Wouldn't mind getting feedback from other people doing this type of training.
  2. Kelo6


    May 20, 2008
    I'll chime in since nobody else is.

    KSC/KWA Makes some of the best pistol replicas in almost every pistol model. They are somewhat spendy (usually $125-$200 each), but the tradeoff is you can get3,500 pellets for about $15 bucks. And a couple cans of green gas for $10/each.

    They run off of green gas (or a mix of propane and lubricant), are gas blowback to cycle the slide and provide a little recoil, and you can do all of your mag changes, etc. Very realistic for training purposes.

    Glock replicas are really hard to come by due to a trademark infringement filed by Glock. But KWA/KSC makes 1911s, Sigs, M9, H&K USP, etc.

    KWA/KSC PTP (Proffesional Training Pistol) Models are very accurate replicas both in size and operation. They're designed to be used exactly as you want: as an identical training pistol. Decockers, etc. The Sig M226 even has the double-action first round like its RS counterpart.

    As a Cadet with the local SO, we have used airsoft for training, and it certainly changes the dynamics of a scenario. Things are different when the subject(s) can shoot back :embarassed:

    One thing I have noticed is that some replicas aren't perfect, so fitting into RS holsters may require some modification (read: dremmel/sanding) to get a good fit. At least I had to with a Blackhawk! Level 2 Drop Leg platform. I know the standard belt holsters have more success since there's less holster to get the replica into.

    Disclaimer: READ THE USERS GUIDE FOR YOUR AIRSOFT REPLICAS AND ALWAYS OBEY APPLICABLE LAWS. Airsoft can be dangerous, so please take the proper safety equipment should be used to insure the safety of all trainees involved. Eye protection at minimum, and full face masks are recommended.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2012

  3. HolvikArms


    Mar 7, 2012
    Edgewater FL
    Thanks for the input Kelo, very informative! I have heard good things about scenario training with airsoft.

    I was in fact steering towards glock replicas for practical reasons but i guess I might have to reconsider that.
  4. Kelo6


    May 20, 2008

    I was talking to an avid airsofter this past week who made me aware of KWA's ATP, or Adaptive Training Pistol.

    Apparently it's pretty great, designed for department training, and fits Glock-molded holsters, and will even take KWA's M17 magazines (Their version of the Glock 17)

    It's KWA's way of thumbing their nose at Glock for the trademark bit. :whistling:
  5. Those are some good posts, Kelo6. :)

    I really like airsoft for their realism. Yes, the KSC/KWA Glocks may or may not be an exact fit into some of the more tightly molded holsters, but honestly, leather and nylon can be "broken in" to fit, and Kydex can be easily adjusted with just a little heat applied. No big deal. To me, the realistic operation of the replicas outweighs these relatively minor gear concerns. If you're really worried, just by gear that's more generic (which doesn't have to be bad/inferior gear, BTW) - many airsoft gamers use Safariland or Bianchi holsters and gear.

    The negatives of airsoft?

    The weight distribution is off. Even with a "metal slide" and "metal" outer/cosmetic-barrel retrofit (which is something that, today, many of these replicas already come with from the retailer - back in the late 90s and early 00s, when I was active in the hobby, these were significant upgrades!), you're still going to notice the difference. The Glocks will still "point" like they're Glocks, but they won't handle quite the same way as your real-steel.

    The action, while realistic, offers blow-back "recoil" that's no more significant than a .22-caliber trainer. Although your desire is for these replicas to serve as FoF traiing tools, this is also not to say that you cannot work on the basics of marksmanship with these items: look at who won the 2004 Steel Challenge (and who he competed against). You just have to train with the proper framework in-mind, with the correct goal. :)

    You'll need to adjust your engagement distances. A really good airsoft replica can chuck a 6mm plastic BB with better than minute-of-man accuracy at well upwards of 10 to 15 yards, but you'll need to remember that there will be a difference when compared to the real thing, and even Simunition. Static and at shorter ranges, this may not matter, but as you start moving faster and as you start to stretch the engagement distance, keep this in mind. Otherwise, you can expect those who "game" to the training to start pulling The Matrix moves.

    You may not feel the impact of the 6mm plastic BBs. Yes, at closer ranges, these 6mm plastic BBs can do some damage: chipped teeth, lacerated lips/nostrils/ears, bruised/broken fingers - these are all very real possibilities, and you should make effort to be sure that your FoF participants are safe from these hazards (including the obvious - eye protection) - but as you stretch range and/or under the influence of an adrenaline dump, it's very possible that participants will not feel the BB impact, especially if you have them wear hoodies or the like, to minimize the chances of bruising/skin cuts. Good airsoft players are attentive to the sound that BB strikes make on their gear (of which they're often decked-out in the latest and greatest), but if you're at closer distances and can keep your clothing relatively light, you should be able to feel impacts.

    For better or worse, this is where I prefer the RAP4 trainers. Their larger caliber definitely puts out more of a hurting, and while I am certainly not one of those who think that good training should hurt (I'm too old for that kind of macho-think! :lol:), I do believe that it adds an element of stress to the training, and that it's a good one. Using the rubber balls instead of the paint, it's no messier to clean up than airsoft.

    The only big downfall of the RAP4 trainers - as compared to their airsoft counterparts - are their pistol trainer magazines, which are "stick" shaped and really hard to index. Certainly, the airsoft is not without fault here, either: their heavy magazines are prone to drop-damage. While neither are necessarily deal-breakers, as most FoF scenarios expire without a reload, these are still issues worth considering. With airsoft, at least the magazines fit into "standard" support gear and are more or less approximately weighed to a full-up real mag - indexing for and practicing tactical reloads and reloads with retention offer more realism with these magazines than the RAP4 pistol trainers. [ Here, I have to make known that I have not played around with the RAP4 rifles enough to know how well their magazines work. ]

    "Realism" only goes so far, though - neither airsoft nor the RAP4 trainers will give you realistic simulations/practice of semi-automatic weapons malfunctions. Even a press-check isn't something that can be done, here.

    Hope this helps!
  6. HolvikArms


    Mar 7, 2012
    Edgewater FL
    I really appreciate the info guys. I just looked at the RAP products and I can see where there attributes could be beneficial but it also looks like the start up and operation would be more expensive over all. Maybe that would be something I would revisit in the future.

    During holidays when all the family and friends are together we usually get a game of paintball going out in the woods...I might have to get one of those RAP rifles for myself. The M249 is pretty wild and only $2,400.00!! (ouch)
  7. :)

    I've got several Airsoft M4s - all Tokyo Marui AEGs (which dates my activity in that hobby :embarassed:). They're fun to put next to my LMT. ;) Same goes with my KSC G18C (I shot an 18 last week, and to tell you the truth, the airsoft is not that far off, in terms of the fun factor) and G26C, which look awesome next to my G32.

    I participated in many skirmish games, between '99 and '04, with my airsoft replicas. Good times. You should have seen the other players' eyes when I pulled the G26C from my Thunderwear, after I'd been "captured" and led inside the OPFOR base. :rofl:I think I took out a half-dozen of them, before someone finally tagged me.

    OK, back on-topic.....

    But man, when my instructor brought out the RAP4s and I gave them a whirl, I was just giddy!:wow::cool:
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2012
  8. Gpruitt54


    Jul 18, 2012
    There is one issue with Marui GBB pistols that in my opinion, makes thenless than ideal as a training weapon. It's the weight. Marui guns are allplastic slides (except for the custom weapons, which are overly expensive).

    If you are Glock, SIG, Beretta, or 1911 user, there are many reasonablealternatives for training weapons. KWA, HKC, King Arms, We Tech, etc. Theseoptions will be closer in weight to the real thing than Marui pistols.

    Muscle memory is a key component in any training simulation. If the trainingweapon is not as close as possible to the weight of your real steel weapon, itis not much good for what you are trying to do.

    But, that’s just me. Maybe!

  9. ^ I agree, the "metal" ones will typically be closer in overall weight - but the weight distribution can still be quite different.

    I'm actually not sure if you can use a "real-steel" (i.e. designed to go in an actual firearm) tungsten or other heavyweight guide-rod in the airsoft replicas, but this might help shift the balance forward a little. Airsoft replicas of the gas-blow-back (GBB) genre - ones that use the magazines as the pressurized propellant gas container - are typically pretty decent at simulating the full weight of a loaded magazine, however, that weight never changes, and what's more, without the magazine, even in models with heavy metallic weight-plates hidden under their grip panels (such as the Western Arms 1911 replicas), the barrel, which typically contributes significantly to an actual pistol's weight, as well as the slide's masses are quite a bit off.

    Airsoft "metals" are typically what we Americans would consider "pot metal." Yes, there are aftermarket components available that are made out of "aircraft-grade" aluminum, but as you can imagine, it's not going to weigh the same as steel. In some cases, some of the better (in terms of aesthetics [which likely will -NOT- matter to someone using the replicas specifically for Force-on-Force training] as well as functionality) replicas come with a "heavyweight" ABS-plastic slide, which can weigh as much as - if not more - than a "metal" counterpart.

    Depending on the replica, a "metal barrel" - which is actually an outer, cosmetic barrel replica that shrouds an inner 6.0x mm barrel through which the BB travels (as you can imagine, this gets pretty hilarious when you're looking at airsoft M4/AR15 replicas :lol:) - can also help forward-shift that weight balance. But in many cases, it's still to little/no avail, as the materials are so different.

    Sitting on a table, my KSC Glock 18C, with authentic Glock trademarks (hey, I'm a collector :) ;)), outfitted with a metal slide and barrel looks just my real G32.

    But pick them up, and it's very clear that the weight distribution is quite different.

    From Glocks to Berettas to 1911s/2011s (and I have a few of the latter that are completely decked-out, built by top "airsmiths" overseas like Clarence Lai; my shooting friends make fun of me because for as much as I love 1911s, I still don't have a real one, yet I have several airsoft 1911s/2011s that cost just as much as a real Wilson, STI, or SVI would), they all show this trait, regardless of how much has been done to them or what make/model (OK, that's not completely fair - some of the airsoft revolver replicas are pretty spot-on in terms of weight and weight distribution).

    This is indeed one of those training issues that you'll have to work through.

    Airsoft is only one of many different training tools - choose what is appropriate for your needs. :)
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2012
  10. Romba1182


    Jun 13, 2012
    KWA is soon coming out with the ATP auto, a G18 replica, but not trademarked. ;) there's also the new WE Glock 17, supposed to be very close to the real deal! KWA makes fantastic products and now has a gas blow back M4 for training! Go online to or and check out the live chat, their people will be happy to help too.

    Outdoor Hub mobile, the outdoor information engine
  11. Gpruitt54


    Jul 18, 2012
    Yes, of course the distribution of the weight is different. However, withmedal GBB (Gas Blow Back) airsoft gun you are still pulling and swing into position something with similar weight. Let's keep in mind; we are talkingabout an airsoft gun and not a real gun. So, some things will be different.

    As far as spring and such are concerned, the gas pressure released by an airsoft gun is not nearly enough to push a guide spring from a real steel handgun.Some hard core mil-sim fans have been known to replace some parts of theirairsoft rifles with real steel combat rifles parts. But these are limited tothings like hand guards from for example AK rifles, or maybe a gas block from areal steel AK. Others items include sights, fore grips, rails systems, etc.These are cosmetic and that is about the extent of it. I have an airsoft M4, AK74U, and L85A1. All are airsoft rifles and all have nearly identical weights to their real steel counterparts. But there nothing on an airsoft rifle that can withstand the pressures of real steel. These rifles, for all their realisticlook and weight are not made of forged steel. Just don't take one of these outside, or you will soon be visited by a S.W.A.T. carrying the real thing.

    All in all, airsoft guns (hand guns and rifles) are excellent training devices. Just be sure to buy the full metal guns and not the expensive plasticguns. These are only good for bragging that you have an expensive gun, but it will have no functional use for effective training.

    Remember muscle memory is very... very important in training.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2012
  12. I don't completely agree - the "heavyweight" ABS-plastic slides of many of the high-end replicas are quite heavy - in some cases exceeding the weight of their "metal" counterparts. Remember that the latter is most typically either what we here in the US would refer to as "pot metal" or are, at best, aluminum - in some of my replicas, I have custom slides of 7075 or 6061 aluminum, and in these cases, they are no heavier than that of the plastic counterparts that I pull off comparable "factory" replicas, simply because being more massive/"weighty" was the end goal targeted by the manufacturer.

    Like I said previously, I agree with you that there's going to be differences in the balance of the replicas versus the real firearms. One of my older pieces (I removed myself from the hobby back in 2003/4, due to family/job needs :crying:) is a Western Arms Beretta M92FS Perfect Version. It's dry weight - with its factory-standard "heavyweight" ABS plastic slide - is 960 grams, which is right there with that of its real-steel counterpart. Once you pick it up, though, it's easy to notice which is which, simply by the weight distribution alone. However, I disagree that a "metal slide" or even its combination with a cosmetic metal outer barrel will necessarily rectify or even ameliorate the discrepancy.

    To-wit, my old Western Arms CQB Special's slide is very similar in weight to that of my aftermarket metal s;ides on a couple of my skirmish-use 1911s, and yet is also very similar to the weight of a couple of custom ones I had fabricated in 7071.

    Yes, I understand the differences in springs - but I was not speaking of the spring: I was speaking of a tungsten guide rod as a replacement component specifically to try to shift the weight-distribution of the airsoft replica more forward.

    I honestly don't know if this will work, though, since I have never tried the swap. :dunno:

    And just like you said the GBB replicas do not generate the same blowback force as their real-steel counterparts - a heavier recoil spring can therefore be problematic in terms of the cyclic operation of the replica. With this in-mind, it would then reason that with a much lighter recoil spring, the force required to cycle the spring - as supplied by you, the shooter - to initially charge the replica would be considerably less than that of a comparable real autopistol, and again, this would be true...and carries implications that extends to your "muscle memory" comment: basically, here, you're not forming the correct muscle memory if what you're using this type of airsoft for is to train manipulations, you're actually creating a serious training scar.

    Additionally with this physical fact in-mind, it has to therefore reason also that a much heavier slide will not necessarily reciprocate properly, based on the gas valving of the airsoft GBB replica as it came from the factory. Indeed, to the airsoft pistoleer self-upgrading their replica with aftermarket components or to the professional "airsmith" custom-crafting a replica, this is a concern which extends to the gas-valve tuning of both the replica's internal mechanisms as well as the magazines that function as the propellant reservoir (at the higher levels, just as with real-steel pistols, "tuned" magazines mated to specific replicas are not uncommon). But again, even then, as aftermarket slides are not all that much heavier than their heavyweight plastic counterparts, we're not talking drastic differences, here, either - nevertheless enough to throw off the performance of the replica, as quantified by metrics specific to the needs/desires of the airsoft skirmish-game/competition user.

    Don't worry, I know. :) I was in the hobby/sport since the late 90s, and yes, we do things like that (one of the funny things that I've encountered upon entering the firearms hobby is that I've been pulling my optics and lights off my airsoft replicas to put on my real-steel; I was one of those hard-core gamers who insisted on authenticity, so I've been able to rip off my old Aimpoints, Trijicons, Surefires). :) In many cases, yes, the cosmetic airsoft components can match or even exceed the weight of their real-steel counterparts (I have an original Asahi Walther WA2000 DX, and no, I've never skirmished with it nor wanted to - my full-metal Marui H&K G3 convinced me that too much realism isn't necessarily a good thing, when just trying to have good escapist fun during a vacation from school/work :rofl:), typically in an effort to lend more realism, but there are, just as you've cited, very real differences that would make anyone familiar with both breeds quickly recognize what's what.

    I agree completely that if the end-goal of the user is to utilize the replica for Force-on-Force training, then they should look to items that fill that roll, instead of being collectables or gaming/skirmish-replicas. Things like authentic trademarks and even weight/mass hold little meaning in the overall scheme of things, when the users are not admiring the replica for its authenticity/accuracy and realize that as you pull the trigger 6 to a dozen times, the weight distribution of the replica does not shift as it would normally, with ammo being depleted from the magazine.

    If more accurate gun-handling mechanics are to be replicated, going to Simunition may truly be the only viable option. Aside from weight distribution, there are many other manipulations-related requirements for which an airsoft replica is ill-suited - drop an airsoft GBB's magazine on the ground a couple of times, and it may be wrecked beyond repair, and there's virtually no way to properly simulate malfunction drills with most modern caseless replicas.

    Like you said, the airsoft is a training tool - nothing more, nothing less.

    These "metal" replicas are not meant to make them any more of a true approximation to their real-steel counterparts except for simple tactile and cosmetic pleasures. Just because a replica incorporates their use does not automatically confer to them more realism in the way that a Force-on-Force participant may require, nor even necessarily more durability. As with you, I also don't want our fellow members here to go out and spend a bunch of money on something that they don't need. :)

    In terms of Force-on-Force, for me, the gas-blow-back airsoft replica pistols best fulfills the role of non-combative close-distance (within 10 yards for engagements) training. If combatives are to be undertaken, strict rules must apply to eye and facial safety (i.e. if the protective helmet or eyewear comes off during the engagement, then firing should cease) and other modifications should be seriously considered (i.e. removing the trigger guard). Similarly, if engagement distances are too stretched, the external ballistics of the 6mm (or even 8mm) plastic BBs, as propelled out of the muzzle of a typical airsoft GBB pistol, is insufficient to allow for sufficient realism - risking the occasional The Matrix moments. :lol:

    For manipulations: On soft surfaces and with the protection of full-coverage shoes, emergency reloads can be performed, but there's still some risk of damage - tactical reloads can be well practiced, as can any type of reload with retention considerations. Shooting from positions can also be performed (i.e. if your live-fire range has restrictive rules, or if you simply don't have the time/ability to get to the range), albeit again with care to the external ballistics of the 6mm BB.

    And ending on that note, yes, there are airsoft replicas capable of match-grade airgun performance (i.e. my BB-IPSC gun, a custom 2011, using a 3.5 MOA Doctersight, is easily capable of single-hole groups of 5 to 10 shots, out to 7 yards, shot off-hand), but their muzzle energy may not be conducive to safe "contact" training. Nevertheless, with that said, a good - yet affordable - airsoft GBB replica can easily maintain A-zone hits at 10 to even 15 yards, with a full charge of propellant gasses.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2012
  13. Back to add a bit of hard data. :) I'm a basic-science researcher, so I've got access to some nice, calibrated, laboratory scales. These were measured this AM on a Mettler B3002.

    Above, I mentioned my old Western Arms Hi-Cap CQB Special. Dating from around 1998-99, this replica uses a "heavyweight" ABS-plastic slide. On the scale, it comes in at 144.36 grams. A 6061 slide of this configuration (full-sized 1911, 5" barrel) weighed in at 147.87 grams, and that's with a real Bo-Mar adjustable rear sight in-place. A 7075 slide came in at 162.44 grams, and that not only included the same Bo-Mar rear sight, but also a stainless-steel barrel bushing that weighed, by itself, 10.73 grams.

    As you can see, like I said above, the slide alone makes very little difference, particularly if the replica already uses a "heavyweight" ABS-plastic slide.

    Nevertheless, again as I've said above, there's other ways to add weight to the front of the pistol replicas, to try to shift the balance more forward, more akin to their real-steel counterparts.

    My CQB is as-configured in factory-stock format. I've skirmished with it for more than three years, and it's held up beautifully - despite the plastic slide - with the exception of a few scratches here and there, kinda like my friend's Harrison 2011 that went through Costa's class a few weeks ago. :lol: This replica uses a lightweight aluminum metal outer cosmetic barrel threaded to a plastic cosmetic chamber section (both factory components - note here that depending on the replica, this may all be one piece - just like a real pistol's barrel is configured - but some replicas allow more customization/flexibility by offering it as a two-piece set of components), a setup coming in at 126.53 grams, complete with an aftermarket stainless steel two-piece full-length guide rod that I put in this replica, to enhance weight balance.

    In my 7075 slide, for that particular replica, it's standard profile stainless barrel, coupled to a stainless chamber section, made for an assembly that's 149.36 grams. That's less than an ounce's worth of difference between it and the previous.

    In the 6061 side, I chose to use a rather massive stainless-steel "bull" configuration outer barrel section as well as a stainless steel chamber section. This, coupled with a similar stainless two-piece guide rod assembly brings that set of internals to 180.22 grams. That's a big leap over the others, but that versus a real gun's barrel? again, no-contest.

    Like I said above, we both agree that airsoft is but one of a number of good training tools out there. The end user really needs to decide for themselves what exactly it is that they need - what their training goals are - so that they can select the right tool for the job. For manipulations, the airsoft GBB replicas using a caseless 6mm BB leave a lot to be desired, and while a metal slide may add to a bit of tactile and cosmetic joy, they really do not offer considerable gains, otherwise, to the individual for whom the goal is Force-on-Force training.

    Which reminds me. :embarassed:

    Late last night, I made a rather rushed blanket-statement in terms of the suitability of these replicas for manipulations. Yes, I still maintain that things like malfunction drills cannot be properly executed with the caseless 6mm BB replicas and the slide/recoil-spring will not offer sufficient force to properly simulate that of a real pistol's, but for items like my Maruzen Remington 870 and 1100 replicas, their physical configuration as well as functionality really can offer very good manipulations practice. Sure, they don't weigh anywhere nearly as much as my real shotty, but again, it's having the right end-goals in-mind. :)

    I really love the airsoft as a training tool - but it is what it is. Use it properly. :)
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2012