Airsoft guns are replica firearms that are highly detailed and manufactured mainly for recreation. Games are planned where players try to shoot one another in a similar way to paintball tournaments. The guns fire pellets, as opposed to real bullets, that travel at speeds of up to 260 miles per second.
These pellets are usually propelled by some kind of compressed gas or perhaps a spring based piston. An electric piston may also be used. The guns can be fired manually or by an electric motor or by compressed gas, which is usually propane, green gas or Co2.
Airsoft guns are designed for people aged sixteen and over. With proper care they can be perfectly safe, although some safety concerns have arisen because of the airsoft guns. The pellets are almost always non-metallic and usually travel at to low a velocity to actually penetrate the skin. However, although metal pellets are banned on all Airsoft sites, they are still available from specialist stores. Some players even manufacture their own metal pellets.
A plastic or rubber pellet could, in theory, pierce the skin at close range. A gun would have to be upgraded to shoot faster than 150 mps. There are one or two sites that will suggest that guns set up in this way must not be used to play with. There has also been much concern over airsoft guns being used by criminal gangs.
There was a spate of holdups during the late 1990s where the perpetrators used airsoft guns. These were obviously much easier to obtain than real weapons, but could serve a similar purpose. To counter this it is now illegal to import an airsoft gun that does not have a bright orange tip on the barrel.
The origins of the airsoft gun go as far back as 1970s Japan. At this time it was illegal in Japan to own an actual firearm, so there was a demand for replicas. Some companies began to produce realistic spring loaded guns for public use. At first they fired a multitude of plastic and rubber projectiles. However, eventually they were standardized to either 6 mm or 8 mm. The spring loaded guns were eventually superceded by gas powered guns.
The hobby became popular in America in the mid 1990s. The early Japanese guns would become known as classic airsoft. Ten years later a new generation of guns arrived, the automatic electric guns designed by Tokyo Marui Co. Ltd. The release of these guns coincided with a recession in Japan. Many Japanese manufacturers folded and eventually the only main producer was the inventor of the automatic electric gun.
Tokyo Marui worked to improve the accuracy of their guns and developed their advanced Hop up system. This system forms the basis of almost all of the modern airsoft guns. Tokyo Marui's dominance was challenged in the early part of this decade by the Classic Army of Hong Kong. This company produced its own guns in direct competition to Tokyo Marui. Tokyo Marui has also been threatened by the growth of Chinese companies that produce cheap, entry level guns and supply them to the American market.
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