During a recent training with Craig Douglas of ShivWorks, I was introduced to the world of realistic training with the help of airsoft guns. I really had no idea the high quality airsoft trainers were so realistic, accurate, or well made. Essentially, this type of practice allows regular and higher risk live training to be done with the airsoft gun to minimize risk to a negligible level. I still believe that a year spent dry-fire practicing will net more advantage than weekly range trips with live fire, but I believe airsoft holds a legitimate place between those two extremes.
During the Armed Movement in Structures training, we used airsoft to metaphorically kill each other, but you can do so much more than entry training. Want to do high stress fast draw drills without accidentally shooting yourself and having a trip to the hospital? No problem, if you use airsoft it will only be a harsh stinging reminder that you were pushing outside of your safe control speed with the handgun.
My airsoft gun of choice is the Umarex USA (AKA Walther USA) green gas airsoft PPQ M2 pistols which perfectly match in every way to my real PPQ M2 .22 LR and PPQ M2 9mm pistols. Heck, Umarex even has a PPQ M2 .177 caliber pellet pistol if you want the entire progressive training kit. Previously, I have heavily used the .22 LR version as a trainer on steel, but now I also have a backyard option for training as well. Green gas guns are refilled with a larger canister like you would a butane lighter—press in for a few seconds and you are ready to shoot again. The upside is charging the gun is quick while you are reloading BBs. The downside is that a recharge is usually required every other magazine BB reload.
During my review of Rubber Dummies targets, which by the way are the single best training target I have ever tested, I realized that airsoft BBs would leave smaller but still noticeable impact marks on the Rubber Dummy target. Coupled with a quality airsoft training pistol and comparable holster (to your carry holster), these three items deliver a very realistic and very safe backyard urban-training environment. My green gas powered Umarex PPQ airsoft gun delivers visible marking hits all the way out to 15 yards on the Rubber Dummies. Add in a free shot timer app for your smartphone, and you have everything you need to start some real training work.
Of note, I really have become fond of Clinger Holsters 15-degree Stingray and have this holster for a number of my regular carry guns including my Walther PPQ 9mm, Glock 26, Glock 19, H&K P30SK, and H&K VP9. For $40, it should be an easy purchase to assure your airsoft gun has a proper holster to practice from.
Now that the weather is nicer, I have really been using airsoft training a lot, and my draw from concealment speeds have increased significantly from a solid average around 0.5 second to a few 0.28–0.30 second first-shots. Part of that is being able to perform multiple repetitive drills, being able to work through the kinks and micro motions without worrying about an accidental and potentially fatal live-round discharge. The other aspect is that after the investment into a high quality $100+ airsoft gun, shooting is essentially a rounding error in your usual ammo budget at around $0.84 per 100 rounds, or about $42 per 5000 rounds if you buy premium gas and premium BBs. Airsoft is super cheap practice that pays for itself very quickly.
You can also practice riskier drills such as placing your left hand on the right hip to simulate a captured draw stroke of your opponent while drawing and shooting. Generally, this drill is done with a bent support arm and the left hand near the ear to get the arm out of the way of the bullet. The right hand partially draws the gun with a very high elbow, and a shot is taken on the opponent in a downward 45-degree direction away from your body parts. Again, ShivWorks does some training on this and has some great videos about how to do this correctly without shooting yourself.
Obviously, modifying this drill to place your hand more in line with a potential bullet path is risky, but a great realistic scenario and use for airsoft. If you shoot your hand, you will know it, but you’ll still have a functional hand and no true wounds except to your conscious. Generally, I use airsoft for very close drills—less than a foot away—within grappling range. It really is interesting to experience how you can become entangled grappling the Rubber Dummy target while going through the drill. You can then look back and determine the gun angle, bullet trajectory, and where the shot ended up in comparison to your body parts.
With the typical urban environmental sounds of housing divisions, the report of most airsoft guns are about as loud as a kid playing basketball and cannot be heard more than a house or two each way. It is still far softer than the Blap! Blap! Blap! from the ever present re-roofing job in any neighborhood. What I really have enjoyed is being able to get outside in my backyard for 10–15 minutes to work though some realistic training and basic drills all while waiting for the wife to shower or while the kids are waiting for the bus to show up. As we all know, once you have kids, those long uninterrupted full-day range sessions seem to start to dwindle, and this is one way to get back out there and work on your fundamentals.
Have you ever trained with Rubber Dummy Targets or airsoft guns? What was your opinion? What is your favorite training drill? Share your answers in the comment section.
Major Pandemic is an editor at large who loves everything about shooting, hunting, the outdoors, and all those lifesaving little survival related products. His goal is simple, tell a good story in the form of a truthful review all while having fun. He contributes content to a wide variety of print and digital magazines and newsletters for companies and manufacturers throughout the industry with content exposure to over 2M readers monthly. www.MajorPandemic.com