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Bite The Bullet

Airsoft Practical Shooting Legitimized by IPSC! (2008-11-21)

This text was submitted by a Hong Kong resident Airsoft enthusiast who also shoots IPSC. The views and opinions do not necessarily represent the official policy of RedWolf Airsoft Specialist Ltd.

Not The Usual SuspectsThe author in IPSC World Shoot in October 2008, Bali, Indonesia.


As some of you may know, the General Assembly is where the governing body of International Practical Shooting Confederation makes decisions about the sport, and Airsofts were a topic this year. The General Assembly rulings of IPSC can be found here. The latest one for the October 2008 GA in Bali, Indonesia isn't there at the time of writing, but I was in World Shoot XV which was held at the same time, so I was updated about the information there and then. I was talking to Michael Voigt and IPSC Secretary Vince Pinto among others, so the info is reliable.

It was decided that Airsoft Practical Shooting will be recognized officially under IPSC as Action Air for one provisional year. How this will work in practice remains to be seen, but I'm optimistic. The sport is already popular in many Asian countries, so it only needs to be exported, instead of started from the ground up.

Personally I would like to see internationally standardized rules, and more activity of the kind we have seen in Japan, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan already for over a decade, with co-operation and communication between the various regions as a new objective. Basically an Airsoft-version of the international boundary-crossing sport that IPSC is.

One of the greatest obstacles in achieving this are the market and language barriers: While the guns and gear are readily available, I've noticed that the clubs here use lots of things (rulebook, specific downsized cardboard targets, metal targets, stop plates...) which aren't easily available for the rest of the world. Only a handful of the active guys in clubs speak English, so communications between clubs are less than optimal. Of course there is enough work in running your own club already, so instead of pushing Action Air from Hong Kong or other already active regions to the outside world, it should be pulled in from where the demand has risen.

Actually a team has already been working on the rulebook for IPSC Action Air. It will be up to the newly founded (and older) Airsoft shooting clubs around the world to adopt them from January 1st 2009 onwards to be part of this historical step. The rules will be simply the official IPSC rules, with the obvious necessary modifications to adapt them for Airsoft shooting.

Not The Usual Suspects Not The Usual Suspects
Moving back requires skill and confidence to avoid a DQ. A bed, nightstand and a handgun in action. It could happen?


I've been into shooting sports my entire adult life. However, when I moved to work in Hong Kong over two years ago, I was pitched against an authoritarian system that does not allow private possession of firearms. I gave in and left mine in a secure place back home.

In hopes of keeping up and possibly improving my shooting skills, I set out to find alternative means to practice. Airsoft wargaming was an old hobby of mine, so I started to think if I could use a gas blowback pistol as a practice tool. I got connected with the clubs, and have been to practices weekly (sometimes 2-3 times a week) ever since. I will lay out a few key differences that I have noticed during this time, as well as the obvious ones.

From a hobbyist/consumer point of view, the first difference you notice between Airsoft and actual firearms is the law. In almost every country where Airsoft is legal, an adult can simply walk into a shop and buy one. Possession (and obviously brandishing) in public places may be restricted, but ownership is free. In many countries you need a permit for a firearm, so the initial purchase of an Airsoft gun is easier.

Further comparison reveals another difference that's important to the consumer: Price. For the price of even a more affordable pistol suitable for IPSC, you could buy anywhere between 5-10 pieces of their Airsoft-equivalents. The price difference doesn't stop there, because the ammo bears a price tag as well. Gas blowback guns run on inexpensive propane and BBs.

Not The Usual Suspects Not The Usual Suspects
A hectic shoot-off with Airsoft guns. Plates going down! The left shooter won this round with a small margin.

Yet another difference is the shooting location. You can dry practice anywhere, but to get any trigger time with a real firearm, you have to go to a range. If you live in the city, the range might be a good 30-60 minutes away at the very least. With an Airsoft gun you can simply use a sturdy vehicle blanket or similar as the backstop, and the noise level permits shooting even in an apartment during daytime. This is not only a benefit for practice possibilities, but event organizing as well.

The motto of IPSC is DVC, which stands for the Latin words Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas. It means accuracy, power and speed respectively, which are all important key factors in IPSC shooting. First of all, "you can't miss fast enough". You have to hit the target. Second, "a hit without force isn't one". A powerful weapon has a more powerful recoil as well, and it takes skill to master such a weapon. Finally, you're shooting against the clock. Bullseyes don't help you if it takes too long to shoot.

In Airsoft shooting, obviously the Vis is gone entirely in practical terms. A jerky trigger finger affects your accuracy much more than the slide movement between shots, if you try shoot faster than your skills allow. There's no real recoil, so weapon control is not a challenge. Also the accuracy of an Airsoft gun does not match that of the real counterpart. With typical 40-50 mm (<2") groupings from 10 meters (32 feet), a skilled shooter will easily outshoot the gun. This also makes Airsoft guns impractical for static precision shooting.

To make up for the difference, Airsoft practical shooting takes Celeritas (speed) and pushes it to the MAX. This provides a real challenge for the competitors to beat other shooters, even though the balance between speed and accuracy is shifted compared to real firearms.

Airsoft shooting happens from rather close ranges, so the targets are reduced in size compared to the real IPSC targets. With a height of 380 mm, the Classic target stands only 2/3 tall next to the original one. (Quite fittingly, the 6 mm BB is also 2/3 the size of a 9 mm bullet.) The surface area of the target is just around 40%, so don't be fooled into thinking that you can just point and shoot at a target, even if it's as close as 4-5 meters (14-15 feet). The A-Zone is only the size of a grown man's palm! Naturally Minor scoring is used: A=5, C=3 and D=1 points.

The metal targets are commonly either 3 mm thick aluminum, or 1.7 mm steel. They are downsized not only to make them more difficult to hit, but also to make them light enough for an Airsoft gun to knock over. A 0.2 gram BB at 100 m/s (328 fps) has only 1 joules of energy. In IPSC terms, the power factor is less than one (1)! Still though, the pepper poppers are calibrated to require a good hit to make them fall.

If you are using Airsoft guns as a training tool, you need to keep a couple of realities in mind to prevent picking up bad habits. The lack of recoil could easily get you accustomed to a too light grip, and a too fast shooting pace. Keep the grip high and firm, and aim both shots. "Aim once, pull twice" is nonsense, as we all know by now.

Not The Usual Suspects
A 560 mm tall Classic target, and the 380 mm Airsoft-counterpart.

Some people would call Airsoft safe, which is true. Safer than IPSC? -No. There is no difference really. IPSC is a safe sport, full stop. Over 30 years of history without firearm mishandling accidents supports this. IPSC has the strictest uncompromising safety measures, and the only injuries you see are sprained ankles or such - which could happen in any sport where you move around.

One important thing for Airsoft shooters is to keep in mind, that the real counterparts have a lethal potential. The safety rules should be followed precisely as if it was real, to teach the shooter to handle a gun-like object safely without even thinking about it. The safe toy-like nature can deceive you into bad habits with an Airsoft gun if you are not careful.


When you discuss Airsoft shooting with real IPSC shooters, please remain courteous even if you face negative responses. As a firearm owner myself, I can relate to the reactions some IPSC-shooters show towards Airsofts. The threat to private firearms ownership is global and it's real, so it's easy to mistake new things as threats. I've thought about a couple of arguments that clarify why recognizing Airsoft under IPSC - in my opinion - is a smart move.

It is better for IPSC to take the "driver seat" and lead the way for Airsoft shooting to keep it on the right track. Airsoft practical shooting is already being done, and it looks a lot like IPSC. To the layman there is no difference except for the guns used. Even if IPSC did not recognize the sport, Airsoft shooting would not suddenly go away. If you are worried that it gives politicans ideas to ban real guns and have everyone shoot with Airsofts, certainly the official connection will not change this.

Suggesting airguns or laser devices to replace real firearms is an age-old idea anyways, so it's not like anyone is going to "see the light" when they see someone shoot an IPSC course with an Airsoft gun.

Starting Practical Shooting with an Airsoft gun is easy and affordable, as explained before. They are a great option for people on a budget, such as youngsters. With a proper set of officially recognized rules, Airsoft shooters already learn the nature of the sport: They get bitten by the bug! Many skills carry directly over to real IPSC, so they won't start from zero if they want to move on to shoot IPSC for real. This gains us (IPSC) a pool of people who are already into practical shooting, so the final step to get into the sport of IPSC will be easier. More IPSC shooters means more political and financial leverage, which is a benefit for the sport and firearms ownership.

For anyone who read this far, thank you for your interest in the topic. Here are a couple of short videos from Airsoft Practical Shooting events (or IPSC Action Air, as it now officially is) in Hong Kong. Do check out my channel as well. Enjoy!

Sincerely with the best regards to all shooters,