Many people who enjoy the finer things in life also enjoy shooting. You see this represented in plenty of popular entertainment. In a typical, almost stereotypical scenario, a man will enjoy some brandy, smoke a fine cigar, and then take his shotgun out for some equally civilized and refined skeet shooting. This is all something more appropriate to fiction than to real life for most of us, but it does tap something very real: We enjoy shooting. Sports that involve breaking or knocking something down from far away are always popular, perhaps because they tape something primal in us.
Would you like to enjoy shooting or even full-out military simulations, but under controlled conditions and without danger? It’s a fact that some sports, like paintball, involve a fairly significant risk of injury from the projectiles that are fired. And shooting live ammunition is very often impractical, either because of local laws or because of the cost of ammunition in a market that has been somewhat turbulent for the last few years.
One way that men and women of refinement can enjoy the shooting sports is to engage in the simulated shooting sports. This gives them all of the advantages of a session on the range, or in the field engaged in simulated combat, with none of the danger and without even the need for hearing protection. There’s no mess and no fuss, and the only real protection you need is a good pair of safety goggles for your eyes.
The beauty of airsoft is that it can be done anywhere, and on any budget. And because the “weapons” of airsoft are just launchers for tiny plastic pellets, even in countries where there is more firearms-related regulation than in others, it is possible for citizens to enjoy the pastime. Airsoft is actually a very popular pastime among the wealthy, but also among those of only limited means. You can pay just about as much as you can afford, at any pricing level. Some people pay for very elaborate customs setups. There is at least one very famous Japanese competition shooter who learned almost exclusively with very high-end airsoft pistols before graduating to “live” firearms when he came to the United States (where legislation regarding firearms is not nearly as strict as it is in Japan, a country that has essentially banned privately owned firearms).
Even in an area that is sparsely populated, like Northern Canada, airsoft is a viable option. Take Mike Pearson, for example. Mike is a man on a mission. The 24-year-old shop supervisor at a Whitehorse, Yukon printing company is determined to build a viable local airsoft club. He has been actively recruiting members for his organization’s simulated combat games for the last two years and now has perhaps 16 active members.
Airsoft, like paintball, is a simulated combat game played with replica airguns that closely resemble real firearms. The projectile they fire is a 6mm plastic sphere, comparable to BB gun ammunition but much lighter. Thanks to a recent lifting of restrictions on airsoft guns, these replica firearms can be manufactured to mimic almost exactly the real guns after which they are patterned. This makes them perfect for military skirmish games in which teams use battlefield tactics and strategy to “kill” other players, capture flags, or engage in a variety of other combat simulations.
“More or less the goal [of airsoft games] is a more realistic combat experience, rather than a paintball experience,” Mike explains. Players feel the sting of the plastic projectile and operate on an honor system when it comes to reporting they have been “killed.”
“It’s just a blast,” says Mike. “Airsoft is for those who don’t like the paint [in paintball], and [who] would like a little bit more realism.”
Mike has been playing airsoft on and off for eight years. Before he moved to Whitehorse, he was forced to travel several hours to engage in airsoft games. On arriving in the area, he discovered he would have to travel even farther away to play. He then resolved to start his own club, whose current membership he hopes to double.
“Personally, I’d love it if we got to the point where we could have a travel team,” he told the Midnight Sun News. “I like to play in what they call ‘mil-sims,’ which are basically games that are held annually in certain places, that are 300, 400, 500, 600 people playing at the same time. They incorporate real military vehicles, helicopters… All this adds to that immersive experience. We’re not just going out there to shoot back and forth at each other. There are teams, there are tactics. Players range from beginners to guys who are ex-military.”
In all his club activities, Mike emphasizes safety and responsibility. His players wear goggles, play only on private property, and limit their guns to a maximum of 500 feet per second for spring-powered “sniper” weapons (whose players must adhere to minimum engagement distances), while the average player with an AEG (an electric airsoft gun capable of firing pellets automatically) fires pellets at roughly 400 feet per second.
“I’m very protective of the sport of airsoft,” he says. “It’s been close, a few times, to being made illegal. I teach everybody who plays with us to treat their airsoft gun like a real firearm. I’m not afraid to report somebody to the RCMP who is putting my sport’s image at risk. If I determine that they’re the kind of person who might go and run around on their street with it I won’t help them.”
The club is open to members 16 and above with written parental consent, and of course to those 18 and older. Team members regularly assist beginners in getting started. Yukon-area players interested in joining the club generally contact Mike through the club’s Airsoft Yukon Facebook page.
“In all honesty, I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie,” Mike admits. “I like firearms, but I have no interest in hurting people. Airsoft is the only way to really get a good mixture of all of that.”