Airsoft guns are an incredibly common item to own, whether it be for sport or pest deterrents. As recently as 2018, the global airsoft market was valued at around $1.5 billion, making it a massive market to engage with.
But how fast do airsoft guns shoot, and are they safe? If you’ve been looking into airsoft safety and the speed at which they fire, we’re here to help. Read on for more information on how fast you can expect an airsoft gun to shoot.
What Is Regulation Speed?
To be clear, within this article we’ll be referring to the speed of the plastic pellet fired by an airsoft gun. Many confuse an airsoft gun’s speed with how quickly it fires and not how strong the pellet moves. We will be discussing the speed with which the pellet travels.
There is not a strict regulation speed, as most airsoft outlets will operate under their own house rules. However, there are a few rules of thumb that many outlets will follow.
For example, most airsoft guns will shoot between 250 to 350 feet per second (FPS). Generally speaking, most organizations will not allow you to use an airsoft gun that fires faster than 400 FPS.
The primary reason for this is that firing much faster than that can cause serious injury or pain to other individuals. When playing in close quarters, a higher speed is unnecessary and only serves to increase pain and risk injury. While weapons can easily undergo modification to increase the speed past this, most airsoft ranges will not allow you to bring such a weapon.
Many airsoft grounds and outlets will have you test or verify the fps of your weapon before playing. Weapons that were verified will be given some sort of marking – a ribbon or something easily removable. Weapons without such a ribbon are often banned from playing until verified to ensure safety.
Consequences of Speed
What happens as speed increases? From the average range of 250-350 FPS, injuries would be decidedly minor unless struck in the eye or somewhere similar. Pellets at this speed can leave welts but will rarely break the skin unless in extremely close quarters.
At 400 to 500, pellets will often break the skin. Light protection can prevent this from happening, but welts will still frequently occur. Using this speed in close quarters can lead to injury.
Higher than this is ill-advised for shooting at other people and pushes into the range that some would use to hunt small game. At 700 FPS, a pellet can cause serious injury, break safety gear like goggles, and will almost undoubtedly break the skin. Use at this speed is extremely dangerous and should not be done.
Can Airsoft Guns Be Lethal?
It is highly unlikely and borderline impossible that one could ever cause lethal injury with an airsoft rifle. Even under extremely high speeds, the human body typically can resist fatal injury from plastic pellets. Airsoft guns using metal pellets under very high velocities can kill an individual, but these are BB guns and not airsoft guns.
That said, there are still severe injuries that can occur. Without proper protection, an airsoft gun can and will put out an eyeball. Many other injuries can occur, but fatalities are excessively unlikely.
How to Defend
Defending against airsoft guns is simple, and most professional airsoft grounds will require you to have basic protections to play. Typically, this takes the form of protective gear.
At the very least, it’s a general requirement to have eye protection – often called eye pro for short. Players would need safety glasses that cover the eye and can withstand being struck by a pellet. Metal mesh glasses are common for this use.
Past this protection, many players will wear gloves to stop their fingers and hands from taking a painful hit. From here, your average clothing is often enough to protect against airsoft pellets that are at or below 400 FPS.
However, in close combat, you may want a bit thicker clothing due to the proximity of the shot. A thicker, long-sleeved shirt is highly beneficial, as are long pants and close-toed shoes. You may even want to wear a padded vest if you find the pain more than you can comfortably endure.
What’s a Safe FPS?
Anything below 400 would classify as a safe FPS for an airsoft gun. In close combat, 400 can be painful but will rarely cause a more severe injury than a slight puncturing of the skin. If playing in a field or long-range, 400 FPS is often weak enough that the pain is minimal or non-existent by the time a pellet hits a player.
At 200 FPS, you would be completely safe at all ranges – so much so that this is often only reserved for close quarters. At long ranges, 200 FPS would be weak enough that the pellet may not even reach most targets or would have little to no feeling upon hitting.
Anything below 200 FPS approaches an unusable level, as there needs to be some amount of power behind the shot. Generally speaking, 400 is the highest FPS that one can consider completely safe.
Why Higher FPS Weapons?
If these relatively-low FPSes are perfectly acceptable for an airsoft gun, why does anyone modify their airsoft gun to shoot faster? There are quite a few reasons for wanting a stronger weapon.
One of the most important features is that airsoft works on an honor system. In paintball, one cannot deny being hit – a paintball marker will leave a paint splatter on their clothing, and they are marked as a hit.
In airsoft, there are no such markers. Players operate on an honor system of calling their hit. Most often, this is in the form of raising your hand, calling “hit,” and walking off of the field of play. Professional outlets may sometimes have spotters to call someone hit if they spot it, but this is difficult due to the size and speed of an airsoft pellet.
Shooting at a higher FPS, bluntly speaking, makes it less enjoyable to cheat and not call your hit. When several 500 FPS pellets have peppered your unarmored arm and left welts, it’s much more difficult to deny being hit.
Past this, players may make weapons stronger for longer-range playing. Airsoft guns meant to mimic sniper rifles will often be stronger to fulfill this role. There are also target pistols that shoot at a high speed to practice shooting.
How to Make Your Airsoft Gun Faster
One of the ways to make an airsoft gun is simple – get a better gun. If you’re using an airsoft gun from a sporting store that you purchased on a budget, it’s difficult to modify it to match more expensive, higher-quality weaponry.
Primarily, you would likely upgrade your spring to make your weapon fire faster. Airsoft guns that use springs to fire weapons can benefit from a stronger, more powerful spring to fire the pellet faster and farther.
Another common tactic is to adjust the inner barrel to better specifications. Many airsoft guns default at a 6.1mm barrel. Narrowing it to a tighter bore, such as 6.01, can help increase the FPS and power of your airsoft gun.
Finally, you can benefit from improving the gas systems of your gun. Specifically, gas-powered guns that use CO2 (or propane, less commonly) may have slight leaks or other such minor malfunctions. Improving these areas and fixing any leaks can make it so that the gas provides more power when firing.