Is Airsoft Considered a Firearm?

With the growing popularity of airsoft games and replicas, there is often confusion regarding their classification. Are they toys? Are they firearms? Here, we’ll explore the nature of airsoft guns and how they’re perceived in various legal contexts.

Is Airsoft Considered a Firearm?

Though airsoft guns are modeled after real firearms, in most state jurisdictions, they aren’t classified as such. They are distinct from conventional firearms, being non-lethal and primarily designed for recreational purposes. However, it’s essential to note that replicas, regardless of their muzzle velocity, are treated as firearms under the Criminal Code if used to commit a crime.

The primary distinction lies in the intent and functionality. Airsoft guns are manufactured to simulate combat scenarios, firearms training, or even serve as movie props. They lack the deadly force of traditional firearms. Yet, due to their realistic appearance, they can sometimes be perceived as genuine threats, leading to potential legal consequences.

Understanding Airsoft Guns

Origin and Design

Airsoft originated as a toy category in Japan during the 1970s, catering to those who appreciated firearms but couldn’t own the real thing. These guns were primarily plastic and varied in size. Over time, airsoft has gained massive popularity globally, evolving far beyond its simple origins.

Functionality and Use

Airsoft guns are replicas designed to imitate the appearance of real firearms. They discharge small, round plastic BBs using air pressure. While they can be used in games similar to paintball, they differ in their realistic design and the smaller, non-marking projectiles they shoot.

Airsoft Guns – Safety Concerns

Though often regarded as toys, airsoft guns are not devoid of safety concerns.

Injury Statistics

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2005 reported around 19,675 non-powder gun injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms. A significant 71% of these injuries were in individuals aged 20 or under. It’s essential to realize that airsoft guns, firing at hundreds of feet per second, can lead to severe injuries, especially to the eyes.

Potential Hazards

The resemblance of airsoft guns to real firearms has, at times, resulted in tragic outcomes. There have been instances where individuals, often youths, holding these replicas were mistaken for threats and shot by law enforcement. Their toy-like nature might lead to an underestimation of the inherent risks.

Airsoft Gun Variants

Electric Airsoft Guns

  • Powered by batteries or other electrical sources.
  • High rate of fire and popular among enthusiasts.

Spring Airsoft Guns

  • Functionality depends on manual action to compress air.
  • Generally have a lower rate of fire.

Gas-Powered Airsoft Guns

  • Operate using a valve that releases compressed gas.
  • Includes variants like HPA and green gas models.


1. Is an airsoft a gun?

On the other hand, Airsoft guns are not classified as firearms and are legal for use by all ages under federal law. However, some municipalities and states place restrictions on Airsoft guns. Cities such as New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, and certain parts of Michigan outlaw Airsoft guns entirely.

2. Does the military use airsoft?

Airsoft technology is utilized in both military and law enforcement training. Due to the realism of airsoft, its relatively safe projectiles, and cost-effective ammunition, it is a suitable choice for war games and force-on-force scenarios. This approach assists in training and enhancing the tactical proficiency of troops through associative learning and stress inoculation.

3. Can a 12 year old have an airsoft gun?

Legally, individuals under the age of 18 are not allowed to purchase or use airsoft guns. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule. For instance, if you are below 18 years of age, you can participate in airsoft games provided you are under the supervision of a responsible adult who is above the age of 18.

4. Is airsoft a pistol?

An airsoft pistol is a highly authentic replica of a genuine pistol. These pistols can be made from various materials, including plastic, die-cast metal, aluminum, or steel. Many of these airsoft pistols bear a striking resemblance to real pistols and are popular among recreational shooters, collectors, and law enforcement training personnel.


While airsoft guns serve as an exciting hobby for many, it’s crucial to recognize their potential risks and the legal implications surrounding them. Proper understanding, safe handling, and respect for these replicas can ensure a fun and safe experience for all enthusiasts.

Harrison Baxter
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