With story after story in the news about kids running into trouble with airsoft guns, let us look at just what age group should be the minimum for using these devices.
Photo by NJ Star-Ledger
Why the concern?
As with anything ever invented by man, there are individuals who elect to misuse objects in ways never intended. Do you believe that the team who invented rattle can spray paint did so with graffiti artists in mind? Do you believe that the complex engineering mind who developed the first gasoline-powered chainsaw did so to provide a prop in a series of gory horror movies? Likely the answer is no.
Just like the above examples, airsoft guns (just like real steel guns) are misused every day. That doesn't mean they should be banned or increasingly regulated as a knee-jerk reaction. Just two weeks ago, a 12 year old in Cleveland was shot by police after he displayed a $20 spring gun in a local park. This week two youths, aged 11 and 12 respectively, tried to rob an Iowa Starbucks with airsoft guns.
With instances such as these, let us look at...
Basic safety and responsibility
First off, airsoft guns are not toys no matter how the media classifies them.
As with other projectile devices such as BB guns, air rifles, and paintball guns, adult supervision is recommended if not required whenever they are being used. Tragically, many parents simply buy an airsoft gun and hand it over to a young and inexperienced hobbyist without the proper training, equipment, or mindset development.
These failings, and not the devices themselves, lead to the incidents that are reported in the media which in turn evolve into increased regulation and targeting (no pun intended) of the sport.
(There is a reason why many areas and stores lock up airsoft items with the regular guns and ammunition)
-No airsoft gun should be used without the proper eyepro.
-As with any gun of any kind ranging from a nerf gun to a Barrett M82 .50 Cal, always be aware of your muzzle and do not point it at people, cars, or other items that are not a target.
-Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire and above all, treat every gun with respect and as if it is loaded.
-Abide by all local laws and customs in your area that may govern your gun.
-Always transport your airsoft equipment to a proper field in a bag and not openly visible.
-Educate those new to the sport in the proper use, cleaning, maintenance, safety procedures, and manual of operations of the gun in question before turning it over to them.
- Supervise and assist those new to the sport and remember, you had to start somewhere as well. Think of what you wish people would have explained to you.
So what is that minimum age anyway?
In the end, the mystery of how old an airsofter needs to be to start in the sport is the stage in which they can understand all of the above. This magic age can and will vary from person to person and is up to their mentor, be it a parent, milsim veteran, or sibling, to decide.
Remember, the worst thing to do is to hand an airsoft gun over to someone who has no idea what they are doing with it.
Anything less and you aren't doing the sport any justice.