Airsoft continues to rise in popularity around the world – at least, in the countries that allow it to be enjoyed.
Thankfully, the US is one such country where the sport is booming, with new players getting involved all the time.
And one question we get asked a lot is how old do you have to be to play airsoft in the USA?
In order to keep things safe, legal, and to offer parents and guardians peace-of-mind, let’s take a look at when kids are allowed to play this fast-growing combat sport.
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Airsoft Age Restrictions – Too Long, Didn’t Read
Without getting into too much detail, let’s just give you the answer up front, for anyone who might be in a rush.
While many countries prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from playing airsoft, in the US, there is no minimum age limit – with some caveats.
It will likely depend upon the state, local laws, and the in-house rules of a particular airsoft field.
And in many cases, proper supervision by an adult will be required. Which, of course, can be someone actually involved in the game as well. A waiver may also need to be signed by someone responsible.
The ideal age for a child to get into airsoft is around the 13-16 years mark. They’re more competent, responsible, and mature as a teenager than, say, when they’re under 12.
Although kids aged 10 and sometimes younger can and do play, my humble opinion is that it’s better to wait until the child is older.
There’s still a risk of injury and pain, and it’s possible a younger child’s negative experience will put them off the sport for life, whereas a teen should be able to handle it.
In all cases, common sense must be used, and the psyche and character of the individual should be taken into consideration at all times.
All children are different, with unique strengths and capabilities, as well as flaws and challenges as they grow into what is hopefully a well-rounded, critical-thinking adult.
Purchasing an airsoft gun is another matter entirely, and we explore more on that topic, below.
Can Kids Play Airsoft?
Any concerned parent or guardian is likely to hit the roof with worry the first time their child expresses an interest in playing a combat sport with realistic, replica guns.
Especially if the youngster in question is a pre-teen.
And there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s perfectly understandable.
The short answer is yes – kids can play airsoft. The US is pretty relaxed when it comes to the laws that govern the sport, and children as young as ten have been known to get involved.
As mentioned above, it will depend on local ordinances, as well as your local airsoft field’s own rules and regulations. Follow that link for a great resource on US airsoft locations.
Some MilSim (Military Simulation) games, for example, are just going to be too fast-paced, aggressive, and tactical for the little ones.
And there are many veteran airsoft players who just don’t like playing with children – particularly when it comes to working in a competent, experienced, competitive team.
Being careful not to tarnish all children with the same brush, kids might not have developed the integrity required for an airsoft game – particularly at younger ages.
Airsoft stands or falls on the honesty system, calling your hits, and playing fair. For many kids, this can be a bridge too far, with cheaters and tantrums potentially ruining the game.
Again, it’s important to take the character of the child into consideration when deciding if they’re capable of playing airsoft in the first place.
And just like a real firearm, it’s important that all users know how to handle an airsoft weapon, with good practice, and responsible ownership.
Children are naturally curious, and looking down the barrel of any gun at point-blank-range is asking for trouble.
Kids and Airsoft – the Advantages
There are several advantages to allowing your child the chance to get into airsoft.
Without going into too much detail, they include:
- Enjoying the great outdoors (rather than video games inside).
- Keeping fit, aiding in strength and physical development.
- Learning about tactics, teamwork, and leadership.
- Cognitive development – honesty, integrity, character building.
- Social interaction with others – making new friends.
- As an introduction to safe gun ownership.
This list is not exhaustive, and it gives you an idea why this sport is a good choice for youngsters as soon as they’re responsible enough to join in.
But perhaps the most important advantage is that they’ll finally get off your back about it, and you can have a moment’s peace.
What is an Airsoft Gun?
Airsoft guns are replica weapons of real firearms.
Not to be confused with BB guns or air rifles, airsoft models fire small, plastic pellets that are typically six millimeters in diameter, and weigh 0.20 grams.
From a standard airsoft gun, these projectiles can reach speeds of around 300-400 fps, with most US airsoft fields having a 350 fps limit for indoor play, and maybe 400-500 for larger outdoor games.
To put that into perspective, an air rifle will fire at around 1000 fps, while a real firearm between 1000-2000 fps, sometimes more – depending on the muzzle velocity of the weapon, of course.
Every airsoft gun sold, transported, or carried in public must legally have a blaze-orange tip at the end of the barrel. Read this article on the laws surrounding its removal, and if you can do it or not.
This piece will explain the different types of airsoft guns available, so you can find the one that’s right for you and/or your child.
Another good place to start is this article on the best cheap airsoft guns, the purchase of which will be useful in determining if your child will enjoy the sport in the first place – without breaking the bank.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Buy an Airsoft Gun?
For the most part, you need to be at least 18-year-old to purchase an airsoft gun.
In the US, they’re not classified as firearms, and are not subject to similar laws. Still, you need to be 18 to buy one, but you can be any age to use it.
An airsoft pistol makes a good beginner gun, so follow that link for some excellent options from when you or your child are just starting out. I would suggest a spring-powered model before gas or electric.
Is Airsoft Dangerous?
Aside from legal airsoft age requirements, another serious concern for parents is if the sport is dangerous or not.
And while it’s certainly not as safe as video gaming, for example, with the right protection, gear, equipment, and common sense, most airsoft games are more or less injury free.
But it is a physical game, can be quite demanding on young, inexperienced bodies, and will take its toll without due care.
By far the most common complaint is a rolled or sprained ankle, from perhaps an over-zealous charge, attempting to duck behind cover, climbing through a window, or jumping over obstacles and hazards.
Scraped knees are also a regular occurrence, and you should seriously consider tactical pants with knee pads for leg protection. Just make sure children’s sizes are available.
The terrain, obstacles, and buildings in an airsoft field or arena can pose problems to some children, and even many adults, who misjudge their physical capabilities, and/or they’re not wearing the right gear.
Do the pellet hits actually hurt? Yes and no. Again, it depends on a number of factors, including the range, the conditions, the fps of the weapon, protection worn, and where the target has been hit.
For more information on this, head on over to this article, which explores if airsoft or paintball hurts more. Briefly, it’s paintball, but airsoft hits will still sting for a moment or two.
While some dedicated adult players use goggles alone, it’s highly recommended that a child wear a full airsoft face mask, so you can follow that link for some quality suggestions.
Part of the fun of airsoft is developing and building a loadout, which can offer tremendous joy to children and adults alike, as well as the chance of a bonding session with parents or guardians showing a genuine interest in the process.
However, if after absorbing all this information you’re still not convinced about letting your child try airsoft, I would suggest NERF guns – or similar – as a viable alternative until they’re old enough to step up with the big boys and girls.
How old do you have to be to play airsoft? I personally recommend no younger than 13, but so long as you’re sticking to local field rules, and you use your own discretion, a ten-year-old could play, too.
Certainly no younger than that. Whatever you decide, using that all-important common sense will go a long way to keeping you, your family, and others around you safe.
And both you and your child will potentially enjoy a life-long, exciting hobby together – because once the bug bites, it doesn’t let go!
Let me know if you have any further comments, questions, or thoughts.
Stay safe out there, call your hits, (make sure your child does, too), and happy airsofting!