Combat sports allow us to enjoy adrenaline-fueled competitive action without the risks associated with real-life engagements.
But this only works if certain rules and regulations are followed.
Enjoyment of the game stands or falls on these key points, and you should read on to discover essential airsoft rules and etiquette – particularly if you’re a beginner.
However, it seems that many experienced players could also do with a refresher.
So whether you are a beginner or a pro player, here is the guide to the dos and don’ts of playing airsoft.
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- Airsoft Rules in a Couple of Words
- Types of Airsoft Games
- Airsoft Game Rules and Etiquette
- Closing Thoughts
Airsoft Rules in a Couple of Words
While there are extensive regulations that should be covered depending on the type of game you’re playing, the core rules generally remain the same.
Here they are in a bite-sized guide:
- Wear appropriate protection.
- Call your hits.
- No blind firing.
- No ‘overshooting.’
- Observe the ‘BANG’ rule.
- Avoid aiming for the head.
- Observe field FPS limits.
- No physical contact.
- No verbal abuse.
- No arguing.
- Observe safe zone rules.
- Take care around obstacles.
- The referee’s word is final.
- Learn individual game rules.
There is, of course, a lot more to good airsoft etiquette than a few bullet points – so I highly recommend you read the rest of the article as we explore everything in more detail.
One more thing before we properly begin I recommend is taking a look at this article on airsoft age restrictions, as you should make sure you or your child is legally allowed to play in the first place.
Types of Airsoft Games
While this article covers general airsoft rules and regulations, it’s worth noting that things may or may not change depending on the type of game you’re running.
It’s up to you to learn the ropes when it comes to different airsoft game modes – and you can follow the link to discover the most popular scenarios.
It’s important that you understand what is expected of you depending on the game mode chosen, so take a look at this article on the types of airsoft roles that are available.
And make sure you’re aware of the area boundaries before the game begins – sneaking out of the designated playing area for a flanking position is not allowed.
All good airsoft fields should have a briefing beforehand, where players can familiarize themselves with the rules, check weapons and gear, and understand what is and is not allowed for that particular game.
Airsoft Game Rules and Etiquette
Wearing the Right Gear
Since safety is a primary concern when playing airsoft, wearing adequate protection is non-negotiable. If you don’t have it, you’re not going to be allowed to play – it’s as simple as that.
Take a look at this article on what to wear for airsoft for a general breakdown of everything you need to get started.
Most airsoft fields will have guns and equipment for hire – but when it comes to airsoft goggles, it’s much better to have your own.
Likewise, for airsoft masks – as you should really have the rest of your face covered, too. Using someone else’s sweaty mask from a previous game isn’t a fun experience.
Not only must you wear adequate eye protection, but you must ensure it stays on at all times during the game, with no exceptions.
Should you need to remove your eyewear for whatever reason, do so only in the designated safe zones.
This is one of the primary airsoft safety rules, and failure to adhere to hit will result in a ban.
Even if you just need to clean the lens momentarily, it takes a second for a BB pellet to burst an eyeball, so don’t ever take that risk.
Calling Your Hits
Unlike paintball, where a hit will cause an obvious stain on the target, airsoft ammo doesn’t leave a mark on clothing or gear.
As such, players rely on the “honor” system, whereby everyone needs to clearly call when they’ve been hit.
As soon as you feel a pellet strike anywhere on your body, you raise an arm in the air, and shout out “HIT!” Raising the barrel of your weapon is also recommended, to show you’re obviously out of the game.
Depending on the type of game being played, you might wait for a medic, you might be eliminated completely, or you might simply return to a dead box or respawn point.
Failure to do so is called cheating, and if discovered, you will be ejected from the game and banned from playing at that field.
A hit on your gun does not count – although some fields have a rule whereby that weapon is now malfunctioning and is not to be used for the remainder of the match, or until “repaired.”
Furthermore, under no circumstances should you be taking an active part in the game once hit.
Hit players are forbidden from calling out enemy troop movements and positions, giving away any information that benefits their team, or interfering with play in any way.
You are ”dead”, after all.
As a side note, while not strictly a rule, airsoft can be a lot more fun if you get into the spirit of being hit, and realistically “die” after being shot.
Nobody needs to win an Oscar, but it does make for a more enjoyable experience – particularly when playing MilSim games (Military Simulation).
No Blind Firing
Another safety rule, no blind firing means that you should always know what you’re shooting at. It’s exactly the same as if you were using real steel.
So, while it might be a popular tactic in the movies, you’re not allowed to stick your weapon around a corner and start blasting.
While this will keep you well covered and might even work in a real combat situation, if caught on an airsoft field, you will be ejected.
You need to be able to clearly see your target before pulling the trigger.
And for more information on differences between airsoft and “real” gear – just follow the link.
Overshooting refers to unnecessary shots at a particular player, who most likely has already called a hit.
Or, lighting someone up like a Christmas tree.
One hit is sufficient, and continuing to pepper an opponent with pellets after the fact is extremely bad form.
This can be common in speedsoft, where fast play with large-mag guns in close quarters often causes excessive shooting, and/or slower reactions to stop squeezing the trigger.
And even if the player is cheating and hasn’t called the initial hit, don’t waste your ammo, and take it up with the referee (more on this, below).
The BANG Rule
This is a common rule in both airsoft and paintball. One that I learned the hard way back in the early 90s. I was shot in the nuts from only a couple of feet away with a paintball pellet.
Thankfully, as a relatively small teenager wearing a set of overalls that were far too big, I was spared from injury as it (almost) harmlessly ricocheted off.
The perpetrator had broken the 10-feet/three meter rule, and was consequently ejected from the game.
If you ever find yourself within less than 10 feet or three meters of an opponent, you should not be pulling the trigger at such close range.
Instead, players should simply shout “BANG!” to inform the enemy player they have been hit.
Players filling the role of sniper should be particularly aware of this, as airsoft sniper rifles should never be fired at close quarters, given their normally higher FPS rates (more on this, below).
Sniper rifles shouldn’t be fired at opponents any closer than around 50 feet.
Instead, make sure you have a back-up sidearm handy, like one of these awesome airsoft pistols.
There shouldn’t be any – period.
Aiming directly at an opponent’s head is strongly discouraged in airsoft – even if they’re wearing the correct headgear, eye, and face protection.
But that’s not to say headshots don’t happen. I remember a scenario where I was sneaking behind a player who thought he’d made it unnoticed into our base.
Oblivious to my presence, he searched for our flag, whereupon I decided to put him out of his misery and shot him in right between his shoulder blades.
In spite of my aim, however, the pellet was suddenly taken by the wind, and it flew up and smacked him in the back of the head.
Thankfully, I was a safe distance – and he was a good sport, while I begged forgiveness and apologized profusely. It was a cautionary tale, nonetheless.
Either way, unlike Thor – you shouldn’t ever go for the head, and be particularly cautious when playing in adverse weather conditions.
All airsoft fields will have an FPS limit when it comes to airsoft gun rules.
FPS stands for Feet Per Second, in relation to how fast your airsoft gun will fire a BB pellet.
For the most part, the maximum FPS allowed in US fields is 350, while outdoor games might be up to 400-550 FPS (mainly for sniper rifles, only).
These figures will likely vary from field to field, country to country.
Make sure you check with your local playing area before turning up with a high-powered rifle that won’t be allowed on the field.
And take a look at this article, which explains FPS in airsoft in more detail.
Furthermore, weapons should be given a general examination before every game, and of course – no real guns are allowed anywhere near the field of play.
This article on airsoft gun maintenance will help you keep your weapon in line with protocol, as well as ensuring it performs well on the day.
Finally, you might notice that airsoft guns come with a blaze-orange safety tip when sold. For more information on this – including if you’re legally allowed to remove it – follow the link.
Keep Your Hands to Yourself
Airsoft is a no-contact sport. At no point should you be attempting to wrestle someone to the ground, jump on them from behind, or perform a Vulcan nerve pinch.
Or any other kind of aggressive physical contact for that matter.
The same can be said for an opponent’s gear, gun, or equipment. Grabbing at their barrel is prohibited, and you should be leaving their stuff well alone.
You wouldn’t like it done to you, so don’t do it to anyone else.
I get it, players can be competitive, games can get heated, and tempers might become frayed – but if you raise your hand to anyone, you’ll be bounced out of there and banned faster than your gun’s FPS rate.
No Bad Language
Likewise, the same can be said for turning the air blue – particularly when directed towards other players, and/or when children/minors are present.
We’re only human, and expletives are a part of life – so nobody is going to be ejected for the odd F-bomb here and there.
But if you insist on a constant tirade of abuse towards anyone within earshot, then be prepared to be thrown out, as you f**king well should be.
As mentioned, airsoft can get very competitive. Not all players are good sportsmen and tantrums are not unheard of.
This is particularly true when playing with younger players, but even experienced airsofters can (and do) lose their heads from time to time.
Rather than getting into heated debates which may result in a physical confrontation, you must remember to walk away and take your grievances straight to the referee.
They are there to ensure the games run smoothly, and safely, with everyone enjoying themselves while observing the letter of the law.
In the Safe/Dead Zone
Different fields/game modes might have different rules when it comes to returning to a safe zone or dead box, but here are some general pointers.
Commonly, your weapon needs to be unloaded, and often, fields will insist that you cover the barrel.
You shouldn’t be aiming your weapon at anyone inside a safe zone – loaded or otherwise – and horseplay isn’t allowed.
Be sure to adhere to the rules of the game, and don’t re-enter the playing field until you’re allowed to do so. This might be after a certain time limit, or you might have to wait for the next match.
Also, you’re not allowed to casually enter the dead zone if you’re not dead. If you need to exit the field of play, you will likely be regarded as being out until the next match, so be careful.
Obstacles and Hazards
Part of the fun of playing at dedicated airsoft fields and arenas is the wealth of obstacles, cover, and hazards that are available to duck behind and negotiate.
But most fields will forbid players from climbing on them, particularly when playing in abandoned, derelict, or potentially dangerous buildings.
Some locations will be off-limits, and players should not enter any prohibited structure, or venture anywhere that isn’t allowed during the game.
Refs Have the Final Say
It’s really simple. No arguing with the referees.
Their decision is final, and you’re not going to get anything except for a sore throat – and possibly a ban.
Furthermore, shooting a referee might well get you on a blacklist, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find another airsoft field that will allow you to play.
That might seem like a lot to remember – especially if you’re new to airsoft – but you’ll pick it up in no time.
Most of it is just common sense anyway.
Just remember to stay safe, protected, and be respectful at all times – both to your team, your opponents, and to the referees.
Airsoft players who stick to these rules will have the most rewarding experience while making solid connections in the community, and being asked back to play, time and time again.
And, perhaps most importantly, you’ll have the most fun while you’re at it.
Check out the video below for some more airsoft etiquette, including the top ten ways to get banned. Be warned – it gets pretty brutal.
Airsoft rules and etiquette need to be followed in order for the sport to continue to be a success, and for everyone involved to have a safe, and enjoyable time.
Bear in mind that this article isn’t exhaustive, and I’ve no doubt left off some specific rules and regulations, which can vary depending on where you play.
Let me know any key points I might have missed in the comments.
Stay safe out there, call those hits and happy airsofting!