Airsoft, like paintball, is an immensely popular combat sport that has taken the world by storm.
But also, like paintball, it can be a bit daunting to get started – because it certainly seems like you need a lot of gear from the get-go.
That’s why we’ve decided to break down the basics in this article, and explain what to wear for airsoft for anyone who needs pointing in the right direction.
But there’s plenty of tips and advice for old pros, too – as well as some interesting info you might not be aware of.
Let’s get into it, soldier, so we can get you onto the field and into the action as soon as possible.
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- What is Airsoft?
- Types of Airsoft Games
- BB Pellets
- Airsoft Guns
- What to Wear for Airsoft – The Basic List
- What NOT to Wear for Airsoft
- Extra Advice
- Does airsoft hurt?
- What hurts more a paintball or airsoft gun?
- What should I wear for my first airsoft?
- Can airsoft BBs pierce clothing?
- What should I bring to an airsoft game?
- What safety gear is needed for airsoft?
- Do you need a mask for airsoft?
- What to wear for airsoft in hot weather?
- Can airsoft guns kill?
- Is airsoft expensive?
What is Airsoft?
Airsoft is a combat sport whereby participants use realistic guns to fire BB pellets at enemy players, thus eliminating them from the game.
It can be played one versus one, or – more likely – in a team with any number of players.
But did you know that airsoft actually predates paintball?
It has been around since the 1970s in Japan, whereas paintball wasn’t invented until the early 1980s.
However, airsoft didn’t really take hold until the 1990s, and since then it has developed a massive following worldwide, with new players always keen to see what all the fuss is about.
You only have to look at how many fields are being established, or how many hits YouTube airsoft videos receive to understand just how popular it is.
Not to mention its use in military and law enforcement tactics and training – which is another similarity it shares with paintball.
The main difference between the two sports, is that airsoft relies on an honor system of calling out when you’ve been hit.
With paintball, hits will be clearly seen as the pellet will splatter dye across your clothing following a successful shot.
But perhaps the main advantage with airsoft, is that guns, equipment, and apparel is vastly more realistic.
Types of Airsoft Games
As a combat sport, the possibilities are limitless for the types of games you can play, and the different scenarios one might encounter when engaged in battle on an airsoft field or arena.
- Team deathmatch is one of the most popular and regularly played airsoft games as it’s very accessible for large groups, and basically involves one team scoring more kills or eliminating more players than the other.
- Capture the flag has teams attempting to locate and steal their opponent’s flag and return it to their home base before the carrier is shot.
- King of the hill is a siege-style game whereby one team digs in across a defensive position and the other team has to assault.
- Other games might include hostage rescue, presidential assassination/protect, and zombies – which can involve some players dressing up as the undead and attempting to “eat” the living…
- Speedsoft is a fast-paced, close-quarters version of the game where players are in a smaller arena (usually indoors) and need to take out the opposition inside a time frame of around four to five minutes.
- And MilSim is a hugely popular variation of airsoft – a Military Simulation – where players try to be as accurate to real-world armed forces, weapons, and tactics as possible.
For you to get a better understanding of what to wear for airsoft, it’s a good idea to explain a bit about the kind of ammunition you’re going to be facing.
The pellets that airsoft guns fire are six millimeter plastic BBs or “ball bearings.” Note that for airsoft they’re strictly plastic and not metal like in a traditional air rifle.
The most common weigh for these pellets is 0.20 grams, although heavier BBs are preferred in some weapons for improved range, particularly with these airsoft sniper rifles.
Providing you’re wearing suitable protective gear, if you’re hit with a BB pellet, you’ll feel anything from a quick sting or nip – to barely anything at all – depending on what range and velocity it’s fired at.
One of the most exciting aspects of airsoft is in owning, collecting, upgrading, and firing the replica guns.
This is where airsoft excels over paintball – the realism of these firearms is unbeatable. This is why all airsoft guns legally have to have a blaze orange tip to identify it from a real firearm.
Guns are fired using either a spring system, with “green” gas, Co2, or compressed air, or as an AEG (Automatic Electric Gun) with a rechargeable battery pack.
The range, power, and velocity an airsoft gun is capable of will depend on the type of gun it is, the quality of the weapon, and how much or how little it’s been upgraded.
In North America, most commercial airsoft fields allow weapons to fire up to 350 fps (feet per second), although if you’re playing a private game expect that figure to be higher.
High-end airsoft guns and models that have been finely tuned and customized can fire up to 600 fps and maybe more – especially with gas-powered rifles.
Either way, you still need some protective gear, so let’s take a look at exactly what that is.
What to Wear for Airsoft – The Basic List
While many people think you need a load of professional-looking gear to start playing airsoft, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
Just because you see all these regular players kitted out like a Navy SEAL doesn’t mean to say that’s where you have to start.
As with paintball – you don’t need to purchase anything new if you don’t want to – as most decent airsoft fields will have kit and guns for hire.
If you like that sport, and it’s something you feel you can get into – then you can start to put together your own personal kit.
And take a look at this list of what to wear for paintball for a comparison – or if you’d just rather be a paintballer instead.
The single most important item on this list will be your mask/goggles set up.
And unlike paintball, this doesn’t have to cover the full face.
You might see many regular and experienced airsofters only using safety/shooting glasses or goggles.
While this does have its advantages (more realistic, not restrictive, zero fogging) BBs can still hurt, especially if fired from close range.
As such, I would highly recommend wearing both some form of eye protection, and a lower face mask – particularly if you’re a beginner.
This is where the best paintball masks can often be a good choice, as they’re usually an all-in-one set that provides coverages to the full face – including the ears.
Airsoft masks vary wildly in design, but the most popular combination tends to be eye goggles and a separate lower cloth/metal mesh face mask.
Head over to look at this review on the best airsoft facemasks to see some great examples.
Players like to mix and match, finding the right eye protection and lower face protection to suit their look.
But no matter what you look like, or what combination you prefer, one thing should always be remembered and adhered to.
No gaps, no spaces, no mesh, no exceptions. Nothing for a BB pellet to be able to sneak or splinter through – because they can, and they will.
Check out these top-quality airsoft goggles as the bare minimum piece of equipment you need to enter the field.
Airsoft pellets don’t hurt as much as paintballs, but that doesn’t mean to say they won’t leave a mark on unprotected skin – and give you a sharp sting while they’re at it.
And as they don’t burst on impact and splash dye all over you, you can get away with wearing almost anything you like.
However, I would still recommend dressing for the weather, and in something you don’t mind getting dirty anyway. Layers are a good idea so you can take off/put on if you get hot or cold.
Long-sleeved T-shirts are probably the best choice of top when you’re just starting out. Or, a lightweight, comfortable hoodie is a good option.
Airsoft clothes don’t need to be as baggy as paintball attire (tight clothing increases the chances of a paintball breaking on you), so you can have more form-fitting tops if you desire.
Still, loose clothing will lessen the sting should you get hit.
And a word on colors – while you don’t need to go in full BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) or camouflage, it might help to not wear blaze orange. Try to wear darker, muted tones – especially if you’re playing indoors.
For first-timers, jeans are often the pants of choice in both airsoft and paintball. They’re sturdy, they offer decent protection, and unless they’re a brand-new pair of 501s, you’re not going to mind them getting messed up.
Cargo pants are also a viable option, as are sweatpants.
However, everyone should own a pair of tactical pants anyway, as aside from airsoft, you can wear them for literally hundreds of other activities.
They offer a realistic, MilSim vibe, as well as being practical with plenty of pockets to store your gear, such as extra magazines and ammo.
Regular airsofters will tell you that supporting your knees is a lifesaver when it comes to playing the game.
So, it’s worth picking up a pair of the best tactical pants with knee pads to offer additional protection – ideal if you like taking up a sniping position and are always getting down on the ground.
And speaking of sniping, take a look at the best airsoft sniper rifles if that’s a role you’d been keen to try out.
BB pellets can sting, and if you have exposed skin anywhere on your body and your flesh takes a hit, you’ll know about it.
While never life-threatening, it certainly might leave a mark and you’ll have a welt for a few days.
But they can also break the skin in certain places – such as the joints or knuckles of your hands.
Therefore, it’s a really good idea to add some protection here and wear a pair of suitable gloves.
And if you really want to have the edge going into your first game, it’s worth checking out the best tactical shooting gloves on the market.
Not only will your digits be protected, but they will offer you the dexterity to manipulate your weapon, with excellent grip, as well as having the realistic look and feel of the armed forces.
Never to be overlooked, what you’re wearing on your feet is vitally important when playing any kind of combat sport.
Don’t underestimate the amount of running you’ll be doing as you sprint for cover, or charge an enemy base.
If you can, get an idea of the terrain you’ll be playing on beforehand and take that into consideration.
But whether you’re indoor or outdoor, a pair of training/running shoes is ideal, but hiking boots are recommended.
For realism, combat boots are preferred by MilSim players, so you can go that route if you want to. The advantage here is they offer excellent support to the ankle.
Because, like paintball, the number one, numero uno injury is to that joint. Ankle injuries are par for the course in combat sports, so your footwear should offer as much support as possible in that region.
(And watching where you’re going helps immensely too, which can sometimes be difficult if you’re under fire.)
Finally, supportive, moisture-wicking socks are essential. No arguments.
Look after your feet, and they will look after you. That’s some quality life advice for free, right there.
One of the most common questions about airsoft from potential new players is “does it hurt?”
The answer is yes and no.
Depending on your level of protection, the range, the velocity of the airsoft gun, and a couple of other factors (like some A-hole overshooting) you might feel it, and you might not.
Extra padding isn’t really necessary (particularly for your first few games) providing you’re happy with what you’re wearing and your skin is covered.
However, it’s well worth considering padding not to protect yourself from BB hits, but to protect your knees, hips, elbows, and wrists from impact damage when diving around on the floor.
And you’ll see many airsofters wearing one of these awesome tactical vests, which not only offer great torso protection, but provide loads of storage options for clips and other useful gear and equipment.
On the Head
It’s amazing to see how much attention to detail MilSim airsofters put into their games.
More often than not, they’re wearing a full tactical BDU with FAST combat helmets (Future Assault Shell Technology).
You don’t need to do that for your first airsoft experience.
If you’re concerned about having extra protection for your head and neck, then you can always choose to wear a bandana, lightweight scarf, neck gator, or baseball cap – and you’ll see many players wearing such items on the field.
The shemagh is an excellent addition to your airsoft headgear – a multi-functional garment that originated in the Middle East for protection against the sun, dust, and sand.
You’ll see many airsofters wearing a military-style version of this item, as not only does it offer protection against hits, it’s also great for keeping cool, soaking up sweat, and looking like a badass.
Note: The shemagh (or keffiyeh as it’s also known) is culturally significant in certain regions of the world, and you should read up on its background if you’re going to wear one.
Watch this informative video below for ideas on how to tie one properly.
Tips for the Girls
A padded sports bra is recommended for women. Additional chest protection isn’t necessary, but it’s entirely up to you if you want to wear it.
Take a look at some of the best tactical pants for women for practical clothing designed with females in mind, and perfect for airsoft.
Tips for the Boys
Getting hit in the gonads is pretty rare in airsoft, but if you want to wear a cup then it’s up to you. Just a decent pair of pants should be sufficient, though, and tactical pants/BDU are usually reinforced in this area anyway.
If you’re playing speedsoft however, (a fast-paced, close-quarters version of airsoft), then you might want to add some extra protection to the rocks.
Still, most players never bother and are courteous enough to not shoot in the genital area – which is an unwritten rule in general.
What NOT to Wear for Airsoft
Below you’ll find an inexhaustive list of what you should NOT wear when playing airsoft. It helps to remind some experienced players of these pointers from time to time, too.
- Short sleeve shirts or shorts. We get it, you’re really hard. But if a BB pings off your skin from close range, that shit is gonna leave a mark, and we’ll hear your howl from the other side of the field.
- Poor quality goggles and face mask. Remember – at the very least it should be a pair of ANSI (American National Standards Institute) approved safety glasses/goggles that seal completely around your eyes with no gaps.
- Inappropriate footwear, or footwear with no socks. Nothing more needs to be said.
- Restrictive clothing – or too much clothing. You’re going to get real hot, real fast, so keep things breathable. And you need a full range of movement, so don’t wear anything that might impede your maneuverability.
- Any insignia or badges from real life military regiments/platoons. Most Vets are perfectly fine with airsofters wearing realistic BDU or military fatigues, but try to avoid wearing anything that claims to be something you’re not. You need to earn that shit, first.
It’s a good idea to bring along a small day pack of some description, because if there’s one other vitally important thing you need to carry with you – it’s plenty of water.
Never stop topping up on the aqua – you’re going to need it – and so you’ll need somewhere to stash it.
You could try one of these tactical backpacks if you’re going for realism, but just something to sling over your shoulder is perfectly fine.
If you’re playing a certain scenario, you might be required to wear additional clothing, gear, or equipment to represent a character, such as a medic, president, hostage, bad guy, or zombie, for example.
Scenario games are usually arranged in advance, so contact your local field to see if they run such events and if you can join in.
Does airsoft hurt?
It can do, especially if you’ve not covered your skin and you’re hit with a high-powered rifle at close range.
Even when not at close range, a BB hit can still leave a mark and give you nasty sting if you’re not properly covered up.
Of course, this is up to you if you want to risk that. The only thing you’re required to wear is safety goggles. Check out the video below for some honest feedback on the airsoft pain level.
What hurts more a paintball or airsoft gun?
The debate rages on, and it does depend on a few factors such as the power of the gun, the range, and how much or how little protection you’re wearing.
Airsoft guns generally fire with a higher fps rate than their paintball counterparts.
However, all things being equal, a paintball hurts more than a BB, for the simple fact that it’s larger.
What should I wear for my first airsoft?
In a nutshell, comfortable pants, long-sleeved T-shirt or light hoodie, good-quality footwear, and socks.
And most importantly and above all – safety goggles or glasses that fit snug to your face and completely cover your eyes.
Can airsoft BBs pierce clothing?
No. The velocity of a standard airsoft rifle would need to be significantly higher in order to do so – and such a thing is simply not allowed on any commercial field.
Remember, this is a sport that’s been specifically designed to simulate combat – not actually injure anyone.
What should I bring to an airsoft game?
Yourself, water, and the fee to play if it’s a commercial field.
Outside that, you’ll need face/eye protection if the field doesn’t supply or hire out its own.
Likewise with the weaponry. Some fields don’t have the ability to offer hire guns, and so you’ll need to come equipped with your own.
Check out this review of the best airsoft rifles if you’re looking to buy your first airsoft weapon to get you started in the sport.
What safety gear is needed for airsoft?
Eye goggles/safety glasses is the bare minimum. A lower face mask is also recommended, and adequate clothing that covers or protects your skin.
Other than that – you don’t need to add any additional protective gear if you don’t want to, although I would heartily recommend a pair of gloves, too.
Do you need a mask for airsoft?
You don’t need a mask – but one is highly recommended as BB pellets have been known to take out teeth.
Eye protection is required at the very least, but I would heartily recommend protecting the rest of your face and neck as well.
What to wear for airsoft in hot weather?
Lightweight clothing is preferable, such as thin long-sleeve T-shirts, cargo, tactical, or hiking pants, and a shemagh-style headscarf should you wish to protect the head and/or neck.
It’s advisable to bring layers so you can adapt depending on if you’re running hot or cold.
Can airsoft guns kill?
No. Unless, of course, you’re a small rodent of some description – in which case you might very well be in trouble.
Of course, they can still easily put out an eye – so while they might not be lethal, they still need respecting and using responsibly.
Is airsoft expensive?
Yes and no. It all depends on how far you want to take it.
You can play with a minimum amount of gear (such as your own clothes), and with low-cost or hired mask/goggles, and gun.
BBs are much cheaper than paintballs – which is why it’s often cited as being a more budget-friendly option to the paint-splattering sport.
However, if you really want to get serious, then you can end up spending thousands of dollars on the hobby – especially if you’re keen on authenticity, enjoy collecting the guns, or want to record video footage of your games.
How much or how little you spend is entirely up to you – and your budget.
Airsoft is an energetic, fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled rush that has taken the world by storm since it’s early days in 1970s Japan.
And for beginners, “what to wear for airsoft?” is an important question.
I hope this article has shed some light on the topic for you, and you’re a step closer to enjoying your first game.
Happy airsofting – and stay safe out there!