Using Airsoft Pistols for Practice

I recently discovered a great set of shows on Spike TV – their “Don’t be a Victim” block airing on Saturday mornings. The shows are each a half hour long, and cover a range of topics of interest to shooters.  There are four shows – Conceal/Carry School, Practical Tactical, Lives Depend On It, and What If.

The first two in particular have pointed out a weakness with my current practice. The ranges I frequent have strict rules about what is allowed on the range. That means I really can’t practice movement drills, drawing from concealment and other more practical uses for a defensive firearm. While I could join the IDPA group at my club, I really don’t want to go in as a novice, and frankly I’m not all that sure I’m interested in competitive shooting at this point.

While browsing around the gun blogs I follow, I came across what appears to be a useful solution for me, at least until I have the time and money to go to a more formal training class. Airsoft pistols are close enough to the real thing to be a useful training tool. In the coming weeks, I’ll be clearing out space in my basement to set up a mini shooting gallery, purchasing an Airsoft pistol, and start working on some of the drills I can’t do at the range.

This post on the Cheaper Than Dirt Blog does point out a couple of weaknesses with this idea, but overall is positive about using Airsoft to maintain perishable skills.

Even still – practicing at home can only provide you with so much. There is no way to accurately practice followup shots at home – for that you need to be at a range. Practicing double-taps and Mozambique drills (two to the chest, one to the head) pretty much requires the use of live ammunition in order to allow you to train to handle muzzle climb and bring the front sight back down onto the target.

A Geek with Guns wrote a response to that article, basically coming to the same conclusion about followup shots. His big holdup however had to do with the cost of the Airsoft pistol. While you can find many incredibly expensive ones, I found that I could find useful choices for less than $50. In fact, I’ve decided to get the Airsoft Walther P99, since the size is roughly the same, and that model is electric, allowing me to do multiple shot drills – it costs a whopping $13 and comes with 100 bbs.

Since I’m also thinking that I need to add a full size semi-auto pistol to my collection (I have nothing with more than an eight shot capacity), this will also give me a good feel for the P99, and whether it will work for me. Gunnutmegger would point out that I’m notoriously choosy about how pistols “fit”. I really don’t like Glocks, and I’ve been going back and forth on various pistols based upon how comfortable they feel in my hands.

My carry weapon is a Walther PPS in 9mm. I was able to find an Airsoft version of it on Amazon, however it’s spring-loaded and only single shot. It looks amazingly alike –

Airsoft Walther PPS

Real Walther PPS

Too bad really, although with what the articles I’ve read on the subject point out, it’s probably just fine for the drills an Airsoft pistol is appropriate for.

My basement is fairly small – one open area around 15 by 30 feet, and a fairly deep crawl space for the rest of it. This is a fantastic excuse to clear a lot of crap out of my basement, and also a warm alternative to outdoor pistol shooting in January.

I think I will clear a space on the wall with the crawl space – I can get 15 feet away if the target is right on the ledge, and I can easily rig things up to move the target further back into the crawl space (it’s dirt, so it will stop any stray bbs from bouncing all over the place).

For targets, I plan on making them out of copy paper boxes, with 11×17 targets taped to the front. The velocity should be slow enough to keep the bbs from penetrating the back of the box (and if it doesn’t, I can always add foam rubber), and they should make useful backstops to collect the ammo for re-use.

It may take a while to get the basement cleaned up, but once I do, I hope to add some useful training to my regimen. Once I get the “range” set up, I’ll write a follow up post to show how it went.

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