Defending yourself with airsoft guns

Could You Use An Airsoft Gun For Self-Defense?

Could an airsoft gun be used for self-defense? Or, for that matter, legally carried with or without a permit?

This question does come up on various internet forums and so on relating to concealed carry, so it's certainly of some interest.

In the broad strokes, the answer is no and mostly because they aren't efficacious enough to use. From a legal standpoint, you arguably could...but why would you?

Handguns Barely Work Let Alone Air Guns

Airsoft guns bairly break the skin

As much as certain 1911-carrying authors don't like to admit, the fact is that handguns are hardly the manstoppers that television purports them to be, so that's something to bear in mind regarding whether air guns are a viable alternative. You can see James Bond making 50-yard shots with a .380 PPK that instantly downs people in the movies, but that generally doesn't happen in real life.

Depending on the study you read, somewhere between 70 percent to 85 percent of all people shot with handguns survive. There is an economy of scale of course (where on the body they were shot, how long until help arrived, how long to get to the hospital, etc.) but the thing is that most people shot with a handgun survive.

Now, if that's how ineffectual handguns are at killing people, imagine how effective air guns likely are.

Not much is the answer

Airsoft Gun Ballistics For Self Defense

bb gun rounds

Typical airsoft guns aren't really good for much more than target shooting, which is what they're intended for. BB guns and pellet guns just don't put enough zip on a projectile to do much to even tiny critters at much more than point blank range.

Here's what I mean. The typical BB is .177 caliber and weighs about 5.1 grains. Most BB guns, air guns, whatever you want to call them (even the CO2 powered kind) typically will only get you about 300 feet per second of velocity.

There are various muzzle energy and ballistic calculators out there - pick the one of your choosing - but the muzzle energy of a 5.1-grain BB of .177 caliber, propelled at 300 fps at the muzzle, is 1 foot-pound.

1. The loneliest number.

Most states that allow hunting of small game with pellet guns mandate a minimum velocity of around 750 feet per second, which would give you muzzle energy of 6 foot-pounds.

That's for a squirrel, and BB guns don't always get the job done. A .22 LR works pretty well (not just for plinking!) but if most airsoft guns aren't even really rated for squirrels...what could make a person think it's going to work on a human?

A .45 ACP round generates between 450 to 600 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, and - again, despite the wisdom of what you'll read in internet comment sections - even that isn't anywhere close to guaranteed man-stopper.

Not that a pellet couldn't do harm; hitting a ill-intentioned person in the eye will definitely temper their desire to do you harm for a moment, though you'll want to start running at that point. A person could even get blinded in one eye thusly struck.

That said, the potential of that kind of damage vs your ability to land that shot in the moment of truth...two wholly different things.

Can You Concealed Carry An Airsoft Gun?

Concealed Carrying an airsoft gun

Airsoft guns are not regulated as firearms and as such, would not require a permit so you could conceivable concealed carry an airsoft gun. However, some jurisdictions (such as New Jersey) prohibit carrying an airsoft pistol on your person.

Other states prohibit carrying an airsoft pistol without a blaze orange barrel, thereby distinguishing it from a real firearm. If the idea would be for a bad guy to think it was real...that could run you afoul of the law.

But the big question is really why would you want to?

The truth is that if you are not willing to or for some reason cannot carry a firearm (say you live in New Jersey; they aren't too giving with permits) then there are other self-defense tools such as pepper spray that have proven track records against hostile personnel.

Asked for his opinion, this writer would recommend pepper spray or a knife. Bear spray and cold steel are known to work, and when it comes to your defense you just can't bet your life on something that doesn't have the pedigree.


By all means, use airsoft guns for concealed carry training or for fun, but don't even think of it for a defensive use.

Sam Hoober 

About The Author


Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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