Airsoft Match Play - Its Regulations And Equipment
Airsoft is a great sport/hobby, and ranges from casual play (where a group of people with Airsoft rifles run around in their back yard shooting each other) to organized competitions, ranging from accuracy shoots to close quarters drill to tactical simulation.
Accuracy shoots are where Airsoft overlaps most completely with regular firearms sports, from pistol range shooting to riflery, even 'biathlons' where shooters run to specified firing points, sight in and shoot, trying to combine both accuracy and time on the course.
Most accuracy shoots use spring action Airsoft rifles, because they offer the most accurate shooting for the weight carried, and rate of fire is less important than how quickly you can sight down on the target. Variations on accuracy shots include shotgun shoots.
In shoot-off competitions, the competitors are competing on accuracy and running a timed course, rather than competing against each other; this kind of play tends to be more appealing to women and older shooters, because it's less physical effort, and doesn't involve quite as much testosterone posturing!
Close Quarters Drill
Close Quarters Drill (CQD) is live fire against other players; it usually requires an enclosed place to play, which may put other requirements on the equipment, like a maximum feet per second for the rounds, or requiring rounds of a given weight, or biodegradability. It also requires eye protection, or full face protection.
When you show up for a CQD game, you'll probably be assigned to a team; it's possible for pre-existing teams to register as teams, but for the most part, organizers try to balance both sides on both equipment and experience with play.
There will be other specific range safety requirements. Common ones are no physical combat (hitting, punching, judo holds) and whether or not rubber knives can be used to simulate stealth kills.
CQD has player expectations on behavior. You'll be expected to play by the rules, and to follow the honor code, calling your own hits rather than run the risk of being called out as a cheater. When you're downed, it's your responsibility to call out "HIT", raise your hand and leave the combat area.
When you're leaving the target area, you are not to point at, or look at, the person who shot you - this could reveal their position to your teammates.
You're also not supposed to use pre-existing knowledge of your opponents for tactical advantage - the aim is to not meta-game the challenge out of the scenario.
In addition to other equipment requirements, it's usually a good idea to have gloves, knee pads, and elbow pads in CQD. Ghillie suits might or might not be legal depending on the rules.
A few CQD games have been built around specific scenarios - hostage rescue, ambush reversed, and others are quite common.
Some will even go to the point of making hay bale buildings for people to take cover in or to defend. Most, however, tend to be timed events - when does team A beat Team B or vice versa?
The next step up from CQD is Tactical Simulation or TacSim. TacSim games aren't that different in their general play requirements than CQD - players police their own hits, and the same safety requirements apply.
However, the scenarios are usually more difficult, and there are restrictions on the gear; TacSim games try to use 'full weight' metal Airsoft rifles, often with gas blowback features, and "real count" magazines that have the same number of shots as the real weapon does.
These games usually have a prepared set of defenders who run one side of the fight for multiple teams of attackers, and the results are scored, to see how well people responded to the specific tactical scenario under the circumstances provided.
TacSim games are sometimes organized by National Guard units on their off-duty weekends just to keep their skills sharp. It's not common, and not all Guard units sanction it, but it's an indicator of how much the professionals try to 'get it right' on this end of the sport.
Even the people who are seriously into TacSim games tend to admit that Airsoft guns, even the Hybrids, don't shoot the same or handle the same as a real gun in terms of recoil or accuracy - Airsoft guns are more accurate because of the lower energies involved.
Don't think that high skill with Airsoft qualifies you for a real combat patrol badge! (Conversely, real combat experience may not always map to Airsoft TacSim games, though it really helps.)