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Not Just a Toy
I’m sure that a good percentage readers of this will immediately think of a toy that shoots plastic BBs when they read “Airsoft.” And let’s be honest–there’s a fair percentage of people out there who would quite enjoy dressing up in full regalia and playing SWAT Cop or Navy Seal against an opposing force. Well, the market that Walther is really looking to tap into with their new line of airsoft guns is not the Fun and Games Division. These guns are designed with the Force-on-Force Training market in mind, and there’s no room for mere toys in that environment. These are not meant for play, and are branded as the T4E line.
The purpose of training with guns like these is to provide someone with the opportunity to use decision-making skills, while utilizing tools that represent the real thing, but in a safe environment. Such training has to be conducted while maintaining the highest possible levels of student and instructor safety, but at a level of realism higher than that of cap guns and cowboy hats.
The PPQ GBB LE Blue from Walther fires a 6 mm. Airsoft at 300 ft./s propelled by green gas, utilizing a blowback action and a removable 22 round magazine. This gun features a metal barrel and other metal parts internally, and takes the standard Walther PPQ back straps and sights. All of the controls and dimensions are exact replicas of those found on the real gun. There are two visually-obvious safety features used to differentiate this gun from the real thing: the lower receiver is blue and the barrel tip is a bright red. There is no mistaking this piece of training equipment for a real gun or a child’s toy- both distinctions are very important.
Force-on-Force training should be considered a vital activity for those of us who carry a gun every day. This is not a substitute for range work, familiarity with firearms, or basic marksmanship. Force-on-Force teaches decision-making in a dynamic environment- a skill-set that should be of utmost importance to anyone who carries a firearm for self-defense. Not to over-simplify, but the actual BB that is fired is primarily there to avoid the old game we used to play as kids- “Pow! Pow! I got you first!” “No, I got you first!” The no-nonsense thwack of the pellet also serves as a demonstration of whether your tactics will result in a victory or a tie. In a gunfight, a tie is not an acceptable outcome. The purpose of the training is to keep the trainee alive, not just to place a shot on the aggressor at any cost. I mean sure, if the bad guy dies on the scene and the good guy dies in the ambulance after preventing further bloodshed, you could call it a win overall. But that’s not the victory I would choose.
An equally-important aspect of force on force training is knowing when it’s appropriate to draw the gun at all. We’ve seen plenty of recent stories about concealed carry folks drawing their guns at times that were inappropriate in retrospect. Through training on what happens after your gun is pulled, you learn to better identify situations where de-escalation is the better option. These classes can do wonders for driving home the old adage “Not my problem, not my fight” for those folks who walk around looking for a reason to draw their weapon.
Why Airsoft May be the Perfect Tool
Force-on-Force training has gone through numerous tools over the years. I personally have seen BB guns, paintball guns, and simunition rounds used for such sessions. Each of these has their advantages and disadvantages. I think the bottom line is that the tool needs to simulate combat effectively enough to not be distracting to the role-player, while still being safe. I have seen simunition guns that are particularly finicky and prone to malfunctions, which is obviously distracting, and thus detrimental to the effectiveness of the training. Other platforms have been very propellant-sensitive or overly-complex, and difficult to maintain and supply. I think that Airsoft could be the perfect alternative; the look, feel, and easily-procured ammunition and propellant drastically lower the hardware involvement when planning and executing training exercises. The ultimate requirement has always been the ability to clearly distinguish the training equipment from a real gun, and Walther has accomplished this piece handily with the blue finish. I think this gun will be a big hit.
Running the Gun in a Scenario
I had the opportunity to run this gun recently in a training environment, and was quite satisfied with its overall performance. I was able to simply hand the student the gun, which was charged and ready to go, and have them holster it before I gave them the scenario. Once the scenario was in progress, the student was free to draw and fire as they deemed appropriate. The gun functioned well, with realistic slide movement and accurate shots placed consistently from up to 15 yards. The only issue we encountered was that the occasional stiff winds would affect the trajectory of the 6mm. plastic BBs. One of the features that I particularly liked was that the gun would lock open once the last round had been fired. Many of the current Airsoft guns on the market will just continue to cycle with an empty magazine unless they run out of gas, which takes us back to the “distraction” issue that was mentioned previously. This gun hits about as hard as I would want- in fact, at close range it may even hit a little too hard. I took a few hits on exposed flesh that left 6mm. blood blisters. I guess this was due to me being the agitator… so I probably deserved it.
The Bottom Line
As an instructor of Force on Force training, I think that there are a handful of requirements that must be met for this training to be effective. The first and foremost requirement is safety, and this is accomplished well by the new Walther PPQ Airsoft pistol. Secondly, the equipment used must be simple and reliable. This requirement was certainly met. The training gun must also be realistic, so as not to distract from the scenario, and this pistol exceeded all expectations in that regard. This Walther is definitely the best airsoft pistol I have ever used, by far. I don’t know if I would want to use this to play Navy Seal (those BBs hurt, and I don’t have the legitimate gear for that) but to train someone on how to make good decisions with a firearm, there is no other imitation pistol I would want at hand.
Retail should be $99.95.