A month or so ago, I went out to see Walther and Umarex in Fort Smith, Arkansas. I came home with an Elite Level Beretta ARX 160 Airsoft gun. When I pulled into my driveway, the neighbors were out on the lawn, just as I’d hoped, popping at each other with Airsoft pistols. It was a late summer afternoon, and in the slanting light I could see the little plastic balls arc out of the pistol barrels, and miss their marks. This is what their Airsoft battles typically looked like. There were few tactics in play beyond simple movements and some laughter. The boys were decked out in their protective masks, but they were still in shorts and t shirts.
I was tempted to pop the trunk, load up the ARX, and clear the lawn. But that would have been too creeperish. Instead, I carried the boxed rifle over to their lawn and asked them to give it the once over. They cracked the lid and looked on in awe.
“Can we shoot it?” one boy asked.
“Of course!” I said. “I don’t know anything about Airsoft. I was hoping you could show me how it works.”
The flood-gate was open. They tore in to the box and filled the magazine, inserted the battery, checked out the controls. It wasn’t 30 seconds before they’d pulled the trigger. The gun chirped once. I didn’t see the ball that time. It was moving faster.
I should mention now that there was a now a serious arms race occurring right there on that suburban lawn. Two boys. One rifle. It wasn’t going to be a fair fight. Even if the other boy took both of the pistols, there was no way he’d get within range of the ARX. It was impossible. And then it occurred to me that the ARX might be too much Airsoft for an 11 year old, and that I wouldn’t know for sure until I had been shot with the gun myself.
So I asked them to shoot me. I stood on the edge of the driveway and turned my back to them. I didn’t have any protective gear, so I covered my ears and eyes, and tucked my chin to my chest. The boy with the rifle stood about 20 feet behind me.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. “I can’t have you shooting each other until I know it is safe.”
I heard the motor whir just as I felt the ball slap my spine. And it hurt like hell. I assume getting shot would be worse, but I’m not going to sugarcoat this. That ball, moving at close to 400 fps, stings like a wasp. And it raised a whelp on my back the size of a quarter. I could feel the spot for three full days after, and it took close to five days for the bruise to dissipate.
Granted, I was shot in the back, right off my backbone, but still. I didn’t let the boys shoot each other with the rifle. They set up targets and shot for the next hour or so, but I wasn’t going to be responsible for dinging them up with the gun.
This isn’t your kid’s Airsoft gun
I don’t know. Maybe it is. It would be a great way to introduce kids to shooting sports. That is a given. But it is more than that, too. I wouldn’t let my 7 year old play with it, and I would want to supervise most of the kids I know who play Airsoft. The Umarex guns are incredibly realistic. The level of verisimilitude is outstanding. We’ve reviewed the ARX 100 and shot the ARX 160 in .22LR and in 5.56. This air-soft gun would be indistinguishable from those, at least visually, except for the orange muzzle device. Every other feature is spot on. Even the weight of the gun is similar.
This provides a huge advantage for those of us who want to train using force on force techniques. Imagine clearing a house. If you use a rifle for home defense, you should practice clearing your house in the dark–with your rifle. Ideally, you would have others in the house. Target acquisition in live scenarios isn’t easy, and should be practiced. What I’m getting at here should be obvious. With an identical air-soft rifle (or pistol, for that matter), you can clear a house and pull the trigger without much consequence. And no lethal consequences.
Velocity (FPS): 395
Ammo Type: Airsoft BBs
Barrel Length: 16
Total Length (inches): 26.5 – 32.8
Action: Semi & Full Auto
Power: AEG (Automatic Electric Gun)
Trigger Action: Single
When you’re behind the ARX from Umarex, it feels exactly like the real gun. There’s no discernible difference. It isn’t until you manipulate the bolt that you find the first obvious difference. And then when you pull the trigger, obviously, there is a huge difference. This is an AEG, so there’s no compressed air or CO2. The electric motor whirs and flips out a ball so fast that it is hard to see. At distances under 25 yards, there’s no need for hold over. Past that, you can begin to see the impact more easily, which allows for more effective point shooting.
Consider this. I was listening to Morning Edition today on NPR and they ran an article about simulated force on force scenario studies from Washington State University. They’re monitoring cops’ brainwaves while they interact with video simulations. What they’ve found is a measurable response. Increased brain activity, increased heart rates, delayed responses, etc. And that’s with cops that know they’re being tested. And the videos don’t shoot back.
There is a serious incentive to avoid being shot by the Umarex version of Airsoft. It hurts. I’ll never willingly let someone shoot me with one again. What would the Washington State researchers find if they were to take it to this next level and test responses to actual physical stimuli and cognitive stimuli?
So far, I haven’t found any volunteers who will let me shoot at them with the Umarex. But that is going to change. Umarex has sent an H&K Airsoft gun to another GunaAmerica writer, and it won’t be long before we set up a safe place to shoot and have it out. It is going to be epic. And we’ll probably stand around shooting each other for a while, at least until the novelty wears off, and then we’ll get down to the work that must be done.