Just because you’ve watched a thousand movies with the hero wielding his guns perfectly without missing a shot, it doesn’t automatically make you a Navy Seal commando when you step into an airsoft field.
That’s true, even with countless hours of first-person shooter games as well.
What you need is actual practice, with lots of time and effort to improve your airsoft skills.
The good news is that practice can be a lot of fun, too. All you really need is the right set of airsoft training drills that can make sure you can do what needs to be done quickly and efficiently.
Benefits of Drills
In school, lots of gym teachers use drills to help hone the skills of kids who want to play basketball or Little league baseball. The same principle applies to airsoft. Drills can really help.
With airsoft, drills can make sure that you gain the “muscle memory” you need to do things correctly and quickly. Think about the things you do every day, like using utensils for eating or riding a bike. If you’re an adult, you don’t need to really think about the various steps of each process. You just do it, as your body “knows” what to do.
All it really takes is practice. The drills force your muscles to remember what to do, so you can do stuff automatically whenever you need to.
That just leads to the natural question: what drills should you use? If you’re a newbie, then you need to start with the most basic drills to really make sure you become ready for airsoft.
Suiting Up Properly
It’s great if you have an SOP series of steps to outfit yourself so that you don’t miss anything you might need. That means you can don the following pieces of gear in the same order each time.
- Put on your jacket or vest.
- Get your goggles and facemask on.
- Pick up your main weapon.
- Set up your pistol or secondary weapon on your belt.
- Place your spare magazines in your belt or vest.
- Clip your radio on (if you’re using it).
Do the same steps in the same order each time to make sure you don’t miss any piece of equipment you might need.
Can You Move?
Any coach or personal trainer can tell you that it’s important top warm up first before you exercise. For airsoft, your “warmup” can be just making sure you’re able to move comfortably with all your gear.
Warmup Movement Drill
Once you’re all geared up, do the following:
- Take 10 quick steps moving forward.
- Quickly turn left.
- Quickly turn right.
- Take a knee.
- Lay down on the ground.
These movements make sure you’re still comfortable with all your gear. Perform all these actions to familiarize yourself. If you’re not comfortable, then you may have to shed some pieces of equipment.
Getting Used to the Rifle
A lot of newbies underestimate the weight of their rifles. As the game gets longer, you may find the weight more difficult to bear, especially if you haven’t trained your muscles to get stronger. When you find your weapon a bit too heavy, your aim starts to worsen.
Here are several exercises you can do to get used to the rifle and to warm up as well.
- Hold your arms straight to the side. Rotate your arms in small circles. Do this continuously, for both clockwise and counterclockwise directions. This will train your shoulders, and it works as a nice warmup exercise before training or actual games.
- You also have to train your wrists, because you may end up with wrist pain if you’re not careful. One exercise you can do is to lay your arms on a table with your palms down on the table (or out the table facing the floor). Then just keep raising your wrists up and down.
- Shooting in a crouching position will also be very common occurrence, so you better get used to maintaining your balance while crouching. To practice your balance, hold weights in each hand while you go down on one knee quickly. Don’t let your knee actually touch the ground. Keep this position for about a second, and then go with your other knee. Keep doing this every day, and increase the weight in your hands when it becomes too easy.
The main goal of airsoft is to shoot your opponents “dead”. That means you need to keep practicing your shooting so that you can actually shoot what you aim for. Make sure you practice shooting long-range and close-quarters combat, since you’ll need both these skills for airsoft.
Accuracy, Sight Acquisition
Just like shooting in basketball, the only way to improve your shooting accuracy is with practice. That means you should shoot a lot every day. Take note of your accuracy, as it should improve as time passes.
- Start by using your main optics first. Try to use it with both eyes open, instead of closing one eye. With both eyes open, you’re able to acquire your targets more quickly when you don’t need to close an eye first. Also, having both eyes open maintains your situational awareness. You may be able to see enemies creeping up on your side with both eyes open.
- Then practice with your iron sight. You need to practice lining up your sight with the target quickly and efficiently.
- Set up your targets. Having 3 targets is ideal. Shoot twice at each target. Try to hit the bull’s eye as close as you can.
- Try to practice your shooting outdoors, especially with rifles. That way, you can practice accounting for how the wind affects your shots.
Accuracy, Various Positions
When you’re used to using both your optics and your iron sights, you now need to get used to shooting in various positions.
Practice shooting when:
- Standing still
- While running
- While crouching
- While you lay down on the ground
Multiple Shot Drills
Here’s the drill:
- Set up 3 targets.
- Aim and shoot at the first target once.
- Shoot the 2nd target twice.
- Shoot the 3rd target 3 times.
There are situations in airsoft when you need to take only a single shot per target. That’s true especially when you suddenly find yourself with 2 or more targets.
When you shoot more than once, you also practice your trigger control. The goal here is to reduce the time you need to take a second shot. For some guns, that means noticing the trigger reset point so you don’t have to pull the trigger fully each time.
If you’re using a weapon that simulates recoil, then shooting multiple times also lets you practice your target acquisition quickly.
To practice this drill, you need your primary weapon strapped or tied to your belt.
- Set up 3 targets.
- Use your main weapon to shoot once at the first target.
- Drop your main weapon.
- Pick up your secondary weapon and shoot the 2nd target and 3rd
- Optional: With the secondary weapon, just shoot the 2nd Then quickly take cover or lay down flat on the ground.
Try to practice your draw with the pistol. This is a very useful skill, especially if you plan on transitioning to real firearms in the future. You can even do this at home when you’re alone or with a friend who can time you.
You should practice the optional drill since in real airsoft games, your targets won’t likely give you the time you need to them all. They’ll shoot back, and you need to be ready.
Shooting While Moving
In airsoft, you better practice shooting while moving. That way, you’re not presenting an easy target for your opponents.
- Set up 3 targets.
- Start about a few hundred steps away from the targets.
- Run about 60 yards towards your targets, then shoot the first target.
- Run to the side, while shooting all the while at the first target.
- At the end of the 2nd run, sit or crouch while you shoot the 2nd
- Then move to the side again, before you lay down and shoot at the 3rd
This drill keeps you from panicking when you encounter multiple targets while moving. Instead of freezing, you can immediately run towards the enemies and get off the shots first.
It’s great if you have a range in town you can use that offers pop-up targets. But that’s not very common.
Instead, you can go online and download an app such as the Random Reaction Timer. This is a great app, since it plays a sound at random intervals.
- Set up your targets (the more the better).
- Set up the app.
- Once the app plays the sound, aim and then shoot at a target.
Some apps even offer different sounds. That means you can have the app play sounds at random, and each different sound tells you which target to aim for.
The goal here is to be able to hit your targets first, as that’s always the first priority. Then you need to make sure you hit the target quickly. Of course, it doesn’t count if you’re able to react quickly but you keep missing the targets!
Watch how Val Kilmer does it in the movie Heat. He changes his magazines in just 5 seconds, which is pretty darn quick when under fire. Some military and police training officers use this clip to motivate their trainees: “You better be able to do this faster than that damn actor!”
Here’s the drill.
- Set up your magazine on yourself where you can access it quickly, while you’re also able to move quickly and silently.
- Shoot until you run out of pellets.
- Get the magazine and slap it in.
- Keep doing this multiple times, every day.
- Practice reloading while standing, while crouching, and while prone.
The key is to be able to do this quickly without having to think too much. Just keep doing it.
Room Clearing Drills
A lot of airsoft battles involve clearing a room. You may want to practice this with your team, since it can be silly to die just by entering a room without taking care.
Clearing a room is doable with just 2 people, but it’s not really advisable. Doing it solo isn’t really recommended either, as lots of SWAT operators will tell you.
With this team exercise, you need to make sure that everyone has practiced their hand signals as well.
Here are the standard steps for clearing a room.
- Give the signal for “hold” and “silence” for your 4-man (or 3-man) unit.
- One soldier is tasked to open to the door, while another guy is appointed to throw in the flashbang.
- Soldier opens door, while the other soldier throws in the flashbang.
- Soldier #1 enters room first and immediately turns right.
- Soldier #1 moves to the nearest wall, sweeps right to left, and shoots every enemy they see.
- Soldier #2 enters at the same time, quickly going left.
- Soldier #2 also moves to the nearest wall, sweeps left to right, and shoots every enemy in sight.
- Soldiers #3 and #4 follows.
- Soldier #3 aims for the middle left, while #4 aims for the middle right. Again, they shoot every threat as quicky as follows.
- If you only have a 3-man unit, the soldier #3 fires at every target in the middle.
This will need a lot of practice to get it done right. The key is to assign roles for everyone, with each one having the same job again and again.
Then you can switch up, so eventually each man in the unit can play any role. That way, you’re able to clear a room even when you have some players already shot “dead”.
The key to drills is repetition. You have to do the same things over and over again. It’s the only way you’ll learn. Even when you think you’ve mastered a drill, just keep doing it for practice so your skills don’t erode!