Lifestyle

A Shot of Relief

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A man in combat gear, gun in hand, walks slowly through the woods. He watches his every step and very carefully avoids stepping on any branches or dry leaves; they might give away his location. It’s very hot under his helmet and armor and his gun feels heavier by the minute. He becomes briefly startled by the sound of shots fired in the distance, but manages to spot an enemy on the run once he regains his composure. He slips his finger on the trigger and points the orange barrel of his replica towards his fleeing foe. Shots are fire and, as it is typical in a game of airsoft, his foe throws his hands in the air to signal that he has been killed.

Airsoft players test their weapons before a match in Guatemala. Photo: José A. Hernández Moll/Comvite

Airsoft is a combat simulation sport in which players seek to eliminate opponents by firing non-metallic pellets at each other through replica weapons. It’s kind of like a real-life first person shooter but without, y’know, actually dying. Airsoft has many different game modes, so the ground rules are usually set before a match begins. The one thing that all game modes have in common is that you will inevitably try to take out your opponents by shooting them with a plastic pellet.

Airsoft guns are normally replica firearms. They are designed to be non-lethal and be as realistic as possible. The power of these weapons is measured in feet per second (FPS), a unit of speed and velocity. In other words, it is how fast the pellet will travel before it hits a target or loses momentum. These guns are usually powered by batteries, compressed gas or propane gas. According to most airsoft gun retailers, though the firing mechanism does play an important role over the weapon’s FPS, the biggest factor on its potency is the length of the barrel. Pistols often have a potency between 170 and 400FPS while rifles can fire at anywhere between 300 and 500 FPS. A good gun, be it a pistol or a rifle, usually costs about Q.1000 ($133.11USD). Most players prefer sporting two weapons during a match: a rifle for a primary weapon and a pistol as a secondary.

A child playing a match of airsoft in Guatemala. Photo: José A. Hernández Moll/Comvite

Of course, shooting plastic pellets at someone can be somewhat dangerous without the right protective gear. That’s why most players often wear helmets, protective goggles and thick or padded clothing during matches. This, however, also poses a small problem: pellets do not mark their target and the hits are not always obvious.

“The game depends on honor and it’s based on friendship and respect”, says José Andrés Morales, a long-time player of the game. He explains that players expect other participants to acknowledge that when they are hit. And, if by any chance the player didn’t notice it at all, you may get a pass on it. However, if other members did see that it was a hit and it’s not the first time the killed player blatantly denies it, then he or she may get banned for the day.

A player is “killed” during a match of airsoft in Guatemala. Photo: José A. Hernández Moll/Comvite

“Overall, the game is mostly about teamwork and friendship and taking out stress”, adds Gastón Sala Solé, another long-time player of this sport. “Nowadays, everything is stressful, so this is a shot of relief.”

An airsoft sniper camps in the woods while waiting for targets. Photo: José A. Hernández Moll/Comvite

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