Airsoft was a technology I saw sweep into the nation in my formative years. I bought several high end (at the time) airsoft rifles for myself and it was great. I was a teen and with no 9 to 5 income but I could still have my SCAR and an SR-25. The backyard airsoft skirmishes were some of the best.
I never went to a formal game or event but I knew they existed, along the lines of ‘Woodsball’ in paintball. After enlisting at 17 and getting my hands on real steel hardware I had thought airsoft was behind me. Wrong.
Not that I was against airsoft. The super “tryhards” of the internet certainly didn’t paint airsofters in general as a bunch to be taken seriously, but as an active hobby it made perfect sense. And ultimately the Force on Force (FoF) applications of airsoft are obvious. You can safely shoot at someone who is wearing simple protective equipment, mostly importantly eye protection.
Airsoft was developed as a realistic training aid that spiraled into a huge live gaming market, the Japanese started the trend in the 1970s as a way to shoot while still complying with their strict national firearms regulations.
Airsoft originated from Japan in the early 1970s, trademarked as “soft air gun“, tailoring to the needs of shooting enthusiasts while conforming to Japan’s strict gun control. The name “soft air” referred to the compressed Freon–silicone oil mixture (later replaced by a propane-silicone oil mixture known as “Green Gas”) that was used as a propellant, which was significantly weaker than the carbon dioxide used in proper airguns (pellet guns and BB guns). Originally designed for target shooting, their plastic pellets can be shot at humans without causing injury and this became popular for casual wargames, which the Japanese called survival games (サバイバルゲーム sabaibaru gēmu). Airsoft guns spread to the UK in the late 1980s and early 1990s with a company called LS. The guns were sold in pieces and had to be assembled before they were capable of shooting pellets. Airsoft equipment was designed to closely emulate real guns. Since the mid-1980s, airsoft guns have been adapted with a purely recreational application in mind, and the sport is enjoyed by all ages. Airsoft replicas are produced globally, with the majority being manufactured in Asia. Many law enforcement agencies and military units within the United States now use Airsoft for force-on-force training drills.– Wikipedia
Airsoft is now an internationally popular sport and shooting technology, although not without its detractors, and has an acknowledged sport and training value. Airsoft weapons have been used in the commission of crimes, being modified and portrayed as real, and a few people have been shot while having an airsoft gun in their hand that someone assumed was real.
As with any training or game exercise, proper and prudent safety precautions should be in place.
Not being an idiot helps too, so do that.
Sig’s entire business model these past few years, since the MHS program kicked off in fact, has been to be a sole source supplier for shooting, training, and equipment needs. They expanded the company’s product portfolio and individual divisions to match. Now Sig does optics, airguns, ammunition, suppressors too. They wanted to be hands on with every facet they could supply to a professional organization or individual buyer.
Training was a key component. Sig evolved their line of .177 and .22 cal air guns to provide some cross over with their real steel firearms.
They knew an airsoft line of trainer sport guns would be valuable too. Crossover training with a force on force component, even before supporting the sport itself. Crossover permeates Sig’s whole product line. Their ammo is ballistically matched so that FMJ will fly like their equivalent weight hollow points. The more they can get all their various components to feel the same the better for their consumer base.
This is thought process is evident throughout the Proforce M17.
At its core this is a standard gas airsoft pistol. But the attention to detail from the M17/P320 is fantastic.
The frame and dimensions are the same. Take down for maintenance is the similar. Weight is similar. Capacity is the same at 21 shots. The slide can even take a dot sight to match.
Sig took painstaking care to ensure this would drop into your current P320/M17 equipment when you put on your training hat (or off to an airsoft match).
Endurance and Accuracy
It’s difficult to judge the “accuracy” of an airsoft pistol with the wide variety variables that go into shooting one. A round plastic BB that could have all kinds of problems of its own can throw accuracy off. I didn’t experience any wildly flying BB’s from the .2g pack I was shooting out of. Velocity was consistent until the very end of the CO2 cartridge, listed at up to 410fps.
So yeah, it accurately engages cardboard or coworker… hypothetically.
A 12 gram CO2 cartridge has an endurance of about 80 rounds . For continuity of training purposes I would recommend a fresh CO2 after every 3 magazines.
This won’t be a significant issue in any training scenarios, you aren’t going to stop and put 21 BB’s into the magazine during live fire, you’re going to swap magazines. Having a box of 25 CO2 or Green Gas cartridges and 3 magazines gives a pistol a training endurance of 63 rounds uninterrupted (magazine changes only), ~190 before gas change, and total endurance of about ~1600 rounds.
Cost? Probably around $40. All that supporting equipment can be carried in a small bag. 1600 rounds worth of FoF drills, live mechanics repetitions, live room clearing, and any number of life saving skills with a training pistol that will act and react like the standard sidearm. Minimal ongoing cost to sustain training equipment. 5 of these with safety equipment and 10,000 rounds of supplies will probably cost under $1,000 from a training budget.
The slide reciprocates to load each new round, near total operational mechanics crossover. Slide stops are functional. Safety is functional. Trigger is a passable match for a M17/P320. Everything I want out of a near peer trainer or sim gun.
Durability wise. It isn’t fragile, dropping it onto asphalt resulted in a minor cosmetic blemish. Didn’t crack or break anything. If you lose hold on it your fine, it’s not going to come flying apart.
The only thing it cannot do is extract a loaded BB. It will also feed more than one BB into the chamber if continuously manually cycled, giving you a mini-airsoft shotgun. Kinda fun for that annoying coworker who launches nerf balls down the hall at each opportunity… hypothetically of course.
Regardless of your final application, as a mil-sim gamer or looking for a serious Force on Force training aid, the Proforce M17 is a great gun for the job. The perfect one if your base firearm is a P320.
At $159 and $34.99 per spare magazine, well worth the buy in.