Airsoft shooting as a sport has been growing at an incredible pace over the past few years, especially in countries where firearms ownership is severely restricted.

Many see it as a natural progression from paintball shooting, which most participants shun as being rather messy, both to the shooters and to the locales in which the events are held.

Airsoft games, by contrast, leave very little trace behind, and the equipment used more closely resembles actual firearms in appearance, operation, and accessories used.

As a direct result of rapid growth in the sport’s popularity, more and better equipment is coming onto the market, to satisfy the need for more accurate, more powerful weapons with longer reach.

In its basic form, two teams normally compete against each other, either in a natural setting (“Woodland”) or in built-up areas (“Close Quarters Battle”). Certain venues actually offer a combination of both settings for purposes of realism. Sometimes one team defends and the other assaults; in other scenarios, there is a race to be the first to occupy an objective.

Participants can expect to sustain multiple hits during an airsoft session. The impact from 6mm plastic projectiles can be quite painful, and can raise welts on bare skin. Consequently, the appropriate protective gear is always worn.

This sort of interaction is as about as close as anyone can get to actual firearm-related encounters without being severely injured or killed. It pits each shooter against real human beings, armed with roughly the same equipment and the same competitive mindset.

It can (and does) provide excellent training in the areas of marksmanship, cover and concealment, ambush tactics, and coordinated team movement. It also builds physical fitness and gun handling skills, and can prepare firearms users for more deadly, real-world encounters.

In this feature, we talk to highly-popular airsoft shooter Axana (@rebelaxa on Instagram), who provides keen insights into her involvement with the sport, and the equipment needed to get into the game.

Tygus.shooting: Who introduced you to airsoft shooting?

Axana: It was my boyfriend!

Tygus.shooting: How old were you when you started ?

Axana: Just recently, after I turned 20.

Tygus.shooting: Where do you like to play the most? Woodland or CQB?

Axana: I always play woodland. I really like to be in nature. We actually have an awesome field here with some CQB elements, like an abandoned hotel. This provides the best of both worlds.

Tygus.shooting: How often do you shoot?

Axana: We try to go every 2 weeks.

Tygus.shooting: Are you working, or are you studying right now?

Axana: I am a student at the university. I’m studying Graphic and Digital Media, and expect to graduate in September 2018.

Tygus.shooting: What other hobbies or interests occupy your time, when you’re not shooting?

Axana: I like shopping, and spending time with my dog, Aiko. He is a part-Labrador and part-Rottweiler. Most of the time I have a lot of schoolwork, though, so I don’t always have free time.

Tygus.shooting: Are you in a relationship at the moment? Do you have any children?

Axana: I have a boyfriend, but no, no children!

Tygus.shooting: Is your partner active in airsoft shooting as well?

Axana: Oh, yes! He’s actually quite good at it!

Tygus.shooting: What airsoft guns do you use? Please describe your loadout, and the other stuff you carry with it.

Axana: I use a G&G GR26 Black Rose as my main weapon, and I also carry a Hi-capacity 5.1 Gold Match as a sidearm. I am also thinking of getting an ICS because the split gearbox is really handy. Haven’t decided which model to get, just yet.

As far as outfits go, I always play in a multicam outfit from Fostex. I need to stick to this outfit since I’m a size ‘Small’ and most of the pants like ClawGear are way too big for me.

Tygus.shooting: How far can you engage a target with your airsoft rifle?

Axana: About 30 meters.

Tygus.shooting: And your handgun?

Axana: Maybe 15 meters, at the most.

Tygus.shooting: What about your vest? And what do you carry in it?

Axana: My tactical vest is from Invader Gear, but I will probably swap it for a Warrior Assault rig. I recently changed my M4 pouches to double stack pouches, since I traded the high-cap magazines for mid-caps. This is way better if you want to be sneaky, since they don’t make as much noise. Besides that, I have a pouch for my radio communicator. And as a last piece on my vest, I have an admin pouch where I can store a map of the field I am playing in.

Tygus.shooting: Anything else?

Axana: Oh, yes! I also carry a Cyclone grenade from Airsoft Innovations. This really comes in handy when clearing rooms.

Tygus.shooting: What is your favorite piece of equipment right now?

Axana: The M4 carbine.

Tygus.shooting: If you could only own one airsoft gun, what would it be?

Axana: The GR26, Commando.

Tygus.shooting: What gun are you keen on getting next?

Axana: I’m thinking of one from the ICS brand, but I still have to figure out which one. Maybe the new SBR from the M.A.R.S series.

Tygus.shooting: Do you have any plans to transition your skills into firearms shooting?

Axana: We talk about shooting some real steel, from time to time. I really want to try it since I think it is a great experience, but it is very expensive in Belgium! For now, it might just have to be airsoft shooting. I plan to work on my fitness level, so I don’t get tired that quickly. I want to run faster and be able to cover longer distances while carrying all my equipment!

Tygus.shooting: Axana, thank you very much for your time, and for sharing the details of your sport with us. We wish you the best of luck in your future engagements!

Axana: It was my pleasure! I hope the information will be helpful to those who are thinking of getting into the sport!