When an armed gunman walks into a building and starts shooting, there isn’t much time to think, and officers have to act fast to save lives. The challenge many agencies face is accurately simulating these scenarios in a way that will most benefit officers and the communities they are protecting. For an increasing number of departments, airsoft guns are providing officers a realistic training substitute.

“Airsoft guns provide the look and feel — the realism — of the weapons these officers will use if they ever have to respond to a real-life active shooter crisis,” said Stacey Quinones, training director at Leoness, a provider of law enforcement training. “In addition to the realism, airsoft guns are extremely safe, and the overall costs are considerably less than alternative training weapons.

Leoness has partnered with airsoft gun distributor Hobbytron to promote airsoft use in law enforcement training. HobbyTron.com not only has airsoft rifles, pistols, shotguns and sniper rifles of all types, but also offers discounted prices on its inventory to law enforcement and military personnel, thus making it more sensible for law enforcement agencies to move toward airsoft-based training.

“We carry airsoft versions of almost every conceivable firearm used by law enforcement and military agencies,” said Jamie Baker, police and military sales representative for HobbyTron.com. “Whether the agency uses MP5s, M4s or Glocks, we have them. And because of our relationship with the manufacturers, if we don’t currently carry the agency’s firearm of choice, we can get it.”

Among the training agencies using airsoft guns is Leoness, a Sturbridge, Mass. company, which recently held an active shooter course on Feb. 1 to 2. The 33 officers and departments, representing more than 20 different towns and cities from across the state of Massachusetts, participated in the two-day training, which consisted of a half-day of classroom training by instructor Charles DiChiara and a day-and-a–half of hands-on police response scenario training. Leoness has set itself apart by implementing airsoft guns as its training weapon of choice.

Airsoft features a unique propulsion system that utilizes a small amount of air to shoot lightweight plastic balls with impressive accuracy.

As the concept continues to mature, new lines of Airsoft rifles and pistols that replicate famous models such as the Magnum Revolver and the UZI are appearing. The public response continues to be massive and enthusiastic, drawing in hobbyists, collectors and amateurs alike and quickly spreading around the world. This worldwide attention is taking Airsoft products to even greater heights of quality craftsmanship. Airsoft products provide a triple-play combination of realism, safety and affordability and have application in fields ranging from police and professional training to the movies.