What Was the First Airsoft Gun? Unveiling the Game-Changing Classic

When you begin to explore the airsoft world, it’s natural to wonder what the first airsoft gun was. Delving into the history of airsoft can help you gain a deeper appreciation for the sport and the technology that drives it.

In the 1970s, airsoft guns were first developed in Japan due to strict gun regulations. The purpose was to provide an alternative to firearms for recreational and training purposes. Ichiro Nagata invented airsoft in the first decade of the 1970s. He designed the soft air gun to ensure it wouldn’t harm or kill anyone. These weapons were referred to as “Soft Air Guns”.

This blog will explore its history and how it paved the way for developing sophisticated airsoft guns. With innovation over the years, airsoft guns have evolved to include gas, electric, and hybrid systems, making them more efficient and realistic. As you continue your airsoft journey, understanding the origins of this popular hobby will only enhance your experience and appreciation.

History of Airsoft Guns

As an airsoft enthusiast, you need to know about the origins and history of airsoft guns. Let’s dive into the history of airsoft guns with a brief look at their origin in Japan and their eventual expansion globally.

Origin in Japan

It all started in the 1970s in Japan, where strict gun control laws met the demand for personal firearms. This led to the development of airsoft guns, which used compressed air or gas to fire plastic BBs. Early spring-powered airsoft gun replicas that fired 6mm plastic pellets or BBs quickly gained popularity among enthusiasts.

As airsoft became increasingly popular in Japan, manufacturers started to develop new technologies, such as electric-powered guns (AEGs) and gas-powered guns. These improvements made airsoft guns more versatile and opened up new possibilities for both sporting activities and military training exercises.

Global Expansion

After the initial success in Japan, airsoft spread to other Asian countries, such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Korea. These countries began to manufacture airsoft products, expanding the range of available models, accessories, and equipment.

During the mid-1990s, airsoft gained significant popularity in the United States and Europe. With the growth of airsoft communities and the formation of regional and national leagues, airsoft began to be recognized as a sport practiced worldwide.

Today, airsoft guns are used for various purposes, including hobby shooting, military training, and law enforcement training. With advancements in technology and the global expansion of airsoft, it’s no wonder that airsoft has become such a popular pastime for people worldwide.

Types of Airsoft Guns

There are three main types of airsoft guns: spring-powered, gas-powered, and automatic electric guns (AEGs).


Spring-powered airsoft guns are the most basic and often the first type to be introduced. They use a manual, spring-loaded mechanism to propel the plastic BBs.

Some advantages of spring-powered guns are their affordability and low maintenance requirements. However, they are limited by a slower rate of fire as you need to cock the gun before each shot.


Gas-powered airsoft guns project the BBs using compressed gases like CO2, propane, or green gas. They are available in semi-automatic and automatic variants, offering more realistic shooting experiences.

  • CO2: CO2 airsoft guns use small, disposable CO2 cartridges for power. They generally have a higher FPS and performance in cold weather.
  • Propane/Green Gas: These guns run on propane, often mixed with silicone oil, for better performance. Green gas is the commercial equivalent and is less harmful to the environment.

Gas-powered airsoft guns provide a better performance, versatility, and realism than spring-powered guns. However, they require more maintenance and can be more expensive due to consumables like gas and replacement parts.

Automatic Electric Guns (AEG)

AEGs, or automatic electric guns, are players’ most popular airsoft guns. They use an electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery to drive a gearbox, providing semi- or fully automatic firing modes.

High rate of fireHigher maintenance
Easy to customizeDependent on battery life
Wide selection availableHigher upfront cost

AEGs offer a more engaging and customizable airsoft experience, making them popular among enthusiasts. Though they have some drawbacks, their consistent and high-performance gameplay can be worth the investment.

Key Components and Design

This section will inspect the materials, mechanisms, and accessories that made the first airsoft gun unique and functional.


The first airsoft guns mainly used plastic as their base material, while some incorporated metal parts for added durability. The use of ABS plastic contributed to the gun’s lightweight and affordable nature, which was a critical factor in the airsoft gun’s popularity.

The UKArms airsoft gun, for example, featured a plastic frame with an aluminum barrel and an 8mm plastic pellet for projectiles.


The first airsoft guns utilized motors and gears to generate power and accuracy. An electric motor would drive a series of gears, compressing a spring to propel the plastic pellet through the barrel.

The trigger mechanism connected to the gears ensures a proper release of the pellet, usually calibrated for 6mm or 8mm plastic pellets.


Though the first airsoft guns didn’t feature many accessories, some included necessary attachments such as red dot sights and scopes to improve accuracy. Later, airsoft enthusiasts would create different customizations, such as adding a silicone oil lubrication system to maintain the gun’s performance.

However, the first airsoft guns usually had limited or no recoil and simple designs, which were part of their appeal to recreational players.


The first airsoft guns were straightforward yet functional, incorporating lightweight materials, efficient mechanisms, and essential accessories.

Airsoft Gun Performance

This section will discuss airsoft gun performance, focusing on power and range, accuracy and precision, and realism.

Power and Range

Airsoft guns use propulsion methods, such as spring, gas, and electric, to fire 6mm plastic BBs. The muzzle velocity of airsoft guns typically ranges from 200 to 500 feet per second (FPS).

Your choice of gun and the type of propulsion will impact its range. Gas blowback guns tend to have a more extended range than spring-powered guns, while AEGs offer consistent performance and adjustable power settings, making them suitable for various roles.

Accuracy and Precision

For an airsoft gun to be effective, accuracy and precision are crucial. Higher-quality guns often exhibit tighter groupings of shots, thanks to well-machined barrels, higher-grade hop-up systems, and consistent power output.


Remember that heavier BBs can also help increase accuracy as they are less affected by wind and tend to deviate less from their intended trajectory. This may result in a slightly smaller range.


One of the significant draws of airsoft is the realistic replica guns. Manufacturers aim to replicate the look and feel of real firearms, including weight, texture, and materials, to provide an immersive experience.

Gas blowback guns excel in this aspect, offering realistic recoil (compared to most firearms, the recoil will always be lighter) and slide movement to authentically mimic the functioning of a real firearm. Your airsoft gun’s realism level will depend on your preferences and budget.


Over the years, airsoft technology has significantly evolved, leading to increased accuracy, range, and realism. In addition to the original popular spring-powered designs, the market now offers gas-powered and electric airsoft guns, catering to various user preferences and budgets.

As an airsoft enthusiast, understanding its origins enriches your experience and deepens your appreciation for the advancements in the field. Enjoy airsoft responsibly, honor its history, and embrace the exciting developments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What was the first airsoft gun?

Ichiro Nagata developed the first airsoft gun, the “Soft Air Gun,” in Japan in the early 1970s. He used spring-powered mechanisms to shoot 6mm plastic pellets, known as BBs.

Q. Why was airsoft invented?

Airsoft was developed in Japan due to strict gun control laws that made it difficult for gun enthusiasts to own and use real firearms. As a result, they sought a safer and more accessible alternative for recreational shooting and collecting.

Q. How have airsoft guns evolved over the years?

The earliest airsoft models were simple, single-shot guns that required manual cocking before each shot. However, in the 1980s, gas-powered airsoft guns emerged, offering semi-automatic and automatic firing capabilities. In the early 1990s, Tokyo Marui revolutionized airsoft again by introducing the first automatic electric gun (AEG).

Today, airsoft guns continue to evolve, with new technology and innovations constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the airsoft world.

Q. Is airsoft popular outside of Japan?

Yes! Airsoft has gained global popularity over the years and is now enjoyed by enthusiasts in Europe, the United States, and other parts of the world. It is used for recreational shooting and military and law enforcement training exercises.

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