Airsoft gun fans are happy in Indiana. While some states outlaw these guns entirely, and others regulate their use, Indiana, a state known for its lax gun laws, doesn't regulate them at all. Playing with airsoft guns is a popular activity in Indiana.
What Are Airsoft Guns?
Airsoft guns are "toy" guns that shoot plastic BBs. They are not a new thing. They were invented in Japan some years ago, before paintball guns were even available. Just like playing with paintball guns had its moment, airsoft guns are becoming the rising stars of these type of activities. Like paintball guns, airsoft guns look very real. In fact, they are built to replicate different kinds of real firearms including pistols, rifles and even sniper rifles. Airsofts may be constructed of metal which makes them seem even more authentic.
Airsoft guns are not considered real guns in Indiana since they shoot 8mm or 6mm plastic BBs. These types of weapons will not kill anyone and generally won't injure them badly either unless they are hit in the eye. But when someone is shot by a BB from an airsoft gun, it does sting, sometimes badly, and it can leave marks.
How Do Airsoft Guns Work?
Airguns were designed for playing war games, and the original models were made to be powered by air. The airsoft gun had a compressed air cylinder attached to it. Today these products have evolved and offer a number of powering options.
Some airguns – the least expensive and sturdiest models – are powered by springs. With these types of airguns, the shooter must cock the gun to set the spring each time they want to fire a BB. The most expensive models are automatic electric guns (AEG), and they are also the most popular. They fire automatically, up to 900 rounds per minute. Another type of airgun is powered by compressed air.
How Are Airsoft Guns Used?
People who play airsoft games tend to be very enthusiastic about them. Playing airsoft is a little like stepping into a video game. Generally, the rules are the same or similar to those for paintball games, including rules against shooting at too close range and at those who aren't part of the game.
Most players use better quality guns, shooting plastic BBs that are ejected much faster and have a flatter trajectory than those with tubes filled with paint that explode on impact. Airsoft can be played in a variety of spaces. Games are held in private backyards, but also in outdoor fields like paintball fields.
Risks and Dangers of Airguns
Anyone hit by a BB in the eye fired from an airgun will understand the physical damage these guns can inflict. Not only might the person lose their eye, but they can incur serious brain damage. It is recommended by commentators that people playing with airsoft guns wear clear goggles to protect their eyes, but this is not a state law in Indiana.
Risking an eye is not the only danger related to airgun use. The designers of airguns intended them to look exactly like real pistols and rifles, and they were very successful in this goal. That stunning resemblance creates a danger for anyone using an airgun since law enforcement can easily mistake them for real firearms. To that end, federal statutes mandate that any toy gun that looks like a real gun must have a blaze of bright orange on its barrel. The hope is that police officers can spot the orange and know that the gun is not a lethal weapon.
Types of Airsoft Guns
There are many different types of airsoft guns out there. However, most fall into one of five categories: spring sniper rife; C02 sniper rifle; high pressure airsoft; shotgun; and machine gun. Each has distinct features and advantages and disadvantages.
The spring sniper rifle is an airsoft that has to be cocked before it is fired, very similar to a real sniper rifle. The person using it cocks the bolt that pulls a spring to load the BB, then pulls the trigger to fire. This rifle is very loud, making a distinctive noise when cocking back the spring that gives away the shooter's position.
The C02 sniper rifle is much like the spring sniper rifle except that the shooter has to charge the C02 cartridge with a special charger before they place it in the magazine and load the gun as if it were a regular spring rifle. They pull back the bolt and push a "hop-up" button to fire.
The high-pressure airsoft carries its ammunition in a magazine that attaches to the bottom of the gun. To use this rifle, the shooter has to load it and then pull on a charging handle that pulls back a spring, releasing a charged BB into place ready to be shot. The gun is more expensive than the CO2 sniper rifle but it shoots farther than any other rifle.
While it is rare to find a shotgun airsoft, there are a few, usually spring or CO2 driven. They fire two pellets at once, making it more powerful than a rifle. Machine gun airsoft guns are also rare and are spring or CO2 powered. Instead of firing individual shots, the gun is automatic. However, the number and speed of the shots make it difficult to shoot accurately.
Indiana State Gun Law Definition of Firearm
Although nobody could call Indiana a state that is tough on guns, it does have some laws on its books regulating firearms. However, the definition of firearm under Indiana law seems to exclude airguns from these regulations.
Indiana defines "firearm" in Title 35, Article 47 of the Indiana Code. Article 47:1:5 provides: "Firearm means any weapon: (1) that is (A) capable of expelling; or (B) designed to expel; or (2) that may readily be converted to expel; a projectile by means of an explosion." Since no airguns are powered by explosions, they are totally outside the laws enacted to regulate the use of firearms in Indiana.
Other Regulations of Airguns
There are no other state regulations of airguns in the state of Indiana. No regulations impose age restrictions on their purchase or use by minors. The website OutdoorEver.com published an article addressing the laws on airguns in all 50 states. For Indiana, it said: "Indiana does not have any restrictions on the use of air rifles. That being said, you can use an air rifle on most animals, including coyotes, feral hogs and red foxes."
Local Government Laws
Municipalities are permitted to regulate the use of airsoft guns in Indiana, and some local laws restrict their use in public places or on school grounds. Anyone shooting airsoft guns in a public area risks a disorderly conduct citation by law enforcement officers. The use of airsoft guns on private property requires the consent of the property owner. If consent is granted, airguns are permitted.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.