If you’ve seen Stella Women’s Academy or Aoharu X Machinegun, you’re already familiar with the concept of airsoft guns: Those super-authentic replica firearms that fire little plastic BB pellets. In recent years, many congoers have taken to using airsoft guns as cosplay props, especially for costumes that have a modern military theme to them. Cosplays from Ghost in the Shell and Black Lagoon to Jormungand and GATE can benefit from the accurate design, detail, and customizability airsoft guns can provide, but there are important things to consider before using one as a prop.
1. Convention Prop Policies
Before deciding to incorporate an airsoft gun into your costume, it’s important to know if any of the conventions you go to will even accept it. Every convention has a prop/weapon policy, usually predicated on the laws of the city and/or state the convention is in, and then adapted for the convention itself. Some conventions will allow airsoft guns, some won’t, and many lie somewhere inbetween: Requiring any airsoft guns brought in as props to be either disabled or permanently disabled before being accepted.
2. Picking An Airsoft Gun
The airsoft community’s dedication to authenticity and customizability has yielded a plethora of different models to choose from, including ones directly based on anime, like Revy’s Sword Cutlass Beretta 92F. That said, it’s also made it a very expensive hobby. Mid-level airsoft guns easily cross the $100 line. As a result, it’s highly recommended to forgo the average airsoft gun used for normal play for a cheap spring-powered gun. It can be as much as a full order of magnitude less expensive, from ~$300 to ~$30.
3. Prepping Your Airsoft Gun For The Con
Most conventions require any airsoft guns to be more or less permanently disabled before being accepted as cosplay props. The phrase “no moving parts” is common in many con prop policies, and typically refers to an airsoft gun’s firing mechanism being removed. Many cheap airsoft guns can be opened up simply by unscrewing the outer shell apart and separating the two halves, though this should be done with caution, as some may have a slightly more complex construction. Removing the plunger and spring will render the gun unable to fire, while letting the trigger and charging handle still move like they’re supposed to.
Additionally, it could help to plug the barrel with glue, clay, or a disposable earplug, and breaking the trigger off is a good way to visibly demonstrate that the prop has been rendered permanently inoperable.
And whatever you do, don’t paint over or remove the orange around the muzzle. The orange tip is required by federal law in the US on all airsoft guns transported or imported into the country, and serves as a clear indicator that the weapon is not real. The tiny bit of added accuracy that removing the orange tip provides isn’t worth a potentially life-threatening misunderstanding with the police.
4. Transporting Your Airsoft Gun To And From Con
When travelling to and from the convention, any airsoft guns should be secured in a way that keeps them away from the public eye. A long duffel bag provides ample space for any such props, as well as clothes and other standard con gear. Note that if your hotel situation requires you to walk or take public transportation to the convention venue, strongly reconsider whether your costume requires an airsoft gun, as carrying anything resembling a gun might upset people, and carrying a bag big enough for your prop everywhere will be cumbersome.
Props are a big topic for cosplayers, and airsoft guns are a particularly complex subject, so we’ll be revisiting both props and airsoft in later installments. Until then, drop a comment if you have a question!