Can you really train for competition with air guns? If you ask Tatsuya Sakai, a Japanese IPSC shooter, you most certainly can.

Sakai lives in Japan, where real guns are, for all practical purposes, nonexistent. He trained for Steel Challenge using nothing but AirSoft guns (legal in Japan) firing plastic BBs. The result of one year of practice with an air gun? He won the 2004 Steel Challenge, competing in the United States with a real gun.

While that’s a rare example, the concept of refining basic skills like draw, target acquisition and trigger discipline can certainly be refined by practice with a quality air gun.

You might consider stocking a few carefully chose air gun and/or AirSoft pistols in your store. The cheaper ones are available at big discount stores, but serious competitive shooters aren’t likely to be interested in those anyway.

Take a look at some of the models available from companies like Umarex. You’ll find “air version” replicas of guns commonly used in competitive shooting like Smith & Wesson M&P, Heckler & Koch, Colt and even souped-up race guns with optical sights.

The air gun versions are generally chambered in .177 caliber and use lightweight lead or alloy pellets. They make little noise and are safe to use indoors or in the backyard, assuming normal gun safety rules are observed. Most of the handgun models are charged by inexpensive CO2 canisters, which allow rapid fire and up to 80 or so shots, depending on the model.

On the higher-end models, you’ll find metal reciprocating slides and a realistic feel like the centerfire models.

The AirSoft models fire 6mm plastic BBs and are true to aim at most competition shooting distances. Most models are powered by compressed air cylinders, replaceable CO2 canisters and even springs.

Take a look. You might be surprised by the realism of these air-powered guns.