Should You Sell Airsoft and Paintball Guns?

Guns are flying off the shelves — when you can get them. If you’re having inventory problems, try branching out into premium air guns, airsoft and paintball guns.

Should You Sell Airsoft and Paintball Guns?

At the moment, we have a few major problems that I am sure all gun owners and firearms dealers are concerned with. Nearly every dealer is frustrated with the trickle of inventory that is coming in the door to sell, and most of that inventory is likely already sold. The result is that there is still nothing on the shelves to sell. The second concern is the political climate is again a bit dubious on where gun control might end up over the next four years. Regulations could have an immediate impact on your business if, for instance, the most popular gun in the U.S., MSRs and AR formats, are suddenly heavily regulated, require forced ATF licensing or are banned completely. All this means again that firearms will be even harder for dealers to get. The question becomes, what can dealers plan to sell?

Dealers that have heavily diversified beyond just tactical firearms into premium airsoft, air guns, and paintball are keeping products on the shelves and are seeing booking sales beyond just firearms. The great thing about all three of these categories is that they all are likely to remain untouched by regulation. They keep customers shooting, they all require replenishment of consumable items, and they all generally require dealers to provide high-pressure air refills or gas canisters to keep customers coming back. Let’s look at each category to understand what dealers need, why customers want these products, and where overlapping dealer resources can add a lot of margin and customer loyalty.

The Market Opportunity

According Justin Biddle, director of marketing at Umarex, “The biggest mental hurdle for dealers is to get out of the low-tier $20-$50 big-box store mindset of airsoft, air guns and paintball and jump into the premier high tier, where there are very big-ticket sales opportunities and retail gaps where big retailers are not playing. Dealers are just blown away when they start selling high-end $120+ airsoft pistols as trainers and cannot keep them in stock.”

Every airsoft, air gun and paintball manufacturer I spoke with for this article is ramping up production for 2021 and had their best sales year ever in 2020. Chris Williamson of Dye Precision Paintball noted, “Everyone wants to get out and do something. Firearms owners cannot get ammo and want to get out and train and shoot with friends, and parents just want everyone to get out of the house. Firearms owners know that quality equals performance and don’t flinch to spend $500 for a paintball marker to make sure they have the best equipment on their field compared to their buddies. Add all that up, and 2020 has been the biggest sales year ever for the paintball industry and, without question, the biggest growth year.” The message was clear: If you are not selling air-powered air guns, airsoft and paintball markers, you are missing a huge sales opportunity.


Currently there are more than 60 main airsoft brands in the market and more getting added each year. Airsoft has been defined by offering highly detailed replicas of actual real firearms. These amazing airsoft replicas deliver customers an immediate training option that can share the same holster and magazine pouches they use with their real firearms. Most importantly, airsoft guns deliver a similar weight and feel for an amazingly realistic training experience. The higher-tier airsoft trainers even have realistic blowback actions. When most dealers think of airsoft, they think of those cheap, spring-operated, $20 airsoft guns for kids — but the market has exponentially matured to $120+ airsoft trainers that law enforcement, military and tactical training teams are using for safe, realistic training.

Umarex’s T4E professional airsoft and marker pistol line are very robust training products marketed almost exclusively to the LEO communities as safe and significantly lower-cost training options to Simunition firearms. Even high-tier tactical trainers like Shiv Works’ Craig Douglas copiously use airsoft throughout training to drive realism. “When you get shot with an airsoft round, it hurts and reminds you through extensive training not to do things that will get you killed. Airsoft is an amazing training tool,” noted Douglas.

Most dealers will have immediate distributor access to airsoft companies aligned to the firearms industry, such as Umarex USA, the sister company to Walther Arms. I am a longtime shooter of Umarex and can vouch that for training, their durability, reliability and quality are exceptional and backed by Umarex customer service. Some of the more notable Umarex licensed airsoft models include Glock, H&K, Beretta, S&W, UZI, Ruger and Walther, available in a variety of models. The company also offers licensed rifle variants as well, including airsoft rifles from H&K, Berretta, IWI and a number of AR variants.

Dealers are smart to inventory many different models of similar hot-selling firearms, plenty of airsoft ammo in a variety of colors, and tiers of ammo quality options, CO2, Green Gas propellant cans and safety gear. A complete kit of quality airsoft gear with ammo and propellant can easily total over $200, and your customers can keep shooting in their basements, backyards and approved public areas. The more serious airsoft shooters will commit a significant investment to have the best equipment available during competitions.

Air Guns

Like airsoft, air guns have a market, and that is the basement and backyard shooter, entry-level shooters, and the precision long-range trainers. The CO2-powered handgun air gun model replicas offer that same model look and feel of the real firearm models for some excellent training options and backyard training. Umarex, as an example, offers a number of great pellet and BB gun options that mimic their real counterparts. For the precision shooters, there is nothing more amazing for them to experience the precision of a high-tier PCP (pre-charged pneumatic) air gun. PCPs like those from Airforce feature precision Walther match barrels that will deliver single-hole 25-yard accuracy and caliber options from .177 to massive hog-stopping .50 air guns with the power that can drive 550-grain pellets to a stunning 800+ ft./lbs. of energy. Precision shooters love this training option.

These very high pressure 3,000 PSI PCP air guns are charged via the same tanks and high-pressure compressors that dealers can use for the paintball customers. The need for refills keeps customers coming back for refills of either the onboard tanks or the large scuba tanks shooters use for home or range refills. John McCaslin, founder of Airforce Airguns, noted that “Pellets are huge sellers because serious air gunners will buy a half a dozen tins at a time of $10-$20 premium pellets to fine-tune the right pellet for their application, just like reloaders do on the firearm side. Precision air guns are the perfect match for precision shooters and PRS competitors who want at-home training. Add in the extremely quiet nature of legally and freely available silenced air guns and a pellet backstop, and there is a whole lot of precision practice shooting fun to be had in a backyard or basement.”

Airforce’s $1,200+ air guns have been on a constant year-over-year growth trajectory, and customers usually own multiple calibers. Like airsoft, air gun sales of premium-tier air guns not offered at big-box stores can be great sellers with big margins for dealers who can hand-sell the benefits.


Like airsoft, there have been a number of paintball markers and equipment manufacturers, however, there was a sizable acquisition consolidation a few years ago, so dealers only need to focus on a few core companies. By far the largest is GI Sportz Group, which includes Empire, Spyder, Tippmann, VForce, and JT. It is by far the biggest one-stop shop for dealers, however, Planet Eclipse and Dye Precision are the two largest competitors with full lines of tournament-quality to premium markers that start around $300 and top out over $1,200 — yes, just for the marker. Umarex has a number of small-caliber marker training options, including a PPQ model that you will see on the paintball courses.

Customers starting out will still likely need some type of marker ($300-$1,200), ammo hopper ($40-$300), air tank ($50-$300), extra ammo pods for speed reloads in the field, masks/goggles, gloves, jerseys and, of course, ammo and air. $800 mid-level marker, tank, hopper and goggle kits are common and the hottest selling category. Manufacturers report that most buyers want something better and fuller-featured than the robust rental guns, which typically start around $200.

As you can imagine, paintball is not what most of us remember from our youth. Paintball has become a televised sport, with heavy major consumer brand sponsorship, and it has had another huge growth curve thanks to the “get outdoors” experience-based millennial generation. The current crop of paintball guns are offered in compressed air-powered .50-caliber models, usually targeted for the youth market, that pack a bit less punch than the larger mainline .68-caliber markers. Dealers are encouraged to stock a few .50-caliber models to assure they can pull in the younger buyers, but the .68 caliber is the primary sales market.

The markers are now mostly digitally controlled, with mechanical models usually targeted for the rental market, requiring more durability and lower maintenance. Current paintball markers are insanely fast shooting, with digital programmable ramping trigger options that can shoot more than 30 rounds a second. The rate of fire and extra features on the digital models are addicting.

There is a huge amount of similarity between paintball tournaments and 3-gun competitions, with a lot of movement, use of cover, and focus on pushing the equipment to its max. Typical games include the insanely fast Speedball, Woodsball, Capture the Flag and Scenario (tactical) games. Nearly every major city and even rural towns now have a paintball course nearby.

Dye’s marketing leader, Chris Williamson, noted, “Millennials now have jobs and money to spend, and the Gen Z younger crowd are now old enough to start spending. We are seeing the same type of growth we saw 40 years ago with the Boomer when paintball first started. More mid- to high-tier competitive tournament-quality markers are selling than ever, and we see no slowing down, despite $500-$1,200 price points. They are also spending on full tournament-quality gear kits, including padded paints, jerseys, and customized masks, plus extra customization components for their guns, even if they only shoot a few times a year.”

Another customer loyalty plus and margin opportunity of paintball is that tanks need refills with dealer-supplied air tanks or high-pressure compressors, and shooters can go through a lot of air with just backyard shooting. Add in 30-round-a-second shooting rates and customers can easily go through a case of ammo quickly. Most dealers will have a good selection of $300+ markers to the super-tier $900+ models, lots of goggle options, metal and carbon-fiber tanks, $4-$5 air supply refill charges, some samples of jerseys and pants for order, and a deep supply of fresh paintballs. Yes, they need to be fresh or they get hard and really hurt. Top dealers will partner with local paintball fields to cross-promote packages.

More Options to Sell

Diversification is a big part of driving new revenue and delivering a net new product to an existing customer base. Airsoft, air guns and paintball can keep your customers shooting, offer some interesting in-stock items to talk about, and allow some diversification of the overall product mix to offer some revenue protection when firearms are out of stock or regulations come crashing down.


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