One of the biggest areas of confusion in airsoft, is what is the actual legal (i.e. non-lethal) velocity limit?

In the UK every airsoft site will have set its own “Site Limit” and this may well differ from site to site depending on the style of play, the type of terrain (woodland/urban etc.) and the type of allowed weapon(s), i.e. full auto/semi/single-shot only etc..

Most of these limits will be below the actual “legal” limit and normally based on using .20 gram BBs. This is an important point to note because the limits are NOT based on the actual velocity of the bb but on Joules and the definition of a Joule is:

The SI unit of work or energy, equal to the work done by a force of one newton when its point of application moves one metre in the direction of action of the force, equivalent to one 3600th of a watt-hour.

…and that is why the weight of a bb can effect the maximum allowed velocity.

Towards the end of 2011 the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) released a letter stating their position regarding the “lethality” of airsoft weapons, based on testing conducted by the Forensic Science Service, in which it states:

…it will be safe to conclude that fully automatic airsoft guns operating at 1.3 joules or less and single shot (or semi automatic) airsoft guns operating at 2.5 joules or less would not engage the lethality threshold crossing over into stricter controls under the Firearms Act.

So what does that actually mean?

In a nutshell, it means if you are at or below the limit, you are not using a firearm!

To save you having to get out a calculator and slide rule every time you hit the chrony station, Airsoft Action has put together a simple chart which shows the maximum (non-lethal) velocities for a variety of different weights of bb. Always bear in mind though that these are the maximums and that the site you play on may well have a lower limit and that is the limit you must adhere to.

Maximum Velocity Limits
BB Weight Single/Semi-Auto (2.5 Joules) Full-Auto (1.3 Joules)
0.18 grams 547 fps 394 fps
0.20 grams 519 fps 374 fps
0.25 grams 464 fps 334 fps
0.30 grams 423 fps 305 fps
0.35 grams 392 fps 283 fps
0.40 grams 367 fps 265 fps
This chart shows the maximum velocity in feet per second, based on different BB weights, for both single shot/semi-automatic and full-auto airsoft weapons.