Chanute shootout: 160 armor-clad enthusiasts to converge on Rantoul airsoft event

Chanute shootout: 160 armor-clad enthusiasts to converge on Rantoul airsoft event

RANTOUL — People wearing military-style uniforms will be firing at each other on the former Chanute Air Force Base.

Not to worry, though. The weapons will be firing biodegradable plastic pellets.

The Sleeping Giant airsoft event will be held Saturday and Sunday at Grissom Hall. The event is sponsored by Airsoft Republic, an Iowa City-based event organizer.

Airsoft events are popular. So much so that 160 spots for the Rantoul competition sold out in about a week.

Airsoft Republic founder Austin Green said Grissom Hall, while large, is smaller than some venues that host airsoft events.

Green said one attraction is that competition is held in some "cool and unique locations."

"We don't like to alter the locations themselves," Green said. "We will use and bring our own props."

The competition is kind of like paintball without the mess, Green said.

The teams will be divided into 80-person units with squads of 10. They will be trying to capture different objectives.

Participants are on the honor system to indicate that they've been hit becuse airsoft pellets generally don't leave a mark.

One advantage is "there is not the cleanup that paintball has," Green said. "Airsoft is just the pellets themselves that have to be cleaned up."

The competition will consist of two main factions that will battle it out. A storyline has been developed on the company's website about the different fictional factions.

"Everything has objectives," Green said. "It might be to go rescue a hostage or capture a certain point or do a certain mission. We try to create a dynamic, so the people feel like they're in the story. How they react to it is how the storyline goes."

Points are collected for various actions. Rules violations result in a loss of points.

Airsoft started in Japan in the early 1970s. Green said its popularity only developed around 2000.

The airsoft pellets aren't as expensive as ones in paintball, and participants don't ruin their clothing playing it, allowing competitors to dress up in more expensive gear.

"Some people get into the gear," Green said. "Some people like to dress up in character."

They can spend $300 to $400 in gear alone and up to $1,500 for a quality airsoft gun, although a "decent" airsoft gun can be had for about $100.

Some participants go all over the country to compete. The larger events can draw 600 to 1,000 competitors.

All of the participants at the Rantoul event will hail from outside the area. No spectators will be allowed.

The events vary in style and composition and can include action ranging from short-term skirmishes to close quarters battle to military simulations.

The primary effective range of a top-of-the-line airsoft gun is about 100 yards. But most guns used for field play will have an effective range of 141 to 220 feet.

While airsoft is legal in most parts of the world, some countries have specific restrictions. They include maximum muzzle velocity and "unrealistic" coloring to distinguish them from real firearms. Restrictions also exist in Chicago and Detroit.

Dave Hinton is editor of the Rantoul Press, a News-Gazette Media community newspaper. For more, visit rantoulpress.com.

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