We all talk about headshots, should they be banned or are they just part of the game? Whilst its easy to say that there’s two sides to the argument, the truth is that it’s more of a sliding scale. Every one of us has a set of principals that were defined by, for some people this moral compass spins like a roulette wheel and for a select few, it points very much “north”.
So, Should headshots be allowed in airsoft?
It sounds a simple enough question and often provokes an instant response, but is that answer actually a truthful reflection of most people’s behaviour or are we merely telling people what they want to hear?
How many of us have aimed for someone’s face during a game of airsoft? Well, if we’re being truthful, I’d say its close to all of us. And even those who argue that aiming for the face is dangerous have to somehow come to terms with the fact that they’ve also made this very same decision.
Why do we aim for the head though?
There’s a number of reasons, not all of them are unreasonable. Hopefully I’ll provoke a little thinking on the matter, without becoming the victim of a lynching, as kinda happened with two previous articles:
Top 5 reasons why women shouldn’t play airsoft (there’s probably more)
Who knows? I might even convince you that the person getting shot in the head is often as much to blame as the person pulling the trigger! A hard sell, but you’ll have to read the whole thing to see why I think that’s the case.
So, lets look as the psychology of headshots. If you learned to shoot through the internet or by playing games online, you’ll have likely been influenced in some way by the sheer amount of headshot-centric content there is. In many games this is due to the damage-multipliers afflicted onto a headshot, aiming for the head makes perfect sense as it allows a much faster takedown.
A lot of shooting games have not only made headshots a quicker way of taking your opponent out, but for decades now they’ve given players visual and aural indicators when this happens.
Unreal Tournament probably pushed this further than most with their growling announcement of “Headshot!” upon every hit to a players head, but modern games have continued this trend with little “thwack”s or “ping”s whenever you score a fatal headshot and sometimes even a subtle pink mist or spray of gore, you might even have to use headshots to unlock new weapons or bonuses.
This has inevitably filtered across to the realms of airsoft, with even the airsofters in their 30s and 40s having grown up or spent their formative years playing games such as Half-Life, Rainbow Six, Unreal Tournament or even when consoles started to move towards online gaming, with shooters such as Halo or SOCOM: US Navy SEALs.
So is it unrealistic to expect a generation thats been brought up on the mantra of “headshots are the best shots” to suddenly switch off this behaviour and aim for everyone’s midriff? Maybe… Maybe it is.
The second reason that I think headshots are often chosen over easier body shots, is because as the title of this blog suggests, “Pain is a wonderful teacher”.
It might be because they genuinely didn’t feel it, or they didn’t think it was a “good” hit or… They just don’t give a fuck. No one will admit to it, but in our heart of hearts we all know that on an occasion or two within our time, there’s perhaps a hit we could have called earlier or louder. Sadly, some people do this all too frequently.
There are certain truths in life that we cant ignore. Death and taxes are inevitable, individuals are smart, people are stupid and… Airsofters don’t always take their hits. How do we fix this? Well we first need to understand the reasons why hit taking is an issue.
Many sites will tell you at the start of a day’s airsoft that they have a “sin bin” or “wall of shame” that they’ll put you on if there’s evidence of you not taking your hits. They’ll talk about taking layers of clothing off if the hits don’t appear to register, they’ll all say that they know other sites in the area and that banned from one site is banned from all.
How many times have you actually seen this happen? How many people do you know that were banned from a site? It’s all too often an empty threat and one thats been bluffed for far too many years. Sub-standard marshalling and a lack of willingness to potentially upset customers has become the new standard for sites, even the better sites falling far short of the mark over the last few years.
If a player doesn’t seem to take their hits, it seems logical that if the site or marshalling team won’t take action, it’s down to you. But we all know that’s confronting a cheat rarely ends well, so the passive-aggressive thing to do is shoot them in the face… A lot.
It might not sound sporting, but we’ve all done it. If I could choose where to hit people, I’d hit their thumbnail… It hurts like fuck and stops them wanting to shoot back, if only for a moment. I’ve never witnessed a player not take a hit to the thumb, but the problem is that you can’t realistically hit a thumbnail often enough for it to work.
Other choice parts to guarantee getting a hit called, in no particular order: balls, knob, flaps, tits, right arse cheek, armpit and throat. Certainly within CQB games these areas cause an instant and involuntary response, but a lot of these areas are rather hard to hit (either too small or tucked away).
The head though? That’s a different matter. It’s not only the most controversial place to hit someone, it’s also the only place to almost always guarantee the result you want.
Pain will force compliance, it’s a primal energy and will trigger an instant response. Even the most subtle unexpected smack to the head will tap into your inner caveman, and that’s where the aggression often lies.
Here’s some food for thought… If Kicking Mustang went around making dick-shot compilations, I bet you’d all like him far more, I know I would. Why does he generate such hatred though? His followers will say jealousy, his critics will say it’s his attitude to everyone else and his relentless pursuit of views. Most of these arguments centre around one thing though, HEADSHOTS.
When he hits someone in the head, he could be doing it for a number of reasons: It makes more watchable videos, his psyche has an overwhelming need to show dominance, the misaligned link between actual sniping and headshots, or… And this is the most likely explanation… He enjoys it. A soul so empty of joy, that this is the only way he can make his willy twitch… Maybe.
I’m not blind to the potential risk of headshots, I’ve personally witnessed people getting shot in the mouth many times and on one occasion, the eye. On all these occasions the head shots were likely unintentional and probably preventable only by using increased protection.
A final reason for headshots, and one which I’ll defend as both perfectly acceptable and even encourage, is that you should always aim for centre mass… Always, no matter the target presented to you.
This age old bit of advice, is argably the first thing any shooter is taught. Aim for the middle of what you intend to hit, it will increase your chances of hitting the target exponentially.
Centre mass is quite literally aiming for the centre of any given target, on a person standing in plain sight, it’ll probably be around the belly button, on a player coming around the corner of a door? It might just be their head and rifle.
I’ll always aim for centre mass, quite simply because airsoft isn’t all that accurate. We push a quarter gram ball down a smooth bore tube using frictional backspin to provide range and accuracy… It’s a wonder airsoft works at all!
Aiming for centre mass will often mean aiming for the torso, but on many occasions (certainly when players are actually using cover), it means half a head, one arm and the weapon. If that’s all i can see, the chances of me aiming for your head (or near it) are close to 100%.
Most of the times I get hit whilst in cover seem to be in either the forearm, armpit or the face, can I blame the person shooting at me when its the face? Not really. I’m providing as small a target as possible, I’m presenting a threat with my weapon and I’m a valid target.
I know of a couple of sites that have used the rule “headshots don’t count”, but this allows cunning players to abuse the rules and only present their head and weapon as a target, I’ve seen it happen and the only counter for a well dug in opponent is overwhelming firepower, hence increasing the likelihood of a headshot the site is trying to prevent.
You could ban headshots, but they’re always going to happen. Airsoft is inherently inaccurate (sit down YouTube guy, it is), so what do you do when they happen accidentally? You’re forced into either punishing someone whose potentially innocent or letting another rule turn into a hollow threat.
What about that earlier outlandish statement where I said that “the person getting shot in the head is often as much to blame as the person pulling the trigger”, well.. It’s not so much a fault issue as one of circumstance. Like I said, presenting as little a target as possible means that in theory you should get hit less often, but when you do, it’ll be more often than not in the head or hand.
Do I have an answer that will please everyone? No. My personal belief is that we should always shoot for centre mass, whether that ends up being the body or head is purely a matter of circumstance.