Where to buy airsoft guns in Toronto
Toronto Airsoft provided me with my first opportunity to fire a handgun.
OK — so, I was firing tiny plastic pellets, not bullets or steel BBs, and I was practicing in a controlled range — but nevertheless, I felt immensely badass.
While the idea might twist the panties of a few concerned anti-violence crusaders, Toronto Airsoft has recognized and tapped into the growing airsoft community in Ontario.
"26,000," says Toronto Airsoft owner Frank Chong when I ask him to estimate just how large that community has grown in the last few years. "If you look at the Airsoft Canada forum, there are about 26,000 registered members in Ontario."
Thousands of members who, before Toronto Airsoft opened, had very few places to shop. "It's much bigger in Asia," Chong says of the airsoft community. "I would get equipment or pick up guns when I would fly back to Hong Kong."
It was 2004 when Chong decided to look into opening his own store, recognizing the void in Canadian airsoft retailers. He opened Toronto Airsoft online in 2008, and then this retail shop on the Geary Avenue last May.
"With something like this," he says, "people want to hold the rifles in their hands; feel the weight of it. You can't do those things when you're buying online." Toronto Airsoft sees players drive in from London, Belleville, and other neighbouring cities and towns to test out its gas, electric, and bolt action guns, as well as participate in organized events and group games.
"It's an honour game," says a staff member who goes by the name "Sauder." He likens airsoft to paintball, with a few notable differences. "With paintball, it's obvious you've been hit. Airsoft is an honour sport — there's no visible indication in this case that you've been hit."
And for those who are wondering, airsoft doesn't typically leave the sprawling purple battle wounds that are typical of paintball matches. Still, the pellets can indeed break exposed skin and are trouble is they catch you in the mouth — or worse, eyes.
For that reason, Toronto Airsoft sells all sorts of protective gear and accessories, including vests priced in the $25 to $80 range, goggles and full face masks, plus belts, holsters, slings, and bags. The rifles cost anywhere from $120 to somewhere in the thousands, with high-end models easily customizable to the owner's specifications. Brands are mostly based in Asia, and include G&P, Classic Army, and King Arms. Toronto Airsoft will not sell guns to wannabe players under 18 years old, and advises of-age customers to keep their rifles and handguns concealed in public, for obvious reasons.
I try out a handgun, which is generally cheaper and purchased as a player's second gun. "You'll pull it out if you need to reload your rifle and someone sneaks up on you," I'm told. "And some games are played with handguns only."
Toronto's airsoft community typically meets weekly for play at Sgt Splatter's, as well as for various other meetups and games throughout Ontario and the GTA. There's also an convention held in Toronto around this time each year, and perhaps if I start to work on my aim, I'll actually reach that level of "badass" to show my face at the next event.
Photos by Derek Flack