TYR Tactical

Spartan117GW – Interview With Travis Haley – The Rift Between Airsoft And Real Steel

Spartan117GW recently traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona to visit Haley Strategic. While there, Spartan spoke to the man himself, Travis Haley, to ask his opinion on the rift between Airsoft/MilSim and Real Steel. It’s definitely worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan of Airsoft, or you’re a firearms enthusiast.



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65 Responses to “Spartan117GW – Interview With Travis Haley – The Rift Between Airsoft And Real Steel”

  1. SRez says:

    I agree the rift can get very childish. As far as business owners opinions go, of course they don’t want to alienate any potential market.

  2. pogie bait says:

    I used to play airsoft before I joined the military – it was fun when people simply dressed up in camo and shot each other with bb’s. For me, the rift began some point in the past five years when the sport transformed from gameplay into tactical fashion, and people talked disparagingly about the special guests who had served in Ranger Regiment and whatnot. That was the biggest turnoff for me, all the cowards I knew who talked shit and posted social media pics of themselves in uniform, but were too afraid to sign the dotted line and go off to Iraq and Afghanistan.

  3. Patrick says:

    Travis Haley raised some very valid points in that video that I hadn’t really considered. That said, like SRez pointed out, if you’re a business owner, you do have to give those political answers and walk a fine line.
    The part of Airsoft that’s kinda put the whole thing in a bad light for me is that I have on numerous occasions seen a group of airsofters posting pictures on social media. And uniformed people are thanking them for their service. And instead of manning up, they choose to remain conspicuously silent and try to pass themselves off as service men/women.

    • Collin says:

      I’ve never, ever seen that. All the airsofters (foreign and domestic) I follow respectfully correct anyone’s mistakes.

    • JP says:

      I absolutely have seen that. I worked with a contractor who was former Air Force, and one of those guys who tried his damned to get people to not like him, never mind the fact that we immediately realized he wasn’t qualified for the job.

      Anyway, someone found out on FB that he was an airsofter, and his team was “ODA”-something. A lot of pictures with very little, if any, explanation that they were just playing. There were people giving them accolades all over the page, and I considered their silence in the matter just as bad as false claims.

  4. Chris says:

    You judge people on their actions, simple as. Travis clearly has enough sense to know this and apply it throughout his life.

    There’s plenty of scummy airsofters who do really shitty things, but anyone who’s served in any way also knows there’s also a metric fuck load of scummy personalities that pollute the ranks of the services wherever you go.

    The only stupid people are the ones carrying large tar brushes.

  5. zach says:

    It’s actually kinda sad, the Spartan dude tries to pass it off as valuable training, but then proceeds to show a photo of himself posing with GPNVGs or videos of guys absolutely kitted to the teeth. Yeah, real great “training”, bro. Great job shooting your argument in the foot.

    Sim guns, airsoft, etc. are legitimate training tools, but that goes all out the window when it gets turned into a game a tactical dressup. People don’t need to look like an SF CIF team to do some force-on-force training to practice basic gruntwork and weapon manipulation skills.

    • Strike-Hold says:

      There is a difference between airsoft-based force-on-force training, and airsoft skirmishing. And to bash on the former because of the latter is narrow-minded and short-sighted. Just as ‘real-steel’ shooting can be done for training or for fun, airsoft is also both. I don’t understand why people have such a hard time getting their heads around that…

      • Jon, OPT says:

        I used my personal airsoft guns for my SFODA’s CQB training when we couldn’t get Sims. Discounting the merits of airsoft guns because certain people use them is like saying you won’t have sex because that’s how someone you don’t like reproduces.

        Jon, OPT

    • Wake27 says:

      Just because he and many others have all kinds of cool stuff that would never get issued to conventional units doesn’t mean that they aren’t getting valuable training. You are invalidating your own argument chief.

      • zach says:

        You know what, you’re right. Someone could show up in a T-shirt, shorts, and flip flops and walk away with more knowledge than they arrived with.

        That being said, I maintain that the training could be made even more valuable if they used issued/realistic kit.

        • joe_momma says:

          I could see that argument, if a regular infantry joe showed up with crye cpc, gpnvg, mk18 style rifle, suppressed 1911, etc. and was using the story of training versus just skirmishing.

          But what is issued or realistic kit to an airsofter, who is not military? why should his fantasy be limited to what a joe has to wear? why can’t he skirmish in gucci shit?

          • zach says:

            I took it as regular infantry joe, seeing as the Spartan guy is in the 82nd.

            When it comes to civilians, train with what you’ll fight with.

  6. Mark says:

    Social media is business. Nearly everything is geared to sell something.

  7. Michael says:

    The biggest point I like that is made is about the younger kids who play airsoft and try to emulate real service members. Those kids look up to those serving and want to be like them. That is far more constructive than them idolizing less than desirable people who have more fame and money than character.

    • MPK says:

      I agree with what you are saying. It is no different than when we were kids, pre airsoft era, playing Army in the woods with our toy guns. We were simply having fun playing Army dressed in our dad’s old Vietnam greens while pretending to be John Rambo. No one should be shamed for having fun and enjoying what they do.

      I do believe that if there is a realistic training value to take away from all of this then proceed, but don’t try to pretend that your something that you’re not; And definitely don’t inadvertently try to take credit by not responding to those who are confused about your actual duty status – or lack thereof.

    • joe_momma says:

      Why does it have to be limited to kids? adults can’t look up to service members? i think thats part of the conundrum, is limiting airsoft to kids. If its kids, everyones ok with them dressing up, but as soon as its an adult, everyone loses their minds!

      • MPK says:

        I hear you. I wasn’t trying to place a devide between children and adults. I don’t dissagree with you in the fact that adults can look up to service members. I just don’t see adults running around in the woods pretending to be Green Berets. I believe that the adults who engage in the airsoft activites are doing it out of hobby, entertainment, and to gain training aspects that otherwise might not be able to be conducted using live rounds. I can understand where there may have been a missunderstanding.

        The point I was trying to make was to have fun with what you do regardless of age and gain the training and don’tl et people get you down for what you are passionate about. But certainly don’t hide behind silence when people assume that airsofters are real SOF.

  8. VKP says:

    Presently, I have not trained CQB with airsoft and have had very little practical application with simunitions… They’re just too expensive. However, I absolutely see the practical applications for training with airsoft especially in light of LEO’s usually low training budgets. To me, if an officer (or anyone else for that matter) is willing to spend considerable amounts of money on guns, gear, etc…. Then the cost for one of these rifles doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

    • joe_momma says:

      Its a hobby for many. Thats it. it started as a hobby in japan where guns are illegal. The japanese love mil sim shit and eat it up. Just think of costagate. If a middle aged man can spend 50k on a boat, 1k on a rod and reel, and have better shit then some pro fishers, why can’t an airsoft player spend his money on gucci shit to feed his hobby? i don’t get the limiting of airsoft to a tool, when thats not what it even started as.

    • Bill says:

      We were able to purchase a cubic ton of airsoft gear for training for the price of two Simmunitions conversion kits, and haven’t had to pay for busted glass or a whining copper who wants time off for a bruise he wouldn’t have gotten if he had used cover well.

      I “like” simmunitions better because it seems more reliable and carries a higher pain consequence, but for economy, safety and the ability to use it in almost any environment with minimal risk of damage and cleanup, airsoft can’t be beat.

      Next: Supersoakers filled with urine versus poo-firing Nerf guns.

  9. Jon, OPT says:

    I think Travis could shave a second or two off his phone silencing technique by conducting the shutdown to the rear of his body, he didn’t need to bring the phone into his work space. Seconds equal lives when it comes to silencing devices TH, keep training!

    Jon, OPT

  10. Chris N says:

    I serve abroad, in the Marine Corps even, and nothing I’ve done has ever really hit me as being interesting. Actually serving just does not scratch the itch I have to “operate” in the least, and I can imagine a lot of servicemembers feel the same way who do even more training than I do.

    My serious advice to people who join X branch to do X special operations job is just to not bother. It’s a waste of time to bet literally the best years of your life on some small chance that you might get to do something interesting. Just spending money on gear and playing around with Airsoft is going to more rewarding than the disappointment you have when you realize that the military is a waste of time as a whole and that you literally signed away your rights to deal with dumb bullshit 24/7.

    • Andrew says:

      Are you a Junior Marine? Because while you are correct that 95% of the military basically ends up in a support role of some kind, I can tell you that as a office Marine I got to do more interesting things than 95% of Americans, whether it was Hiking the Sierra Nevada Mountains or Seeing some of the most beautiful beaches in the world in some of the most hostel places. I only did 4 yrs as a Marine, and I was never in a combat scenario, but I’ve had a gun to head, and I’ve buzzed the Hollywood sign in a helicopter and done things in Vegas that the Hangover movies can’t replicate, all while being a Marine. I’m proud of my service, but if you played airsoft and then joined thinking that airsoft = Marine Corps, you were out of touch to begin with.

  11. Garrett says:


  12. RogerRabbit says:

    Travis is point on. As an LEO I’ve used simunitions thanks to our generous budget. However, I’ve also used airsoft to further my training off hours.

    I never understood the hate of airsofters or kids who want to dress up like their favorite units. Whats the alternative? Dress up like ISIS? What none of you ever play American GI when you were little? Nothing is worse than having your hero call you a zero.

    I’m down if they want to buy the same kit and gear as real mil guys. Guess who benefits the most? We do as Mil/LEO’s. They buy gear allowing companies to grow and keep bringing us gear at a lot lower price point than would probably occur if it was just us buying the stuff.

  13. Darrel says:

    I see a lot of the comments on this page have been deleted.

    You can learn useful things from airsoft. Like Travis mentioned, situational awareness, communications, weapons handling and maneuvering. Most of these things are obtained after just drilling over and over again with sims or blanks, however, airsoft is far more efficient, as it does not have a variety of redundant safety procedures that would interfere with training, it is easily accessible, and depending on you, FUN.

    Yes, airsoft does not have the range of simunitions, or the recoil of real firearms, but these are things that can be worked around depending on the type of training you are doing. I would say for VBSS, CQC and other training where maneuvers and technique are more important than accuracy and realism, airsoft is fine.

    • joe_momma says:

      i played airsoft before becoming an LEO. I was a guy who showed up and was thrown on a team of other guys who just wanted to run and gun shit. There were teams though, that had structure, trained in movements and communication, had assigned roles as machine gunners, snipers, etc. its like world of warcraft i would assume (my experience is limited to the leroy jenkins video) but in real life. Its something for people to do. They had meetings, trained, etc. Some people like to just play gi joe, some like the cardio mixed in, some just like to face shoot people with plastic bbs. Why can’t it be left at that?

  14. Darrel says:

    Concerning the “tactical dress up”, I can’t see much reason to get annoyed about this unless you are a real “operator” and are finding it hard to find gear for reasonable prices to replace things you lost. I can only imagine the dread you would feel if you were a NSW guy and you lost your plate carrier or helmet, heh

    I definitely do see plenty of those facebook pages with pics of dudes that are, for all intents and purposes, completely indistinguishable from NSW operators. They do not make attempts to identify themselves as “impressionists”, rather they make absolutely all attempts to identify themselves as the opposite, blurring faces and patches, etc. I don’t know how these dudes even find half of their gear. They must either be deeply rooted in the supply chain for NSW or something like that. Most of them are foreigners too, making it even more surprising.

    • matty says:

      eBay and shitty chinese knockoffs of gear. Plus some scummy guys selling their kit. SOFSA put out a powerpoint about a year ago trying to track down a guy selling gen IV TSA plates and some MSAPS.

      • Henrik says:

        Most airsofter use as you say Chinese knockoffs that get better every year. But you can still see the difference if you look closely. Also it is easy to spot an airsofter on a photo, even the best dress up who have large wallets. I can do a Pepsi challenge any day. Even the best ones are “too good” like a photo of a photo of an operator.

        It is just a handful people that use real gear and it is in 99,99% limited to Eagle plate carriers and such which they bought on ebay. All these people are adults with relatively well paid jobs etc. An even smaller percentage have real Aimpoints and such, an even smaller group of people own real night vision. Same can be said about “preppers” and some gun enthusiasts who do not play airsoft but show up for the gun range and classes.

        As for plates that is not a big deal as you can get better Dyneema based stuff that surpass the ceramics plates, on the civilian market.

        Basically I do not see the problem. They are all fans more or less and “supporting the troops”, so they would never sell the stuff on to shady people. Most of the guys who own these kind of stuff have deep wallets so they are respectable people and cannot be bothered to have anything to do with criminals or such.

      • Steve says:

        Crye Precision, London Bridge Trading, Tactical Tailor, SKDTAC, and the list goes on. They all take credit cards and will happily sell a lot of their gear to airsoft players that are willing and able to afford it. The folks in airsoft that obsess over gear take it to a new level and will happily spend all their money on it, and they want the real thing because they can tell the difference.

        • joe_momma says:

          I think the airsoft community, the civilian paper target shooters, the prepers, etc. allow for many businesses to grow and continue to offer great pricing to operators and war fighters.

    • Mate says:

      Exactly. In between pics of actual NSW guys they’ll post pics of themselves without distinguishing. I remember some kid asked them on their page if they were the real deal. The fake dude replied yes, and then hashtagged #bbwarz underneath.

      • Collin says:

        Which is being facetious. After being around the community for a while, it’s really easy to distinguish airsofters from real operators in pictures, regardless of face blurring techniques.
        People get so butt hurt over something that they don’t have any control over.

  15. adil says:

    Gentlemen I live in a country where guns are outlawed! Having served my national service as a policeman years ago, i tried drills (from travis’s videos) using Nerf guns (think situational aand spatial awareness, gross weapons handling etc and you get the picture)

    You may make jokes, but my grouping has increased tremendously and I’m sure when I get to hit the range again for real, I’m sure that time on the Nerfs will have paid off

    My point, train with what you have and make the best of it, you’ll never know when you will need the skills and to mention that guys with ready access to real steel, count your blessings!

  16. Henrik says:

    A student of history knows that Gun grabbers use divide and conquer. Hunters VS Competition shooters, former and active military VS airsofters.

    I have seen too many of use play into their socialist tricks.

  17. JB says:

    Airsoft/MilSim is fine for anyone under 18 years old. If it’s still your thing at that point, it is time to man up and sign on the dotted line…

    • Andrew says:


    • Riceball says:

      But what if you can’t? Maybe you have some sort of medical issue that keeps you from joining, maybe family circumstances that prevent you from joining, maybe you’re too old, etc. there’s a whole host of reasons why someone who is 18 or older and enjoys airsoft may not join the military. Besides, where is it written that airsoft/milsim is ony for the young? There are a lot of military, former military, and LEO who enjoy airsoft, are they they now immature because they still enjoy it even though they are serving or have served? I also have to ask, since when is airsoft/milisim supposed to be some sort of recruiting or para-miltary youth training that says if you enjoy airsoft you must sign up for the military at age 18 or stop playing?

    • Collin says:

      It’s not about serving, it’s about having fun in a military simulation with your friends or you can go home to your families that night and not be dead. its a hobby, like paintball. is it that hard to understand?

    • joe_momma says:

      I was ready to sign. My family has signed since the 1700s. I did rotc throughout school as I knew that was my end game. Broke my knee in high school and even after surgery and rehab and an additional elective surgery to have hardware removed was told my particular break was a disqualified. It’s not always a sign on the line or you aren’t man/American enough. And not all those who have signed are more man/American than others. Everyone has their calling. Some that’s military, some it’s being a chef, some it’s being a banker. Our country gives you the choice. To say that those who didn’t sign are lesser, or childish (airsoft being for those under 18) is asinine

    • Ian P. says:

      I’m part of the group that grew up looking at our soldiers as heroes and ended up airsofting throughout my childhood. Now I’m an Army Infantryman, and I still airsoft for fun. Five of my friends growing up airsofting with me are now in the service too (1 Marine 2LT fighter pilot, 1 Marine Landing Support Specialist, 1 Army Combat Medic, 1 Army Infantryman like me, and 1 guy currently going through 18X training)

  18. some_guy says:

    I played airsoft when I was in high school years ago. Since I started buying real firearms I could never go back though.

  19. Chicago Vet says:

    Strange… I am a 14 year army veteran and now have nine years of leo service.. and am an avid Airsoft player.

    I love this shit, I can go out with friends, put on my old gear, and play a sport/hobby safely where I actually have fun… Nobody gets hurt… and the targets think and fight back.

    In my years of playing Airsoft, I have met all kinds of morons, just like I have met all kinds of moron troops, and moron cops, and moron civilians.

    But I tell you here and now, in terms of training, upper level Airsoft games like Black sheep Milsim, American Milsim, Lionsclaws… have better production value, more opfor.. and are actually harder in my estimation then any rotation I ever did to NTC or JRTC or anything else the army ever put miles gear on me for.

    They are also light years more realistic then anything I have ever seen in Leo training.

    So if you hate it, I am sorry… but I gotta keep doing this. I gotta try to keep up with these kids and get that cardio in until I can’t anymore, and then maybe… I’ll pick up something slower for a hobby, like three gun.

  20. Paul says:

    This debate boils down to those for whom airsoft is a tool and those for whom airsoft as a way of life. It’s the latter that pegs our WTF Meter.

    • joe_momma says:

      Why does it have to remain only a training tool? It wouldn’t even be an option as a tool of those who “live the life” didn’t do so. Some can’t afford, or even want real guns. They enjoy call of duty, but want to get outside and do some real life first person shooter gaming. It’s paintball, with attention to detail. We used to dress up in my dads old desert storm shit and shoot each other with actual metal bbs. Thanks god there was no internet or social media back then or we’d have all been posers

  21. BAP45 says:

    So how come no one get’s this mad at paintball? I mean isn’t it essentially the same thing?

    • Patrick says:

      No one is getting mad at Laser Tag, Nerf wars, or water balloon/snow ball fights either. Because, no, they are not really the same thing.

    • Riceball says:

      I’d argue that paintball used to be the same but has since morphed into something different after it received a lot of flak from the media and anti-gun crowd. Since then it’s become more sport with (serious) players wearing colorful jerseys and pants that look nothing like military uniforms anymore. They no longer play on large fields made up to look like a battlefield but on a much smaller field with inflatible barriers using guns (often called markers) that can fire hundreds of balls a minute just by flicking your fingers real fast. Granted there’s still field ball where it’s more like what paintball used to be and what airsoft is now but at the competitive level it’s completely different.

  22. Matt says:

    airsofting is a fun game that can have some training benefits to people who serve in a real-steel capacity. There’s the “chairsofters” who just collect plus size plate carriers and stuff, and there’s guys who care less about gear and more about training… just like anything else, people will judge the group based on the actions of an individual. Just don’t be “that guy”- do your thing and don’t worry what people think. If it works for you, it works for you.

    • joe_momma says:

      Its an “all or none” mindset versus the “bad egg” concept. its easier to go all or none on a subject as it takes less thought.

  23. joe_momma says:

    Here’s my two cents; which Ill probably own you a quarter refund after.

    My airsoft experience came about at 17 at a flea market. Quickly bought some HSLD shit which there wasn’t much of back then. Went to some events, and had some fun. The guy who ran the events had a demo company so events were always at locations about to be rocked. To get in favor with Local LE he would get them out there to run scenarios (bank robberies, hostages situations, active ahooter, etc.). Some of us would stay after as op for. Was great experiences for me to see and participate.

    Since military wouldn’t take me cause of a knee injury (the particular type was a no go) I worked while my wife went to college and when I turned 21 I became LEO. I have worked my way up to an agent with the state police. I have dabbled along the way with airsoft for shits and grins and for training. A buddy and I have even built up guns used in advertisements. The cost to deck out an m4 or m249 in airsoft form is rather cost effective. I introduced airsoft to the academy which has used them since.

    I have no ill feelings to airsofters who airsoft. Now if there is stolen valor situations that’s no different than the dude at the mall getting free pizza. Airsoft my be correlated but is not the causation.

    Do those who dispise airsofters dressing up look at civil war reenactors with the same disparity? Or kids playing Cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers? Do you turn red in anger with the army play set at walmart with sound effect m16 and helmet with sergeant chevrons? The ones who dress up for airsoft are just older kids or grown men playing dress up and pretend. About 99% of the airsoft community regulates others when they try to wear tanks, tabs, unit patches, or other awards. But as stated, there is always the dickhead.

  24. mike says:

    Guys would probably get a lot less guff if they didn’t say things like “real steel”. That’s the phrase that makes me eyes glaze over and my ears get fuzzy the most when I hear people talking about gear.

    • joe_momma says:

      I don’t see it as that bad. it was actually used by airsofters to say, no this is not real, it is airsoft. Which i thought would be a way of counteracting what many think of airsoft as claiming to be something they are not. When buying, selling, showing off, it gives the parties involved to say no, this ____ is not real steel, its airsoft therefore keeping things honest.

      • Mr_X says:

        The term “real steel” has always been an important distinction between real firearms, accessories, load bearing gear, etc. and “repros” (reproductions) of any of the aforementioned items. This also factors into items that are sold and traded (of which there is a massive amount of second-hand buying and selling going on). Obviously real steel items will be worth more and command higher resale value than reproduction items. Your real steel gear companies see a tremendous amount of business from the airsoft community and players who elect to purchase the legit gear in the name of authenticity and realism. Not the least of which is that the real stuff simply is built better and will last longer than most replica items out there.