When deputies arrived, Sgt. Duane Hendrix’s children were in the street outside the Seattle police officer’s home. Neighbors had spotted them playing with what looked to be handguns. The deputies approached with their own weapons holstered, checked the children’s guns and found them to be airsoft pistols, an increasingly popular type of replica gun that fires oversize plastic BBs, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. “After that, we sold them,” said Hendrix, a Seattle police training sergeants. “That was enough.”
Until the trigger is pulled, the differences between an airsoft M-16 assault rifle or Glock pistol and the real deal are next to impossible to distinguish. The guns are faithful copies of the firearms they’re intended to replicate. They’re sold with blaze orange tips, but most people who shell out for a replica gun are quick to remove it. For criminals bent on robbery or intimidation, they’re a readily accessible stand-in for bona-fide firearms. For some youths, airsoft guns have drawn real fire from police officers or frightened bystanders. Seattle police are now regularly encountering the guns while on patrol. Officers sometimes discover a phony pistol while frisking a suspect, but the guns also have been used in robberies and muggings around the city.