As the world’s largest producer of BB guns, Taiwan is reaping the rewards of the resurgent popularity of survival games that employ such air guns. Even the Netherlands – the only European Union member country to ban the use of BB guns – lifted the ban in January 2013.
Over 50 percent of all BB guns are made in Taiwan, Business Weekly reported. According to trade data from the Ministry of Finance, under the category of toy guns, Taiwan’s exports reached NT$2.2 billion (US$73 million) in 2012. If other parts and accessories are included, the total production value of Taiwan’s survival games would reach NT$4 billion (US$133 million), as estimated by Lin Hao-chu, of the Economics Ministry. Though the number might not rival the hundreds of billions of dollars generated by the technology sector, the island’s guns have gained better brand recognition worldwide.
Not only are people purchasing Taiwan-made BB guns for games, but the US federal government is purchasing them as a training tool. A recent purchase came from the US Homeland Security Department, for US$420,000 worth of training guns made by Taiwan’s KSC.
In fact, 90 percent of US Army approved vendors for BB gun purchases over 200 units are Taiwanese companies such as G&G Armament, KJ Works, and WE Model Company. Even Japan’s Self Defense Forces, a fiercely nationalistic organisation, turned to Taiwan’s Vega Force Company to order their training BB guns.
They are also popular as stage props. Business Weekly reported Taiwanese BB guns frequently appear in European and American television series such as CSI: Miami, Fringe, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.
Taiwan’s BB guns have also earned rave reviews from users and experts. Airsoft GI, the largest BB gun web reviewer and seller in the US, ranked G&G’s BB guns as the champion in the category of most practical guns, and the products of KCS as the first choice of professional BB guns, while Vega’s small but refined products are regarded as the best by gun collectors and enthusiasts. Wang Zhi-zhong, chief editor of Taiwan’s Combat King magazine, added that all experts know that BB guns made in Taiwan are of a high quality.
Liao Ying-xi, G&G Armament chairman, told Business Weekly that the key to Taiwan’s thriving BB guns business is the island’s excellent metal processing technology such as lathing, stamping press and surface treatment, which is capable of producing the quality plastic modeling and injection molding at a low cost. “The molding cost here in Taiwan is only one third of that in Japan. This makes a big difference,” said Liao. With the support of many local mid- to small-size satellite factories, he dares to test all kinds of new structural designs to make G&G capable of offering over 100 kinds of guns and various accessories, totaling 6,000 spare parts.
Business Weekly reported that with strong industrial support, BB guns can become an asset for local governments to attract recreational visitors to their region. In recent years, Kinmen County and the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology of the Defense Ministry jointly set up a survival games play area. In 2012, eager to promote tourism, Penghu County staged a tournament with over 400 participants. The tournament garnered attention from survival game magazines from Japan and France who sent reporters to cover the event, making the restaging of these games a top priority for this fall.