All FETS have 50% threshold tolerance on gate voltage and those std types with Vt= 2 to 4V need at least 250% times the actual threshold to make a good switch.
Although BJT transistors have a vast range in hFE, however when used as a switch, it is the actual Vbe that controls the current. Normally they are typically rated as switches with base current = 10% of Ic unless they are super beta types hFE> 300.
The critical power dissipation in switches is the ON resistance, such as Vce(sat)/Ic=Rce and RdsOn @ Vgs.
But the secret in fast pinball bumpers is the low T=L/R. That means lower inductance and higher resistance but hotter or less efficient but faster. This is important for spring back solenoid bumpers and flippers. Dry contact switches produce very high back EMF so a clamp diode is needed but this slows the L/R=T time even with a stiff spring. So instead of a diode clamp by adding a Zener & diode in series makes it faster and limits the maximum voltage for the switch for safety.
As far as substitutions, one needs to know the load, current, voltage and function. Otherwise, why would they stock seventy-five thousand different FETs.
It's a matter of the heatsink method, size, cost, drive voltage, load current, availability, and compatibility. Copying newer designs can help.