Getting started in airsoft can be confusing, there’s a lot of technical jargon, complex terms and phrases that people throw around and things can move so fast it can be hard to get a chance to ask the most basic questions. Fear not though, you don’t have to be too embarrassed to ask. Over the next 6 issues we will be pushing you through the “ULTIMATE AIRSOFT GUIDE”. When you come out the other end, you’ll know everything you need to know!
Welcome to the biggest and most comprehensive Airsoft Guide in the world! If you’re here, we’re guessing it’s because you want to find out more about airsoft. You have probably watched a dozen YouTube videos, maybe you have spent hours on airsoft forums or you have been nagging your airsoft friends for the past few weeks. Either way, you’re ready to pull the trigger and jump into this exciting new hobby that you can’t stop obsessing about. You are finally ready to buy your first airsoft gun and gear up!
Does this sound anything like you? It’s exactly how most people felt when they first discovered the wonderful and exciting world of airsoft. You can actually play Call Of Duty or Battlefield in real life? Are you joking? Where do I sign up?!
Unless you want to repeat the same mistakes we made and spend way too much money on bad airsoft gear, you need to read every word on this comprehensive guide. In an effort to save you a lot of time and money we have compiled everything you need to know about airsoft over the next 6 months.
If you’re reading this the chances are that there are many crucial things you don’t know about this awesome sport but don’t worry, we can fix that. We will make your life easier and show you every golden nugget and share every piece of advice we have been given over many combined years of airsoft experience. We will be comprehensive where required but we will go into the technical details when it is needed; Airsoft is after all a technical game and some complexities can’t be avoided. To make it easier to grasp we will use basic language and simple terms instead of the jargon you might find elsewhere.
In this comprehensive airsoft guide we will be taking a detailed look at the fundamental topics of airsoft. Want to know why your gun isn’t Li-PO ready? Read this article. Want to learn about HPA systems? Read this article. Armed with expert knowledge and experience and utilising sound recommendations, you will be ready to make the best, educated, decision on what gear you need, what gun you are interested in and how you want to approach this awesome game. Don’t rely on a whim or what is currently trendy. Read this article and you’ll know exactly what to buy and why.
The very beginnings, the history of airsoft.
The general consensus is that the sport came about sometime during the 1980s in Japan. Fuelled by the desire to imitate their favourite action heroes and limited by their strict gun ownership laws, Japanese gun enthusiasts set out to create the first replica guns – DIY airsoft handguns.
The Japanese hobbyists were limited in expertise and material. These first prototypes have very little in common with modern airsoft guns, nevertheless, the craze about airsoft quickly spread throughout Japan as well as the whole of Asia. As demand for better airsoft replicas grew, so did production.
Big players such as Tokyo Marui, KWC and Classic Army were born and started manufacturing high-quality airsoft guns and rifles. At first these guns were spring powered, then air powered, many needing to be pre-charged using a bicycle pump and then the first Automatic Electric Gun came along form Tokyo Marui in the form of the battery-powered FA-MAS. Although the centre of the airsoft world still remains in Asia, soon airsoft guns were being made and sold in Europe and North America too.
Over the last few decades, airsoft guns have evolved tremendously, bearing little resemblance to those of the early 1980s. With the introduction of commercially available gas and electric powered guns also came snipers, rifles, SMGs and even grenades as well as a wide array of different accessories, gun add-ons and upgrades.
Today airsoft has become an extremely popular sport played all around the globe. We have our own leagues, associations and thousands of teams in all countries of the world! Things have moved on in a massive way and we can only guess what the future might hold
The Technology – Spring, Gas, Electric and HPA
When we talk airsoft, we specify guns according to their firing mechanism. In that respect, we can classify airsoft guns in a several main categories. Spring powered, Gas powered, Battery powered and High Pressure Air powered (HPA) We also categorise guns by their specific purpose on the battlefield; rifles, smg’s, pistols, snipers, shotguns. We will be covering gun classes later, for now, let’s get a firm understanding of the basics.
Spring Powered Airsoft Guns
Ah, the springer. Most seasoned vets have owned at least one spring gun during their airsoft lifetime. Spring powered airsoft guns use powerful springs to drive a piston, compress air and eventually propel their ammunition down range. Springers are the simplest type of airsoft gun and are often the cheapest, least powerful but some also have the capability to be turned into fearsomely powerful sniper rifles.
To shoot, you cock your gun, pulling the piston into the spring guide and against the spring, and squeeze the trigger which releases the compressed spring and sends your BB flying.
Their design make spring powered airsoft guns incapable of being fired semi-automatically or automatically. You have to cock your gun for every single shot. Every. Single. Shot.
Because of this, 90% of spring guns are either pistols, snipers rifles or shotguns. Manually powering an “assault rifle” simply isn’t efficient.
In comparison with gas powered pistols, spring powered pistols generally aren’t as powerful.
Spring powered pistols are almost always the cheapest airsoft pistols as they are usually of lower quality which in turn makes them prone to wear and tear. Because of their straightforward mechanics, springers are also extremely light-weight. So light, in fact, that some manufacturers install weights to give a more appropriate feel to the gun. Most cheap spring guns are difficult to repair or upgrade due to a lack of standard manufacturing practices among airsoft gun manufacturers. You’ll be hard pressed to find spare or upgrade plastic parts for your springer.
Poor weather conditions is where spring powered airsoft guns really have their only advantages. While gas models are adversely affected by cold weather conditions, spring powered guns are barely affected. You won’t have to worry about a gas-leaking magazine or underperforming electricals due to cold or wet conditions. You will never have to worry about rain or snow, something that can’t be said about electric or gas powered airsoft guns.
Spring powered guns also don’t rely on any external source of power (not counting your hands). Except for a new spring from time to time, you will never have to shell out money for expensive gas or finicky batteries.
Their low prices and reliability make spring powered pistols useful for beginners and general target practice. I could never recommend spring rifles or pistols for skirmish purposes as their clumsiness, low rate of fire (ROF), weak performance and short range make them about as useful as throwing sesame seeds at your opponents. When it comes to sniper rifles and shotguns though, things look very different.
There are a few disadvantages of spring powered airsoft snipers. For one, it becomes taxing to manually operate the bolt for every shot. This may become a problem with upgraded sniper rifles that achieve 500+ FPS as you’ll be pulling back very powerful, heavy springs which takes some effort.
Another problem with highly customised, powerful airsoft sniper rifles is that the forces involved in getting the gun to fire at the desired power level can mean a lot of upgrading. Nearly every part inside the gun will require replacing with an uprated, stronger component making what was a cheap and cheerful gun into a much more expensive outlay.
With that said springers are a very strong contender if your main role is a sniper. Their comparatively low costs, light weight, versatility in different weather condition and reliability make spring powered bolt-action snipers a solid choice for anyone keen on spotting their opponents through a scope!
Gas Powered Airsoft Guns
Gas powered airsoft guns use compressed gas to fire out BBs out of your gun. In contrast to springers, gas powered guns are capable of firing semi-automatically through a blowback feature. No more cocking your gun for every shot. This makes gas powered guns operate similarly to regular firearms. Blowback guns also sound amazing! The most commonplace gas guns are pistols and many users rely on a gas pistol as a sidearm but full rifles and SMGs are also available and are arguably even more fun.
Gas powered guns most commonly use “Green Gas” , a mixture of propane and silicon oil, or some other type of gas, such as 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane (try saying that 3 times in a row) or rarely Difluoromonochloromethane, also known as “Red Gas”.
Plain old CO2 is probably the second most popular propellant for airsoft gas weapons. We’ll get more into this on our gas section of this airsoft guide.
Gas powered airsoft guns are fun. A lot of fun. Gas powered guns can become problematic and finicky if you don’t take care of them and sometimes even then they can be fussy. Gas guns are more heavily affected by weather conditions, with power loss directly correlated with the outside temperature. Green gas is stored in a compressed liquid form and it is the expansion from liquid to gas that creates the “explosive” propulsion force through the gun. In lower temperatures this expansion is less effective and less violent, meaning less fun for you and your gun.
When you use a gas gun rapidly, the continued release of gas actually has a cooling effect on the gun and indeed the gas inside the gun, meaning that the temperature will eventually lower enough to influence the expansion of the remaining gas. This can lead to frozen seals and o-rings that will temporarily disable you gun or gas magazine until it all warms up enough. Because of this, it’s not advisable to try and use gas guns in very low temperatures purely because of the time it will take for the whole thing to warm up to an operable temperature.
Buying gas can be expensive. Sooner or later magazines start to leak and you’ll be going through O-rings like crazy, always buy extra. They are also some of the most powerful guns out there. Their semi-automatic and (sometimes) automatic rate of fire make them as useful as they are fun.
If your goal is to have to squeeze the most amount of fun out of this hobby, we can wholeheartedly recommend that you buy at least one GBB (Gas Blow Back) gun, just don’t rely on being able to use it all year round if you live anywhere where winter requires a pair of gloves and a scarf!
Electric Airsoft Guns
Electric airsoft guns or AEGs came along and revolutionised airsoft, the first was the previously mentioned Tokyo Marui FA-MAS. Since then, AEGs have become the most popular and reliable airsoft guns with countless designs and replicas on the market. Most airsoft players have at least one in their armoury, if not many more. Most AEGs are full-zed rifles or SMGs but some miniaturised systems are available and they are put into pistols.
Like most things in Airsoft, the principles behind electric airsoft guns are rather simple.
Your regular electric gun has a setup of gears, which are powered by the motor inside your gun. Those gears then “pull” the piston assembly against the spring and when the trigger is squeezed, said assembly is released which in turn propels your bb out of your gun muzzle.
Electric guns are nothing more than a springer with an electric motor that cocks the gun for you.
In other words, what you do with your hands on a springer, the electric gun does on its own using the motor. Simple, right?
Electric powered airsoft guns are by far the most common on the airsoft field. Their advantages are hard to compete against. Due to the use of an electric motor, which operates the spring, both automatic and semi-automatic fire can be achieved. This is also the reason why people commonly call this type of gun AEG’s – Automatic Electric Guns.
All electric powered airsoft guns are powered by batteries, rechargeable batteries in most cases and this is a large subject that we will cover as a standalone in a future issue. In contrast to gas guns, where their power output may deteriorate as the gas in the magazine is used up, battery powered guns do not suffer from this issue. As the charge in the battery goes down, your rate of fire may take a hit – but your gun will shoot with the same power every shot until the battery is flat.
When compared to gas airsoft guns, AEGs are much more stable in respect to influence from the ambient temperature. In colder conditions where GBBs simply stop working, your AEG will be just fine. Apart from the hop-up bucking stiffening up, a shortcoming that all airsoft guns share, AEGs will be just fine in high and low temperatures.
For most of us, AEGs are our favourite class of guns, and with good reason. Some of the biggest names in Airsoft manufacturing produce AEGs, they are reliable, fast and pack as much power as you would ever need in competitive combat.
High Pressure Air Airsoft Guns
With AEGs taking the majority of the market, a recent resurgence in the use of HPA has arisen. HPA guns dominated the market prior t the advent of the AEG but with all things being cyclical, HPA has cropped up again.
Instead of using green gas or an electrically powered spring, HPA systems rely on the mechanism of pneumatics; High Pressure Air, to propel BBs. HPA guns are connected via a hose, through a regulator, to a tank of compressed air, which you’ll be carrying around at all times.Yes, you physically carry a tank of compressed air with you.
The compressed air travels through the regulator and the hose into the gun’s “engine”, usually powered by a small battery.
Some newer models, such as the Valken AR1, sport a self-contained system. This means no cord, as the air tank is hidden within your rifle stock. Useful for sure, but the gun’s aesthetics take a hit. Hiding a bulky air tank without compromising the original look of an airsoft firearm is not very easy. This is the major disadvantage to HPA systems along with the fact that you will need to get tanks filled at a specialist centre, a service offered by diving schools or stores most commonly and this can be troublesome in itself, certainly less convenient than using green gas.
Conventional HPA air tanks are pressurised at 300-800 psi. Some tanks are designed to handle less pressure, which increases the longevity of the regulator and all the internals of your HPA system. Regulators downgrade the air tank’s psi to 200 psi and less.
You control your regulator and how much it regulates your air pressure. More pressure means more power. Pretty straight-forward.
HPA systems performs much better in cold climates in comparison to GBBs. They are also much quieter, a huge advantage in competitive play. Except for your generic O-ring maintenance, HPA guns don’t need much attention. Once set up, it’s a simple system, you won’t be spending hours maintaining its performance.
Adjustability is another humongous plus, the ability to change your gun’s power and rate of fire is considered so overpowered, that some cynics have labeled HPA users as “cheaters”.
Usually airsoft fields will have strict rules about this. Your settings will have to be approved before play, so as to avoid overly powerful, “hot” guns. Additionally, the trigger feedback mimics that of a real life firearm, recovering some realism points.
This ultimate airsoft guide has been serialised and adapted for publication in AIrsoft International and was originally written for AirsoftPal.com. It is reproduced here with full permission from it’s author. The next instalments can be found in Airsoft International Volume 12 Issue 11 onwards.