The beauty of different types of airsoft guns is that these come in an enormous range of varying shapes and sizes. Whether you're a beginner just stepping into the world of airsoft guns or a pro thinking of purchasing your next airsoft rifle, you will be spoilt for choice.
To make the best pick out of various types of airsoft guns available, you need to get some basics right. Only by reading up about the technical aspects of different types of airsoft guns, can you figure out which airsoft gun perfectly matches your needs.
Regardless of the type of airsoft weapon, the basic function of all airsoft guns remains the same-to replicate a real gun or firearm. The best types of airsoft guns are those that can achieve this as realistically as possible. These airsoft guns will give you a truly immersive experience of holding and shooting a real weapon.
Airsoft guns achieve this by firing small plastic BBs, which are projectiles meant to replicate an actual bullet. The velocity with which a BB ejects out of the airsoft varies across various types of airsoft guns. It can be around 100fts (feet per second) for a basic spring pistol to more than 400fts for an automatic electric gun (AEGs).
Basic Terminology of Airsoft Guns
Before we get into details about the mechanics involved in making different types of airsoft guns function, you need some terms that most airsofters use when describing their airsoft weapon.
Only by understanding these key features, you can decide which airsoft gun is best suited for your airsoft gameplay requirements.
Full and Semi-Automatic Mode
Fully automatic airsoft guns allow the shooter to keep shooting the round of bbs without having to cock the gun each time a bb is fired. A manual or semi automatic airsoft gun doesn't have this luxury. The user will have to cock the gun each time before pulling the trigger to shoot.
A fully automatic airsoft gun is thus more powerful and expensive and is usually powered by a battery or gas chamber.
Blowback and Non-Blowback Mode
Whether or not an airsoft gun has a Blowback feature, will drastically alter your experience of using and feeling the gun. An airsoft gun with a blowback feature means that it authentically produces a 'recoil' mirroring that of using a real gun. True, in order to produce that recoil, the BB will lose some velocity making such guns less efficient even while making them more real at the same time.
A gun with no blowback conserves more energy which it deploys fully to eject the projectile, making it more effective albeit less real for the user because of absence of recoil.
Single Action and Double Action Mode
In single action mode, the shooter has to cock the hammer every time he pulls the trigger to shoot whereas the double action mode allows him to only cock the hammer once as the hammer will be automatically cocked next time he decides to pull the trigger.
Hop-up feature is an upgrade on a basic airsoft shooting system. An airsoft gun that boasts a hop-up feature will be more realistic and shoot out the BBs over greater range than a normal airsoft gun.
The feature is implemented by a process called bucking, whereby the projectile ( still inside the barrel) backspins when pressure is reduced on its top side. The Magnus Effect is the cause of this backspin which allows the BB to cover an extended area once it is shot.
Different Types of Airsoft Guns
The various types of Airsoft guns can be classified according to the mechanism each one uses to fire the BB out of its barrel.
- Electric/Battery Powered Airsoft Guns
- Gas Powered Airsoft Guns
- Spring Powered Airsoft Guns
For each type of airsoft gun, there are variations within and there are hybrid airsoft guns available that use more than one of these mechanisms to function. Let's discuss each one in turn.
Although these types of airsoft guns use a spring pump to load off projectiles, the power to compress that spring comes from a battery. No manual action is needed.
The battery pack provides the energy resource which in turn works the electric motor gear, which then compresses the spring in the piston. The piston then pushes against the spring, releasing the potential energy stored in it. That energy pushes the plunger forward and this causes the BB to be ushered out through the barrel and out into the air.
These types of airsoft guns come with replaceable batteries that are rechargeable. These types of airsoft guns mostly work in automatic mode, giving them a common name- Automatic Electric Guns-AEGs is the title most airsofter's use to refer to these types of airsoft guns.
These guns are capable of delivering projectiles with a large force, managing ejecting speeds up to 650 ft./s. If you are a middling level airsoft gamer and need a type of airsoft gun that's not too basic but also not too expensive and loaded with too many complicated features, then these types of airsoft guns should be on your priority list.
Although the basic mechanism of these types of airsoft guns remains the same, many brands have added reinforcements to upgrade the guns and make them as realistic as possible with extra features.
When opting for these types of airsoft guns, you need to keep in mind the time and money involved in keeping it up to date. Most batteries used for AEGs are around 8.4V nickel batteries, although greater voltage batteries are also used in some bigger airsoft guns.
These high voltage AEGs are used in combat training or really high level airsoft gameplays. This is to make sure that chances of a battery running out during gameplay are minimal.
These types of airsoft guns are made to look and feel real. With their full metal bodies and plastic projectiles, these airsoft guns are near perfect replicas of the real deal. They won't disappoint you as you carry one to an airsoft game field. But keep in mind when using these types of airsoft guns in rainy weather , where a battery may short circuit and cause damage to the gun, rendering it useless.
These airsoft guns can be accessorized with various magazine types and sizes, with M16 rifles being most popular. Buying a low voltage battery may appear like a cheaper option but those run out really quickly. If you are a frequent airsoft gamer or need to practice shooting regularly, it is advisable to buy a high voltage battery that will give you the maximum number of firing shots.
These types of airsoft guns are considered the darling of the airsoft gamers community. Commonly known as gas blowback ( GBB) guns, their mode of action is pretty simple. Where the AEGs used electric power to propel the projectiles, these types of airsoft guns use compressed gas stored in the gas chamber placed in the magazine.
The canister is called to action once the shooter pulls the trigger, releasing the contained gas that pushes the pellet forward and out into the air. But it does that with a blowback effect, simulating the recoil effect of the real guns as discussed above.
The gas most commonly used in these types of airsoft guns is propane, but CO2 and nitrogen are also used to provide the higher pressure required by some airsoft guns. The higher the pressure of the gas used, the more chance there is of a slide (in pistols or guns) or bolts( in rifles) getting damaged.
Whether the canisters are loaded with propane or CO2, these types of airsoft guns will provide the most power and uniformity of performance during shooting. Their performance is only topped by the high level AEGs being introduced by various manufacturers nowadays.
The biggest disadvantage that these rules of airsoft guns pose in the vulnerability of gas itself to extreme temperatures. The propellant may freeze and damage the parts of the gun, causing the airsoft gun to malfunction. Another drawback is the sheer hassle of storing and regulating the gas supply making them less reliable than the electric powered airsoft guns.
Most airsoft gamers prefer a gas powered airsoft gun rather than other types of airsoft guns because a gas chamber requires less space than a battery pack. Another reason why these types of airsoft guns are favored is because of the blowback effect they provide. Varying the pressure of gas varies the ejected velocities of the pellets which is something most gamers desire during a gameplay.
If you are a pro airsoft gamer or a law enforcement officer looking for a fancier and bigger airsoft gun, the airsoft sniper and assault rifles and grenade launchers you will end up choosing all use gas powered systems.
This is because these types of airsoft guns offer the most realistic experience imaginable even if it comes at the expense of deteriorating pellet velocity because of the blowback effect.
High-end Airsoft Gun
A high end variant of gas powered airsoft guns utilizes a High pressure air (HPA) system. HPA uses gas pressure which is supplied externally, not through gas canisters in the magazine of the airsoft gun.
Where does the gas come from? An air tank that a shooter must carry supplies this high pressure gas. The tank is attached to the airsoft gun via a hose. The hose connects the tank to the motor inside the gun. The motor in these super powerful airsoft guns can adjust the fire rates of bbs and their velocities with ease and efficiency.
These types of airsoft guns will give a user the most authentic experience of holding and shooting a gun. Most gamers use it in highly tactical military style airsoft games.
But these types of airsoft guns can be cumbersome to handle and expensive compared to other types of airsoft guns. If you are a beginner airsofter, Don't even think about buying these because you will just end up wasting money and won't be able to utilize this airsoft gun to its fullest potential.
Most airsofter's underestimate the potential these types of airsoft games have to offer. True, your very first airsoft gun as a kid was probably a spring powered toy replica of a pistol.
But these types of airsoft guns are capable of producing most high level replicas flaunting high power and strength like a spring powered sniper rifle. These bolt rifles can sprout bbs up to the velocity of 700fts.
The basic mechanism of these types of airsoft guns involves compression of spring manually before each shot. The shooter has to cock the gun each time by pulling back the slide if its an airsoft pistol, or pulling up the bolt handle in case of airsoft rifles (bolt action). Only then the gun is ready and the shooter can pull the trigger to fire the BB out.
Spring-powered airsoft guns can never have an automatic mode and are generally capable of generating much less power as compared to other types of airsoft guns. But this fact also makes them much cheaper and easily available amongst all other types of airsoft guns. They are much easier to maintain than electric power airsoft guns because there are no batteries involved that need to be replaced.
The cheaper the spring powered airsoft gun, the lesser time it's going to last. The tension in the spring will eventually damage other parts of the gun but pricier options are also available which last longer and shoot better.
Low end spring powered airsoft guns are great for beginners to test their game. But for more professional airsoft gaming these aren't suitable because their less power generating capacity leads to shorter ranges and low accuracy of fired shots.
The more expensive airsoft guns in this variety will offer better ranges and accuracy of the shot. Due to lack of external gear such as gas or battery, these types of airsoft guns will perform better in extreme weather conditions as compared to their gas and electric powered counterparts.
This independence gives these types of airsoft guns an upper edge as it makes them more reliable compared to battery or gas powered airsoft guns.
Keep these types of airsoft guns as your backup weapons during airsoft gameplay. If your main airsoft weapon gives out, these cheap and simple guns will come to your aid. New players can especially make use of them to train and up their game until they can afford more high end airsoft weapons.
You have seen the variety in different types of airsoft weapons available and how these operate. Figure out your pick keeping your needs and level of experience in mind.