This article is about airsoft guns. For the sport,see Airsoft.
Air guns (also known as Soft Air guns by some manufacturers, such as Cybergun and Crosman) are spring, electric, or gas powered air guns that fire small spherical plastic pellets of either 6 mm or 8 mm diameter (0.24 or 0.32 inches). Inexpensive airsoft guns are often used as toys, while more expensive models may be used for firearms training or in the sport of Airsoft, which is similar in concept to Paintball.
Generally they are replicas (in appearance only) of real firearms, but occasionally fictional firearms are available, such as the M41A Pulse Rifle from the Aliens films. Some very inexpensive airsoft guns are reduced scale models (such as the Boys models by some makers) or caricatures (like the mini-electrics) of firearms.
While in essence the three types of airsoft guns, spring, gas, and electric, all work on the same principle of compressed gas expanding to force a pellet down the gun's barrel, each type has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Spring-powered airsoft guns are single-shot devices that use potential energy stored in a spring to launch an airsoft pellet down the barrel of the gun. The user must cock a spring gun prior to each shot. This is typically achieved by pulling back the slide (pistols), bolt (rifles), or the grip on a shotgun, which in turn compresses the spring and makes the gun ready to fire. Because of this, these guns are by definition incapable of automatic or semi-automatic fire.
While most electric guns also use springs for propulsion of the airsoft pellet, they are not considered to be in the same category as the single-shot spring-powered guns. Low-end spring guns tend to be much cheaper than their electric-powered equivalents due to their simplicity and lack of electrical components (spring assembly, electric motor, battery, and battery charger) and thus are widely available. These guns are less suited for competition because they are at a disadvantage against automatic guns in close combat and do not provide enough accuracy and power for long-range use. Some exceptions: higher-end spring-powered airsoft rifles can be quite expensive; these guns are typically suited for "marksman" applications in airsoft matches and provide competitive muzzle velocities. Additionally, pump shotguns are sometimes used, especially in CQB (Close Quarters Battle). In colder weather, spring pistols are more reliable than gas-powered pistols (see below) and even the batteries on AEPs (Automatic Electric Pistols) both of which can be adversely affected by extreme cold.
This represents one of the major advantages of a spring powered airsoft gun, as it can be fired in any situation, without reliance on an external source of air, such as batteries or gas. Electrics are also more susceptible to malfunction from water.
The other major advantage that spring weapons hold over other powered airsoft guns is price. True AEGs can range from $200-$550 and high-end gas pistols generally cost from $80-$200 both of which also require extra equipment; gas, batteries etc. Spring guns tend to not exceed $50, except in cases of high end "sniping" rifles which average out to be around $103-$370 in price. Most players start with a spring pistol as their first airsoft weapon, which will usually cost about $10-$30. They are also more readily available in most department stores. Because of their price, spring guns tend to act as "training guns" to bring new players to airsoft games and are considered the primary weapon of "backyard skirmishes." Almost all airsoft players at some point own a spring weapon, whether for its actual use in the sport or for the replica value since some airsoft weapons are only available as spring versions.
Gas-powered airsoft guns use pressurized gas to propel pellets. These guns are capable of automatic and semi-automatic operation. The most common gases used are "green gas" (which consists of a mixture of propane and a polysiloxane lubricant) and HFC-134a. Less commonly used gases include "red gas" (which is actually HCFC-22), CO2 and nitrogen/high pressure air. Red gas is usually avoided unless the airsoft gun has undergone modification, as its relatively high critical pressure can cause damage to the airsoft gun. CO2, nitrogen, and high pressure air are less common because they need to be stored at higher pressures than "green gas" or HFC-134a.
The first ever gas powered airsoft guns were commonly referred to as 'classic' guns, owing to their age. These guns were most commonly powered by liquid propellants such as R-12 (Which was marketed by the Japanese as FLON-12 or brand name Freon-12) Freon feed system with a majority of the configurations containing two tanks, one containing the R-12 and one used as an expansion tank, and the gun itself. R-12 was commonly used in car air conditioning systems. It is also illegal in some states and parts of the world because it is not environmentally friendly. Later users modified these old guns to be powered by regulated CO2 canisters or nitrogen/high pressure air bottles to increase power and consistency. However, these guns have largely been superseded by the newer and more versatile AEGs, or automatic electric guns. One of the reasons for this is because the most commonly available propellant, R-12, is costly. Additionally, at high flow rates, liquid propellants tend to cool down, eventually freezing. As cooldown progresses, the rate of fire gradually decreases until the gun ceases operation. The user would then be forced to wait for the propellant to warm up again. CO2 is not affected as badly by this tendency, and nitrogen/high pressure air is immune to it. Furthermore, if liquid propellant is introduced into the gun's mechanism, rubber parts can freeze and eventually damage the gun.
Gas power tends to be used in airsoft pistols where size constraints make electric-powered mechanisms impractical. Other instances where gas is favored are where adjustable velocities are required or where a blowback feature is desired. A blowback feature is a mechanism which cycles a slide or bolt to better simulate a real firearm's operation. Because of the mechanical complexities involved with distributing and regulating gas, these guns have largely given way to electric guns for less specialized applications, however, they still remain favorable amongst some airsofters. They are not just limited to pistols; submachine gun airsoft replicas and sniper rifle airsoft replicas commonly use gas mechanisms. Whilst the submachine gun replicas typically feature a blowback mechanism similar to the pistol replicas, sniper rifle replicas usually omit the blowback mechanism in favor of reduced recoil and increased muzzle velocity.
Along with using gas to power guns, it is also applied for use in replica grenades. These grenades are both projectiles, fired from a grenade launcher such as the M203 or GP-25, or throwable. The shells work on the system of an internal piston, filled with gas. Either a series of pellets or in some cases a rubber or soft foam head is seated in or on top of the shell. When the pressure is released the projectile(s) are shot from the launcher sent downrange.
In the case of the throwable grenades, inside the grenade there is a similar piston to the one used in the shells, but is on a literal "timer" that allows the user to clear the area of effect. Pelletss or powder act as the projectile in the case of these grenades. Currently both types of grenades are not very common, mostly because grenade launchers are quite expensive and the throwable grenades are not very reliable.
There are many types of electric guns:
Automatic electric guns
Electric-powered airsoft guns typically use a rechargeable battery to drive an electric motor, which cycles an internal piston/spring assembly in order to launch pellets. Automatic and semi-automatic operation is possible which gives these guns the popular name "automatic electric guns" or AEGs. These guns often attain muzzle velocities of 200 to 500 ft/s (60 to 150 m/s) and rates of fire of between 300 and 2000 rounds per minute. They are the most commonly used and widely available type of airsoft gun.These type of guns were developed in Japan and the Japanese company Tokyo Marui dominates the market. In a Tokyo Marui AEG, the motor drives a series of 3 gears mounted inside a gearbox. The gears then compress a piston assembly against a spring. Once the piston is released, the spring drives it forward through the cylinder to push a pellet into the chamber, through the barrel, and forward from the muzzle. Many manufacturers have now more or less replicated this basic model, adding reinforced parts or minor improvements.
These guns are powered primarily by nickel cadmium (NiCad) or nickel metal hydride (NiMH) with varying voltages and milliampere hours ratings. The most common battery is an 8.4 V large battery (usually about 2400 mA•h.) Also available are 8.4 V "mini" batteries, which generally have 600 mA•h capacities. Voltages for large batteries range from 7.2 V, all the way up to 12 V. The rule of thumb usually is the higher the mAh, the longer the battery lasts while the higher voltage, the higher Rate of Fire (RoF).
External modifications, such as metal bodies and reinforced plastics that make AEGs look and feel even more realistic, have become very popular. AEG manufacturers such as Classic Army (Yick Fung) produce replicas that are visually nearly identical to their real counterparts, boasting metal bodies and stronger furnishings. Most AEGs produced as of late are designed to be as visually realistic as possible.
The two most common AEGs fielded by players are the AR-15 series (M16 rifle, M4 carbine, etc.; sometimes referred to as the Armalite or Colt series) and the Heckler & Koch MP5 series, because parts for repairs or modifications/customization are commonly available. Also popular are the AK or Kalashnikov and FAMAS and more recently the Heckler & Koch G36 and even more recently, the Springfield M14.
Hybrid Airsoft guns are the newest type of airsoft guns on the market, debuting summer 2006. Hybrid airsoft guns are basically standard AEG's with a little extra reality built in. The magazine is loaded with shell casings, each containing a single plastic pellet. These shell casings can have a small red cap, the same as those found in any child's toy cap gun placed on the top of them. These guns feature an electrically powered, full blowback system and operate on a "round-per-shell" basis such that for every pellet fired, a shell casing is ejected and the cap is fired providing a realistic sound and smoke effect.
Low powered electric guns
Some cheaper and lowered powered AEGs are called low powered electric guns (LPEGs) to distinguish them from the original, more expensive and more powerful AEGs even though their mechanical/electrical design and operation is similar and are not to be confused Mini Electrics (described below). Originally they were only of novelty value, often regarded below spring operated guns due to their construction and low velocities.
Medium priced electric guns
Some companies - like UTG with their popular MP5 and AK47 models - have improved their quality to such an extent that some models are now considered simply as mid ranged AEGs that are more affordable but still reasonably effective. Among airsofters, these are commonly called middle powered electric guns(MPEG's).
Since there are spring action guns that can notably outperform the true low end LPEGs and can be found at comparable prices, they are generally considered to be better choices.
Electric Blow Backs
Electric Blow Backs, also known as EBBs, are cheap electric guns, mostly modeled after real world pistols, which typically run from four AA batteries or AAA batteries. EBBs generally have a very low muzzle velocity and "blow back" like a Gas Blow Back to simulate the action of a real pistol.
Recently, the company UHC, well known for its spring guns, began manufacturing a range of electric guns in miniature size that fire only full automatic. They differ from LPEGs in that they are not replicas of real firearms, being miniaturized version of real firearms, mostly made of black or clear plastic.
They have a small ammo capacity, usually between 50 and 100 rounds, but they have good range and functional hop-up. Even among experienced airsofters, they are great for impromptu games and for kids. They have become very popular in recent years, and are now being imitated by the Taiwanese company HFC, which are still functional but less sturdy. These “minis,” as they are referred to, are not a viable option in games against AEGs since their small ammo capability, short range and poor accuracy would be a huge disadvantage. However, Mini electric guns are able to compete with spring pistols at close ranges, due to their high rate of fire. Tokyo Marui also makes these "minis."
Automatic Electric Pistols , abbreviated AEPs, was first introduced by Tokyo Marui in 2005 with their Glock 18C (followed later by a Beretta 93R model). They were the first handguns to incorporate an electric powered system that capable of full-automatic operation.
In cold weather, AEPs are often considered better sidearms than gas powered pistols, because batteries are not as badly affected by frigid weather. Gases like CO2 and green gas are stored in liquid form and require heat in order to vaporize. A gas pistol at 10°F will usually only get one to two usable shots from a full magazine.
Because the AEP technology is relatively new, the velocity of the pellets is considered relatively slow for airsoft play. The velocity of an AEP is usually between 200 to 225 ft/s. However, the advanced hop up units on these new guns tend to compensate for the low power and can produce an effective range comparable to those of an AEG.
An AEP differs from electric blow-backs because the AEP has a fixed slide (in which there is no external movement of the slide during operation), while an EBB attempts to simulate the "blow back" action in the slide experienced in a real pistol or Gas Blow Back (GBB). An AEP, however, has much more power and accuracy.
One of the newer AEP-styled guns is the Marui replica of the Heckler & Koch MP7. It is considerably larger than either of the other guns, and can be upgraded to a much higher power through the use of an external battery, but uses the same system as the AEP, so the classification is ambiguous. It is slightly more powerful than the others and is a suitable choice for CQB (Close Quarter Battle) games due to its small size and decent barrel- to gun-length ratio.
Although the Glock was the first manufactured automatic pistol, some semi-automatic pistols can easily be modified to be automatic pistols. To make them more effective, the often used AA batteries or AAA batteries can be replaced with a 9v battery to make their ROF higher; this procedure, though, can often wear-out the airsoft gun, since a motor typically running from 4 AA/AAA batteries will take 3v to run, and a 9v would therefore put 3x as much energy through it.
Classic airsoft guns are usually older variety airsoft guns which are gas powered. Unlike the gas pistols of today, they can run on either an internal tank using conventional airsoft gas or use an external CO2 tank much like a paintball gun. They generally cost more than the standard AEG but provide a more realistic approach to airsoft. There is usually some "recoil" provided by these guns. While these guns can become more powerful than AEG's, almost all users operate them at sub-AEG power. Instead of relying on pure FPS for range and accuracy, they employ a special hop-up called a LRB. The LRB turns the entire barrel into a hop-up system, so the pellet can travel much farther without high muzzle energy. They also have a higher rate of fire because a spring doesn't need to be pulled back each time a shot must be fired.
Optical sights are fairly common for use on rifles; mostly red dot sights for short-range use, and telescopic sights for longer-range use. These range from inexpensive sights designed for use on pellet guns and .22 rifles, to mid-range sights, usually inexpensive replicas of actual rifle sights (such as replicas of the famous M68 Aimpoint), to actual sights designed for use on rifles, including the EOTech Sights, and the Trijicon ACOG TA01NSN. Most of these sights are mounted on a MIL-STD-1913 Rail.
Magazines are usually realistic looking replicas of real firearm's magazines and as such are made of the same materials like stamped metal or high impact plastic. They occasionally feature markings and/or engravings that match or mimic their real counterparts.
Gas blowback magazines are usually made out of thicker metal, since they contain compressed gas to power the guns as well as the pellets. The magazines usually have a valve on the bottom that is used to charge its internal cylinder with gas. They are designed to be similar in weight to a fully loaded magazine from a real firearm.
Airsoft magazines are divided into the following classes according to the number of pellets they hold:
These type of magazines aren't classified according to their capacity (in some cases up to 300 rounds), but by the fact that they are the standard unmodified magazines originally included with the weapon itself. They are normally loaded by inserting pellets down a shaft, compressing a spring held inside that will later feed the pellets into the gun.
Standard magazines offer quiet operation (no rattle or manual winding of high-capacity magazines) and are sometimes the only alternative available for certain airsoft gun models. They are also useful to help players limit their ammunition consumption.
Standard magazines almost only come with Tokyo Marui guns whereas some companies like Classic Army or ICS supply high-capacity magazines with their guns. However, most magazines will not feed every single pellet, leaving 2-3 pellets at the end of the magazine (some players may circumvent this problem by inverting the gun to allow gravity to feed the pellets instead).
Low capacity (Low-Cap)
Low cap mags hold no more than 100 rounds of ammo. They usually are made to make airsoft combat more realistic, by holding the same amount of rounds as the real firearm's magazine does.
Medium capacity (Mid-Cap)
This is a loose category used to describe a type of magazine that has been modified to hold more rounds - usually between 100 and 200.
Mechanically they still function like a standard magazine and as such keep the advantage of quiet operation over high-capacity magazines (that also require a winding mechanism), but minimize the disadvantage of a standard magazine's lower number of rounds.
High capacity (Hi-Cap)
This term is used for all magazines with capacities in excess of 290 pellets (some up to 5,000) and can be one of two types, manual or battery controlled.
With both types a toothed wheel is rotated to bring pellets from a reservoir, along a track and up into a channel into the gun. With one type this gear is turned manually while in the other a pressure sensitive pad is used to operate a battery powered electrical motor to perform the same function.
These magazines are almost exclusively used in AEG type of guns and the obvious advantages is the greater number of rounds, which can be especially useful for automatic fire. The disadvantage is that the loose pellets can rattle and the noise could betray a players position to other competitors. Also, Hi-cap magazines are not allowed at most major airsoft events, where realism is often a prerequisite.
Real capacity (Real-Cap)
Real-Caps are identical in operation compared to standard magazines, but they carry the same amount of ammunition that the real version of the magazine can carry, which is often much less than the standard magazine, e.g. an M-16 Real-Cap will hold 30 rounds instead of the 68 of a standard magazine. However, in airsoft, because of a lack of accuracy and range, more shots are fired, requiring magazines with more ammunition.
These tend to be used solely by those wanting the most realistic MILSIM ("MILitary SIMulation") games. Again they offer the stealth of no rattling rounds, but their main use is for the realistic qualities.
Airsoft guns shoot 0.2 g pellets at velocities from 100 ft/s (30 m/s) for a low-end spring pistol, to 550 ft/s (170 m/s) and beyond for heavily-upgraded customized sniper rifles. Most non-upgraded AEG's using the Tokyo Marui system are in the middle, producing velocities from 270 to 300 ft/s (80 to 90 m/s) with the exception of a few companies like G&G and G&P which manufacture guns that produce velocities of 350-375 ft/s range. The internal components of most guns can be upgraded which can increase the pellet velocity significantly.
Internal modifications revolve around increasing the rate of fire, velocity of the pellets and reliability. The velocity of the pellets is increased by installing a stronger spring and certain internal parts. The rate of fire is increased by using a battery with a higher voltage, high speed ratio gears and/or a high speed motor. Rates of fire can be increased to 25 rounds per second and in extreme case, up to 50 rounds per second. As with any modification, an upgrade on one internal part means the other internal components might have to be upgraded as well.
Airsoft guns commonly come with mounts or rails on which you can add external accessories. Some common upgrades added are flash lights, scopes, lasers etc. Since some airsoft guns have the exact external frame as real guns you can use these external upgrades meant for real guns, but the opposite does not apply. In no way can an airsoft rifle be modified to shoot real ammunition. In most cases, scopes and flash lights have little effect on the performance of the airsoft gun itself, rather the user's ability to use their gun effectively in different situations. In most cases these types of add-ons are more for aesthetics rather than performance.
Airsoft gun care
Barrels should be cleaned after every use especially in sandy environments. If you own an AEG, you should fire two to three shots in semi-automatic mode to decompress the gearbox spring after you are done firing.(some guns come with a button that can be pressed to decompress the spring). Empty the magazine in order to preserve the strength of the magazine spring. For guns with Hop-Up, you should turn off your Hop-Up if you are not planning to use your gun within two to three days. Not doing so may cause the rubber hopup sleeve to expand and eventually break. It is also smart to spray a non-corrosive silicon spray into the gun barrel and hop-up chamber from time to time, as suggested in most AEG and other airsoft gun manuals.
Magazines for gas guns should be left pressurized so all seals stay intact. If the gas used has silicon lubricant in it, then further lubrication usually isn't necessary; if not, a drop or two on the internals will do. When expelling gas from a gun you should never use the release valve located on the magazine as the releasing gas can freeze the o ring causing gas leakage.
Some longtime airsoft gun owners complain about their gun's paint either scratching or wearing off. While in most situations it's a bad idea to do "touch ups," if a full repainting is needed, a flat, enamel based spray paint should be used, such as Krylon. More and more retailers offer painting services to restore an airsoft gun's original appearance.
Another important aspect of gun care, specifically in the case of AEG's, is using the correct battery. Using a battery which is too strong may strip the teeth from the piston or gears whereas using a battery which is too weak may not pull back the spring. It is highly recommended that the airsoft gun owner make certain what the appropriate battery voltage is, depending on what, if any, upgrades an airsoft gun contains. Another important fact about choosing the battery is it's Mah rating. New large cell batteries come in excess of 3500 mah, in which case it's recommended to use a 7.2v configuration as opposed to the standard 8.4v due to the extra power.
Some airsoft guns can be such accurate replicas that they violate intellectual property laws (specifically those regarding trademarks), most notably some models from Tokyo Marui bearing Colt or Heckler & Koch trademarks that may not be imported into the United States. Certain companies such as Classic Army or ICS avoid this problem by licensing their replicas from the original manufacturers like ArmaLite or Olympic Arms. Trademark problems are usually avoided through the removal of trademarks with a sander, such as a Dremel, or having them covered up.
House Resolution 607
Directs the Secretary of Defense to require that any contract entered into or renewed by the Department of Defense include a provision prohibiting the contractor from requiring toy and hobby manufacturers, distributors, or merchants to obtain licenses from, or pay fees to, the contractor for the use of military likenesses or designations on items provided under the contract.
This would mean that airsoft manufacturers producing airsoft guns based on those used by the Department of Defense would not have to pay licensing fees for importation into the United States, allowing legal airsoft versions of U.S. Military guns, with trademarks intact. <ref>GovTrack.us. H.R. 607--110th Congress (2007): Military Toy Replica Act, GovTrack.us (database of federal legislation) http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-607 (accessed Mar 28, 2007)</ref>
There are rumors, driven by the realistic look of some airsoft guns, that they can be modified to kill. There are also rumors that the Japanese Yakuza and Chinese Triad converted airsoft guns to fire real pistol cartridges, but are limited to a single shot. It is, however, impossible to convert or modify any airsoft replica to fire a real bullet due to the materials (mostly plastic), internal design (battery/gas powered) and construction that differ completely from real firearms.
Airsoft guns are also occasionally confused with other, higher powered types of air guns which are dangerous and can be potentially lethal. BB Guns and other air guns use high-density pellets which are metal and are not to be confused with the low-density, plastic pellets airsoft guns use. Metal pellets used in air guns also have a much higher velocity (approaching 1000 fps in some models) that have the potential to break the skin. Airsoft guns do not have such high muzzle velocities and the plastic pellets do little except leave a sting. Although, when reaching higher priced spring and electric rifles, the pellets are able to break the skin, but not penetrate. However, like paintball, proper protection including protective goggles or a facemask is required and thick clothing is recommended.
- Airsoft related
- Other air powered guns
- Guay&Guay (G&G)
- Systema Engineering, airsoft guns designed for realistic firearms training.
- Tokyo Marui, known to be one of the best airsoft manufacturers.
- Umarex, officially licensed airsoft and airgun replicas of Colt, Beretta,
- Echo 1
- Walther and Smith and Wesson.
- Western Arms
- Classic Army