Airsoft is a popular combat simulation game in which players are eliminated when hit by pellets fired from realistic-looking guns, called an airsoft gun. While these guns may look fierce, they are harmless when used with proper accessories, safety gear and common sense, allowing people to engage in mock combat with one another, either individually or on teams.
Whether someone is just venturing into this hobby, or looking to add a new airsoft gun to his or her collection, it's important to have a basic understanding of the types of airsoft guns available. All airsoft guns involve propelling a small plastic BB or pellet out of the barrel at speeds ranging from 150 - 600 feet per second (fps). How they accomplish this feat is based on the type of gun. There are three types of airsoft guns, each with markedly different characteristics that make them better suited to certain situations and users. They are electric-powered guns, gas-powered guns, and spring-powered guns.
History of Airsoft
Airsoft was designed in Japan during the early 1970's. It was originally invented as a response to a nation-wide ban on civilians owning firearms. It provided a realistic alternative to shooting actual guns and in the 1980s the game quickly spread through Asia and into the U.S. Since then, airsoft guns have been a popular alternative to BB guns and paintball guns, due to their less damaging nature. Airsoft sporting is also typically cheaper than paintball.
An Overview of Electric, Gas, and Spring Airsoft Guns
The three types of airsoft guns all fire plastic pellets out of their barrels, but the technology behind each type of gun is quite different. While it's not necessary to have a full knowledge of how each airsoft gun works, it is important to have general knowledge of the different types of guns.
Spring Airsoft Guns
Spring guns are the most basic type of airsoft gun on the market. As the name implies, spring airsoft guns use a spring to fire a plastic pellet out of their barrels. They work on mechanical power, meaning that the user must cock the gun after every round is fired, much like a shotgun or bolt-action rifle. Spring-powered guns are typically seen as entry-level airsoft guns, although spring-powered sniper rifles can be very powerful upper-level fun.
Gas Airsoft Guns
Some users opt for powered airsoft guns. Gas-powered airsoft guns use many different types of compressed gas to fire the BBs. They are typically seen as intermediate guns and are very useful for outdoor target shooting. They typically shoot BBs at higher velocities than spring-powered airsoft guns and are also semi-automatic. Certain models are also fully automatic, although it's important to check the specific model of the gun to determine which firing method is available. Gas-powered airsoft guns chiefly use propane as propellent (commonly referred to as "green gas"), CO2 gas airsoft rifles are auto and adjustable to semi-auto, and can fire multiple BBs at once without cocking or reloading. CO2 gas guns generally fire at a higher FPS and fire a stronger shot than their green gas counterparts. Other types include nitrogen and HFC134a refrigerant.
Electric Airsoft Guns
Like spring-powered airsoft guns, electric airsoft guns also use springs, but they do so without the need to manually cock the gun. They usually include a rechargeable battery and battery charger. Electric guns are semi-automatic, and many have fully automatic, or full metal, capabilities. Electric guns are the most popular style of airsoft gun in team and league play. An airsoft rifle, assault rifles and other electric powered airsoft products are for airsoft aficionados who want to kit themselves out for military simulation exercises. They're priced generally reflects this.
Pistol Versus Rifle
Regardless of which type of gun a player chooses, he or she also has to decide between a pistol or a rifle. This is certainly true of gas and spring guns, but it is less true of electric guns. Because electric guns have the distinct bonus of offering fully automatic, full metal firing, they need to hold a large numbers of rounds. Pistols, by virtue of their size, cannot hold many rounds; therefore, there are few electric pistols available.
When choosing between a pistol and a rifle, there are four things to consider: price, capacity, size, and power. Rifles have the advantage of being more powerful, more precise, and able to hold a much larger number of rounds. On the other hand, they are more expensive, heavier, and tougher to maneuver in close quarters. Before choosing between an electric, gas, or spring-powered gun, it's important to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of pistols and rifles.
170 - 400 fps
300 - 500 fps
15 - 25 rounds
200 - 600 rounds
Comparing the Performance of Electric, Gas, and Spring Airsoft Guns
When it comes to comparing the quality of airsoft guns, a user will need to consider a variety of things that can all be summed up in the simple question: what will the airsoft gun be used for? Is the user looking for up close and personal, or long distance missions? Does he or she prefer battery power? If this question can be adequately answered in the user's mind, he or she will be much closer to choosing the right style of airsoft gun.
Pros and Cons of Spring-Powered Airsoft Guns
Spring-loaded airsoft guns are typically seen as weaker than gas and electric ones, though this is not always the case. When it comes to sniper rifles, spring-powered rifles truly excel in power and precision, attaining firing speeds of around 500 fps. One of the main disadvantages of spring airsoft guns is that the user must cock the gun after every shot. This disadvantage is not very significant when it comes to sniper rifles due to the long-range nature of the gun. With close quarter combat, having to manually cock the gun after each shot can be the difference between shooting someone and getting shot. This is not the case with sniper rifles, as semi-automatic weaponry is not always necessary.
With spring airsoft guns that aren't sniper rifles, having to cock the gun after each round can be quite frustrating and unrealistic. Moreover, spring-powered airsoft guns typically shoot at fairly low speeds, with pistols firing from 170-350 fps and rifles firing from 300-400 fps. Lower firing speeds mean less accuracy, especially when playing outside where the wind can easily drive the pellets off course.
Still, there is a distinct advantage of spring-powered guns: they can be fired endlessly. Unlike electric and gas airsoft guns, spring airsoft guns can shoot as long as the user has ammunition. Electric and gas airsoft guns are beholden to their batteries or CO2 gas capacity.
Pros and Cons of Gas-Powered Airsoft Guns
Gas-powered air guns are a step up from spring airsoft guns because of their increased power and their semi-automatic firing style. CO2, green gas and other gas pistols shoot at speeds around 400 fps, while gas rifles shoot at speeds between 400-500 fps. The sheer power behind these guns means that they are very accurate and can shoot much farther. They are also typically made of metal, making them more durable and realistic looking.
On the other hand, they are not without their disadvantages. They perform poorly in colder temperatures, especially when using CO2 as fuel. They also have the distinct problem of running out of gas during combat. If the gas runs out, the fight is over.
Pros and Cons of Electric-Powered Airsoft Guns
Electric airsoft guns are typically seen as the cream of the crop. They typically shoot around speeds of 500 fps and are quite durable and easy to maintain. Their batteries can be recharged (saving lots of money) and the guns perform well in all temperatures.
Unfortunately, even these airsoft guns have their disadvantages. Because the gun is electric, it doesn't fire very well (or at all) in damp conditions. Also, if the batteries run out, the fight is over, although this can be mitigated by carrying extra battery packs.
The Price of Electric, Gas, and Spring Airsoft Guns
One of the largest differences between electric, gas, and spring airsoft guns is the difference in price. As with many things in life, "you get what you pay for." Generally speaking, the more expensive airsoft guns are the guns that are more durable, shoot faster, or are more precise Some guns are priced higher simply because of their aesthetics or uniqueness.
When it comes to determining price, there are two things to consider: the initial cost of the gun, and the recurring expenses to use and maintain the gun. Airsoft is a hobby in which accessories also may be key. Many tournaments require eye protection. Some users seek full face protection and carry adjustable bipods, 6mm grenades, smoke grenades and mines. Then there's black face paint, combat gear, pistols and sidearm holsters and red dot sights.
The Initial Cost of the Airsoft Gun
When it comes to finding an economical airsoft gun, spring-powered ones are the way to go. The cost for spring airsoft pistols range from very inexpensive for entry-level models to more expensive for spring airsoft rifles. The upper-level rifles are classified as sniper rifles because they can shoot long distances with high precision, and the price naturally reflects this. If someone is just getting into the sport, he or she can pick up a decent quality spring-powered pistol at a reasonable price.
As one might expect, gas airsoft guns are quite a bit more expensive than spring airsoft guns. The entry-level gas pistols are generally more expensive than spring-powered ones, and better models sell for quite a bit more. Gas rifles are generally the most expensive even at entry-level prices, with the better models being quite expensive.
Electric airsoft guns sell for roughly the same amount of money as their gas-powered counterparts. The prices for electric pistols and rifles are usually quite high.
The Price of Using and Maintaining the Airsoft Gun
When it comes to using and maintaining the gun, spring-powered airsoft guns are the most inexpensive option. The only thing that needs to be purchased is rounds, although this expense is obviously relevant to any airsoft gun.
Gas airsoft guns, on the other hand, need gas cartridges to function. This means that a user needs to fill the cartridge whenever it is empty. This can equate to quite a lot of money. How much gas a player goes through depends on many factors including how much the player shoots and how powerful and efficient the airsoft gun is.
If a player owns an electric airsoft gun, he or she needs to purchase a battery (or multiple batteries), as well as a charger. Without these two items, an electric airsoft gun is unusable. Many electric guns include these items, but it's important that the buyer checks this before making a purchasing decision. While the initial cost of a battery and charger might be expensive, remember that this is a one-time fee, and is not a recurring cost, so long as the battery remains functional.
Buying Electric, Gas, and Spring Airsoft Guns on eBay
If you're ready to check out some specific models of airsoft guns, head to eBay's Sporting Goods section and start browsing. You can narrow your search further by going to the Airsoft subsection, and selecting to filter by Spring, Gas, or Electric. Each type also has its own subsection for rifles and pistols, and you can also filter by price, condition, and other helpful search modifiers. Vendors like Double Eagle, KWA and Marushin sell everything from MP5s and Colt replicas to AK-47s, M4a1 assault rifles and Uzis.
When shopping for airsoft guns, make sure that you check the fps of each gun, as well as the material from which it's made. Also be mindful of the size of BBs it uses, and if it comes with a warranty.
When it comes to deciding which type of airsoft gun to purchase, there is no quick and easy answer. Shoppers should consider what the gun is being used for. Specialty categories include close quarter combat or QCB, sniper and support personnel. Then, too, players will buy product that can point to a particular skill level. Electric, gas, and spring airsoft guns all come with their own distinct pros and cons, and each gun type is well-suited for a specific type of player. If a user is a new player who just wants to play non-competitively with friends, a good place to start is with spring guns. If a user is an experienced player who is seeking to play more competitively, an electric-powered gun is recommended. Finally, if the user is wavering between these two options, it might be worth considering a gas-powered gun.
In the end, it comes down to checking out each particular gun, an airsofter should consider the costs involved, and be knowledgeable about what air gun is required to suit the particular situation.