There are three types of airsoft gun: spring, gas, and electric . All work on the same principle of compressed gas expanding to force a pellet down the gun's barrel and 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. Spring powered airsoft guns are really not as powerful as gas and electric models, although this can vary by cost.
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. There are some exceptions, however, as 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 spring powered airsoft gun, as it can be fired in any situation, without reliance on an external source of power, such as batteries or gas. The lack of reliance on external power sources causes some players to favor spring powered guns. Spring guns are also less susceptible to the effects of water, where a battery-powered gun could malfunction when wet.
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 owned 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.
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 between 150 and 500 ft/s (60 to 150 m/s) and rates of fire of between 100 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 900-1700 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 and Tokyo Marui produce replicas that are visually nearly identical to their real counterparts. Tokyo Marui, however, sticks with a durable ABS plastic where as Classic Army features full metal bodied guns 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, the Heckler & Koch G36 and more recently, the Springfield M14.
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.
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 target practice and for kids. They have become very popular in recent years, and are now being manufactured by Tokyo Marui, as well as the Taiwanese company HFC. These “minis,” as they are referred to, are not a viable option in games against AEGs since their small ammo capacity, short range and poor far range accuracy leave their wielder at a large disadvantage. Mini electric guns are able to compete with spring pistols at close ranges however, primarily due to their high rate of fire.
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, and these will be at reduced power because of the lowered pressure of the gas.
Because the gearbox and battery are smaller, the velocity of the pellets is relatively slow for airsoft play. The velocity of an AEP is usually between 200 to . 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. CYMA has made a clone Glock 18C, which is a lower priced alternative.
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.
Some semi-automatic pistols can be modified to be automatic pistols. To make them more effective, they often use 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 3²= 9x as much energy through it.
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).
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/locap magazine and as such keep the advantage of quiet operation over high-capacity magazines (that require a winding mechanism), but minimize the disadvantage of a standard magazine's lower number of rounds.
This term is used for all magazines with more capacity than a standard magazine and for rifle hi-caps. They require a manual or battery powered wind or a spring to feed the BBs. For pistols, hi-caps are determined by a high BB capacity but work like a standard magazine. 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 reveal a player's position to other competitors. Also, Hi-cap magazines are not allowed at some major airsoft events, where realism is often a prerequisite.
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 are modified to increase one or more of the following properties: pellet velocity, rate of fire, or reliability. For an electric airsoft gun, the pellet velocity can be increased by simply upgrading the mainspring. Doing this will increase the pressure produced during operation. But due to the higher forces at play, it is advised that other parts be upgraded together with the mainspring in order to maintain a high level of reliability. 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 20+ rounds per second with very few upgrades, but with careful selection and extreme modification of gearbox components, rates of fire in excess of 50 rounds per second are not unheard of. In the case of gas guns, a higher pellet velocity can be achieved through the use of different types of gases and/or changing the valve. It must be noted that some gases have detrimental effects to some plastic components inside the airsoft gun.
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. However, some scopes must have scope rings (which are not usually included in airsoft gun packages) that are used to mount the higher end scopes to a default rail mount.
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.
Batteries are an important factor governing the lifespan of AEG gearboxes. Using a battery which has too high a voltage will cause the gearbox to cycle at a rate that could potentially damage internal components such as the piston. A battery with too low a voltage may lack the power to cycle an AEG gearbox even once. Selecting the correct battery for a particular gun is therefore very important. Batteries not only vary in voltage, but also in ‘mAh’. The Mili-ampere hour value gives an indication of how long a battery will continue to power an AEG gearbox for. In addition, higher mAh batteries tend to have a higher current draw, which will marginally increase the rate of fire of an AEG.
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.