What is airsoft?
This guide is intended to give an overall understanding into the world of airsoft that is general and easy to understand. While some topics are more in-depth, no topic in this guide is completely covered from head to toe as we merely touch the most common need to know basics of each topic.**For a quicker guide to these topics that contains only the most essential information please see: Airsoft 101
How Airsoft Guns Work
An airsoft gun is an air powered gun that generally shoots 6mm round projectiles (other sizes do exist but are less common). Most airsoft guns are replicas of existing firearms and are typically used for military simulation. Typical airsoft guns make use of compression for launching its projectiles. With this in mind there are essentially two types of compression used; the first being spring which includes Electric and manual types, and Gas compression which includes Green Gas (Propane with Silicone Lubricant), CO2, and HFC – 134a. Additionally each propulsion system has several sub categories which it can be broken down into which provides slight variations in functionality.
Electric Spring Powered (AEGs and AEPs)
Airsoft Electric Guns (AEG) are among the most popular airsoft guns for skirmish play as they have high capacities, high rates of fire and decent accuracy. AEGS work on electric as the name implies, the battery powers the motor which turns the gears which draws the piston back on the spring. When the piston is drawn it creates tension on the string. The tension stored in the spring determines how hard (FPS) the AEG will shoot. When the tension is released on the spring the piston shoots forward compressing the air which then propels the BB down the barrel. Airsoft Electric Pistols (AEP) work in a very similar manner to the larger AEG’s just on a smaller scale.Things to note about AEG’s
- AEGs have gear boxes that either use plastic or metal gears. Metal gear boxes are much more durable and can support stronger springs and more robust internals making them much more reliable in addition to being more powerful.
- Increasing the battery voltage will not increase the power (FPS) of the gun; it will however increase the rate of fire. By increasing the rate of fire will likely cause additional wear on the gear box and its supporting systems (Motor, Spring and Spring guide, Piston, ect).
- AEGs are complex machines and will require regular maintenance and some care to keep it in good working order. Like most machines most AEG’s will eventually require repairs and those repairs should be left to someone who is qualified.
- Both AEGs and AEPs have models capable of electric blowback action (EBB).
Manual Action Spring Guns (Springers)
Springers are a technological step back from the AEGs and AEPs, while still using a spring compression propulsion system the user is required to manually draw the spring into compression which is referred to as working the action. These still work by drawing back the piston which stores tension on the spring. When the trigger is pulled the spring tension is released which pushes the piston forward creating compression which propels the projectile (BB) down the barrel. These guns tend to be on the cheaper end of the curve but happen to be very reliable as there is less that can go wrong.Things to note about Manual Spring Guns:
- Because the action is powered manually; semi auto and full auto are not available.
- While Manual Spring Guns are typically considered lower end guns this category includes bolt action spring sniper rifles which can be very expensive and very high quality.
- Spring Guns are the most Common Gun and are widely available from a large number of retailers.
Gas Powered Guns
Gas Guns offer some of the most realistic replica gun options and operate much the same as a paintball gun. A gas gun has a storage tank for a pressurized gas (generally in the magazine) which holds green gas, propane, HFC-134a or CO2. When the trigger is pulled the tank valve is opened which releases the pressurized gas into the gun which propels the projectile (BB) down the barrel. Generalization is required as the specific details for how this works changes from gun to gun and is slightly different between CO2 and the other gases. Things to note about Gas powered guns:
- Gas Guns are generally handguns and sub machine guns, but rifles and sniper rifle guns do exist.
- Gas Guns are semi-automatic and some have the option for full auto as well.
- These guns are among the most realistic but also require a fair amount of care and maintenance, more so than the other airsoft guns.
- They come in Blowback and Non blowback varieties, blowback being the most realistic and feature a moving slide which recoils like a real firearm. Blowback gas guns require more attention as they have additional moving parts. The downside to blowback is that it can sacrifice gas efficiency and power to provide the recoil energy.
- Green Gas is basically propane combined with silicone lubricant because of this, adapters are sold to use propane in Green Gas guns, it is important to remember to add silicone to the mixture.
- Green Gas, Propane and HFC-134a are susceptible to climate change and are generally not recommended for use in cold environments. CO2 however is slightly less susceptible to this.
Guide to BBs
Sometimes it’s the smallest piece of the puzzle that is most important! Low quality cheap BBs will cause your airsoft gun to have continual problems and cost you more money in repairs and problems than its worth. AirRattle highly recommended to purchase high quality precision BBs from a reputable airsoft supplier such as airrattle.com. High quality BBs provides many advantages such as accuracy, reliable, power and reduces the chance of gun malfunction and breakage significantly. Low quality BBs such as the BBs purchased at various sporting goods stores as well as retail outlets and most of the ammo provided in the box with the airsoft gun, have a large number of potential hazards. With low quality BBs the number of things that can go wrong are numerous but the most common issues are shattering and jamming. Shattering happens because of poor materials, inconsistent sizing and voids (air pockets) inside the BB’s. When a BB shatters it can create blockage which can cause jams. On a good day these are easy fixes and can be fixed using a clearing rod, but on a bad day they will cause a surge of back pressure which can strip the gears or destroy the piston; both will require professional repair. With this is mind spending a little more for quality ammo will not only improve your overall performance but will likely save you money in the end. In addition to using high quality BBs it is recommended that BBs not be reused as they can be warped or dirty which can cause the same problems as using low quality BBs. Lastly the most important thing to note about using lower grade BBs is that in many cases it will void most warranties.Explanation of quality ammo and its usage: Quality ammo comes in varieties of materials and weights each having its own purpose. Mostly plastic ranging in weights from .20g to over .40g and ranging in sizes around 6mm. Higher grade BB’s will have tighter tolerances and will remain closer to 6mm. High grade BB’s are seamless and are consistent in size and weight.
The majority of the BB’s fall into this category and can be used for play or practice. Best used for indoor play or target practice where they can be collected when finished.
Biodegradable BBs are made of special resin which allows them to degrade over time into the earth whereas regular BBs will stick around for at least several hundred years. Many outdoor fields require Biodegradable BBs to be used. These BB are of the same quality standards as plastic and follow the same guidelines for precision; both in weight and size.
Not generally available from retailers and are not to be used for anything other than target practice. These BBs can potentially shatter ANSI goggles and facemasks. These should generally be avoided.
6mm paintballs are available from various retailers but should not be used in any gun with hop-up or hi-cap magazines as these things can cause the paintballs to shatter which will create a mess and will render the weapon useless until thoroughly cleaned.
The weight of the projectile (BB) has a large effect on its flight characteristics. Heavier BBs tend to fly more accurately over a greater distance. With this in mind they will travel at a lower FPS but still have about the same kinetic energy as a lower weight BB shot from the same gun.
- .12g - Extremely common weight, most factory guns are use this weight to track FPS. These BB’s should not be used in anything but low end guns, as they could cause damage to the internals of an AEG.
- .20g – Very Common and very popular weight, this is the minimum recommended weight for higher end AEGs and Gas guns.
- .25g –This is a fairly common weight and is growing in popularity as it provides better accuracy at a longer range but lower FPS. This is the heaviest weight recommended for mid range and Stock AEGS.
- .30g- .30g and higher weights are typically used by high FPS sniper rifles and provide the best accuracy at the longest of ranges. These are not recommended for mid to lower range stock AEGs.
Guide to Batteries
Many myths surround batteries in the airsoft world and there are lots of conflicting stories about many aspects on different batteries. While this guide will not cover everything it will give you a general understanding of how things work. What it basically boils down to is voltage and milliamp hours (mAh). There are other factors that do apply but are beyond the scope of this article. Voltage will determine rate of fire and milliamp hours will determine how long the battery lasts while being used. Various things will change how long the battery lasts such as ambient temperature and how much current is being drawn. In lower temperatures the battery will not last as long as it will on a nice summer day. While many factors still apply that haven’t been covered the basic rules should suffice for keeping your getting the most out of your batteries and guns without causing additional wear on the gun. With stock guns of the midrange variety it is not recommended running voltages higher than 8.4v. Higher voltages will cause the motor to spin faster causing the gears to turn faster which causes additional wear and tear on the internals. Higher end guns can withstand this extra stress but lower to midrange guns will strip gears, pistons, crack gearboxes, burn out trigger contacts and various other issues that will cause the gun to stop working. In the end it boils down to higher voltage equals higher rate of fire and more stress on the gun. Keep in mind that this is a generality and doesn’t exactly remain true when Lithium Polymer batteries are thrown into the mix. For more information about how Lithium Polymer batteries play into this mix see the LiPo section.
Types of Batteries
The following are the two most common types of batteries each has its own purpose and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
NiMH – Nickel Metal Hydride
These are by far the most commonly used battery. The main advantage when compared to LiPo batteries is its relative low cost by comparison. The other large advantage over LiPo batteries is that they are commonly available and can be put into nearly every airsoft gun without any modification. The primary disadvantage to NiMH batteries is the overall size and weight compared to output. LiPo batteries can output similar voltages with similar capacities with a smaller footprint.
LiPo – Lithium-ion Polymer
LiPo batteries have many misconceptions about them and without a solid understanding of electronics it is difficult to truly explain how and why these batteries perform better at lower voltages. The simple explanation is to think of the two batteries as glasses of water. While they both contain the same water (have the same voltage), the LiPo battery has a thicker straw. This allows the same about of water to be delivered much more quickly. Basically LiPo allow a larger current draw which provides better performance. While this isn’t 100% accurate it does provide a basic understanding. An example is that a 7.4v LiPo can slightly out perform a 8.4v NiMH battery of similar quality. This being understood the one of the primary advantage to LiPo batteries are that they will provide the best performance for high end and highly modified guns. The other advantage over NiMH is that they are smaller and lighter so higher output batteries can be fit into smaller spaces on guns that are too small to allow a NiMH battery of similar voltage and capacity. While these batteries have some serious advantages over NiMH batteries they do have several disadvantages. The first disadvantage is the cost, these batteries cost significantly more than NiMH. Another disadvantage is the complexity, these batteries require some serious care and attention must be carefully paid, as these batteries require cell balancing and must use a smart charger which incurs more cost. The final disadvantage is that these batteries can be somewhat dangerous if not handled properly.
Batteries can be a confusing thing to someone just getting into airsoft, as instructions are somewhat limited. The best recommendation is to buy a smart charger and forgo a lot of the confusion and frustration that comes with charging a battery with a standard wall charger. For those who are on a budget and will be using the basic wall charger some guidelines must be followed. Before we discuss the guidelines it is important to not the consequences of not following these guidelines. Not following the guidelines can at very least significantly shorten the life of your battery and at worst can cause combustion. The guidelines are designed as an attempt to prevent overcharging the battery. First and foremost never charge the battery pack unattended, it is important to keep an eye on the battery and to check its temperature from time to time, if it gets to hot disconnect the battery and wait for it to cool. The next equally important part of these guidelines is determining the output of the charger; this will be rated in mAh and located somewhere on the charger, normally it is around 300 to 600 mAh and varies from charger to charger. Once you locate this number you divide the capacity of your battery by the output of the charger. For example if your battery capacity is 1500 mAh and the charger output is 500 mAh you would charge a completely dead battery for 3 hours. Since your battery is unlikely completely discharged you’ll have to estimate some and reduce the charge time. An important side note is that NiMH do not need to be conditioned nor do they suffer from “battery memory” so completely discharging the battery is not required, this is an extremely common myth and more information can be easily found with a little be of searching. While discharging completely might not be required it may be useful in order to insure the battery does not get overcharged. Following these steps should increase the life of your batteries as most battery damage occurs from leaving them on the charger overnight. Properly charged batteries can last you over a year if cared for. In the end the best idea is still to buy a smart charger and save yourself the headaches. Also LiPo’s require a smart charger; failure to use a smart charger could result in a fire, as previously stated LiPo’s are much more volatile.
LiPo Ready is an interesting term that is popping up more and more and needs to be addressed as it can be confusing. First and foremost an interesting fact is that all guns by basic definition are “LiPo Ready”, as in a LiPo battery can be plugged into any gun, assuming the connectors are compatible. In reality all competition level AEG’s can accept a 7.4v LiPo battery with minimal additional stress on the internals of the gun. So in a sense all guns are “LiPo Ready”. The real trick to being LiPo Ready is having quality internal parts that can withstand high rates of fire and having a trigger system that will withstand the higher voltages. True LiPo ready guns have above average internal components and also include a MOSFET trigger. To make an extremely long story short a MOSFET allows higher voltages to be used without burning out the trigger contacts which will happen when running higher voltage LiPos such as an 11.1v. To sum it up for a gun to be higher voltage/current ready the gun should have upgraded internal components as well as a MOSFET trigger system of some sort.
Guide to Basic Maintenance
Basic care and maintenance is important with any type of machine whether it be your airsoft gun or your car they both require a certain amount of care and preventive measures to help extend the life. Just like other complex machines your airsoft gun will eventually malfunction and require repair. The following tips are designed to help prolong the life of yours airsoft guns but should not be considered an exhaustive guide nor will it guarantee that your gun will never break.General
- Make sure the barrel is free of jams before firing and stop firing if the gun jams
- Make sure the gun is properly lubricated using pure silicon oil (not using actual gun oil or WD-40)
- Store all magazines unloaded
- Clean gun after each use
- Do not perform maintenance in which you are not qualified to perform, while something may seem easy enough it can lead to problems down the road
- Always use high grade BBs and avoid the BBs sold a large retailers and department stores
- Do not use the BBs that come with the gun, in many cases these are low grade BBs and could cause problems
- Do not reuse BBs as they can be dirty or warped which can cause jams which can lead to part failures
- Keep the gun out of the elements rain, snow, mud, and various other conditions can be catastrophic to an airsoft gun
- Start with the hopup turned off and adjust it up gradually, keeping it all the way on can cause jams
- Before storing the gun remove the magazine and switch the gun to semi auto and pull the trigger several times (with the battery in). This will allow the gun to reset the piston to is correct placement which relieves spring tension and will extend the life of your AEG significantly
- Discharge NiMH batteries completely before storage (do not discharge LiPos)
- Change batteries as soon as you notice a decrease in performance additional stress will be caused by running off a weak battery
- Use a smart charger or charge very carefully using the guidelines provided in the battery section
- Remove batteries before storing the gun
- Minimize the time spent on the trigger, the longer your full auto bursts are the more likely damage will occur. Shoot short 3-8 round bursts, this will again extend the life of the AEG
- Use at least .20g BBs
- Use no higher than .25g BBs in a stock mid-range AEG
Disclaimer: The following views and opinions are meant as suggestions only! Use of our suggestions is at the sole discretion of the reader. We always recommend you talk with your local paintball and/or airsoft shop before you use or work on any airsoft products.
- Use only the gas specified in the manual
- Do not use Red Gas unless they manual specifically states to do so. (Very rare)
- Be sure you’re filling the gas straight down into the gas reservoir
- Never leave the magazine/reservoir/gun completely empty but rather leave enough gas for just a few shots (1-3). This will extend the life of your O-rings
- Do not dry fire a gas gun (firing without BBs)a
- Add silicon oil to the top valve of the magazine every 4-6 usages
- If using Propane in place of Green Gas be sure to add a few drops of silicon oil into the mixture, its best to buy an adapter that has a reservoir for this
- Use at least .20g BBs
- Do not use the valve at the top of the magazine to release gas pressure; doing can damage O-rings
- Fill the magazine/gun/reservoir in short bursts
- Do not use during cold seasons
- Limit rate of fire and if you notice the magazine getting cold allow it time to warm but, failure to do so can cause damage