There are many different Airsoft Replica’s and if you just getting started into Airsoft, it can be difficult to know what the best Replica’s are and which one should be avoided.
Before we dive in to all kinds of fantastic features it’s important to gain a broader knowledge to finally succeed in choosing the right Replica with suits your (beginners) level. Note: In Airsoft we call our weapons Replica’s and not guns!
1. Airsoft guns and their Main categories
In the Airsoft sport we recognize different kind of Replica’s. All Replica’s have of course their own pros and cons. I could understand that, when you are about to start with Airsoft, you have a lot of questions on how to choose your Replica. What did I found out while I was looking for my first Replica? I would like to give you all the information you need to get started and make a good choise!
In Airsoft we specify guns acording to their firing mechanism.The main categories are:
- Spring Powered
- Gas powered
- Electric powered
- HPA – High powered air
We also categorize guns by their specific purpose on the battlefield. An airsofter can play different roles on the battlefield. For example the role of a support gunner, support leader, a squat leader etc..
Being a support gunner requires different gear than a squat leader. The different gun categories are:
We will covering gun classes later. Now we look at the main categories according to their firing mechanism. We are convinced that learning the basics is important to gain that strong foundation which is necessary to build on your decision foundation.
1.1 Gas Powered Replica’s
A Gas powered Replica is something you really want to have if you love this sport. This is because the sound and feel is like a real gun! But, before you are getting too exited, here is some important information you need to know before buying this one.
As I said, this replica has a great look and feel. It uses highly pressurized gas causing a loud noise. That makes it real! Some types – also know as the GBB – are semi automatically through a blowback feature. Green gas ( a mixture of of propane and silicon oil) or CO2 is being used. That’s directly causing the main disadvantage of this replica. Tempertures below 15 degrees will heavilly affected the performance of this replica. The loss of power is directly correlated with the outside temperture. Why? because Green Gas stored in it’s liquid form need to be converted into gas. That requires heat. So the colder the outside temperture, the more difficult the conversion.
It’s not only the outside temperature that is causing low performance. What’s also lowering the performance is the use of the full auto mode. Using the full auto mode will slow down your gas replica. After a short burst the gas is depressurized to fire the BB’s and that’s causing a drop of ca. 15 degrees what will slowering your gas replica.
highly pressurized gas , loud noises,, using compressed gas, semi autoamtically through a blowback feature , green gas a mixture of propane and silicon oil, or Co2. Expensive, heavily affected by weather conditions, with power loss directly correlated with the outside temperture, green gas stored in it’s liquid form to be converted to gas it required heat. the colder the more difficult the conversion.
using full auto mode will slowering your gas replica. that’s because of the temperature inside the gun that drops around 15 degrees after a short burst after the gas is depressurized to fire the BB’s.
Furthermore, this replica is expensive, and magazines start to leak over time. That’s why you always need extra O rings!
The conclusion is that this type of replica are considered best for intermediate shooters and not for the beginner!
1.2 Electric Airsoft Guns
The electric Airsoft Gun is the most seen Airsoft Replica on the field. This is by far the most user friendly replica for the beginner. Let’s dive in to the mechanism of the AEG and as we did on the gas powered replica.
The regular electric gun has a setup of gears, which are powered by the motor inside the gun. Those gears then pull the piston assembly against the spring and when the trigger is squeezed, said assembly is released which in turn propels your BB out of your gun muzzle. So the electric gun is nothing more than a springer with an electric motor, and what you normally do with a regular spring powered – pulling the trigger – the AEG does it for you, using the motor.* airsoftpal.com
Due to the use of an electric motor, which operates the spring, both automatic and semi-automatic fire can be achieved. How do they actually shot in semi-auto? what controls this is this little piece under the sector gear and it’s called the cutoff lever. The cutoff lever is attached to a small spring. On the outside oft the gun you can regulate automatic or semi-automatic. Maybe too technical but later-on I will write an article about how replica’s can shoot semi-automatic. The ability to put your replica on semi-automatic is the reason why this replica is also called Automatic Electric Gun.
An AEG can reach a muzzle velocity of up to 650 ft/s or 185 m/s.
The electric motor is powered by rechargeable batteries. On this moment I don’t know exactly what kind of batteries. On the moment I wrote this article I was wondering what kind of batteries to use. maybe we find out later. For now it’s important for you to get the information for choosing the right Replica…
The advantage of the AEG against the gas powered replica is the ability to use this replica in all kind of weather conditions. The disadvantage of a gas gun is the deterioration of the output power when weather conditions changes. Mostly below 10-15 degrees. Furthermore the power of the gas gun may deteriorate due to the level of gas left in the magazine. Battery powered guns like the AEG do not suffer from this issue. Of Course…. The charge of the battery will go down but that has not a highly impact on the output power. Maybe your rate of fire may take a hit…
In short the advantages of an Automatic Electric Gun:
- much more weather resistant than a Gas powered Replica
- powered by rechargeable batteries
- enough power to compete with on the battelfield
- relatively low purchase price
- magazines are relatively cheap
- easy to upgrade/downgrade
- a lot of types and models
- a lot of knowledge out there
- easy maintenance
Finally, the replica’s with Specna Arms or G&G brand are good platform choices.
Are there no disadvantages? Unfortunately yes, but rarely to find. The disadvantages I could find:
- Sound is not realistic (enough)
- little blow back experience (solution is a EBB – Electric Blow Back)
- too many choices…?
The solution for the little blowback is choosing another brand. Some brands like Tokyo Marui Schock line or the KWA Electric recoil gun and the Bolt recoil schock system give that experience of a blow back.
1.3 Spring Powered / Bolt Action Airsoft Replica
this replica type is unsuitable for the Airsoft beginner.
the spring powered mechanism is often used on sniper rifles and shotguns because a sniper is not automatic in reality too.
This replica type is not used very often.
use powerful springs to propel their ammunition at speeds of 150 FPS (pistols) to 800 FPS (snipers)
don’t get obsessed about FPS and don’t take it over the top with it. It’s not like upgrading your computer and place another (extra) processor in your computer! Airsoft is more than the FPS output on a gun! Of course the higher the FPS the faster the velocity of your BB’s but it will not give you an enormous advantage! It can also cost you hundreds of dollars to upgrade but you end up with a broken gun of it will have to be repaired regularly. It’s your choise…
The mechanism is very similar to the Automatic Electric Gun. how does it work? You cock your gun, pulling the piston into the spring guide and against the spring, and squeeze the trigger which releases the compressed spring and sends your BB flying*. It’s because of the similar inner workings that an spring powered gun can compete with an Automatic Electric Gun. It can’t compete with a gas powered gun because they have more shooting power.
Because of the manual operation, 90% of spring guns are either pistols, sniper rifles or shotguns. A spring powered assault rifle would be crazy… The way spring powered guns have been made makes it unpractical of being semi-automatically of automatically.
Spring powered guns are not affected by weather conditions. While a gas powered gun under perform with rain or snow or cold weather conditions, and electric guns need to be changed batteries, the spring powered gun don’t rely on an external source of power.
Is this spring powered replica useful for the beginner? Yes it is. their low prices and reliability makes it useful but for combat purposes I would’t recommend to buy a spring powered replica. Their low rate of fire (ROF) and weak performance and short range makes them easy to beat…
So why do some snipers have a spring if that causes a low range? Well, it is a competitive one against other replica’s because of their low cost, light weight, versatility in different weather conditions and maintenance makes it a solid choice if you like solidity!
In short the advantages and disadvantages:
- low purchase price
- simpel straight forward mechanism
- not affected by weather conditions
- No problems with lowering batteries charge or used up gas magazine
- Difficult to repair due to a lack of standard manufacturing practices
- Plastic parts are fragile
- Low rate of fire
- Short range (weak performance)
Conclusion: I think it could be a choice for a beginner although I still would recommend an AEG.
1.4 High pressure Airsoft Guns
The HPA becomes extremely popular because the FPS (speed in feet per second) and ROF (Rate of Fire) can be changed easily for different field regulations as well as they provide consistent reliable shots. The downside is that they require an external air tank much like you see on paintball guns. In additions they are extremely expensive when compared to AEG and even some GBB’s.
“The HPA is a a type of pneumatic Airsoft weapon that use externally supplied high pressure air.
How does the HPA work?
HPA works through the controlled release of compressed air. In an AEG you can expect a gearbox to actuate a piston which in turn compresses air that’s released down the barrel to project your BB. In a Co2 Airsoft Replica the gas is stored in a compressed state within a vessel and expelled down the barrel to project your BB.
The HPA works by using a separate high pressure air thank that is connected to the Airsoft Replica with a hose, which is connected with a pneumatic motor inside the gun at where the gearbox would be in a normal electric Airsoft Replica. The engine is powered by a a fire control unit that can adjust to the desired rate of fire as well as the dwell that determines how much air is released with each individual shot.
In HPA the concepts are very much the same: Like green gas, duster or CO2 the gas is stored pre-compressed and many pneumatic HPA engines function very similarly to gas blow back rifles – indeed, in many cases HPA can be used to power a lot of existing GBB (Gas Blow Back) and GBBRs (Gas Blow Back Rifles) but later more on that.
The HPA Rig – the functional exterior parts
The HPA Rig (all the functional exterior parts that a user needs to combine to get that HPA work) is comprised of three seperate parts. The seperate parts are:
- The bottle
- The regulator
- The line
HPA Rig – The Bottle
The bottle contains with highly compressed gas. We distinguish two types of bottles with different pressure: 1) 3000 psi (= pounds per square inch = aprox. 206 bar!) and 4500 psi (aprox. 310 bar!).
The 3000 psi bottles tend to be made from aluminum while the 4500 bottles are mostly made from carbon fire. How do you know how much pressure your bottle produce? Well, you can recongnize the pressure rate on the shape of the bottle. The 4500 psi bottles have more rounded corners while the 3000 psi bottles have more square edges.
very thank has a bottle regulator. The regulator controls the output of the bottle so that the actual regulator can deal with the incoming flow. Different regulators work with different input pressures. That’s why some complex issues appear like Super Low Pressure (300 psi) while others have an output of 450 psi. That way you have a great disadvantage on the battlefield. The complexity of this regulator makes it interesting to write another article only about the HPA external system.
The bottle regulator has three key features:
- An interface what is called the ASA on the regulator or line. These threads have one or two seals to ensure proper air -tight system.
- Refilling: A standard paintball fill nipple will help to ease refill you bottle.
- Burst disks: It’s a key safety feature to regulate the pressure inside the bottle. If the pressure is too high or the bottle is overfilled then this regulator will prevent sending a high pressure to the rest of the HPA system.
Their exist 2 burst disks: The HPA burst disk and the LP burst disk.
HPA Burst Disk: This one is created for bottles with 3000-4500 psi bottles. These tanks ten to use 5000 psi and 7500 psi HP burst disks
LP Burst Disk: This one blows when the tank is outputting a pressure higher than it should be. A high pressure could damage your regulator or replica.
In general the Burst Disk should prevent your replica from a too high pressure reaching your replica’s internal mechanism. It’s actually safely vent the air.
HPA Rig – The Regulator
The regulator has two main functions. We earlier spoke about lowering the pressure on the bottle regulator. Well, this is one of the main functions of the regulator: to further step down the pressure of the air to a usable psi and to do so in a way that means during intense use the gun doesn’t get starved for air.* That point of being starved for air is the refresh point. If you have a regulator with a higher refresh rate then it is suitable for air-hungry guns. Maybe I go in to more detail about these guns later.
The regulator has also a function to quick disconnect (QD’s) the line for freedom of movement. This will prevent you from breaking the line when you move through a small space with the risk of getting hooked somewhere. Most regulator are easy adjustable. You are able to regulate the range of output between 30 psi to 160 psi.
HPA Rig – line
The line connects the gun to the regulator is called a air hose. The length of the line varies but most are between 24″ en 46″ that is (50cm – 116cm) with a corresponding diameter between 3mm – 6mm. The psi rate of most lines is 200 psi up to 3000 psi. Some replica’s can handle more psi. Those guns have mostly an internal regulator and so the air hasn’t been depressed.
I’ve seen coiled, braided and normal looking rubber tubing lines. Most airsoft lines are 36″(91 cm) and have an inner diameter of 6mm and have an output of 200 psi and are braided.
Advantages and disadvantages
- The most widely known advantage of the HPA is not being sensitive for low temperatures
- A better range accuracy than the AEG
- makes a different noise and therefore recognizable
- carrying a bottle on your back which give you some limitations on your movements
- Daytona (fully pneumatic) need to wear out in order to experience full functionality
- HPA without recoil (the backward movement of a gun when it is discharged) is more expensive than the AEG
- you have to rack an HPA while changing the magazine
- The line will slow you down because you need to be careful to not get hooked somewhere. A solution for that is to braid the line through my vest and paracord around the line for some camouflage
- Regular refilling the botttle but with a 2x 0.8l bottle you can play the whole day. Also more and more locations have a filling station…
2. What are the popular brands?
Popular HPA brands and engines include polar star (fusion Engine, F1, jack), Wolverine (hydra, Bolt, inferno, wraith, smp), Valken (V12), and Tippmann (M4 Carbine).
The HPA version of Tipmann seems to be very good.Why? No trouble with the setup of the gearbox, limitations of fps, empty batteries and other electric problems.
Widely known brands are Plarstar, Wolverine, Daytona, Tippman.
It is also recognized as the air pressure type of the GBB.
Later I would like to extend this article because there is so much more to discuss. Please let me know if you have any suggestions!
* some excelent description so I use this information from airsoftpal.com
* I learned a lot about HPA from this site: www.airsoft-forums.uk