It would be impossible to play Airsoft without replica guns. After all, the game is all about shooting opponents in simulated warfare.
These replica guns are the most important pieces of equipment in an Airsoft game. Matches are usually won or lost depending on the types of guns used combined with the players’ accuracy.
When Airsoft started in Japan in the 1970s, it was illegal for private citizens to own firearms. Without access to real guns, they resorted to replica guns and non-lethal BB pellets as ammo.
At first, these mock guns were mainly used for target practice. In time, however, people realized that they could use replica guns and soft BBs to play simulated combat, and voila, Airsoft as a sport was born!
Today, players have access to an extensive range of rifles, shotguns, machine guns, and pistols that look like the real weapons to choose from for a truly exciting game.
If you’re new to Airsoft, you may feel overwhelmed by the wide range of replica guns to choose from.
You may be wondering, “What are the different types of Airsoft guns?” and “How do I choose a gun that is best suited for my needs?”
If so, this article is for you.
Table of Contents
What Are the Main Types of Airsoft Guns?
There are four main types of Airsoft guns: Automatic Electric Guns (AEGs), spring guns, gas guns, and High-Pressure Air (HPA) guns.
Understanding the types of guns available on the market and how they work will help you make an informed choice on which gun best suits your needs and preferences.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the different types of guns, how they work, their pros and cons, and what each type is perfect for.
Automatic Electric Guns (AEGs)
The most common guns in the world of Airsoft, AEGs are powered by a rechargeable battery. The battery powers a motor that spins a series of gears and a piston to create air compression in order to fire a ball bearing.
The guns typically use a hop-up system for putting a backspin on the BB as it’s fired. That stabilizes the pellet in flight, allowing for a flatter trajectory.
Electric guns enable you to switch to and from single, semi-automatic, and fully automatic shooting modes.
AEGs were pioneered by the legendary Japanese manufacturer, Tokyo Marui, in the late 80s and early 90s. In the early days, AEGs relied primarily on NiCd and 8.4v NiMH batteries.
Nowadays, electric guns are more powerful with their lithium polymer batteries—although they tend to wear down the internals of the gun faster.
Perfect for: AEGs are ideal for beginners—there are many entry-level, affordable electric guns to get you started. Intermediate and advanced players can go for more expensive AEGs with fancier and sturdier internal and external parts.
In the table below, we take a brief look at the pros and cons of Automatic Electric Guns:
Gas Gun Airsoft Replicas
Gas-powered Airsoft guns use compressed gas to propel BBs. To play, you have to insert a gas canister into the magazine. Pulling the trigger releases the gas, which goes up the nozzle to fire a BB.
Typically, gas guns use green gas or CO2 gas cartridges. Other times, they might also use an external gas source—such as in HPA guns.
Gas guns can also be further categorized as Blowback and Non-Blowback guns.
- Non-Blowback (NBB) guns: They use CO2 or green gas solely to fire a BB without any recoil. This gives you a higher FPS since gas is focused on propelling the BB.
- Gas Blowback (GBB) guns: The most common type of Airsoft gas guns, GBBs use either CO2 or green gas to fire a BB and chamber the next round. Blowback guns have an enhanced recoil, which increases the overall realism of the shooting experience. GBBs mostly come in the form of handguns.
A less common type of gas gun is the gas sniper rifle. Like other gas guns, they use green gas to fire a BB. However, they require you to manually operate the bolt to reset the hammer for another round.
Gas guns, especially GBBs, are often regarded as the coolest and best-performing Airsoft guns.
Perfect for: Gas guns are perfect as sidearms. They are ideal for intermediate players looking for a more realistic shooting experience. To reload, you’ll have to replenish both the gas canister and BBs, which isn’t much fun when you’re being shot at.
In the table below, we list the pros and cons of gas guns:
Spring Gun Airsoft Replicas
As the name suggests, spring guns rely on manual propulsion to fire BBs. Therefore, you have to cock the gun before each shot.
Generally, spring guns are not considered to be suitable for competitive matches. Most of them aren’t high quality and are less durable than other types of Airsoft guns.
That said, many Airsoft snipers favor spring sniper rifles for both competitive and military simulation gameplay. Since the spring system offers little variance from shot to shot, they’re perfect for long-range shots. In the hands of a skilled sniper, a spring-operated sniper rifle can be a splendid weapon.
With their manual operation, spring guns often come in the form of pistols, sniper rifles, or shotguns. They don’t come in the form of assault rifles.
Perfect for: Although there are entry-level spring guns on the market, these guns are generally best suited for intermediate and advanced players. Spring sniper rifles, in particular, are most effective in the hands of skilled players.
In the table below, we take a brief look at the pros and cons of spring guns:
HPA Airsoft Gun Replicas
High-Pressure Air guns are the MVPs of Airsoft!
Their structure is similar to that of paintball guns. They have an air tube that connects to an external compressed air tank.
When playing with an HPA gun, you have to carry the air tank. When you pull the trigger, you force the gun’s engine to project compressed air forward and fire the BB.
Typically, players use pressure regulators to adjust the PSI of the compressed gas tank to levels that the gun can handle. Without a regulator, most air tanks will put too much pressure on your gun.
HPA guns don’t disappoint when it comes to performance. They deliver high volumes of fire that most AEGs will struggle to match. On automatic, they also have incredible trigger response.
The FPS (speed in feet per second) and ROF (rate of fire) of HPA guns can be easily changed for different field regulations. Since this feature can be misused during competitive play, many fields that allow HPA guns also require the use of tournament locks. The locks ensure that players don’t adjust the FPS and ROF above the allowed limits.
Most AEGs can be converted into HPA guns by switching the electric system out for an HPA engine.
Perfect for: HPA guns are best suited for experienced players. HPA guns are especially great for speedsoft matches. They also make great support weapons in certain situations.
In the table below, we highlight the pros and cons of HPA guns:
Which Gun Replica Brands Do We Recommend?
Now that you have an idea of which type of gun is most suitable for your needs and preferences, the next step is to shop for it.
In the table below, we list some of the best and most popular guns for each category:
There you have it. You’re now fully equipped to make an informed decision when buying your ideal Airsoft gun. Happy shopping and playing!