Getting Started: Airsoft Guns and Accessories

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Getting Started: Airsoft Guns and Accessories

Post  Cleaver on Thu Sep 11, 2014 11:51 pm

So this is kind of a huuuugee topic, and very difficult to completely explain, but I will attempt to describe good options and unexpected pitfalls the best I can so that you can make the most informed decision on buying your first airsoft rifle.

First, every rifle needs a few things to be fully functional: a power source, an ammo reservoir (magazines), and BBs.

Power source will most often consist of a battery, though it could also be high pressure air (HPA) or propane gas.  More information on this later.

The magazine is where the BBs are kept before firing, just like a real gun.  These can come in varying types and capacities.  Lowcaps and Midcaps (or Low and Middle Capacity) typically have a single S-shaped channel and a spring.  These often hold between 80-120 rounds, depending on the magazine.  Hicaps (High Capacity) have a hollow reservoir and a winding spring mechanism that has to be rewound every 100 shots or so.  These can hold between 350-500 rounds, depending on the magazine.  Finally, drum mags are similar in design to hicaps, but are physically much larger and can often hold over 1000 rounds.

The BBs used in airsoft are 6mm in diameter, but come in varying colors and weights.  To paraphrase, a heavier BB is more stable and has more inertia, but moves slower.  For the sake of brevity, if you're shopping for BBs, start with .25 gram BBs and work from there.

Now that you're aware of what you'll need to acquire in addition to your rifle, let's look at rifle types.

SPRING vs. AEG vs. EBB vs. GBB vs. HPA

SPRING RIFLES are powered by a spring that is cocked by hand by the user.  These are typically very cheap and difficult to use, but are still relatively commonly found in bolt action airsoft rifles and shotguns.

AEGs, or AUTOMATIC ELECTRIC GUNS, also use a spring to fire the BB, but the spring is repeatedly cocked by a series of pistons, gears, and a motor powered by a battery.  These mechanical systems are the most popular type of airsoft rifle as they are moderately priced and easy to use.  These rifles have little to no recoil, and have no moving external parts.

EBBs, or ELECTRIC BLOW-BACK, is mostly identical to an AEG except that it has an added mechanism to simulate a bolt moving back and forth.  Functionally you'll see very little difference between these and AEGs, but the electric blow-back mechanisms can be prone to fail.  That said, they are often easily disabled, and EBBs do not require their function to cycle properly.  The blow-back mechanism does not add significant recoil.

GBBs, or GAS BLOW-BACK, is a "green gas" or propane operated rifle.  These act very closely to real world counterparts and feature moving bolts instead of pistons and gears.  GBBs will often have quick trigger response, loud sound signature, and moderate recoil.  That said, they often are very temperature dependent and don't play well with winter.  Also, the magazines can be heavy, expensive, and have a limited capacity.  These work well for sidearms, but only the most dedicated players will use these as their primary.

HPA, or HIGH PRESSURE AIR, are a subset of rifles very likely a bit too pricey and complicated for the beginning players.  They require an air tank and macro line, and often feature an onboard computer for controlling air regulation and cycle rate.  Popular HPA guns include the Polarstar Fusion Engine, the Wolverine SMP, and the Valken V12.

RIFLE PLATFORMS

There are 100s of options when choosing your first airsoft rifle, and it mostly comes to taste, so I won't be arguing the merits of different rifle platforms in airsoft.  What I do hope to achieve, though, is to provide an adequate explanation of common traits of each rifle type.

The first thing to note is that different weapon platforms aren't inherently better or worse than any other from a performance perspective.  At the end of the day they are all springs and motors and gears and barrels, just in different shapes.

Secondly, as they are all composed of similar guts, they are by and large similarly capable of failing.  Different companies manufacture to different standards, which is something I'll cover later, but one type of platform isn't necessarily more durable than the others.

THE M4 PLATFORM



Easily the most common platform, the M4 is highly ergonomic and extremely customizable.  Parts and accessories are plentiful and easy to find, and even though it's so common, the customization options available make it so that you can easily make your rifle your own.  Magazines are well built and easily fit in many pouches.  Also worth noting, the barrel assembly is very easily accessible, making cleaning a breeze.

This platform has only a few minimal downsides.  Battery space can sometimes be a chore, especially with guns that come wired to the front, but many modern stocks easily accommodate batteries.  Also, down the line if you ever start tinkering with the mechanics of the gun, it is the author's opinion that M4 gearboxes (labeled as "Version 2" or V2 gearboxes) can be a little fussier than some other options, but maybe the author is just picky.  Finally, the hop-up system (which provides lift and range for the BB) typically uses and triple-geared design that tends to lose adjustment, but companies are beginning to move towards better designs, so it's not really a huge issue.

THE AK PLATFORM



The AK is also a common platform among airsofters.  While these also come in many shapes and sizes, typically these rifles are a bit more a la carte.  There is some customization, but it's not particularly plentiful.  That said, accessories and magazines are still widely available.  The magazines don't necessarily fit well in many pouches, but many people are selling old "Chicoms" for cheap on places like eBay that will fit them.  Also, AK mags typically have a larger capacity than most equivalent M4 magazines. Many AKs come with large butt stocks, good for battery space.  Also, AKs use a Version 3 gearbox, which the author prefers for mechanical work.

The AK's main weakness is that it's a bit of a hassle to take apart.  It's also not as ergonomic as the M4, particularly during magazine changes.  Finally, as previously mentioned, customization is generally limited.

THE G36 PLATFORM



After the M4 and the AK, most other platforms are generally far less common, though I'm going to talk about the G36 because it was my first gun.

G36s are relatively customizable, not as much as an M4, but arguably more than an AK.  Their magazines are particularly interesting in that they usually have nubs on the side.  These nubs can be used to link multiple magazines side by side, making quick mag changes easy.  Also, G36 hicaps have a higher capacity than M4 mags and similar to AK mags.  In the author's opinion, the G36 is also a bit easier to take apart than the AK.

The G36 has quite a few pitfalls, though.  For one, the battery is usually front wired, which can be frustrating as battery space is often limited.  Also, the G36 is not on par ergonomically compared to the M4, particularly again during magazine changes.  Regarding magazines: they don't often fit nicely in many commonly available pouches.  Finally, while G36 magazines are easy to find, your options are limited, and typically not built quite as well as the more common magazine types.

SUPPORT WEAPONS



They're big.  They're heavy.  They have huge magazines.
So I don't really have a point here besides letting you know they exist.  There are several different varieties of support weapons (pictured is an M249) and they all have pros and cons not worth really going into here.  From an operational standpoint they aren't much different than your common AEG.  Sometimes the gearbox is built a lot thicker, some have quick-change springs, but mostly they are just a vehicle for carrying and shooting lots and lots of ammo.

BOLT ACTION RIFLES



Bolt action rifle shown at bottom.

So, everyone wants to be some sort of forest ninja, shooting people from far away.  In airsoft...it's really not practical.  Due to constraints on muzzle velocity and bolt action rifle will not give you a sizable advantage over someone with an AEG.  Whatever you gain in velocity you will lose twice over in volume of fire.  I'm not saying using bolt action rifles don't have particular advantages.  They are typically more consistent and certainly a lot more quiet.  But there's a lot of work and practice that goes into being good with a sniper rifle, and more often than not new players trying to use a bolt action rifle are going to be disappointed.

BRANDS

Ok, so now you know a bit about rifles.  The question now is, which specific rifle to buy?
Similar to the "Where to Buy" thread, this is not an exhaustive list and mostly of the opinion of the author.  Reading reviews will generally give you a good idea of how a rifle is going to perform.  Also, I should state now that AEGs are mechanical devices with many moving parts.  Some companies build to better tolerances than others, but NO AIRSOFT GUN is immune to mechanical failure.

ON THE CHEAP:

Cyma: Cyma is particularly known for AKs, and damn if they aren't worth every penny.  I used a $100 CM.028 well over 3 years for countless games and matches and it's just finally suffered some sort of failure.  I'm not the only person with similar success stories.  If you want an AK on the cheap, CYMA comes highly recommended.

G&G: The Combat Machine line is a popular series of polymer M4 rifles.  They come in many sizes and flavors, and are generally well received.

Echo 1: A bit more midrange, and often just rebrands from other companies, but seem to provide decent gear nonetheless.

And while I can't necessarily vouch for them directly, Lancer Tactical, JG, A&K, and Elite Force offer budget models of rifles.

HIGHER END:

Krytac: This is a brand new company and by all accounts seem to have really left a splash.  Lots of interesting innovations on their line, worth checking out.

VFC: Outstanding build quality and finishes, a common choice for experienced techs looking for a base gun to start from.

G&P: Also outstanding fit and finish, though be aware some of their parts are modeled more closely to real steel and may not be compatible with common airsoft parts.

LCT and E&L: Popular options for high end AK variants.

BATTERIES:

Finally, once you purchase an airsoft rifle and pick your magazines and BBs, you'll need a battery.  Most airsoft guns will come with a battery and charger, though it is highly recommended that you use neither.

The two common types of batteries are NiMH and LiPo (Lithium Polymer).

NiMH is often considered a stable and safe battery, though they are usually large, chunky, expensive, and wear down easily.

Honestly, it is the author's opinion that a LiPo is really the best way to go.  They are inexpensive, small, powerful, require less maintenance, and come in a variety of sizes.  People get scared of LiPos because they have the potential to be volatile, and by volatile I mean they can catch on fire.  That said, so long as LiPo batteries are charged the correct way and are not 100% exhausted during the course of play, they are really just fine.  When I first started using LiPos I also bought detectors that would tell me when the batteries were reaching dangerous levels, but so rarely was that an issue that I've stopped using them.

Batteries come in different voltages and have different connectors.  NiMHs commonly come in 8.4v, 9.6v, and 10.8v, while LiPos are commonly 7.4v and 11.1v.  More volts means more power and faster rate of fire.  However, higher rate of fire also means more wear on your internals. Batteries also have a mah rating.  The higher this value, the bigger your "gas tank" is.

Common connector types are Small and Large Tamiya, Deans, and XT60.  Most guns come wired with Small Tamiya, as do most batteries.  That said, many players in time choose to switch to Deans connectors because of better connectivity and less electrical resistance.  The author sometimes uses XT60s, but that's because he's a weirdo.

My recommendation for battery would be to find a 7.4v LiPo of an appropriate size.  A simple LiPo smart charger for about $20 should do you just fine.  Just pay attention to the charger, and take the battery off shortly once it's done.  It is discouraged to let LiPos charge unwatched overnight.  For extra precaution it's a good idea to buy a fire bag to keep your batteries in while charging in the event of an electrical failure.

That's all I've got.  WHERE TO BUY Thread is Here.  Happy Hunting!
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Cleaver

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Re: Getting Started: Airsoft Guns and Accessories

Post  Frothy on Fri Sep 12, 2014 10:05 pm

If anyone is specifically interested in GBBRs, feel free to get in touch with me (PM or FB message). I've got a few of the things and would be willing to help other people understand.
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