What Is An Airsoft Gun: The Definitive Guide
Airsoft was invented as a hobby toy category in Japan during the 1970s for people who wanted to enjoy real guns but couldn't. The first Airsoft guns were simple and plastic, and could really be classified as toys. But Airsoft has evolved into something much bigger since the beginning and is enjoyed by millions of people around the world.
Airsoft guns are realistic-looking replica/toy guns that imitate real firearms and shoot small round plastic BB using air pressure. Airsoft guns come in all shapes and sizes and are appreciated by collectors, firearm aficionados, and hobbyists alike! Movie companies use them as props, while law enforcement and military personnel use them for training thanks to their extreme realism and mirrored functionality with their real gun counterparts.
How Do Airsoft Guns Work?
Airsoft guns fire plastic projectiles called BBs by using air pressure. This air pressure is created or stored in a number of ways. How this firing is achieved in a particular Airsoft gun depends on the power source used. Common power sources include electric, pressurized gas, spring-powered, and high-pressure air, or HPA for short. Depending on the type of power source your airsoft gun functions on, that will decide how your airsoft gun will fire its BB. Ultimately, putting pressurized air behind a BB in a sealed space is what propels the BB forward and out of the Airsoft gun. Think about when you were young and you put a piece of paper or a pea into a straw and blew it out with your breath. The physics that explains how airsoft guns work are essentially the same!
What are the Different Types of Airsoft Guns?
Airsoft guns come in different shapes and sizes, just like real guns. These include airsoft pistols, airsoft rifles, airsoft SMGs, airsoft shotguns, airsoft machine guns, airsoft snipers, and airsoft grenade launchers. You pick the right model for each environment and gameplay scenario. For example, if you plan to play in small indoor spaces, then a pistol or an SMG would work better. If you are planning on playing out in large fields, then an airsoft rifle, airsoft sniper, or airsoft machine gun might give you more range.
Airsoft guns are also offered on many different platforms. A platform is defined as how the gun generates pressurized air to propel the BB out of the gun. The most obvious way to power an Airsoft gun is to use compressed air, including green gas (essentially propane), CO2, or HPA (High-Pressure Air). There are also guns that are simply spring powered and you pump and shoot. A more complicated but cleaner platform is the Electric Airsoft Gun, which involves a motor that compresses a spring through a gearbox, which is essentially an automatic spring gun. For advanced players who want the best electric platform no matter the cost, consider the PTW (Professional Training Weapon). Each platform has its pros and cons.
Spring Airsoft Guns
Easily the most straightforward style of airsoft gun is the "spring airsoft gun". These guns work by pulling an internal spring that drives a cylinder back creating an empty space filled with air. Upon trigger pull, the cylinder then pushes the air forward using its cylinder head propelling the BB out of the barrel.
As there are not many moving parts these guns can easily be serviced, even on the field. The operating distance is fixed, so each trigger pull delivers the same breath of air forward.
Gas Powered Airsoft Gun
In terms of airsoft guns, Gas-powered guns offer the most realistic shooting experience. They offer recoil, realistic assembly/disassembly, and generally resemble real firearms 1:1 modeling. These airsoft guns use pressurized gas as a propellant, typically green gas or Co2. When you pull the trigger, a hammer strikes a valve to release a short blast of pressurized air to propel the BB through the barrel and out of the gun.
Because there are no moving mechanisms needed within the gun to propel the BBs, this allows for a much more realistic experience. As a side benefit to this, gas airsoft guns are great training tools for competition shooters, law enforcement, military, and responsible citizens that want to hone in their craft!
As previously touched upon, realism is the biggest benefit to gas airsoft guns as the gas is usually stored in the magazine. Because of this, the guns are able to focus on realistic operations. The best examples of this are pistols. Both gas airsoft pistols and Co2 airsoft pistols mimick their real steel counterparts down to the smallest of details and are highly sought after by collectors and shooters alike. It is due to this high degree of realism that gas airsoft guns are the number one choice for shooters that use airsoft guns for training.
Electric Airsoft Guns
Electric airsoft guns or AEGs for short are probably the most widely used type of airsoft gun currently on the market. As its name would suggest, electric airsoft guns are battery-powered and work by using gears to drive back a piston that in turn pushes out air through a nozzle which propels the BB downrange.
These airsoft guns as we see them today were originally brought to us by famed airsoft gun manufacture Tokyo Marui in the 1980s. Their revolutionary design call the "Version 2 gearbox" swiftly changed airsoft forever and the Version 2 is still used to this day!
Electric airsoft guns while being highly capable machines are optimized to work in rifle form. That is to say, there are other electric airsoft guns on that market that come in pistol, sub-machine gun, sniper, and shotgun form but due to the overall size of the gearbox and piston assembly, the rifle form is the best. Furthermore, being such a widely available platform, electric airsoft guns enjoy some of the widest gamut of parts out of any platform that we previously mentioned. This makes them the ideal platform for people that enjoy customizing their own gun.
Airsoft Guns FAQ
Now that we have established what airsoft guns are and took a look at how they work on different platforms, let's look at some frequently asked questions.
Are Airsoft Guns Safe?
Airsoft as a sport is extremely fun and action-packed! Just like other action sports, there is always a chance of injury, airsoft is no different. When we play airsoft and shoot each other, it will hurt slightly but won't do any kind of serious physical harm. Outside of a few bruises and welts here and there, airsoft is extremely safe. Airsoft guns are regulated to have a set velocity to ensure overall safety as well. These regulations can be set by airsoft game sites or by the regulatory bodies of the many different countries where airsoft is legal. This velocity or energy limit ensures that even at close ranges, your airsoft gun will not inflict any kind of bodily harm to others while enjoying this sport. In addition to this, each airsoft gun is modeled after real firearms which feature safety switches. While on "safe" your airsoft gun will not fire. An added level of safety can be achieved by removing the power source such as the battery or gas magazine. This ensures your airsoft gun will absolutely not fire under any circumstances. However, attention should be paid to ensure each player is using the proper protective gear such as airsoft masks and eye protection.
What Do Airsoft Guns Shoot?
The projectiles shot out of airsoft guns are plastic airsoft bb pellets that usually come in 6mm diameter. These pellets are usually just referred to as "BBs". Airsoft BBs have come a long way and much development has been done to them over the years to help further improve their ability to further push the capabilities of your airsoft gun. By using different materials such as PLA or ABS plastics, airsoft BBs are now made to be highly precise and can carry weight from 0.12Gs to 0.48Gs!
One of the coolest types of BB that has been brought to us from this development process is probably the tracer BB. Tracer BBs are coated with glow-in-the-dark materials that can glow red or green when used with a "tracer". The tracer unit flashes each exiting BB with an LED diode which charges the BB making it glow upon exit. When used in the dark, it's almost like Star Wars!
What is FPS?
FPS stands for Feet Per Second and is generally used to measure the exiting velocity of the BB fired from your airsoft gun. Generally, the FPS of airsoft guns measures between 280 - 400 FPS using a 0.2G BB. Using 0.2G BBs is the generally accepted BB weight when reading each gun's designated velocity.
How Much Do Airsoft Guns Cost?
Airsoft guns come in a wide variety of prices and there is something for everyone. It doesn't matter if you are a new player or someone that has been playing airsoft for decades, there's something for you in your price range. Prices can range anywhere from under $100 to over $1,000 dollars! Check out more from our other blog where we got into further detail!
Are Airsoft Guns Considered Firearms?
In most places around the world where airsoft is legal, airsoft guns are considered toys or "replica firearms". However, in some European countries, they are regulated under the same or similar laws as firearms and require a license to own. In some countries around the world, where airsoft is illegal, they are classified together with firearms even though they cannot fire munitions as seen like that used in real steel guns.
Are Airsoft Gun Legal?
In most countries around the world, airsoft is legal as it is considered a toy. Some countries do have some restrictions on them as we previously mentioned and require a license. Certain countries like the United States might have specific State laws that further clarify their legality. You can learn more from the highly detailed article we wrote here.
Do Airsoft Guns Hurt?
In short, yes, if you get hit by an airsoft gun, chances are it will hurt just a little. However, there are many different ways to minimize the pain felt by getting hit by a BB. Some of these include wearing thinker clothing, using some padded protection such as dummy plates inside your plate carrier, or using airsoft masks to ensure you don't get hit in the face. While it might leave a bruise here or there or a small welt here or there, fear not, it's not a serious injury!
What Are Airsoft Guns Made Out Of?
Just like how they come in all shapes and sizes, airsoft guns are made out of a wide variety of materials ranging from plastic to wood! Usually, the materials used in making airsoft guns are determined by what firearm the airsoft gun is trying to replicate. As an example, some WWII airsoft guns are made using real wood stocks just like the real steel guns they are replicating. In the same vein, airsoft Glock pistols are made using aluminum and polymer just like the real ones. As a general rule of thumb, you can expect many airsoft rifles to be full metal unless otherwise specified. However, in recent times polymer rifles have been extremely well received and offer a cheaper alternative for manufacturers to make more affordable guns better by saving costs using polymer instead of metal. The usage of higher-end materials such as steel, stainless steel, and titanium are also seen in some other parts such as slides, frames, and mounts.
Is An Airsoft Gun The Same Thing as a BB Gun?
Colloquially referred to as BB guns, these guns are actually better known as pellet guns or air guns. They shoot a very different projectile but some can function very similarly to airsoft guns. Are they the same thing? The short answer is no. As previously mentioned, they function on similar principles as airsoft guns in so much that they fire a projectile using air pressure but that is where the similarities end. Some key differences are the projectiles, internal workings, and overall safety. You can learn more about the differences from our blog post where we dove deeper into this topic here.
Airsoft guns are really cool and fun replicas that can be appreciated by many people from many different walks of life. Being highly realistic, some airsoft guns help fulfill childhood dreams of collectors who want something to remind them of a movie they might have seen. Airsoft guns also give people a taste of gun ownership in countries that might not allow real guns. Finally, airsoft guns can act as a safe gateway to learn about firearms and firearm safety. All in all, we hope that after you finish reading this definitive guide you have a better idea as to what airsoft guns actually are.