What is An Airsoft Rifle?

What is An Airsoft Rifle?

Airsoft rifles shoot plastic BBs and are usually designed to replicate a real rifle.  Compared to airsoft pistols or submachine guns, rifles are larger and designed for longer range shooting.  Airsoft rifles are usually primary weapons of any airsoft loadout and are capable of shooting full auto or semi auto.  Many beginners starting in Airsoft will typically either start with a pistol or rifle.  If you are looking for something more compact than a rifle, then consider our airsoft submachine guns.

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Airsoft rifles are replicas of real-steel guns. Available in semi-automatic or full-auto, airsoft rifles come in several varieties: spring, electric, gas, and high-pressure air (HPA). 

The airsoft rifle market spans everything from entry-level spring airsoft rifles to the costly yet powerful professional training weapons (PTWs) produced mainly by Systema. 

What Is an Airsoft Rifle?

An airsoft rifle mirrors the basic form of a real-steel rifle. Longer than an airsoft pistol and grenade launcher, airsoft rifles can match (in carbine form) or exceed the length of airsoft submachine guns (SMGs) and airsoft shotguns. They’re also a favorite among snipers, as most airsoft rifles are designed for either CQB or the airsoft sniper role. 

Most beginner airsoft players choose an airsoft pistol or rifle as their primary weapon. Beginners can easily run both if they like, as many airsoft rifles can reach out across the field while their pistol counterparts are adept at clearing rooms and tagging opponents in close quarters. For players who value marksmanship, the airsoft sniper can be a fun role to play, as many airsoft sniper rifles replicate real-life rifles carried by deadly snipers. 

How Does an Airsoft Rifle Work?

Airsoft rifles operate differently depending on the type of airsoft gun you choose. For instance, spring-powered airsoft rifles (also called “springers”) use a compressed spring to cock the gun before each shot. On the other hand, airsoft automatic electric guns (AEGs) let a motor and gearbox do all the heavy lifting. As you can guess, gas-powered airsoft rifles use green gas or CO2, while HPA rifles require high-pressure air. 

Spring-Powered Airsoft Rifles

Springer airsoft rifles don’t require batteries, gas, or compressed air to operate. They’re some of the simplest and easiest to shoot, but semi-auto and full-auto firing modes aren’t available. It’s as simple as cocking the gun, shooting, and repeating the process until your opponents are tagged or you call “hit.” 

Electric Airsoft Rifles

Airsoft AEGs require a rechargeable battery, a battery charger, and a motor to drive numerous ratioed gears to compress and release a spring. AEGs are some of the most popular types of airsoft rifles because they allow you to point and shoot until you run out of ammo or battery power, whichever comes first. 

You can easily upgrade AEGs, and they perform well in most conditions. If you plan on playing for most of the day, stock up on batteries and BBs. 


Professional training weapons (PTWs) are somewhat of a subcategory of AEG rifles, although they’re much more expensive than your average electric rifle. For example, the Systema PTW89 - Type 89 (Professional Training Weapon) can cost several thousand more than your average EMG, APS, Elite Force, CYMA, Lancer Tactical, or Cybergun. These highly tuned airsoft rifles use sophisticated gearbox designs to maintain superior performance and power. 

Gas-Powered Airsoft Rifles

Gas-powered airsoft rifles are favorites among airsoft players as well. These airsoft rifles use green gas or CO2 and often have a blowback action that mimics the recoil of real-steel rifles. 

Gas blowback (GBB) rifles can be more expensive to get into than AEGs, as you have to purchase green gas or CO2 to fill your magazines or the gun directly. However, they’re highly engaging to shoot. 

HPA Rifles 

Finally, HPA rifles round out our list. These airsoft rifles are controlled by regulators and are typically fed from an external tank that attaches via a tube. HPA rifles are relatively simple in design and have fewer moving parts. However, the power they generate (minus any blowback, which is great for accuracy) can be too much for some airsoft fields. 

How To Choose an Airsoft Rifle

Deciding to run an airsoft rifle instead of the many other types of airsoft guns is only the first of many decisions before you. 

Players often navigate through the many airsoft rifle options available by gravitating toward a specific type of rifle (such as airsoft AEGs, springers, gas, or HPA) or how realistic or tactical that rifle might be. As players learn who makes different airsoft rifles and how well they perform, they may also become loyal to one or more brands, such as VFC, Tokyo Marui, Krytac, Classic Army, or KWA. 

One great place to start with airsoft rifles is the spring-powered segment. Spring airsoft rifles familiarize players with how the gun operates and what sort of experience they can expect on the field. The downside to springer airsoft guns is that they require you to manually cock the hammer every time, so you may find yourself calling “hit” more often than you want.

From there, players often graduate to an AEG. These airsoft rifles use an electronic mechanism to actuate the rifle, so you don’t have to manually cock it every time. If you’re looking for more of a realistic experience, gas blowback rifles can be a lot of fun. 

HPA rifles don’t have the recoil you feel with a GBB airsoft rifle, but they’re powerful enough to be banned on some airsoft fields. PTWs are the top tier in airsoft rifles, sought after mostly by law enforcement or through-and-through airsoft enthusiasts. 

If you’re a fan of the classic real-wood look, the KTW Type 38 Infantry Airsoft Classic Rifle (Arisaka M1905) features real wood furniture. The Arcturus AK12 Airsoft AEG Rifle presents a more tactical version, and the Novritsch SSR-4 Gen 2 Airsoft M4 AEG Rifle (Polymer Receiver) incorporates an M-LOK compatible handguard ready for a flashlight.

How To Upgrade an Airsoft Rifle

With so many different types of airsoft rifles available, it’s easy to see that upgrades will vary between them. However, most have similar components you can swap out for your favorite upgrade parts. 

For example, if you have an AEG airsoft rifle, you can upgrade the hop-up bucking, inner barrel, spring and spring guide, cylinder head, nozzle, piston and piston head, tappet plate, selector plate, gears, bushings, and bearings. 

Bolt-action airsoft rifles have some of the same upgradeable parts, including the inner barrel, spring and spring guide, piston and piston head, hop-up, and cylinder. Gas airsoft rifles can be upgraded with new inner barrels, nozzles, valves, fire control sets, and hop-ups. Since most players are selective about how they build out their HPA setups, upgrades aren’t necessarily as common here as on other airsoft rifles. 

Popular Airsoft Rifle Models

Airsoft rifles give players a wide range of choices, types, and budgets to choose from. Available options range from assault rifles and classic rifle platforms to WWI and WWII airsoft replicas and Designated Marksman Rifles (DMRs). Airsoft replicas of full-metal platforms include the AR-15, AK lineup, FN SCAR, SIG MCX, and M14. L85/SA80 airsoft rifles are popular in the UK, while FAMAS is famous in France. The RWA Battle Arms Development SBR Airsoft M4 AEG Rifle and 556-LW Airsoft M4 AEG Rifle are also popular choices.

RedWolf is your go-to source for airsoft rifles — check out our list of the best airsoft AEGs, the 10 best DMRs, and the 12 best airsoft AK47 rifles. If you’d like to learn more about airsoft (like how far airsoft guns can shoot), check out our blog for a complete hub of resources. 

What is An Airsoft Rifle?

Airsoft rifles shoot plastic BBs and are usually designed to replicate a real rifle.  Compared to airsoft pistols or submachine guns, rifles are larger and designed for longer range shooting.  Airsoft rifles are usually primary weapons of any airsoft loadout and are capable of shooting full auto or semi auto.  Many beginners starting in Airsoft will typically either start with a pistol or rifle.  If you are looking for something more compact than a rifle, then consider our airsoft submachine guns.

What are the Different Types of Airsoft Rifles?

Airsoft rifles also come in a variety of platforms each with their pros and cons.  

Spring Rifles- Great for beginners, these affordable airsoft rifles (sometimes referred to as Springers) require manually cocking the gun before each shot, making them simple and cheap to shoot without the need for batteries or gas.  Downside is they cannot shoot in semi or full auto.

Electric Rifles - Moving up a notch are Electric Rifles, which are the most popular type of Airsoft rifles.  Powered by a gearbox that is similar to a car’s transmission, a battery powered motor turns a series of ratioed gears to compress a spring, which is then released to generate high pressure air to shoot a BB.  Electric rifles can be easily upgraded for accuracy, range and power.  They perform well in most conditions but are not as engaging to shoot as gas rifles.  Wear and tear of mechanical parts requires periodic lubrication and maintenance.  For a long day of play, you will need several batteries.

PTW Rifles - PTW rifles are also electric powered but have an entirely different gearbox design than regular electric rifles, which makes them more powerful and higher performance in general.  They are highly tuned and require a higher level of proficiency to maintain.

Gas Rifles - The most realistic and most expensive kind of airsoft rifle is the gas blowback rifle.  Instead of batteries, they are powered by compressed gas called green gas, which is usually charged into the magazine of the gun.  Gas blowback rifles are also the most expensive and require more experience to operate properly, but they are highly engaging to shoot.

CO2 Rifles - Similar to gas rifles except that they are powered by CO2 cartridges stored in the magazine or other part of the rifle.  Some rifles can use both green gas and CO2.

HPA Rifles - These rifles are powered by high pressure air, usually fed from an external tank through a tube.  While HPA rifles do not offer any blowback and realistic shooting experience, they are extremely powerful and can deliver high rates of fire.  Their simple design with few moving parts also makes them very reliable.  HPA rifles can be too powerful for many countries and exceed the legal power limit.

What Are The Most Popular Airsoft Rifles?

Airsoft rifles come in a wide range of prices and do not cost more or less than any particular kind of gun.  Beginners can consider spring rifles, which generally cost less than USD 100 and have very low running costs because they do not require gas or batteries.  At that price, you can also consider an entry level gas blowback pistol.  If you can spend USD200 or more, then consider moving up to an electric rifle, but first time buyers will also have to spend extra on batteries and a battery charger.  Beginners can consider some of our cheap airsoft rifles.  Electric rifles can go all the way up to USD 1000 for high quality or rarer models.  

As your budget increases, you can consider gas rifles, CO2 rifles, and HPA rifles, which generally cost more than electric rifles.  One of the most expensive rifles you can buy is the PTW airsoft rifle, which is a very high end type of electric rifle made by Systema that is designed for law enforcement training.  PTW rifles can shoot at very high power and accuracy, but like an exotic sports car, they require a lot of experience to maintain.

In addition to the cost of the rifle itself, adding many accessories can also increase the total cost.  You can install red dot scopes and, lasers for faster aiming, bipods for greater accuracy, and a sling to carry the rifle around when not engaged in combat.  Flashlight attachments also make playing at night more interesting.  For rifles that have a threaded barrel, consider an airsoft suppressor to make your rifle more quiet, or an airsoft tracer unit that allows you to shoot glow-in-the-dark BB called Tracer BBs.  Also invest in a gun bag to safely transport your rifle to and from games.

Are Airsoft Rifles More Expensive Than Other Types of Guns?

Airsoft rifles come in many styles including airsoft assault rifles, classic rifles, WW1 and WW2 rifles, and DMRs.  Popular airsoft rifles include the Airsoft AR 15, Airsoft AK, Airsoft FN SCAR, Airsoft M14, and the Airsoft SIG MCX.  L85 / SA80 airsoft rifles are very popular in the United Kingdom, while the FAMAS airsoft rifle is most sought after in the French airsoft community.  We separate airsoft rifles from airsoft submachine guns (SMG), which are compact rifles so if you can’t find what you’re looking for in our rifles section, it might be in our SMG section.

Still not sure what to choose?  Read our list of Best Airsoft Rifles.

Useful Airsoft Rifle Resources?

If you are considering buying an Airsoft rifle, use these RedWolf Resources for more information.

Best AK Airsoft Rifles:
Using a Scope with an Airsoft Rifle: 
Best Airsoft DMRs: 
Best Airsoft AEGs: 
How Far Can Airsoft Rifles Shoot?: