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Bite The Bullet

Hold, Hit or Hose? (2010-05-25)

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In long ago days gone by, the humble Airsoft scene was overhauled by the introduction of the Automatic Electric Gun; these new weapons took the sport by storm. While they may have opened up various tactical possibilities that were previously a stretch for air-tank powered automatic repeaters, their incredible volume of firepower had the double-edged quality of over compensating; AEGs with high-capacity magazines are just so easy to shoot now that it?s hard not to spray your targets into tears of submission. While the option of suppression fire was and still is a vital quality for team tactics, many would argue that the ?BB hose? use of AEGs heavily detracts from the fun and even from the very spirit of Airsoft itself. Right out of the box, an AEG would (and many still do) come included with a single standard capacity magazine; a simple collimated single-stack of BBs stored inside driven by a simple spring plunger, the solution is simple and cheap to manufacture and offers uninterrupted firepower but its relatively small capacity compared to other options make its use generally undesirable for all but the most dedicated of veteran and milsim players.

High-capacity magazines, over the years, have gone from novelty to essential; from special equipment to fundamental basics. Using the completely irreverent storage option of what amounts to little more than a bucket of BBs, the loading mechanism relies on a gravity-fed port on the bottom which captures BBs which are wound up into a clockwork-spring-driven scooping them around and up into the stack channel up into your weapon. This solution relies on the manual winding of a wheel on the bottom exterior of the magazine to maintain spring tension but with capacities of three to six hundred BBs in regular shaped magazines, this means that for the cost of having to wind it up from time to time, a player can easily carry only a few magazines with a total ammunition capacity that in real life could be matched by nothing less than an emplaced naval minigun. Ironically conforming to that analogy almost, many players seem to treat their weapons exactly that way, somehow using the large capacity as justification for relentlessly drilling their targets and laying down beaten zones heavy enough to drown passing enemies.

Standard capacity magazine uses a spring pushed stack of BBs; the simplest and cheapest Airsoft magazine technology.
Large capacity magazine is a small bucket of BBs which are fed into a feeding stack via a manually wound spring cog.
Auto-winding magazines work like large caps except use electric motors and typically have much larger BB capacity.

For a time this excess was tolerated but a growing school of thought juxtaposes the ideology with a return to the original spirit of fun based on team planning, accuracy and movement to get the job done instead of the spray and pray approach. In recent years, the brotherhood of lowcap has both grown in size and luster since having seen the reinforcing numbers thanks to the introduction of ?midcap? magazines; using the very same technology as the original lowcap, some twenty years on has allowed a return to the drawing board to make the most out of the little guys, expanding their capacities to almost double that of the old timers. Still not the dizzying figures of hicaps, midcaps have capacities in the sixty to one hundred and twenty range but benefitting from the lowcap feature of requiring no winding at all. The writer of this article is himself a convert; having hung up his hicaps almost completely now (with the exception of true support weapons like the M249), the switch has proven to be far more fun and even more effective.

What is the point of even having magazines if you?re just going to sit there using the same one single super-size one anyway?

Do not misunderstand, midcap users (including the one writing this article) often carry large numbers of magazines; personally this writer carries five to ten such magazines giving a total combined capacity of five hundred to a thousand BBs in a single loadout. With a capacity to almost rival hicap users, midcapers rely on fire discipline to conserve ammunition before using combat magazine changes to reload. Reloading is fun, it adds a sense of realism and the fire discipline even has a tendency to force players to check their fire, respect trigger discipline and even save ammunition wastage overall. The new discipline is furthermore causing a resurgence of smart shooting; operators now saving fire will check their targets and actually access them before shooting finding themselves running little mental soliloquies of ?can I hit it from here?? and ?Is it even worth it given the current situation? and ?which one should I shoot first??. By checking their fire, operators are now thinking more about whether it more valuable to not shoot at all as sometimes not giving away your position and intention is more important then attempting to engage.

Mid cap magazines work similarly to standard caps but are more space efficent using a more sophisticated assembly.
Due to the capacity, mid caps are typically used in loadouts of six to ten magazines carried in easy access pouches.
Dump pouches make it easier to organize spent magazines from loaded ones keeping your combat loading quick.

A hicapper has a 300 round magazine and stops to wind every 40-50 rounds or so and after 5 sets of winds has to change his magazine and then stop to wind again before commencing fire. A midcapper gets about 60-120 rounds of uninterrupted ammo and then changes his mag and repeats. Winding is incredibly slow and tedious, there is no fast way to do it but with practice a mag change can take seconds and of the firepower is more accessible, furthermore 2 hicaps mags are roughly equivalent to 6 midcaps (in an Armalite anyway) and the metal vs plastic factor makes midcaps lighter too which makes the midcap solution cheaper, lighter, faster, more fun and generally more accurate and more realistic (at least as far as you can take it without actually going true milsim). And of course, maybe now that drop pouch will see some actual use.

So why hasn?t everyone switched to midcaps?
Good question, maybe some users are just unwilling to give up their hosing capability or perhaps the midcap revolution has been so quiet it has slipped in just a little too far under the radar? Whatever the reasons, do us a favor; when shopping around for your ammo loadout options, stop and give it a good think. If you want to hose everything in sight then fine, hicaps might be your only option capacious enough for your thirsty habits. If you?re after fun, spirit, finesse and a slice of ?realism light? and maybe just something a little bit different, a little cooler then please do think about converting to the church of midcap; your friend?s pain receptors will appreciate it and so will your poor, stressed out gearbox (not to mention your wallet).

Written by Arclight