If you’re looking to get into one of the fastest growing sports in the world, then you’re going to need to get an airsoft gun.
To the complete beginner, the choice can be overwhelming, with the market awash with a daunting array of pellet-firing replica weaponry.
But fear not, for I have compiled this article on the different types of airsoft guns – from the power source, to how and when you might use them – we’ve got you covered.
Look no further than this definitive guide – so you can choose your first loadout in confidence.
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Different Types of Airsoft Gun – Too Long, Didn’t Read
For those of you in a hurry, airsoft guns can be split into three distinct types:
- Spring action guns.
- Electric guns (AEGs).
- Gas powered guns.
Of course, this brief run-down tells you nothing of which is the best, or when, where, and how you should be using them.
Not to mention the actual weapon platforms available.
Read on as we explore the pros and cons of each.
Spring Action Airsoft Guns
For anyone who has ever started in airsoft, the chances are, their very first gun will have been a spring-powered model.
Ideal for beginners, they utilize a spring and hammer action that needs to be cocked before every shot, that will then propel a pellet down range when the trigger is pulled.
Depending on the weapon platform, this can be achieved by either pulling back or pumping the slide, or with a bolt-action system.
For an in-depth look at how a spring-action airsoft gun works, take a look at the video below, with particular reference to a sniper rifle.
Spring powered airsoft guns are the most cost-effective option, and obtaining a decent, entry-level weapon shouldn’t break the bank.
Take a look at this review of the best cheap airsoft guns if you are on a budget.
However, at the other end of the scale, you can still choose some very high-powered spring-loaded rifles, which are often preferred by experienced players, or anyone looking for a realistic, bolt-action weapon.
Of all the airsoft gun types, spring-powered models are light on maintenance. While you’ll still have to give it the once-over occasionally, they don’t require nearly the upkeep of gas and electric weapons.
No other power source is required – everything you need is in the gun. No gas, no battery, it’s all ready to go.
And with that, is another huge plus point – no refills or recharging is needed, and you’ll never run out of power while you’re on the field.
Spring powered guns have a gentle learning curve, and they’re easy to use and upgrade. They also work in all weather conditions, so feel free to use them with no issues if you’re playing airsoft in winter.
The most obvious disadvantage of a spring-powered airsoft gun is the low rate of fire. That, and you need to manually cock it every time, which means if you’re up against gas or electric guns – you’re toast.
The market is swamped with poor-quality, cheap spring guns. Just walk into any gas station for some examples. As such, the hardware and materials are regularly inferior.
Spring guns are prone to damage and breakage – particularly after excessive use. Again, this is largely thanks to plastic rather than metal construction.
If you are choosing a spring-powered weapon, make sure it’s from a reputable airsoft company, and not the many knock-off products that can ruin your experience (and reputation).
Electric Airsoft Guns
Electric airsoft guns (or AEGs, as they’re more commonly known in the community), are by far the most popular and widely used of all airsoft gun types.
Developed in Japan by Tokyo Marui – one of the world’s leading airsoft brands, AEGs quickly became the backbone of the sport.
They’re powered by a battery pack housed in the frame or handle, which in turn activates a gearbox that pulls back a spring. The spring releases, and pushes the piston, which fires the pellet down range with air pressure.
AEGs also contain a clever device called a ‘hop up,’ which imparts backspin on the pellet in order to keep it in the air for a greater distance – with minimal loss of height. Although this is available in other gun types, too.
Check out the video below for a full guide to how AEGs work, and go here if you want to explore the electric versus gas airsoft gun debate in more detail.
The most popular power system, the sheer choice of products, scope for customization, and extensive support are up the wazoo for AEGs. Buying an entry-level gun and upgrading is often the most cost-effective option.
The mind-blowing choice of replicas and weapon platforms is astounding, as is the quality. You only have to check out this review of the best AEGs on the market – which barely scratches the surface.
Batteries are rechargeable, and you don’t need to purchase anything else to keep your weapon running.
AEGs offer the highest rate of fire of all airsoft guns, which can include a choice of semi or full auto capabilities. No manual cocking required, just run and gun.
When it comes to noise, AEGs are the quietest option, which is ideal if you don’t want to give your position away.
Finally, they’re generally low(er) maintenance, although like all airsoft guns, you should keep tabs on how they’re running and working at least once a season.
AEGs don’t suffer from too many disadvantages, but there are a couple of notable entries in the black mark column.
Battery recharging is perhaps the most obvious, and you’ll probably need backups if you’re using it regularly. Battery life will depend greatly from gun to gun.
Of all airsoft gun types, AEGs are arguably the most prone to weather problems. Cold temperatures can seriously impair the effectiveness of the battery, and wet conditions aren’t the best for the electrics.
And while the sky’s the limit for upgrades, getting the best possible set up is going to run very expensive, while poorly-made or cheap components can break easily, especially with improper installation.
Gas Powered Airsoft Guns
Gas-powered airsoft guns are most commonly used on a pistol platform, utilizing Co2 cartridges, green gas canisters, or compressed air. Gas assault rifles are also becoming more popular – but they’re pricey.
Depending on the type of gas used, it’s either filled into a chamber in the gun’s handle with a special adaptor, or it’s inserted into the magazine in a small cartridge, and then punctured before use.
You can have gas guns that offer a blowback feature (GBBG), or guns that don’t. The blowback is a realistic recoil that occurs when the pressurized gas ejects in two different directions.
Full auto and semi auto options are commonly available.
For more information on gas-powered airsoft guns, check out this article exploring green gas vs Co2 – and find out which one is better for your sidearm.
And watch the informative video below, which explains in detail how a Co2 powered Glock 17 works.
Gas powered guns are considered the most realistic of all airsoft weapon types, particularly those that utilize the blowback action, powered by Co2.
As such, they’re extremely popular with MilSim (Military Simulation) players, or anyone who wants an experience as close to the real thing as possible.
The kickback is particularly satisfying, as they offer a powerful experience that is also popular for target shooting.
Gas guns are generally less expensive than AEGs, with some exceptions – particularly if you’re looking for a gas-powered machine gun. However, upgrades will also be cheaper on average.
As well as the realistic action, gas powered guns simply look and feel more impressive than any other model.
Unlike AEGs or spring-powered airsoft guns, you need to constantly purchase the propellant for gas guns. Regardless of the type of gas you’re using, this expense will add up over time and use.
Gas guns require the most maintenance of all airsoft weapons, particularly if you’re running Co2, which can put a serious strain on the internals. You need to keep on top of that, otherwise you’ll damage the gun and decrease longevity.
If you’re playing in a long-running game, you’ll need to pack replacement gas. This can take up space on your loadout, especially if you’re using green gas – the canisters of which can be bulky.
Gas can be sensitive to weather conditions – particularly the cold. Canisters can freeze up, and you can have a “cooling effect” that ensures a dip in performance if fired in quick succession.
Last, but by no means least, some players – particularly noobs – are unfamiliar with and apprehensive about using gas-powered weapons. They’re probably not the best choice for beginners, as a result.
We’ve explored what makes these guns work, now let’s get into the really fun stuff – the different types of airsoft gun platforms.
Here you have an exciting and varied selection that is not too dissimilar from the world of real firearms, and is constantly upgrading and improving all the time.
The following are the most common platforms available for airsoft play:
- Assault rifles.
- Sniper rifles.
- Machine guns.
And with some exceptions, most platforms will be able to support spring, electric, or gas-powered systems.
The type you choose depends on your style of play, personal preferences, and the type of game you’ll be playing.
A large percentage of the airsoft community opts for the most popular, tried-and-trusted loadout – an AEG assault rifle, and a gas-powered pistol as the sidearm.
But if you enjoy CQB (Close Quarter Battles), then you might lean towards a shotgun. Likewise, if you prefer keeping your distance, a sniper rifle might be the best option.
Whatever you decide, if you suit the platform to the game, you should fit right in.
Which Airsoft Gun Should You Buy?
So, armed with all that information, you might know exactly what to go for, or you might be in an even worse place than when you started.
I’ll admit, airsoft can be a fairly steep learning curve, especially if you’ve never even fired a gun before.
If you’re just starting out, I’d ask for advice at your local field, and see what other players are commonly rocking with their loadout.
To start, you can’t go wrong with a spring-loaded pistol – just to see if you’re going to enjoy the sport, and then graduate to an AEG, and then a gas-powered sidearm as your secondary weapon.
Of course, the final choice is up to you – especially when considering the platform you want to run on, and the role you want to have during the game.
Remember, everyone wants to be the sniper – but only the more experienced players are actually any good at it. Walk before you run, and you won’t waste any time, effort, and money in the process. Take your time and when you are ready, you can also add an airsoft backup gun to your arsenal.
And don’t forget the most important aspect of any airsoft game – wearing the best possible mask. Follow that link for some awesome examples.
For better or worse, the airsoft market is swamped with gun replicas, power options, modifications, and more. It’s enough to make your head spin off your neck.
I hope this article has shed some light on the types of airsoft guns available, and you’re closer to choosing the right loadout for you.
Let me know in the comments what you’re thinking of going for, and why, or if you have any additional advice you’d like to share with the community.
Stay safe out there – and happy airsofting!