Tutorials: Your First Airsoft Gun -
Purchasing your Airsoft gun can be a daunting experience, so hopefully this article will guide you along the way. There are a few choices you will need to make before you commit to your all important first gun. Your first purchase should consist of :
Lubricant and Maintenance Items
First things decide on a budget and stick to it, remember that along with your gun you’ll need your ancillaries too. If you set your budget around the £200-£250 mark you should be able to get everything you need and more! Setting your budget low in terms of what you can purchase in the Airsoft world means that you can tinker and take your gun to bits without worrying about ruining an über expensive gun. At the moment all you will need is a primary weapon such as an assault rifle, though most seasoned players carry a pistol, the reality is they don’t get used that often and for a newer player that money would be better spent an accessories such as extra magazines or optics. An article on Airsoft Operator helps to explain http://airsoftoperator.com/does-cheap-always-mean-nasty-with-aegs/
Types of Power Source
Airsoft guns generally come in three different and distinct power sources. Each has advantages and disadvantages so making the right choice is crucial for your first gun. The principal of actually firing a BB through the air is simple, a piston within a hollow cylinder compresses gas which then flows out of a small valve under high pressure and propels the BB down the barrel.
Automatic Electric Guns (AEGs) are the most common of all Airsoft guns, powered by a battery, a motor drives gears which draw the piston back within the cylinder and releases it firing the BB. AEGs are considered the best choice for the majority of Airsoft players as they are reliable in most weathers, only extreme cold making metal brittle and extreme heat that could damage the batteries being the danger areas but in the UK these extremes rarely happen. Simple to maintain, operate and are user-friendly an AEG is my choice of primary weapon operation! With different styles of gearbox for different shape guns, the gearbox below is a version 2 which is common in M4/M16 Airsoft guns.
Gas Airsoft guns as you may have guessed are powered by compressed gas being released from a reservoir, usually in the magazine to propel the BB down the barrel. The most common gas guns seen on Airsoft fields are gas pistols, although rifles are available they require a high standard of maintenance, tend to be more expensive with limited magazine capacity and unreliable in milder climates. At this point I wouldn’t recommend a gas gun as the overall cost and reliability in the cold make them unsuitable for an everyday skirmish gun.
Similar in operation to AEGs using a piston under spring tension which when released propels the BB instead of a motor and gearing the weapon is cocked by hand. Mainly seen in sniper rifles and cheap back garden guns which are not suitable for skirmishing. As they are restricted to semi-automatic they usually are reliable but the generally higher FPS can put strain on internal parts and are not really suitable for a first gun.
Picking a style of gun is a personal preference, I do however suggest a mid length assault rifle such as a M4, G36C or AK47. The reasoning behind this is that they can suit all the majority of environments that you will encounter as an Airsofter and the barrel length should give you the range you need in open terrain and not too much of a hindrance in a Close Quarter Battle (CQB) while still being good value for money. I would try to stay away from specialized weapons such as sniper rifles, SMGs and support weapons as they can limit you to only one play style and little else. As you can see below are some recommended starter guns, these guns should be skirmish ready straight out of the box! At the moment the M4/M16 style is generally the most popular with most Airsofter’s, as there are plenty of modifications, parts and spare magazines readily available, as AK47 and G36c are less common spare magazines can cost a little more but are available. Remember to speak with your local retailer and try to hammer out a deal for weapon, battery and magazines!
G&G Combat Machine range – Reliable, cheap and available in lots of different configurations to suit you needs!
CYMA AK47 – Available in wood and tactical versions, a little higher on the budget side but like its Real Steel counterpart it’s all metal and built to take punishment!
G&G RK47 Series – As with the M4 series built to last and deal out the damage, another good choice for a beginner.
JG G36C – An classic Airsoft gun, its short barrel is a real asset in CQB but in the open it will still have the range to keep up!
Ares G36CV – Up at the higher end of our budget but still affordable. This model features real trademarks and a solid exterior and comes with 2 stocks and available in two colours.
Depending on which model you choose will depend on what style and size battery you buy, if your unsure then speak to the retailer and they will advise on which is the best battery for your gun. The main difference between batteries are what they are made from and how they are treated. Again for specific advice on batteries, charging and play time consult your retailer.
Nickel-metal Hydride batteries have been a primary power source for Airsofter’s for a number of years. Compared to others they are the safest, deal with cold weather excellently as well as are much smaller than there Ni-Cad cousins. The draw backs to them are is they tend to discharge much faster when than any other when left standing, in high discharge applications it can’t reach its full potential and quick charges (1.5 amps+) and quick discharges can damage the battery. Overall they are the preferred battery of any Airsoft play for sheer reliability and even when overcharged if correctly discharged can be brought back to life.
Lithium Polymer (Li-Po) are the most expensive, yet the most advanced batteries currently on the market. Ranging in only a few voltages they are great for upgraded AEGs that will be able to take the blistering rate of fire that these batteries produce. Li-Po batteries are not effected by extreme temperatures as well as have the longest charge time compared to others. However, they are extremely dangerous and require special charges that can be expensive so remember to factor this into your budget, but if you do buy Li-Po then its unlikely you’ll change battery type. If overcharged they can explode and cause chemical burns, fires and even in some cases death. If completely discharged they become useless but can be fitted with a warning device before you cause any damage.
For your first purchase I recommend you visit either a UK based website or better still your local retailer. Buying from the UK means that the retailer will have knowledge of the laws within the UK also if you visit a store you may be able to get a bundle deal on your gun, battery and accessories! If you are unsure of your closest retailer use this http://www.airsoftmap.net/ to locate it. Listed below are retailers recommended by the members of AF-UK Forums. As a word of warning its advisable to avoid any sites with the phrase “BB GUNS” in the title as it is know for persons to set up sites and defraud new players. If your unsure about an online retailer then do some research into them. Joining an Airsoft forum will allow you to ask members for advice and if they have had dealings with them in the past.
Points to Consider
- Remember Goldilocks! Buy too long and CQB will be hampered, buy too small and you’ll be out ranged in the woods!
- Check to see if pouches and spare magazines are available before you buy!
- Trawl the internet looking for reviews, try to read more than one so you get a good idea of what your getting.
- If your tempted by a sniper then remember that a rifle can be fitted with a mock suppressor and a longer tightbore barrel then add an optic and you now have a DMR!
In 2007 the Violent Crime Reduction Act (VCRA) came into effect restricting the sale of realistic looking firearms among other regulations. Most Airsoft guns are classed as Realistic Imitation Firearms (RIFs) and under the law you cannot be sold a RIF without a valid defence such as an Airsoft Skirmisher. There are a number of interpretations as to what a skirmisher is. The most commonly accepted and safe method of becoming one is to attend 3 games at the same skirmish site over a time period of more than 2 months (so all 3 games can’t be within 2 months). Once you have done this, you may become a member of that skirmish site. Once you have become a member of a skirmish site you can register your details with the United Kingdom Airsoft Retailers Association (UKARA) once registered with UKARA your details can be checked by any member of UKARA to check you have a valid defence. If you decide that you would like a replica straight away then you can, in legal terms it is classed as an Imitation Firearm (IF) but it will be coloured at least 51% a bright colour to differentiate it from a real firearm. If you then become a member of a site or establish yourself a valid defence then you can remove the paint or change coloured parts to the original intended colour. This is known as manufacturing a RIF. Under 18’s cannot legally purchase either a RIF or an IF. Under 18’s can however be gifted an IF or if the person who is gifting has a valid defence then he/she can gift a RIF. If you are under 18 and have been gifted an IF you can still attain a defence and manufacture an IF into a RIF but please remember to check with your local skirmish site before you undertake anything.