guide to airsoft guns

The Ultimate Guide to Airsoft Guns

Airsoft is an immersive and rewarding hobby, from pitched battles between rival teams to a lazy afternoon shooting targets. After all, what could be better than getting the drop on the self-proclaimed "best guy,” or gal, on your team and bragging about it online

Yet, airsoft guns can get a little technical. Knowing what kind of gun to buy for your needs and how to take care of it can be overwhelming. 

Whether you're just starting out or getting back into the sport after a hiatus, we can help get you up to speed. Read on for a quick breakdown of airsoft weaponry and how they work. 

Airsoft Gun 101: What Is An Airsoft Gun And How Does It Work?

The average airsoft gun is a 1:1 replica of a real-life firearm. From the eponymous AK-47 to prototypes such as the XM8, there's no end of selection! 

Airsoft guns tend to be made of lighter materials, such as plastics and polymers. 

There are, however, "training" weapons that are composed of the same materials as real firearms. It is illegal in some states to own these, however. Make sure you consult with your state's laws before searching for airsoft guns for sale.

In place of powder-fired bullets, airsoft weaponry uses air or springs to fire airsoft pellets or BBs. The firing method varies (and we'll discuss those methods in a bit), but BBs are always fired at a low velocity. While getting shot still hurts, you'll ultimately walk away with a little welt at the worst!

The BB is the typical airsoft ammo you're probably thinking of: tiny balls of plastic or lightweight metal. Airsoft pellets, however, mimic real bullets to a degree. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and "calibers" in much the same fashion.

Airsoft Gun 102: The Different Kinds of Airsoft Weaponry

There are four varieties of airsoft guns using different firing methods. It's hard to say that one form is "better" than the other. Often, which kind of gun you get should be based on your needs.

We'll break down the different types of airsoft guns and give you some ideas for how they can be best used. 

Spring Powered Guns

The traditional air gun tends to be the most simple, using tightly coiled springs to fire pellets. These classic weapons need to be pumped or "cocked" to fire each shot. You'll tend to find a lot of single-shot hunting-type weapons in this configuration. 

Not every spring weapon is an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, though. Many come in the shape of modern firearms such as the M4A1 or the Colt 1911. 

Spring rifles tend to have a more significant range dropoff, and their power is lacking compared to other kinds of air weaponry. They are, however, highly reliable in the field. Because there's no power or gas supply, spring guns are only limited by how much ammo you have!

Spring weapons are a great intro to airsoft weaponry, as they're simple to use and maintain. They also make excellent reserve weapons for pros, especially pistols that can be drawn and fired quickly. 

Spring weapons are also fantastic for close range where accuracy isn't as important. A quick hand and a quality spring rifle could catch even an automatic electric-wielding opponent off guard!

Automatic Electric Guns (AEG)

Electric airsoft guns are the next step up from spring weapons. As you've probably guessed, these battery-powered weapons can fire in full auto. 

Because they have a mechanical delivery system, electric guns are a force to be reckoned with in the field. In addition to being capable of automatic fire, they pack more power and tend to shoot more accurately. 

An automatic electric gun makes an excellent primary weapon in most game scenarios that can be played in paintball or airsoft. A quality electric ASL rifle could allow you to lay down suppressing fire just as easily as placing precise shots to pick off opponents. 

If you were looking to be a squad's machine gunner or let out your inner Sylvester Stallone, electric airsoft machine guns are also on the market!

The obvious downside to an AEG would be the battery. As the battery runs low, the rifle will begin to slow down. Batteries often take a few hours to charge, meaning you can't "quickly" recharge and get back into action. However, batteries and chargers of varying capacities exist to keep you on the field for longer periods of time.

Using an AEG as your primary would likely require either a backup battery or a reserve weapon (though you should always have a reserve weapon!) However, something to remember is that an automatic rifle doesn't always need to fire in full-auto! Try alternating between auto and semi-auto to save ammo and battery power. 

Even if you're a beginner, AEG's are still relatively easy to pick up. They do require more attention to maintenance, however. Make sure you study your gun's user manual carefully and maintain it regularly. 

Gas-Powered Guns

Gas-powered guns are a tricky piece of equipment. If you're new to airsoft, we recommend holding off on gas guns until you get a bit of experience beneath your belt. 

As the name implies, gas-powered airsoft guns use compressed gas to propel projectiles. Gas weapons are powerful, but their accuracy is atrocious. They're called "pellet hoses" for a reason!

The CO2 gas canisters most commonly used in gas guns tend to run out relatively quickly. Unlike a battery that might last a few hours, a CO2 canister might not even last past your current clip. Replacing canisters in the field is possible but cumbersome. 

Because of their questionable accuracy, a gas gun isn't recommended as a primary weapon if you intend to play matches. They make excellent reserve weapons, however.

Furthermore, many players choose to equip their rifles with red dot sights to more accurately cast off shots. Sights typically work across weapons, and therefore serve as a good investment for primary and backup weapons. 

Gas weapons also prove to be a decent CQB weapon for squeezing off a torrent of rounds at close range. 

Hybrid Guns

Hybrid guns are a relatively recent innovation. These intricately designed weapons are intended to provide the closest experience to using a firearm. 

Hybrid guns can either be powered by gas or batteries and function similarly to their common brethren for the most part. Where they diverge, however, is their ammunition. 

These weapons are "round per shell," meaning the ammunition they use mimics a real bullet, casing, and all! Each trigger pull fires a pellet from within the rifle and ejects the casing. These pellets tend to have caps to provide a realistic flash, smoke, and popping sound. 

Because these weapons are meant to be as close to the actual gun as possible, they tend to be used more for re-enactment and range shooting.

As these are still relatively new on the market, there isn't as wide a selection as the other firing types. 

Airsoft Gun 103: The Anatomy Of An Airsoft Gun

Regular maintenance is essential to keeping your airsoft arsenal functioning properly. Even with proper care, though, guns can still break. 

Knowing the components of an airsoft gun is essential to diagnosing what went wrong and what parts to order. Maintenance and repair procedures vary from weapon to weapon, but the components tend to be the same. 

The actual quality of the stock parts of any given gun can vary. Upgrading an airsoft gun immediately after purchase is reasonably common. Before you get into the guts of your weapon, you should probably learn how it works!

Below, we'll take a look at the standard airsoft gun components and how they function. 

The Spring And Spring Guide

The spring is the propelling force behind every BB or pellet fired. 

The spring's primary duty is to force all of the air out of the firing cylinder. This forcibly ejects the BB. Higher-quality springs can handle faster firing and are less prone to breaking. 

The spring guide is a small tube attached to the rear of the spring. This tube keeps the spring aligned with the barrel during firing, preventing it from becoming too twisted. 

The Piston And Piston Head

The piston is the actual component that forces the air from a cylinder. 

Attached to the front of the spring, the piston helps push air into the firing cylinder when the weapon is cocked. The piston head, attached at the very front, pushes the air out of the cylinder when fired. 

The Cylinder And Cylinder Head

The firing cylinder serves as the airtight chamber to hold the loaded ammunition. 

The cylinder helps compress the air during firing, forcing it through the head at the end of the chamber. The cylinder head is a tight tube that the pellet will travel through. The narrow opening helps force the projectile down the barrel at a high enough velocity to use in matches or range shooting. 

The Air Nozzle

The air nozzle is the vestibule between the cylinder and the rifle. Sitting at the end of the cylinder head, the nozzle forces the pellet and air out of the gun. 

Wrap Up of Airsoft Guns

Getting started with airsoft can be easy to learn but challenging to master. Knowing how your airsoft guns operate and the parts that go in them give you a solid base to not only start your new airsoft hobby but can help you get your weapon tuned in just right!

Contact us to get started with airsoft gear or want to add something new to your arsenal. Founded by enthusiasts, Lone Wolf Paintball has over 30 years of experience in airsoft and paintball. From equipping hobbyists to running matches on our fields, we live for paintball and airsoft!

Check the airsoft gun offerings at Lone Wolf to find your first (or next) airsoft rifle today!