Please Note - We will continue to update this FAQ over time and will sticky it to the top of the Airsoft forum. Feel free to suggest questions that we can add to it over time to really help answer any question new shooters in Airsoft could come up with.
1. What is an Airsoft Gun, who makes them?
Answer - Airsoft guns are in general accurate reproductions of many models of modern firearms. Most of them are on a scale of 1-1 meaning the entire gun, all parts, accessories, etc. are the same dimensions as their real world counter parts. Airsoft guns fire small pellets that are from .12 grains to .43 grains (there are also steel versions as high as .88 grains but they are rare and not often used). The pellets are 6 mm in diameter and the most popular weights for most shooters today are .12 and .20. Airsoft guns shoot a wide range of velocities with some low end spring guns in the 150 fps range and some high end "sniper rifles" well over 500 fps.
2. What are Airsoft guns used for?
Answer - There are generally four main ways that people use airsoft guns.
One – “Plinking” - Many simply plink with them, shooting cans, sticky targets and random (hopefully safe and appropriate targets) in their back yard and such. This is often the very first use of Airsoft by new owners.
Two – “Target Shooting/Competition” - Many Airsoft enthusiasts step into a more formal type of shooting rather then just plinking. They set up ranges, courses of fire or simply more formal targets. Competition and formal target shooting range from a few guys shooting for bragging rights in a back yard, to organized high end leagues with very expensive rigs to everything in between. Think of this like folks that play darts, some just play at home, some meet in a bar, some play in small local leagues and tournments and some are professionals and among the best in the world. Airsoft target shooting is evolving slowing into this same type of format. This sport is huge in areas like Japan and Korea where ownership of firearms is all but inpossible.
Three – “Airsoft Combat Gamers” – Many people eventually decide to “play airsoft” in a game very similar to paint ball competitions. Yet Airsoft gamers are generally more “militant” in look and feel. In these games shooters actually shoot each other in an adult form of the game we called, “guns” or “cops and robbers” as kids. Organized leagues have “rules of engagement”, require safety gear and limit the top velocity of various classes or weapons. Some leagues and groups are very informal in their authenticity and others are very realistic. Combat gaming is probably the most popular form of organized Airsoft sport today.
Four – “Airsoft Training for Combat, LEOs, etc” – Due to the highly accurate form, fit and function of Airsoft weapons many law enforcement and military groups are using them for more formalized training exercises. The biggest difference in these groups and gamers is that this training is formalized and designed to be used in real world scenarios. Airsoft has become a huge asset for SWAT teams and specialized military units. The guns have realistic rates of fire and give acute real time results in close quarters combat training exercises.
3. What are the main types of airsoft guns?
Answer - There are three main types of guns and a few sub types. The first main distinctions are the mechanism by which the gun fires. The three methods are spring, gas and electric. Spring guns use a compressed spring to fire the pellet, these guns require the shooter to cock the weapon before each shot.
Spring guns range from low end weapons that shoot 150 feet per second up to high end sniper rifles that shoot over 500 fps or even much faster.
Gas guns are mostly fired by using cartridges of “green gas” or CO2 and are capable of velocities easily exceeding 350 fps or more, just about all are semi automatic, meaning that they fire one shot each time the trigger is pulled until the magazine is empty or the gas runs out.
Last is the electric gun and they fire either semi or full auto controlled by a selector switch. Hence the term used to describe them AEG (automatic electric gun). Again like spring and gas guns, electrics range from low velocity cheap weapons to mid to high velocity full metal reproductions. AEGs run in cost from 20 bucks for a cheap Walmart gun to many thousands for the most accurate and highest end reproductions used by law enforcement and the military. Solid values in AEG are often between 75-250 dollars for the hobbyist that wants an accurate and reliable tool to train, game or target shoot with.
To make this question even more difficult to answer electrics, air and spring guns are found in both pistol and rifle versions. One is not really better then the other as well, it is more about your budget and what you are looking for in capability.
4. What is a blowback and a non blowback gas pistol?
Answer - Most shooters in time elect to get a gas pistol; they generally have far more power, greater rate of fire and are far more realistic then electric. They also are semi automatic and more fun to shot that cock and shoot spring pistols.
Of the two types of gas pistols there are “blowback” and “non blowback” models. Non blow back models simply don’t have any moving slide parts on them. When you fire them there is no simulated recoil and they just fire a pellet with each trigger pull. Blowback models function more like real world fire arms, the slide is driven back with each shot cycling the action.
This makes them more realistic and often preferred as training and target pistols by many shooters. They even provide a very modest but simulated recoil effect and help train shooters to quickly regain target pictures. Blowback models are typically more expensive then non blowback and many feel that they are a bit better on quality and accuracy.
5. What type of safety requirements are required for proper airsoft target shooting or plinking?
Answer - Target shooters should treat airsoft guns exactly as they would treat a loaded firearm with the one exception that they can be discharged with fewer requirements of back stop and in areas of course where firearms can not be fired, such as in a back yard or even indoors.
Even with this being the case you should never shoot another person, animal or anything you are not prepared to destroy with an airsoft gun when target shooting. The weapons should be kept on safe when loaded and not being fired, should never be even pointed at another individual and overall treated as being dangerous if improperly used. Treated with this type of respect Airsoft guns are very safe and will help new shooters learn proper procedure that can then be applied to actual firearms if they so desire.
Additionally pellets to ricochet and do pose a hazard to eyes so shooters should wear proper safety glasses. Shooters that wear eyeglasses with safety lenses are generally sufficiently protected as target shooters.
Back stops are a variable as the environment you are shooting it. Outdoors with sufficient room no real back stop is needed as pellets rapidly loose velocity with most guns. In doors a good back stop can be something like a heavy blanket hung from a roof which will absorb the energy and let the pellet drop to the floor with no bouncing. You can also use pellet traps. Just know that when a pellet hits a hard surface it will bounce and that must be taken into account. Many guns have remarkable energy and will damage walls, windows, furniture, etc. so be aware of that as well if any indoor shooting is done.
6. Since gamers and combat players shoot each other with Airsoft guns why is it so important that target shooters treat them with the same mentality as real firearms?
Answer - Target shooting and gaming are different worlds. Gamers have agreed to be shot at and accept the risks or injury that comes with that choice. Gamers and combat trainers also wear special safety gear for their eyes, face, neck and even certain parts of the body. Additionally gaming come with very clear “rules of engagement”, these include things like limits to the type of ammo that can be used, limits to the muzzle velocity of different classes of gun, limits to the range at which target can be engaged at with various weapons and various player roles.
Even with this limits injuries do occur. I have seen players with pellets that not only break skin but are embedded under it. I have seen a player with three pellets embedded in the back of his ear! Most of these injuries occur from “accidents” due to “friendly fire”. In short even though Airsoft guns can be used safely to shoot other at players with the use of safety gear and specific procedures, if treated with any level of disrespect out side of a highly controlled environment they can and will result in quite serious injuries, loss of eyesight or even worse. - VERY IMPORTANT - Please understand that many Airsoft guns used for target shooting actually exceed the velocity limitations of many Airsoft game leagues and would not even be permitted for use in them. I can not over state how important it is to understand that gaming and target shooting are completely different worlds and should never be mixed.
7. What are biodegradable pellets, do they really break down, are they worth the extra money?
Answer - Airsoft pellets are made of plastic which is extremely durable and lasts a very long time in nature. Biodegradable pellets are made in a way that reduces that process from over a hundred years down to a few weeks once water enters the equation. I do not know the exact process by which biodegradable pellets are made but I do know they break down. To prove it to yourself put a handful in a jar of water for a few week, in another jar put a handful of conventional pellets in water. The bio pellets will soon disappear but even months later you will see no difference in the conventional pellets.
As to being "worth the cost", many gaming locations require biodegradable pellets due to the sheer volume so in some instances you don't have a choice. For me personally the answer is yes. In my yard you only see pellets right after a shooting fest, a week or two later you see nothing. We also own a pool and after pulling a handful of conventional pellets from its' filter, my back yard is also now a biodegradable only zone. Besides you don't need to be an eco freak to value the environment. Millions of plastic pellets in our woods, forests and backyards are a bad idea. Conventional pellets should only be used with a trap and the cost difference is really very minor anyway.
8. What is a Joule?
Answer -A Joule is a measurement used to calculate the power of the gun and is more accurate than using Feet Per Second. It is a formula combining the weight and velocity of a projectile to come up with the force it will hit the target with. The higher the Joule number the more powerful the gun is. It is a lot like the "energy numbers" in centerfire ballistics tables except in centerfire the numbers are expressed in pounds of energy. With a weapon firing a plastic pellet, that only weighs a fraction of one grain, at 200-500 fps a number in pounds would seem meaningless.
For instance a .20 pellet, traveling at 350 fps has an energy at the muzzle of 1.13 joules but only .83 lbs. Some countries place limits on Airsoft as to how many joules they are capable of. Many leagues and games also set a joule limit in addition to FPS limits. The prevents disagreements by players that simply use heavier pellets which reduces velocity but often increases energy. You don't hear a lot about joules in the US, just know the higher the number the more power the weapons is capable of.
9. What is a "hop up system"?
Answer -A Hop-Up or Spinup system puts an upwards spin on the BB as it goes down the barrel. This reduces the affects of gravity to increase the flight time and range of the BB. Hop up can be a blessing and a curse, while the range is increased many times the spin will cause the pellet to both rise and drift reducing accuracy. The best guns come with adjustable hop up systems (almost all "sniper rifles" do) that allow the shooter to fine tune the spin for the perfect balance of spin and retained accuracy for the given conditions.
10. What is with those orange tips, can I remove it?
Answer -The U.S. Government have approved and specified regulations applicable to AirSoft BB guns. The blaze orange marking is a federal requirement: all reputable AirSoft manufacturers and dealers must be in compliance with this ruling for legal use. All AirSoft products, foreign or domestic, must meet this regulation. Taking it off is not only ill advised but in many instances will violate the law.
Now many gamers remove their tips for obvious reasons. What good would camo, a gillie suit and face paint be to a sniper with a big orange tip on his gun? Responsible players only use these weapons with out the tips in very controlled environments where no one can possibly misunderstand that what is going on is a game. In other words at a private facility who's sole purpose is the playing of airsoft games.
There is a lot of talk about removing a tip being illegal but like much internet talk very little is based on fact. The act itself of removing a tip is not illegal, if it were airsoft leagues would not be able to allow it for play, even where controlled play is taking place. What is required by law is that all guns must be shipped with a tip and then the law gets a bit gray. What is clearly illegal is "public display" of the weapon with out the tip in other words carrying an airsoft gun on your person with out the tip in public is most certainly illegal. The best advice about the tip is, leave it alone! Unless you are playing in an advance league where the rules allow for it, just don't mess with it. These guns look real, no one wants to shoot you when you are holding a plastic gun but it can and has happened. Mostly it has been gangbanger types "fronting" trying to make people believe the gun is real and succeeding to do so with the wrong person. Again there is no need to remove the tip, don't do it and you stay legal and you stay safe.