What Is An Airsoft Gun And How Do They Work?

by Mira Niculae | Last updated 20th May, 2020 | Posted in Airsoft Guides

Airsoft is one of those sporting activities that’s fun to do regardless of age, gender, or interests. If you like strategy, military simulation scenarios, and enjoy a bit of exercise, you may have what it takes to get into the game.

But if you’re not yet ready to get on the field and you’re in the research phase, you may still wonder about airsoft weapons and how they work. If that’s the case, make sure to keep reading as this is exactly what we’re going to discuss in today’s article.

What is An Airsoft Gun? 

The industry of airsoft is based on re-creating the authentic experience of shooting a real steel gun. So, most guns are designed as replicas of real steel weapons and come with features that mimic the real deal (blowback action, cocking, loading chambers, and more). 

Also, depending on the quality of materials, and the overall price, some of the best airsoft guns even feel like the real deal since they weigh the same and have the same feel in your hand. As a result, airsoft weapons should be clearly marked by using an orange tip or colourful bodies. Otherwise, law enforcement agencies will treat them like a real steel threat, which could get you into a lot of trouble. 

By definition, airsoft guns shoot 6mm (the standard size) round projectiles made from plastic or biodegradable materials called BBs. The compression to shoot the projectile out of the barrel is obtained via two main methods: spring (electric and manual designs) and gas (various types). 

Now, depending on the type of airsoft weapon and power source, some designs are quite powerful. So, even though they are not lethal weapons, accidents do happen and players can be left with marks on their bodies (check out our article if you want to know if airsoft hurts). As a result, all airsoft fields require players to wear at least basic protective gear that will shield sensitive parts (eyes, ears, teeth, skin, and more).

Where Can I Use Such a Gun?

Unlike real steel designs, airsoft weapons can be used in various scenarios, such as:

  • In the backyard – This is usually for low-FPS weapons, that can’t hit long-range targets, so there’s no risk of sending an awry BB into your neighbour’s yard. These are amazing for plinking and exercising your aim. 
  • In an isolated area – When you don’t have access to an organized airsoft field, you can use an isolated area, where there’s no risk of people stumbling into your game. This should be a private piece of land, where you and your team have legal access. 
  • On an organized field – Most airsoft matches take place in a specially designed location (indoors or outdoors), where everything is mapped out and players can enjoy an authentic battle experience. In fact, there are even worldwide airsoft events, where players get to measure their skills against the best of the best! 
  • In a training range – Some airsoft weapons are designed for training in law enforcement agencies and even the military. These are not available for the public (they’re more powerful than regular airsoft weapons), are cheaper than real steel models, and use BBs as ammunition.  

How Does it Work?

Any airsoft player, who wants to stay in the game, should know the basic principles that stand behind the airsoft weapons they own. You can do this by field stripping the guns you own, but first, it’s best to know what you’re dealing with. 

First, you should know there are three main weapon systems: spring electric, and gas. Each system comes with its own strength and weaknesses, which is why it’s important to familiarize yourself with how the guns work before you decide which one to buy. 

Spring-Powered Airsoft Guns

These are some of the most reliable and affordable airsoft guns on the market. Spring-powered mechanisms use a tension spring to imprint energy on the pellet in the barrel. As such, after each shot, the spring must be re-coiled by pulling back the gun’s slide. So, you can only shoot one pellet at a time, which can be a bit slow if you’re in need of heavy firepower. 

In addition, if the spring is powerful, it is going to be a bit more difficult to pull the slider back (it requires some manual power).

Spring-powered rifles are amazing for sniping since they are powerful, reliable (there’s no need for external power sources), and highly accurate for long-range shooting. If you want to learn more, see our best airsoft sniper rifle guide

Also, depending on the model, most spring-powered airsoft guns are great for beginners. 

Electric Airsoft Guns (AEGs)

This type of an airsoft gun is powered by a rechargeable battery and can work in semi and full-auto modes. This is possible due to the internal gearbox, which is a series of motors and gears that supply energy to a piston. Of course, the internal elements and the battery are subject to wear and tear, in time, but you get to have a lot of fun shooting an AEG.

Most AEGs are designed for close quarter combat, where the firepower is more important than accuracy. Also, they’re the best option for beginners since the prices are quite affordable and the systems are reliable from the start. 

The good news is that AEGs can be used in a wide array of roles on the field. In fact, some of the best sniper rifles are on battery and so are a bunch of the best pistols (see our reviews of the best airsoft pistols here). 

Gas-Powered Airsoft Guns

Designed for players who want to get as close as possible to the real experience, most gas-powered guns have a blowback action (to mimic the recoil of a real steel gun). These models have a gas reservoir or use magazines with gas cartridges and need to be constantly re-fuelled. 

In addition, regardless of the type of gas your airsoft gun uses (propane, CO2, Green Gas), the performance is affected by ambient temperature. As such, gas-powered rifles and pistols don’t reach their full potential in cold or high temperatures. However, if the temperature is at the ideal setting, the experience can be legendary.

Also, the blowback effect pushes back the slide of the weapon, loads another BB in the firing chamber, and resets the firing hammer. So, you don’t have to pull back the slide manually and you can focus on your aim. 

However, gas-powered airsoft guns tend to be a bit more expensive, and you don’t get the same time on the field as you do with an AEG or a spring-powered gun. Gas tends to run out pretty quickly, and reloading is not always easy. 

How to Care for your Airsoft Gun?

Now that you have an idea of what an airsoft gun is and how it works, it’s time to learn a little bit about maintenance.

Each airsoft gun, regardless of mechanism, has internal moving parts that are subject of wear and tear. Also, while playing, there is the risk of bumping the gun against walls or simply dropping it, which can cause some damage. In addition, just like real steel weapons, airsoft guns need regular cleaning and maintenance. 

However, there are a few things you can do to make sure your airsoft guns will keep going for longer without needing any special care. Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t ever try to fire your way through a barrel jam! If a BB is jammed in the barrel, you need to use the proper tools to un-stick it. If you keep firing, it will only damage the barrel and possibly the firing mechanism. 
  • All your airsoft guns should be thoroughly cleaned after each use. This way, you’ll have everything ready for the next round and your guns will last longer
  • Only use pure silicone oil for lubrication. The internal mechanisms of an airsoft gun need lubrication, but you need to use the recommended type of oil for this to avoid blocking the mechanism. 
  • The magazines should be stored unloaded.
  • Only use high-quality BBs, that fit the requirements of your gun. Low-cost BBs are usually low in quality and can destabilize a gun’s mechanism. Also, do not reuse BBs as they can cause your gun to jam.

Wrap Up

Airsoft is a fun, interesting, and challenging game and I urge everyone who wants to try it to do so. As a beginner, you don’t need a fancy rifle or pistol, so the initial investment won’t be significant. However, you should wear the appropriate protective gear in order to enjoy the experience and get the most out of it.

Lastly, you don’t need to be passionate about weapons to like playing airsoft. The game has many layers as it also allows players to bond with other people, strategize, release steam, and do a bit of a workout. So, give it a try and see how it goes – you might end up finding a new hobby!