What Airsoft Gun Should I Buy? Starter Types Explained
Airsoft is a fun, dynamic team sport, but you can’t get started without an airsoft gun. So, if you’re interested in purchasing the best airsoft gun for a beginner, you’re are the right place. I completely understand how it feels to be overwhelmed by the diversity of the airsoft market and the desire to look cool (one of the main reasons many passionate players get into this game in the first place).
Still, to make sure you get the best airsoft gun for your needs as a beginner, we first have to discuss a few technical details. We’ll go through the top 3 factors that will guide your choice and the three main airsoft gun types. We’ll also talk about the pros & cons of each type and the main factors that make a good airsoft gun.
How to Choose the Right Type of Airsoft Gun
Your first starter airsoft gun should be selected based on three main factors:
- The style you want
- Your budget
- What’s next?
Now, let’s dissect each of these factors and learn what they mean:
The Style of Your Airsoft Gun
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the airsoft market is diverse and rich in offers. Therefore, it’s important to know what you want to look like (or your style) while playing.
As a side note, I strongly recommend staying away from advanced airsoft guns. These are usually designed for experienced players who want to get more from their game and have a bigger budget. Plus, advanced airsoft guns are a bit more difficult to use and maintain.
Back to your style. As a beginner, you should choose an airsoft gun that’s lightweight (you’ll get tired of carrying it around in a 4-hours game, believe me!), easy to use and load, and easy to maintain. The most common airsoft guns for beginners, that also look good, are:
- Close quarters battle airsoft rifles
- Airsoft pistols
- Airsoft sniper rifles
- Airsoft assault rifles
What’s the difference between these airsoft guns? They’re all great to play airsoft, but they differ in length, power, and build to help players fulfill a specific role. For instance, close-quarters battle (or CQB) riffles are fairly short and stocky, which makes it easy to hide and surprise your enemy up close. On the other hand, snipers use heavy, powerful bolt-action rifles, with a longer barrel and plenty of room for optics accessories such as red dot sights or scopes.
Assault rifles and pistols are mostly used for people playing support gunner roles since they need to be ready to launch a spray of BBs at any time. Assault rifles are durable and come equipped with a high magazine capacity that’s easy to change/load. Pistols, on the other hand, work best as a back up gun.
A new airsoft gun can cost anywhere between $20 and $200+, so it’s important to know your budget limits.
Keep in mind that high-quality airsoft guns, that will allow you to play a lengthy and fun game, are difficult to find for under $100. Anything under $100 will probably have a plastic gearbox, which does not have a long life. True, you’ll be able to use it in your backyard, but if you want to play airsoft, you need a solid airsoft weapon.
Most entry-level guns fit the $100 – $150 price range. With this budget, you can get a good airsoft rifle that fits your personal preference (check the style section above).
Check out my review for the best low-cost airsoft guns!
Now, as the price tag goes up, so does the overall quality of the gun. More expensive products also come with new features, better bodies (usually a combination of ABS and metal), but also give that feeling that you’re holding a real gun. Still, beginners should avoid spending their whole budget on a powerful airsoft gun. It takes time to get used to the game and powerful rifles, with automatic firing capabilities, can be a menace in the hands of a beginner.
The secret to choosing the perfect first airsoft gun is to look for a design that can be improved via upgrades and accessories. For this, look for a platform that’s easy to upgrade and has a metallic, upgradeable gearbox (check the M4 and M16 or the AK-47/ AK-74 series).
Check out my review of the best M4 airsoft rifles!
The body can be ABS plastic, as it makes the sniper rifle or the assault rifle lighter and more durable to drops and other accidents that tend to happen when you’re first starting.
Airsoft Gun Types
Now that we’ve discussed personal preference, budget, and plans for the future, let’s talk about the technical stuff. We’ll take a look at the types of guns you’ll find on the market and discuss the pros and cons from the point of view of a beginner airsoft player.
There are three main types of airsoft guns:
- Gas guns
- Automatic electric guns (or AEGs)
Spring Powered Airsoft Guns
Spring-powered guns are great as a first gun! They fit the under $100 price range and offer a decent amount of firepower.
Spring guns were the first to be used by airsoft players back in the days when the game was just starting to gain traction and are still being used today. This happens because spring guns don’t need a power source (like gas-powered and electric models), are reliable, and make for a great CQB weapon.
Still, you need to know there won’t be an automatic or semi-automatic fire feature. You have to cock it back after each shot, which does take time and can be disadvantageous in certain situations. However, a spring gun is a good gun for a beginner – it’s easy to use and inexpensive, so you can experience the game without investing too much from the start.
- Low cost
- Easy to maintain & use
- Are not influenced by environmental conditions
- They are great as shotguns
- Entry-level airsoft guns
- Mostly plastic bodies
- A bit noisy
- No automatic or semi-automatic designs
In short, if you’re looking for a cheap gun that won’t break down in an airsoft field while playing CQB, a spring-powered rifle (preferably with a folding stock) is your best option!
Gas Airsoft Guns
Choosing an airsoft gun includes several factors (as we already discussed) but many players believe that powerful guns will make the experience better. While it’s true that a more powerful gun will shoot at a longer range and may have additional features, you also need experience and skill to truly enjoy the game.
However, gas blow-back models can indeed be considered powerful airsoft guns. The blow-back action makes them behave like real guns, providing players with a recoil-like action. Still, not all gas guns have the blow-back action and their power depends on the type of compressed gas used to power them.
In general, a gas gun can be fueled by green gas or CO2 and uses compressed gas to propel the BB and load the next round into the chamber. That’s why most gas-powered airsoft guns have automatic and semi-automatic features.
Quick fact: some airsoft guns can use different types of gas, so you can choose which to buy. However, if your gun was designed only for CO2 use, you have to respect the manufacturer’s indications!
- Blow-back designs feel and look more realistic
- Some use multiple types of compressed gas as a fuel source
- Powerful & high-quality designs
- Semi-automatic & automatic features
- Gas canisters can be expensive
- Performance is influenced by air temperature (drops when it’s cold or too hot)
- Gas canisters get empty quickly
- Some gases are harmful to the environment (check federal & local laws)
For more details, check my review on the best gas-powered airsoft rifles!
Automatic Electric Guns
An automatic electric gun, or AEG, uses a battery as the main source of power. AEGs are quite popular with both beginners and advanced airsoft lovers because they have lots of features and allow for upgrades in both gearbox and accessories.
Plus, AEGs are easy to maintain and can be found in both pistol and rifle format. In fact, there are a plethora of AEG models out there. You have long barrel riffles that work great for long-range shooting, you have machine and submachine guns that are capable of a spray shoot, and you have advanced AEGs that make you feel like a character in your favorite video game.
Besides the incredible diversity, AEGs are also powerful, with a shooting rate of around 250 to 500+ FPS (keep in mind that some airsoft fields don’t allow powerful AEGs ). They are also available in metal, ABS plastic, or a combination of the two to keep the price and durability at optimal levels.
- Lots of models in both ABS & metal bodies
- Easy to use and maintain
- High-power designs
- Can handle a high capacity magazine
- Automatic and Semi-automatic features (rapid fire)
- Performance not affected by air temperature
- Easy to upgrade & accessorize
- The body needs to accommodate the battery space
- Performance may drop in high humidity
- Battery life may drop after a certain number of loading cycles
- Battery performance differs from one brand to another
The best airsoft gun is the one that fits your style, your budget, and your plans for the future (as an airsoft player). So don’t be hasty – take the time to research the models you want and learn about the factors that make a good airsoft weapon.