There comes a point in an Airsofter's life where selecting just any Airsoft gun will no longer do. Growing from playing in backyard skirmishes to real steel training or attending 2-Day MilSim Ops at exclusive Areas of Operation (AOs) requires an evolution in weapon selection. In this case, the more realistic, the better. Luckily, Airsoft has grown by leaps & bounds in a very short amount of time and there are a number of very high quality options out there, suitable for reliable performance in a MilSim or training environment.
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So what does one need to look out for in terms of features when selecting a realistic Airsoft weapon?
- For starters, you will want to go with a full metal body, whether it be rifle or pistol. Firearms are heavy. You'll want to choose a platform that matches the weight of its real steel equivalent as closely as possible. This will help with muscle memory when transitioning between the two.
- Internally/Externally upgradable. This is must. Even the top-o-the-line VFC AEG rifles need a little internal tuning out of the box. Perhaps you may want to build a designated marksman rifle for long-range target interdiction? Chances are, you'll need to be able to properly install a number of aftermarket internal parts to gain the necessary range & accuracy. Therefore, the base rifle you choose will need to accept a variety of Marui-spec internal parts.
While many people only see the value in external upgrades as purely aesthetic, adding a rail system to attach a vertical or angled foregrip, tac light & maybe a laser PEQ box actually has performance benefits, allowing you to find and acquire your targets quickly and effectively in a variety of low-light environments. Depending on your setup, improved comfort and control over the weapon can occur as well. To sum up, make sure the platform you choose is fully upgradeable with the multitude of aftermarket parts available (most of the higher end platforms suitable for training or MilSim usually are). If you don't have to "ball on a budget," pick yourself up a Systema PTW, which will not only accept a number of internal upgrades (though I'm not entirely sure it needs much), but will accept most real steel rails & accessories to truly give you a realistic experience. Of course, if you're not in that proverbial 1st percentile, look to brands like VFC, Elite Force, Echo1, KWA, King Arms & WE to meet these requirements, at least to some degree.
- Realistic fire controls. Functional charging handles and bolt release buttons on rifles, blowback action on pistols, along with safety switches on both platforms are pretty crucial to simulating the real thing as well. Many of the higher end electric rifles from VFC, KWA, Systema's PTW line & Umarex will feature the functional bolt release buttons. However, the most realistic setups come in the form of gas blowback rifles from companies like KWA and WE, where this button does not just release a small, spring loaded plate that covers the hop-up, but actually releases the bolt once the magazine becomes empty just like a real steel rifle would function. This makes practicing reloads with an Airsoft rifle much more realistic and applicable to the way you would reload a firearm. While you can use an AEG to do this as well, the experience won't be nearly as close to the real thing as a gas blowback rifle.
- Blowback, gas or electric. If you're going for realism, then this would be another feature needing to be present with your selection. Blowback refers to the action produced by the airsoft gun, designed to simulate the recoil of a firearm. While companies like G&G's Top Tech line and Elite Force make some nice electric blowback rifles, it, again, is the gas rifles like the KWA LM4 PTR or WE AK74s & PDWs that truly give a realistic kick, reminiscent of a .22 real steel rifle.
Here are some guns that would fit the bill for this article:
So, that's all for now. Probably not an all-inclusive guide, but certainly one that'll get you pointed in the right direction.
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