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Choosing an airsoft gun for skirmishes

by B.B. Pelletier

A long gun is the most important thing you can take into an airsoft battle. Pistols and grenades are fine in some situations, but long guns are the principal tool of an airsoft warrior. Here are some tips for the budget-minded airsoft shooter who wants to get into the game.

Get an accurate gun
You want to get a gun you can afford, but you don’t want to be under-armed because you tried to save a few dollars. What are the considerations? First, you want an accurate gun. The object is to hit the enemy, and you’ll have to shoot at long range unless you don’t care about getting killed right away. So, adjustable Hop Up is a requirement. Hop Up puts the backspin on the BB and makes it go straight for longer distances. Each BB needs a different Hop Up setting, so you really need an adjustable one.

Power is not the dominant feature people make it out to be. Yes, it’s nice for a sniper to hit an enemy 100 yards away, but the typical airsoft warrior doesn’t shoot that far. Don’t worry about upgrades before you actually have the gun. A gun that handles at least 0.20-gram BBs and 0.25-gram BBs is good, as well, but you don’t need 400 f.p.s. in the beginning. A player with a 300 f.p.s. M16 he can use has a lot more fun than a dreamer waiting to buy the gun he can later upgrade to 500 f.p.s.!

Think those scopes are way cool? Think again! They loosen during maneuvers, and you can’t get them on target half as quick as good open sights. Let the snipers use scopes; you save your money for gear, BBs and game time. But, a red dot sight is different. They are quick on target and they don’t cost as much as a scope. Get the biggest dot sight (the one with the largest optical diameter) you can afford because it will decrease your target acquisition time. Otherwise, stick with open sights.

Player strategy
A new player usually adopts a “spray and pray” tactic because he’s learned it from the movies. After being eliminated early in a couple of dozen battles, the thoughtful person starts wondering if there isn’t a better way. That’s the fun of airsoft skirmishes, because you learn there are times to be quick and bold and other times to be quiet and stealthy. A magazine that holds 300 BBs is barely enough for the first five minutes in the hands of a newbie, but a veteran can make that mag last a lot longer – depending on the situation.

I tell you this for a reason – the number of mags you can carry isn’t important unless you signed up to be a pack mule. What you DO with your mags is what matters. Your enemy won’t die any faster when your cyclic rate is 1,100 rpm, but he will go down if you hit him! Stop dreaming about the number of mags and BBs you have and how many upgrades you’ll need before you can cycle shots like a minigun and start focusing on using the gun to its best advantage. Every airsoft warrior should be forced to watch the movie Quigley Down Under before being allowed to touch a gun.

Buy an AEG
There are three main airsoft powerplants – springers, gas guns and automatic electric guns (AEG). For a personal long gun in battle, nothing can beat an AEG. Even if you leave the selector switch on semi-auto, as some of the top players do, you still have quick second and third shots waiting to go. Snipers can use spring guns, but the fire team needs fast, suppressive fire at times. Save gas for your sidearms, where it works best.

Metal body or plastic?
Both work well for airsoft games and NEITHER is unbreakable! Despite what you have heard, the metal bodies will bend and dent with use. They are tougher than plastic, it’s true, but a plastic gun can last a long time with the right player. Some guns that start out with a plastic body, like Marui, can be modified with a metal body when there is more money available.

That’s my pick for a budget airsoft long gun. It has to be accurate, have quick sights, and both semi- and full-auto action (an AEG). If you have a favorite gun, why not tell everyone why you like it?

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

21 thoughts on “Choosing an airsoft gun for skirmishes”

  1. Hi BB,

    I was going to ask you to do a Airsoft post since its been a while since you’ve done one.

    What can you recommend for a CQB environment in low/no light? I’m currently considering a Beretta 93R (having handled one) with torch as a side arm but I have yet to find the right primary weapon.

    So far I’ve tried a TM Spetnez Beta, TM P90 and a Maruzen Charger Shotgun. The Spetnez was the most accurate primarily because of the stock and nice open sights but I actually found it heavy and clumsy with rental gear on. The P90 was much easier to handle but a pain to aim (the one I was using was missing the original reflex sight and I couldn’t get it to settle on my shoulder). The Charger was lovely but I have concerns about the rate of fire and the mag capacity (40 rounds, safe to load to 35).

    Any recommendations? I am endeavouring to try an MP5.

    FPS limit is 328 and 8mm BBs are allowed.

  2. Gary,

    You are a serious player who does the research. For CQB you need compact size, and natural pointing ability. That’s besides reliability and all the other things.

    I think you are there with the MP5. I’ve shot them in the short burst mode to 75 yards and stayed on a 12-inch hubcaps. And they have great sights if you need a longer distance weapon, too.

    I’ve used several of the Taiwanese brands and found them pretty equivalent. I don’t think you can go too far wrong. But do the research anyway.


  3. I called home yesterday, and my son asked me if he could buy an Air soft gun. I said he could. He bought a Mini Maxx Tactical, and a skull mask from Pyramyd AIR, it was the best one he could get for his money. I was wondering how they work, how accurate, powerful they are. I know like any thing they can vary a lot, but I’m not familiar with Air soft at all. What safety precautions should he take when using his gun.


  4. Ed,

    Airsoft was invented to allow people in countries where gun ownership is forbidden to own something that shoots. The original idea was a slow lightweight plastic ball that they now call a BB to minimize the potential for injury.

    The gun your son bought fits the airsoft concept perfectly. It’s slow and only shoots the lightest weight BB.

    As for accuracy, it should be able to hit a one-inch square target at 25 to 30 feet.

    Eye protection is a must. This past weekend I saw a man hit in the eye with the same kind of gun your son just bought. It was at 20 feet from the gun and the guy couldn’t see for several hours. He and friend were horsing around – neither one is an NRA member and neither exhibits the slightest indication that they know about gun safety. Both used the stupid excuse that, “I didn’t know this thing was that powerfu!” Don’t let your son grow up that way! If he is responsible enough to own a gun, he should be able to instruct any person in safe gun handling procedure.


  5. Both used the stupid excuse that, “I didn’t know this thing was that powerful!” and a friends eye would be a good way to test it? It amazes me that people like those make it to adulthood.

    My son got a full-face mask with it, that he will use, and I have been teaching him how to handle guns, any guns properly. I won’t give him the IZH 61 I bought him until I get home.

    I’m still curious how an AEG works; I was amazed that they were full auto.


  6. Ed,

    Good for you!

    An AEG works by cocking the piston of a conventional spring-piston gun with a high-torque electric motor. The cocking gear is a half-gear and the piston has teeth that it engages as it rotates rapidly. When it runs out of teeth the spring pushes the piston forward until the gear comes around and grabs it again.

    AEGs are not only full auto, the cyclic rate of the higher-end guns can actually be speeded up with larger-capacity batteries.


  7. B.B., I’ve been following your blog for a while and I think it’s great!
    I have a question: Some time ago I purchased a UHC Super 9 airsoft spring gun for target shooting in- and out-doors. That was fairly accurate for me, as I’m pretty much a beginner when it comes to target shooting. Three days ago, I received a UHC X-9 “Tactical Sniper” that I ordered from PyramidAir.com. This gun is essentially an upgrade of the Super 9, mostly using the same parts, but with a shorter barrel, a bit more power, a scope, and a bipod. I’ve sighted in the scope it comes with and managed to get groups of 3 or 4 shots slightly larger than a quarter at about 20 feet (I think). However, today, shots have started flying up and to the side rather uncontrollably, to the point where I have difficulty hitting a dinner-plate sized target at the same distance. I also noticed the trigger pull now gets heavier and heavier the more I shoot. After accidentally dry-firing twice, the trigger pull lightened up but then went back. The gun has adjustable hop-up which I haven’t touched and I am shooting .2g balls with it. I’ve been extremely careful with it, as all I use it for it target shooting (it hasn’t been banged in any way). Should I send it back for a replacement? Is there anything I should do? Do you need more information?
    Again, thanks a lot for this site and, in advance, for your help!
    – Julian

  8. Wow BB you really did your research on this one, I’m supprised someone in a totally diffrent community knows so many basic things about airsoft. except the part about the m16, it cant be upgraded to 500 fps because the version II gearbox is flawed. only a version 3 (AK ect) ,4 {PSG-1) or 6 (p90 ect)can handle the upgrades necessary to go that high, and even at that level they arn’t reliable at all.

    BTW my first airsoft gun was a TM FAMAS back in 1995. Its got a plastic body and the enlarged trigger guard. Did I mention its still putting white plastic out to 120 feet at 290FPS?

    I’ve also got a TM AK with a Guarder AKSU kit installed. nothing beats the feel of real steel when it comes to a replica 😀

  9. What do you think of the select fire M14 being offered for $400+I have owned (more correctly) A Sopringfield Armoury M 1 A Super Match. Would this M 14 in select fire be a good starter long gun with an MP 5 K as back up? I really would like to know

  10. 60 year old kid,

    You are ahead of me on this one! I am familiar with the Guay Guay M14 but not the Marui. Everything I have ever tested under the Marui name was well-built, so without seeing it I have to imagine that it’s a good one.

    Now, for your tactical questions. Comparing an M14 to an MP5 is like comparing a half-ton pickup to a Honda Interstate mortorcycle. They are completely different. I really like the M14 because I had one in the Army (I dislike M16s very much for the same reason), but it’s not a CQB weapon. So, what you get should be determined on where and how you play.


  11. I live in the city and willl most like never be in a battle for my air soft life i was mor in to shoting for target so i was wondering what are good spec for my gun i dont want to stand on top of the target so distance is nice what about power. What would be good for shoting clay bricks and what is the life on Electric guns (per charge,recharge)thank you

  12. Me an some of the guys at work have started clowning around with some airsoft guns on our down times. I just ordered the UTG navy seal mk23. Is that gun as powerful as advertised? It seems to rival the the best spring pistols.

  13. I have £200 and i am going to buy an airsoft gun and a side arm. i think i am going to buy a python 357 magnum as the side arm but i dont know what to get. can you reccomend a gun or two for me?


  14. Sam,

    For the money you have to spend, I would look at the UTG Sniper rifles, if you can get them in the UK. They are imported by Leapers, and UTG is their brand. For the price, these are the best deals going.

    If you want an AEG at that price, I’m afraid I have no recommendations.


  15. I like B.B.'s take on this & agree 100% that an AEG is the best gun for this application.
    (BTW… They're also a great gun for just having fun with too.)

    My reasons are the same as his, so I won't be redundant, but I would like to add, that while an
    AEG is the best gun for this application, I personally like to have a side arm for a back up, &
    am writing to recommend that you have, or get one.

    IMO, the best side arm is a decent capacity
    gas pistol.
    No less than 12 rounds & the more the better. There's a lot of great
    ones out there that will hold 20+ rounds that have plenty of power & are pretty accurate
    for around $40.00 (For a NBB gun.)

    Now while power is always nice, you should consider
    that for this application, accuracy is the MOST important factor!

    Remember… we're
    talking about a situation here where your AEG is your main gun, & since your main gun is an
    AEG… you're most likely reaching for your side arm, because either you AEG is empty, the battery is
    going dead, or it malfunctioned, &/or you're about to be over run by an enemy or multiple
    enemys at close range, so chances are that you'll be using it on a close target, so hitting your
    target or targets, is the most important thing.
    ESPECIALLY if you have multiple targets to deal with!

    Why gas over a springer?
    SIMPLE! A springer has to be cocked every time you shoot it. TOO SLOW!
    Where as most gas pistols are semi auto's which will allow you to fire multiple shots quickly,
    which is obviously a huge advantage.

    Now… NBB (non-blow back) or a blow back?

    That's personal preference, but I do think that NBB's usually have the advantage of being a little
    more accurate, due to the absence of recoil from the blow back.

    However, there are some very
    accurate blow back gas pistols, but they're usually a lot more expensive, so that just comes down to how
    serious you are, & what you can afford or want to pay for your back up side arm.

    If money is no
    object, get the Mac11 48 round gas machine gun!
    I have one & love it!
    Not only is it a GREAT back up gun,
    but it's also a great primary in QCB too.

    B.B. asked for recommendations for AEGs,
    so here's mine.

    I have & LOVE my Cyber Thompson AEG!

    This is the way
    I originally bought mine;


    Great gun! Great power, great accuracy, almost all metal & wood, & just gorgeous!
    Everyone loves a Tommy Gun!

    It came with a 48 round mag which I soon found out was not enough,
    so I bought the 300 round mag & it made it a whole other gun!


    That gun with that mag is all you need, BUT… the 450 round wind up round mag gives it
    that finishing touch of beauty that it well deserves!


    If I had it do to all over again, I would have just bought it this way!


    So there you have it. MY favorite AEG!

    Want to know why? copy & paste
    that link & read my review! 😉

    I have a lot of airsoft guns, but my three
    favorite are that one, the Mac11 gas gun, which PA carries as this one;

    HFC SD203 Gas
    Submachine Gun by TSD


    A surprisingly accurate gun that you CAN use the sights in semi auto mode & be
    very effective with it, & in full auto… WOW!
    Nuff said! 😉

    And my favorite pistol…
    The HFC M190 semi/fully auto gas blow back.


    VERY VERY accurate!

    Also, another very nice gas pistol to consider
    is the TSD Hi-Capa 5.1K-Tac Caspian Gas Pistol by WE


    Hope that helps, be safe & have fun!

    – The Big Bore Addict –

  16. Hey guys,

    i was wondering if u have to take a AEG or u can take a spring? i know it is recommended to bring a AEG but i actually prefer Spring for different reasons?


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