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?