Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Getting Started in Airsoft & Buying Your First Gun

So you wanna get started playing Airsoft huh? Well, you are going to need a gun, so let’s get started. One of the most important questions to ask yourself is why you want an Airsoft gun. Is it for target shooting? Are you going to be involved in Airsoft games with friends or at a local field? Do you just want a cool gun replica to mess around with? Regardless of your intentions, the most important thing to know when starting out in Airsoft is safety. We’ve already discussed Airsoft safety in our previous post, take a look. If you follow these guidelines and exercise common sense, you’ll be fine. In this post we’ll be assuming you want to eventually be involved in some form of competitive Airsoft skirmish. If you just want a cool replica I would suggest Classic Army or G&G, they make some killer guns over there that are really heavy, full metal, and do an incredible job of mimicking their real steel counterparts. If you want something just for target shooting maybe look in to Gas Blowback guns. They are amazingly entertaining because they have more realistic recoil and moving slides. If you are more in the market for a sniper rifle then bolt action is the way to go. Bolt action rifles work the same as the cheapy $20 clear Desert Eagles and such, except you can get very high quality ones that are full metal and shoot at speeds up towards 700FPS. However, if you plan on actually being involved in Airsoft skirmishes, I recommend purchasing an AEG. This is only a suggestion of course; you can play with anything you want and be effective with it if you are good enough. But AEGs are what most Airsoft players start on, what most rental guns are, and what most people at your local Airsoft field will be carrying as their primary weapon.
AEG stands for Automatic Electric Gun, and it’s pretty much what you would imagine: a gun that uses electricity to fire automatically. These are different from gas powered Airsoft guns, which use gas as a propellant for the BB instead of air. There are also simple pump-operation Airsoft guns that must be cocked before each shot, and more recently Electric Blow Back operation has been featured too. These guns use a battery instead of gas, but still provide more realistic recoil. They are generally low quality though and I wouldn’t recommend one unless you want to spend under $50. Even then you could probably find a used GBB pistol and it would work much better. However, there are many reasons that I’m suggesting an AEG for your first Airsoft gun. First of all they are well priced and readily available. You can pick up a really nice quality AEG from Jing Gong or a similar company brand new for well under $200. There are a multitude of models and companies to choose from, and I guarantee there is one out there that is perfect for you and can be picked up for not too much money. AEGs have fairly simple operation. The internals basically consist of a couple wires, a few gears, a motor, and a spring. It isn’t exactly that simple, but with all the resources available online these days you should have no problem maintaining your own AEG. AEGs have high rates of fire as well. Some people have managed to get their guns up to thirty BBs a second and other such astounding numbers. Depending on what you buy you should easily be able to get at least ten BBs a second. AEG’s are versatile and easy to maintain, and their popularity ensures upgrades and replacement parts are easily obtained.
In our next couple posts you will read up on AEG and GBB operation, maybe looked at some bolt action snipers, and you've made a decision as to which category you will be purchasing in. So how do you figure out what gun to buy? There are many resources online, including our own HobbyTron Forums which you can use to ask questions and figure out what is the best purchase for you. But where do you start? I suggest starting with the model. The Airsoft business is a fairly complicated one, with certain companies actually just selling re-branded versions (AKA clones) of other companies’ guns. For example, Echo 1 is a company that sells re-branded Jing Gong guns. Often there is nothing wrong with these “ re-branding” companies. Some, like Airsoft Elite for example, actually upgrade the internals of the original gun (which in the case of Airsoft Elite is an ICS). For this reason and others, choosing a company to purchase from can be complicated. However, choosing a model of Airsoft gun is quite easy. It’s mostly a personal thing. Some people like M4s, some people like AK-47s, RPKs, MP5s, Galils, AUGs, whatever. It is up to you to choose what model you would like to shoot, because internally they won’t differ much. The shape and size of individual components will be different, but the operation will be essentially the same. It is up to you to decide which model fits in your shoulder nicely, is the right weight, has the right sights for you, etc. If you are considering purchasing an Airsoft gun you probably already have one in mind. Perhaps you have a favorite weapon in Call of Duty, or want a gun that is used by a specific country’s military forces. This is an entirely personal choice and if you are having trouble deciding I suggest going to a local shop or field (or come stop by HobbyTron if you are in the LA area), and just picking up the different guns and finding one you like. Remember that most guns will have different variations with different stock lengths, or vertical grips, so most models can be outfitted to work perfectly for you. I would suggest some kind of rifle or sub-machine gun, maybe an M4, AK-47, or MP5, because these are very common and there are a lot of upgrades for them.

Once you have decided on a specific model it is time to choose a company. Start by finding out which companies offer the particular model you are looking for, and in which price range. Echo 1 and Jing Gong are good examples of cheaper (but still high quality) brands, Classic Army and Western Arms are the more expensive brands, and mid range brands include ICS, KWA, and Tokyo Marui. Don’t buy anything from Crosman, it’s the Walmart brand and they make truly terrible guns. With each of these companies there will probably be a major deciding factor that helps you pick. One company’s offering might shoot at a higher FPS, or have a fully metal body, or in the case of an AK-47, have real wood grips and stock. You’ll have to do a little bit of research to find these things out, but it shouldn’t take you more than a few hours to gather enough information to make a good decision. If you can’t decide between two or three companies, just head over to our forums and make a “KWA vs ICS MP5” thread or something similar, and we’ll get an expert to fully explain the differences to you.
Buying an Airsoft gun can be a complicated decision, especially when it’s your first gun and you don’t know much about the industry or its technical aspects. Just remember that most of the time you get what you pay for, but if you shop around and wait for things to go on sale you can save a lot of money. Jing Gong and Echo 1 guns are high quality and comparatively cheap. A lot of them don’t have full metal bodies and the gearboxes aren't of the best possible quality, but for the money they are excellent guns that are perfect for beginners. These days the awful sporting goods store brands (like Crosman) charge up to $100 for their Airsoft guns. For maybe $150 you can have a high quality AEG with replaceable parts that will last forever provided you properly maintain it and replace parts as needed. Later on you will probably want to buy a different gun anyway, so you might as well buy an entry-range brand like Jing Gong, and get a more expensive model later. Or you can buy a mid-range gun from a company like ICS or Tokyo Marui and you’ll probably never have to buy another AEG again if you don’t want to. It all depends on the price range, but just make sure you are purchasing from a legitimate company. As a rule of thumb, Japanese and Taiwanese brands are high quality, Chinese brands aren't. This extends to BBs and basically everything else in Airsoft although there are exceptions to the rule. Do your research, take your time, and you will end up with a gun you can fully rely on in battle. So grab a gun from HobbyTron and I will see you on the field.

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