Monday, October 24, 2011

Price, Brands, and Walmart

Airsoft guns can range from extremely cheap to extremely expensive. Most people know you can get a simple spring operated pistol for under $20. Some people know that you can also buy guns from Systema that start at about $1000. There are many, many brands to choose from and a well made gun in almost every price range.  The long and short of it is that in Airsoft you get what you pay for, as long as you don’t get ripped off. So how do you avoid getting ripped off? There are a few basic rules you can follow to ensure everything you buy will be a high quality product, regardless of what you spend on it.

The FIRST rule is shop at an Airsoft retailer. Don’t shop at Wal-Mart unless you are buying a gun for someone under 10 years of age. They sell a brand called Crosman that is very inexpensive and perfect for the kid who is going to break it the first time out. These guns are made to expire quickly and not for someone who is really into Airsoft. The Airsoft section at Wal-Mart is very limited and is basically a teaser to get someone into Airsoft. I’m fairly certain that every brand of BB they offer is all but unusable in electric or gas guns and should only be used in cheap spring guns. The same pretty much goes for Sport Chalet, although I believe they sell some decent masks and gloves and such. Big 5 is a mixed bag. Most of their stuff isn’t worth a second look, but sometimes they will be carrying high quality BBs and gas. Occasionally you might find a decent GBB pistol there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a high quality AEG at Big 5. The best place to buy your Airsoft gear is at an Airsoft store, which makes a lot of sense if you think about it.

The SECOND rule is to pay attention to brand. Almost all decisions as to weather a gun is good value for money can be made instantly just based on which brand it is. Some brands are better than others and belong in different price ranges. I’ll try to give a breakdown of some well known brands.

High Range:
Airsoft Elite – ICS rebrands with stronger springs and the necessary internal upgrades to handle the extra power.

Classic Army – Very well made, full metal Airsoft replicas. Known for excellent externals

Elite Force/Umarex – American company, they rebrand guns from companies such as VFC, Ares and G&G. Hold licenses to various trademarks.

G&G – G&G makes replicas in both the mid range and high range. They are known for having very durable components but being more difficult to work on.

G&P – These guys only make a few rifles and an M249. I’ve never shot one personally, but I use their midcap magazines and they are excellent.

Hudson – Hudson makes extremely high quality replicas, mostly of WWII guns.

ICS – One of TM’s main competitors, and one of the largest Airsoft manufacturers, ICS features durable internals and full metal bodies.

King Arms – Well known for their upgrades and accessories, King Arms also sells AEGs that originally come from Western Arms.

KWA/KSC – Known mostly for their GBB pistols (some of the most reliable GBB pistols you can get), KWA/KSC have made some rifles as well and they have proven to be of good quality.

Marushin – Marushin make some guns that fire 8mm BBs which is actually pretty unusual.

Maruzen – An older company with a proven track record.

Olympic Arms – These guys rebrand ICS guns.

Sheriff – Custom rebuilds of Western Arms and Maruzen guns.

SOCOM Gear – American company that rebrands pistols from WE-Tech and AEGs from VFC. Their guns feature excellent externals with licensed trademarks. Produce a high-end replica of the Barrett .50 Cal.

Systema – Basically the best Airsoft guns money can buy, used for M&P training. If you buy an upgrade for your existing gun there is a good chance it will come from Systema.

Tanaka – Known for their pistols, Tanaka makes a lot of really high quality gas rifles as well.

Tokyo Marui – The inventors of the AEG, Tokyo Marui AEGs are extremely reliable and upgradable, probably more so than the other big three companies. However, Japanese law prohibits them from selling metal bodies. Their plastics are of very high quality though.

Western Arms – Famous for their 1911 replicas, Western Arms makes incredible full metal GBB handguns.

Mid Range:

KWC – Company out of Taiwan, make a lot of gas powered guns with licensed trademarks.

APS/Javelin – Newcomer to the Airsoft game. Supposedly they made paintball markers and switched over when they noticed Airsoft was becoming popular. These guys make a lot of EBB guns and they seem to be fairly reliable.

WE-Tech – Largely a pistol manufacturer, provide clones of higher end models at a lower price.

Echo 1 – American company that sells their own versions of guns from various companies such as Jing Gong, Kart, CYMA and D-Boys

Entry Range/Chinese Brands:
Aftermath  American company that rebrands guns from various Chinese manufacturers.

Crosman – Crosman is the Wal-Mart brand. Basically all of their guns are low quality guns for the very young beginner.

CYMA – Chinese company that makes TM clones among other things, popular among beginners.

D-Boys – Sell a lot of M4s and have a very popular SCAR. They are one of the more reliable Chinese companies and known for having better externals than the competition.

Double Eagle – TM clones and LPEGs.

Game Face – Although these are sold by Crosman, they are actually the Classic Army Sportline series of guns. The internals are downgraded Classic Army gearboxes, and the externals are plastic.

Jing Gong – Extremely popular brand among beginners, these are probably the most durable and well built guns to come out of China.

Under The Gun (UTG) – Airsoft division of well-known outdoors company Leapers. They make a lot of tactical gear, and also have a line of low cost sniper rifles. They currently sell one AEG, an AK-47.

Unicorn Hobby Corp – Mostly known for cheap but reliable springers, UHC also has a line of popular low cost sniper rifles.

UK Arms – Low quality company that imports from China.

These are not all the Airsoft manufacturers by any means, and the tiers I’ve placed them in are probably arguable, but I hope that the list will help you to better understand the rather complicated world of Airsoft manufacturers. I’ve tried to place them in tiers based on what price you can pick them up for. Classic Army, Tokyo Marui, and ICS are the biggest companies and you can generally always trust products from these guys. Classic Army tends to be a bit pricier, but they have amazingly detailed full metal bodies. TM invented the AEG and features extremely reliable and durable components, but you can’t buy them with metal bodies. ICS guns are very nice, and actually what I shoot, but one downside is that they tend to be a little iffy with non-ICS components. It can be difficult to find the official ICS pieces they need, and you might have to end up doing some fabrication to make pieces from other companies fit. I recommend any of these three companies, and also Jing Gong or Echo 1 if you don’t want to spend much on your first gun.

The THIRD and final rule of not getting ripped off when shopping for an Airsoft gun is to do your research. Before making the commitment and buying a gun, make sure you are getting what you want. Many online resources are available that will give you all the pros and cons of the replica you are considering. If you can’t find any information simply sign up for an Airsoft forum (like our HobbyTron forums), and create a thread. There are a ton of people out there who really like talking about Airsoft and who will be glad to help you out. If you shop at the proper places, buy from a trusted brand, and do your research before buying, you will get exactly the gun you want. So grab a gun from HobbyTron and I will see you on the field.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Other Airsoft Necessities

Congratulations! You’ve decided on your first Airsoft gun.  I’m excited, are you? Don’t get too excited now, because there are still a few more things you will need before you get started. If you bought an AEG it most likely came with a battery so no worries there. If you got a GBB you’ll need to purchase some gas, there are different kinds and it’s important to get the right one, so do your research before you put just anything in your gun. Regardless of what you bought you will need BBs. High quality BBs are very important and cheap BBs will quickly wreck your gun. First of all, don’t ever re-use BBs or use BBs that have been rolling around on the ground. These probably have dirt on them and will seriously mess up your gun’s day. You probably got some sample BBs with your gun if it was purchased new, I would just go ahead and throw them out. It is extremely important that you buy high quality BBs, so find some good ones. Most gun manufacturers make their own BBs and these are usually pretty good.  Some companies, Madbull and Airsoft Elite come to mind, mostly make BBs and a lot of these are excellent. Ask around before committing to a brand. BB weight and caliber is important as well, most guns fire 6mm .2g BBs. BBs weighing .25g are common as well, and some guns fire different calibers, but 6mm .2g is pretty much the standard. Make sure you are firing the correct weight and caliber for your gun, or they won’t perform well and might harm your gun.
You will also need eye protection. It’s up to you whether you are going to use a full face mask or just safety goggles, some people don’t like masks because they interfere with aiming down the sights. Personally I wear a full mask and I suggest you do as well. Getting shot in the face hurts, and you could literally loose a tooth. You can buy a specifically made Airsoft mask, but paintball masks are the same thing, so just buy something that fits you well and has a good anti-fog coating on the lenses. A good trick to get masks to fit snugly is to wear a backwards baseball cap underneath the mask. I don’t know why but doing this makes masks fit infinitely better. Some Airsoft specific masks have mesh instead of goggles for the eye protection, I don’t like these at all but you might, they can’t fog up or anything so they’re worth a try. If you decide to wear only safety goggles without the mask, I strongly suggest a balaclava, bandanna, head wrap, or even one of the neoprene ski masks that covers the bottom half of your face. I can’t stress this enough. Some people wear helmets as well, feel free to. I also wear half finger gloves, because the knuckle is one of the most painful places to get shot in my experience. You can get ones with massive pieces of plastic for extra protection. If you don’t want to buy gloves basically any glove will work, spring skiing gloves for example are perfect. Just cut off the top of the index finger if you don’t want to mess with your trigger pull. Or you can just not wear gloves, quite a lot of people don’t. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes you can run in with good ankle support.

There is definitely more information to learn out there, and we’ll be going more in to detail on every piece of equipment needed as the series continues. You will almost certainly see people in full SWAT gear at your local field, but we just covered everything you need to have a ton of fun at the local field or with your friends. If you are frugal and look around you should be able to get everything you need for under $100, and still have high quality equipment. Have a great time and if you have any questions feel free to ask us at the HobbyTron Forums, or even come in to the shop for a face to face answer. So grab a gun from and I hope to see you on the field.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Advantages of Pump or Spring Operation

So now we understand how AEGs and GBB guns work, and the advantages and disadvantages of both. At this point you might be thinking these are the only two viable options, but simple pump operation has some advantages that shouldn’t be overlooked. When most people think of pump or spring Airsoft guns, their mind immediately goes to the cheap plastic pistols that can be picked up for $20 or so.  Even these guns have their place, and many of them make reliable side arms if you don’t want to spend a lot on a GBB pistol. Almost all shotguns operate on pump configurations as well, and most sniper rifles feature the same operation. The only difference is that in a rifle the “pump” usually comes in the form of a bolt to replicate the feel of bolt action rifles.
The main advantage of spring operation is reliability. These guns have very few moving parts and with proper maintenance will run forever without even really needing replacement parts. Playing with a spring operated gun forces you to choose your shots as well, and will increase your accuracy. Even before Airsoft became popular in America, this was a training technique utilized by paintball players. When playing with a spring gun, you can’t fall in to the habit of hanging back and spraying BBs all over the field from the safety of your bunker. They force you to be aggressive, flank, and find angles. Another advantage of spring operation is actually realism. If you are playing with a shotgun or bolt action rifle, pump operation just makes sense, right? Cocking a plastic Desert Eagle before every shot might seem kind of lame, but cocking a heavy full metal shotgun with a real wood grip is very satisfying. 
As for sniper rifles, many high quality offerings have very realistic bolts and can fire at extremely high FPS. Fields that allow sniper rifles to operate at FPS levels up to 600 or 700 usually require that they be single-shot only or have automatic fire disabled. If you can’t fire full auto you might as well not get an AEG and just get a bolt action instead. If nothing else it just makes you feel really cool, like a proper sniper. Don’t discount spring operation; it isn’t just for cheap guns. You could spend anywhere from $80 to over $300 on a bolt action sniper rifle. In fact, you’ll likely get shot by one at some point if you go to enough outdoor skirmishes. Expect it. So grab a gun at and I will see you on the field.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Information available for 2011’s hottest toys

Valencia, CA., September 23, 2011 – Hobbytron has launched a new press room page for the top products of 2011. Ten of the hottest and best selling products are included, with technical specifications and high resolution pictures. Each product’s page contains links to fact sheets, press releases and blogs for more detailed information and first hand impressions of each product. RC boats, helicopters and cars are all represented as well as the latest airsoft equipment. These will be the most sought-after toys of the holiday season.

Hobbytron is proud to be the top retailer of this season’s number one toy, the Phantom S107. The Phantom S107 takes all of the latest cutting-edge gyro technology and packs it into a micro helicopter that is incredibly affordable, easy to fly, fits in the palm of a hand and charges directly from any USB port. The Phantom S107’s frame is made from lightweight, durable metal and can take a serious beating, unlike other micro helicopters. The Phantom S107 will delight children, and also makes the perfect tool for office shenanigans.

Press loans are available for all of Hobbytron’s top products. We encourage publications to contact us for a product to review. Media samples of some of our top products are also available for qualifying publications. Contact Hobbytron or visit the press room page at for any and all inquiries.

Gas Operation

At one point, before AEGs came around in the 1990s, all semi-automatic Airsoft guns were powered by gas. These generally had external tanks for the gas (like paintball guns), and worked quite well, but they weren’t very compact. Nowadays when you buy a gas Airsoft pistol you will most likely be buying a Gas Blowback. GBB guns are very popular as side arms, and before AEPs (Automatic Electric Pistols) came out a few years ago gas-powered guns were basically the only option for a semi-automatic Airsoft pistol. “Blowback” refers to the fact that the gun actually cycles the slide when firing, providing a much more realistic feel. Gas pistols exist that do not cycle the slide, called NBB (No Blowback) guns. These are more efficient than GBB guns because they operate essentially the same way but do not waste gas cycling the slide. They aren’t anywhere near as fun though. There is also an alternative to GBB called EBB, or Electric Blowback. These guns use a battery to cycle the slide. Unfortunately they don’t work very well. They don’t fire BBs at a high enough FPS. They also have slow firing rates and the action of the slide isn’t very realistic. They generally won’t be exact 1:1 scale replicas and are produced on the cheap. I would not recommend an EBB Airsoft gun.

GBB is generally used in handguns, although SMGs and even rifles exist. A lot of the crazier GBB guns are really complicated and don’t work that well, but there are many extremely solid GBB pistols available. There are a few drawbacks to GBB handguns and a couple advantages. The drawbacks include bad efficiency compared to battery-powered guns, performance being affected by weather, generally plastic bodies, lower accuracy at distance, and required knowledge of the different available gasses. The main advantage is that they are just a riot; it’s pretty much the closest you can get to shooting an actual firearm. Most of them can also be field stripped, or taken apart quickly without the need for tools.

Gas Blowback operation isn’t too complicated, there are actually less moving parts than in an AEG. They have hammers and slides and operate more like real steel firearms than AEGs as well. It all begins with filling up the mag with gas through the filling valve, and loading up. The hammer on GBB handguns is actually just cosmetic; the real hammer is inside the gun sitting underneath the cosmetic hammer. When the trigger is pulled the hammer strikes the firing valve, which is a valve located above where the gas is stored in liquid form. When the firing valve is struck it opens, allowing gas to rush up from the magazine into the cylinder. From the cylinder the gas continues to travel out the barrel, firing the BB. At the same time, pressure in the cylinder forces back the blowback ram. When the ram gets forced back, so does the slide. The slide is the top part of the gun that goes back and forward when you fire just like with a real steel pistol. When the slide moves back it cocks the hammer again, which in turn closes the firing valve and stops the flow of gas into the pistol. At this point a spring that is attached to the cylinder begins pulling it back into place. Without this spring the slide would just be loose and go wherever it wanted. As the slide returns to its starting position it grabs another BB from the top of the magazine and chambers the round. At this point the cycle is complete and another BB is ready to be fired. All this happens in a fraction of a second, and GBB guns can pretty much fire as fast as you can pull the trigger. Some are fully automatic as well, certain Glock models for example.

These are the inner workings of a GBB pistol. As you can see, the operation is not too far off from that of a real steel firearm. GBB guns provide an exciting change from springers or AEGs, and although they require more maintenance and are less efficient, the enjoyment you will get out of them is worth the cost. They make excellent side arms and are the most fun Airsoft guns to target shoot with. There are many high quality GBB Airsoft guns on the market, and there is sure to be a perfect one for you at See you on the field.

Monday, October 10, 2011

AEGs, AEPs, and Hop Up

AEGs are by far the most popular high quality Airsoft guns and their introduction in the 1990’s completely changed the face of Airsoft forever. The revolutionary design allowed Airsoft guns to be fired without the help of gas, with a higher ROF (Rate Of Fire), in more weather conditions, more reliably, and be produced for less. Without AEGs, Airsoft as we know it today probably wouldn’t exist, especially in non-Asian countries.
AEG stands for Automatic Electric Gun. AEGs operate on battery power to fire plastic BBs at high rates of fire. It all starts with the battery. These vary in size and even type, but most Airsoft batteries are 8.4V NiMH (Nickel-Metal Hydride) batteries. Some other batteries include NiCD (Nickel-Cadmium) and Li-Po (Lithium-Polymer). Airsoft batteries vary in voltage, but are usually somewhere between 7V and 12V regardless of battery style. The battery is connected by wires to a motor, which is usually in the pistol grip of the rifle. There three different styles of motors and basically every Airsoft gun manufacturer makes their own version. This motor has a gear on the end of it, which penetrates in to the gearbox and spins its gear assembly. Generally the gear assembly inside the gear box consists of only three gears: the bevel gear, the spur gear, and the sector gear. All these gears must be shimmed properly or bad things will happen. In front of the gears are the trigger and trigger switch, and some wiring. Above the gears there is a cylinder which contains a piston. The piston is on a tight spring, and the cylinder is capped off with a cylinder head. On the end of the cylinder head is a small air nozzle, which is connected to the tappet plate, which rests on top of the sector gear. Phew!
When you pull the trigger the motor starts the bevel gear spinning, which in turn causes the spur gear and then the sector gear to spin. The sector gear does two important things. Firstly, it pulls back the piston which compresses the spring. A small metal nub on the sector gear also pulls back the tappet plate. When the tappet plate comes back, so does the air nozzle. The air nozzle covers the feeding tube that the BBs are being pushed up by a spring in the gun’s magazine. The air nozzle comes back and a BB chambers. Meanwhile, the sector gear rotates to a point where its teeth are no longer holding the piston back in place. The spring tension now causes the piston to shoot forward, creating a burst of air that travels through the cylinder head and the air nozzle. This burst of air fires the BB, and the process is repeated again. When firing in full auto, this all happens multiple times a second. That’s pretty impressive if you ask me. Regardless of what model of gun you have, or what company it came from, the basic operation will almost always be the same.
Hop up is a very basic concept. It is simply a rubber nub that protrudes partially from the top of the barrel. When you adjust the hop up, all it does is make this nub extend farther or less far in to the barrel. When the BB fires it catches on this nub, which puts a backspin on the BB. This makes the BBs go much farther when adjusted properly, but if it is set too high then the BBs will curve up when fired or it might even block the barrel and then they won’t fire at all. To properly adjust you simply fire a BB and see if it shoots downwards, upwards, or straight. If the gun is shooting BBs down or not very far, turn up the hop up system. If they are curving up, turn the hop up system down. Hop up adjustments can usually be made by pulling back the gun’s slide and rotating a gear. Some hop up systems are adjusted differently but the owner’s manual always point out where the adjustment point is.
In recent years there have been new guns on the market called AEPs (Automatic Electric Pistols). These are handguns and small submachine guns that operate on a scaled-down version of the Tokyo Marui AEG system. Because of the smaller components they aren’t quite as powerful as AEGs, and there is less room for upgrades. However, they are more efficient and consistent than the gas powered pistols that were the standard before AEPs came along. They are also less affected by weather, gas powered pistols basically don’t work in really cold temperatures. AEPs currently only fire in the 200-300 FPS range, which isn’t incredibly powerful, but is fine for a side arm. They are much more powerful than EBB pistols, which are the only other battery powered handgun option.
Now you have a basic understanding of how AEGs work. In fact, you pretty much understand the entire operation, except for the wiring and trigger switch, a couple other small things. AEGs aren’t terribly complicated machines, and they are pretty easy to work on. However I suggest that you don’t open up your own gearbox unless you are with a friend that knows what they are doing. There are certain components, like the anti-reversal latch (a small latch that prevents the gears from spinning backwards), that have springs on them or have to go in just the right way. If you place these components in at the wrong angle, or with the spring attached incorrectly, catastrophic failure can happen and you’ll end up breaking a bunch of teeth on your gears and all sorts of bad things will happen. The gears also need to be shimmed perfectly, and you’ll probably end up losing track of where all the shims were supposed to go, and then it can literally take hours to get it set up properly again, especially if you don’t know what you are doing. If you want to replace a spring or a piston, that is fairly easy, and you can do it without touching the gear assembly or any of the more complicated parts. It also isn’t very hard to find gearboxes, if you look around you can probably find a used one and pick it up for twenty or thirty dollars, and then you can have a gearbox just for learning on, as well as extra parts in case you need them. Be aware that if you do open the gearbox, there is a highly compressed spring inside there. You need to stick a thin screwdriver through the hole in the rear of the gearbox, to release spring tension with once the gearbox is open. Do this at your own risk, and wear some shop glasses. I hope you’ve learned something today. So head on over to HobbyTron and I’ll see you on the field.