What is Airsoft?
Airsoft is a shooting game sport that started in Japan in the mid 1970s, spread its way across Asia, then to Europe, and from there took the world by storm. Airsoft guns are mock guns that fire small (5.95mm) plastic round projectiles known as BB's at a target. There are numerous methods for firing these BB's. The most common is an AEG setup. AEG stands for Airsoft electric gun. Another method is the spring action gun, sometimes called springers. These are most commonly pistols or sniper rifles. The third method is propane propellant. Some guns can use variants on propane such as green gas, red gas, black gas, or just propane. The last method of firing a BB is HPA, which stands for high pressure air. This uses a very similar method as propane variants, high pressure gas, the main difference being what gas.
Types of Airsoft
There are generally three different versions of Airsoft, these are called speedsoft, milsim, and realmil. Speedsoft is a fast paced game type that is typically characterized by these factors: lots of BBs, no objectives (or minor objectives) kill based, close quarters, no teams (or teams with no structure at all), fast paced, and lots of people. Milsim stands for military simulation. This type can vary drastically, there is one main characteristic though, it is always objective based with heavy involvement in strategy. Some milsim games can be days long or even down to 30 minutes. It is not based on how long the game is, rather how the objective is handled. Kills are rarely an important factor, unless the objective is to kill a particular target. Realmil stands for real military. These games are the extreme opposite of speedsoft, they are always slow paced with a lot of people, typically, a single game can go on from a whole weekend, all the way to a month or two. These are often found in areas that have lots of open land to play in, hundreds or even thousands of acres. These games are very rare and are designed to simulate an actual war.
AEG, or Airsoft electic guns are an efficient method of firing a BB. Put simply, the way an AEG works is a battery powers a motor which spins 3 gears which pull a piston back, moving the spring with it along a spring guide and the gears release the piston once it reaches the furthest back point. From here, the spring launches the piston forward through a cylinder compressing the air in the cylinder and forcing it out through the cylinder head onto the BB, pushing it through the barrel.
What about spring powered?
Many people ask, "why use a spring powered gun, why not use an AEG or gas powered gun?". Well, even though they take more work and are harder to use, they have several advantages that HPA, AEG, and propane cant touch. Spring powered guns are basically the same as AEG excluding the fact that you are no longer turning gears, that whole part of the system is bypassed and is replaced by manual pulling of a bolt, lever, or slide. The advantages of such a system include but are not limited to: universal temperature performance, reliable consistency, durable parts, not relying on external power, less upgrade parts necessary, quiet, etc. Because of their nature, spring powered guns are ideal for snipers, the silence helps drastically, you can wait for extended periods of time and take a shot without worrying if the battery ran out, and they are just generally the most reliable variety of Airsoft guns. They do have cons though, often times the parts can be hard to find and they never can shoot fully automatically. That is terrible for assault rifles but ideal for snipers and in occasion, pistols.
Gas guns are run by either a propane propellant or C02 canisters. Propane propellants can be one of several options, propane, green gas, red gas, or black gas. C02 is almost always found as the 12 gram C02 canisters. Each version of these gas guns have their pros and cons. Firstly, propane pros: cheaper to run than C02, mags can be any shape or size. Propane cons: seals break easily, more expensive to run than electric, barely works in winter. C02 pros: works better in winter than propane, typically more fps and/or more efficient than propane. C02 cons: more expensive than green gas, lots of waste (empty canisters), can trick chronographs (once measured a C02 gun at 900fps then backed up the chronograph a few inches and it read 375).
What is HPA?
HPA stands for high pressure air. This system uses few moving parts, that is the advantage of air, you are using the end result of what AEG and spring are accomplishing, pressurizing air to direct at a BB. HPA utilizes a air tank that can be pressurized from 3000 to 4500 PSI (pounds per square inch). Many people like HPA for a couple reasons, they are generally very reliable guns and an air tank of 4500 psi can last most of the day. These guns can also be easily tuned to increase FPS or RPS, usually just with a turn of a valve. Even though these have many pros, they are not without cons. One of the biggest cons is that when you are using an HPA gun, you must have an air tank on you, this means having an air line going from your gun to the tank (usually located on your back). This can very easily get in the way. Also, the air tank is extremely dangerous, if used improperly, the tank can explode. At 4500 PSI, this can kill someone. Another huge con, they are extremely expensive. First you must buy a gun, then you have to replace the entire system with an HPA engine, this can cost anywhere between 500-1000$.