Frequently Asked Questions about Airsoft:
1: What is Airsoft?
Airsoft is a recreational activity which can take on many forms. Most commonly it is played as a game where participants shoot at each other with Airsoft Devices which use round plastic pellets (known as BB’s) that are propelled by compressed gas or air. These types of games vary from informal games, called “Skirmishes” to larger more complex events or military simulations and re-enactments. Airsoft pistols are also used for target shooting and IPSC style competition shooting.
Airsoft Devices are also popular amongst collectors and historical/military re-enactors, and have also been used in many film/TV and theatre productions as stand-ins for real weapons.
Airsoft Devices are also used as training aids for branches of Military/Law Enforcement and security as a cost effective and safe means of training personnel in firearm discipline and shooting techniques.
2: Is Airsoft Safe?
The short answer is yes. Though owning and using an Airsoft device does carry some basic responsibility and safety considerations.
Rules vary from place to place, but the following minimum safety rules should be adhered to at all times. In South Africa, the generally accepted basic safety rules when skirmishing are as follows:
- Always wear adequate eye protection when operating any Airsoft device.
- Any Airsoft device other than a spring action/bolt action rifle may not shoot at a velocity higher than 400 Feet Per Second (FPS) or 120 Meters Per Second with a .20g BB (1.48 Joules of Energy) when skirmishing.
- A spring action/bolt action sniper rifle may shoot at a higher velocity of 500FPS/150M/S with a .20g BB (2.3J) but must maintain a 20m minimum engagement distance when skirmishing.
- Players must always place a barrel sock or muzzle blocking device on the barrel of their Airsoft device, remove the magazine and set the devices to “safe” when not in a “live” area of play.
3: What Types of Airsoft Devices Are There?
An Airsoft Device fires plastic pellets (or BB’s) via compressed gas or air. The means by which the air or gas is delivered can differ, Airsoft devices are normally Gas Powered (GBB), Electric Motor powered (AEG) or Spring Powered. Airsoft Rifles and Pistols do not and cannot be made to use or fire real ammunition.
The BB’s are almost always +- 6mm in diameter, apart from very rare models which can use 8mm BB’s. Airsoft devices vary in terms of size, style and functionality, but internally all work on the same fundamental principal.
- AEG (Automatic Electric Gun)
Automatic Electric Guns or more commonly referred to as AEG’s use an electric motor to power an internal gearbox which operates a mechanical piston. The piston operates inside a cylinder and by means of compression creates a jet of air which propels the BB. AEG’s use rechargeable batteries which are most often stored within the Airsoft Device itself.
- Gas Blow Back (GBB)
Gas Blow Back or more commonly referred to as GBB’s use compressed gas, most commonly propane, to propel the BB. Propane is stored under pressure in the magazine and rapidly expands when released and exposed to warm air. This rapid expansion of gas is what propels the BB. The gas/propellant does not ignite or combust during this process.
- Spring Powered
Spring Powered Airsoft Devices, or “Springers” operate in the same manner as AEG’s, but without the motor and gearbox. Instead the user manually cocks the spring for each shot. Springers are the oldest type of Airsoft Device but are still commonly used for bolt-action style Airsoft rifles.
4: What Type of Airsoft Device Should I Buy?
This is a very common question for people who are starting out with Airsoft, but aren’t sure which type of Airsoft device to begin with.
In our experience, AEG’s offer the most user friendly way for a beginner. All you need is a charged battery and you are ready to go. AEG’s also require the least maintenance of all the types of Airsoft Devices, apart from fine tuning the Hop-Up and occasionally giving it a service, there isn’t much more that needs to be done.
GBB’s on the other hand offer the most realistic experience and simulate many of the features of the real thing. However, GBB’s are almost always more expensive than AEG’s and require more basic maintenance.
Springers are only ever really used in the bolt-action style sniper rifle models and aren’t very suitable for beginners. They require a high amount of technical fine tuning to get them shooting accurately over the distances required to play the role of a sniper at Airsoft games and may even require upgrading.
For these reasons, we will generally recommend buying an AEG as a beginner.
5: What Types of BB’s Do You Get?
The BB’s are almost always plastic, and though some manufacturers do make BB’s from other materials such as aluminium, glass or ceramic, you will only be allowed to use plastic BB’s at airsoft games.
Though BB’s in these other materials exist, they can often cause internal damage or speed up the process of wear on certain internal parts such as Hop Up buckings, nozzles and inner barrels. GICS as a company policy does not recommend the use of anything other than plastic BB’s.
Plastic BB’s come in different grades and different weights. The most common grades are Match Grade or Precision Grade and the most common weights are 0.20g, 0.25g, 0.28g, 0.30g, 0.36g, 0.40g and 0.43g.
The weight of the BB you will need depends on the velocity of your Airsoft Device, the general rule of thumb is the higher the velocity, the heavier the BB. Most commonly Airsoft pistols will use 0.20g – 0.25g BB’s, Airsoft Rifles will use 0.25g – 0.30g and Spring Powered Bolt Action rifles will use 0.36g – 0.43g
The weight of the BB you should use can also depend on other factors like the quality of your Hop Up unit, and some experimentation and fine tuning may be required before you find the right weight of BB for your Airsoft device. A BB that is too light will climb vertically very quickly, while a BB that is too heavy will begin dropping at a short distance.
BB’s also come in Bio-Degradable types for fields/venues that require it, and “Tracer” BB’s which glow in the dark when charged by an LED, usually hidden inside a special Tracer magazine or Hop Up.
6: What Type of Battery Should I Get for my AEG?
There are two main types of batteries used in AEG’s, namely Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries and Lithium-Polymer batteries.
Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-Mh):
Nickel-Metal Hydride or Ni-Mh batteries are by far the most common and user friendly type of battery you can use, and we would recommend these batteries to beginners who are starting out, as they require no special attention when charging or when being used. These batteries come in different configurations and are packed in different shapes (ie: Stick type, Mini-Pack, Large Pack, Crane Stock etc.) to fit into specific styles of AEG. The configuration of the battery you need will usually be available when purchasing an AEG.
The only drawback of Ni-Mh batteries is their physical size and may, in rare cases, be too physically big to fit into a specific AEG.
Li-Po batteries are more advanced technologically than Ni-Mh batteries, and the biggest advantage of them is their physical size. They are much smaller in size compared to Ni-Mh batteries and therefore can fit into smaller battery compartments on AEG’s.
They are also able to deliver much higher voltages (up to 11.1v or higher) than your typical AEG configured Ni-Mh battery and discharge at a slower rate – theoretically lasting longer.
The drawback of Li-Po batteries is that they require more careful attention when charging and in use. Li-Po batteries cannot be run dead or they will not be able to re-charge. You therefore need to use Low-Voltage indicators or alarms to warn you when your battery is running low on power.
If properly cared for Li-Po batteries offer the best performance for an AEG, however some budget brand AEG’s may require upgraded wiring kits and internals to be able to operate on Li-Po batteries.
All batteries should be charged using Intelligent Chargers which will increase the lifespan of your batteries.
7: What Voltage Battery Should I use on my AEG?
Many beginners are unsure what voltage battery they should use in their AEG. The voltage of a battery does not increase the velocity the AEG shoots, but it will increase the rate of fire – that is, how many rounds per minute the AEG will fire.
Generally speaking, the higher the voltage, the higher the rate of fire (ROF). A higher voltage will also give a better trigger response. That is, it will shorten the delay between pulling the trigger (closing the circuit) and the piston being released by the gears to propel the BB. A higher voltage battery therefore makes your AEG more responsive.
In our experience a 9.6v Ni-Mh battery or 7.2v Li-Po battery provides good trigger response and good rate of fire for most AEG’s. Some AEG’s may only be able to fit an 8.4v Ni-Mh in the battery compartment however.
Some AEG’s may also require extensive upgrades to be able to reliably use high voltage batteries such as 11.1v Li-Po batteries. The higher voltage can short out the wiring and will put extra strain on the motor, gears and piston of the AEG, so upgrade parts may be required depending on the quality of your AEG.
8: Can I use my Airsoft Device for Self Defence?
GICS does not condone the use of Airsoft Devices for self-defence purposes. While many Airsoft Devices may seem suitable as a visual deterrent to an attacker, if you were forced to use it for your own personal defence it would not be adequate. Simply put, Airsoft devices are used by people to shoot each other for fun at games and would not cause sufficient pain/harm to stop an attacker.
GICS as a company will therefore never recommend the use of Airsoft devices for self defence, as there are many more effective and cheaper means of self defence available such as Pepper Spray, extendable batons, stun guns or even courses in un-armed self defence.
Feel free to speak to one of our sales staff for more information on self defence products available in-store and online.
9: What Kind of Eyewear do I Need to Play Airsoft?
The most important thing to remember when playing Airsoft, is to wear adequate protective eyewear. There are many brands and styles available including glasses or goggles. The most important thing to remember when choosing a pair of glasses or goggles is to ensure that the lenses are safety rated and that there is adequate coverage over your eyes, even from the side or from behind you.
If you wear prescription glasses you can often get safety lenses made to fit into the frame of glasses you like, or buy safety goggles that will fit over your prescription glasses (Overspecs).
Normal glasses or sunglasses may shatter if struck by a BB and could cause injury.
10: How do I Maintain my Airsoft Device?
In order to keep your Airsoft device in good working order you will need to do some basic maintenance from time to time.
The internal gearbox of an AEG will need to be lubricated from time to time when servicing and needs to be lubricated with silicone grease. It is important to use grease that does not contain petroleum by products as these will perish plastic/rubber components.
GBB pistols and rifles need to be lubricated on their moving metal on metal parts and seals, such as the trigger/hammer mechanism, the slide or bolt carrier group and the nozzle/piston. GBB’s require this lubrication and cleaning fairly often, depending on how much they are used.
Bolt Action rifles mainly need to be greased inside the cylinder to allow smooth travel for the piston.
Hop Up Maintenance:
One of the most important parts of any Airsoft device is the hop up unit. This part affects the accuracy and in some cases the range of an Airsoft pistol or Airsoft rifle more than any other part, so it is important to keep it in good working order.
The hop up chamber is located just above the magazine well, at the feeding point of the inner barrel. The function of the Hop Up is to impart a centrifugal spin on the BB as it passes through the chamber and down the barrel. This spin makes the BB more stable in flight, and therefore more accurate and more likely to stay in a straight line.
The chamber can be adjusted to impart more or less spin on the BB as it passes through. More spin will make the BB climb vertically, and less spin will cause the BB to drop. The amount of Hop you need to apply to the BB is dependant on the velocity of the Airsoft device, and the weight of the BB you are using.
Inside the chamber is a Hop Up sleeve (commonly called a “rubber” or “bucking”) and a nub. The rubber is the part that makes contact with the BB as it passes and imparts the spin onto it. The rubber and nub are considered consumable parts, as with use and over time a Hop Up rubber will start to wear and will need to be changed periodically.
Upgrade Hop Up bucking sets are also available which last longer and are more consistent. You could also upgrade the entire chamber to better designed ones.
Inner Barrel Maintenance:
Keeping the inner barrel clean is a very important part of Airsoft maintenance. Simply using the cleaning/un jamming rod provided with most AEG’s, some tissue paper and 100% silicone spray to clean any dirt and debris out of your barrel will increase the accuracy of your Airsoft pistol or Airsoft rifle.
Upgrade inner barrels can also be fitted with a tighter inner diameter, called “tight bore”. Standard inner barrels usually have an inner diameter of 6.07mm or more. A tightbore barrel of 6.03mm will increase the accuracy and grouping over distance by stopping the BB from “bouncing” as it travels down the barrel.
Working on Airsoft Devices:
More technical work on Airsoft Devices should only be done by experienced and professional Airsoft technicians, unless you have absolute confidence with technical work and feel competent enough to do it yourself.
GICS has a fully functional workshop that offers Airsoft servicing, upgrades and repairs.
11: Do Airsoft Devices Require a License?
No, they do not.
In terms of the Firearms Control Act, Airsoft Devices are not classified as firearms as they do not exceed a muzzle velocity of 8 Joules. Most Airsoft Devices have a muzzle velocity of between 0.8J – 2.5J, well below the legal definition of a firearm.
Airsoft devices are also airguns by definition, which are specifically exempt from the Firearms Control Act.
Though Airsoft Devices do not require a license to possess, it is still necessary to act responsibly in accordance with the laws of South Africa. You should never brandish an Airsoft device in a public place and should always transport Airsoft Devices concealed in an appropriate carry case or bag.