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How Do Airsoft Guns Work?

How Do Airsoft Guns Work?

Airsoft is a thrilling and immersive sport that simulates military and tactical scenarios. Central to this experience is the airsoft gun, a replica firearm that shoots small plastic pellets known as BBs. If you're new to airsoft or curious about how these guns operate, you've come to the right place. We will delve into the inner workings of airsoft guns, exploring their mechanisms, power sources, and different types available on the market. By understanding how airsoft guns function, you'll gain a deeper appreciation for the sport and make informed decisions when choosing a gun that suits your needs.


How Do Airsoft Guns Work?

“What an airsoft AEG looks like inside”

Airsoft guns are designed to emulate the appearance and functionality of real firearms. However, instead of firing lethal ammunition, they shoot plastic or biodegradable BBs. These guns operate using different mechanisms, including spring-powered, electric-powered, and gas-powered systems.

Spring-powered airsoft guns are the simplest type, relying on a manually compressed spring to propel the BB forward. When you cock the slide or pull back the bolt, the spring is compressed and locked. Upon pulling the trigger, the spring is released, pushing a piston forward and generating a burst of compressed air that propels the BB down the barrel. Spring-powered guns are often found in entry-level models and offer a reliable and straightforward shooting experience.

“A player in the field using his AEG AK”

Electric-powered airsoft guns, known as AEGs (Automatic Electric Guns), are the most popular type. They utilize a rechargeable battery to power an internal gearbox. The gearbox contains gears, a piston, and a spring. When you pull the trigger, the motor spins the gears, compressing the spring and driving the piston forward. This action creates a blast of air that propels the BBs down the barrel. AEGs offer semi-automatic and fully automatic firing modes, making them versatile and suitable for various gameplay styles.

Gas-powered airsoft guns use pressurized gas to propel the BBs. The gas can be stored in a magazine or an external gas tank connected to the gun. Commonly used gases include green gas, propane, CO2, or HPA (High-Pressure Air). When the trigger is pulled, the gas is released, pushing the bolt with a nozzle forward and expelling the BB from the barrel. Gas-powered guns often offer blowback features, simulating the recoil of real firearms and enhancing the overall realism of the shooting experience. They are favored by players who seek authenticity and enjoy the added element of recoil.

To learn more about airsoft guns in general check out our blog on What is an Airsoft Gun?

Features of an Airsoft Gun


“An airsoft M4, Probably one of the most common airsoft guns on the market”

Airsoft guns come in a variety of styles, replicating different types of firearms such as pistols, rifles, shotguns, and sniper rifles. They are typically made of durable materials like ABS plastic or metal, providing a realistic feel and weight. The design and construction of airsoft guns strive to mimic the form and function of their real counterparts, offering players an immersive experience.

Most airsoft guns feature components such as magazines, hop-up units, and safeties. Magazines hold the BBs and are available in various capacities, from standard to high-capacity options. Hop-up units are responsible for adding backspin to the BB as it passes through the chamber, which helps stabilize its flight and improve accuracy over longer distances. Safety switches, similar to those found on real firearms, prevent accidental discharges and enhance overall user safety and make sure the gun cannot be fired when it is on safe.

“Two players taking cover”

Another notable feature of airsoft guns is the ability to customize and modify them. Many manufacturers offer a wide range of aftermarket parts and accessories, allowing players to personalize their guns to suit their preferences and playstyle. From upgraded barrels and hop-up units to external accessories like scopes, grips, and stocks, the customization options are extensive. This flexibility allows players to create unique setups and optimize their guns for performance and aesthetics.

The Working Mechanisms of Airsoft Guns

Understanding the working mechanisms of airsoft guns is essential to grasp how they function and achieve their shooting capabilities.

spring-powered guns are the most basic type and use a spring-loaded piston to generate the power needed to propel the BB. When the gun is cocked, the spring is compressed, and when the trigger is pulled, the spring is released, pushing the piston forward and compressing the air in the cylinder behind it. This compressed air is then used to propel the BB out of the barrel.  The advantage of a spring-powered gun is stability and reliability.  The downside is that the shooting experience is very manual and you have to cock the gun before each single shot.


“A diagram of a spring powered airsoft Rifle”

Electric airsoft guns use an electric motor to generate the power needed to propel the BBs. These guns have a gearbox that contains a set of gears that are driven by an electric motor. When the trigger is pulled, the gears rotate, compressing a spring, which then releases the air needed to propel the BBs. Many electric airsoft guns also have a battery compartment, which powers the motor that drives the gears.  The benefit of an electric airsoft gun, often called an AEG (short for Automatic Electric Gun) is they provide a very reliable and stable full-auto shooting experience.  The power output of an AEG is not affected by temperature. Some AEG rifles have an electrically simulated recoil feature where the bolt is mechanically moved backwards on each shot.  This is referred to as Electric Blowback, or EBB for short.

“A diagram of an AEG Airsoft gun”

Gas airsoft guns use propane or CO2 to generate the power needed to propel the BBs. These guns have a gas reservoir, which is filled with gas, and when the trigger is pulled, a small amount of gas is released into the firing chamber. This gas pushes the BB out of the barrel at high velocity.  Gas airsoft guns can be non-blowback (NBB), partial blowback (PBB), and gas blowback (GBB).  NBB pistols do not have moving slides or bolts, while on PBBs, a small part of the slide or bolt cycles on each shot. GBB airsoft guns have fully cycling slides or bolts to mimic the mechanical motion of a real gun when it’s fired.  GBB airsoft guns offer a sense of recoil, although nowhere near what you would feel on a real gun.  On the strongest gas blowback rifles or gas blowback pistols, the recoil would be somewhere between a 22 caliber and 9mm pistol.  The benefit of a gas-powered airsoft gun is its realistic shooting experience.  The downside is that gas airsoft guns are very sensitive to temperature and do not perform well in cold weather, which is anything below 15 degrees celsius.

“A diagram of a gas powered airsoft pistol”

Each mechanism has its advantages and considerations. Spring-powered guns are simple and reliable but require manual cocking before each shot. Electric-powered guns offer semi-automatic and fully automatic firing modes, providing rapid-fire capabilities. Gas-powered guns provide a realistic shooting experience with blowback features but may require additional maintenance and access to a constant supply of gas.

Want to know the difference between airsoft guns and BB guns? Check out our blog on Airsoft Guns vs BB Guns

Can Airsoft Guns be Deadly?

“Airsoft players clearing rooms as a team”

Airsoft guns are explicitly designed to be non-lethal and shoot projectiles at safe velocities. However, it is important to handle them responsibly and adhere to local laws and regulations. While airsoft guns can cause injuries, they are typically minor and similar to getting hit with a small pinch or a bee sting. The risk of serious injury is low when proper safety precautions are followed, such as wearing appropriate protective gear like goggles, face masks, and thick clothing.

“A wall of airsoft guns at a shop”

It is crucial to never misuse airsoft guns or point them at people who are not actively participating in the game. Mistakenly treating an airsoft gun as a real firearm can have severe consequences. Always transport airsoft guns in cases or bags to avoid alarming others and to comply with local laws. Educating yourself and others about responsible and safe airsoft practices helps maintain a positive and enjoyable experience for all participants.

Do Airsoft Bullets Hurt?

“A player who got hit not wearing a long sleeve shirt. It’s best to always wear long sleeve shirts to protect your arms”

The level of pain experienced when hit by an airsoft BB varies depending on several factors, including the distance, velocity, and the area of the body hit. At close range or with high-velocity shots, airsoft BBs can sting upon impact, causing a mild discomfort similar to a small pinch or a bee sting. However, the pain is generally tolerable and temporary.

“A milsim player wearing full protective gear”

To minimize any potential discomfort, it is recommended to wear appropriate protective gear. Goggles or full-face masks provide essential eye protection, and thick clothing can reduce the sting of BB impacts. Engaging in fair and responsible gameplay, maintaining a suitable distance from opponents, and adhering to field rules and regulations further contribute to a safe and enjoyable airsoft experience.

How Accurate are Airsoft Guns?

“An Airsoft DMR (Designated marksman rifle)”

The accuracy of airsoft guns can vary depending on several factors. The quality of the gun itself, including the barrel, hop-up unit, and overall build, plays a significant role in accuracy. Higher-end airsoft guns, often constructed with tighter tolerances and improved components, tend to offer better accuracy out of the box.

Other factors that affect accuracy include the length and quality of the inner barrel, the adjustment of the hop-up unit, and the weight and quality of the BBs used. Fine-tuning the hop-up adjustment to find the optimal backspin for your gun and BB combination can greatly improve accuracy and range.

“A diagram of an airsoft hop up”

It is important to note that airsoft guns are not as accurate as real firearms or precision airguns. Their effective range is generally limited to around 100-200 feet, depending on the model and modifications. Factors such as wind, BB quality, and shooter proficiency also influence accuracy. Regular maintenance and cleaning of the barrel, hop-up unit, and other relevant components contribute to consistent accuracy over time.

Want to be the ultimate airsoft sniper? Check out our blog on How to be a Sniper in Airsoft

Is It Illegal To Walk Around With An Airsoft Gun?

“A proactive case to carry airsoft guns”

Laws regarding the public display and transportation of airsoft guns vary from country to country and even within different regions. It is crucial to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations in your area to avoid any legal complications and ensure responsible behavior.

In many jurisdictions, it is illegal to carry an airsoft gun in public without taking proper precautions. These precautions often include using a gun case or bag to transport the airsoft gun and ensuring it is not easily mistaken for a real firearm. Some countries or states require an orange tip on the barrel to distinguish airsoft guns from their lethal counterparts.

“Some proactive cases you can cut out sections to fit magazines or guns”

Always exercise common sense and responsible behavior when carrying airsoft guns, even on private property. It is recommended to keep airsoft guns securely stored and out of sight when not in use, and to only display or use them in designated areas such as airsoft fields or private properties with permission.

Final Remarks

“A player using his airsoft MP5 AEG”

Understanding how airsoft guns work is essential for safe and responsible gameplay. By exploring the different types of airsoft guns, their inner workings, power sources, and safety considerations, players can make informed decisions and fully enjoy the sport. Whether you choose to equip yourself with a spring-powered pistol for backyard target practice or dive into the intense action of an electric-powered rifle on a competitive field, understanding the nuances of airsoft guns will enhance your experience. By delving into the inner workings of the gearbox, you can fine-tune your gun's performance to suit your style of play. Additionally, exploring the various power sources available, such as gas-powered guns with blowback, opens up new possibilities for realism and immersion.

Want to get that extra competitive edge? Check out our blog on How to Win an Airsoft War


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