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What is an Airsoft Gun? | Explained - Ehobby Asia

What is an Airsoft Gun? | Explained - Ehobby Asia

Airsoft was invented as a hobby toy category in Japan during the 1970s for people who wanted to enjoy real guns but couldn't. The first Airsoft guns were simple and plastic, and could really be classified as toys. Some were 1:1 scale while others were scaled down slightly.  But Airsoft has evolved into something much bigger since the beginning and is enjoyed by millions of people around the world today.

Airsoft guns are realistic-looking replica/toy guns that imitate real firearms and shoot small round plastic BBs using air pressure. Like paintball guns, Airsoft guns are non-lethal and are designed to be safely fired at other people for games.  Airsoft guns come in all shapes and sizes and are appreciated by collectors, firearm aficionados, and hobbyists alike. To put it another way, think of an airsoft gun as a very realistic-looking paintball gun without a huge hopper, and instead of shooting big balls of paint, they shoot small 6mm plastic pellets that weigh less than a Tylenol pill.  The premise of both paintball and airsoft guns is essentially the same; for gaming.  But while paintball guns do not resemble real guns and have less collector value, airsoft guns mimic the exact look of real guns, and it's common that a serious collector can own hundreds of different airsoft models.  

Airsoft guns come in a variety of designs

Movie companies use them as props, while law enforcement and military personnel use them for training thanks to their extreme realism and mirrored functionality with their real gun counterparts.  Airsoft guns have been used on set in many Hollywood blockbusters including The Matrix, Lord of War, GI Joe, John Wick, and many others.  The use of airsoft guns on movie sets is widely considered to be safer than shooting blanks from a real gun.


Airsoft guns work by using compressed air or gas to propel small plastic BBs. There are different types of airsoft guns, which use different mechanisms to generate the power needed to propel the BBs.

Spring-powered Airsoft Guns

Spring powered airsoft 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.

Diagram of a Spring airsoft gun's internals

Gas-powered Airsoft Guns

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 Celcius.

Diagram of a Gas airsoft gun's internals

Electric Airsoft Guns

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.

Diagram of an Electric airsoft gun's gearbox

HPA Airsoft Guns

HPA airsoft guns use a simple HPA engine that uses a solenoid to control a gas valve, which regulates high-pressure air fed from an external tank that is connected by a hose.  This is exactly the same setup that many paintball guns use.  The benefits of HPA is the extremely high power and high rate of fire.  HPA guns are also extremely reliable since there are very few moving parts.  The downside is the unrealistic external gas tank and hose, and a very unengaging shooting experience that sounds like a pellet gun that you fire at your local carnival to win a soft toy.  Having said that, the power advantage is huge and for this reason alone, HPA airsoft guns are fast becoming the most popular choice for competitive airsoft players.

Diagram of an HPA engine

Regardless of the type of airsoft gun, the BBs are loaded into a magazine or hopper, which feeds them into the gun. When the trigger is pulled, the BB is propelled out of the barrel by compressed air or gas.  It's important to note that airsoft guns are not real firearms and do not use gunpowder to generate the power needed to propel the BBs. 


Now that we have established what airsoft guns are and took a look at how they work on different platforms, let's look at some frequently asked questions.

Are Airsoft Guns Safe?

Airsoft guns can be safe if they are used properly and with the appropriate safety gear and precautions. However, like any type of gun, airsoft guns can be dangerous if they are not used responsibly.

One of the main safety concerns with airsoft guns is the potential for eye injuries. BBs can travel at high speeds, and if they hit someone in the eye, they can cause serious damage or even blindness. It is important to always wear appropriate eye protection when using airsoft guns, such as goggles or a full-face mask.

Another safety concern is the risk of skin injuries. BBs can leave welts or bruises when they hit exposed skin, especially at close range or on sensitive areas of the body. It is recommended to wear long sleeves and pants, as well as gloves and other protective gear when playing airsoft.

It is also important to use airsoft guns in a safe and controlled environment. Never shoot an airsoft gun in a public area or at anyone who is not wearing appropriate safety gear. Always be aware of your surroundings and make sure that there are no bystanders in the area before firing.

Eye protection is ESSENTIAL in airsoft games

In addition, it is important to use the appropriate type of airsoft gun for the activity you are participating in. For example, a high-powered airsoft gun designed for long-range shooting may not be appropriate for close-range combat scenarios, where a lower-powered gun would be safer.

Finally, it is important to use good judgment and common sense when using airsoft guns. Never point an airsoft gun at anyone, even if you believe it is unloaded. Always treat an airsoft gun as if it were a real firearm and follow basic gun safety rules at all times.

In summary, airsoft guns can be safe if they are used responsibly and with appropriate safety gear and precautions. It is important to be aware of the potential risks and to take steps to minimize them when using airsoft guns.

What Do Airsoft Guns Shoot?

Airsoft guns shoot small, lightweight plastic pellets known as BBs. These BBs are typically made of plastic and range in size from 4.5mm to 8mm in diameter, with the most common size being 6mm. They are designed to be safe for use in airsoft guns, as they are lightweight and do not carry the same level of kinetic energy as metal bullets.

Airsoft BBs come in a variety of weights, ranging from 0.12 grams to 0.43 grams. The weight of the BB affects its flight characteristics, with heavier BBs generally traveling slower but being more accurate and able to maintain their trajectory over longer distances. Lighter BBs, on the other hand, travel faster but are less stable in flight and may be affected more by wind and other environmental factors.

Airsoft BBs and magazines

The type of BBs used in airsoft guns can also affect their performance. Some BBs are designed to be biodegradable, which means that they will break down over time and not leave behind any harmful residues in the environment. Other BBs are designed to be polished or coated, which can improve their accuracy and reduce friction as they travel down the barrel of the gun.

Overall, airsoft guns are designed to shoot small plastic BBs that are safe for use in recreational shooting sports and military simulation games. The choice of BBs can affect the performance and accuracy of the gun, and it is important to select the appropriate type and weight of BB for the activity you are participating in.

One of the coolest types of BB that has been brought to us from this development process is probably the tracer BB. Tracer BBs are coated with glow-in-the-dark materials that can glow red or green when used with a "tracer". The tracer unit flashes each exiting BB with an LED diode which charges the BB making it glow upon exit. When used in the dark, they have an engaging laser like effect similar to Star Wars.

Airsoft tracer BBs

What is FPS?

Airsoft FPS stands for "feet per second" and refers to the velocity or speed at which an airsoft gun propels a BB. FPS is a measure of the kinetic energy that the BB carries, and it is an important factor in determining the performance and effectiveness of the airsoft gun.

Most airsoft guns have an FPS rating that indicates the maximum velocity at which the gun can fire. The FPS rating is typically measured using a chronograph, which is a device that measures the speed of the BB as it leaves the barrel of the gun.

A Chronograph used to measure BB velocity

The FPS rating can vary depending on the type of airsoft gun and the type of BB being used. Spring-powered airsoft guns typically have a lower FPS rating than gas-powered or electric-powered guns. The weight of the BB can also affect the FPS rating, with heavier BBs typically traveling at a lower velocity than lighter BBs. However for the sake of standardization, most airsoft manufacturers, retailers and media channels will list airsoft fps according to the industry standard weight and size of a 0.2g 6mm BB. 

In general, most airsoft fields and events have a maximum FPS limit for guns to ensure safety and fair play. The maximum FPS limit can vary depending on the type of gun and the type of activity, but it is typically in the range of 300 to 400 FPS for most airsoft guns.

It is important to note that while FPS can be a useful measure of the performance and effectiveness of an airsoft gun, it is not the only factor to consider. Accuracy, range, and consistency are also important factors that can affect the performance of an airsoft gun and should be taken into consideration when selecting and using an airsoft gun.

Want to learn more about airsoft FPS? Check out this blog here

How Much Do Airsoft Guns Cost?

The cost of airsoft can vary widely depending on several factors, such as the quality and type of equipment, the frequency and type of games played, and the location of the airsoft field or range. Here are some of the costs associated with airsoft:

Airsoft Gun - The cost of an airsoft gun can range from less than $50 for a basic spring-powered gun to several hundred dollars for a high-quality gas or electric gun.

Gear and Accessories Airsoft gear and accessories such as protective eyewear, clothing, and tactical gear can range from relatively inexpensive to several hundred dollars.

Ammunition - The cost of airsoft ammunition, which comes in the form of plastic pellets, can vary depending on the quality and quantity purchased.

Field Fees - Airsoft fields and ranges typically charge a fee to use their facilities. These fees can range from $10 to $50 or more per session.

Travel Costs - If you need to travel to participate in airsoft games, you'll also need to factor in the cost of gas or transportation.

Overall, the cost of airsoft can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars per year, depending on the level of involvement and the quality of equipment. It's important to consider these costs when deciding whether to participate in airsoft, and to budget accordingly to ensure that you can afford the necessary equipment and fees.

A GHK AK-74M gas blowback airsoft gun

Are Airsoft Guns Considered Firearms?

No, airsoft guns are not considered firearms in most countries. While they may resemble real firearms in appearance, airsoft guns use compressed air or gas to propel plastic BBs and do not use gunpowder or explosive charges to discharge a projectile.

However, the legality of airsoft guns can vary depending on the country or region. In some countries, airsoft guns may be classified as firearms and subject to the same regulations and restrictions as real firearms. In other countries, airsoft guns may be legal to own and use, but may be subject to certain restrictions or regulations.

It is important to check the local laws and regulations regarding airsoft guns in your area before purchasing or using one. In general, it is recommended to treat airsoft guns with the same level of care and responsibility as real firearms, and to use them only in safe and controlled environments.

An airsoft 1911 with dummy rounds

Are Airsoft Guns Legal?

Here are some general laws and legalities of airsoft:

Age Restrictions - In many countries, including the United States, the minimum age to purchase or own an airsoft gun is 18 years old. Some states and municipalities may have additional age restrictions, so it is important to check local laws before purchasing or using an airsoft gun.

Use in Public - It is generally illegal to use airsoft guns in public places, including parks, streets, and other public areas. Most airsoft games are held on private property or designated fields, where safety measures can be implemented.

Transportation - When transporting airsoft guns, they should be unloaded and stored in a secure container or case. Some countries or states may require airsoft guns to be transported in a specific manner, so it is important to check local laws.

Safety Measures - It is important to wear appropriate safety gear, such as eye and face protection, when playing airsoft. Some airsoft fields may require additional safety measures, such as full-face masks or gloves.

Modifications - Modifying airsoft guns to increase their power or range may be illegal in some countries or states. It is important to check local laws before making any modifications to your airsoft gun.

Brandishing - It is illegal to use an airsoft gun to intimidate or threaten others, or to brandish it in a public place. Airsoft guns should be treated with the same respect and caution as real firearms.

Permits - Some countries or states may require permits or licenses to own or use airsoft guns, especially if they are higher-powered or designed to resemble real firearms.

It is important to check local laws and regulations regarding airsoft guns before purchasing or using them. Ignorance of the law is not a defense, and violating airsoft laws can result in fines, confiscation of the airsoft gun, or even criminal charges.

What is Airsoft Hop Up?

Airsoft Hop Up is a system used in airsoft guns to improve the accuracy and range of the pellets or BBs fired. The hop-up system works by applying backspin to the BB as it is fired, which causes it to fly in a straighter trajectory, reducing the effects of gravity and air resistance.

The hop-up system consists of a small rubber or silicone nub located inside the airsoft gun's barrel, which applies pressure to the top of the BB as it passes through the chamber. This creates the necessary backspin to stabilize the BB in flight.

The amount of hop-up can be adjusted by turning a small wheel located on the gun's chamber, which changes the amount of pressure applied to the BB. A higher amount of hop-up will result in a greater amount of backspin and a higher trajectory, while a lower amount of hop-up will result in less backspin and a lower trajectory.

Diagram of an airsoft Hopup

Overall, the hop-up system is an essential component of airsoft guns, as it greatly improves accuracy and range, making it easier for players to hit their targets at greater distances.

Do Airsoft Guns Hurt?

In short, yes, if you get hit by an airsoft gun, chances are it will hurt just a little. However, there are many different ways to minimize the pain felt by getting hit by a BB. Some of these include wearing thicker clothing, using some padded protection such as dummy plates inside your plate carrier, or using airsoft masks to ensure you don't get hit in the face. While it might leave a bruise here or there or a small welt here or there, fear not, it's not a serious injury!

What Are Airsoft Guns Made Out Of?

Airsoft guns are made of a variety of materials, depending on the type of gun and its intended use. The main components of an airsoft gun include the body, barrel, magazine, and internal components such as the gearbox and hop-up system. Here is a breakdown of the materials commonly used in airsoft guns:

Polymer/Plastic - Many airsoft guns have bodies and components made of high-density polymer or plastic. These materials are lightweight, durable, and affordable, making them a popular choice for airsoft guns designed for recreational and entry-level uses.

Metal - Metal is a common material used in airsoft guns, especially for the internal components and outer barrel. High-quality airsoft guns may have metal bodies or metal receivers, which can improve the durability and realism of the gun. Some of the most commonly used metals in airsoft guns include aluminum, steel, and zinc alloy.

WoodSome airsoft guns, particularly those designed to replicate historical firearms, may have components made of real wood. These guns are often used in historical reenactments or for display purposes and can be more expensive than other types of airsoft guns.

Composite MaterialsComposite materials, such as carbon fiber or fiberglass, may be used in high-performance airsoft guns designed for competitive or professional use. These materials are lightweight and strong, making them ideal for use in high-stress applications.

Overall, the materials used in airsoft guns can vary widely depending on the type of gun and its intended use. Polymer and plastic are commonly used for entry-level and recreational guns, while metal and composite materials are used in high-performance or professional-grade airsoft guns.

A stealthy airsoft sniper

Is An Airsoft Gun The Same Thing as a BB Gun?

Airsoft guns and BB guns are similar in many ways, but there are some important differences between the two.  The major difference in concept is that airsoft guns are designed to be shot at other human beings for wargame purposes, while BB guns and air guns are designed for target shooting or small game hunting.  In terms of power, BB guns or air guns are much more powerful than airsoft guns, but less lethal than real guns. 

BB guns is a very generic term but in the USA, it most commonly refers to air guns that shoot 4.5mm / .177 caliber steel BBs or diablo pellets, which look a bit like badminton shuttlecocks but are made from lead.  Both airsoft guns and BB guns are designed to shoot small projectiles, and both are often used for recreational shooting and target practice. However, airsoft guns typically shoot plastic BBs that are larger and lighter than the metal BBs used in BB guns and air guns. Airsoft BBs are designed to be safe for use in airsoft guns, as they are lightweight and do not carry the same level of kinetic energy as metal BBs.  Air guns are also capable of much higher air pressures.

Another key difference between airsoft guns and BB guns is the power source. Airsoft guns can be powered by spring, gas, or electricity, while BB guns are typically powered by a spring or CO2 cartridge, or hand pumped to generate extremely high pressure air that is stored in a tank within the gun. BB guns are often more powerful than airsoft guns, with the ability to shoot at higher velocities and with more kinetic energy.

Airsoft can be played indoors or outdoors

In terms of safety, both airsoft guns and BB guns can be dangerous if not used responsibly. It is important to always wear appropriate safety gear, such as eye protection, when using either type of gun, and to use them only in safe and controlled environments.

Overall, while airsoft guns and BB guns share some similarities, they are different in terms of the type of projectile they shoot, the power source they use, and the level of power and velocity they are capable of.


Airsoft guns are really cool and fun replicas that can be appreciated by many people from many different walks of life. Being highly realistic, some airsoft guns help fulfill childhood dreams of collectors who want something to remind them of a movie they might have seen. Airsoft guns also give people a taste of gun ownership in countries that might not allow real guns. Finally, airsoft guns can act as a safe gateway to learn about firearms and firearm safety. All in all, we hope that after you finish reading this definitive guide you have a better idea as to what airsoft guns actually are.

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