Have you recently dived into the sport of airsoft, and now find yourself confused by the multitude of airsoft brands and the thousands of different products available? Well, if you spend long enough reading through discussion forums, product reviews and websites from all over the Internet, things may start to make sense. Or, if you want to do it the easy way, you can read this article, learn a little about some of the airsoft brands I’ve had experience with, and hear about the ones I trust. I’ll cover my favorite budget brand for a new player and tell you a little about my experiences with them, and I’ll also recommend some higher-grade armaments for airsofters with more money to spend. I’ll even delve a little into the world of custom-built rifles, for those who need the absolute best rifle on the field for their next game. Still, no matter your budget, these brands are an excellent starting point for any airsofter looking to make a purchase.
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What Makes an Airsoft Brand a Good Value?
There are an awful lot of brands that specialize in airsoft guns. Off the top of my head, I can think of about thirty, and there are much more out there, especially on the Asian continent. With all of these choices, it’s important to figure out what makes a brand worth your money. In my opinion, there are three important qualities that characterize a “good” airsoft company:
Produces Quality Products
This one’s kind of a no-brainer, but for a company to be “good”, its products must be well-made. It’s understandable that guns made to be budget-friendly may not be as polished or have as many extra features as their more expensive counterparts, but In general, If a gun falls apart, cracks in half, or starts smoking, it wasn’t worth the money paid for it, no matter how cheap. A good airsoft company produces reliable, accurate armaments with durable components. It’s also important that the company tests each product before it leaves their warehouse, to make sure their reputation isn’t damaged by sending customers a lemon.
Fills a Niche
Regardless of how objectively “good” an airsoft company’s products may be, it’s also important that they make products that are unique and add new variety to the sport. While airsoft games will always be filled with M4s and 1911s, many of the best companies make active efforts to set themselves apart by offering unique and exotic products at prices that average customers can afford. Companies like this are one of the things that keep the sport moving forward and make every airsoft game unique and fun.
Provides Good Customer Support
I can’t stress how vital this last criterion is, especially with a product as complex as an airsoft gun. Your gun is only as reliable as the people who back it up, and when a gear strips or a motor burns out inside your gun, it’s vital that the manufacturer and seller will both step up to help you find the right replacement parts and solve your problems for you. An extra bonus is when a manufacturer actively reaches out to its customers to hear their feedback about what they can do better, and even what products the customers want to see in the new future!
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Best Airsoft Brand for Beginners:
CYMA Airsoft Guns
When I first started out playing airsoft, I didn’t know much about how airsoft guns worked, I just wanted something that would shoot BBs, that was easy to learn to use, and would last a lifetime. Those are some of the characteristics that make an airsoft gun beginner-friendly, and that’s why I’d recommend CYMA, and particularly their AK line, as a good choice for your first serious AEG.
CYMA is a Chinese brand that produces airsoft guns. Usually, their products are based on designs (e.g. “cloned”) from more expensive brands, like Tokyo Marui or LCT. That said, CYMA’s prices are substantially cheaper, often half the cost or less, meaning you can get a great beginner’s rifle with some high-end features for about $150-175. In particular, the CM048, a replica of the real-steel AKM, is an excellent value, with durable internal parts, and sturdy external construction, including a steel receiver and dust cover.
- Great full metal guns for under $175
- Last years without upgrades or repairs
- Wide-variety of AK-style rifles, from SVDs to PP19s
- Widely available and can be purchased from most online retailers and local shops
- Produces few non-AK AEGs
- Manufactured in China
- Most have FPS ratings of 400+, may require a downgrade to be legal on your local field.
Best Brand for Airsoft Pistols:
WE Airsoft Guns
Although I personally don’t take a sidearm with me when I play airsoft, many players, all of them much better than myself, swear by them. If you’re inclined to take a second weapon with you on the field, more likely than not you’re going to want to choose a gas pistol- they’re light and handy and offer a decent amount of backup firepower for times when you’re reloading, pinned down, or any other sticky situations.
Oftentimes when you hear another airsoft player talking about pistols, they’ll dismiss WE as being low-quality or poorly made. Chances are, he or she owned a WE pistol in the pre-2012 era… WE guns from that time tarnished the company’s image, as they were made poorly, and weren’t tested by quality control before they were sold in the US. However, modern WE pistols have made marked improvements, and now the company offers an enormous number of different models for around or under $120. Their enormous selection of inexpensive pistols, combined with improved quality control and frequent new releases (at the time of this writing, they’re about to release an IMI Desert Eagle under the Cybergun brand name) make WE a serious contender.
- Relatively inexpensive and almost always under $120
- WE replicas are full metal
- Offers a wide variety of pistol options
- Magazines for $20 or less
- Older WE pistols may be of a poorer quality
- Average range and gas efficiency
- Will eventually need some replacement parts to keep running
Best Brand for M4 Replicas:
Armalite Airsoft Guns
The Armalite platform, ancestor to the M4 and M4A1, M16, Mk18, C7, HK416, and half a dozen other variants, is likely the most common rifle in the Western world. What’s more, it’s practically the erector set of firearms, easily modified and heavily modular. If you want to customize the living daylights out of your rifle or replicate a military or pop-culture loadout, the AR-15 platform is for you.
G&P, based in Taiwan, is a high-end airsoft manufacturer that specializes in the AR-15 platform. They produce nearly every variant of the rifle ever used by the US military, like the CAR-15, M16, XM177, Mk12Mod0, and the plain old M4A1, along with a number of non-military designs with useful features like keymod rail systems or PDW-style stocks. I owned one for a while and I was pretty impressed with the features for the money… that said, US sellers may not carry many G&P products, so be warned: to get the exact rifle you want, you might have to order overseas, which can be a daunting task!
- Superb external quality- CNC’d metal with a durable, attractive finish
- Good to excellent accuracy
- Some models available for as little as $240 in the US
- Manufactures pretty much every M4 variant known to man
- Sells replacement parts for their rifles, making repair easy
- More expensive in the US than in Asian markets
- Sometimes be hard to find in the US
- May require further upgrades for optimal performance
Best Brand for Airsoft Sniper Rifles:
JG Airsoft Guns
Airsoft sniper rifles are a peculiar breed. Generally, just out of the box, they’ll be only slightly more powerful or accurate than a standard AEG rifle, and to make them useful, almost without exception, they require a couple hundred dollars in upgrades along with a great deal of experience. That said, they have their advantages- they can be made powerful, accurate, and most importantly, almost silent. Combine that with the excitement that comes from quietly stalking your targets through the woods, or setting up a camouflaged nest to lay in wait for your prey, and sniper rifles start to look very interesting indeed.
There are quite a few manufacturers that produce bolt-action airsoft rifles, and JG’s flagship rifle, the BAR-10, isn’t particularly flashy or unique. However, the important thing is what’s on the inside, and that’s where JG guns excel. A little history helps explain this a little better. One of the first common airsoft sniper rifles was the VSR-10, developed by notable Japanese airsoft company Tokyo Marui. Due to its popularity, it became an industry standard; many companies developed copies of it, and even more companies designed parts compatible with it. Today, the VSR-10 is the most common bolt action rifle in airsoft, and arguably, this is due to the number of parts available for airsofters to use to customize and upgrade their rifles.
As the JG BAR-10 is an exact copy of the TM VSR-10, it has the ability to use all upgrades designed for the VSR-10. This gives you the ability to choose from an enormous variety of parts when you’re building your ideal rifle, and that compatibility also makes it extremely easy to find owner’s guides on everything from disassembling to custom-painting the rifle.
- BAR-10s are inexpensive, usually sub-$130
- Compatible with Tokyo Marui specification upgrades
- Lightweight at around 6.5 lbs
- Requires substantial upgrades to perform competitively
- Pre-2015 BAR-10s have fairly flimsy stocks
Best Brand for Innovative Guns:
Marui Airsoft Guns
Now is a great time to be an airsofter! In the past few years, there have been tons of new products that have helped to advance the sport. Electronic wizardry like programmable MOSFETs allows the user to customize their gun’s performance without ever taking it apart. The rise of HPA engines, like the PolarStar Fusion and the Wolverine INFERNO systems, make it easy to modify FPS and ROF without having to deal with the greasy mess that is an AEG gearbox.
Tokyo Marui was the first manufacturer to make an airsoft gun successful on a large scale. Their first gun, a replica of the French FAMAS, was released in 1992, and in the last 25 years, they’ve become one of the largest (if not the largest) players in the global airsoft market. Until recently, they were one of the only innovators in the field; their new releases, like the M14 and the P90, were totally unique, and other manufacturers only copied their designs. Even now, they produce multiple original product designs annually; most notably, in the last year, they released two new electric-powered tri-shot shotguns, the AA-12 and SGR-12. This focus on continuous improvement and development makes Tokyo Marui the most influential and innovative brand in airsoft.
- The amount of parts and knowledge available for TM guns is absurdly large
- Extremely realistic in appearance and finish
- Known for being accurate despite their low power
- The only source for some unique guns like their automatic shotgun series and the Recoil Shock electric blowback rifles
- Top-of-the-line guns can cost from $300-500 USD
- Constructed out of polymer, due to Japanese regulations on the use of metal in replica firearms
- Relatively low-powered, usually firing at around 300 FPS
- Rare in the US and usually ordered from overseas, with all the headaches and shipping costs that entail
Best Brand for Custom Guns:
Umbrella Armory Airsoft Guns
With some exceptions, like the infamous $3000 Classic Army M134 minigun, airsoft rifles generally less expensive in price. But, for as long as airsoft’s been around, there have been people who want to get the absolute most out of their guns, whether that be range, power, rate of fire, or all at once, and they’ve turned to customizing their weapons with the biggest and baddest upgrades around.
Umbrella Armory started off around 2010 as an airsoft team and grew over the following years- the first time I remember seeing them mentioned was on an airsoft forum in late 2015. Since then, they’ve begun to sell their namesake custom rifles through several online airsoft retailers. Each rifle starts with one of Krytac’s M4 series and is modified and upgraded by hand until it meets their specifications. Though you can buy most of the parts in their custom rifles off the shelf, a lot of the performance of a custom gun comes from how well it’s put together, and with Umbrella Armory’s experience in airsoft gunsmithing, or “airsmithing”, they guarantee top-notch performance without you having to get your hands dirty. It’s costly, to be sure, but for some players it’s worth it.
- Immaculate performance out of the box- high accuracy, power, rate of fire, and durability
- Built on (in my opinion) attractive, reliable base guns
- Reportedly excellent warranty service and customer support
- Very, very, very pricey- around $1050 for one
- Hand-built, which means that availability can be limited
- They make any sort of rifle you’d like, but only as long as it’s a Krytac M4
Best Airsoft Brands Final Thoughts
If you want to get into airsoft, you’ll have to get a feel for which companies you can trust to build well-made armaments. Due to the sheer number of excellent options, it’s pretty much impossible to pick an absolute “best” airsoft brand, because airsoft players have all different styles and preferences, and budgets too. That said, there will always be a good brand out there for your personal tastes; if you want a cheap, durable AK, CYMA has a selection of arms that’ll last for years, while WE probably has you covered if you need a new pistol. And, if you can afford an ultra-high-end custom assault rifle, a brand like Umbrella Armory may interest you. Regardless of your price range or the type of rifle you want, there’s certain to be a great option out there for you, and I hope this article helped you find what you’re looking for!
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Noah Mains is a writer, an airsofter, and most importantly, he’s stuck in the 80s. From Colt SMGs to David Bowie to brick phones, he has an acute appreciation for the greatest decade, and is more than happy to share his enthusiasm for the ALICE gear system (the superior loadout, of course) with anyone who’ll listen.