If you're looking to buy a new airsoft gun and you're a little overwhelmed at all the choices you could make, you're certainly not alone! Back when I bought my first entry-level airsoft gun, I had to spend nearly a month researching, looking through hundreds of forum threads and video reviews in order to find the perfect choice for me. While I learned a lot from doing my research, it would've saved me hours to have a shortlist of some of the best airsoft guns currently on the market. That's why this article exists. It'll break down some of the best available guns by price level and role, and cover some of the advantages and disadvantages of each so you can see whether they fit your needs! By the end of the article, you should have a good idea of what might be the right choice for your next game!
Short on Time? Here is the Bullet List
Best Beginner Airsoft Guns:
- Best Beginner Airsoft Rifle: King Arms Colt CQBR AEG
- Best Beginner Airsoft Pistol: WE Hi-Capa 5.1 T-REX
- Best Beginner Airsoft Shotgun: CYMA M870 Tri-Shot
Best Inexpensive Airsoft Guns:
- Best Inexpensive Airsoft Rifle: CYMA CM022 AK-47
- Best Inexpensive Airsoft Pistol: Crosman Stinger P311
- Best Inexpensive Airsoft Shotgun: DE M500 Single-Shot Shotgun
Best CQB Airsoft Guns:
- Best CQB Airsoft Rifle: JG Steyr Aug A3
- Best CQB Airsoft Pistol: KJW Tactical Hi-Capa
- Best CQB Shotgun: Jag Arms Scattergun
Best Airsoft Rifle:
Best Airsoft Sniper Rifle:
- Best Budget Airsoft Sniper Rifle: JG BAR-10
- Best Airsoft Sniper Rifle:
Best Airsoft DMR:
Best Airsoft SMG:
Best Airsoft Support Weapons:
- Best Airsoft Light Machine Gun: Classic Army M249
- Best Airsoft Medium Machine Gun: LCT RPD
- Best Airsoft Heavy Machine Gun: EMG M1919
- Best Airsoft Minigun: Classic Army Microgun
**Below are our more detailed reviews. Click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.
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- Sight Line! 7 Best Airsoft Sniper Rifles 2019 [Bulls-eye]
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Basic Airsoft Terms
If you’ve had some experience playing the game, go ahead and skip everything in this paragraph. But, if you’re new to airsoft, a lot of the information later on in this article is going to be pretty confusing. This section may help you get a quick primer to the game and its terminology.
Types of Airsoft Guns
You probably already know that airsoft is a sport like paintball or laser tag, where you tag other players out with some form of projectile. In paintball, the projectile is a gelatin sphere filled with washable paint, or in laser tag, it’s a light beam. In airsoft, the projectile is a small plastic sphere called a BB, fired from some form of gun. There are a number of different game types played in airsoft, everything from team capture-the-flag to Battle Royale style matches. Every reputable game will require some form of eye protection, but once you’ve got that, a gun that adheres to field rules, and some suitable clothing, you’re usually ready to play! Keep in mind, more serious events may require additional gear to join.
There are three basic types of airsoft guns. The first is the manually cocked spring-powered gun. With these, you use your own muscle to pull back a spring-loaded mechanism, then pull the trigger to fire. When the trigger gets pulled, the spring forces a piston forward, creating air pressure that launches the BB.
The second type is the AEG or Airsoft Electric Gun. It’s similar to the spring-powered guns, but instead of pulling the spring back by hand, a battery-powered motor does the work for you using a series of gears. Some AEGs allow you to fire at high rates of fire, sometimes even up to 30-40 rounds a second.
Lastly, there are the gas-powered guns; they operate by using a pressurized gas reservoir to propel the BB down the barrel. In some cases, the gas is also used to drive a slide or bolt back and forth, simulating the operation of a real firearm. Most gas-powered guns use green gas (a form of propane with added lubricant and without scent) or compressed carbon dioxide in small bottles, but some use highly compressed air.
Types of Airsoft Magazines
Additionally, there are multiple types of magazines (used to hold the gun’s BB projectiles). AEGs usually have the choice of standard/mid-capacity magazines or high capacity magazines. Standard capacity or mid capacity mags (“midcaps”) use the same construction; a single, long coiled spring snakes through a long channel just wide enough to fit a row of BBs. The spring, topped with a cap called a follower, pushes the BBs directly into the gun’s chamber. The only difference between standard capacity and midcap is that standard capacity only holds as many rounds as the real magazine does, usually around 30, while the midcap fits as many as possible, between 90 and 140 depending on the magazine size.
High capacity magazines, on the other hand, hold an entire reservoir of BBs and use a funnel and clockwork spring at the bottom of the mag to scoop up the BBs from the bottom and feed them to the top, where they enter the rifle’s chamber. Gas guns frequently use something similar to a midcap, except a portion of the magazine is set aside to store the gas powering the gun. Capacity is between 10 and 60 rounds, depending on magazine size. Infrequently, some gas guns use standard AEG magazines instead, relying on an internal reservoir to store the gas.
Best Airsoft Guns for Beginners
If you're a new player or a player who's only used a rental gun before, choosing the first gun can seem a major challenge. The numbers alone are frightening- there are upwards of fifty major manufacturers competing for your dollar. Last time I checked, over two and a half thousand models of gun are available for purchase in the US. When I started playing airsoft in 2010, I spent nearly three weeks reading reviews before I bought my first gun; hopefully, this article can help you make an informed decision in much less time! I'll cover my three current picks for a first gun, and give a quick explanation of why each one is a good option for your first major game.
Best Beginner Airsoft Rifle:
There is a lot of M4-based airsoft AEGs in the running for a beginner's first gun, but King Arms' CQBR replica is probably my current pick. For a first gun, I'd always recommend a select-fire electric-powered rifle like this one over a gas rifle- maintenance is easier, operating costs are cheaper, and ammo capacity is higher (standard AEG magazines for an M4 can hold between 120-300 rounds depending on type, whereas 40 rounds is the absolute limit for a standard-size gas magazine).
The King Arms model has a few qualities that set it apart from other AEGs and make it a good fit for beginner players. As an M4-based rifle, it benefits from a lot of parts commonality with other M4 rifles, allowing the user to use hundreds of aftermarket parts (sometimes even parts from real rifles) to customize it to their liking. Besides, since the M4 platform is so common in airsoft, you'll never have a hard time finding spare magazines or repair parts. Additionally, the 10.5in barrel on the CQBR (accepting a 275mm inner barrel) is at a nice sweet spot for airsoft where it's long enough to fully stabilize the BBs on their way out the barrel, but short enough for use in tight quarters.
A couple of caveats: both the receivers (the main body) and the rail system on the rifle are made of a nylon-reinforced plastic. While that's pretty standard at this price point, and I'm a big fan of the durability of King Arms' reinforced polymers, you may want to check out other options if you're dead-set on an all-metal replica. Also, while this rifle is marketed towards beginners, it doesn't include a battery or charger, so be sure to factor that into your budget.
If for some reason you aren't a huge fan of this model, G&G Combat Machine M4s and A&K M4s are also good options at around this price point.
- Highly modular with plentiful upgrades
- Metal gearbox
- Great ergonomics for right-handers
- Polymer receivers and rails
- Limited battery space
Best Beginner Airsoft Pistol:
Although I'd recommend picking an electric rifle as your first gun if you're looking to get a high-performing secondary weapon, one of WE's newer Hi-Capa models (replicas of 2011-style handguns) could be your best option. Base 29-round magazine capacity, solid gas efficiency, and a light-gathering fiber optic front sight, combined with numerous holster options, make this a solid choice for a first sidearm. Much like with M4s, Hi-Capas is highly modular, and there are hundreds of upgrade parts out there. Effectively, this means you can take this gun and build anything from a no-frills rugged combat pistol to a blinged-out “race gun”, adding parts like compact red dot sights, muzzle comps, and 52-round extended magazines.
Keep in mind that with gas guns, in order to keep them shooting you'll need to fill your magazines with either green gas (propane with silicone oil added and the odorant removed) from a local airsoft store, or buy an adapter to fill your magazines directly from propane cylinders, adding the silicone oil lubricant yourself.
- Accepts common magazines and upgrade parts
- Highly ergonomic setup for a pistol
- High gas consumption
- Iffy quality control
Best Beginner Airsoft Shotgun:
Not only are the CYMA tri-shot shotguns the best beginner shotgun currently available, but they're also my choice for best airsoft shotgun overall (I've owned two and both have been great), combining value with performance. Like the firearms they're based on, airsoft tri-shot shotguns shoot a blast of three BBs at a time, mimicking the spread of pellets in a buckshot round. They're also loaded with shotgun-shell-shaped magazines that fit in a standard shell holder and carry enough ammo each for ten bursts of three rounds. They tend to shoot under 350 FPS, making them a good choice for CQB games or short to midrange outdoor matches.
- Good FPS for CQB games
- Accepts standard shotgun shell mags
- Plastic construction
- Limited upgrade options
Best Inexpensive Airsoft Guns
If you need an airsoft gun on a shoestring budget, there may still be some solid options out there for you. Sure, they won't be competitive with mid-range guns in terms of performance, and the options for upgrades are pretty limited, but they can be a good way to start when you want your own gun, for matches at a local field or in your backyard, and you don't have the funds to fully invest in a set of starter gear!
Best Inexpensive Airsoft Rifle:
The CYMA CM022, a replica of the AK-47 automatic rifle, is what's commonly referred to as a “Low-Priced Automatic Electric Gun”, or LPAEG. The real-steel AK-47, a firearm designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov immediately following the Second World War, has proliferated widely across the globe, finding favor with users as an effective, reliable infantry weapon. While this replica won't win any awards for its accuracy, power, or durability, it's a fine way to start off in the sport so long as you're aware of its shortcomings. Keep in mind, since it's a proprietary design that's not compatible with higher-end airsoft AK-47 models, the magazines are also unique to the gun and you'll have to find ones specific to this model.
- Select fire
- Spare mags available
- Proprietary internals
- Proprietary mags
- Plastic construction
Best Inexpensive Airsoft Pistol:
In airsoft circles, Crosman has acquired a well-deserved reputation as a terrible company to buy from; their guns are generally purchased from another airsoft company, marked up heavily, and sold to newbies who don't know better. However, in this case, Crosman sells a replica of the 1911 pistol that turns out to be of pretty great quality!
These pistols were designed by Taiwanese manufacturer KWC. Even though the production has moved to China, the basic design is still one of the best out there for a cheap spring pistol. The ABS plastic slide and frame are sturdy and seamless, compared to other spring pistols where the left and right halves come held together with screws or glue. More importantly, the spring cocking mechanism is reinforced with a metal spring guide, a feature almost impossible to find on a spring-powered gun this cheap. In fact, one of these was my first airsoft gun, and it's still going strong after 9,000 rounds. The FPS is reasonable for a small spring-powered gun, around 300, and the 12 round magazine is enough for an inexpensive backup gun, that's for sure.
- Spare mags are expensive
- It's a spring pistol
Best Inexpensive Airsoft Shotgun:
While it's not a perfect choice for a seasoned airsoft player, Double Eagle (DE) offers a really solid spring-powered shotgun, the M500. The M500's capable of accepting detachable 15 round magazines. Although it's not got the performance to go toe to toe with more competitive guns, it's more than suitable for backyard games and target practice, and could be a good entry into the sport!
Worth noting is that, despite a mostly plastic construction, the airsoft gun does have a metal heat shield for a little more heft. Additionally, the M500 does feature a hop up unit, and it's adjustable- a nice feature for a low-dollar gun. And, thankfully, spare magazines are widely available and are usually under ten dollars a pop.
- Relatively high powered
- Inexpensive spare magazines
- Full plastic construction
Best CQB Airsoft Guns
In tight quarters, it's easy to see why an M16 with a 20″ barrel might not be the absolute best choice for tagging your opponents. Instead, look for compact AEGs and GBBs with high rates of fire and low FPS (to avoid hurting anyone or exceeding field FPS limits).
Best CQB Airsoft Rifle:
One aspect about CQB games that really can't be overstated: speed is the most important tool you have in your arsenal. Compact, lightweight rifles like JG's AUG replica are pretty well-suited to running and gunning, particularly because the weight of the rifle (mostly from the gearbox) is near the back. This improves balance and allows you to change your point of aim faster and more accurately. The AUG platform has a few other advantages: there's no shortage of rail space, and every part of the gun is functionally ambidextrous, even the magazine release.
Fortunately, if you want to take the gun outside of the CQB arena, it still has a 309mm barrel (longer than that of a Colt CQB Carbine), keeping it in the running for field games as well as close quarters. The threaded barrel also allows users to add on barrel extensions and mock suppressors, so if that's something that appeals to you, it's an option too.
Unfortunately, airsoft AUG replicas also copy the real firearm's unique trigger mechanism, where a half pull fires a shot in semi-automatic, and a full pull fires automatic. While this sounds nice in practice, the trigger mechanisms on all airsoft AUGs are notoriously finicky and may require a little tinkering to repair them if they malfunction.
- Compact size
- Long barrel
- Fully ambidextrous
- Iffy trigger mechanism
- Uses magazines unique to the AUG platform
Best CQB Airsoft Pistol:
By their very nature, most pistols are pretty solid choices for CQB matches. In particular, though, high-capacity, modular handguns tend to have the edge on the competition in a fast-paced arena game. KJW's Hi-Capa model is an older release, but it's still one of the most highly recommended sidearms in the airsoft community. Without being too flashy, it still offers all the advantages of the Hi-Capa platform in a lightweight gunslinger-approved package. The Tanio Koba licensed grip has pretty good checkering for retention, and it points naturally too. The railed frame isn't strictly necessary for a CQB gun, but for darker fields, a weapon light can be mounted to help out with illumination room clearing.
With a lot of other pistols, ammunition capacity is going to be your sticking point- a 15 round magazine doesn't last long in an intense game. For any Hi-Capa platform, you can find relatively inexpensive gas magazines capable of holding up to 52 rounds. This doesn't even begin to cover the aftermarket available for the gun, though. Since KJW based the internal workings on the Tokyo Marui standard, almost any part made for the TM version (and there are hundreds, if not thousands) should be able to slot into place on this particular pistol.
- Accepts common magazines and upgrade parts
- Highly ergonomic platform
- Spotty quality control
- Fairly high gas consumption
Best CQB Shotgun:
Shotguns are nice as a rule, but a shotgun with the ability to choose between a three and six round burst is pretty much the best. The Jag Arms Scattergun, a full metal replica of the Remington 870 (made by storied Chinese manufacturer Jing Gong), has a selector switch that allows you to choose the size of the burst. Additionally, like the Tokyo-Marui-made shotgun it was modeled off of, it uses the common shell-type shotgun magazines and stores a sizeable amount of gas in its stock reservoir (more than enough for your average game).
FPS comes in between 340 and 320 feet per second, perfect for close-quarters games. An added plus of the design: since the power's coming from gas, not spring, it's incredibly easy to rack the pump, meaning you can put more rounds downrange faster. While the attached peep sight isn't particularly special, it is nice to see that the manufacturer's thought to include a sight, since a lot of entry-level shotguns don't have a proper aiming mechanism of any kind. The receiver-mounted rail is even more welcome; a gun of this sort really benefits from a low-profile red dot sight of the Aimpoint Micro form factor.
- Accepts standard shotgun shell mags
- Full metal build
- Plenty of repair parts and modifications available
- Small gas reservoir
- Gas reservoir not easy to replace
- Difficult to disassemble or repair
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Best Airsoft Rifle
Airsoft has come a long way since its origins in the 1990s; there are hundreds of great airsoft rifles that'll serve any player well. If you're hunting for a specific replica, you'll most likely be able to find a serviceable airsoft version out there; that said, here are a couple of my favorites at any price point.
Best Budget Airsoft Rifle:
For a long time, CYMA AK-style rifles have been the kings of the budget AEG. Generally coming in at under two hundred bucks, they provided solid performance (their motors and gearboxes were especially good for the price) and incredibly tough bodies with a lot of different models to choose from. In general, an AK-style rifle from CYMA will be the least expensive full metal replica (of serviceable quality) you can find on the market. My first AEG was a CYMA AK-74 like this one, and it was in such good shape years later that I sold it for nearly what I paid for it.
This one in particular appears to be steel-bodied with a full-length barrel and a steel folding stock for close quarters or storage. Additionally, like all CYMA AK rifles, it uses a Version 3 gearbox, one of the sturdiest of the standard gearbox designs and well-suited to high power springs. The motor, while housed in the rifle’s grip, is also bolted directly to the gearbox, ensuring you don’t have to readjust motor height after disassembly. For this particular rifle, the battery storage is in the top cover/handguard, restricting you to smaller batteries.
One word of warning- while almost every part on a CYMA AK lasts like a tank, the hop up adjustment slider is made of a poor quality zinc alloy, and if you’re too hard on it, it will break. Fortunately, replacements are easy to come by!
- Steel receiver construction
- Great internal performance
- Flimsy hop-up adjustment
- Limited battery space
Best Overall Airsoft Rifle:
ASG's Bren A2 assault rifle, based on Czech manufacturer CZ's rifle of the same name, provides nearly the perfect layout for a light combat rifle, using M4-style fire controls and mag release with a number of handy features like a monolithic aluminum upper, M4/STANAG magazine compatibility, folding adjustable stock, and perhaps most importantly, a durable V3 gearbox. Surprisingly, the Bren doesn't have the same automatic magazine cutoff features as its little brother, the ASG Scorpion Evo SMG.
Coming in at just over seven pounds with no attachments, it's in the middle of the road as far as weight goes, the polymer lower thankfully shaving several ounces off. It also shoots at just under 400 FPS, surprisingly high for the typical field rifle. Lastly, since the battery storage is in the upper part of the receiver, you may need to keep an eye on the batteries you buy and make sure they're a good fit before you head out to a game.
- Great ergonomics
- Solid construction
- Fair price for a unique weapon
- Battery stored in reciever
- Lack of typical ASG CZ features
- Limited aftermarket
Best Airsoft Sniper Rifle
Sniping's a tough job in airsoft; you're competing with high-powered AEGs that can provide “accuracy by volume”, saturating a wide area with flying BBs. As a consequence, the bolt-action user has to keep quiet, stay well-camouflaged, and coordinate with their team to provide good intel and direct the heavy hitters. Also, they need a reliable, powerful piece of armament. Here are a couple of excellent choices, both of which can be upgraded to a pretty impressive level!
Best Budget Airsoft Sniper Rifle:
One of the most common phrases you'll hear in the airsoft sniping hobby is “real sniper rifles are built, not bought”. That said, most of those insanely upgraded sniper rifles start with a platform like the JG BAR-10. For a fairly affordable price, beginners have access to a solid performing platform with the ability to upgrade literally every single part, choosing from hundreds of aftermarket barrels, pistons and cylinders, triggers, hop up units, and stocks to make the perfect match rifle. For now, though, the base model will perform pretty well; expect effective ranges into 160-180 feet with .32g BBs.
While one of the unfortunate flaws of the BAR-10 system is its 45-degree trigger sear, meaning trigger pulls aren't as crisp as one might want and sears wear out fairly quickly, at least three aftermarket customizers sell a rugged 90-degree replacement sear system that fits the BAR-10. They're all pretty expensive, but they're also a major upgrade to the gun's capabilities!
Keep in mind, the BAR-10 doesn't have any form of iron sights, so if you want to take it out into a game, you'll need a scope or red dot sight of some sort to mount to the included optics rail.
- Easy to Upgrade
- Good accuracy at short ranges out of the box
- Weak OEM trigger sear
- Slide-style hop up adjustment
- Awkward magazine release
Best Airsoft Sniper Rifle:
The best airsoft sniper rifle will almost always be a custom build; that said, if you're starting with a little more cash, the L96 platform (note this rifle is based on the Tokyo Marui L96 AWS internal system, not the Maruzen Type 96 system) can be a really solid performer. Based on the Accuracy International Arctic Warfare Magnum rifle, Well's replica includes a number of really handy features for airsoft sniping, and accepts a number of upgrades. Though a top-tier L96 rifle tends to be a bit pricier than a VSR-10, and the parts are harder to come by, there are a few advantages to the L96 AWS platform.
Notably, this particular rifle includes a stock that folds for transport, making a long rifle manageable for smaller hard or soft cases, or for transport. The stock also features adjustable comb height, allowing one to set the stock up for almost any scope/ring combination. It also allows you to set length of pull, adapting to the user's arm length for better ergonomics when shooting. The stock-mounted monopod isn't a bad addition either; for long periods of prone shooting, the monopod can be extended to stabilize the rifle and keep it motionless when stealth is key.
A couple other handy functions are also present. The hop up is a rotary dial system, notable because it combines the consistency of a Top Down Center style hop up system with an easy external adjustment knob. Also, unlike magazines on most other airsoft sniper rifles, this one is placed in the correct position under the bolt, making it much easier to change under pressure (however, this correct placement comes with some drawbacks- the air cylinder is slightly undersized for optimum performance, and the BBs have to travel through a long feed channel inside the rifle before they make it to the hop up).
This particular bundle includes both an adjustable-magnification scope and a bipod. While neither is of stellar quality, they're good enough for a starter set- there's always the chance to upgrade later! All told, it's a good price for a relatively well-made rifle, and there are more than enough upgrade parts available to catch your interest if you have cash left over!
- Still inexpensive
- Adjustable, ergonomic stock
- Great hop-up design
- Upgrades are a little more expensive
- Undersized air cylinder
Best Airsoft DMR
The Designated Marksman's Rifle is a key part of real-world infantry operations. Allowing a standard rifle squad to hit targets hundreds of meters farther than the range of a general issue rifle, it enables teams to take on enemy support weapons and snipers they couldn't normally hit. In airsoft, the role is the same; you'll be knocking out enemy machine gunners and serving as a countersniper, softening up garrisons and clearing the way for your teammates.
Best Budget DMR:
The M14 service rifle, chambered in .308 Winchester/7.62mm NATO, has been in US fighting service (in various forms) for nearly seventy years. In that time it's seen a number of variants, including the Marine Corps' M14 DMR, using an accurized M14 action and a McMillan M2A stock with pistol grip, adjustable cheekrest, and adjustable length of pull.
While the standard CYMA M14 is pretty well regarded for a highly accurate, easily adjustable hop-up unit and a sturdy gearbox capable of handling DMR-grade upgrades, the advantages the M2A stock afforded military users carries over to its utility in airsoft. The pistol grip drastically improves the rifle's handling while in prone position, while the adjustable stock components help you fit the rifle to your arm length and preferred eye position for scope use.
Since for most DMR builds, substantial modification is needed to enhance the rifle's performance at long range, it's handy that the takedown and disassembly process for the M14 is as easy as it is. The motor is directly bolted to the gearbox, meaning it's easier to maintain proper motor height over multiple disassemblies. It's also easy to remove the receiver from the stock for a quick barrel change or spring upgrade. Additionally, since most fields will mandate a DMR to be locked to semi-automatic firing, it's easy to mechanically limit the fire selector to keep it on semi.
There are only a couple of flaws to the CYMA M14 model. The first is the charging handle; if used excessively, some stress cracks have been known to develop due to the low grade of the zinc-aluminum alloy used. Secondly, just like the Tokyo Marui-made rifle the CYMA replicates, a proprietary M14-type inner barrel is needed if you're looking to upgrade.
- Highly ergonomic
- Solid range out of the box
- Requires aftermarket scope mount
- Uses proprietary inner barrels
- Somewhat heavy
Best Overall DMR:
Based on the Knight's Armament Corporation SR-25, G&G's GR-25 sits solidly at the high end of airsoft rifles. While outwardly it may have some resemblance to M4-based marksman's rifles like the Mk12 Mod 1, the SR-25 is chambered in the much larger 7.62 NATO round. The airsoft version capitalizes on the real steel's larger size by fitting a higher-volume cylinder inside the receiver, allowing the rifle to use longer inner barrels without losing any power.
While the additional cylinder volume is the most valuable trait of the GR-25 for DMR use, both the internal and external components on the GR-25 are as good as one would expect based on the G&G name and the rifle's price.
A number of features make the SR-25 a good fit for airsoft users- Unique to the SR-25 platform is the long integrated suppressor on the front end, allowing airsoft users to easily run a longer inner barrel for improved power if they so choose. Additionally, the model comes standard with a free-floated rail system for weapon lights, foregrips, or a bipod/grip pod.
Besides the hefty price, the greatest drawback of the SR-25 series is magazine availability. There are a number of SR-25 models available on the airsoft market, and their magazines are rarely intercompatible. Some users report the A&K SR-25 magazines are compatible with the GR-25, but if you’re not positive you want to take that risk, you may be stuck buying all your magazines from G&G.
- Highly modular
- Plenty of rail space
- Excellent amount of cylinder volume
- Uses proprietary magazines
- Fairly bulky
Best Airsoft SMG
The submachine gun, pioneered in WWII, was a way of giving the infantryman the capabilities of an automatic rifle in highly controllable form for short-range engagements. When you're carrying an SMG, your goal is to stay light and mobile, flanking enemy positions and providing recon for your team. Here are a couple of possible options for a primary armament!
Best Budget Airsoft SMG:
Very few firearms have had the kind of popular reception the P90 has. As compact bullpup submachine gun with a horizontal magazine it’s got the sort of sci-fi looks that have landed it in the hands of all kinds of cinema heroes and villains. Most notably, the P90 was featured heavily in the series Stargate, equipped with a specialized style of on-body sling. In real-world usage, it’s a firearm made by FN Herstal, chambered for the company’s armor-piercing 5.7mm cartridge and capable of a 52 round capacity.
JG’s P90 AEG (in this case, rebranded by Palco Sports) is one of the best airsoft rifles available in the entry-level price range. While it’s relatively inexpensive, it isn’t a cheap design. Just as in the real thing, the majority of the firearm’s body is a polymer, the receiver, barrel, and most importantly, the gearbox, are all metal. Another nice touch is that the battery fits right in the stock; if you run short on power mid-game, just pull the rubber buttpad off to access and replace it.
There are a few drawbacks to the P90 as an airsoft rifle. The P90’s magazine system is unique in that it’s attached to the firearm horizontally. Unfortunately, since airsoft high capacity magazines feed from the bottom, very few P90 high caps will function well. Instead, get mid capacity magazines, which feed in a more traditional way and can hold nearly 140 rounds anyhow. Due to the weird magazine configuration, mag changes take a little while and can be a bit clumsy; also, it can be hard to find pouches to carry your spare magazines in. Most of these challenges can be solved by using a “terminator” conversion kit, available from many airsoft retailers, that allows the P90 to accept more common M4-style magazines instead.
One thing to note about the P90, it does not include any form of sights from the factory. While it’s definitely possible to play airsoft, especially in CQB, just by watching where your shots are headed, I’d advise getting an inexpensive red dot sight instead, to mount on the top rail.
- Very inexpensive
- Good battery storage
- Very compact
- Mediocre quality plastic body
- Magazines can be iffy
- No built-in sights
Best Airsoft SMG:
The ASG Scorpion EVO is a replica of the relatively new CZ Scorpion EVO 9 mm SMG by the Czech arms firm CZ. Designed in collaboration between ASG and CZ, the gun's about as close to the real steel as you can get with a modern airsoft AEG, with a number of specially designed functions to bridge the realism gap between real and airsoft.
Notably, the rifle's designed with a little extra electronic wizardry enabling a few features. Among these are the working magazine cutoff and bolt catch. When you run out of BBs, the gun will stop cycling until you remove the mag and hit the bolt catch. Additionally, using a built-in microcomputer, the airsoft gun can fire not just in semi and automatic, but also in three-round bursts.
Lastly, since the EVO was built to real-steel spec, almost any aftermarket parts built for the real-steel version will fit. This includes handguards, stocks, grip modifications, etc.!
- PTW-like electronic fire control features
- Compact size
- Plentiful real-steel aftermarket upgrades
- Limited internal aftermarket
- Relatively high price
Best Airsoft Support Weapons
Everyone's favorite team member is the support gunner. Armed with a light or medium machine gun, they can suppress enemy fire, defend a fixed position and work together with faster, lighter team members to advance up a corridor of fire. The key characteristics of an LMG worth looking for are reliability, accuracy, and magazine size, enabling you to provide accurate aimed fire for long periods, without giving the enemy an opening by changing magazines.
Best Airsoft Light Machine Gun:
There may be a lot of light machine gun replicas available to the average airsofter, but the Classic Army M249 and its imitators are the most common by far. Based on the FN Herstal Minimi and its successors, the CA M249 family can be found at pretty much every major airsoft event and field due to their relatively low price, solid performance, and easy modification. This particular model, the Para (designed for airborne troops), features a short barrel and a collapsing tube stock to keep it lightweight and compact. Even though it’s small compared to its siblings, it’s still a beast of a machine gun, 12 lbs without any modifications or accessories. It’s a doable CQB rifle, but given its weight it’s better out supporting teams on larger fields.
The M249 gearbox and hop-up are some of the best features on the gun, built to easily withstand thousands of rounds of fire between tuneups. The 249 gearbox is almost a brick of solid metal, sturdy enough to handle the sustained firing of an intense support position, while the hop-up is a rotary style with a detent, easy to adjust but resistant to losing its setting even after it’s fed a thousand plus rounds.
Since the stock’s too small to hold it, the battery on this gun is concealed behind the handguard, under the quick-change barrel. It can be a little awkward to access in a hurry, while on the field, but simple enough once you’re back in the safe zone. Just pull the catch and the barrel slides right out. Incidentally, this also allows players to very quickly access the inner barrel and hop up in case there’s a problem.
The M249 accepts standard M4-style midcap magazines easily enough, but in order to get good LMG performance out of this particular support weapon, be sure to pick up a compatible box magazine before you head to the field. Classic Army, A&K, and MAG offer really good 1500-round electric box magazines, while Classic Army and A&K also make 2500-round box-style magazines too.
- On the inexpensive side for an airsoft support weapon
- Durable gearbox
- Accurate, reliable rotary hop-up
- Doesn't include box mag
- Changing battery can be a pain
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Best Airsoft Medium Machine Gun:
Of all the major airsoft manufacturers of Russian firearms, LCT’s made the best name for itself in the US. Realistic steel construction, high-quality gearbox internals, and a wide variety of products make them a first choice for many Eastern Bloc kits; unsurprisingly, they were the first to release an RPD replica (to the delight of quite a few airsoft players!). Chambered in 7.62×39, the same caliber the AKM/AK-47 uses, the RPD bridges a gap between Russian automatic rifles and heavier MGs like the 12.7mm DshK. LCT’s version is a pretty impressive upgrade over their RPK, using an enormous 2800 round magazine and capable of laying down wide fields of fire. The construction isn't full milled steel, instead using an aluminum alloy, but it's still plenty sturdy for high-intensity games.
- High magazine capacity
- Very unique in the airsoft world
- Fairly hefty, durable construction
- Aftermarket support is limited
Best Airsoft Heavy Machine Gun:
There aren’t too many heavy machine guns out there in the airsoft world, but lately the Evike Manufacturing Group has stepped up their game and released a replica of the Browning M1919 .50 caliber machine gun. The 1919 is the current longest-serving infantry weapon in the US arsenal, used throughout WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and still defending US firebases throughout the Middle East in its A4 variant.
Evike’s M1919 is definitely a heavy beast; coming in at nearly 20 pounds, it’s possible to wield it by hand but you’d better be in good shape if you plan to do so, not to mention it wasn't designed with hand-wielding in mind. EMG also produces a mid-20th-century accurate tripod setup for emplacement-style defense. Given the size of its magazine, a defensive perimeter backed with sustained fire from the M1919 replica might be pretty challenging to attack.
- Effective defensive support weapon
- Vehicle and tripod mount options available
- Enormous magazine
- Merely average gearbox performance
- Enormously heavy
- Tripod an extra expense
Best Airsoft Minigun:
While there isn’t much competition for the best airsoft minigun (there are only three, two of which usually cost upwards of three thousand dollars), Classic Army’s Microgun is the first minigun to be priced within the budget of most airsoft players. Powered by a hybrid system of gas and electric power, all six barrels can spin up to lay down a serious field of fire.
The micro gun isn’t exactly a budget purchase; for about the same price, a programmable HPA engine like a Polarstar can enable even a cheap airsoft rifle to rival it in terms of rate of fire and FPS. Not to mention, keeping it fed, even with cheap bulk-pack BBs, is a real pain in the wallet. However, it’s a very fun purchase. I’ve handled one before on occasion and when you can spray down the entire enemy team in a half-second, it absolutely puts a smile on your face. Just be careful with it; bend a barrel and you’ll have a hard time finding a replacement from anyone but the manufacturer.
If you’ve got a vehicle you want to set up for supporting airsoft ops, Classic Army also offers a mount kit so you can fix their micro gun to the roof for covering fire on the move.
- High volume of fire
- Vehicle and emplacement mount kits
- User experience is incredibly enjoyable
- Mediocre accuracy
- Requires two sources of power
- Expensive, though not compared to its big brothers
Best Airsoft Gun Final Thoughts
Now that you've figured out what kind of gun you're looking for and picked a couple of options, whether they're on my list or not, do a little research, see what other airsofters have to say (both on forums and in video reviews), and try to narrow it down! The lucky thing is, airsoft these days is in a good place! Nearly every gun sold today will be good enough off the shelf, and if you want more performance, it's easy to learn to upgrade. Whether this is your first airsoft gun or your tenth, good luck out there on the field!
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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.
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