Hey! Tang from Fox Airsoft here and today's focus is going to be on pistols. This will be a new buyer's guide on airsoft pistols. We will cover the basics of how they function, what is out there, what we offer, and how to determine what type will be the best for you.
Let's start with the types of actions out there: You will have two primary types based on how they are powered, either spring-powered or gas-powered.
Spring-powered pistols are something you already might be familiar with because they are available just about anywhere. Spring-powered pistols require you to manually cock the gun before each shot. They're also known as spring action pistols or "springers" for short. These are very inexpensive to invest in and fun for collecting. I think just about all of us experienced players have owned at least one of these at some time. The primary reason that they are not good for skirmishing though, is the slow rate of fire. Another con would be that because it is manually operated, you need some degree of hand strength to use it. Younger players might have trouble racking the slide before each shot. Being that they are so inexpensive, they might feel kind of flimsy compared to the nicer pistols out there but I will get into later. But all in all, spring pistols are absolutely fun to have. The power and range is very limited so I would not recommend this for skirmishing, but more for collecting.
Gas types: Green Gas and CO2
Now let's move onto gas guns. Gas guns will be powered by either green gas, CO2, or can accept both if there is available magazines. Green gas will come in metal canisters with a fill nozzle. To fill a green gas magazine, you will line up the nozzle to your green gas compatible magazine to what is called the fill valve and you will depress the nozzle to the valve. When you do this, the can and magazine should be oriented downward, otherwise, you will not fill the magazine properly. When you depress the can, you should hold it for about three to five seconds to get a good fill. With a fully charged magazine, you can shoot about two or three times worth the capacity of BBs before you have to put in another magazine. In general, green gas cans last about 30+ uses before you have to get a new one. Due to the fact that green gas is highly flammable and pressurized, shipping it can be very expensive. As far as transporting it and using it goes, do not keep it out in direct sunlight or in the trunk of your hot car. Otherwise, these could explode. Green gas itself is treated with silicone oil so it will help preserve your gun seals and make it last longer by conditioning the seals within the magazine and gun, however, that's not to say that you should go without lubricating your gun. Green gas is temperature sensitive so you do not want to use your gas gun out when its cold. If you shoot your gun rapidly without letting your magazine and gun stay within the same temperature as the surrounding areas, your gun will suffer from what is known as cool down. Cool down is an effect where you shoot the gun to the point where the magazine or gun gets cold and as a result the gun will run sluggish. To combat this, let your gun and magazine warm up to normal temperatures again.
CO2 on the other hand will come in little metallic cartridges that are discarded after they are used up. They are sealed until loaded into the gun or magazine. You can easily identify what airsoft gun uses CO2 by looking for a big hole in the magazine or if the grip pops off to reveal a compartment. With the cartridge installed, you will then turn an integrated key or using a tool, turn a big Allen key, which will force the cartridge upward to get punctured. Once punctured, you will hear a hiss for a moment and that's your sign to keep turning until you don't hear that anymore. You'll do that very quickly, otherwise, you'll lose all your CO2. Once you do that, your gun is ready to go and charged. Being that these are sealed, once you load the cartridge up and puncture it, you will have to the use this until it's empty. With CO2 cartridges, you cannot top off your gun like green gas. You will have to bleed off the excess before you drop in a fresh cartridge if you wish to top off.
CO2 is much higher in pressure and performs more consistently. You will get a lot of good performance out of these, compared to a green gas gun year 'round. Airsoft branded CO2 cartridges will be treated with silicone oil already. So that'll, again, maintain your gun and help it last a little bit longer. However, the nice thing about CO2 is its availability compared to green gas. You can run the inexpensive branded ones as well I do not recommend those though because the ones that are meant for air guns that are available at, say, Walmart, will not be treated with oil. Also, there will be impurities and it won't run as clean as the Airsoft branded ones for Airsoft guns. So I would stay away from those. In terms of operating cost, CO2 and green gas pistols will be roughly about the same. So just pick the power source based on how and when and where you're gonna use it as well as how realistic do you want the pistol to me. If you are very active on your maintenance schedule, any of these will be fine as long as you pay attention.
Gas Pistols: Non-Blowback
With that out of the way, now we go onto the pistol types that use gas, so we'll have non-blowback, partial blowback, and full gas blowback. We'll start with non-blowbacks. Non-blowback implies that the slide does not move or blowback when you shoot, so the gun looks pretty static when you're shooting. These are pretty inexpensive. They do not have any recoil or action to blowback all the CO2s use to drive the BB. So these guns generally shoot pretty hard. The build quality will be very similar to a spring pistol, so this is kind of an upgrade to the spring pistol, except that you do not have to cock it after each shock obviously. The trigger pull will be pretty heavy on these as opposed to a semi-auto type setup where the slide moves back and cocks a hammer and so forth. The magazine will be a stick type like so and the CO2 will be stored in the grip. Operating a non-blowback pistol is very simple. As long you have CO2 in the grip, you can just insert the magazine and fire away. It will not stop on the last shot, so keep that in mind.
Gas Pistols: Partial Blowback
Next, we cover partial blowback pistols where you start to get blowback function for the price range. However, it's not as realistic as the more expensive counterpart. The slide does move back to some degree. So this does give you recoil. In terms of power of out of the box, this might be second place. This being a sealed design, you won't really get the functions that you would on the full more expensive pistols with the field stripping and maintenance. These are great for someone that's looking for a back up and wants the recoil action but doesn't want to spend the full hundred plus dollars for a gas blowback. Partial blowbacks will primarily be CO2 and depending on the make and model, the CO2 can be stored either in the magazine or grip to operate them. Simply insert the magazine, rack the slide, and fire. On most of these designs, they will lock back on the last shot though. So you can swap in a fresh magazine and then continue to go. The partial blowbacks will have the same feeling as far as metal content and polymer content as the real counterparts.
Gas Pistols: Gas Blowback
Now moving onto the most popular and the broadest sub category would be gas blowbacks. The name implies that the slide blows back and the recoil associated with that. The slide has full travel so the gun will function and feel like the real thing. These were meant to be taken apart, cleaned, maintained, field stripped just like the real thing. All the functioning controls will be there. These are the most realistic, but often will be more expensive than the other types I've mentioned earlier. But these are probably the most fun I would say. Now you'll find a lot of them will be green gas powered until recent years when CO2 technology started to cross over into airsoft. Certain models will be exclusively CO2 and some will be exclusively green gas whereas for ASG, the guns, certain models will be already beefed up internally to handle CO2. You just have to buy the other magazine for it. The operation is very similar to that of the real pistols.
So being that the propellant, be it green gas or CO2 is stored in a magazine, you simply insert a freshly loaded magazine into the gun, rack the slide, and the first round is chambered. These will have very light trigger in compared to everything that we talked about. Once the magazine's emptied, the slide will lock back and you can swap in a fresh magazine. Now would I recommend a pistol in general as a first airsoft gun? I would get an AEG before anything else and then get into the pistols. I kinda discourage new players from this type of pistol if you are not meticulous with maintaining your equipment. Just like anything else in sports that have tools and equipment, you want to keep everything in top shape.
Special Non-Blowback Guns: Revolvers
One sub-category of honorable mention is revolvers. Now these will be non-blowbacks since revolvers don't have moving slides or any parts like that. So you'll find a couple kinds out there. For the inexpensive options, you have the Elite Force H8R revolver. This is a mostly polymer gun with a rotating clip that is removable.
This is a good entry level revolver type pistol because these clips hold 10 rounds as opposed to six rounds that you would find on the other revolvers that I will get into next. The H8R is a more practical skirmish ready revolver compared to the rest. For people who are a fan of realism though, you might want to look at ASG as they have the Dan Wesson and 715 series revolvers. The ASG revolvers are metal with a nice polished finish to it. You have different colors to choose from as well. The weight of the ASG revolvers is pretty much on par with the real thing. The CO2 will be stored on the grip as with all the revolvers I am mentioning. They feature removable shells, each of which holds one BB... so you literally have just six shots. Reloading is slow, just like on a real revolver. As an added bonus from ASG you will get a speed loader which will allow you to load your six rounds super fast. These shells do add up in terms of cost, though, so I wouldn't want to lose these shells. The revolver will have single or double action just like the real thing.
Another neat gun in this category would be the Elite Force Smoke Wagon. These are like the cowboy guns from back in the day, so they will be exclusively single action, meaning you have to pull the hammer each time to rotate the cylinder and then pull the trigger and then continue on until you're empty. Single action revolvers as far as this design goes, require you to load each shell one by one as well as eject it. So it's not as fast as the modern day revolvers like the ASGs. For hardcore collectors or people that just like the challenge of reloading, this one's super fun.
So here is the million dollar question: what do you buy? You're probably expecting me to tell you to buy something that I suggest. Well, I am here to tell you that you really have to know how you plan to use this pistol, what you're looking to spend, and if you are up for the intense maintenance involved.
Some people want to run a pistol as a primary weapon which takes a lot of skill and guts. More power to you if you are a speedsofting CQB player! But for the majority of us who aren't that intense, what other uses might we have for a pistol? Is it for collecting? Are you using it as a backup? Do you have to use it in conjunction with your sniper or DMR gun because it's required?
Next is what do you want to spend. Generally there is not much overlap in pricing so full on gas guns will be over $100 and their magazines anywhere from $20 and up which can add up. How much realism you are looking for will dictate what you are going to be looking to be spending so keep that in mind.
Lastly, there is the maintenance aspect. Full gas-blowback pistols mimic real firearms in function and complexity. In order to make your investment last, you will have to maintain it rigorously. That means cleaning it on a regular basis, lubricating it, and inspecting its function to make sure it is not falling apart. I can tell you that a lot of new players fail to do the basic things such as clean the barrel of their new AEG and I feel like giving them a gas pistol is just a recipe for disaster. Gas guns wear out and the parts life is finite though, so do not expect your pistol to last forever. In the future we will cover some proper maintenance to help you extend the life of your pistols.
Hopefully this guide has helped you narrow down what you want out of your pistol. Now you can go to our website to check out the various types we offer and take it from there. Thanks for reading!