Hey! Matt with Fox Airsoft here and in today's blog, we are going to answer "What makes a good beginner airsoft rifle?" Now, when I first started playing airsoft back in the late 1990's, it was extremely difficult to find information on what it took to make a good beginner rifle and what you needed to make that gun operate, so I'm hopefully going to be able to answer that question for you today.
The first thing I recommend is when you are getting into the sport, you want to make sure to start off with a quality gun. What makes a quality gun is having a reputable manufacturer that has parts support and something that's been proven out in the field for a little while. Here at Fox, that's what we focus on. We want to bring you products that are going to bring you a lot of enjoyment, that we can support, and you can have fun with for a long time. The brands that we recommend on this website, we put our trust behind, and we consider them excellent choices for you. If you look at guns that are really inexpensive but "you have to do some things to make it work", that is probably not a good place to start for a beginner. You want something that is out of the box reliable. Our top pics for brands will be Elite Force and ASG. They are US based distributors who make a great range of products and for beginners, these would be the brands I would look into first.
With that, the price point does make a difference. Typically, our entry-level rifles start around the low $100's, and they go up to about $200 for the Sportline category. You might hear this term, "Sportline" as well as "Proline" that we throw around, and there's basically two classifications for the gun. A Sportline gun typically has a polymer or nylon fiber-style body, where a Proline gun is typically a metal body, a higher grade. The difference between those two is primarily on the external build quality and the fit and finish of the rifle.
In terms of shooting, the Sportline rifles are excellent if you go with a good brand. You can go head-to-head with almost every Proline rifle out there. When comparing the performance difference between Sportline and Proline rifles, the Proline guns typically shoot a little bit more crisp, cycle quicker, tend to be slightly more accurate out of the box. They have some upgraded internals (slightly more durable in relation to achieving that crisp and smoother performance), but in terms of velocity and accuracy, you're going to be pretty darn close with the entry-level rifle to start off with.The life cycle of the parts that could wear out on a Proline rifle over time will be the similar to a Sportline rifle, so that's just a fact of life no matter how much money you spend. You will just have a slight edge in performance.
When we first started selling airsoft guns here at Fox Airsoft, typically none of the guns would come with a battery or charger nor did they have any product support. It was considered exotic no matter what brand of airsoft gun you buy so you're often left to search for upgrades or repair parts on your own if you picked up airsoft and there was no store near you. The batteries and chargers were no exception. Nowadays, some brands include a battery and charger, where others do not. Typically, those are thrown in there just to give you something very basic to get started and get going. The very first thing you want to do with any Sportline rifle is you want to get a quality charger and a quality battery. The reasons are very simple: A quality charger/smart charger, will charge your battery faster, and it's going to automatically shut off the charger once it has completed its charging cycle. That's going to make your life so much easier versus using the wall chargers that take six to eight hours and don't shut off. A danger to not unplugging a standard charger or overcharging a battery is that they pose a fire risk or damage the battery pack altogether. I would not bother with the simple wall chargers with no cutoff and get a smart charger off the bat.
The next thing is getting a quality battery. Typically, the batteries that come with a competitively priced gun are very low-grade, lower voltage, and lower milliamp-hours (mAh). They often won't live up to the numbers for mAh because the performance is so basic and poor. We typically find that they only have about half of the field playing time that a good quality battery would have. Now, a good rule of thumb with batteries is that if you have a quality battery, a milliamp-hour equals one shot. So if I have a 1,600 milliamp-hour battery, I can expect to fire it about 1,600 rounds before I need to charge it. I don't think of it in terms of hours on the playing field. The reason for that is, some guys are just going to go to town on full auto, where other people are going to use more semi-auto, and they're going to get more life out of that. This is a generalization of course, as this depends on your guns performance and conditions. Upgraded guns tend to draw more battery juice to accomplish that performance. There's more to it than that but that's a topic for another day. When your gun starts to feel sluggish when firing, that will be your queue to charge the battery or grab another freshly charged one if you have a spare.
If you're going out to the field for a day of play, it's a good idea to have a spare battery in your kit. That way, you can go through the main one, and usually about halfway or three-quarters of the way through the day when you notice your gun is starting to die out, just change it out. You can finish off your whole day of play, and that works really good for most players.
When you first get your airsoft gun, the most important thing that you want to do with it is make sure that you're putting in high-quality BBs. Typically, 90% of the problems that we encounter are from people using low-grade BBs in their airsoft gun. So you can solve this problem pretty easily. Go to a reputable airsoft store and look at the ammunition brands that they carry. Don't go to a big box store, which typically sells consumer-grade disposal-type equipment. You want someplace that's going to actually sell a hobby-grade equipment for real enthusiasts. In an environment where we run and use our equipment hard, it is not in our interest or of any other legitimate airsoft store to sell you lousy ammo that will cause your gun to fail and for you to come back with a broken gun.
How does an electric airsoft gun work? In simple terms, your airsoft gun operates by plugging a battery into it that drives an electrical motor that turns gears inside the "gearbox" or "mechbox" to move a piston back and forth to fire the gun. The piston pushes air out to your barrel where your BB will get launched through. With that, there's some internal complexity that goes on, and that has generated a lot of non-standard terminology across the industry. You'll hear terms like "upgraded" versus "not upgraded", and where that really stems from is, you used to buy guns that did not have what we would now consider upgraded internals. The gear sets were weaker, the pistons were weaker, and so that was a component that you used to upgrade on your own. The nice thing about airsoft today is that these rifles like these Sportline ones that we're selling, they are coming with what we would have considered upgraded internals.
The guns are going to have a longer life cycle out of the box than the guns that we used to use. Good beginner guns that are maintained well are typically going 25,000+ rounds in between complete teardown maintenance intervals. So again, buying a trusted brand is going to ensure that you have the upgraded internals you need. This is if you absolutely take care of the rifle, feed it quality BBs, and follow all the other necessary steps. People unfamiliar with airsoft may unfairly compare these toys to their real firearms and have unrealistic expectations about their life cycle and it is important to draw sharp distinctions between the two. We are firing much more rounds through airsoft guns in a shorter period of time compared to a person who casually uses a firearm and is not really abusing their equipment so 25,000 rounds may sound crazy but it is a lot of hard use. This is a generalization of course and you may have one or two things that wear out and need replacing closer to that number, or you may exceed it with nothing going on, or maybe it will be time for a complete rebuild. That's the way airsoft guns are going to be.
Another misconception is judging a gun on its velocity. First off, the standard when looking at your velocity in airsoft is measured with a .2 gram BB. Be wary of this. There are manufacturers out there that try and inflate their velocity numbers by using a lower weight of ammunition. The other thing is, velocity is not a measure of how good a gun is. There's two velocities that guns are typically produced with out of the box. That is coming in at about 400 FPS, and then at about 350 FPS. The reason manufacturers choose these velocities is for the type of play you have. If you're playing at an indoor field, 350 FPS is the most typical limit that you find across the United States. Obviously, check with your individual field first before purchasing.
An outdoor field limit is typically 400 FPS, so a majority of the guns produced will have velocities closer to 400. The other thing is, it's not uncommon to see slight velocity fluctuations from what's published. If a gun was advertised to shoot 400 FPS out of the box, when you tune the hopup and get the gun broken in, it's not uncommon for it to shoot about 380 or 390. That's totally fine. That doesn't indicate that your gun is flawed in any way, and it's actually doing exactly what it should be doing.
A lot of Sportline guns out there these days are coming with rail systems. The rail system does a lot for you. It's basically your point where you're mounting all of your accessories to. There are a variety of different types of rail systems. You have a standard picatinny, which is the most common. It's been around the longest. Then you also have a KeyMod and M-LOK pattern which allows you to mount accessories and keep a lowprofile front end. But if you have a standard picatinny rail system, you can mount almost any accessory to that.
When you're looking for your first rifle here, just know that the products we're putting on our website, they're awesome. We want to give you guys something great that you're going to enjoy for a long time to come. If you have any more questions about a specific model or just need some more details, feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at (888) 316-7816. Any of our sales staff are going to be happy to help you out. We have some great people here who are very knowledgeable in the sport, and their job is to make sure that you guys get what you want, so that you can have fun and enjoy this hobby for a long time.