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Lipo vs. Nimh Batteries for Airsoft: The Difference for Airsoft Players

Posted by Matthew Meraz on 20th Jul 2022

Lipo vs. Nimh Batteries for Airsoft: The Difference for Airsoft Players

Today’s topic is batteries. We will cover the two types of batteries you will find the most, what are the pros and cons of these types, and what are they best used for. 

All information on this video is going to be very simplified and it is best you develop your own understanding before using airsoft batteries and we will not be held responsible for misuse.

Batteries and Chargers

The two types of batteries you will find the most used in airsoft is NiMH and Lipo batteries. Yes, there are other types before you light up the comment section.

Before we start, I want to go over the terminology we’ll be using. Starting from the plug itself, this is the basic Tamiya-style plug. 

There is a large and small version, but the small plug is the most common in airsoft. You also have T-style or Deans connectors. This is another style that is not so common, but is an upgrade because it is more durable and provides a better connection. 

These are often looked at as upgrades because the standard Tamiya style plugs can handle only so much current, so if you use a powerful battery or your gun is upgraded and demands a lot of battery power, these plugs will not only be a bottleneck but could melt.

Left to right: 9.6v Nimh battery with Tamiya-style connector, 9.6v Nimh battery with Deans-style connector, 9.6v Nimh battery with Tamiya-style connector, 11.v Lipo battery with Tamiya-style connector, 11.v Lipo battery with Tamiya-style connector

Best for beginners: 9.6v NiMH

Batteries have a capacity and they are rated in maH - milliamp hours. Think of it as the amount of gas in your tank. Stock guns will use a normal amount of battery juice to power the gun. Upgraded guns might draw more of this so you will experience a shorter life between charges in exchange for that upgraded performance. Voltage is another thing you will find, and you will have options on what voltage to run an airsoft gun. NimH is nickel metal hydride and will use conventional chargers. 

Lipo is lithium polymer and different type of battery that charges with its own specialized charger. Lipo batteries require more care and attention to use so do not purchase these for people who are not going to be attentive with their own equipment or for yourself if you hate complicating things. One more specification you might find on a battery pack is a discharge rate, particularly found on Lipo batteries. 

This is kind of like what is the possible peak output of current that the battery can provide to your gun. This can be a performance bottleneck if the number is extremely low but also not good if you get something that is rated for something suited for RC cars where they require a high constant discharge rate. Most airsoft guns will work fine, upgraded or not, within the 15C to 35C range.

NiMH are what we would consider the standard batteries in the airsoft world. They are easy to use and provide adequate performance for powering most airsoft guns. 

You will commonly find these in 9.6v but you will also so 8.4 and even 10.8. Each cell in this battery is 1.2 volts. Most guns will run with the 9.6v no problem. These will be what people will start with and if you value simplicity, these will work great.

A Lipo battery has the distinction of having two connectors - One is to power your airsoft gun (Tamiya-style or Deans-style connector), and one is to charge the battery (balance plug). Do not charge with the wrong plug, the battery will explode!

7.4v LIPO batteries

11.1v LIPO batteries

A Lipo battery is a little bit trickier to use but might provide you with a performance boost at the cost of some durability. Lipo batteries are a bit volatile so you absolutely must use the correct type of charger specific to Lipo batteries otherwise they could be damaged or catch fire. 

Your gun should be in good condition for the electrical systems, otherwise a damaged wire or a short in your gun can destroy the Lipo battery or worse cause it to burn up and destroy your actual gun. Lipo batteries have two plugs, the Tamiya plug and a small plug to accompany it. The small plug is for charging and balancing the cells. Do not accidentally use this port to charge (by itself) otherwise you will run into a serious problem.

With the scary parts out of the way, what is the benefit then to Lipo batteries? These batteries deliver consistent output and higher discharge rates than NiMH batteries. 

Lipo batteries for airsoft come in a two-cell or three-cell configuration depending on the voltage. Each cell in the battery pack is 3.7v’s and in airsoft you will find them commonly in 7.4 volts or 11.1 volt. Though you might not be able to physically tell how many cells the battery has sometimes, you can identify it by the markings or type of balancing plug. A 4 wire setup is a 3-cell battery and a 3 wire setup is for 2 cells. Sometimes the number of cells is referred to in shorthand as 2S or 3S for 2-cell and 3-cell batteries. 

The discharge rates will often be listed with these batteries and again you’ll want to stay in the 15C to 35C range if you want to keep your gun happy. A higher number is preferrable when your gun is tuned for performance or a high end model. A lower C battery will perform a bit like a weaker battery despite voltage sometimes.

Pro grade ASG Battery charger NiMH/Lipo

If you want to use Lipo batteries without adding more wear and tear to the gun, use a 7.4v Lipo. These perform like 9.6v NiMH batteries for all intents and purposes.

For those who want a little more oomph, you would want an 11.1v Lipo. For high discharge applications that extra voltage will help turn guns with some pretty extreme upgrades. When your gun cycles faster as a result of the higher voltage, you are adding more wear and tear on your gun over a shorter period of time, so if your gun is not built up, your long term durability might be questionable.

High voltage batteries such as these 11.1v types also have a tendency to wear out the trigger switches in the gun due to arcing. Basically the moment this contact has completed a circuit, that high voltage might cause a spark which burns these contacts out. As they get buildup or wear out, they lose their conductivity resulting in your motor not getting adequate power. 

The switch in an airsoft gun is actually not just a switch but the conduit that all the power runs through to reach the motor. With worn contacts and without consistent power output going to the motor you might get incomplete cycles or the gun may act like its locked up as a result. This is addressed by the addition of a MOSFET which mitigates this by turning the switch assembly into an actual switch, using only enough electricity to provide a signal to the MOSFET which will allow the electricity to flow straight to the motor. Some guns come pre-equipped with MOSFETs making them suitable for Lipo batteries out of the box.

To charge a Lipo, use a Lipo charger. These will have multiple ports to charge with. Do not use a standard charger which only uses the one plug. This will cause the battery to charge continuously without stopping and the pack will catch fire or explode.

A proper Lipo charger will use the small plug to charge with and balance the cells. Lipo batteries need these chargers to charge each cell evenly otherwise the pack won’t perform. Some will also use the tamiya or deans plug as well, but they have to be used together. Read the charger’s manual carefully before using it.

Special professional level chargers are available which we have from ASG. We will do a video on those specifically.

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