Electric Gun Buyer’s Guide
It is a daunting task for any beginner airsoft/MilSim player to choose electric gun from the huge selection that is available today, but don’t you worry because the old hands like us will tell you in this RR Buyer's Guide what to look for when selecting AEG.
Does the gun fit me?
If you are 160cm tall it is hardly practical to purchase 120cm long gun since you can barely move with it and at the other end of extreme it can be amusing to see 200cm tall person using the smallest AEG available, the Marui MP5K.
The length of gun does not appear so important in first glance, but you will be surprised how much it affects in long run. Consider this: In recent news coming out of Iraq it has been reported that US Army is seriously considering replacing their standard assault rifle Colt M16A2. The M16s length has proven to be major drawback in new combat situations that US Army faces in Iraq. The same news details that M16A2 has proven to be too long to be fired from inside vehicles like HMMW and is very clumsy in CQB situations (building clearing, street fighting, etc.). The same applies to its airsoft versions and anyone who has tried to manouver M16A2 inside cramped house knows how difficult and slow it can be.
One word: Ergonomics. Now, you are checking the AEG selection at your nearest retailer or at your buddies airsoft get-together. When you first inspect the AEG check if you feel comfortable with that particular AEG's key functions like firing selector, safety, magazine change, sights, etc. If you feel clumsiness or in-convenience with the basic functions you should already think moving forward to next gun and ditching this gun from list of candidates. Consider yourself lucky because real soldiers just get on with whatever they are issued with.
Sights: Boy, are these important or what. In airsoft shooting is done from very much different set of rules and conditions than what it is done with real steels. Only thing is that the sights are completely same in airsofts as what they are in real steels and that is a PROBLEM that players must face. Only few real steel sights tend to perform satisfactorily in airsoft and there are as many tastes for sights as there are people. As general rule Heckler & Koch type sights have proven to be effective in airsoft. They allow more wider field of view and that is very convenient in airsoft as it allows you more visibility to track your shots and targets. This topic is discussed in more detail in RR Beginner's Guide Marksmanship lesson.
Metal parts are not really crucial as people make them to be. Well made plastic AEG are durable enough for standard gaming needs. What is important is the overall design of the gun, which should have features that stiffen and reinforce the gun frame at crucial parts such as for example front assembly. Metal bodied electric guns can be easily broken if the overall design doesn't hold up.
Metal parts are, however, helpful in giving the gun more realistic feel and giving the player more confidence about his or her gun durability in gaming situations.
To obtain reference about performance differences one should see our Electric Gun database profiles for each AEG and compare the performance levels. Muzzle velocity, accuracy and any known weaknesses should be checked before purchase. General misconception is that all AEGs have about same level of performance, but that is not correct at all. Muzzle velocity, accuracy and rate of fire are different in almost all models. Manufacturer's have great differences in the three categories just mentioned plus in reliability and gun pricing.
As you read our content you will get to understand how all design aspects of AEG ties to overall performance. At the end of the day, for the average Joe the best AEG is gun that performs steadily in all categories right out of the box. The common consensus among airsoft players is that Tokyo Marui makes the best stock AEGs all-round, but these days many alternatives have risen on side of Tokyo Marui AEGs such as the electric guns made by Classic Army and ICS.
Accuracy & Range
Effective range of stock electric guns can vary between 30m - 50m (99 - 165 foot). Thus, if you regard accuracy and effective range important it is crucial to understand what type of AEG you are purchasing. Like mentioned in this article before nearly all AEGs have differences in this category although they can be hard to spot even for intermediate and experienced players. Any minor - medium level customization will multiply these differences (understandably rebuilding most of the gun body will change the whole construction of the gun).
To understand the type of the AEG let's see the design features that affect the accuracy and range of the gun. Body stiffness is important for base accuracy. Metal body does not equal stiff body, so you need to understand how the AEG has been built in first place. Well designed and build front assemblies, receivers and internal features designed to improve stability of the gun all contribute towards stiff body of electric gun. Stiff body, as mentioned, equals higher accuracy and muzzle velocity. Latest Marui electric guns have all addressed this particular issue. Reliability issues can be only found from long-term results and feedback of users, but often single cases tends to be over emphasized in places like internet forums or as rumor among the players. Try to see behind the rumors and make your own decisions.
Hop Up is small device inside the inner barrel that gives BB spinning motion when it touches Hop Up on its way out. The spin negates some effect of gravity and gives increased lift to the BB thus allowing better range than guns without Hop Up. Due to concept of Hop Up it can also easily have negative effect on accuracy. Hop Up is critical piece of equipment in gun that cannot be over emphasized. It affects an great deal to effective range and accuracy, so if there is anything wrong with Hop Up it spells major problem. Basically Tokyo Marui has this area very well in its pocket excluding its M4/M16 series that need some customization.
Rate of fire
Most AEGs have same rate of fire expect few notable expections. Marui FA-MAS series have the very first AEG mechanism, which fires about 1000 rounds per minute while others are doing 750-850 rounds per minute. Upping the battery voltage will give you higher rate of fire in any AEG, but remember that AEGs are not designed to use any higher battery voltage than 8.4v or, as in case of Systema's new Personal Training Weapon series, 7.2v.
Bottomline: There are lot of differences in AEGs when it comes to range and accuracy. Try to understand the design features of the AEG before purchasing. It is worthwhile to check the details and reviews. One of the best places is our equipment database.
Will I need to customize?
If you are planning to customize that is just fine, just check that your gun can take what you have planned. Some AEGs (especially cheaper brands or those known for unrealibility) even require customization to make them perform in average or above-average levels or to function at all.
For serious upgrader, gearbox durability is critical question. Marui version III can take more customization than what other Marui gearboxes and recently Classic Army started to include Systema Pro Gearbox-type knock offs in their M15-series (this gearbox was originally designed by Systema for M130+ level upgrades). Systema’s planned ‘Professional Training Weapon System’ offers modular upgrade possibilities and real 1:1 sizing to accommodate real steel accessories, but at the time of writing this there are no internal parts or upgrade kits are yet available for Systema Professional Training Weapon system.
Inner barrel lenght has some sort of mythical status among airsofters when it comes to accuracy, but in fact, the inner barrel lenght main feature is its relation to the muzzle velocity. The longer barrel the more muzzle velocity gun can have.
Not all the AEGs have many custom parts available. Some, like Marui UZI, Thompson and FA-MAS series, have only few and mostly just inner barrels. This is because these models are not so popular as for example M4s and MP5s and thus making parts for them is less profitable for the custom part manufacturers.
For AEGs you need standard 8.4v battery charger with correct pins (that fits with battery pins) as the ones used in electric gun mini/ak/sd/sg type batteries are of rare sort. Large type batteries use common pins that are compatible with e.g. RC-model battery chargers. If you use 9.6v-12v batteries then you will need different charger than standard 8.4v, which most retailers carry around the world.
Batteries, you need plenty of them. As general rule standard 8.4v 600mAh battery has enough juice for 1200-1500 rounds in stock AEG while 8.4v 1300mAh battery can do about 3000 rounds. Any power upgrade will require more juice and will drop these numbers significantly. Typical beginner resorts at this point to higher voltage battery that has enough "power" to operate the system.
Higher voltage batteries cause wear and tear to the operating mechanism of AEG and are not recommended unless absolutely necessary. Many upgraders remove fuses from AEGs and put high voltage battery so that the mechanism can operate. Well, removing fuse and using high voltage battery is like covering up deficiency in upgrade since if the work is done properly and professionally the mechanism can run with 8.4v battery no matter how much power is in.
Another common misconception is mAh levels. mAh contributes to the stamina of the battery as generally known, but also to voltage. The more mAh battery has the more voltage it has. Thus some 2100mAh etc. batteries are not that good idea.
One example of high voltage battery damage is gear breakdown. It happens because of the synchronization error with piston that is caused by high voltage battery. More details about this in our upgrade articles.
Coming back to more simple topics, batteries require discharging before recharge. If you recharge with some battery charge remaining in battery you are contributing to rapid decline of battery life span. Best way to discharge batteries is to use so-called "smart chargers" that can recoqnize when battery is empty and when it is full. These chargers do cost a lot more than standard ones, but they are worth it in long run.
Word about the quality of batteries and their chargers. Some retailers love to issue knock-off batteries and cheap chargers with AEGs to cut costs. However, some of these (not necessarily all) are of not up to standards and are not recommended. If your battery cannot do the shots mentioned in above texts with stock AEG then you either charged in wrong way or there is something wrong with its cells. Many of the low-quality chargers are defective from the beginning and might not work at all. Just to be in the safe side, it is better to check charger types and batteries. Some known good batteries are Tokyo Marui (altought expensive), Systema (expensive), LayLax and most RC-brands (you can get 8.4v large-type batteries from them).
Com’on I’m not gonna start messing with my gun
For the practical buyer, who is looking for real performance right out of the box AEG should have high performance level without any upgrades. Tokyo Marui offers extreme reliability and excellent performance in specific model types.
All of the above recommended AEGs have stiff bodies and good basic design that doesn’t erode performance unlike some that basically "suck ‘ss". The recommended AEGs are good choices for those who do not want to tinker with inside things like gearbox and demand performance right out of the box. AEGs that use large batteries are preferred because of the higher mAh capacity (more shots can be fired with single battery).
Marui AK47 Performance notes: Excellent accuracy and range. See Recon Report 01 for test results.
Marui MP5K PDW Performance notes: Good range and accuracy for gun of its size. Folding stock helps aiming.
Marui P90 Performance notes: Excellent accuracy and range. See Recon Report 01 for test results. Integral red dot sight is sort of a problem since it is difficult to replace.
Marui Steyr AUG Performance notes: Best muzzle velocity in all Marui AEGs in despite of field takedown system. Good accuracy, highly respected AEG.
Marui B-Spetsnaz Performance notes: Good all-round performance thanks to body design.
“Solid, no wobble and durable –type gun” Buyer
No to the wobble guns
Body stifness is not only convienient for the player, but very important for accuracy and sufficient muzzle velocity.
Tokyo Marui G3 SAS has been redesigned from the old G3 series and has much increased body stiffness unlike its predecessors (now no longer made). To use the large battery it needs to exchange the stock to fixed type stock, but that is easy to do. Tokyo Marui MP5K has very compact and solid body and uses AK-type stick battery that further reinforces the body. You read correct there, AK-type stick battery contributes to the body stiffness as its shape fits the body of gun. Tokyo Marui MP5 SD5 and SD6 are relatively solid from inside and very reliable in performance, but pale in front of ICS and Classic Army similar MP5 SDs, which have metal bodies and silencers.
For add-on type of player who likes to build things like M4 SOPMOD, Marui AEG series has plenty of M4 and M16 AEGs. Classic Army and ICS offer their variants for the same model types and some additional variants as well. Recent Classic Army full metal production M15A4 has received some excellent feedback and is worth looking into, while ICS just released their own full metal M4 series that appears to be more solid than what Tokyo Marui’s is.
Marui G3 SAS Body notes: Incredible hard outer barrel system lies inside G3 SAS barrel assembly that represents new era of AEGs from Tokyo Marui. It dont get more solid than this.
Marui MP5K Body notes: Classic AEG that never fails you. There is almost no external part that is subjectable for break down. It is also solid from inside.
Marui SG552 Body notes: Heavily reinforced barrel assembly that makes this previously shaky SG series solid as rock.
Marui M733 notes: M4A1 with juiced up barrel assembly, which is also more realistic now. Strong and solid, no complaints anymore.
Z-shot SR-16: No longer made, but with full metal construction this is awesome gun that deserves to be mentioned while we are waiting for the new Systema rifle. Marui M4 served as base gun for Z-shot (Systema). You can find similar offerings from Armored Gallery (Japan) altought the guns are extremely steep in price.
Selecting the electric gun by gaming style
The other way to select AEG is to select the AEG by their gaming style.
Small and lightweight AEG is recommended for the attackers who don’t want to carry big fat ‘ss rifle and prefer mobility.
Although PDW is already old model it has high accuracy compared to its size and it is extremely compatible. Again, use of AK-type stick battery makes the body stiffer. You can also consider building custom variant from MP5 “Kurz” variant by attaching silencer and extended inner barrel for example.
SG552 is one of the latest models that feature stiff body and metal chamber. It also has folding stock (making its size really small when needed) and there is a rail system at the front, which can take fore grip or tactical lights.
For assaulter weapon compactness is important. For example, lets take look at the famous AK47. Ergonomics of AK47s are for tactical missions, well, plain Soviet and are far from tactical. For example, the firing selector of AK47 is on the right side in front of the trigger and out of finger reach. In other words you have to slam the firing selector down with your right hand palm when things get hot (that is if were keeping it correctly in safety position) and during this time you have no chance to fire the weapon until you have repositioned your hand. If you are left handed then this is not that big issue for you, but most people are right handed.
Marui MP5K PDW: Very compact in size, but has the necessary folding stock that allows accurate aiming. Front grip faciliates quick horizontal movement of the gun. Heckler & Koch type sights are perfect for close-range fighting and help you to stay on top of things.
Marui SG552: Similar to MP5K PDW, but slightly bigger in size. However, SG552 is light and can be made very small with use of folding stock. Short barrel makes it ideal for CQB-situations.
Marui G3 SAS: Advanced version of the compact MC51, which was designed for the gamers. Numerous loadout options available with four different stocks available(!).
Marui MC51: Before G3 SAS MC51 was one of the most popular guns for serious gamers, who only wanted practical AEG. MC51 doesn't have any major drawbacks and is solid all round AEG with compact size.
Marui M733: What can be said about M733…its essentially updated Marui M4A1 that has slightly shorter barrel and reinforced body. Very compact carbine.
If you want tobe just simple rifleman instead of the latest uber special forces then some of the more standard AEG assault rifles will do just fine.
All of the above AEGs are fairly standard that will perform well and reliably.
Marui AK47: With more than 50 million real steel pieces made around the world, AK47 should give you variety of options what real world outfit to represent. Not to mention that it is one of the better performing AEGs out there as seen in our Recon Report 01.
Marui M16VN: VN stands for Vietnam, but it is not exactly why the gun is listed here. M16VN is one of the more earlier Marui designs and actually performs better out of the box than the latest M16s. It also has metal outer barrel unlike the A1 version. Of course, standard VN version should be accompanied by Vietnam-era US Army outfit.
Marui Steyr AUG: Futuristic looking Steyr AUG fits only with few military and law enforcement outfits, but it is high performance AEG. It comes in two flavors from Tokyo Marui, civilian version and military version.
Marui M16A2*: For now, M16A2 is the standard assault rifle for US military and it cannot be overlooked. However, it is recommended to customize the hop up and chamber to get better performance.
Marui M16A1: M16A1 is standard AEG with relatively low price (it is mostly plastic) and its real steel counterpart is still being used by many third world armies and paramilitaries, which makes it decent choice for scenario game that features third world units.
Still not clear?
Go to our user electric gun reviews area or discussion forum and see what other players have to say.