Everything You Need to Know About Airsoft Guns in 2020

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Airsoft is a hobby where there are a lot of possible directions you can choose from. Whether you are a player just beginning your airsoft journey or have quite a few matches under your belt, most likely you have some questions about how something works, what something means or how you can optimize your equipment.

I remember when I started playing airsoft, I had just bought my first gun, an AK made by CYMA. At the time I had no idea what terms such as hop-up, GBB, mid-cap, low-cap or gearbox meant.

Maybe you are in the same place that I was, and that is why I would like to help you to understand all of those terms that I wish I knew back then.

Table of contents:

  1. How Do Airsoft Guns Work?
  2. How Do Airsoft Electric Guns (AEG) Work?
  3. What is an Airsoft Gearbox?
    1. The Construction of an Airsoft Gearbox
    2. How Does an Airsoft Gearbox Work?
    3. How Do Airsoft Pistols Work?
  4. How Do Gas Guns/Gas Blowback (GBB) Work?
    1. What is Gas Blow Back (GBB)?
  5. How Do Airsoft Spring Guns (Shotguns and Sniper Rifles) Work?
  6. How Do Airsoft Magazines Work?
    1. What Are Real-Cap Airsoft Magazines?
    2. What Are Low-Cap, Mid-Cap, and High-Cap Airsoft Magazines?
    3. Construction of an Airsoft Magazine
    4. How do Airsoft Shotgun Shells Work?
  7. What is Airsoft Hop Up and How it Works?
  8. Summary

How Do Airsoft Guns Work?

First of all, there are a few different types of airsoft guns and airsoft pistols out there. How they work depends completely on the type of gun.

On the market, you can find the following types of airsoft guns: airsoft electric guns (AEGs), airsoft spring guns, gas guns, and High-pressure air airsoft guns (HPAs).

In this article, we will skip the HPA-powered airsoft guns and will instead focus solely on how airsoft electric, spring, and gas-powered guns work.

How Do Airsoft Electric Guns (AEGs) Work?

In today’s airsoft AEGs have become the most popular guns for playing airsoft. This is due to the fact, that they offer two or three fire modes: semi, full-automatic and sometimes even burst mode (known from M4 carbines).

At the same time, AEGs are cheaper to buy than the gas, or HPA-powered, yet they still offer good performance, range, and accuracy. The other factor worth considering while buying an airsoft gun is that AEGs are also cheaper to fix and they require less maintenance.

Good airsoft guns cost around $200 – $600. I would also not recommend buying any cheaper ones. I will explain why later.

What makes AEGs different from others is that they are driven with a battery, gearbox, and motor. They are powered by high capacity NiMh, Li-Ion or Li-Po batteries. Many manufacturers supply their airsoft guns with a factory issued NiMh battery, but the high-end guns are supplied either with a Li-Po battery or without any.

A typical airsoft electric gun is consists of the following internal parts: a battery, motor, gearbox, wiring, and a hop-up chamber with bucking and an inner barrel.

I will explain later how an airsoft hop-up chamber and the system works. But for now, let’s focus on the gearbox.

What is an Airsoft Gearbox?

The gearbox is a drive system that is unique to the construction of an AEG. There are many different versions of gearboxes, the most popular ones are the V2 and the V3. The version here does not make a difference as there are no significant differences between the versions.

The main difference is the dimensions of the gearbox. Every replica has a different size, that’s why gearboxes have to be adjusted to fit inside the gun. For example, the V2 gearbox is mainly used in M4/AR-15 replicas and derivatives, while the V3 gearbox is used mainly in AK and G36 replicas.

Good quality airsoft guns will have a gearbox made mostly of metal, in cheaper guns it will be made of plastic. This will definitely have an impact on airsoft guns’ durability.

That’s is why I recommend spending more money on your gun, even for your first AEG. Buying an airsoft gun with a gearbox made of metal will save you from many failures and, frustration later on.

I hope this answers what an airsoft gearbox is so we can move on to its construction.

The Construction of an Airsoft Gearbox

An airsoft gearbox consists of the following parts: a gearbox shell, bushings, tappet plate, air nozzle, sector, spur, bevel gears, delayer clip, cylinder, cylinder head, spring guide, spring, piston, piston head, motor, anti-reversal latch, shims, cutoff lever, trigger contacts assembly, selector plate, fuse, and wiring.

There are also solutions such as a split gearbox, which allows you to quickly adjust your FPSes (for switching between open field play and CQB) and it limits required maintenance work and failures. Such types of gearboxes are provided with success by some manufacturers like ICS Airsoft for example.

How Does an Airsoft Gearbox Work?

After the trigger is pulled the motor is started, which transmits power to drive the piston through the gears. The piston is pulled back, filling the cylinder with air. Then the spring pushes the piston into the cylinder, compressing the air in it, which is then directed into the hop-up chamber. Then the compressed air pushes the ball out of the inner barrel.

I hope this answers how airsoft electric guns work.

What About AEP? How Do Airsoft Pistols Work?

These days electronic pistols have become more popular among arisofters; mostly because of three main factors: cost, maintenance, and durability.

An AEP is cheaper than a gas pistol, they do not require as much maintenance and an AEP works the entire airsoft season. AEPs are weather-proofed, while gas pistols will fail in temperatures under 52 F (11 C) degrees.

It is worth mentioning that if you are an owner of an AEP you should definitely have the first dedicated MOSFET, which will extend the possibilities and functions of your airsoft pistol. Click here to read more about the SIGMA AEP MOSFET.

An AEP is like the little brother to the AEG, but because of its smaller size and fewer spare parts on the market, they offer much fewer possibilities for modifications and improvements to their performance apart from motor replacement and the applying of a lipomod.

This should answer most questions on how AEPs work. If you are wondering whether it’s worth buying an AEP you might be interested in this article on this topic on our blog.

How Do Gas Guns/Gas Blowback (GBB) Work?

The next type of airsoft gun we have is gas-powered. This gun is most popular with pistols, and less with rifles. In airsoft there are two types of gas used to power replicas – CO2 and Green Gas.

You can also find gas-powered airsoft rifles for sale, but they are quite pricey. Gas guns also have the ability to shoot both semi or full-automatic, just like an AEG. They are seen as glamorous, they also provide a realistic experience similar to using a real firearm.

Their method of operation is based on compressed gas. Pressing the trigger opens a valve and releases gas under pressure, which is used to accelerate the ball in the inner barrel of the rifle.

What is Gas Blow Back (GBB)?

When you search through manufacturers catalogs or online stores you will find the acronym GBB which stands for Gas Blow Back, a system that imitates the recoil experienced when using real firearms. Its purpose is to improve the airsoft player’s experience on a field, increasing the in-game immersion.

GBB uses gas to recoil the slide after each shot. It is widely known that GBB airsoft guns are the most powerful, but also the least accurate. Though the really expensive GBB sniper rifles are an exception.

Another weakness of airsoft gas guns and GBB guns are that they are sensitive to the weather. They are not suitable for playing below 52 F (11 C) degrees as the low temperature causes gas leaks and it shortens the gun’s range to just a few meters.

How Do Airsoft Spring Guns (Shotguns and Sniper Rifles) Work?

The last type of airsoft gun that we want to talk about are the spring guns. These were the original airsoft guns and were the the most traditional gun choice in airsoft.

Nowadays most spring guns are either sniper rifles or pump-action shotguns. Simplicity and trivial design are what characterizes airsoft spring guns. They are also fairly inexpensive when it comes to maintenance and operating costs. Spring sniper rifles are the most accurate type of airsoft replicas.

The construction of spring guns is similar to the construction of electric guns except for the motor, wiring, battery and gearbox.

What differs spring guns from AEGs and GBBs is that the pulling of the trigger ends the shooting cycle and does not start it. That is what makes them manual because you have to put the piston to the back by yourself.

How Do Airsoft Magazines Work?

What would be an article answering comprehensively how does airsoft work without describing airsoft magazines?

But let’s start with some introduction to magazines first.

In airsoft, we can find a few types of magazines – real-cap, low-cap, mid-cap, and high-cap. As you can guess this division results from the capacity they offer.

There are also other types of magazines such as shotgun shells, but more on that later.

What are real-cap airsoft magazines?

Such magazines are characterized by the capacity adjusted to the real firearms of a specific gun or pistol. Both for G36, AK, and M4/AR-15 it will be around 30 airsoft bbs of capacity.

Their goal is to achieve a projection of a real battlefield with limited ammunition and magazines, but they aren’t widely used in spite of CQB airsoft games.

It needs to be remembered that airsoft guns are far from firearms when it comes to range and accuracy. That’s why they are less popular in the community, but still, they have a lot of fans.

What are low-cap, mid-cap, and high-cap airsoft magazines?

The rest of the magazines are characterized by the capacity from 50 to 300 airsoft bbs. For low-cap it’s 50-70 bbs, for mid-cap 90-160. High-cap magazines mostly accommodate between 200 to 300 airsoft bbs.

Many of airsoft gun producers supply their replicas with one high-cap magazine, although many high-end guns are supplied now with one mid-cap magazine and without a battery,
Manufacturers want you to buy these things separately to make more money.

Hi-caps are prohibited in many games, due to their superiority over other players with low/mid-caps and snipers or they spoil the realism of CQB games.

Construction of an airsoft magazine

It’s very simple how they are built. They have a guide and spring that compresses while airsoft bbs are loaded into them. The spring wants to extend and that’s how it puts bbs into the hop-up chamber until the spring will get back to their normal tension level.

On the other side, many airsoft players resign from them for the sake of low/mid-caps because hi-cap magazines rattle, which can betray your, and your team’s position.

How do airsoft shotgun shells work?

As I have mentioned before in this article, there is another type of airsoft magazines, they are shotgun shells.

There are two types of airsoft shotgun shells out there. The first are magazines with a capacity up to 30 airsoft bbs, while the second is gas cartridges for gas-powered shotguns.

We will focus on the first type of them.

Shotgun shells as the magazine with each pump action powers the gun with air as well as the bbs into the chamber.

On the market, there are also airsoft shotguns that are able to shoot a bunch of 3-6 airsoft bbs at once to make a projection of real buckshot and increase the chance of hitting the target.

The downside of such a solution is that you’ll need to reload more often than normal.

What is airsoft hop up and how it works?

A hop-up chamber was mentioned a few times in this article, so it’s time to tell what it is and how hop-up works.

Hop-up is a system whose aim is to flatten the bb’s flight path in order to increase the range and accuracy of an airsoft gun.

It uses the Magnus effect. In practice, rubber in the chamber causes pressure on the passing bb, turning it makes the bb spin around its axis and flies much further eliminating the parabola effect.

Airsoft hop-up chambers most often are easily adjustable, because the heavier bb is the more pressure it demands to achieve the same effect.

When the pressure from the hop-up chamber will be too big, you will easily notice that, because your bb will fly up, above the shot line.


This would be an end of this article. I hope it helped to answer a lot of questions about how airsoft works you probably had.

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