Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Which Airsoft Gun Has the Best Range?

This is a question I get asked a lot, so I thought I'd post a composite of the answers I've sent the fans:

Q: I want a gun with good range, so which one should I get?

A: The answer is pretty simple (fortunately). Get the most qualitative brand you can afford in the model of AEG you like the look of the best. Don't worry whether its a replica of an "SMG", "Assault Rifle" or "Sniper Rifle". Bear in mind that I preface this by saying I am referring only to fully sized AEGs and not AEP (auto electric pistols). In other words, don't worry abot range, go for quality and looks.

Here is why this is the best advice I can give the new airsoft buyer:
Nearly all stock airsoft guns from any of the major manufacturers have approx. the same range because they all operate within roughly the same physical parameters.

Here's is what I mean:

Echo 1 guns usually fire at around 300-350 fps as do most other stock guns from JG, TSD, Classic Army, G&G, ICS and so on.

Additionally, most major airsoft fields place limits on players and require that the max FPS be achieved by using .20g bbs. (This means you can't beat the FPS limit by using .30g bbs during the chrono session to drop your FPS within field limits and then switch to lighter bbs to achieve higher velocity later in the game).

What you're left with is a formula that has a .20g bb (on average) traveling at not more than 350 fps (usually) that's being fired out of a smooth bore (unrifled) barrel.

When you realize that most airsoft guns on the field are limited to these approximate operating parameters then you start to see that the cosmetic differences of the gun's make and model start to matter little. Taking aftermarket upgrades out of the equation, the only advantage an "assault rifle" style airsoft gun would have over an "SMG" styled model, would be SOME barrel length (3-8 inches depending on the gun). Even this advantage can be misleading as barrel length in airsoft does not matter NEARLY as much as in the real steel namesakes.

One thing a lot of new players forget is that they are using REPLICAS of real steel guns. In the reel steel guns, much of the difference in range is the result of different cartridges that fire lighter or heavier bullets using more or less gun powder that burns at different rates and of course the somewhat complex interaction that all these factors have with the barrel length. Hence an MP5 in real life will lose a long range target shooting match to an M14.

However, in airsoft all the bbs are (Mostly) the same weight and traveling at the same speed, your max range is going to be about 125-150 feet and there is only so much that barrel length can do to help or hurt range. The odds are good that 125' will be pushing it and you won't be able to hit targets past that with any regularity.

Before I get inundated with claims that "I hit a soda can off my fence with my M14 and I know that it was 200' away", let me just say that claims about range are a lot like claims about fish. The numbers tend to be exageratted and 150' can easily turn into 175' when you're just eyeballing it.

I too suffered from the trap of eyeballing and guesstimation and I was surprised at how litte range I actually had when I measured out the targets. Still, after having tested dozens of different makes and models of airsoft gun I can say with assurance, that 150' is the maximum distance at which .20g bbs can be fired accurately using a flat or semi-flat trajectory. Believe me, I've measured these ranges time and again. Further, the claims that an "upgraded" hop up unit and tight bore barrel can improve your range in any significant way should really be filed with the fish stories.

Grouping size can be tightened by these upgrades and there can be a modest FPS boost, BUT, the physics of the equation do not change (.20g bbs @ 350 fps = max. effective range of 125'-150').

Also, bear in mind that any airsoft gun can be upgraded up the wazoo with heavier and more powerful springs and made to fire rediculously heavy (For an airsoft gun) bbs to achieve greater range. But, this misses the point as airsoft is a fun and friendly sport not intended to maim.

Hence, the REAL question to ask yourself before buying is not "does this gun have good range", but rather, "Is this gun well made?".

This question too is somewhat subjective and of course you're budget will be the final judge of how much quality you can afford. Still, there are PLENTY of choices out there and buyers should have little or no trouble finding sufficiently qualitative brands at all price points.

If you ask this question of yourself, then your buying decision becomes much easier and its one of the few times where, once you've picked the reputable brand, you can let looks alone guide you.

Stay safe and play hard!



JP said...

Well said, excellent summary on airsoft range and expectations. Thanks for all you guys do!

Konrad said...

Thanks JP, and speaking of good work, you guys really have raised the bar on airsoft reviews.

So right back at you!

Jeff Roble said...

For me Armory USA SSR-85C-2AS AEG
http://www.airgundepot.com/airsoftguns.html Rifle has a best range for me.

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