My journey into the world of airsoft began about the time I was 14 years old. I was visiting a military, camping, and hunting equipment store, and my attention was caught by some air guns on display in a window. It wasn’t long before I decided to buy something.
I started saving up, and over the course of a couple of months (with a little work and the help of some generous relatives), I managed to make my first purchase: an electric M14 from a brand called Ace Of Spades.
Unknown brand, incomprehensible specifications, foreign language instruction manual, but I was happy.
It was a nice rifle, it shot far, it had automatic fire, and it was made of metal; everything I could possibly be interested in, at the time. I used to train with it in my backyard, shooting at cans or bottles, for practice.
It wasn’t long before a few friends saw it and started to get interested. Within a few months, there were 4 or 5 of us with rifles, and I moved on to my second purchase: a WELL VSR10 (which I still own).
From that moment on, began a series of purchases and replacements that, 12 years later, still haven’t stopped.
Nostalgia aside, today I would like to write about my experiences with some of the best airsoft brands that I have owned, seen, and tried throughout my life, with the hope that my experience can be of help to those who, like me, still empty their wallets in front of airsoft stores.
New Player: The Airsoft Brands I Used
Ace of Spades: as anticipated, was the brand with which I had the first approach to the world of airsoft replicas. Although much time has passed, I have a positive memory of that M14.
At the time I paid about 130 euros, today with the same amount you can aspire to something way better, but 12 years ago you couldn’t find the rifles that are on the market today.
WELL: this brand offered me my first bolt action, a VSR10. I bought it fascinated (as happens to many), by the idea of trying my hand at being a sniper. I quickly came up against the harsh reality of Italian law (1 joule maximum for any kind of replica), which made me quickly re-evaluate my intentions.
The rifle has always performed mediocrely: poor range, questionable accuracy, and frequent jams. I still keep it only for affection.
Jing Gong / Golden Bow: I bought a G36C, to try out an assault rifle. The rifle itself wasn’t bad. The materials were decent, it didn’t jam, and it shot with decent accuracy, at least for my ambitions at the time.
I broke the piston head, but because at the time I didn’t know how much shooting long bursts could damage the rifle. I had only been playing for a few months, after all.
Experienced Player: The Airsoft Brands I Used
G&G: With G&G I made my first noteworthy leap in quality. I bought a CM16 Raider dual-tone. Something completely new for me: lightweight, precise, and designed in a modern way. It could accommodate a LiPo, and I no longer had to use the old NiMh.
It had a very sensitive electronic trigger, a remarkable rate of fire, and had a programmable control unit, to shoot in 3-shot bursts.
A brand with which I had a great experience, without spending a lot of money since I paid the gun about 130 euros. I sold it to buy an RK74 (effectively an AK74 replica), which I still use very willingly.
ICS: My first secondhand airsoft gun, an MP5 with UMP stock and front, side, and bottom rails. Externally it had been modified quite a bit, but the interior was all original. Other than a few issues with the selector switch it always performed more than well.
I still own it, I happen to use it in CQB simulations, but I often prefer his Classic Army brother. All in all, a good submachine gun: it is accurate, has sufficient range for medium distances engagements, and has a realistic look, all features that I have seen in other ICS products.
KJW: With KJW I had my first experience with a pistol: a Beretta 98. With this gun I was less lucky, but it also offered me some good moments.
The materials are good, and the appearance is very faithful. It didn’t quite have everything I was looking for (no decocker on the safety), but it shot well, and I liked using the magazines with CO2 for the convenience of being able to carry individual vials rather than the whole green gas tank.
Unfortunately, my habit of mishandling the magazines costed me a lot of money: I broke no less than 5 of them. I still keep the gun for draw and dry fire exercises, but I don’t think I’d buy it again, today.
The Player I Am Now: The Airsoft Brands I Use
VFC / Umarex: Probably my favorite brand right now. I own a 416D, which is generally my first choice for simulations in woodland scenarios.
I’ve been using it for a few years now, and I’ve yet to find anything to fault with it: the rifle is aesthetically stunning, identical to the original in every aspect, from measurements to logos. It works fine with an 11.1, has a stable, long, and accurate shot.
It is the best replica I have had on my hands to date. I would say that VFC (Vega Force Company) is the brand that has given me the best experience ever (but not for free, that’s for sure).
Classic Army: my MP5A1. Aside from some minor issues with the selector switch (at this point I think it’s more of a replica type issue), it has always performed well. Definitely my first choice for a simulation in CQB environments.
I haven’t had the chance to try too many Classic Army replicas, but I’ve seen that on average they work more than satisfactorily. In many ways, it is comparable with G&G, but I have experienced fewer problems with CA replicas.
Tokyo Marui: the other giant in the world of replicas production. I still don’t own a Marui replica of mine, but I’ve had a chance to try out several, and I must say that the quality it’s easy to feel.
The best experience, although it was a very limited use, I had with the AA12 and an M4 SOPMOD SRE.
Personally, I prefer airsoft guns that are as realistic as possible, and I have to say the experience was truly satisfying. Among my next purchases, I plan at least one Marui airsoft gun, rifle or pistol.
If I could restart my airsoft journey, what would I do differently?
Hard to tell. In hindsight, I’m satisfied with the path I took, and I think there would be little I would change. I’d be inclined to say, “I wouldn’t have bought a sniper rifle,” but I feel like if I hadn’t tried it, I’d still have the doubt today.
There are two things I’d try to fix, maybe:
First, I’d ask to try many more replicas, brands, and variants, so I’d get a good idea before buying. I would have realized sooner that some brands prefer aspects related to efficiency, and other aspects related to realism.
Secondly, I would buy mid-range rifles to start, because today you can buy a very good replica without spending a fortune, and without having to worry about all those problems typical of low-end rifles (fragility, malfunctions, etc…).
My Tips on starting off airsoft on the right foot
I think the most important thing is to have in mind what you want to do, and what your priorities are. Ask yourself the right questions before buying, in short.
- Am I looking for an airsoft gun that looks good?
- Do I care that it is easy to use?
- Does it have to be comfortable to use?
- Do I want it to be small?
- Does it have to shoot a ton of bbs or does it have to be realistic?
All of these and many more questions need to be asked before buying the replica. I figured out what I cared about my replicas featuring after I joined a team when I was clear on my priorities.
Then, try to spend wisely: starting with a very expensive weapon could end up being counterproductive: what if you are not comfortable using it? What if it is not suitable for your intended use? Or if you are not able to maintain and clean it properly?
You will find yourself changing replicas quickly and wasting your money. On the contrary, if you are already clear about your long-term goals, getting a cheap replica will not do you any good: it will not last you long enough to go through your path, or it will let you down in the middle of the action.
Go to your local stores (if there are any), ask friends to try their replicas, contact existing teams, or, if you really can’t help it, look at reviews on blogs or YouTube.
In short, anything that can help give you a clear idea before you go out and spend money.
As the last thing, always keep in mind that having a good replica does not mean being a good player. Better a trained player with a spring rifle than an inexperienced one with a top-of-the-line rifle.
Clarify your priorities and goals, try everything you can, buy smartly, train consistently, and you will see that everything will work just fine.