2021’s Best Airsoft Brands | Best for Beginners, Best for Intermediate, & Multiple Categories
What exactly is a brand and how does it relate to the airsoft industry? Airsoftcore has been in the airsoft games since the 1990’s and we’ve seen our share of companies build their reputation from nothing, and seen others get complacent and fall. Some companies are known for a very specific thing, and some companies are known for been generically good with no specific standout.
So – we think the best way to view this is in basic buckets – the question is: what kind?
What about price? We often make connections between price & quality. Could we do:
- Low Budget
- Medium Budget
- High Budget
What about the specific model lines? Some brands, like G&G, offer a more affordable line while maintaining a top tech line for better out-of-the-box performance.
Then to make it more complicated you’ll have brands like Elite Force, Echo 1, or Umarex who sometimes get other manufacturer’s products and place their own marketing on it. I remember growing up during the days when Echo 1 was a rebranded JG with an actual warranty.
So we guess we’ll try to look at the brands from a consumer standpoint, which brands provide the best value for their products. Or, which brands are more friendly to players wanting top stock performance versus needing to tune the gun on their own.
Beginner / Starter Brands
Lancer Tactical has actually seen quite a bit of fluctuation in terms of quality. When they first arrived on the scene they were known for an almost entirely plastic airsoft M4A1 platform with the only metal parts being some of the internals.
To be honest, most of us laughed. However, it was a very smart design that actually allowed them to price the AEG at below $100 at the time. There were airsoft players, mostly younglings, who wanted to get into the hobby but simply didn’t have the funds. All the other cheaper sub-$100 AEG didn’t not stand up at all to the Lancer Tactical M4’s.
Since then, they’ve actually dived into other products within airsoft, namely tactical gear. Where were they sourcing this stuff? It was hard to say – but definitely from some cheap manufacturer out of China. Nonetheless, they provided low-priced items that, for the time, was of enough quality to go out airsofting with.
Now you can say that their brand name is synonymous with “starting the hobby seriously” type players. They’re really beyond the plinking and goofing off phase and are really interested in giving this sport a go.
If we want to keep this hobby alive, we need new players, and Lancer Tactical, of all the introductionary airsoft brands, has done wonders in helping that happen.
Lancer Tactical receives an A+ – due to their ability to bring in new players to the hobby.
Other Airsoft Brands for Beginners
Below is a list of other airsoft brands for beginners. These brands are reasonably priced and come with a degree of quality and performance that will satisfy newer players.
They are priced well, which gives intermediate and beginner players a chance to test out different options if they want to in order to find a perfect fit for their style of play. It’s much easier to drop one to two hundred dollars on an AEG to try, instead of investing $350+.
A&K Airsoft: Beginner Brand (Except for One Thing)
A&K Airsoft was known for bringing more full metal guns to the market after the Tokyo Marui design was made more mainstream. You’ll find their product line mostly made up of all metal body guns – M4’s, AK’s, MP5’s, M249’s you name it.
However, their internals always left a bit to be desired. They weren’t BAD they just weren’t anything special. They built most things to spec so they took upgrades well. We think their only standout internal part was their gears. Their gears were rock solid.
There’s one more thing about A&K, we found a lot of airsoft tech completely stripping all the internals and just using the body. This says a lot about how reliable and tough the externals are. Airsoft techs would custom build internals to fire at a reliable 350 fps at 30 rounds per second; all inside of a full metal A&K body.
Specifically, it was the A&K AK body (that looks really weird when I type that out). Their AK’s were like beatsticks, literally. Big chunks of metal that stood the test of wear and tear.
A&K Airsoft receives a B- from us – especially for new players. However, their AK full metal bodies receive an A- due to how common it is to make custom AK’s out of them.
JG (Jing Gong): Beginner Brand with some Products in Intermediate
JG (Jing Gong) have come a long way since we started airsoft. When they first came on the scene they were the main alternative to Tokyo Marui and Classic Army. Tokyo Marui’s were known for low power but reliable internals and Classic Army was known for full metal bodies with… okay internals.
JG then cloned the Tokyo Marui gearbox with Hong Kong manufactured parts and placed them inside an ABS plastic body to great one of the first budget friendly yet solid AEG’s. The rest is history as they went on to make all kinds of additional AEG’s and variations on that first design.
From a tech perspective, JG gears are reliably tough and the parts are of overall decent quality. However, they always fit a little tight inside their gearbox and JG’s were known to be a little “whiney” as you shoot them.
Nonetheless, the reputation that JG had was that they were absolutely solid AEGs at an affordable price point replicating the famous V2 gearbox design. Their guns were fully upgrade-able as they took very few shortcuts to allow them to make the airsoft gun at a cheaper cost.
JG receives a B from us regarding their rugged internals, with their plastic bodies being a C+. The price point for their guns is usually quite competitive.
CYMA : Beginner Brand Except for Two Things (Gonna Sound Familiar)
You could look at CYMA as a form of copycat maker or what we call in the business a close manufacturer. They tend to focus a lot of creating replicas of Tokyo Marui.
Much like A&K, their quite famous for their line of full metal AK’s. In fact, some people take CYMA and A&K and use them interchangeably when it comes to their AK bodies. Much like A&K, the internals are servicable, but fully capable of taking loads of upgrades.
Another line that CYMA is famous for are their M14’s. The fact is, not too many manufacturers bothered making M14 and similar guns. Partly because the design is just not hugely popular and that the Version 7 gearbox is a pain to work with.
Once again though – for airsoft techs CYMA bodies are desirable as shells for some fantastic custom internals.
CYMA receives a B- from us since their product line is well budgeted for newbies to the sport with their AK full metal bodies being an A-.
Intermediate / Enthusiasts Brands
The brands here take things up to the next level in terms of quality of parts and consistency of build. These companies have better than average QA processes. You can also expect them to be a bit more expensive as well.
These brands are often considered “very safe” choices when it comes to out-of-the-box performance.
ICS: Older Intermediate Brand Known for One Unique Thing
ICS is a manufacturer of airsoft guns that is based in Taiwan. Their primary focus is on guns that would be considered innovative. You’ll find that a lot of their products are known throughout the industry for being reliable with full metal bodies.
The main standout feature that ISC brought to the game was the split gearbox. The gearbox could be split between the air compression components and the locomotive components (visually it looks like a top half and bottom half). This means that you can actually have compression parts for a field gun firing at 400 fps and have another for CQB at 350 fps. It would only take about 1-2 minutes to switch the top halves of your gearbox and you’d be set to go. For the time – this was extremely innovative.
Unfortunately, this means that the main knock on ICS is that some of their parts don’t tend to match well with those coming from other brands. This is going to make it tougher to mix and match different pieces rather than purchasing brand new components. If you don’t mind staying with one manufacturer though, then this won’t be an issue.
ICS receives a B in terms of quality of internal and external parts with the split gearbox being their main standout feature. If you like that feature, then this is an easy sell.
SoftAir USA is a brand that’s a part of the Cybergun group and one of their main points of focus would be performance. Does this mean the brand doesn’t care as much about look? Absolutely not.
The look and feel of their airsoft guns is quite well, but maybe not as much as the top tier brand options. They do have several budget options for users, but in most cases you’re going to find that their prices tend to be anywhere from $100 to $350 in range. You’ll find a lot of their products are mostly metal if not complete metal, which makes them very tough ( but heavier than what some users might like).
There are specific models a user might want to take a look at from this company such as the Colt 100th Anniversary M1911 A1. If the goal is to get a side arm you can rely on then this option is worth considering.
We don’t consider SoftAir USA to be what we would call a top performance brand, but we still feel that it’s one of the more reputable brands in the business. Intermediate players will appreciate them for sure.
AGM is a Chinese based manufacturer that makes airsoft guns we would say are a toss-up between budget and performance. We feel this way because depending on what type you get you’ll get one more than the other, but rarely will you be able to get both at the same time. One usually has to be sacrificed.
AGM tends to focus on guns that would be considered unconventional. Yes they have airsoft guns such as machine pistols and rifles, but they also make a multitude of high power pump action shotguns as well as high power sniper rifles.
The serious knock on them and the reason we feel they work best for intermediate play is because they tend to not be built to take rough game play. Because of this users are going to have to keep in mind the main purpose they tend to use their products for. A backyard skirmish might work well in this case.
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First Class Airsoft Brands
The airsoft guns we’re about to mention now work well for experienced players and those who like to take part in skirmishes. The reason for this is because for these types of players they tend to value not only functionality, but superior capability in terms of upgrades.
Experienced players and those who take part in skirmishes want airsoft guns they can be sure are going to serve them well, be durable and mimic the real thing as closely as possible. The following three options about to be mentioned are what we feel would work best in this case.
Tokyo Marui is based out of Japan and when it comes to airsoft guns they are considered to be one of the best if not the best in the industry. The company is well known for creating superior designs of guns as well as a wide array of products such as electric guns, pistols, spring style as well as sniper style guns.
Models from Tokyo Marui tend to have exteriors that are made with plastic and metal or complete metal exteriors. Their models also tend to have gearboxes that can be easily modified, which will go a long way in enhancing performance.
The reason why Tokyo Marui works best for experienced players and skirmish style play is because their products tend to be on the expensive side of things. Their airsoft guns are designed with high manufacturing standards.
You’ll find that even with used versions of their guns these are going to be in good condition. The parts are top quality and the product line is wide. It’s at the top of the list for experienced players.
G&P is a Hong Kong based maker of airsoft guns. We feel they work best for skirmish play and for use with experienced players due to the emphasis on military style guns and war-game products. A lot of the products they make are still utilized by armed forced around the globe. G&P offers a multitude of standard airsoft guns such as electric, gas and difference shotgun options. On top of this you can also find a good selection of grenade launcher attachments.
The only real knock against this company is that they don’t make a lot of weapons in terms of long range sniper options. If the goal is to play at ranges that are medium or close, then you’ll find a lot of options.back to menu ↑
Wild Card Airsoft Brands
What exactly is a wild card brand you ask? Well – it’s the sort of brand that you’re never sure what you’re going to get when you buy their product. What we mean is that these often OEM out (original equipment manufacturer) out their products.
This means that they actually bought the product from somewhere else, then placed their name on it. The most analogous comparison we can make are video game publishers: They often don’t actually develop games and just hire development teams to make a game. They then publish the game basically providing funding and marketing for the product.
On one hand it behooves these companies to still find manufacturers that will make good products. On the other hand, they can choose to cut loose or hire whatever manufacturer they want for their product depending on the target demography.
So, even though it’s brand “ABC”, what you might be getting is brand “XYZ” repackaged in “ABC’s” clothes.
Cybergun is the first in this review to be the type of manufacturer that doesn’t really “build” anything. They’re more like distributors. So, Cybergun’s quality will vary from OEM to OEM. For example, we took a look at one of their 1911’s and found out it was effectively a KJW. One of their AEG type (SCAR-L) was actually manufactured by Classic Army, G&G, and VFC. They also sell junker spring pistols and rifles aimed more toward the cosplay and collector markets.
The main thing to know about Cybergun is that they are able to grab the license of real steel manufacturers – and so you might see some of their offerings stamped with real-steel details like company markings.
In general, you’ll find that you’re going to be paying a little on the top in order to get the licensed stamping on your airsoft gun and this can be a good thing or bad thing depending on you feel about visual realism.
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Best Airsoft BB brands
We know that a lot of players might not be too concerned with the brand of BB they purchase, but it can actually be very important in terms of the quality of shot you get. If you value things such as the following you need to consider brand in this regard:
- Consistent high performance
- Optical balance
- Incredibly smooth feeling
Below are some of the top makers of airsoft BB pellets around
- Elite Force
- Valken Tactical
- G&G biodegradable
Brand Vs Advice, Knowledge & Personal Experience
You might have an idea of what brand of airsoft gun would work best for you. This could be because you already have some sort of experience using these guns or maybe you know people who own them.
In any case we at Airsoft Core want you to understand that the brands we’ve mentioned here are but a few you can get. There are more that will serve you well, but it takes a lot of time to research them all. There are a plethora of them. So we feel it’s best to focus only on the best known.
Brand doesn’t have to mean everything, but it’s a good indicator of what you can expect. We feel this is the case because players of airsoft are very serious. If a certain brand has a bad reputation then it won’t last long in the business. So any brand that has a track record you can be sure has passed the test of airsoft players over the course of time.
This is important. Not to say you can’t test out another brand that might not be as well known, but be very careful in this regard. Don’t invest too much money and keep your expectations low.
Other Airsoft brands – AirsoftCore couldn’t review them all.
Also don’t be afraid to ask around if you are going to go with a brand of airsoft gun that doesn’t have a long and good track record. Odds are someone has experience dealing with that brand and can tell you the honest truth about their experiences.
The brands we’ve mentioned here though are tops and won’t let you down. Yes the price varies from brand to brand, but we don’t want users to focus on price too much. Instead focus on the value of what you’re going to get and the reputation behind the brand.back to menu ↑
Frequently Asked Questions
Quality VS Price?
Superior brand name means trust, reliability, durability and even respect. The only negative is that we all know the more highly regarded a brand is for airsoft guns the more expensive they will be right?
Well this doesn’t always have to be true, but it’s generally the case. Remember, with a good airsoft gun you can be a force to be reckoned with in competitive play. So you should look at the purchase of one from a good quality brand as an investment, not an expense.
What we want to do is a little different here though. We don’t want to focus solely on price, because this would be too easy. At Airsoft Core we believe users should focus on getting something tailored to the type of player they are at the moment.
We also believe users should focus on the specific feature they value most. Not only is this good, but it can be a way for you to save money by not having to go with a more expensive brand name.