Airsoft - Airsoft refers to a class of replica air powered guns that originated from Japan (although the origins go back to the US in the 70s). The power levels are way below those of traditional airguns, but the guns are 1:1 scale copies of original pistols, rather than original designs.
BB - An abbreviation for Bullet Ball, rather than Ball Bearing (which 4.5mm Airguns fire). Airsoft BBs are small (almost always) plastic spheres. The vast majority of BBs are the standard 6mm, but Marushin (and a few others) are now adopting the 8mm for 'magnum' style power. The 6mms, typically, vary in weight from .2g (although cheap BBs are often .12g) up to .43g (for specialist sniper rifle usage) - Pistol BBs are usually in the .2g to .25g range. 8mm BBs are available in .34g and .45g weights. Heavy BBs tend to fly straighter, but carry less distance.
Springer/Spring Gun - The spring gun is the cheapest form of airsoft pistol. In this case a spring is compressed when the slide is racked (or the hammer cocked in the case of my S&W Revolver) and the spring is released when the trigger is pulled, driving a piston which creates air pressure and releases the BB.
Gas Guns (NBB and GBB) - Gas Guns (both Gas Blowback and Non Blowback/Fixed slide) require gas, usually stored in the magazine these days (once, external tanks were common and required), which is released into the chamber, where it rapidly expands and causes pressure which fires the BB.
AEG - Automatic Electric Gun - Normally SMG or rifles, these use battery powered motors and a gearbox to cock and recock a spring to deliver semi and full auto fire - Preferred choice for skirmishers.
MAEG/AEP - Micro AEG/Automatic Electric Pistol - Handgun or small SMG sized AEGs. These have gearboxes and batteries, but are greatly scaled down, delivering less power and less scope for upgrades.
LPEG - Lower Power Electric Gun - Lower quality (usually) and low cost AEGs. Feature plastic gears in the gearbox, which imposes a weaker spring and less power - Really only good for plinking around the house/garden.
Common Parts of an Airsoft pistol - The following diagram (lifted from a Western Arms manual) shows the main parts of an automatic pistol, which are terms commonly encountered in discussions of airsoft pistols.
Chassis in the diagram is often referred to as the gun's Frame and the grip safety is an unusual feature found on Colt 1911 type guns and few others.
The following diagram (from the same WA manual), shows the main parts of an airsoft magazine.
Gas - Most airsoft pistols are safest on HFC134a, but some allow more powerful HFC22 (Green Gas) or even Red Gas to be used. However, use of more powerful gasses will result in increased wear and even catastrophic failure - ABS guns can blow themselves to pieces under the pressure. American Eagle gas comes in two forms (Summer and Winter). The Summer gas is reckoned to be a little less powerful than regular HFC134a, whilst Winter is somewhere between 134a and Green Gas.
Blowback - A mechanism by which the slide (on automatics) is cycled to recock the pistol and chamber the next round. This replicates the action caused by the gases produced by firing a round on real gun, but has to be reproduced in different ways on an airsoft pistol.
EBB (Electric Blowback) - The latest, but, so far, not highly regarded method. This uses a similar mechanism to the common Automatic Electric Guns (AEGs) which dominate the SMG/Rifle part of the airsoft market. However, as it fits into a pistol, it can only use small AAA size batteries, which drive a small electric motor which moves the slide back and forth as the weapon is fired. The power is limited, battery life limited and range poor. However, these guns are becoming more common and seem likely to take away some of the springer market.
NBB (Non-Blowback) - Earlier gas guns had no Blowback mechanism and many still exist (and are being designed) in this format. They have advantages of GBB pistols, in that they have less moving parts (so are more reliable and cheaper to produce and buy), gas is not wasted in moving the slide (so they're more powerful) and the lack of a moving slide improves stability (so they are more accurate). However, they lack the 'fun' element of GBBs and are, generally, viewed as lesser weapons, perhaps unfairly.
GBB (Gas Blowback) - The most recent gas pistols (Marushin and Digicon excepted) generally have blowback, which is achieved by diverting some of the gas to move the slide back as the BB is fired. This, obviously, uses more gas than a NBB, but gives a more realistic firing experience. On the negative side, GBBs are more complex, more expensive and more prone to failure than NBBs and, like for like, less powerful and/or have a higher gas consumption than.
Semi Automatic - Semi automatic firearms fire one shot each time you pull the trigger. The action of pulling the trigger fires the bullet (or BB in airsoft case) and readies the weapon to fire the next shot.
Fully Automatic/Full Auto - Full auto firearms continue to fire as long as you keep the trigger pulled - This is usually the realm of machineguns and assault rifles, but a few handguns (notably the Glock 18 and Beretta M93R) offer this facility.
Single Action - In the case of Single action firearms, the trigger ONLY fires the gun. It does not ready the gun for the next shot and they need cocking before they fire again. The most familiar example of this is the old style cowboy six-shooters, where the shooter 'fans' the hammer to cock it ready to fire the next bullet. Most pistols can be fired single action OR double action.
Double Action - In this case, pulling the trigger will cock the weapon AND fire it. This often makes the trigger pull heavy and this is most notable in the case of NBBs, where the BB is chambered, the gun cocked and fired by the double action trigger. In the case of a GBB, the slide will have chambered the round and cocked the gun on the last cycle.
Hop-Up - This is a simple system fitted to the inner barrel of most Airsoft guns, A small rubber lip on the top of the rear of the barrel gives the BB backspin making the BB fly further and straighter, although slightly slower. Most of the more expensive guns come with adjustable Hop allowing you to adjust the flight of the shots.
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