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There are basically three types of airsoft pistols: electronic, gas, and spring. In this article we discuss the different types, their strength, their weakness, and their cost. The following chart summarizes the advantage and disadvantage of the three types. It's rated from one to three with three being the best mark.
There are two types of airsoft electronic pistols: the low-end types that uses standard AA or AAA batteries and the high-end types that uses proprietary rechargeable batteries. Whereas the low-end AEP's can cost as low as $10 to $20, the high-end AEP's cost around $60. Both types can fire semi-automatically. Many can even fire full-automatically.
The low-end AEP shoot about ~130 FPS with 0.2g BB's. They are generally made out of flimsy plastic and can't withstand the abuse of an airsoft battlefield. The high-end AEP shoot about ~280 FPS with 0.2g BB's. They are generally made out of high-grade plastic or metal. And usually, they are airsoft battlefield worthy. Some of them even supports blowback function to simulate the real firearm.
Even though battery performance can be hindered by cold weather. They generally stand up to the cold better than gas pistols, which we will talk about next. However, it is harder to find airsoft electronic pistols than gas pistols and spring pistols.
The most common type of airsoft pistols are the gas type. Airsoft gas pistols also simulate the real firearm quite realistically. Unlike the electronic and spring pistols that uses a spring to power the BB, gas pistol power the BB by ejaculating high pressure gas. Real firearm works in similar fashion, which is why airsoft gas pistols resembles real firearms so closely.
The gas airsoft pistols are further divided up into two types: green gas and CO2. Although gas pistol performance is susceptible cold temperature, when the temperature is just right, gas pistol provides the best power, comparable to airsoft rifles. If you live in cold weather territory, then CO2 is the better bet, because it can handle cold temperature better than green gas.
Even though temperature is a big concern to a gas airsoft pistol, if you are after realism, there is no better substitution. Many gas airsoft pistols have the blowback feature. When the slide moves back with the recoil, they feel almost just like a real pistol.
Starting cost for an airsoft gas pistol is around $60. But costs increases drastically with features, such as blowback action, use of CO2 cartridges, etc. Because the gas propellent is a consumable, the cost of using a gas pistol could be staggering. A green gas can is around $10. CO2 cartridges are from 50 cents to a dollar. But their competitive worthiness on the airsoft battlefield makes up for the high cost.
The most reliable airsoft pistols are the springers. They don't require any battery nor gas. All they need to operate is your two hands. One to hold the airsoft pistol and the other to cock the spring pistol.
You see, the spring airsoft pistols is powered entirely by a big strong spring. your hands will cock the spring, which energizes the BB when you pull the trigger. Because of its inherit low maintenance characteristics, spring pistols are great backup guns. When your rechargeable batteries and your gas magazines can't perform up to snuff during the frosty cold weathers, you'll be glad to have a spring pistol on you.
However, there are some drawbacks to an airsoft spring pistol. You have to cock it every time you fire. Therefore, it can't shot semi-automatically nor fully automatically. Second of all, most spring airsoft pistol are low power airsoft guns. That means the BB speed (~150 FPS with 0.2g BB) and its range is drastically reduced.
Because of these limitation, spring airsoft pistols are not very popular on the airsoft battlefield. That means their demand is also rather low, keeping the cost of getting a spring airsoft pistol extremely low. A transparent plastic airsoft gun's starting cost is $5. A metal version that looks realistic costs $25.