Most replicas used on field are either Gas powered or electric powered.
The electric powered ones use a battery that runs a motor, that turns a set of gears, which in turn cranks back a spring, which pulls back on a piston , which then raises the amount of air in the cylinder, which is all released at once raising the pressure behind the bb in the chamber which propels the bb down the barrel, all at the pull of the trigger. The gas replicas use ozone-friendly HFC-134a(weakest) or HFC22(strongest) to propel the bb down the barrel. The gas is stored in a resivior in the magazine(ammo storage) of the replica. Spring powered replicas use manual cocking of the piston in order to raise the amount of air in the cylinder behind the bb which is all released at once, raising the amount of air pressure behind the bb propeling it foward and down the barrel.
Military style tactics and dress are often used to the advantage of the player, which is why this game is often reffered to as "Mil-Sim(military simulation). The electric powered replicas are often modeled after real rifles and submachine-guns. The Gas powered replicas are oftern modeled after handguns and small submachineguns. And the spring powered replicas are modeled after a wide varity of real weapons, due to the simplicity of thier design.
The sport was oringinated in Japan, then quickly adopted in the US as an alternative to paintball. Airsoft has a relatively small following of people as opposed to the millions who play paintball, mostly due to the fact that paintball is more "user-friendly" due to the fact that most paintball guns look nothing like real guns, unlike airsoft. Airsoft requires a great deal of responsibility, due to the fact that if you are seen in public with these replicas, you could be arrested or even shot at.
I'm not an airsofter because I'm too much of a pussy to get a half-dollar sized bruise, I'm an airsofter because I like the military, but I am physically unable to join. I also prefer airsoft because of the realism in gear and gameplay.
Hobby airsofters normally collect guns for the close replication of their real steel counterparts, and the normally the only time you can tell the difference is material. Airsoft guns tend to use the real gun trademarks along with the manufactor trademarks.
Operations are military simulation, or mil-sim. Airsofters love airsoft because it is really realistic and why we don't play with markers (a.k.a. hairdryers with a CO2 tank and a hopper). One reason why airsofters don't join the army is when you are hit in the head with a bb, you call yourself out. If you are hit in the head in the army, you don't call anything. You're dead.
Airsoft guns can be relativly cheap if bought at Wal-Mart or a sporting good store, but those guns are of low quality and reffered to as "LPEGs" or "Low Powered/Priced Electric Gun". There are medium quality guns that or normally clones of Tokyo Marui guns, but never come close to the quality. They are known as "MPEGs" or "Medium Powered/Priced Electric Gun". There are High-end guns that can last years and years and are much more powerful and well built. High-end guns are normally made out of metal and the top 3 brands of high-end guns are Tokyo Marui, ICS and Classic Army. Tokyo Marui guns range from $190 to $250 and two guns cost over $300. These guns are normally made out of plastic with some metal, but the Type 89 is full-metal. ICS guns differ greatly of price. ICS MP5s cost $220 and ICS M4s/M16s cost around $280. They are full metal and can last a long time. Classic Army guns cost in the $300 range and full metal. Some other high-end AEG brands are Star, TOP, G&G, G&P.
Some misconceptions in airsoft is that police officers will shoot you if you have your airsoft gun with you. The reason why is because not all airsofters are smart and ruin our sport and feel the need to threaten a cop. All smart airsofters know better and this is not a problem if you just don't let officers see your gun. Also people think airsoft guns hurt a lot less than paintball. Airsoft shots are more of a sting and paintball is more of a punch, so it is two different pains and airsoft hurts worse if played with High-end guns. With paintball, the pain is spread out when ball bursts.
Airsoft uses different types of BBs. LPEGs use .12 bbs and sometimes .20 bbs. The .12 bb is very weak and very innacurate but faster. MPEGs use .20 bbs and sometimes .25 bbs. High-end guns use .25 bbs most of the time for their accuracy and distance. Sniper rifles use the heaviest BBs, ranging from .30 to .42.
The power of airsoft guns are determined on the spring it is using. Most out of box high end guns shoot 320-380 fps with .20s. LPEGs shoot 120 fps with .12s to 230 with .20s. Airsoft guns can be upgraded to 450 fps and sniper rifles can be upgraded to 550 fps and even 600 fps, making it as powerful as paintball markers which means it hurts worse since stinging pain is much worse than the punching pain.
Airsoft uses 6mm plastic pellets, usually weighing between .12 and .3g. the most common weights are .2 and .25g bbs, which are used in most AEGs (automatic electric guns). Paintball uses different sizes and weights of gell filled capsules that burst on impact, leaving a mark.
Airsoft guns do tend to hurt less per shot, but most airsoft guns are fired on full auto, meaning that you almost never get hit just once. Paintball guns are usually semi auto only. Airsoft guns tend to have much more range than paintball guns, as most high end airsoft replicas use a system called "hopup" which imparts backspin to the bb giving it a straight trajectory for longer. Airsoft guns also tend to fire at much higher velocities than paintballs, which means that there is less delay between the bb leaving the barrel and hitting its target. Contrary to popular belief, airsoft guns can leave welts, as the bbs do not burst on impact, and the force is concentrated into a much smaller area, however, airsofters tend to not care weather or not their guns hurt their opponents.
There are no professional airsoft teams, and airsofters want to keep it that way. Because airsoft is based on the honor system, airsoft attracts a different type of player. Airsoft games tend to have little or no cheating. You will hit someone, and they will immediately leave the field. I have never been to a paintball game where there has not been a problem with cheaters.
Airsofters tend to concentrate on the tactical and milsim aspect of the sport, wheras paintballers tend to focus more on the fast and furious action. both have their merits. Airsofters usually wear camo and tactical gear to carry their equipment, paintballers tend to wear jersies and use waist harnesses.
The fact of the matter is, airsoft and paintball are two completely different sports, both of which are fun. paintballers tend to bash on airsofters out of ignorance, many of them have never played an actual game of airsoft; they have shot their friends springer in his backyard and think that that is indicative of the entire sport. You wouldnt want an airsofter to shoot a wal mart 30 dollar pump gun and think that that is all there is to paintball would you?
1. Mil-sim, or military simulation, is when a large group of people buy realistic military gear (Eg. Camo, vests, guns) and play large scale objective games, some of which can last for multiple days. Airsoft guns use a variety of propellants, Green Gas, electrically powered springs or manually cocked springs to propell a BB out of the barrell. It is comparable to paintball, however paintball markers shoot faster and harder than airsoft guns. The point of mil-sim games change, but basically it requires one team to fulfill an objective and the other to stop them. Transportation of certain objects, such as bombs and detanators, or the rescue of a survivor behind enemy lines may be used as objectives. These games are usually played on large fields with official refferees and don't end until one team acheives and objective.
2. Recreation: Recreational airsoft can be played (most likely not legally) in someone's back yard. Low grade guns are usually purchased, and there are no legal ref's or rules, and it usually works on the elimination system.
As a whole, Airsoft works on the honor system, as it is hard to see if you hit someone unless you are very close to them. It also has a very good binding element, if you're working with someone then you're bound to talk, and even post-game chatter with people on the other team can be constructive. Generally talking like an asshole is not accepted, and saying you pwned someone is not taken well.
"Yeah, I heard about thirty people are going."