When it comes to choosing a sidearm in airsoft, the options are plenty. Pistols in airsoft are the one weapon group where I think you can have more show than go.
Pistols are mainly used as sidearms in case your main weapon malfunctions or you run out of ammo in the middle of a fight and don’t have time to reload mags. They are also pretty much mandatory for a sniper as a close combat weapon. In CQB they can even be used as main weapons due to close firing distances and their agility.
Pistols come in many models, building materials and working principles. From cheap plastic springers to full metal gas operated full metal ones. Today I will talk about what I think is important in airsoft pistols and what are the best airsoft pistols available right now.
The role of pistols in Airsoft
Like I stated before, pistols are mainly considered sidearms and only in rare occasion should they be used as main weapons. Even though they are very light and agile, the short length and lack of a stock make them fairly inaccurate just like their real life counter parts.
However in airsoft the firing distances are a lot shorter and there is no real recoil which makes airsoft pistols a lot easier to operate than real ones. But it doesn’t change the fact that fighting with a pistol in a woodland or an open terrain, you are in a serious disadvantage accuracy wise, compared to someone wielding some sort of rifle.
The other thing about pistols is the small ammo capacity. Pistols are small and the magazines or magazine wells usually house components required by what ever operating principle the gun is using. This all means there is not much room for BBs and a typical airsoft pistol magazine holds between 15 to 40 BBs.
In real life this might be plenty of ammo but in airsoft you will empty your clips faster than you can say “out of ammo”. The other problem the small size causes is that there is not much room for a power source – be it gas or battery the capacity won’t be very high and even if you have time to reload BBs, you will run out of power pretty fast.
So due to these technical limitations, you generally don’t use pistols as main weapons. Although for an experienced player it can be very fun to play fast skirmish games with a pistol for a change and challenge.
What is blowback
Before I go on about the pistols I want to quickly talk about feature called blow backsince it’s very relevant when choosing a pistol.
Blowback is a feature that simulates the recoil and loading cycle of a real firearm. In pistols this generally means the slide moving back violently after each shot while the mechanism loads a new BB in to the chamber.
Blowback is mainly a feature of gas guns since it takes quite a bit of energy to cycle the slide. In real fire arms this is done by using the recoil force and the expanding gasses of the fired cartridge and it’s a very useful feature since this allows semi-automatic fire with a light trigger pull (compared to revolvers for example).
In airsoft blow back is not needed for the reloading cycle, since it takes a lot less energy to push a BB in to the chamber than a real cartridge. So the only function of blow back in airsoft is to add a feel of realism at the expense of energy in the form of gas. Oh and did I mention it’s really fun! 🙂
Different operating principles
Just like in bigger guns there are mainly three different operating principles in airsoft pistols. Manually cocked spring, electric ang gas.
Spring loaded pistols are generally cheap toys that are only good for blinking at the backyard. You can have a quality one – I had a Marui Glock 17 for a long time – as a back up of a back up weapon in case all our other weapons malfunction and no one has anything to borrow. Playing with springer against AEGs sets you in a huge disadvantage but at least you get to play and it’s still fun and challenging.
The thing about quality springers is that they are fool proof and will function in any weather condition. I have witnessed this many times in cold winter games where batteries run empty very fast and gas doesn’t work at all. This is not such a big issue these days after the invention of Li-Po batteries, since they can handle cold fairly well. In the old days in winter games it was normal to see players changing to springers towards the end of the games, as the main weapons started dropping out of action one by one.
Quality springers actually have a decent range for a pistol but the biggest stumbling block is the need to reload manually after every shot. You lose you aim and the opposing player has plenty of time to return fire.
Marui brought out their first AEPs or automatic electric pistols in the beginning of the 2000s. They are battery powered pistols with a gear box similar to full size AEGs. Due to size restrictions of pistol frames the mechanism takes out most of the space in the handle and AEPs use a stick type magazine because of this.
The size of the gear box and the small battery capacity also limits the power of the pistols. The springs used in AEPs are actually weaker than in quality springers. This was actually considered a big disappointment back in the day when they came out. You have to remember that what you lack in power you gain in semi auto fire (or full auto in some models) and the guns usually feature an adjustable hop up which increases effective range. The lack of power really isn’t an issue when you remember what the role of pistol is in airsoft.
AEPs generally feel solid and hefty, but due to the gear box the slides are fixed and there is usually no blow back feature. This makes the guns feel more like a toy gun especially when firing. But then again, you have to remember this is airsoft, and for gaming purposes I think certain AEPs are great. Especially with a couple simple modifications.
There are AEPs with blow back features but the action is so slow and the slide so light it really doesn’t feel realistic at all and I would not recommend getting an AEP with blow back feature. The ones without it are more reliable and there is more room for the battery and gearbox which usually means better performance.
Gas pistols can be divided in to blowback and non-blowback categories. They are either operated by green gas or CO2. Green gas is usually filled in the magazine of the gun and in some models the gas container is inside the magazine well. CO2 guns use the same CO2 cartridges that air guns use. Most quality guns these days accept bot green gas and CO2.
The biggest difference between green gas and CO2 is that CO2 can be used in colder temperatures. When you start to go close to freezing temps, green gas looses it’s capacity to expand, and the power of the gun will greatly diminish.
Gas pistols without blowback are generally very simple guns with few moving parts. This makes them fairly reliable but usually the trigger pull is heavy because it has to set the trigger and reload a new BB all with the energy from your finger.
In blow back guns the trigger is usually set by the slide moving back just like in real fire arms. This makes the trigger pull nice and light. But of course the biggest thing going for blow back guns is the blow back feature itself. When you shoot a quality blow back pistol with a heavy metal slide you will be surprised by the kick and the sound. It’s as close to firing a real firearm you can get in airsoft. That’s why high quality airsoft blow back pistols are used in IPSC Action Air, a practical shooting based airsoft sport and as rehearsal tools by any militaries and law enforcement organisations
What I use
I personally have a Tokyo Marui original AEP Glock 18C. I actually bought it a while ago used for $15 dollars or so. It’s easily worth the original asking price of around $100 in my opinion. The original battery was pretty much dead so I bought the smallest 7.4 V Li-Po battery I could find from a hobby store and with a bit of fiddling and soldering it fit the gun very nicely.
I also modified the hop up unit in to a flat hop up and made it as air tight as possible. And boy did the gun come alive. The Li-Po batterys superior performance made the firing instantaneous and the rate of fire very good. With the upgraded hop up the range is more than enough for a sidearm.
The Tokyo Marui Glock 18 can be very hard to find these days but there are some decent copies on the market. Like the on M9 made by Cyma, which has pretty much identical internal parts. Even the famous YouTube Airsoft sniper NOVRITSCH used to use a Marui Glock 18C AEP before his channel grew and he needed something with more show.
Best airsoft pistols on the market right now
There are several very good airsoft pistols on the market. The ones I would recommend are all gas blow back guns made by well-established quality manufacturers.
KWC COLT 1911:
The KWC Colt 1911 is a tried and true model that comes in many different variations, which are basically the same base gun. It’s also distributed by Cyberguns and few other companies but they are all manufactured by KWC. This is not a bad thing since the KWC’s replicas of the 1911 are extremely well-made.
KWC (Kein Well Toy Industrial Co. Ltd) is a well-established Taiwanese manufacturer that specializes in high quality performance handgun replicas. They have been making replicas of the 1911 for many years now and it is sort of flagship model of their line up and comes in many variations.
The original Colt m1911a1 was adopted by the US military over a century ago but due to its modern design it is still used today and it’s one of the most iconic handguns out there, The semi-automatic .45 caliber pistol had superior stopping power, firing rate and accuracy compared to handguns of the time.
The airsoft version built by KWC is as close as you can get to the real deal with replica both in form and function. Performance and reliability is among the best on the market and leaves nothing to hope for. The only real downside is that the guns shoot pretty hot which means they might not be allowed in all CQB arenas. There are modifications available for lowering the muzzle energy, but if you are getting the gun only for CQB, I would recommend something else.
KWC and Cybergun have currently many models on the market. From the classic m1911a1 to very modern tactical versions with rails for attaching accessories.
The KJW M9 is replica of another iconic handgun, the Beretta M9 (also known as 92FS). KJW makes an excellent replica of this hand gun with very good performance and intricate attention to detail. Beretta M9 is actually the hand gun that replaced the m1911a1 as the standard issue side arm of the US military. It is a more modern design (with roots as old as the 1911) that uses the popular 9 mm round.
KJ Works is another Taiwanese manufacturer that has been making airsoft products since the early 90s. They specialize in high quality gas blow back handguns and sniper rifles. Just like KWC the build quality and performance is their gas blowback weapons is excellent.
The M9 is another replica that is very true to the original counter part. The only difference to the real steel firearm is that the KJ Works Beretta can fire full auto. With a high power blow back pistol this is hilariously fun. Your accuracy will suffer and you will run out of BBs fast, but it’s all worth the fun!
Performance wise the M9 leaves nothing to be desired for. The muzzle energy is a bit lower than the KWC 1911. This combined with the full auto capability makes the M9 my pistol of choice for CQB.
So that’s my take on best airsoft pistols. What do you think of my choices? Did I miss your favorite or do you have questions about airsoft pistols? Don’t hesitate to drop a comment below and I promise to get back to you soon.