Today we are going to take a little trip in war history. If you are looking for WW1 airsoft guns you might have noticed they are quite a bit harder to come by than WW2 or Vietnam war era of airsoft guns.
There are obvious reasons for the lack of World War 1 airsoft guns. Like the fact that most firearms of that time were single fire and quite cumbersome. Something the average airsoft player is probably not looking for.
However, reenactment and live action role-play airsoft games are pretty common these days and there have been pretty large American civil war, WW1 and WW2 scenarios.
In that scene it’s all about authenticity. People organizing and taking part in these kinds of events are usually looking for the best possible immersion.
This means that everything possible needs to be as close to the “real deal” as possible. Including clothing, language, battle gear, insignias, accommodation, vehicles and of course the weapons. It would really take a big chunk of the immersion if guys fully geared in WW1 era uniforms and acting perfectly were carrying m4s or other modern rifles, don’t ya think?
That’s why there are usually requirements for the clothing and weapons in these kinds of events and games. Some stricter than others. I know many times “classic” weapons, usually including WW2 era guns are allowed at least in airsoft events even if the scenarios are based on WW1. This is simply for the reason that requiring only WW1 guns would severely affect the turnout of players.
You might also be somebody interested in war history and collecting historical memorabilia. Real WW1 era weapons, functional or not, can be hard to come by (and expensive) and an airsoft replica might just be thing you are looking for to fill that gap in your display.
WW1 weapon classes
I thought it might be in order to go quickly through the weapon classes that were generally used during the WW1. The era was over a hundred years ago and modern firearms were still very much in their infancy.
Black powder had been mostly replaced by modern smokeless gun powder and most weapons used self-contained brass cartridges like today. This made reloading and firing faster and automatic weapons were already developed, just not in wide use on the battlefield due to being expensive and unreliable.
The standard issue firearm was a bolt action battle rifle, generally firing a full power rifle cartridge compared to the modern smaller assault rifle cartridges. Officers carried sidearms that were still mostly revolvers. There were a few semiautomatic pistols already in use though.
In trench warfare shotguns and carbines (shortened rifles) were used extensively and at the end of the war there were couple sub machine guns available but they were rare.
Fully automatic weapons were mainly full size machine guns which were usually placed on a gun carriage and used as a heavy support weapon.
Now that we have general idea of the weapons of the era let’s look at the Best WW1 airsoft guns on the market!
WW1 airsoft pistols
Probably the most iconic semi-automatic pistol of the era is the Parabellum p08 that is better know as the Luger in the western world. It was in production already before the war and a standard issue sidearm with high ranking German officers.
The pistol had actually been produced since 1898 and for its time it was a very modern firearm. For that reason it was quite expensive but having been extensively used in WW1 and especially in WW2 it is instantly recognized by any history buff. Probably because of its popularity is available as an airsoft replica.
There are several models of airsoft replicas available and probably the best bang for the buck is this full metal gas blowback one from WE.
- Price: $ 135
- Operating principle: Gas blowback
- Muzzle velocity: 290 FPS (0.20 BB)
- Weight: 830 g
This Luger by the Taiwanese manufacturer WE is made completely out of metal except for the grip plates which are very authentic looking wood imitation polymer. WE is known for their high quality gas blowback pistols and this airsoft P08 lives up to that reputation.
The operation of the airsoft gun is as close to the real deal as possible and the build quality is superb. Great for WW1 airsoft scenarios and a must have for collectors!
The US counterpart to the Luger is as iconic if not even more than the Luger. It remains in production to day and is known as a very reliable side arm with high stopping power. I’m of course talking about the Colt M1911, also known as the Browning Pistol (by the designer John Browning).
As the name suggests, the weapon has been in service since 1911 and thus was available during the World War 1. The real steel gun is a semi-automatic, magazined-fed, recoil operated pistol that uses the powerful .45 ACP round. It served as the standard sidearm of the US army from 1911 to 1986 and is still used today in the armed forces due to its popularity among its users.
There are many high quality replicas available of the M1911. The ones we’re interested are the most classic ones as there are many modern variations of it. Like with the Luger the best one bang for the buck in my opinion is the full metal gas blow back model by WE
- Price $105
- Operating principle: Gas blowback
- Muzzle velocity: 300-330 FPS (0.20 BB)
- Weight: 4 lbs
Like the Luger, the WE airsoft Colt M1911 has incredible built quality and operates as close to the real deal as airsoft gun can. Great for collectors or as a prop gun for theater or live action role-play. The performance is top-notch so it’s good for playing airsoft as well.
If you are just looking for something cheap to use as a prop I would recommend this spring operated one from BBtac
It’s made out of plastic but it looks pretty close to the original m1911 used in the WW1. It’ll do just fine for a reenactment or live role-play. Won’t be much use for serious airsoft use unlike the gas blowback one, though.
- Price: $6.95
- Operating principle: Spring loaded
- Muscle velocity: ~250 FPS (probably a lot less in reality)
- Weight: <1 lbs
Another German classic semi-automatic is the Mauser C96 also known as the Broomhandle because of the narrow grip it had. The narrow grip is possible because it is one of the rare pistols that had a magazine well in front of the trigger assembly and grip. The Mauser C96 used the most powerful pistol round (7.63 x 25mm Mauser) of its time and this required a larger magazine that would not have fit inside the grip handle.
It was produced from 1896 to 1937 and it was extensively used in both WW1 and WW2 by many countries. Because of the long barrel and the powerful cartridge the Mauser had better range, stopping power and penetration than other pistols of the era. It came with a large wooden holster that could be used as a stock to turn the Mauser in to a carbine rifle.
A notable variant of the weapon in WW1 was the Russian one using a 9 mm round because there were problems with the slow production of the Parabellum p08 and need for a 9 mm sidearm. This variant was known as the “Red 9” because of the red symbol 9 burned in to the handle to warn users from loading it with the standard 7.63 x 25 round.
There is only one good airsoft model available. It’s the WE-Tech WE712 full metal Gas Blowback one. Like the other WE examples, it’s full metal and operated very close to the original counterpart. It even comes with the stock holster and has full auto fire so you can use it as a sub machine gun!
- Price: $168
- Operating principle: Gas blowback
- Muzzle velocity: 300 – 330 FPS
- Weight: 4 lbs
Like the other WE pistols, this is great for any reenactment situation, for collectors and for airsoft as well!
WW1 Airsoft rifles
Battle rifle was the standard issue weapon of the average soldier in the trenches of World War one. Let’s look at what’s available as airsoft replicas! I have to point out that when you consider buying these, you have to really think about what it’s going to be used for. If you want to get one for weekend games, I really can’t recommend that since most of these aren’t up to par performance wise compared to average AEGs.
What these are great for however are reenactments, airsoft scenarios with high requirements for historical detail and live action role-play elements, for theater use and as collector items.
The main battle rifle of US Army during World War 1 was the Springfield M1903 (formally United States Rifle, Caliber .30-06, Model 1903). It was a bolt action high power rifle firing the full size .30-06 cartridge. The rifle featured a 5 round magazine and could be equipped with a bayonet (and many times was in the WW 1 trenches). It was replaced by the Garand M1 semi-automatic battle rifle in 1936 but remained in service all the way to Vietnam War as a sniper rifle.
The great news is that there’s one available as an airsoft gun! And what’s even better, it’s built from metal and wood just like the real counter part. The price ain’t bad either considering the quality.
Meet the spring-loaded S&T Springfield M1903 airsoft rifle:
- Price: $212.5
- Operating principle: Spring
- Muzzle velocity: 390FPS (0.20 g BB)
- Weight: 6 lbs
This is the perfect piece for WW 1 re-enactments and even for theater or collector use!
Mauser Gewehr 98
The German counterpart to the Springfield rifle wast the Gewehr (rifle) 98, manufactured by Mauser. It was the main German infantry service rifle in the World War I. Mauser rifles were the industry standard during the decades leading to World War 1. Many inventions first implemented by Mauser were adopted by other countries like the US, Japan and Britain.
Just like the other military rifles of the time it was a bolt action, single fire full power rifle with 5 round non-detachable magazine. What set the Mauser rifle apart from the competition was it’s simple, strong, safe, and well-thought-out design. It was however expensive to manufacture and the firing rate was slightly lower in the hands of a trained user than some other rifles that allowed to maintain the sight pattern while cycling the bolt.
The Gewehr 98 was in service from 1898 to 1935 when it was replaced by the Karabiner 98k, a shortened version of the same design.
Unfortunately there are no airsoft Mauser Gewehr 98 replicas that I know of. However, it wouldn’t be that bad of a historical mistake to use a Kar 98k replica, which is available, if you need to play a German soldier in a WW 1 setting. They are essentially the same weapon, you know.
The best Kar 98 replica would be the DBoys Real Wood Kar98. It is spring-loaded and has ejectable shells. This makes it pretty useless for serious airsoft but for the price you get an excellent replica. Great for collectors, movies, theater you name it.
- Price: $114.95
- Operating principle: Spring loaded / ejectable shells
- Muzzle velocity: 500 FPS
- Weight: 8 lbs
If you want something for more serious airsofting I would recommend the G&G CO2 Kar 98. It’s solid wood and metal just like the DBoys one. It doesn’t use ejectable shells that are easy to misplace. It’s powered by CO 2 which means the bolt action just reload a new BB. This makes the action super smooth. The CO2 gives it enough power to make it usable for serious airsoft skirmishes or to be used as a sniper rifle. The only downside is the rather high price. But you do get what you pay for!
- Price: $450
- Operating principle: CO2 gas
- Muzzle velocity: over 515 FPS
- Weight: 8 lbs
The list of rifles WW1 airsoft rifles wouldn’t be complete without the Russian Empires service rifle Mosin Nagant. Even if you have never heard of this rifle, it’s actually one of the most common military weapons of all time. Over 37 million rifles have been made after it was issued in 1891. Despite of its age it has been used in many modern day conflicts and is popular as a hunting rifle.
The Mosin Nagant was the main weapon of the Russain Empires infantry in World War 1 and the Soviet Unions in World War 2. The weapon was very similar to the US Springfield rifle and the Germans Gewehr 98. A single fire, bolt action rifle with 5 round non-detachable magazine. It used a full size rifle round like all it’s counterparts.
The legend has it that the Russian and Soviet forces during both World Wars were so short on weapons and ammo that they gave a loaded rifle to every other soldier and a spare mag to every other one, with the instructions to pick up a rifle from fallen comrades. Talk about lifting the morals of troops…
There is one high quality airsoft replica available. It’s an Asian OEM, meaning the same model is sold by several asian manufacturers. That doesn’t mean it’s low quality though. The manufacturers that sell it under their name are all top quality companies like King Arms, SHS and Redfire. Built quality is top-notch and the finish is just beautiful. It’s imitation wood but you really can’t tell the difference unless you are holding it.
- Price: $230
- Operating principle: Gas
- Muzzle velocity: 400 – 450 FPS (0.20 g BB)
- Weight: 6 lbs
A beautiful replica for collectors, airsoft and live action role-play!
WW1 airsoft automatic weapons
There aren’t may automatic airsoft guns of WW1 available really. This isn’t really surprising when you think about the fact that there weren’t really that many automatic weapons available at the time. Only couple sub machine guns, some automatic rifles and of course full size machine guns. The machine guns were big and cumbersome, most cooled with water so it’s not surprising no one is offering an airsoft replica. I did manage to find one automatic though. The BAR!
I’m not taking about a booze joint in the trenches, I’m of course talking about the Browning Automatic Rifle model 1918. The BAR was a heavy full automatic rifle firing the same .30-06 cartridge the main battle rifle Springfield used.
The weapon was actually originally designed to be fired from the hip with a sling over the shoulder during an assault advance, a concept called walking fire. It was thought at the time this was something that was needed in the trench warfare, but it was never really used in this manner for obvious reasons. Generally soldiers walking upright with heavy automatic weapons are easy targets that can’t hit anything. Unless you ask John Rambo….
So instead of being this weird suicide Rambo gun the BAR was used as a light machine gun in a support role. It was still used more in this role in WW 2 but it did some action during the WW 1 as well.
The combination of a large caliber round, full-automatic fire and a relatively small box magazine of 20 rounds meant it didn’t really function as a substitute for a machine gun or an assault rifle but it did offer much-needed firepower in the battlefield. And a sore back to the poor chap who had to haul the thing (it was seriously heavy) and it’s ammo.
So let’s look at the airsoft counterpart of the BAR! The best and probably only one available is the almost full metal one by Matrix.
- Price: $ 320
- Operating principle: AEG (electric)
- Muzzle velocity: 380 FPS (0.20g BB)
- Fire modes: Full-auto
- Weight: 12 lbs
- Hop-up: adjustable
It comes with a fully up gradable proprietary gear box. This just means it’s not an exact copy of a Marui design but it should fit standard V3 gearbox internals without hassle. The build quality is top-notch considering the price and amount of sheer material an airsoft gun this size needs.
The biggest issue is the same as with the real counter part. The thing weights a ton, about 5kg or 12 lbs. This might not seem that much but trust me, every pound adds up when you carry the thing around whole day in a scenario game. So definitely get a comfortable sling if you wish to use this one for airsoft games… and maybe do some deadlifts ;D
Well there you go, the best WW1 airsoft guns available today. Some or closer to the original than others and it’s of course up to you, the user, to decide if you value looks over functionality.
If you are getting an airsoft gun to hang on a wall or for a reenactment as a prop gun, the functionality might not be very important. If on the other hand you wish use the gun for general airsoft skirmishes be sure to select a model that is realistically usable for gaming.
If you any questions or suggestions, please drop a line in the comments!