It’s something that many airsofters consider when they’re starting, redoing their loadout, or buying new kit; what kind of airsoft magazine should you go with?
There are 3 primary kinds of airsoft magazine, high-cap, mid-cap and low-cap. In this post we’ll help you understand the benefits and negatives of using each. In this blog, we’ll be using images and talking about STANAG magazines, but this information is applicable to all kinds of magazines and weapons from the proprietary G36 Mag to the AK47 banana mag and the MP5 stick magazine.
High Capacity Magazines (400-600rds)
Credit to DANPH77
Known as hi-caps, high caps or maracas, these magazines hold the most BBs out of all of the ones on the market (with the exception of box magazines for LMGs, which are comparable to a box of BBs and straw sticking out the top). A standard high capacity magazine in airsoft holds between 400 and 600 BBs.
High Cap magazines have a window on the top and a wheel on the bottom. You fill the interior cavity with BBs and wind the wheel at the bottom of the magazine. This wheel feeds BBs up the feed tube, ready to be fired by the airsoft gun. Continuously winding the wheel puts energy into a coiled spring, allowing the wheel to continue feeding BBs into the gun after you stop winding and start shooting.
More firing capacity per magazine change means less magazine changes during fire fights.
Carry more BBs on your person.
Less BB refills throughout the day.
Arguable more reliable BB feeding system than Mid and Low Cap.
Positive sound when empty. There is an offset weight attached to the sprung wheel. When there are no BBs left, the wheel spins freely (powered by the spring) and the offset weight causes a vibration.
Magazines can be refilled simply with a bottle of BBs.
Obnoxiously loud when moving (hence the nickname maracas).
Unrealistic experience of reloading every 600 rounds.
Tendency to spend more money on ammo.
The ‘out of ammo’ vibration is recognisable and can let experienced enemy know that you’re changing magazine.
More ammo means heavier magazines.
Constant winding hurts the fingers and wears through gloves.
Mid Capacity Magazine (80-150rds)
Credit to SiegMajorFilms
Mid Cap magazines are common on the airsoft field with experienced players. They offer a happy medium between BB capacity and realism and sound. A Mid Capacity magazine has no wheels inside; it’s simply a tube with a spring in it. When the tube is filled with BBs, the spring is compressed and pushes the BBs back out when inside the airsoft gun.
Due to how the BBs are always stored under tension, they are basically silent when moved around (unlike high caps) and are therefore preferred by veteran airsofters, trying to move quietly through their environment.
No annoying rattle when moving.
Relatively high capacity still.
More realistic re-load frequency adds to game immersion.
Doesn’t give away that you’re out of ammo.
Less ammo per magazine.
Less carrying capacity on your person
Needs a ‘speed loader’ to load magazines.
Constant need to conserve ammo.
Can be more picky about dirt and dust preventing BBs from feeding.
Low Capacity Magazines
Low capacity magazines, often called low-caps or real caps, are magazines designed to reflect the ammo capacity of their real life counter parts.
These magazines use the exact same mechanism to feed BBs as a Mid Capacity magazine does, just simply with a shorter spring and feed tube. The idea behind the magazine is to offer the closest possible experience to real conflict as possible and is often a required part of taking part in MilSim games. (Click here to learn more about MilSim Airsoft)
The realistic ammo capacity makes players conserve their ammo, take calculated shots and consider contact carefully, just like real conflict. Due to this, you won’t often find players using low-cap magazines unless they are playing a MilSim operation.
The closest possible experience to realistic combat.
No Annoying rattling noise and you move.
Realistic loading frequency.
Incredible low ammo capacity compared to other players
Need to carry extra ammo and a speed loader.
Loading mechanism can easily become jammed (like Mid Caps).
Constant need to conserve ammo.
So which should you use?
I recommend that most players use Mid Capacity magazines where they can. The sprung mechanism means that you can remain relatively quiet when playing, but the higher ammo capacity means that you can still carry plenty of shots and not worry (too much) about conserving ammo.
If you’re still concerned about ammo and it’s not an option to constantly travel back to the carpark to reload. Grab a bag, a bag of BBs and a few speed loaders and leave them in your respawn. If you’re out of ammo you can simply reload when you’re next out and get back into the game with full ammo again; leaving it in the spawn zone means that you’re not weighed down by a noisy and heavy bag of ammo.