It’s a question that every airsofter asks themselves when they first want to pick up the sport. It’s human nature to want to get the absolute best value for money from our purchases.
Combine this with the fact that airsoft is a competitive, expensive sport and you find yourself wanting the sharpest shooting rifle on the market that’s not going to fall apart in your hands the second you enter the fray.
So here enters the question that has been asked on every airsoft forum and group since the dawn of web-related chatter.
What is the best first gun to get?
But the problem with this question is it’s not an easy one to answer. It comes down to a set of questions and answers that only you can answer yourself and even then, how you interpret these answers are down to personal preference.
There is no one-gun-fits-all solution.
But you’re here now, so we’re going to ask you the questions to help you understand what you’re looking for.
The following advice applies to airsofter in the UK, under UK law and regulations.
Are you Over 18?
In the UK, you can’t legally buy a RIF/IF until you’re over the age of 18. You may, however, be ‘gifted’ a RIF/IF, but there must be no exchange of money or services.
However, unless a family member is an airsofter and willing to gift you an expensive gun for a birthday or holiday, you’re not going to have much luck.
Continue to enjoy the sport of airsoft through renting and borrowing, until you’re in a position to purchase.
Have you played airsoft before?
If you’ve not played airsoft before, the community generally suggests that you begin by renting weapons from your local site first. Hiring weapons allows you to play and get a feel for the sport (and the role you want to play) without you having to sink lots of time and money into it.
Renting is a fantastic way to try out the sport, but the airsoft community is also incredibly friendly and welcoming to newcomers.
Most airsofters will happily let you shoot a few rounds with their airsoft guns to get a feel for what suits you. Don’t be afraid to ask people their opinions on certain makes and brands.
If you’re smart, hiring also gives you the chance to begin qualifying for an airsoft ‘defence’ which is required before you can purchase a RIF. You can read more about RIFs, IFs and defences, here.
What is your budget?
Airsoft guns can range anywhere from £100 to £5,000 depending on what you want to purchase. Things towards the top end of the price range aren’t necessarily the best and there can be hidden gems right down at the bottom of the price range.
The airsoft community also has a huge second hand community, where you can get a great bargain on otherwise expensive gear. But remember, pre-loved guns could have been modified, changed and broken by previous owners that might cause you problems when you own it.
Ultimately, don’t need to drop £500 on a gun that is more than good enough for the casual airsofter, whether you’re buying used or new.
Finally, bear in mind that there’s plenty of other things in airsoft that you must purchase as well as the weapon.
Eye protection and Boots are mandatory equipment for a day of airsoft from a safety standpoint and shouldn’t be skimped on. You may also want to think about purchasing face protection, gloves, camouflage and gear.
Another aspect of a new gun to bear in mind is compatibility and availability of other parts.
Common guns like M4, AK and G36 variants are all common guns with hundreds of aftermarket parts and accessories that should fit straight in but something like an M14, P90 or M249 are less common and spare parts aren’t as easy to get a hold of..
Whilst AK and G36 guns are relatively common place in airsoft, they have long or awkward magazines that require special pouches. How your gun will interact with your gear and how available parts and accessories are is something to bear in mind when you’re purchasing your new weapon.
So what should you get?
There aren’t many ‘rules’ when it comes to your first gun in airsoft, just lots of great advice. Here are a few sound pieces of advice to take away in your search for the best first airsoft gun:
Your first airsoft gun should be an electric rifle, of minimum expense and have plenty of future upgrades available on the market.
The temptation to be an amazing sniper is real for a lot of new players but to be an effective sniper takes time, money and patience that will leave you disappointed after your first outing, stick to a rifle that will get you into the action quickly.
Similarly, Support guns are fun and look great, but they’re much heavier and will slow you down throughout the day. Something light and agile will be much more enjoyable for your first few games.
Always check to see if your gun comes with a battery, charger and magazine. These things can be expensive when bought separately, so try to make a saving by getting them bundled with your gun.
Think about your gun in the context of your load out. Do your rig’s pouches fit your gun’s magazines?
Think about your gun on the battlefield. If you play at an indoor site, a long rifle will make it difficult in close quarters situations, try something short.
Finally, have fun. Don’t spend to long deliberating about which gun to get, you will slowly get to know what you like and don’t like.