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Choosing The Best Barrel Length For Your Airsoft Rifle

As players get more experienced in airsoft, they tend to get choosier with their primary rifle than they once were. Most players start off playing airsoft with an M4A1 platform rifle with a 14.5-inch barrel, or an AK47 that has about a 16-inch barrel. For military use, 14.5-inch barrels are standard benchmark for barrel length when talking about a good balance for accuracy, weight, and maneuverability. Since the standard issue M4 in the military uses a 14.5-inch barrel, many airsoft replicas feature this as well, as most manufacturers aim to replicate standard service rifles.

The philosophy of use for rifles changes somewhat when the mission is more specialized. Anyone who has seen any kind of recent media featuring Special Forces groups or otherwise, Tier 1 Operators, the rifles are often shorter than the standard issue rifle. This is replicated in airsoft when more serious and experienced players build impressionist kits. This is more commonly seen with the MilSim aspect of airsoft. But why do the High-Speed guys use shorter rifles? Why does the standard infantry soldier use longer rifles, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

– Why Change Barrel Length?

 

To answer these questions, one simply has to look in to the mission and role these two groups are trying to fulfill. The standard soldier is meant to complete a wide array of objectives in an equally wide range of operating areas, from Urban combat areas to wide open deserts or in mountains, this means the rifle has to meet a wide range of specifications that allow the weapon to be used in just about every situation a soldier might be put in. Conversely, Special Forces units are, as the name suggests, more Specialized in what they do. Their rifles reflect that. The rifles of most SF units are often optimized to be compact and light weight, rifles such as the MK18 Mod 1 and HK416 fit this bill with their 10.5 or 11-inch barrels and customizability with accessories. These rifles shine with their maneuverability and general ease of use in close quarters. Even with shorter barrels, these rifles have the ability to engage out at longer ranges than just point blank, granting the Operators a bit of versatility.

Okay so that all sounds great, but what does it mean for airsoft? Interestingly, a lot of these ideas translate over pretty well, and the guys who do MilSim regularly, and/or build impressionist kits are often on the leading edge of replicating for airsoft what is being used in the real world. So clearly it works for a lot of people, but what are the pros and cons to having such a short barrel?

For those who aren’t “In the Know”, a short barrel might appear to be solely used for close quarters or indoor fields in airsoft. But once you get in to the finer aspects of building a rifle, you will find that this isn’t always the case. Generally, every weapon platform has its place in airsoft, but they aren’t always necessary. I’ll use my personal experience as the example for this.

I personally have run in to this conundrum, as I have a VFC G28, which is a purpose-built Marksman platform. It features a 16-inch barrel with the 7.62/.308 platform, and also weighs 9 pounds without any attachments. Start throwing attachments on it and that number starts climbing. The rifle shoots 300 feet with no issues out of the box and is semi-locked, which places this rifle firmly in to the Marksman or sniper category. I also have a heavily modified Elite Force Avalon M4 by VFC that replicates a certain youtuber’s “Block 3” MK18. The M4 weighs about 5.5lbs without any accessories, has a 10.5-inch barrel, as well as having full auto, but here’s the kicker, before you, reader, start yelling at your monitor “Colin, you’re comparing Apples and Oranges!” I say Nay-Nay. My M4 has an effective range of 300 feet like my G28. The problem I often run in to is that I want to use my G28, but why use the Marksman rifle when my short-barreled rifle can do the same job, and one is arguably more effective overall?

 

– So What’s the Point?

 

The difference between the two is a couple of things, the G28 is purpose built to be accurate at long range, and the M4 is built to be a versatile assault rifle. The G28 has a longer barrel, which lends itself well to slightly higher velocity for every BB weight when built properly, as well as tighter groupings across the board. This means if someone is peeking out from cover at long range, the BB has a shorter flight time, and is less likely to veer off course during that flight due to lack of stabilization within the barrel. Meanwhile, the aforementioned M4 was built to compensate for the short comings of the shorter barrel and specializes in use with heavier weight BBs to take advantage of the specific build it uses.

Longer barrels in airsoft, as stated before, facilitate more stabilization for the BB, slightly higher velocity and increased overall accuracy, but this comes with the trade-off of being a bit unwieldy and a longer barrel means more material, and thus more weight, as well as just moving around a larger weapon. Shorter barrels, conversely, allow for lighter weight, more compact weapons that make moving around a bit easier. Finding the right barrel length is more about building a rifle that fits your play style, or otherwise team role as a player. Personally, I run my G28 when I’m running with friends who want a dedicated long-distance rifle, and my MK18 is used for weekend skirmishes, or when a more versatile rifleman is needed, as the MK18 has a closer minimum engagement distance than the G28 but can still engage out at range. Pick a rifle that fits your needs during a game, and don’t be afraid to be the person that has a rifle that is slightly longer for accuracy reasons, because it can be beneficial over the standard rifle that everyone else is carrying, and as we all know, it always feels good to out range an enemy player, or score a tight angle hit because you took advantage of the properties of a well built rifle.


Chest Rigs and You: What to Look for When Buying a Chest Rig

What kind of load bearing equipment do you buy when it’s too hot for a plate carrier, but you need more storage than you can get on a belt? You buy yourself a chest rig, that’s what!

Chest rigs are perfect for summer time airsoft play because they are light weight and allow for a ton of airflow! Picking the right one for you can be difficult though, so we recommend following these simple steps.

 

Step 1: How Modular Do You Need It To Be?

Chest rigs are relatively unique in the tactical gear world, as they often come pre-equipped with pouches, but that’s not always the case. Much like a plate carrier, chest rigs can also come sans pouches, and instead be smothered in MOLLE webbing.

This is important, as it gives you a choice between modularity, or a one-and-done setup that you don’t have to think very much about. If your chest rig is going to be the rig you utilize all of the time for every scenario, we’d recommend investing in one with MOLLE webbing, so that it can be as versatile as possible. However, there are plenty of merits to a pre-built set up as well.

Often times, a chest rig is something you only pull out in the summer, and it can be much more cost effective to utilize a pre-sewn setup to avoid the extra expenditure that comes from buying even more pouches or the time sink that is moving your existing pouches back and forth from your other setups. Often times, because the pouches are pre-sewn on these sorts of rigs, they can also squeeze in a few extra items that you’d be otherwise prohibited from carrying if you went with a modular MOLLE setup.

Step 2: Straps and Harnesses

Chest rigs can come with a variety of harness choices in the rear that can both negatively and positively impact your user experience. From the broad shouldered H-harness, to an X-Harness that is friendlier to smaller users, there are all types you can choose from.

The H-Harness provides the most comfortable dispersion of weight, but it isn’t ideal for everyone. Smaller players, or players with less broad shoulders may find the H Harness is simply too wide for their body type, and it sloshes around or comes loose during play. However, if the H-Harness fits you well, it is ideal, as it avoids a common tendency to ride up that you see with other styles.

The X-Harness features a pair of adjustable straps that form an X on your back which give it the name. This harness is excellent as it sizes up or down well for a much wider selection of players. However, from experience, X harness setups can bunch up, ride up, and cause issues when utilizing secondary storage like a back pack or a two point rifle sling. The upside is that this X harness is perfect for smaller framed players who need to lighten their load for the summer!

Lastly, you may find an older vest with a Y-Harness. These are an older style (and more common on old ALICE gear than chest rigs). We’d recommend avoiding these at all costs (unless you’re building an ALICE set up). They tend to not distribute weight evenly across your body, instead pulling on your shoulders and causing strain. There’s a reason these fell out of favor, and we strongly urge you to consider the other type.

You may also find chest rigs that replace these straps with a hydration harness, armor plate bag or other supplemental options like a backpack. These are great options as well, so long as they fit your needs.


Step 3: Carrying Capacity

The last thing to consider when buying a chest rig is carrying capacity. Your new set up does you absolutely no good if it can’t carry your mission essential items. Make sure you consider the items you wish to carry with you and try to pair down to the essentials to get the most out of your chest rig. This means carrying spare magazines, speed loaders, or a pistol may be a high priority, but loading up on things like grenades, radios, and bolt cutters would be a waste of space.

Some chest rigs accomplish this very well. If what you want is magazine storage, the Condor Barrage is built to carry nothing but magazines. Some of Lancer Tactical’s offerings are a bit more versatile with carrying space for additional items like your dead rag, or a grenade or two. Analyze your typical loadout for a game, pair it down to the bare essentials, and work from there. If you can squeeze a few extra items in, and still be light weight, that’s just icing on the cake!

 

Lastly: Choose What Works

Ultimately, everyone’s gear choice is about personal preference. Much like the harness styles, or MOLLE vs Pre-sewn gear, you’ll just need to try some stuff out, and see what fits your needs. Hopefully, our excellent selection of tactical equipment at Airsoft GI can help you find what you’re looking for, and this article has enlightened your thought process about buying gear!


Stay Hydrated In the Summer Heat!

Have you ever tried playing airsoft in 105 degree summer heat? It adds to the MILSIM experience, for sure, but oh boy is it unpleasant. Sometimes you just need to get your airsoft fix though, and that means you’re going to go out and play no matter what! Here’s a few tips to stay cool in the summer during your BB Wars games!

1. Start Drinking Water Early

The secret to staying out of the Urgent Care facility during some summer airsoft fun is to start your hydration regimen a few days ahead of your game day. This means you need to quit drinking soda, energy drinks, sweet tea, and all of the other unhealthy beverages we put in our bodies (yes… even the adult ones.) What you are sweating out on the day of the game is the contents of what you have been drinking for a few days prior, so it’s best to flush all of that out of your system early. We recommend starting a minimum of three days out for a small weekend pick up game, but if it’s going to be a longer event, or the heat index is going to be especially high, add a few extra days to that just to be on the safe side.

 

2. Make sure you’re stocked up on water for game day

Whether you have to stop at the local gas station by the field, or you prep ahead of time at a big box store, make sure you have a few extra gallons of water with you for a hot day over what you’d usually bring. the few liters in your hydration pouch will simply not be enough to stay in the fight all day long. The additional upside is that having a few extra water bottles or a spare gallon bottle around will help you make a few new friends with the people who didn’t prepare as well as you have!

 

3. Get your Kit right!

Unless you have some excessive kit requirements for a hardcore MILSIM game, consider lightening up your load out for the day. Some things to consider are the following:

If your kit is too heavy, you’re going to expend more energy getting around the field. This is solid advice all year-round but it helps immensely more during the summer months. On top of that, light weight kit like a chest rig or battle belt will allow for more airflow to help carry heat away from your body as you sweat. Lastly, make sure that kit has a way to carry additional water. Whether you prefer a water bottle or canteen, or a a hydration pouch attached to the rear of your vest, carrying water is a necessity, as is making sure you drink that water constantly during the day. As a good rule of thumb, if you aren’t actively engaging the enemy team, you should be drinking water to keep replenishing the precious nutrients you are sweating out.

 

4. Recognize the signs of heat exhaustion (and how to handle them)

Make sure you are able to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion when you’re playing airsoft in both yourself, and your fellow players. The CDC defines heat exhaustion with the following symptoms:

  • Heavy Sweating
  • Cold, Pale, Clammy Skin
  • Fast, Weak Pulse
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Tiredness or Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fainting or Passing Out

If you begin to experience these symptoms, or see another player experiencing them, take a second out of your gameplay and do something about it. These are not the kind of things that just go away without treatment of some kind. You can start with the following steps:

  • Move to a cool place
  • Loosen your clothing (remove your gear)
  • Put cool wet cloths on your body
  • Sip (don’t chug) Water

The CDC also recommends seeking medical attention immediately if you experience the following:

  • Throwing Up
  • Symptoms get worse
  • Symptoms last longer than an hour

Heat Exhaustion is no joke, and Heat Stroke is a serious medical emergency. It’s also a very real risk with playing airsoft in the heat, but can be avoided with the advice in this article. The important thing is to remember that we’re all a community, and we need to look out for each other. The adrenaline rush of airsoft can make you ignore your symptoms in the name of airsoft glory, but it’s never worth ending up in the ER over it.

 

Hopefully with these tips, you will be able to enjoy safe, fun, and action packed airsoft game play during the summer months. Just remember to follow the advice above, and be extra careful to look out for the symptoms of heat exhaustion in you and your fellow airsofters!

 


Tactical Gear Heads Uncut: BB Wars Dragon’s Nest Commanders