Airsoft is the ultimate replica weapon re-enactment game. Better than paintball, it taps into the BB gun ethos of an American childhood and ramps up the authenticity by a factor of oh hell yeah.
It’s a game that is appealing to a growing number of people across the country, and like many reenactment battles, one of the keys to its appeal is the accuracy with which the guns resemble the real-world equivalent.
You want the biggest thrill, the best feeling from the game, you’re going to need the best airsoft guns. And the weapon of choice for lots of Americans, drawing on history and brand-new technology, is the rifle.
So what are the best airsoft rifles on the market? How do you judge them, pick them one from the other?
Come with us – we’ve sifted the evidence, squeezed the triggers, and picked the five best airsoft rifles around right now, so you don’t have to.
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
If you’re new to airsoft, you’re going to love the G&G combat machine. It’s priced for the newcomer, so if you’re not sure whether you want to spend the big bucks on an airsoft rifle, it won’t cost you the earth to get started.
The G&G Combat Machine is made of plastic, so relatively longstanding airsofters might initially sneer, but there’s plastic…and then there’s plastic.
The G&G is made of a heavier plastic than you’ll expect, which is well-suited to the rough and tumble, as well as the uncertainty, of the newbie.
Want to get to the business end? You’re looking at firing 340 rounds per minute, with a 450-round magazine. That’s enough to get you started and aiming well, without giving you more power than you can handle.
You can use the G&G either indoors or out – it brings a collapsible stock and a reasonable length to your game and can deliver you accuracy at long-distance too.
When you’re new to the game, you need to move fast and learn as you go. The G&G Combat Machine gives you a lighter weapon than many, so you can focus on learning your techniques.
Highly customizable, but with a price-point suitable for beginners, the G&G M4-based AEG rifle is one of the best guns on the market for the new player.
G&G has a longstanding reputation for making impeccable airsoft rifles, and the Combat Master is a gun that stands up to the reputation – but at anything up to half the usual price.
For new players, or more experienced players who appreciate a lighter weapon and the flexibility it brings, the G&G Combat Master is a must-have airsoft rifle that will deliver everything you need, with a lighter touch and a useful distance game.
- A light gun, this will help you focus on learning your technique
- Suitable for indoor and outdoor use, it has an addictive flexibility
- Firing 340 rounds per minute, it delivers enough power for newcomers – and more
- Made by a big name, it’s priced for entry-level airsofting
- Authenticity purists won’t be able to escape the fact that it’s made of plastic
Lancer Tactical has its DNA in high-quality, low-cost airsoft guns.
The Interceptor SPR weighs in at just four pounds, so it’s competitive with our list-leader, but delivers you the option to go either fully automatic or semi-automatic – so if you’re familiar with real-world assault rifles, you’re going to feel that shiver of thrill down your spine when you use it.
It can send out standard 6mm BBs from its 300-round magazine at an impressive 400 feet per second – which has got to be good enough for new to intermediate airsofters. It also adds an adjustable hop-up system to your game, reducing the drop during longer shots.
With a handful of hardcore realistic features like removable front and rear sights, a retractable stock, and a full-metal gearbox, it feels more authentic than some on the market, without pushing the price beyond an acceptable level, even for beginners.
There’s a slight issue with the handle, which can get hot with extended use because the batteries are stored there and it’s not especially heat-shielded.
But for an airsoft assault rifle, the Lancer Tactical Interceptor gives you a lot of long-distance bang for your buck – and doesn’t take too many of those bucks out of your bank for the privilege.
- With a firing speed of 400 FPS, you get a realistic assault rifle feeling
- A lightweight rifle, it brings ease of use to your game
- Removable front and rear sights, a retractable stock, and the full-metal gearbox make it feel like an authentic real-world weapon
- The 300-round magazine gives you enough scope for short-burst firing
- The batteries being held in the handle means it can get unfortunately hot
Sometimes, only a traditional bolt action rifle design will do.
There’s something about using a bolt action rifle that gives you a grunt you won’t get from the likes of assault rifle action. On days when you need the grunt, the JG 366a Bar-10 is the airsoft rifle to reach for.
The JG gives you that dependable grunt, and a realistic feel to boot. The exterior looks authentic and has been designed to convey the sense of a genuine sniper rifle.
A capacity of 30 rounds is great for a longer game with less reloading, and the JB Bar-10 will give you spectacular accuracy, even using .20g BBs.
If it doesn’t, you might want to spend some time on the range, because the rifle’s built to give you every chance. A rate of 400 FPS has you competing in the big leagues, and the JG Bar-10 can even be upgraded to 500 FPS.
The JG 366a Bar-10 mixes output and accuracy and delivers at a sweet spot, so you get a combination that suits new snipers who are still getting their heads around the discipline of long-distance shooting.
One extra reason to choose the Bar-10 is that while it starts off friendly for the new sniper, it can grow with you as you develop your skills.
As sold, it’s compatible with Marui VSR-10 and Angel Custom upgrade parts, so as you progress with your airsofting, the Bar-10 can expand to match your abilities.
Chances are you won’t need the HC 366a Bar-10 when you’re brand new to airsofting anyhow, because sniper rifles take a certain skill, a degree of accuracy, and a heck of a lot of patience to master.
But if you bring all that to the arena anyhow, the JG 366a Bar-10 is a great option to help you make the most of the skills you have.
- A solid combination of accuracy and output gives you a classic sniper rifle feel
- A very realistic exterior look, matched with the grunt of a bolt action for accuracy
- Upgrades well as you progress in your airsofting
- Not a rifle for brand new airsofters, but effective for new snipers
Let’s leave the lightweight world behind and go full metal replica. If that sounds appealing to you, the VFC Heckler and Koch 416 Close Quarters Battle Elite AEG is the airsoft rifle with your name on it.
You couldn’t really deliver a Heckler & Koch 416 in anything other than metal – its reputation among US special forces personnel wouldn’t survive if it was rendered in plastic.
Naturally, being a favorite of special forces makes it a rifle that’s very popular with airsofters. More of a close-quarters weapon than a long-distance one, its metal frame is smaller than many airsoft rifles, but it’s fully stocked with features.
Customizable rails, an adjustable hop-up, and a variable rate of fire give the VFC H&K 416 CQB Elite a BB delivery rate of 1200 rounds per minute – that’s 20 shots every second.
That gives you a flexibility that makes aiming relatively irrelevant, and makes the H&K a fantastic rifle, whether you’re inside or out. In fact, in a strange sense, shooting with the airsoft version makes you understand why it’s such a favorite with US special forces.
No rifle is a toy, even an airsoft one, but there’s something so richly point-and-fire definite about this gun, you understand that if you were in the special forces, you’d want its more deadly cousin by your side to keep you safe from harm.
Obviously, there are trade-offs to be made. If you’re going to make a gun entirely out of metal, it’s going to be heavier than anything with any degree of plastic about its build. But for accuracy enthusiasts, that only adds to the experience of their airsofting.
That blurred line between a fun hobby and a life-or-death struggle is made much fuzzier by the all-metal body of the H&K.
And naturally, an all-metal weapon is going to carry an all-metal price tag, which will be heavier than the gun itself.
That makes the H&K a weapon to aspire to – something to get yourself as an annual treat once you’ve progressed some distance in your airsofting and you think you’ve really earned it.
If you ever see one on sale though, snap that metal puppy right up, because if you don’t, your airsofting buddies absolutely will – it’s rare for the H&K to stick around on sale long enough to gather dust.
If you can get one for a sum that doesn’t bust your flush, do the right thing. Your airsoft game will thank you.
- The all-metal construction gives you a feeling of the reality of the weapon
- A firing rate of 20 shots per second is difficult to argue with, withstand, or defeat
- It has a point-and-fire ease that makes it excellent for close-quarters fighting
- Heavier than many airsoft rifles on the market, so you’ll take a while to get used to it
- The price reflects the all-metal construction, so it’s by no means available to everyone
How do you feel about an airsoft gun so accurate in its replication that it’s used to train law enforcement officers?
Mmm-hmm. That’s what we figured. To be fair, that’s what we said too.
The Sig Sauer MCV Virtus is, understandably given its role in law enforcement training, a fully metal Automatic Electric Rifle, and at first when you try it, you’ll double-check it’s not the real deal. You won’t be able to stop yourself.
An adjustable hop-up, three-prong flash hider, flip-up front and rear sights, and a telescoping stock make it feel so real it’s actually unnervingly when you first get your hands on it.
With a range of 400 FPS (with a 120 spring – 320 with a 100), it’s up there with some of the higher-scoring airsoft rifles on our list, and it would be a mistake ever to underestimate the Virtus.
You can use it in either fully or semi-automatic modes, depending on the needs of your airsofting.
The feeling of having a real weapon in your hands leads to easy fantasies of defending truth, justice, and the American way when you airsoft with the Virtus, with perhaps the only issue being the relative difficulty of finding replacement batteries.
While the gun itself is on the epic side, it’s irritating to have it let down by such a small practical flaw.
Beyond that niggle though, the Virtus gives you a sense of being on Team Good Guy when you airsoft with it, and adds a realism to your game that, at first unnerving, quickly becomes a distinct, metal-spined thrill.
- The high degree of realism adds an extra dimension to your airsoft
- A range of 400 FPS put it up among the highest performing rifles
- Lots of extras, like flip-up sights, add to the feeling of a real weapon
- Weirdly specific batteries are harder to source than they should be
When you’re buying an airsoft rifle, keep the following in mind
Match the rifle to your prowess
If you buy, for instance, the JG Bar-10 as your first airsoft rifle, there’s every chance it will put you off the game altogether and you’ll go back to golf or poetry.
That’s not because there’s anything wrong with the JG Bar-10, it’s because you won’t be ready to handle it as a newcomer to the game.
Whereas with real, lethal guns, the chances are that you can get advice – and even practice – from a responsible gun store owner before you take it away, so you end up with a weapon suited to your level and temperament, because airsoft is a game, you’re more or less left to decide on your weapon for yourself.
Be your own responsible gun store owner. Start out easy, and let your need within airsoft dictate your purchase, rather than necessarily your enthusiasm for the hot new super-featured gun. You’ll end up with a purchase more suited to your levels of skill and technique that way.
Buy the rifle that matches your level of replica-purity
For some people, plastic guns are too close to the experience of BB guns – or even their inferior toy cousins – as a child. If they’re going to invest in airsoft, they want – no, they need the feel of metal in their hands to let them buy into the game.
Other people don’t put such a premium on outright realism and are willing to use a plastic gun if it gives them a lightweight option that’s easy to use and easy on their bank balance.
Decide which type of airsofter you are before you click the ‘Buy’ button. While plastic-happy airsofters might well be fine with an all-metal weapon, they might leave themselves financially short by going the realistic route.
Meanwhile, no out-and-out puritan, when feeling the lightness of a plastic airsoft rifle in their hands, is going to enjoy their purchase.
Not all rifles are built equal
“Rifle” is a broad term. Try and hone down what experience you’re looking for before you buy – the tricky but satisfying sniper rifle vibe? The point-and-shoot assault rifle? The combat-simulating or the airsoft-specific?
Make a list – have an idea which kind of rifle is going to give you the most airsoft pleasure, and at least cross out all others in pencil. Make them earn their place back on your list of options.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is airsoft?
It’s a hobby with realistic replica BB guns, somewhere between paintball and re-enactment, but frequently using hyper-modern replica weapons.
Think live-action roleplay, but with replicas of some of the most modern guns and bows.
2. Can people get hurt playing airsoft?
It’s possible – some airsoft guns fire pellets at 400 feet per second. Get hit by one of those and you’re going to know about it.
But for the most part, people wear appropriate clothing and the pain of being hit is less than in paintball.
3. Is airsoft an expensive hobby?
That depends on what you compare it to. Compared to real shooting, or even to paintball, airsoft is a relatively easy-entry hobby.
The price escalates in step with your interest in realism – metal guns cost more, etc.