Top 5 Starter Guns for Airsoft!

Want to know the best, most reliable and highly accurate starter airsoft guns on the market? Do you not have the time to spend hundreds of hours to review dozens of guns in each category and compare numerous features? Who does?! This is why we have you covered!

This subject is probably one of the most popular, yet confusing aspects to consider when you begin to play airsoft. As a total beginner, you are bombarded with the airsoft lingo which makes it difficult to understand what to look for in guns and how they all differ from each other. Tight bore barrel, MOSFET, V2 Gearbox? If these terms confuse you, give us a follow as we will soon be releasing an article describing all parts of AEG rifles in detail. For now, here are a few basic explanations of important parts and mechanisms when considering any airsoft gun purchase:

  • FPS (Feet Per Second – BBs’ velocity leaving the muzzle) – Most affected by spring strength and air seal (Note: don’t make FPS an essential part of your decision, FPS will vary between what country the retailer is located in and from one gun to another in the same line of products – FPS is nowhere near as important as for example Hop-Up and Gearbox quality; springs can be later changed to adjust FPS)
  • ROF in RPS (Rate of Fire in Rounds Per Second) – Affected by battery voltage and motor; the higher the voltage, the faster the gun will shoot. However, never use higher than the recommended voltage, unless you’ve already upgraded your weapon anyway, as that will invalidate your gun’s warranty and potentially cause damage to the internals.
  • Range – Mainly affected by the combination of hop-up’s quality and its parts such as bucking and nub, inner barrel’s length, diameter and its finish quality, and somewhat by the FPS
  • Hop Up – A device/chamber which puts back-spin on airsoft BBs to increase their range via the Magnus effect
  • MOSFET – A transistor which reduces the overall resistance of the circuit improving rate of fire and trigger response and offers extra features, such as battery discharge protection, rate of fire control and active braking.
  • ETU (Electronic Trigger Unit) – Provides faster trigger response and prevents the gun locking whilst rapidly shooting on single fire mode
  • Battery types – NiMh and LiPo; although NiMh are not bad at all, we simply recommend LiPos due to certain advantages, such as:
    more consistent power output and can store the same amount or more energy relative to their capacity than NiMH batteries.
  • Gearbox – A mechanical system that is comprised of gears and motor to transfer electrical energy into mechanical energy to fire the gun.
  • Gearbox Versions – Different gearbox systems that are used in different gun platforms; versions 2 and 3 are mentioned in the article. Version 2 – Mainly M4/M16, MP5. Version 3 – AK, G36, AUG, MP5k, FAL, UMP, VSS. 

We understand this was a lot to wrap your head around, however, we hope the above information will help you grasp the following content and allow you to make an educated decision on your first purchase. Generally, at this point in your airsoft adventure, the best way to look at your gun choices is to play a few games and decide on your preferred play style. If you’re an ”all-in” kind of person who charges in the midst of a battle to get to the objective, you’re better off with an assault rifle. If you would like to be more sneaky and want to keep your distance, then you would be better off with a sniper rifle; however, a sniper load-out preferably requires a pistol as a secondary due to engagement distances. Furthermore, although we believe the VSR-10 platform is one of the best on the market, we have decided not to include it in this list due to the amounts of upgrades necessary to make the gun field competitive. This reason alone, for us, deems it not a starter rifle; see more details in “important mentions” at the end. Without any further ado, here is the list of the best starter, high-quality out-of-the-box airsoft weapons under £200 (and equivalent) on the European Market.


1. G&G Combat Machine Raider-L 2.0E with ETU

Price: £150 (Approximately)

This AEG M4 model is one of the best value-for-money starter rifles currently on the EU market, period. You might have seen its earlier versions, the CM16 Raider 2.0 or simply CM16 Raider used in hire kits at airsoft fields due to their low cost, sturdy builds and good out of the box accuracy. This is their newest and by far the most improved iteration of these guns. Priced at only around £150, it’s the perfect gun for beginners which provides a performance that can actually compete with other airsofters who would have spent way over £300 on their guns. It is lightweight but very durable, made with aluminium and hard plastic which will take a good beating. The perfect AEG for a novice to figure out how the gun functions, explore gun maintenance and eventually upgrade and tinker with its internals. These qualities are key for a beginner: well built, durable, decent performance and future upgradability, always keep those in mind when researching your first gun.

The internals of the gun are simply fantastic for the price. The gun comes stock with a MOSFET, ETU and a full metal gearbox which is completely 11.1v LiPo ready; fantastic value for money. Furthermore, the gun comes with a 450 round magazine for players who like to get involved in the midst of the action from the get-go. However, one of the most important aspects is the fact that the Raider-L 2.0 E is incredibly upgradeable which gives you access to a multitude of options and the best gear on the after-market for the M4 platform. So as you put more time and money into the sport and learn about what modifications you would like on the gun, this rifle is ready to be upgraded and tailored to your play style.   

Specs & Features

FPS (Feet per second)325FPS (using 0.20g BBs)
ROF (Rate of fire) – RPS (Rounds per second)18 RPS on 11.1v LiPo
Effective Range (m)55 – 60 m
Recommended BB Weight0.25g
Gearbox VersionV2 (Full Metal)
MOSFETYes
ETU Yes
Hop UpRotary (Adjustment)
Inner Barrel Length & Diameter 363mm & 6.04mm
Battery ConnectorTamiya
Recommended Battery Type 9.6v NiMh / 11.1v LiPo
Fire ModesSafe/Single/Auto
ConstructionAlloy – outer barrel, flash hider, ironsights, charging handle, buffer tube and sling plate
Polymer – handguard, pistol grip, receiver and stock
Weight2.5kg with magazine
RailM-Lok System
Min. & Max. Length 75cm & 86cm

Drawbacks

Finally, there are a few minor downsides that we have to consider; the stock is quite small thus not all batteries will fit. We recommend 11.1v LiPos stick batteries that fit snugly, such as these Nano-Tech ones:

Other options are investing in a battery extension unit (£20) which can also be used in other compact guns in order to allow for more battery options or simply purchasing a bigger stock (£10 – £20). It’s not a major issue, but something that needs to be mentioned.

Furthermore, the M-Lok rail system; although lighter and more comfortable to hold in comparison to other counterparts, the airsoft market doesn’t yet contain as many low-cost attachments for this particular system. Therefore, you might need to buy a few Picatinny rails in order to mount your favourite attachments.

You can get a set of 3 short picatinny rails for around £10.

Overall, we have found this to be the perfect starter gun considering the value of included internals, external build quality and future potential for upgrades. If you were already considering this airsoft rifle then all we can say is – go ahead and buy it already!


2. Ares Amoeba Striker S1

Price: £175 (Approximately)

Although Ares Amoeba is quite a new airsoft company in comparison to veterans such as the following CYMA, they have been producing great quality products ranging from AEGs, sniper rifles to even grenade launchers. The Striker S1 is one of their most successful and popular weapons that is often seen being used out in the fields by sniping beginners and veterans alike. It is simply an amazing out of the box sniper rifle!

The build quality feels sturdy and certainly not cheap, the weapon is lightweight which makes it perfect for aggressive snipers and the weight balance is also well centred. One of the great features of the weapon is the short bolt pull which makes the gun great to operate in the field; use a little bit of gun oil to make the pull even smoother! Another great bonus is the fact that the magazines take between 40-45 BBs, with only 2 spare magazines you will be able to get through around 130 shots; perfect for when supporting your teammates.

Most importantly, the internals are made out of a good quality metal; there is also a dampening pad on the cylinder head which is a nice bonus. Furthermore, alongside the cylinder, the trigger unit (sear specifically) is sturdy enough to withhold stronger springs. This will allow you to easily upgrade this rifle to be hitting the 500FPS mark (UK limit) without changing the internals. On top of all of that, the hop up produces consistent results allowing you to hit torso sized targets at approx. 75 meters.

Specs & Features

FPS (Feet per second)430FPS (using 0.20g BBs)
ROF (Rate of fire) Bolt-Rifle Action
Effective Range (m)75m
Recommended BB Weight0.36g
Hop UpRotary (Adjusted with an Allen key)
Inner Barrel Length & Diameter 550mm & 6.03mm
Fire ModesSafe/Fire modes
ConstructionAlloy – upper receiver, outer barrel, trigger system
Polymer – stock
Weight2.3kg with magazine
Rail20mm RIS Picatinny Rail for mounting scopes
Length 108.5cm

Drawbacks

Although many claims have been thrown around on the internet that the Striker S1 is fully compatible with VSR-10 parts, it’s simply not true. Some parts are compatible, some unfortunately not. To quickly explain why this compatibility is important, the VSR-10 platform is the one with the most and best quality aftermarket upgrades. VSR barrels work, VSR hop-ups do too; the rest do not unless further modified. This is something to consider for future reference.

However, apart from that, there is nothing else negative to say about this weapon especially considering the amount of quality and value that is available both internally and externally for such a low price. Furthermore, the aftermarket for this particular rifle is actually growing due to the gun’s popularity. Thus we thoroughly recommend this rifle as our first choice for high quality, out of the box, starter sniper rifle.


3.CYMA CM048M AKM

Price: £195 (Approximately)

We have had a long discussion at Airsoft Ranch about whether the CYMA CM048M or the G&G RK47 should take the spot as a beginner AK platform in this list. Although CYMA is often regarded as an inferior brand, we can’t fault their AK platforms in most cases. CM048M is one of their best beginner guns; it comes with a full metal V3 Gearbox and is very reliable. It is also one of the most realistic AKM replicas on the budget-market squeezing in just under £200.

In order to make the body as close to the real counterpart as possible, the manufacturer has included real wood handguard and stock. The rest of the body is full metal apart from the polymer pistol grip. As you can imagine, such materials aren’t lightweight so the rifle is quite heavy at around 3.4kg with magazine, but this also makes it incredibly durable.

The gun also comes with a metal, high-capacity 600 rounds magazine. It shoots around 14 BBs per second, making the fire rate highly adequate for a starter gun! It is also very easy to take apart and reassemble, which all in all makes it a great gun for beginners in order to get to grips with all the internals of an AK platform.

Specs & Features

FPS (Feet per second)340FPS (using 0.20g BBs)
ROF (Rate of fire) – RPS (Rounds per second)14 RPS on 9.6v NiMh
Effective Range (m)55m
Recommended BB Weight0.25g
Gearbox VersionV3
MOSFETNo
ETU No
Hop UpSlider (behind mock bolt)
Inner Barrel Length & Diameter 455mm & 6.08mm
Battery ConnectorMini Tamiya
Recommended Battery Type 8.4NiMh/9.6NiMh
Fire ModesSafe/Single/Auto
ConstructionAlloy – outer barrel assembly, receiver and trim
Wood – handguard and stock
Polymer – Pistol Grip
Weight3.4kg with magazine
RailN/A
Length 91cm

Drawbacks

The two major drawbacks for this particular gun are: there is no MOSFET installed and the gun lacks any kind of rails for attachments. However, you will find the lack of rails is something you always have to consider when purchasing any classic AKs. The simple solution for that particular problem is investing in an AK scope mount:

Quick detach G&G AK scope mount at £10 – AR recommended!

In terms of the MOSFET, the gun is officially not LiPo ready thus we don’t recommend using these batteries as they will void your warranty; however if you go ahead and upgrade the gun by installing a MOSFET later, the internals are sturdy enough to sustain an 11.1v LiPo. Nonetheless, be aware that some gears might also require shimming to make your gearbox last longer; this is something to consider in the future and if you won’t feel confident doing it, ask around for a local techie at your airsoft site. I am sure he/she will happily help you out! Here’s a video to show what this entails:

All in all, we think this is a great beginner AK considering its full metal gearbox, sturdy external build and the fact you can pick these up for less than £200! If you are struggling to find one in stock, as that sometimes is the case in our niche market; we also recommend it’s AK47 equivalent with exact same internals – the CM048.


4. UTG Shadow Ops MK96

Price: £140 (Approximately)

The UTG Shadow Ops sniper is also great out of the box when it comes to airsoft sniping. Although it’s a much cheaper clone of the (original) Tokyo Marui L96, it holds up well in terms of external and internal build quality and gives you access to all future upgrades on the L96 aftermarket. The weapon itself is based on the L96 7.62mm sniper rifle, mainly used in the British Army. UTG has done a great job manufacturing the body ensuring an authentic look; the gun is made fully out of metal, apart from the stock which is ABS plastic. This is another great choice for the best out of the box airsoft snipers under £200.

A budget sniper with internals ready to fire up to 480 FPS, just underneath the 500 fps UK legal limit. It’s a great performer and gets the internal fundaments right which combine power and range. After careful hop up adjustments and scope zeroing, the sniper can, most of the time, hit a torso target around the 80m distance. So if you are a sneaky sniper like Michael, then this is the gun for you.

Specs & Features

FPS (Feet per second)480FPS (using 0.20g BBs)
ROF (Rate of fire) Bolt-Rifle Action
Effective Range (m)70-80m
Recommended BB Weight0.36g
Hop UpRotary (Adjustment)
Inner Barrel Length & Diameter 495mm & 6.04mm
Fire ModesSafe/Single
ConstructionAlloy – upper receiver, outer barrel, trigger system
Polymer – Stock
Weight3.5kg with magazine
Rail20mm RIS Picatinny Rail for mounting scopes
Length 117cm

Drawbacks

The plastic quality isn’t as good as the Tokyo Marui original, however, it is sturdy enough to not worry about potential knocks during gameplay. Unfortunately, we have also seen a few users’ reports on sniper forums that their trigger box began to crack after around 1500 shots leaving the gun unusable; this might be true in some unfortunate cases. However, in our personal experience with the gun at Airsoft Ranch, we haven’t seen this issue occur at all. Michael has owned this rifle model for a while now and has put easily more than 2500 rounds through it and he hasn’t had any problems as such so far. If you ever come across this problem yourself, you can get a replacement trigger box for around £20 – £30.

Finally, the accuracy of this gun isn’t as consistent as the Striker’s listed at number two. Some BBs stray to left and right past the 70m range and although this weapon can potentially reach further targets at the 80m mark, consistent accuracy is key when adjusting your shots. The accuracy can be improved by investing in a better inner barrel and hop up later down the line; luckily the L96 platform is also incredibly popular so you will be presented with an abundance of options and upgrade guides. All in all, a great out of the box sniper ready for future upgrades.


5. G&G FireHawk

Price: £140
(Approximately)

Last but not least; the main reason why this gun has ended up on the fifth position is the fact that we have already included the M4 platform above. While the weapon may be compact, it is still designed with taste and elegance. The short outer barrel gives it a rugged, mean look but also improves grip and number of accessories you can mount.

The pistol grip is not wide, which means the FireHawk is great especially for younger players. The six positions adjustable LE stock and polymer body make it very easy to handle in a CQB situation and the flip-up front and rear ironsights make it easy to aim in tight situations.

With this super compact rifle, you have the possibility to change between semi and full auto fire modes. Out of the box, this rifle should fire between 330 – 340 FPS without any upgrades which is just under the UK limit and has an incredibly high rate of fire out of the box. Although the Fire Hawk is lightweight and small, it packs a serious punch and can reach decent distances.

Specs & Features

FPS (Feet per second)330FPS (using 0.20g BBs)
ROF (Rate of fire) – RPS (Rounds per second)22 on 7.4v LiPo and 28/29 on 11.1v LiPo
Effective Range (m)45-50m
Recommended BB Weight0.25g
Gearbox VersionV2 (Full Metal)
MOSFETNo
ETU NO
Hop UpRotary (Adjustment)
Inner Barrel Length & Diameter 120mm & 6.08
Battery ConnectorMini Tamiya
Recommended Battery Type 7.4v LiPo/ 11.v LiPo
Fire ModesSafe/Single/Auto
ConstructionAlloy – outer barrel, rails, sights, buffer tube and selector switch
Polymer – handguard, pistol grip, receiver and stock
Weight2.2kg with magazine
RailPicatinny System
Min. & Max. Length 54cm & 59cm

Drawbacks

Although G&G officially recommends using 11.1v lipo battery on the stock gun, we recommend investing in a MOSFET to prolong the gun’s lifespan. Furthermore, the gun’s stock is similarly small to the Raider-L, however, stick batteries will also do the trick for the Firehawk. Apart from that, there’s no other issues with this gun; just make sure to consider whether such a compact gun is something you would enjoy. Here’s a review that goes into a lot more detail about this particular gun:


Bonus – Recommended Pistols (Under £100)

Secondaries are simply necessary when playing in the sniper role. Most airsoft sites will have an engagement distance specific to sniper rifles due to their higher FPS. These might vary between 20-30 metres depending on the sites’ policies, therefore a secondary is a must when you find yourself in a close combat situation.

KJW M9 – (Michael’s choice)

Price: £99

The KJW M9 Would be my no. 1 choice as one of the best starter side arms in airsoft. A highly realistic feel and weight, manufactured with great detail and out of the box amazing performance in both indoor and outdoor field scenarios. Compatible with both Green gas and C02 which allows for game-play in both summer and winter, and many upgradable parts and customisation options.

Elite Force 1911 Tac – (Kamil’s choice)

Price: £90

Although sometimes hard to come by in the EU market, Elite Force 1911 Tac is an amazing pistol that falls just under the £100 mark. Full metal build with adjustable hop up and great internals; extremely reliable and also takes both Green gas and C02 which makes it the perfect competitor for the KJW M9. Either of these pistols will be a great investment if you’re looking to get into airsoft and not wanting to spend extortionate amounts of money.


Other Important Mentions

If you are absolutely serious about being an airsoft sniper or are thinking of creating content for Youtube and want the highest quality sniper rifle possible, we recommend investing in Tokyo Marui VSR-10 (£180) or the cheaper JG Bar-10 (£130) clone. Also available in a “G-Spec” version with a shorter inner barrel and a suppressor as shown below:

Both of these are the same weapon platform which gives you access to the most amount of high-quality upgrades available for a sniper rifle currently on the airsoft market. However, do expect to pay a lot of money to upgrade them to a high standard; more about this in the future!


Final Words

As you can see, there is an abundance of variables that impact weapon choices and we understand it’s difficult to make a decision; we’ve been there ourselves. You’ll see many people arguing about certain brands based on their personal experiences; at the end of the day it is your choice and we recommend going to a local shop, speaking to other players and asking if you can try their guns and browsing airsoft forums for more opinions. Generally, just keep in mind the gun’s external and internal build qualities and potential upgradability, and make sure you actually like the way it looks and handles!

We hope this article has helped you with your choices, give us a follow to stay updated with our future articles!

Written by Michael Harrison and Kamil Turecki

Follow Michael on Instagram: @michael_harrison98

Edited by Garlen Saldanha

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