Low/Mid vs High Caps – Which ones should you use? [Airsoft Guide]
When beginning to play Airsoft, you will be constantly bombarded with different acronyms and plenty of recommendations from different players. Doing your own research is a great way to find your feet in the sport, and this is why we’re here to help you out! In this article we will cover the essential differences between High, Mid and Low Capacity Airsoft Magazines and also other aspects such as realism, fun factor and more!
Currently on the Airsoft market, there are 3 main categories of airsoft magazines. These consist of high capacity (high cap), medium capacity (mid cap) and low capacity (low cap):
High caps are most widely used in Airsoft skirmishes as they hold up between 300 – 650 BBs per magazine and are easily reloaded; they are winded with a small wheel at the bottom. Mid caps are just as popular and are often used in both skirmishes and battle sims; mid caps can hold between 130-250 BBs per magazine and use a spring mechanism to push the BBs up – reloaded with a speed loader. Finally, low caps are least popular and are catered for hardcore milsim realism; low caps only hold between 30 – 80 rounds and are also reloaded by a speed loader.
That covers the basic aspects of each type of magazine; however, there is so much more to each type in regards to mechanics, gameplay style and which scenarios each is best for. The remaining of the article will cover the advantages and disadvantages of each magazine and delve into the mentioned aspects into more detail; read on to find a comprehensive guide to Airsoft magazines:
- Biggest capacity – less reloading
- Great for supressive fire
- Less BB refills during games
- Often no need to bring extra bbs out with you
- Quicker refill – drop BBs into the mag – no speed loader necessary
- Positive sound when empty – the bottom wheel spins freely so you’re 100% when you’re finished a mag
- Rattles when running around
- Unrealistic reloads
- Shoot more – spend more
- In close proximity, the enemy might hear the rewind noise of the mag letting them know you’ve ran out of ammo
- Heavier magazines due to ammo adding weight to the rest of the replica
- Constant winding can be tedious and can produce tears in the gloves
- MilSims – Good for realism
- Semi-automatic shooting – improves accuracy
- Saves Money
- Doesn’t giveaway that you’re out of ammo
- Often more reliable in regards to feeding than hi-caps
- Lower ammo count than majority of players in skirmishes per magazine
- Will not be able to provide continuous supressive fire
- No way of knowing when you’ve ran out of ammo (only expensive replicas offer a bolt stop action)
- Need to bring extra ammo, if it rattles then it might give your position away
- Need to conserve ammo during gameplay
- Need to use speed loaders during gameplay when playing longer objectives
- Closest to real firearms
- No rattling noise inside the mag
- Frequent reloads – great for practising your reload drills
- Perfect for organised events with realism in mind
- Similarly reliable like mid caps
- Very low ammo in comparison to others
- Need to carry extra ammo (same rattling issue when moving)
- Need to carry a speed loader and frequently add more BBs during gameplay
- Makes you very conservative during gameplay
The below products are our recommended airsoft magazines. The Nuprol low-cap variant comes with a built in adjustment which lets you interchange it between 30-150 BBs; also the new generations of the PTS mid-caps come with the same option. Generally, the PTS mags are by far the most reliable and highest quality among our list, however, they do come with a higher price tag! Finally, the Nuprol high cap will never let you down and is a decent all rounder!
Functionality and Performance
High Caps have a vent at the top and a rotary winding wheel at the bottom of each magazine – they’re reloaded by literally pouring BBs into the magazine through the vent. Once the BBs are placed inside, you will need to wind the wheel which latches onto individual BB and feeds them into a tube ready to be shot out. Once BBs are in the tube, the tube spring unwinds and feeds them into the chamber. However, these tubes only hold approximately 50 BBs each time so you need to make sure to wind your magazines between engaging to make sure you’re never dry firing. Finally, most high caps will produce a “click” sound once you have fully winded the mag so you can be sure when to stop to prevent putting too much stress on the spring.
Mid and Low Caps are reloaded with a use of external speedloader as it doesn’t rely on an internal winding mechanism. These magazines offer a much simpler mechanism which is simply an elongated tube inside the mag with a spring; as you fill the mag, the spring compresses and once the tube is full you will no longer be able to push any more BBs in. During fire, the BBs are simply pushed into the chamber with the mentioned spring.
As this feeding system is less complex than the above, it is often more reliable. Also a quick tip from us, as the spring is always under tension when loaded – make sure to empty the magazines when storing them in between the games to make sure the spring continues to hold sufficient tension.
Generally, try not to buy overly cheap magazines as they might be prone to jamming as the internal springs might not be of great quality. If you are looking for the best quality Mid Caps which also offer internal adjustment to a Low Cap within the same magazines – we certainly recommend the new PTS EMG Mags. They are also compatible with the likes of Tokyo Marui Next Generation Recoil Shock replicas which offer the bolt stop feature when your ammo has run out.
In regards to fun in airsoft – all of it is completely subjective. You might find high caps an absolute blast because you want to keep those opponents pinned down and you love the sound of your replica at full auto. Another time, you might find mid caps much more pleasing to use as you have to think a little bit more about your ammo count and when to reload. It all depends on the individual and what mood they’re in.
Generally, I’d say high caps are certainly more practical and fun for less realism orientated players; if you’re out there to simply enjoy yourself and cause as much chaos as possible – go with the hi-caps. Almost never will you be out of BBs or in a situation where you need to reload as you enter the building just to double check you still have ammo. Whenever your teammates will ask for cover, you will able to hail BBs at your opponents in hundreds at a time without worrying about BBs, especially if you’re carrying a couple of high cap magazines. Finally, spray and pray is also great fun – just make sure not to overshoot people as that can be painful and annoying!
On the other hand, mid caps are great for when you fancy being a little more tactical and thoughtful during gameplay. The lower BB capacity will force you to think twice and get yourself in better positions when in battle – this might help with improving your awareness general movement. Also it will force you to communicate with your teammates and certainly work closely together, especially when engaging or pushing a target. Finally, a great way to add a little bit of adrenaline to airsoft is to having to reload under fire or when being cornered in a building – how quickly can you reload to not get shot?
Low caps are specifically catered for hardcore milsims, usually these will involve strict rules in regards to magazines, load outs and teamwork. If you are a fan of milsims then low caps are definitely the way forward as you wouldn’t be allowed to play otherwise. However, for general purposes of airsoft, low caps are extremely limiting and you might find yourself frustrated having to constantly reload your replica and magazines with more BBs. I certainly wouldn’t recommend low caps for a Sunday skirmish!
As you can gather from the Advantages vs Disadvantages section, the Mid and Low Caps are best suited for battle and mil sims. The low caps specifically are closest to real firearms, however, most of the time they’re not even required at milsims. The reason being, Airsoft replicas are nowhere near as accurate as the real counterparts, therefore often you might have to take a couple of shots to make sure that at least one hits the target. This becomes an issue when you are limited to 30 BBs only – therefore Mid Caps seem to be the most balanced magazines in both regards to gameplay and realism.
During each engagement you will be more conservative with your trigger and try to make each shot count – this adds an extra layer of awareness when playing Airsoft. Also, we recommend to carry extra BBs and a speedloader with you in order to reload your magazines after every engagement – this is a great way to add that realistic approach to downtime between each battle.
During some battle sims, each squad might have one player that is permitted to use a specific number of High Caps; the purpose of their role would be to support. These roles are specifically aimed at slightly more experienced players who know and how keep opponents pinned down and let their teammates pushed up towards the objective.
Finally, if you’re looking for ultra realism in regards to how your replica functions, then we must recommend any rifles with the bolt stop action feature which stops the replica from shooting as soon as the last BB leaves the chamber. This is a great way to inform you that you are out of BBs and also add that touch of extra realism.
In regards to your skills as an avid airsoft player, Mid Cap magazines are definitely your best friend! Using mid caps will help you refine your awareness skills, practice reloading and switching mags among many other aspects, such as:
- Magazine and BB management
- Gear Adaptation – double stack mags
- Increased stealth (no rattling)
- Improve trigger discipline
- Learn to create solid opportunities
- Improve your timing
All of the above are crucial when aspiring to become better at airsoft or trying to play competitively; therefore we thoroughly recommend you start using mid caps only even during skirmishes to improve your skills!
There’s no right or wrong answer in this topic. I personally run 4 mid caps and 2 high caps in case things get intense or my teammates need supressive fire during skirmishes. However, if you are planning to attend any battle sims or milsim weekends, make sure to contact the organise or check their websites to ensure you bring the correct equipment as most will require players to use either low or mid caps.
At the end of the day it’s all about personal preference and what your needs are – don’t get bogged down by other players telling you what is better – figure it out for yourself by trying out different equipment instead and find your own ultimate personal loadout!