*Note→you will see the word "consistent" or "consistency" often. In airsoft, this is a synonym for accurate and accuracy.
Commonly Mistaken Solutions
There are several misconceptions about accuracy that have been put into the minds of airsoft players and hobbyists by major retailers that will be addressed in this guide:
- "A tighter bore is always better." Not the case at all; this is a misconception of the physics behind the airsoft BB.
- "Aftermarket hop up buckings (unmodified) and "H" nubs work wonders." They do not.
- "Higher FPS = better range" Not necessarily.
- "Store brand parts and BBs are better than other products." Retailers will even lie about the quality of these products to get you to purchase them.
- "Longer barrel = better range and accuracy." False interpretation of the behavior of a spherical BB and hop up; this is not true.
- "Scopes, lasers, and red dots are necessary for marksmanship." Marketing gimmick done by retailers.
- "Silencers cannot silence an airsoft gun without affecting airflow behind the BB." Misconceived idea.
- "Gas guns are better at range because they are more powerful." Misconception of 'power.'
What Does Bore Tightness Have to Do with Range and Accuracy?
A lot has to do with bore tightness. 6.01mm inner diameter barrels are not a good choice for long range engagements. This is because there is less space for the BB to ride on a "cushion of air" from the hop up. Barrels like Orga barrels, Miracle barrels and TK Twist barrels follow this principal - a wider bore = a more consistent hop. FPS will be lost, but this is why these barrels (Orga 6.23 mostly) are often used in Polar Star guns or upgraded AEGs and GBBRs. These guns will supply a large amount of air/gas to propel the BB out the full length of the barrel while giving an adequate amount of air underneath and on the sides of the BB for a perfect hop every time, and have the FPS to utilize heavy BBs and more effective hop up setups. For this reason, 6.03-6.05 barrels are suggested for AEGs that cannot supply a large amount of air without a bore-up kit. The Prometheus 6.03 barrel ($50-$80 depending on length) is an excellent choice for those who shoot full auto and engage enemies at short to medium ranges. For close range airsoft weapons (GBB pistols, AEPs, carbines, etc) the PDI 6.01 SUS304 barrel is the perfect choice. It beats all barrels in CQB accuracy. If you cannot afford these barrels, Madbull 6.01 or 6.03 or the PDI Raven barrels are a good economical choice and will be better than your stock barrel; not as good as the PDI SUS304 though. For long range engagements, the PDI 6.05 ($90-$160) has reigned supreme in this category. It provides the perfect balance for low air supplying AEGs or stock GBBRs, extremely good quality bore, and space for a hop up "air cushion." If you want 250ft range and can supply the air, an Orga 6.23 barrel will give the best hop on the BB and have consistent backspin when combined with heavy BBs and a good hop up setup. It is difficult to supply enough air to get the full potential of this barrel with an AEG because of the piston-driven air system. Electro-pneumatic (Polar Star) or gas powered guns are better choices for this. If you can't decide and want a barrel that will adapt to any situation, a Miracle barrel is the best choice for those who cannot afford a PDI barrel and don't have the air supply for an Orga.
To sum this up:
- Best CQB barrel: PDI 6.01 (Economical choice: Madbull 6.01, PDI Raven, or Angel Custom 6.01)
- Best Mid-Range barrel: Prometheus 6.03 (Economical choice: Madbull 6.03 or Matrix 6.03)
- Best Long Range barrel: PDI 6.05 or Orga 6.23 if enough air can be supplied, as the Orga will have the best effect on range. Orga also sells a 6.10 barrel if you cannot supply the air for the full bore 6.23 (Economical choice: None, high performance = high cost)
- Best All-Around-Purpose Barrel: Miracle barrels (Work well in AEG platforms)
- Avoid stock barrels and cheap barrels (JBU, Classic Army, low-grade steel barrels, storebrand barrels, etc.) and do not believe advertisements claiming a $40 barrel outperforms a $160 barrel - this is not true
Does Barrel Length Matter?
Yes, but to an extent. Many will think, with our basic understanding of physics as humans, that a longer barrel will "guide" the BB to its target much more consistently. This is not true. The more contact there is on the BB, the more its hop spin will be disrupted, creating inconsistency at long ranges past 50m. This is why 6.01 barrels show good accuracy at short ranges - the BB has no time to curve off-course. However, a BB cannot obtain enough spin from a 100mm barrel to travel 300m, no matter how good the hop up and barrel set up is. So, what length should one aim for? As a rule of thumb in the airsoft tech community, 455mm tends to be the most accurate length - the perfect balance between obtaining hop spin and "over" obtaining hop on the BB. If a barrel is longer, the BB will be in contact with the barrel longer, which can either disrupt the BBs initial backspin or cut off the air flow around the BB which would diminish the hop. 455mm tends to be the length at which the BB backspin "stabilizes" but does not lose its initial direction of backspin. In other words, each shot has the closest consistency in backspin as opposed to longer or shorter barrels. Does this mean a 300mm or 500mm barrel is less accurate? Slightly, but not enough to notice a large difference in game, especially before 70m so don't go putting a 455mm barrel in every one of your guns. 260-500mm will function well for field games and adjust for your play style or weapon platform.
The main point is, a longer barrel does not mean longer range and accuracy. It just means your gun will be longer and, if it is a gas/spring powered gun, it will have slightly higher FPS. Longer barrel lengths will only increase FPS and decrease mobility and accuracy. If you own an AEG, you'll have to buy a new cylinder for that barrel length or bore-up kit because the piston being retracted in the gearbox may "suck" the BB just fired back into the barrel before it exits, creating a jam when firing full-auto on high RoF platforms. The gearbox will also not be able to supply an adequate amount of air for the increased volume of space from a longer barrel.
Avoid barrels longer than 500mm, as they just hurt accuracy and make carrying your gun an annoyance at times. However, there are modifications that can be performed to enhance the effectiveness of any barrel - such as barrel lapping or the LRB mod.
Does FPS = Range?
No. FPS will decrease the time it takes the BB to reach your target, and will likely cause your target more discomfort should you hit him or her. FPS does not increase your range in this aspect. However, it will allow you to use heavier BBs - which can travel a much longer distance when enough hop is applied. Using .30g - .43g BBs can vastly improve the performance of an airsoft gun at long ranges if the gun's hop up is able to put an effective backspin on the heavier BB. This is why snipers and DMRs tend to have higher power - to allow for the use of heavier BBs. 450-550fps will allow one to use .32g and heavier BBs which gives that player an advantage over those using .20g or .25g BBs in a 350fps AEG. These heavier BBs can push through air much more effectively, and will fly straighter at longer ranges. Yes, they fly slower, but the decrease in FPS is so subtle when compared to the range increase. Also, a heavier BB retains its energy and velocity for a longer period of time when airborne, causing the target to feel a bit more pain than lighter BBs. This helps snipers who use bolt action rifles because a player may not feel a single .20g BB hit them after it has traveled 50m or so because of the energy it has lost due to wind, brush, or other obstacles. A .43g BB however will maintain its velocity for much longer through wind and air and be felt much more clearly. So, in a sense, higher velocities allow one to increase his or her range by using heavier BBs with more hop on the BB to keep it from dropping from the weight, but alone it will not have much of an effect. After 350fps, range does not improve much until about 500fps. A 300fps gun will perform similarly to a 400fps gun if they have the same barrel and hop up setup.
Hop Up: The Key to Long Range Consistency
The Hop up unit is often overlooked by many, being over shadowed by the barrel or FPS from the power source (gearbox, spring, gas valve, etc.). Why are 250fps Tokyo Marui guns out-ranging 420fps JG guns? It is a matter of hop up. An upgrade to the hop up should be the priority of any experienced player when upgrading an airsoft gun. Depending on the gun's use, there are different applications of hop up. On snipers, it is absolutely vital and is the most important part of the airsoft sniper rifle one should focus on in order to utilize heavier BBs. On a CQB weapon or a sidearm like a GBB pistol however, not much is needed here. In both cases, however, a consistent hop is needed for accuracy.
SNIPERS: On sniper rifles, the hop up along with FPS will determine what BB the sniper will be able to utilize. A sniper wants the heaviest BB possible because it will keep its velocity and trajectory for the longest distance. As a general rule, most fields in the US have a bolt action sniper rifle FPS limit of 500fps or 550fps so most snipers aim for these benchmarks, depending on where they play. Once one achieves this FPS benchmark, it's time to select a hop up unit, bucking, and nub. For the standard spring rifles (APS - Type 96 and VSR are the most popular internal systems) the stock hop up units are made quite well, and aren't always necessary to upgrade or replace. Instead, DIY modifications have the best effect on providing consistent, balanced hop along with excellent air seal. This depends on the gun - if it is a Tokyo Marui rifle for example, the hop up unit built into these airsoft rifles is top-of-the-line and coveted by many. If it is an AGM, Matrix, Snow Wolf, or other "cheap" rifle however, the hop up should be replaced (again, this is not totally necessary when modifications can be done). Excellent mods to research and learn about are: the TDC mod, telfon tape mod, flat hop, hop up arm shimming/modding, and a host of other modifications that can vastly improve performance without spending $60+ on a new unit. If you need a new unit however, Angel Custom and PDI are recommended. Be sure to wrap teflon tape around your inner barrel under the hop up bucking and on top of it to improve the air seal, as AEG buckings do not provide as good of a seal as sniper/GBB buckings. Air seal is what distinguishes the accurate hop up units from the lesser, as well as the ability to hold a zero - which the sniper rifle units are best at.
AEGs: AEGs have a vast variety of aftermarket hop up units. For the common platforms, the Prowin hop up tends to be the best choice because of its robust build, steady hop up arm adjustment system, and air seal. It is very barrel friendly and works well with most brands (best with an Orga or PDI barrel). If you prefer the traditional hop up wheel and arm design, the Prometheus NEO Strike hop up is an excellent choice that is on par with the Prowin. Standard Tokyo Marui hop ups are also excellent if you cannot find a Prowin or Prometheus hop up unit for your airsoft gun. If this is not an option, Element makes good polymer hop up units. Yes they are plastic, but stack up to the top brands and compete very well. Still can't find one if you've got a non-traditional airsoft gun? Teflon tape mods and shimming your hop up wheels/arm is a good way to improve the performance of your hop up unit. If you have the tech skills, cutting slots for O-rings on the nozzle entry way and the feeding tube will increase air seal and feeding in your airsoft gun. Preferably, obtain a metal hop up unit like the G&P if none of the others are applicable.
GAS RIFLES AND PISTOLS: There are heavy varieties of aftermarket parts for hop up units on GBBs and NBBs. PDI makes some parts for GBB pistols if you can find them for your model. For GBB pistol users, AIP and Nova Brass make good aftermarket hop ups if you are willing to do a little research. For GBBRs, Angry Gun and RA-Tech make exceptional parts that are affordable. If you cannot find these, Tokyo Marui hop up units are a good choice if you can get your hands on one. Internal accessories are limited for gas guns, so it is more common practice to do DIY mods like R-Hop and flat hop if you have the experience. However most come with well put-together hop ups, especially KWA GBBs and Tokyo Marui.
So now that you've found a hop up, we need to choose a nub. This is the piece that pushes down on the hop up bucking, creating the hop.There are several good options for this. The first I will discuss is R-hop. R-hop is a small piece of rubber-like material that is installed into the hop up window on the barrel under the bucking. This is only for very experienced technicians and hobbyists because of the vast amount of tuning and testing that needs to be done. A nub needs to be cut, the hop up arm modified, and the patch must be cut and sanded perfectly. If it is done correctly though, the results are amazing. 250-300ft ranges can be achieved with an R-hop along with a high quality barrel, hop up unit, bucking, and heavy weight high quality BB. If you feel confident enough to try it, buy a cheap Matrix barrel and do some research on how to install it and what you'll need before you try to install an R-hop on your PDI or Prometheus barrel. IR-Hop is a better choice for those who play in colder climates, as the standard R-hop patch does not perform as well in cold weather. If you're not an experience tech but still have some know-how, a flat hop may be a good choice. Orga barrels come pre-cut to utilize one of these should you choose to. If not, you will have to shave everything off the inside of your bucking. There are videos on youtube of how to do this. Flat hop isn't as good as R-hop (or ER-hop, the ultimate hop up upgrade), but it comes close. There are specialized nubs for flat hops, such as the Namazu nub that can be used instead of modifying your stock nub and hop up arm. If none of these are available, an H-nub or Concave spacer will do. If you do not feel confident to install these (as it is somewhat tricky on some hop up units) then a standard nub will do for now.
Now let's look at buckings. If you are installing an R-hop or flat hop, the Prometheus bucking is a good choice (may need to be shaved when used with a Prowin hop up unit). If you are on a budget, the Lonex 70° bucking is excellent and performs just as well for less than half the price. If you are unable to find the Lonex, look at Maple Leaf or Systema buckings. If you are just using the standard nub and bucking combination without modification, the PDI "W" hold is a good choice for accurate hop. Another good choice is the REAPS A+ bucking. This bucking is ideal for guns that shoot full auto as it increases your range but will slightly decrease accuracy. If tuned, however, the REAPS bucking works very well. The Madbull "Shark" buckings and Angel Custom buckings are average and will do for the player who is not very experienced with modifying internal parts as they are better than a standard bucking.
BB Weight, Size, and Brand
"You're only as good as your BBs." There is an overwhelming combination of BBs in the airsoft market. Every airsofter’s goal, no matter what gun they use, should be to find the perfect BB weight and size. For those with 8mm guns, there is not much choice and usually these guns are shotguns, so accuracy does not matter much.There is also increased drag on these BBs because of the increased surface area, so accuracy is not in your favor. As for the 6mm BB, there are several brands that one should try to stick to. For those who use 6.01/6.00 diameter barrels, KWA guns, and KSC guns, you may want to utilize KWA and KSC BBs because they are 5.88mm in diameter. They work very well with 6.02 and tighter barrel bores and have an excellent polish, quality control, outer shape consistency, and weight consistency. The variety of weight however is limited. For those that use 6.03 and wider, the standard 5.95mm BB is a good choice. These include Maruzen, Bioval, Madbull, WE-Tech, Maxi, G&G, Elite Force, Goldenball, King Arms, Excel, and Airsoft Elite. The best of the bunch are Maruzen, Biovall, Goldenball, and Madbull in that order. It all depends on your gun though. The gun’s FPS, barrel diameter, hop up strength, air output (not FPS, volume of air), and firing mode (full-auto, semi, or bolt action) all determine together what BB works best. Without doing advanced math calculations to see what BB will fly the furthest based on results form more advanced math from your air volume and barrel diameter/length because of the enormous amount of variables involved with this, it is best to buy small amounts of several brands you can afford and try them out. It is cheapest to select your BB based on your gun rather than your gun based on your BB, so have fun with it. Load several mags with different BBs (careful not to mix anything) and see how your groupings are and what range your hop up will flatten the BB out to. Don’t know what weight to buy? Go by this chart. (it’s not exact, but is good for reference is an excellent way to estimate your results):
- 280-300FPS: No heavier than .20g; however if your hop up is better than average, shoot for .23g.
- 300-350FPS: .25g if your hop up can handle it is a good way to go. .20g still works well here and is appropriate, but try a little heavier like .23g or .25g.
- 350-400FPS: With this velocity, aim for .25g up to .30g depending on your hop up set up. Properly tuned rifles with this BB weight will outperform those with lighter BBs at range.
- 400-450FPS: Going for a DMR set up? Try at least .28g and with proper hop up adjustment, .36g is achievable with exceptional results.
- 500-550FPS: Long range marksmanship requires the heaviest and best BB you can afford. .32g up to .43g is suggested for those who want that "whistle" sound when a heavy BB with good backspin penetrates the air on its way to the doomed target. A patient, meticulous technician and shooter should be able to achieve 250-300ft range with his or her rifle.
- 600FPS or more: You're going to hurt someone. Good luck finding a field that will allow this. If you and some buddies do this in a private game, wear some full face protection and a cup so you do not end up ugly and childless. I do not experiment past 550FPS so I cannot offer any advice.
There are several types of ways to power an airsoft gun: battery, gas, HPA, and spring. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, so let's examine them if you don't already know.
- Battery: Electric guns (AEGs and AEPs) are, when properly air sealed, very consistent. Consistency = accuracy. These guns are good for close to medium range combat, as they can put out full auto fire for extended periods because of generally high magazine capacity. Accuracy wise, AEGs are very consistent within the range they operate in (30-60m). This is the primary choice for general field purpose. If heavy upgrades are applied (R-hop/flat hop, PDI barrel, heavy BB, high quality hop up unit and consistent FPS), ranges of 250ft have been seen. This is extreme however, and require hundreds of dollars and dozens of labor hours to achieve.
- Gas: Gas powered guns are either GBB or NBB (gas blowback or non-blowback). Because of the high volume of gas putout (CO2, green gas, propane, red gas) these guns have an advantage over AEGs and can utilize heavier BBs, get more backspin on a BB with less hop, and use wider bore barrels like Orga barrels. However, gas is not very consistent in FPS output, magazine capacity is limited, and aftermarket parts are limited. The heavy vibrations in the gun from recoil can affect barrel performance, and gas being spit into the barrel on every shot can cause jams or decreased performance if not cleaned often enough. Gas shotguns are a good choice for CQC players as the cons discussed above do not apply much. Gas guns also feature extremely realistic operation which attracts many players. GBB pistols are the primary choice for a sidearm as it allows high power in a small platform. Gas guns have excellent trigger response and because of a high volume of gas being pushed out the barrel, they can utilize wide-bores for better range. However, it is difficult to find one with the right hop up window cut.
- HPA: HPA powered airsoft guns are called Electro-pneumatic rifles. The most popular of these is the Polar Star series of rifles. These use High Pressure Air that comes from an air tank with maintained air pressure like a paintball gun. This system is superior to AEGs in that air supply can easily be adjusted via the FCU (Fire Control Unit) that is powered by a small battery hidden inside the gun. Polar stars more easily adapt to Orga barrels and longer barrels without modification. They can also fire in closed bolt mode, like a real rifle (a round is chambered, then fired, rather than on an AEG where the round is fired as it is chambered) which gives better consistency because of consistent BB placement in the hop up chamber. Polar stars have a feature which allows the user to adjust the time allowed between rounds loaded, which can lead to perfect feeding and firing consistency. Gas guns can be converted to HPA, and this is a good way to achieve excellent consistency with a gas powered sniper rifle. Daytona guns are blowback guns powered by HPA, but do not offer an FCU like the Polar Star. Although expensive (a Polar Star gearbox alone is $500, not including an air tank or regulator line), it is a proven superior system to all others. Rate of fire, feeding rate, FPS, 2-9rd burst modes, ability to be silenced (yes, a foam-filled mock suppressor will very effectively suppress a Polar Star, as the only source of sound is the air exiting the barrel, unlike GBBs and AEGs where noise comes from the gearbox or the bolt rocking back and forth), lightweight, and unmatched reliability make Polar Stars the best system on the market.
- Spring: Bolt action sniper rifles and shotguns fall into this category. Spring snipers have been seen as the pinnacle of accuracy and range in airsoft. With velocities in excess of 500FPS, these guns can utilize the heaviest BBs available and make it easier to put backspin on BBs such as .43g. These guns feature the closed bolt method of loading, in which a BB is chambered, held in place, then fired. This gives better consistency. A spring also gives excellent consistency, varying by only 5FPS per shot at the most if it is a quality spring. There are also many upgrades by reputable brands to give the best possible performance at long range shooting, particularly for the Type 96 and VSR-10 platforms. M24 and M28 models are also popular and compatible with APS/VSR parts in most cases. For these reasons, the spring powered long rifle is the top choice for long range shooters and snipers. However, high performance = high cost and labor, as a 100m maximum range build can cost in excess of $500 to build. A good sniper will never have a single stock part in it (that hasn't been modified), and requires hours of tuning to achieve worthy results. This is not the path for a beginner.
Does having an expensive optic make your airsoft gun more accurate? No. Marksmanship still applies in airsoft, as a shooter is projecting an object at high speed at a target at some distance away that is often moving. Quality optics help with magnified scopes, as they will hold the zero more reliably. However, red dots and iron sights only aid in pointing your barrel in the correct direction. Seeing the flight of your BBs is much more important than just aiming directly at a target. A zeroed red dot or scope helps tremendously, but the way you hold your weapon, handle it, and acquire targets is just as important. Correctly holding a rifle to minimize barrel movement and sway helps considerably, and not moving while shooting helps. Real firearm techniques are not as applicable in airsoft due to the lack of recoil and range, but the basics do help so be mindful of your shooting stance and technique. Shooting your rifle like a drugged-up terrorist is not going to make you very effective. Proper firing stances give a little boost to accuracy (especially with your first shot, as this can be the difference between eliminating a threat or getting taken out) and always ADS if your target is outside 10m. Taking the time to zero your sights pays off in the field.
Things We Sometimes Overlook
- Zero your sight(s)! Using sights that do not tell you where your shots are actually going to hit never helped anyone! Use a cheap bore-sighter or look up videos on youtube if you are unsure of how to zero your iron sights, red dot, or scope.
- Make sure your barrel is locked into place! Too often does an inner barrel wobble inside the outer barrel with the user unaware of this accuracy handicap. Make some improvised barrel spacers and/or shim the muzzle of your inner barrel (put small folded pieces of paper between the inner barrel and the end of the outer barrel to keep the inner barrel from moving). Make sure the barrel sits properly in your hop up (does not slide in and out easily and does not rotate at all - use teflon tape to wrap around the inner barrel under the bucking and on top of the bucking to stop this as well as air leaks).
- Clean your barrel and hop up nub (the part that touches the BB inside the hop up window) regularly! If it is a tightbore barrel, cleaning should be done after every skirmish. If the weather is rainy, environment dusty or dirty, be sure to clean your barrel before storing your gun. Also, do NOT spray excessive amounts of Silicone into your hop up, this oil is prone to collecting dirt and dust if left to sit for a few weeks.
- Shim everything you can! Your hop up arm so there is no side-to-side play, your hop up wheels so they do not turn while firing, your hop up unit so it does not vibrate... the list goes on. If you have the experience, take these measures before going out on the field again.
Thank you for reading!
- By: joesig58