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Airsoft is one of the most popular outdoor sports in the US, and for good reason – while paintball is a great casual activity, Airsoft demands a little more dedication from its serious practitioners. It’s an excellent way to participate in faux-military tactical engagements. Plus, the sheer variety of different Airsoft weaponry allows different players to choose which guns they want to use.
There are lots of great Airsoft tips and guides. But one place where you’ll hardly ever get a straight answer is the FPS discussion. What’s a good FPS for outdoor Airsoft, or for different types of guns? Everyone has a different response. Let’s break down this question and see if we can reach a good consensus.
- 1 First, What Is FPS?
- 2 Ideal FPS for Outdoor Airsoft?
- 3 Ideal FPS for Outdoor Guns
- 4 Is Higher FPS Always Better?
- 5 Average FPS in Airsoft
- 6 What FPS Does Damage to Your Skin?
- 7 Conclusion
First, What Is FPS?
FPS is an acronym that stands for feet per second, and it’s normally used to measure the velocity of a BB as it leaves an Airsoft gun’s barrel. It’s the Airsoft equivalent to the real-world muzzle velocity metric that shooters use to measure real firearms against one another.
Different Airsoft guns can fire BBs at different FPS rates, although the weight of a given BB can also affect its overall velocity. Generally speaking, lighter BBs (like those that weigh 0.2 g) can go a lot faster than BBs that way closer to .4 g or even higher. That’s because it takes less energy to propel lighter BBs out of an Airsoft gun’s barrel than it does heavier BBs.
What Does FPS Affect?
FPS affects three major things: BB range, BB accuracy, and BB power
FPS affects BB range because it helps to determine how far a BB can be projected before gravity fully takes hold and drags the projectile back down to earth. More FPS means that a BB will get farther before hitting the ground, so higher FPS may be necessary if you want your Airsoft gun to shoot opponents or targets from far away.
However, BB accuracy is also affected by FPS. The faster a BB goes, the less time that wind or the shape of the BB have to affect its accuracy, which might affect the final impact point.
Consider a very lightweight BB weighing about 0.2 g. This BB is incredibly light and can easily be buffeted by the wind when playing an outdoor Airsoft game. A BB that only flies at about 200 FPS is liable to curve around and be inaccurate – it doesn’t go far or fast enough to hit its target.
This does mean, to some extent, that different FPS values are better for different BB weights. For instance, heavier BBs are less likely to fly around because of a stray gust of wind. But they still need good FPS to leave the barrel with any stopping power and accuracy.
The last thing that FPS affects is BB power. Obviously, the faster and harder a BB is going, the harder it’ll hit when it eventually makes contact with its target. Of course, a BB’s impact energy will dissipate over time, so BBs do more damage or hit harder if they hit a target closer to your Airsoft gun. Still, higher FPS can compensate for the energy they lose over shooting distance.
But BB power is something you have to think about since higher power is not necessarily better. Go too high, and you run the risk of injuring yourself or others during a friendly Airsoft game. Go too low, and your BBs won’t be accurate and you won’t be able to hit anybody on an open Airsoft field.
Ideal FPS for Outdoor Airsoft?
So, with all that out of the way, what’s the ideal FPS for playing Airsoft outdoors?
The truth is that there is no perfect FPS range when you are playing Airsoft outdoors. The ideal FPS largely depends on what activity you’re pursuing and whether you’re playing with human opponents.
If you aren’t shooting human opponents but are still shooting your Airsoft gun outside, you can go as high with FPS as you like. You get all the benefits from increased accuracy and projectile speed without having to worry about breaking skin or otherwise injuring another player. The highest power Airsoft guns can project BBs up to 600 FPS or even higher.
However, most North American outdoor Airsoft field place FPS maximums. These are usually around 450 to 550 FPS, with some variation depending on the Airsoft organization in charge of the game or activity. These limits are in place to prevent players from injuring each other too frequently or too drastically. Furthermore, many outdoor fields place minimum engagement distances to prevent players from using high-powered Airsoft weapons of close and personal, which may result in an injury.
If that sounds restrictive, keep in mind that indoor North American Airsoft games organized by professional groups usually only allow 350 or so FPS maximum. 450 to 550 is pretty high compared to what many commercial Airsoft guns can produce.
Ideal FPS for Outdoor Guns
You can also look at the ideal FPS for your given situation in terms of the gun you plan to use. Generally speaking, pistols and smaller Airsoft weapons produce lower FPS values and are meant to be used for close quarter combat. Rifles and larger weapons can usually produce higher FPS values and are better for long-distance engagements.
Here are a few good FPS targets to look for when selecting new outdoor Airsoft weaponry:
- Pistols – anything around 200-300 FPS is usually fine given that these weapons are meant to be used near your opponents
- Shotguns – here, shotguns are also meant to be used as close quarters guns. But they also produce more stopping power. Target around 350-450 FPS if possible
- Rifles – Rifles are great if you get FPS values between 400 and 500 FPS. This gives them enough accuracy to be capably used at a distance and ensures that your opponents will feel when they are shot without risking skin breakage
While there are good FPS values for outdoor guns, there are also suboptimal values. For instance, buying an over-the-top Airsoft pistol that can produce FPS values of upwards of 450 is usually a waste of time and money. You may not even be able to use this gun in an outdoor competition for fear of accidentally hurting another player in the sport.
Similarly, try not to go too budget-friendly when it comes to purchasing a new outdoor Airsoft rifle. These guns definitely need upwards of 300 FPS at minimum just to be able to place shots at the edge of their effective ranges.
Is Higher FPS Always Better?
Not necessarily. While FPS can impact the stopping power of your BBs, it’s not the only factor. The kinetic energy of a given BB is also affected by BB weight, and the impact energy is normally measured in Joules. More on that below.
Furthermore, higher FPS isn’t always better if you want to make sure that you play safely with your fellow Airsoft enthusiasts. In many cases, it’s better to go with a middling FPS that is powerful and fast enough to ensure good accuracy without risking harm to your opponent.
Additionally, many Airsoft guns that produce high FPS are single-shot varieties or otherwise fire fewer shots before needing to replace their CO2 cartridge or electric battery. That’s because it takes more power to produce high FPS BB shots than lower FPS shots.
Average FPS in Airsoft
There is no real average Airsoft FPS, as you can find Airsoft weaponry that runs the gamut from 100 FPS all the way up to 600+ FPS. Generally, professional Airsoft players or Airsoft enthusiasts will pick weapons that can fire BBs between 300 and 500 FPS. This gives them a good balance of accuracy in stopping power.
However, players will also pick weaponry depending on the BBs they like to use. If you typically go with .24 g BBs or similar lightweight projectiles, you don’t normally need to pick up a weapon that can produce over 400 FPS with every shot. 350 FPS is usually plenty for such BBs.
The big thing to keep in mind is to read field rules if you ever participate in an official outdoor Airsoft game. The organization in charge of things should provide FPS minimums and maximums to ensure that all the players participate fairly and no one gets seriously injured.
Field Rules and Airsoft FPS
Field rules concerning Airsoft FPS are firmly about keeping players safe and preventing broken skin or other serious injuries from occurring. This is doubly true when it comes to outdoor games, as these competitions usually incorporate higher power Airsoft weapons like sniper rifles and other single-shot rifles that can produce higher FPS on average.
An Airsoft weapon that can fire 500 FPS, 0.24g BBs has the serious potential hurt someone, particularly if they are shot in the eye or face. Thus, FPS limits, which occasionally unfun, are always there to protect players. Good protective Airsoft your also goes a long way toward ensuring an enjoyable game for everyone.
What FPS Does Damage to Your Skin?
This is one of the most common questions for newcomers to the sport. There’s no denying the getting shot with an Airsoft BB is usually a little painful. However, you have to go to the higher range of acceptable FPS limits to run the risk of breaking skin, even if you were to fire an Airsoft weapon at someone from only a few feet away.
Generally speaking, whether or not an Airsoft BB will break the skin depends on both its FPS and its weight. That’s because both factors affect the overall kinetic energy of a given BB.
FPS and Kinetic Energy
Ready for some math? This is the best way to determine whether a given Airsoft and BB combination stands the risk of breaking someone’s skin during outdoor Airsoft game.
To calculate kinetic energy in Joules, you can use this formula:
- KE (kinetic energy in Joules) = .5 x the mass of the BB projectile in kg x the speed squared (times itself) in meters/second
Let’s try an example formula. Take a 0.2 g BB moving at 328 ft./s. This makes:
- KE = 0.1 g x 328 squared which =
- 0.999488 Joules
The above value is close enough to one Joule that it’s essentially the same thing. But what if you don’t really like math? The good news is that there are plenty of Airsoft organizations that have kinetic energy or FPS conversion charts to tell you how much kinetic energy you can expect from a given FPS rating for a particular weight of BB.
Generally (this is far from a hard and fast rule), rifles that fire 0.25 g BBs at around 400 to 500 ft./s produce enough kinetic energy to break the skin at relatively close quarters distances. These guns can produce between 1.8 and 3 J per shot, at least when fired at suboptimal ranges. This means that such rifles are best used only in restrictive settings, like in long-range sniper scenarios.
Is Outdoor Airsoft Dangerous at Higher FPS Levels?
It can be, but the majority of serious Airsoft organizations take great pains to ensure that their games are relatively safe. There’s no getting around the fact that Airsoft relies on people shooting small projectiles at one another. Some of these projectiles go at pretty high speeds and can really sting! But that’s part of the fun of the game.
Outdoor Airsoft doesn’t necessarily need to be dangerous even if everyone is using high FPS weapons. So long as everyone is wearing protective gear and follows minimum engagement distances, you should be fine.
All in all, a good FPS for outdoor Airsoft largely depends on the types of BBs you use, the types of guns you use, and the rules of your outdoor field or organization. Be sure to review all of these aspects before looking into buying a new outdoor Airsoft gun – this way, you can ensure you get a gun that’s perfect for your needs instead of getting something that hits too hard or doesn’t fire hard enough.
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