Sunday, August 31, 2008

Do Heavier BB Pellets Make a Better Airsoft Gun?

A thorny topic plaguing the modern military assault rifle world in the guise of 5.56mm versus 7.62mm round also has its equivalent in the Airsoft world – i.e. 0.2-gram 6mm BB pellets versus heavier types. Can the laws of physics offer insight?


By: Ringo Bones


Ever since the debate on which weapon system is best – automatic assault rifles that fire the 5.56mm X 45mm cartridge versus ones designed to fire the 7.62mm X 51mm NATO round – arose during the Vietnam War. Many a servicemen and gun enthusiast around the world readily embraced the resultant maxim of the debate. A maxim stating that the heavier the bullet, the more accurate and energetic it is – i.e. more kinetic energy. More kinetic energy equals more killing power. Thus, making everyone and his dog in the Airsoft AEG weapons system gaming community to stock-up on heavier 0.25-gram 6mm plastic BB pellets – even heavier 0.3 and 0.5-gram types – in lieu of the standard / regulation-approved 0.2-gram 6mm plastic BB pellets. The question now is, are their “obsession” with heavier plastic BB pellets grounded in the laws of everyday Newtonian physics?

Just because Airsoft AEG 6mm plastic BB pellet-firing weapons systems produce even lower recoil than the latest super V recoil vectoring technology-equipped KRIS submachine gun doesn’t mean that Airsoft enthusiast are entitled – even wise - to use the heaviest 6mm plastic BB pellets available. Apart from engendering a 0.2-gram versus 0.25-gram or even a 0.3-gram debate in the Airsoft world, and here’s the reason why.

The typical formula for calculating the kinetic energy of a typical projectile – i.e. how hard a bullet will hit the target, is typically calculated using the formula Ke=½m•v². Where: Ke or kinetic energy is equal to one-half of the mass (m) of the projectile or bullet multiplied by the square of the velocity (v²) or velocity multiplied by the velocity of the projectile. For calculating convenience, we’ll use meters per second for velocity, even though a typical chronograph (the device used for measuring the muzzle velocity in an Airsoft competition) is set to measure the velocity in feet per second. Also, don’t forget to convert the given weight of your 6mm BB pellets weight into kilograms (example 0.2-gram BB = 0.0002Kg). This is necessary because the kinetic energy formula Ke=½m•v² is an MKS (meter, kilogram, second) formula which gives the answer in Joules or kilogram meter per second, as a measure of kinetic energy.

Example: given that a certain Airsoft AEG weapons system fired an 0.2-gram BB pellet at a muzzle velocity of 128 meters per second (about 420 feet per second) about the same muzzle velocity as my own Airsoft AEG gun when measured from a competition-sanctioned chronograph. This works out to be: Ke=½ (0.0002kg)•(128 meters / second)² = 1.6384 Joules, which is about the same energy rating as the spring driving the piston primarily responsible for throwing that 0.2-gram 6mm plastic BB pellet to it’s intended target at such velocity. Since the energy transfer in the gearbox and piston system of a typical Airsoft AEG weapons system is conserved – i.e. you can’t pack in more nitrocellulose propellant – a heavier 6mm BB pellet will only result in a velocity slowdown. This is so because the spring can only transfer 1.6384 Joules worth of kinetic energy. In my Airsoft AEG gun, using a 0.25-gram 6mm BB pellet caused the chronograph reading to fall to 114 meters per second (374 feet per second) in accordance with the law of energy conservation. Using lighter 0.12-gram 6mm BB pellets allowed my Airsoft gun to fire at a muzzle velocity of 165 meters per second (541meters per second), but this resulted in a wildly inaccurate trajectory since 0.12-gram BB s are just too light given their inferior ballistic coefficient characteristics. The mathematical / theoretical results might be sobering, but how is it in practice?

My first-hand experience points out that heavier BB pellets suffer less horizontal deflection in flight, especially on windy conditions, but your range can be compromised by as much as 20%. About the same as that resulting from using a silencer / suppressor on a typical sniper rifle. Also, the energy transfer of the pellet is about the same as it’s lighter counterpart since you are only using the same spring with the same energy transfer characteristics.

As a “mere toy”, Airsoft AEG has surprisingly gained widespread acceptance among “strike teams” around the world for their CQB / room clearing training sessions because they are much safer than real guns being loaded with paintball-type ammunition being shot at their fellow team mates. Despite it’s inherent range limitations due to the woefully poor ballistic coefficient characteristics of your typical 6mm plastic BB pellets, these various government and law-enforcement strike teams have learned to live with the Airsoft AEG gun’s limitations. Shouldn’t those “mere civilians / pseudo militias” Airsoft enthusiasts learn to accept them too?

M-134 Dillon Minigun as an Airsoft AEG Weapons System: Over the Top?

Popularized by Hollywood blockbuster action movies like Predator and Terminator2: Judgement Day, is the M-134 Dillon minigun, in it’s Airsoft BB gun version, somewhat over the top as a “mere toy”?


By: Ringo Bones


Ever since the M-134 Dillon minigun, a Gatling-type multiple rotating barreled 7.62mm machine gun, was popularized by scores of Hollywood action movies and even the Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters”. Airsoft AEG BB gun companies are quick to capitalize on the M-134 Dillon minigun’s popularity by manufacturing and selling their Airsoft replica gun that fires 6mm plastic BB pellets based on the famed weapons system. But the nagging and oft-asked question arises - is an M-134 Dillon minigun-type Airsoft weapons system just way over-the-top Airsoft replica weapons system for day-to-day gaming?

Even if an overwhelming majority of the global Airsoft gaming community says otherwise, this doesn’t dissuade some from purchasing themselves the “best ever” Airsoft AEG BB gun / weapons system ever made. The proof of this can be found on some obscure YOUTUBE sites. An Airsoft enthusiast, with probably more money than sense, demonstrates his 6mm plastic BB pellet-firing M-134 Dillon minigun – which probably cost similar to or is 500 US dollars more expensive than the Indian-made 2,500 US dollar Tata Nano – by shooting it at an unsuspecting 14-inch TV set. Thus turning it into a pellet riddled pile of junk destined to the local community’s overloaded landfill. Despite it’s steep price, the Airsoft version of the M-134 Dillon minigun can be considered a bargain when compared to the real thing which has an MSRP of 50,000 US dollars or about as expensive as a fully pimped-out Lexus. The question now is – inherent poverty aside – should every Airsoft enthusiast avails himself or herself of the M-134 Dillon minigun?

Just because the former pro-wrestler, action star, Minnesota governor Jesse “I’m proud of my Slovak heritage” a.k.a. “The Body” Ventura looks good using one on the first Predator movie. Or if perennial action star and incumbent California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also looks good when using one on Terminator 2 doesn’t mean that the M-134 Dillon minigun is the Airsoft gun for all seasons, far from it in fact. But if you don’t mind the encumbrance of what is a crew-serve weapon in the first place being carried solely by you while evading a maelstrom plastic 6mm BB pellet fire, then maybe, you’ll just fall in love with it. The only problem is that an overwhelming number of Airsoft game clubs and tournaments forbade the use of the Dillon minigun. Assuming that you’re lucky enough to find one that does, 6mm BB pellets – especially high density premium grade ones famed for their accuracy – are not exactly cheap. This is one of those not-so-ideal places to engender resentment, especially since a number of Airsoft clubs are staunchly clinging to their “Marxist-Leninist Ideals”.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

P90: The Best Airsoft Gun Ever?

Made famous to us BB gun enthusiasts via the fourth season of the sci-fi TV series Stargate: SG1, does an Airsoft BB AEG weapons system modeled after the P90 is – as their fans swear – the best Airsoft gun ever?


By: Ringo Bones


Stargate: SG1, a sci-fi TV series that not only revived Richard Dean Anderson’s post-MacGyver acting career, and spread awareness to the TV “couch-potato” community the works of German mathematician Herman Weyl and theoretical physicist John Wheeler about the yet-to-be-discovered cosmological phenomenon called wormholes. But also made famous – during the series’ fourth season – a somewhat esoteric weapons system called the P90 in which we - the Airsoft Replica / BB gun AEG weapons system enthusiasts – are forever grateful. Not to mention the time when one of the contributors of this blog became a “rabid” Stargate: SG1 fan when her “look-alike”, the perennial TV sci-fi guest star Elisabeth Rosen appeared in a fourth season episode titled “Prodigy”. But before we proceed, let us first discuss briefly on how the P-90 weapons system came into being.

The P90 (FNP90) is a Belgian designed weapons system that fires the 5.7mm X 28mm or colloquially known as five-seven cartridges. It is usually classified as a submachine gun even though the five-seven cartridges that it fires are classified as an intermediate round. To the uninitiated, an intermediate round is a cartridge that is more powerful than a standard 9mm round, but has less kinetic energy and range compared to a “full-grown” rifle round like the NATO 5.56mm X 51mm or the 7.62mm X 44mm cartridge. St├ęphane Ferrard originally developed the P90 at Fabrique Nationale de Herstal in 1986 to 1987. The weapon’s name is an abbreviation of Project, and the number 90, which specifies as a weapons system of the 1990’s. Since the weapons system’s inception, the P90 has engendered a new class of weapons systems called Personal Defense Weapons or PDW. The need for Personal Defense Weapon arose when increasing number of criminals and terrorists acquired Kevlar body armor with a level 2 bullet resistance rating which can easily stop a 9mm round fired from a Heckler and Koch MP-5. The P90 is a selective fire straight blow back-operated weapon with a short recoiling barrel that fires from a closed bolt position. This made the gun a compact bull-pup design suitable for CQB situations.

Despite the P90’s design merits, the US military has resisted its widespread use, relying instead of newer variants and upgrades of Eugene Stoner’s famed M-16 design. Looks like the TV sci-fi series’ top secret US Air Force unit in Stargate: SG1 is looking very “science fictioney” indeed for using a weapons system that looks more like a ray gun – i.e. the P90 when compared to the looks-so-high-tech-back-in-1964 M-16 / M4 A1-type assault rifles.

Airsoft BB gun AEG weapons system modeled after the P90 are very suitable for use in CQB / room clearing simulations because there’s no 20-inch barrel advertising your position an you enter. Majority of the world’s military outfits are now increasingly embracing bull-pup designs, like the British SA-80, the Austrian Steyr AUG, or the French FAS 5.56mm X 45mm assault rifles because their compactness doesn’t become an encumbrance in close quarter firefights in urban warfare situations.

Despite of its positive attributes, a significant number in the global Airsoft gaming community “vehemently” disliked Airsoft BB gun AEG weapons systems modeled after the P90. As is with the criticism thrown against Airsoft guns modeled after the XM8, many of them view guns with an increasing number of external plastic components – even the real lethal versions of the P90 and the XM8 – as “mere toys”. (Real M-16 rifles have foregrips and butts made of polystyrene but they – the Airsoft enthusiasts - just let the issue sail by.). Maybe this is due to the fact that Tokyo Marui – who has the sole global monopoly of Airsoft guns modeled after the P90 – is infamous for using plastic on their stock Airsoft models, by offering only metal and - sometimes real wood veneer ad-on’s as a relatively expensive upgrade. I even wonder if Tokyo Marui even acknowledges the contributions of Stargate: SG1 fans who are also Airsoft enthusiasts to their company’s “bottom line”. Plus, the P90 – despite being used by the US Secret Service, the Philippine National Police Special Action Force and certain Philippine Army units – still looks like a toy, really! And that will probably keep any Airsoft BB gun AEG weapons systems designed after the P90 from making into everyone’s “the best Airsoft gun ever” shortlists.