So you?ve found out about airsoft and you want in. Welcome. Airsoft is a sport/hobby that is played all over the world. If you dig around, you?ll probably find multiple teams/clubs in your area with posted open play dates.
So all you need is an AEG. AEG stands for Automatic Electric replica. Lo and behold, there are 50+ to choose from, from about 10 manufacturers. There are a few important factors to consider.
You are going to shell out $50 - $500 on this new toy. It must be something you find amazingly cool and will be proud to take onto the field with you.
Do you have patience and like to hide? Or do you like to run and charge or get behind the enemy?
If you like to hide, a rifle is probably what you?re looking for. Please note, a sniper rifle is NOT a good first AEG choice. Sniper kills are few and far between and most fields have special rules for snipers, like single shot only, 100 foot engagement rules (normal is 10 or 15 feet) and that you must carry a sidearm and sometimes have a spotter. This does not mean you can?t snipe. I just recommend you do it with a carbine style rifle like an M16 variant. You can still hide in the bushes and snipe, but you can shoot people following the regular AEG rules and you can still fire on full auto. Remember, AEGs have a range of about 125 feet max and most fights are within 75.
If you?re an in-your-face type of player, then an SMG like an MP5 may be more for you. It?s smaller and easier to run around with and come in a variety of styles.
But which brand?
LPEGs or Low Power (or Low Price) Electric replicas work, but you will end up not very happy. They are not the most upgradeable, parts are not available and most folks won?t work on them. Plus, they can be underpowered and have problems right out of the box. Well and CMYA are two LPEG brands. (Price Example: MP5 for $50 or less)
There?s a new group of cheaper AEGs out there that are worthwhile. UTG, Matrix and Both Elephant seem to make good AEGs. They are clones with modifications of the high end weapons. They work and perform great, some can be upgraded and parts are available. There is a high lemon rate here as well though, and your new toy may need some work after a short period of use. (Price Example: MP5 for $100)
Then we get to Tokyo Marui. TM is the largest manufacturer out there. Their weapons are plastic but are built well and they have the best track record. Everyone will agree, that if you are going to leave your weapon stock (ie: no upgrades, very recommended for new people since upgrades cost money in parts and time) that TM is the way to go. They run from $200 - $350, and have the largest variety of models out there. 99% of the upgrades out there are made for TM, but will fits all of the high end AEGs as well.
Above TM is Classic Army, ICS and G&G. ICS makes high quality AEGs with metal bodies and pre-upgraded parts with some very unique innovations designed into them, but can usually only take ICS replacement parts internally. G&G makes high-end well built weapons as well. Classic Army is the next largest to Tokyo Marui. In the past, they had poor quality control, but that is really not an issue anymore. Their weapons are more expensive than TM, but you get upgrades out of the box, metal bodies and superior plastics where plastics are used. CA also has a large variety of styles. Expect to pay $300-$500 for any of these models.
Almost all of these (with only some of the cheap models excluded) will take pretty much all of the exterior add-ons made (RIS, flashlights, lasers, etc).
A lot of money can also be saved by buying used. But beware. Buy from someone you can meet with. It saves the cost of shipping and prevents you from getting scammed.
UTGs or used TMs are a great way to start out, but you are going to want more power and features before long. If you can wait to save or can afford more, you will be happier in the end.