Airsoft communities are growing massively in recent years. Airsoft is not just for kids like many years ago because professionals have turned to airsoft gun for more force on force training without spending a lot of money. There are more realistic airsoft guns of almost every real firearms on the market released, and it’s hard to tell the difference unless physically check them; also, more optics are made to supply the airsoft communities throughout the country.
Can Airsoft Optics Hold Up On Real Firearms
When I first got into the gun hobbies, I started off with airsoft. Oh man! There are so many products out there for the real guns that you can use on airsoft and vice versa, but until I moved onto the real steel communities, I still see people using airsoft grade parts on real steel firearms such as the optics. I thought to myself: can airsoft optics really survive the recoil force on real guns?
The answer is NO. Airsoft grade optics are not constructed to handle heavy recoil impulse on a real steel firearm. They are not made to survive repeated recoil abuse. They have poor quality mounts and internals that are NOT ready for use on a real steel firearm. There are many Aimpoint, Eotech, Trijicon and other brand product replicas on the market, and don’t let it fool you.
How Gun Recoil System Works
Recoil is the rearward force momentum equal to the forward momentum of the projectile and gas exiting the barrel. Per Newton’s third law, every action has an equal and opposite reaction; the recoil momentum is transferred to the body of the shooter.
Counter recoil is momentum needed to halt the rearward motion of the gun. For a bolt action rifle or a pump shotgun, the shooter’s forward-leaning act as the counter recoil. Another example of counter-recoil is found in semi-automatic firearms such as the AR15, where the buffer spring counter the rearward motion of the bolt, and also sending the bolt forward to chamber the next round.
The recoil force felt by the shooter:
- Acceleration of the bullet
- Acceleration of the gases behind the gunpowder
Just remember the four major acting forces
- Force– The momentum of the projectile traveling down the barrel
- Angular momentum– angular rotation of the gun as the bullet exit the barrel
- Kinetic energy– conservation of energy
- Ejected gas– conservation of mass
How Much G-force Can A Optic Handle?
I don’t have any detailed specs for this answer, but I can explain some basic physics here.
G-force is a measurement of the acceleration that causes a perception of weight. In the aspect of recoil force on a gun when it’s fired; it’s how much instant movement of the gun can cause force exerted onto the optic.
Impulse is the change of momentum of an object for an interval of time. It’s the force applied to an object for a certain amount of time. When we talk about how optics can handle recoil, we’re talking about total force and peak force. In the optics world, recoil impulse is what we care about the most.
How Does Recoil Sharpness Affect Felt Recoil
We’re going to approach this topic by describing the sharpness of the recoil. A 45ACP produces more recoil impulse, but the recoil isn’t as snappy as a 40SW. There is more of a push from a 45ACP, and the 40SW has a more snappy feel to it. So the force is about the same, but the perceived recoil felt different to the shooter because the amount of time it took is different for both calibers bullet.
To learn more about recoil forces on optics Click Here
Does Airsoft Guns Have Recoil?
An airsoft gun shoots 6mm BBs which aren’t propelled by the kinetic energy of gunpowder explosion. There is no recoil as far as pressure builds up inside the barrel and the bolt traveling back and forth. However, CO2 gas blowback airsoft guns with reciprocating bolt can add some slight recoil (vibration) when firing, but not very much at all. It’s less recoil than a 22LR round. Most gas blowback airsoft guns felt like shooting a real gun with muzzle brake without the concussion, but the recoil doesn’t even move your arm at all.
Top Notch Gun Optics Use Top Quality Construction
High-quality optics for real steel firearms are designed to be rigid to handle the recoil force and physical abuse. They must maintain that quality to be accurate. Unlike airsoft guns where the BBs can fly all over the place, and the replica optics don’t need to be super accurate., therefore there are a lot of gaps between the two.
Real optics are made with high-quality aluminum and lens. Most of them have tight tolerance in its internal parts especially on the MOA (Minute of Angle) adjustment knobs where it’s tight and snug. You can feel the difference when you turn the adjustment on a real optic vs. a replica.
For a red dot sight or holographic sight, the LED (Light Emitting Diode) projection of the reticle bounce back and forth inside the optic and eventually bounce towards the shooter’s eye. Therefore most high-end red dot optics have high quality LED that’s safe to the eyes instead of laser emission red dot reticles. That means a lot of testing is required before it goes on sale compare to those cheap sights made in China on a budget.
For a rifle scope, the amount of precision involved to manufacture the sight is unbelievable compared to cheap airsoft variable zoom scopes. Everything from the glass to the rubber seals is made to survive the hardest recoil impulse and drop.
The shape of the tube is made perfectly circular with precision machining tools so the ring mount makes full contact with it to ensure secure mounting and to prevent the slightest movement that could lead to loss of zero. They are also made to withstand repeated recoils on some high rate of fire weapons where they have to counter a lot of harmonic waves traveling throughout the gun, and still maintain zero. Unfortunately, cheap airsoft scopes never go through those manufacturing steps.
Difference Between Replica Optics and The Real Ones
Here are two big things to look out for to quickly spot the quality difference before wasting any more of your time.
- The Price Gap
The biggest difference you can spot is the price right off the bat. Currently, on the market, a high-quality optic for real steel firearms is about $500 or more, and even the budget optics are in the $200 range. If you see an optic that looks like an Aimpoint or Eotech that cost about $50 or $80, just stay away from them. A real piece of glass starts about on average $800 up to $3000!
- Adjustment Knob Feels Cheap
The stiffness of the turret adjustment knob is another indicator. A high-quality optic has super tight fitting adjustment clicks on the elevation and windage knobs. When you turn the knob, you can feel how snug they are instead of those cheap ones.
Ways To Destroy An Airsoft Replica Sight
- Recoil Impulse
Airsoft gun optics generally can’t stand recoil when they’re mounted on a real gun with noticeable recoil force. Over time you will notice the point of aim is not the point of impact because of the sudden vibration from the recoil impulse has caused the windage and elevation adjustment screws to fall out of place.
If you heard EOtech’s thermal shift problem, a few years ago, then you know what I’m talking about. The optic is made out of materials that shrink and expand when reacting to temperature changes. It loosens the tolerance on the parts that hold the zero. Cheap optics have poor quality small parts that were never fitted right or tested to hold zero under those conditions.
Should I Avoid Budget Brands On Real Steel Firearms?
NcStars and other similar brands such as AIM, VISM, G&G, and UTG are great for airsoft guns. However, if you want to shoot real guns and depend your life on it, then avoid airsoft replica optics at all cost. Go for brands like EOtech and Aimpoint.
Can I Put A Real Gun Optics On Airsoft Guns?
Yes. You can use a real sight such as EOtech, Aimpoint, and Leupold on airsoft guns. The only thing to beware is not letting bbs damage your lens. 6mm bbs that fly at 350 fps or more could damage your lens by direct impact during airsoft games.
Airsoft guns are a great training tool to do force on force training. The communities have grown so much, and the guns are getting more and more realistic to match the real steel firearms. Shooting airsoft 6mm bbs may not be as accurate as a real bullet, but it adds a tremendous amount of realism for people to train as they fight.
However, airsoft replica sight is not made the same as the ones used on real steel firearms as far as the ability to hold zero and be durable under extreme conditions. So please don’t use airsoft optics on real guns, and only the other way around.