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How Does A Bolt Action Airsoft Rifle Work?

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When we talk about bolt action, our minds generally think only about rifles that are shot over long distances such as snipers. This notion is not entirely wrong, but in reality, gas-powered pistols that have sliders can be referred to as bolt action too.

Bolt action generally refers to guns that are manually operated either by handling a bolt on the side of the gun (or a slider in the case of a gas pistol) which loads the ammo into the barrel of the gun. 

However, for this article, we will be focusing majorly on bolt action airsoft rifles.

A bolt action airsoft rifle works simply by pulling the bolt that is located by the side of the gun which then loads the ammo into the barrel. The cocking piece then moves to the rear of the gun and is held in place by the sear which releases when the trigger is pulled. The shot fires and the process starts again.

Seems simple and uncomplicated right? However, the bolt action process involves a series of well-engineered mechanisms requiring lots of different parts working together in harmony to achieve the ultimate result.

Do you want to know how this mechanism works? Well, stay glued and keep reading as we explain extensively the mechanism of how a bolt action airsoft rifle works.

Types of Bolt action Airsoft Rifles

As you already know, in the world of airsoft, there are three major types of airsoft guns; the spring-powered, the gas-powered, and the electric-powered airsoft guns.

Amongst the gas-powered airsoft guns are the gas pistols which are still the most used types of gas guns. On the other hand, are the gas rifles which are not as prominent as the pistols.

With the electric airsoft guns, there seems to be a balance between the prominence of both pistols and rifles. Both types are commonly used by airsoft players.

However, for spring powered airsoft guns, the rifles are the most prominent. The major disadvantage of using spring powered guns is the slow rate of shooting which makes it utterly useless in close combat situations. This, therefore, makes the use of spring pistols less common.

However, spring sniper rifles are much more prominent since shots can be taken from long distances without revealing the position of the shooter, thereby avoiding close combat and the need for rapid-fire.

If the spring holds out, spring rifles can shoot endlessly.

Mechanism of the bolt action rifle

Various parts come into play when shooting a bolt action rifle and these parts all work together in harmony to create long-distance shots.

The mechanism of an actual bolt action firearm is not quite different from that of an airsoft gun. Only that with a real firearm, actual bullets that are stored in cartridges which are then stored in magazines are made use of while with airsoft guns, BB ammunition is made use of.

The mechanism of a bolt action firearm begins when the bolt handle is lifted. It then meets the primary extraction can that is located at the top of the rear bridge of the gun. This forces the bolt to the rear which commences the extraction of the cartridge case from the chamber.

The cocking pieces of the gun move to the rear and are held in position by the sear and as the bolt is rotating, the firing pin is blocked. This is a safety feature to prevent accidental misfires.

The bolt then moves to the rear which prompts the ejector to kick out the empty case. The bolt pushes forward to strip the next cartridge from the magazine and as the bolt is rotated into the close position, the firing pin is unlocked and ready to fire.

The pull of the trigger releases the sear holding the cocking pieces in place which then fires the shot.

Simple, right? Now let us look at the mechanism of bolt action airsoft rifles.

Mechanism of a spring-powered bolt action airsoft rifle

The mechanism of a spring-powered airsoft gun is rather straightforward when compared to other types of airsoft guns.

With a spring-powered airsoft gun, it is important to note the following key pros and cons have a huge impact on its selection as opposed to other types of airsoft rifles.

Its biggest advantage is the fact that you can shoot endlessly. There is no need for refills or charging as you would have in gas and electric guns. As long as your spring holds out, you are good to go. This assures the shooter of constant velocity shots. This is a huge advantage over gas and electric guns whose velocity reduces over time until they are refilled or charged.

On the other hand, its biggest disadvantage is the fact that you can only shoot one at a time. This makes close combat situations nearly impossible to survive.

Knowing this, let us take a glance at the mechanism of the spring-powered airsoft rifle.

When the bolt handle is pulled back, the piston drives the spring backward and comes in contact with the spring guard stopper which allows the spring to compress without moving back. The spring is then held in position by the sear. 

Pulling the bolt handle back also loads the BB into the barrel of the gun. When the trigger is released, the piston compresses the air in the cylinder, and it is channeled into the barrel through the nozzle.

It is this force from the release of the spring that generates the compressed air which then fires the shot. It is safe to assume that the stronger the spring, the stronger the pressure created thereby meaning an increase in the velocity and range of shots fired.

It is important to note that all types of airsoft guns make use of springs in their mechanisms. The other types except for spring powered guns simply have aids that help propel their shots even further.

Mechanism of a gas-powered bolt action airsoft rifle

With gas-powered bolt action airsoft rifles, shooters do not need to manually pull the bolt back like you would while using the spring type gun. Gas airsoft rifles can shoot semi-auto and full-automatic modes which makes them ideal for close combat situations.

The mechanism of gas rifles is quite similar to that of gas pistols. The gas is filled through the magazine which is then connected to the gun. Pressing the trigger releases the valve knocker which lets the gas into the nozzle of the gun.

A major difference between gas pistols and rifles is that the rifles do not make use of sliders. Rifles make use of bolt handles which stimulate the recoil. This helps maintain the level of realism gotten from the use of gas guns.

As opposed to manually cocking the rifle, the gas rifles recoil automatically with each trigger pull thereby making shooting much easier. To read more about the mechanism of gas airsoft guns, read our article on ‘how do CO2 airsoft guns work’.

Electric bolt action airsoft rifle

This type of airsoft rifles is by far the most popular of all three. They make use of batteries which can be recharged making them a cheap and easy option for shooters.

Electric airsoft rifles have a motor within them which is connected to a battery. The motor has three plastic gear cogs which are made of plastic and these cogs compress the bolt when you cock the gun and thrust it against the spring.

The shooter pulls the trigger when the bolt is completely compressed against this spring prompting the trigger to transmit a signal to the plastic gears which in turn makes the spring to move the bolt forward rapidly.

The compressed air starts to build up between the BB and the bolt of the gun which leads to a huge air pressure behind the BB when the bolt is released. This results in the BB being shot into the air through the barrel.

This is the basic mechanism for most electric airsoft guns with little variations occurring depending on the mode of shooting, either full-auto or semi-automatic.

Difference between the mechanism of an airsoft gun and a bb gun.

Although airsoft guns are often referred to as BB guns, there exists a difference between the two. While airsoft guns shoot plastic BB ammunition, actual BB guns shoot lead or steel BBs making them have a stronger, more painful impact.

The mechanisms of these two guns are quite similar in that they can both be powered by spring, gas, and pump-action as well. However, electric type guns are unique to airsoft guns meaning you can hardly find any electric powered BB gun and this is because the strings won’t be strong enough to move the weight of the lead/steel BBs.

Below are the differences between Airsoft guns and BB guns

Airsoft GunsBB guns
Airsoft guns are very realistic and designed to look like real gunsBB guns do not look so realistic
An airsoft pellet weighs about 25 gramsA BB pellet weighs about 45 grams
Airsoft BBs are barely able to travel beyond a 100ftBB guns can easily reach and go beyond a 100ft
Less accurateMore accurate given the greater power and heavier pellets.
Airsoft guns have an electric type gunBB guns do not have an electric type version


So, should knowledge about the mechanism of how an airsoft rifle works affect your decision on what type of gun to pick? It could, depending on how keen you are about the intricacies of your gameplay.

At the end of the day, the game is meant to be played for fun. Therefore, you as an airsoft player should pick a gun that you are comfortable with both in its ease of use and its cost of purchase and maintenance.

Airsoft FAQ

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