Airsoft Basics: What is an SMG?
What is an SMG?
SMG stands for Submachine Gun, and in Airsoft terms, an SMG is simply an Airsoft gun that is styled externally after a real-world Submachine Gun. Famous examples include the SMG-5/MP5, the P90, the STEN gun and the Kriss Vector, all of which are available as Airsoft replicas.
Real Submachine guns came about before assault rifles and were generally used for close range and urban warfare, as well as other situations where a more compact and controllable alternative to a full-sized rifle would be preferable. Sweeping trenches? An SMG is what you need, likewise, if you are fighting room to room. Real SMGs use pistol calibre cartridges, which means they could be simple and easy to manufacture while being easy to control when fired in full automatic.
In the real world, SMGs fell out of fashion for a short while in favour of the "PDW" (Personal Defense Weapon), which is a short-barreled weapon firing rifle cartridges instead of pistol cartridges. In recent years SMGs have made a comeback after AR-9 style SMGs (also known as PCCs - Pistol Caliber Carbines) gained a huge following in the US civilian tactical shooting scene, and advanced new SMG designs like the APC-9 and Sig MPX entered the fray.
In Airsoft SMGs are very popular for more mobile playstyles and are most commonly seen in CQB skirmishes, though many Snipers out in the woods also choose to carry a compact SMG as a backup weapon. SMGs benefit from being short, lightweight and easy to carry, lending themselves to aggressive tactics, and are perfect for the skirmisher who likes to close ground with the enemy team.
Airsoft SMG types
So what type of SMGs are there? Airsoft SMGs come in all different shapes and sizes, but before you decide what look you want you'll need a rough knowledge of how each type of Airsoft SMG works.
AEG Submachine Gun
For a new player, an AEG Submachine Gun would be a great choice, primarily due to their common internal parts with assault rifles giving them excellent performance right out of the box, with plenty of upgrade opportunities for those that seek them.
AEGs use a gearbox to pull the internal piston back and compress the spring via a powerful electric motor, using a rechargeable battery as a power source. Being powered by a battery means AEGs can fire as fast as you can pull the trigger, with no need to cock the SMG before each shot.
AEGs are the by far the most common type of Airsoft gun seen on skirmish sites today, and this is primarily due to their reliability, ease of maintenance and fantastic performance in any weather conditions.
Gas-powered weapons often suffer from poor performance in cold weather, but with an AEG you can shoot in the bitter cold of winter and still benefit from a great rate of fire, and impressive range.
Other benefits of an AEG include affordable and ever-available magazines, easy-to-source parts in case things go wrong, and more cost-effective running from a rechargeable battery rather than gas, which gets used up quickly in full automatic capable weapons such as SMGs.
For a competitive primary weapon with an SMG external styling, the best choice is an AEG, especially if it is for use as an all-rounder for both indoor and outdoors skirmishes.
GBB Submachine Gun
Gas Blowback SMGs are generally more suitable for experienced players who want to give themselves a bit more of a challenge in-game by playing with a more realistic primary weapon.
The shooting experience and realistic controls are what make GBB SMGs so desirable, as they offer a step up in realism when compared to an AEG and also give plenty of very satisfying recoil which makes them much more fun to shoot than an AEG.
This is why veteran Airsofters gravitate towards GBB SMGs, though most keep an AEG handy for when it gets cold! GBB SMGs usually use low or real-capacity magazines, meaning you will need to carry many more of them to stay competitive with AEG users in volume of fire. These mags also tend to weigh quite a lot due to their internal gas reservoir which can make carrying several of them and maintaining mobility a challenge if you aren't used to it.
While the performance of GBB SMGs is usually very good, they tend to suffer quite a lot in cold weather and are far better used for summer skirmishes or indoor skirmishes during the colder months. That said, GBB SMGs have the advantage of a near-instantaneous trigger response in semi-auto, and usually also have an epic rate of fire.
Consider GBB SMGs to be drag racers (in the vehicular sense), capable of insane performance but only in the right conditions and with the proper maintenance, whereas an AEG is a do-everything hot hatch, impressive in its own right but more of an everyday tool than a specialist option.
If you already have a dependable AEG and you are up for something a bit different with its own set of pros and cons, a GBB SMG will give you a firing experience like no AEG could and can be great asset in a CQB game, as a snipers backup weapon or for a highly mobile and aggressive player who will take pure advantage of the GBB SMGs best attributes.
Why use an SMG?
Both AEG and GBB Submachine Guns are appreciated by Airsofters for their compact size and CQB-optimised handling, offering an easy-to-corner-with primary weapon with all the performance of a longer rifle but with far more agility. In Airsoft, most of our engagements happen at very close range, and as such SMGs are well-liked amongst almost all Airsofters, and most of us have at least 1 SMG in our collection.
An SMG would be a great choice for any skirmisher who likes to get stuck in and lead the charge against the enemy, taking either a front line role or a sneaky special forces style flanking attack, both of which will benefit from a short and handy AEG and some rapid movement.
AEG SMGs are the best kind of SMG for new players as they are easy to operate, have wide availability of magazines, accessories and spare parts, and are simple to maintain and keep running long term. Some AEG SMGs such as the Double Eagle UTR.45 are very light and manoeuvrable, and others, like the S&T PPSh-41, are made entirely from steel and real wood, and are as hefty to wield as the real thing!
AEG SMGs also have great performance in all weather conditions and can be upgraded with all the goodies an Assault Rifle AEG can be, meaning you can extend your range and accuracy or improve your rate of fire with some research and appropriate expertise. If you are all about in-game performance and upgrade possibilities, an AEG would be the SMG choice for you!
GBB SMG users love them for their realism, high quality external build and satisfying recoil with each shot fired. GBB SMGs often have an extremely high rate of fire, which makes GBB SMGs like the ASG MP9 and the HFC MAC-11 perfect backup weapons for Airsoft snipers who need to keep heads down as they relocate.
Larger GBB SMGs such as the WE Apache SMG-5 and the Cyber Gun Thompson M1A1 are generally used as primary weapons and are appreciated for their exact 1:1 scale components, strong recoil impulse and flawlessly realistic functionality. All of the controls on GBB SMGs work just like the real thing, meaning the charging handle and other controls will need to be used as part of a reload, which is complex and taxing in the heat of battle.
An experienced Airsofter who wants more of a challenging and realistic playstyle will get what they need from a GBB SMG, which is practically as realistic as SMGs get in non-lethal form!
Now you know a bit more about Airsoft SMGs you should be well equipped to make the right choice when it comes to decision time! Whether it's for indoor CQB or outdoor skirmishes, whether you need a full steel and real wood historical piece or a lightweight and modern polymer wonder weapon, the sheer number of Airsoft SMGs on the market means there is something for everyone!