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Airsofters love their sidearms. All you have to do to realize this fact is look at the wide selection of pistols that can cost as much, if not more than, a primary airsoft gun.
But, if you don’t own one, you may be wondering if it’s worth the money to invest in a sidearm (not to mention spending the time required to master the different methods of using it). I hope I can answer that question in this post. If you already own a sidearm, consider the points I make in this post to determine whether you really need to carry it (and use green gas or CO2) every time you play.
Before we hop into this post, I want to make sure that everyone understands that pistols are NOT the only sidearm out there. Everything from the TF11 (based on the MAC11) to the MP9 or VZ-61 Scorpion are available for purchase in an airsoft variant. You can also get conversion kits to make a pistol into a carbine-style weapon. They each have their benefits and disadvantages on the field, but are important options to consider when purchasing, or upgrading, a sidearm.
Why You Should Own A Sidearm
The first step to understanding the airsoft sidearm is to understand why these sidearms even exist.
Although sidearms have been around for hundreds of years, they serve a tactical purpose on the modern battlefield that goes deeper than being just a “backup” weapon. Sidearms serve the purpose of defending operators from close quarters assaults when their primary weapon isn’t suitable. They give the operator a second, potentially higher rate of fire option (especially for snipers) when it comes to sending rounds down range, as well as letting the operators stay in the fight when their primary goes awry (which always seems to happen at the worst of times).
Sidearms are also more maneuverable than most primary airsoft weapons. For example, a DMR will never be as easy to run-and-gun with as a pistol or other lightweight sidearm.
Shooting offhand (using your non-dominant side to shoot around a corner or bunker) is also made much easier with a pistol because there’s no need to switch the weapon to a different shoulder and spend time lining up your sights.
And last, but not least, pistols are COOL! Running through a room at your local field, dual wielding pistols with extended mags and silencers couldn’t be cooler (or more intimidating if you’re good with them!).
Entry level sidearms can be bought for as little as $35, making them a lot cheaper than buying another primary weapon.
(Note: If you choose a pistol as your sidearm, be sure that it’s gas operated (most electric and spring pistols are useless for competitive airsoft games due to low FPS and unreliability). CO2 cartridges are easy to find at sporting goods stores, while green gas allows you to get lower FPS levels for CQB games.)
So, sidearms are great because they give you options on the field, can be more effective in CQB, look cool when used properly, and are relatively inexpensive. Sounds like a good investment, right? But, this post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t explain….
Why You Don’t Need A Sidearm
When I airsoft at a field, I don’t carry a sidearm on me most of the time. Here’s why:
I often play with a CQB-legal, primary weapon (KWA SR7) at CQB fields. My primary weapon has 8+ TIMES the capacity as my sidearm’s (in this case a pistol) magazine when I use my K120 (120 round) mid caps. My primary’s range will never be matched by a standard sidearm, and the Rate Of Fire (ROF) is as good on semi auto as a gas pistol (because I use 9.6v batteries) and far exceeds my pistol’s ROF when on full auto. The stock and red dot sight system allow me to be more accurate than I could be with a sidearm; and the cost to BB ratio is much lower than if I was using CO2 cartridges rather than rechargeable batteries.
The only time I really see airsofters whip out a sidearm during a game is if their primary is down, the scenario requires it, or if they just want to have fun and add an extra challenge.
I have rarely been in a situation where I considered switching to a sidearm during a game because it would be more effective. Pistols just can’t match the abilities of a solid primary weapon.
Now, of course, there are exceptions. A KWA KMP9 has a 48 round magazine, a stock, and the ability to mount optics for better aiming. But with all of these features, it almost becomes a second primary and not a backup sidearm. The MP9 is better suited for use at fields that require a different FPS for indoor and outdoor play and you want to have a more powerful outdoor gun.
So in conclusion, consider whether you need a sidearm for every battle or scenario. If you can get tools to fix your primary weaponry easily, your primary is suitable for almost all combat situations you’re likely to encounter, and the field doesn’t require a sidearm (for FPS or scenario reasons), you may be able to leave it at the staging area as a backup and save money on gas. Let me know in the comments why you would leave behind, or carry, a sidearm with you on the field!