Beginners Guide to Airsmith Tool Selection
Words: Jimmy “Bones” Beckett
Photos: Walter Sidas
For those of us that are heavily into the game, maintenance and repairs are commonplace and the expense of paying for a tech to work on our airsoft replicas can really add up. If you are technically inclined, or not afraid to learn, then arming yourself with some basic tools of the trade will allow you to properly maintain your airsoft equipment and keep you a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield.
Tool selection is very important and can make working on your AEG, GBB and spring-powered airsoft replicas much easier. It is important that you use proper-fitting Phillips and hex wrenches to keep from stripping out and ruining screws on essential internal and external parts. Purchasing inexpensive tools is not always a wise choice as they can break and wear quickly causing stripped fasteners as well. There are some essential tools that are commonplace for most airsoft guns on the market.
Hex head fasteners, also known as Allen bolts, can be found in just about every airsoft gun. They range in sizes from .050mm to 6mm. Some guns utilize standard (or American) sizes which you should be aware of. While metric fasteners are more common, should you find yourself with a gun using standard fasteners, your metric tools may seem to fit, but they can cause you to strip bolts as they could be slightly smaller. Since my background is in the RC hobby, I utilize hex driver sets from Duratrax or Dynamite RC, which are of excellent quality and come in kits with both metric and standard sizes. Most metric sets will come with the following sizes: 1.5mm, 2.0mm, 2.5mm, 3mm and 4mm. This set should cover most of your needs.
Another essential tool in my kit is the Phillips screwdriver. Phillips screwdrivers, like hex wrenches, come in several different sizes and it is important to make sure that you select the correct one for your screws to avoid stripping the heads. A long P2 driver is essential for taking the stock screw out of many common M4-type AEG rifles. Smaller P1 drivers are useful on screws inside the mechbox, such as those used to hold a plunger assembly in place or for the cutoff lever.
Flat-bladed screwdrivers should also be part of your toolbox. Although they are not as common as the Phillips screwdrivers, they are needed on many AEGs for motor adjustment and are useful for prying things apart. A Torx screwdriver set is essential for taking apart some AEG gearbox shells. Torx are the star-shaped screws that are typically found on the outside of JG and Tokyo Marui gearbox shells.
Although not nearly as common, the 5.5mm nut driver was once used to secure the piston head to the piston, commonly found on the Pre-X series Classic Army AEGs.
There are often times when you will need to rewire an AEG or simply change the battery connector to your favorite style. A good pair of wire strippers and a wire cutter are a “must have” to properly do the job. Some wire strippers have a pliers-type tip, which is useful when you need to pull pins and connectors apart.
A set of picks are useful to access those hard-to-reach areas when cleaning out a gearbox. They can also be used to trip the anti-reversal latch and help re-attach small springs on plunger assembles. I use a set of Craftsman picks that purchased from a local Sears store. An X-acto, or hobby knife, is useful for cutting and carving plastic pieces. These can be easily found at many hobby and hardware stores.
Anyone working on an M4-based AEG or GBB should get an Armorers wrench. This is a critical tool which is specially adapted to take off front end components like D-rings and RIS mounting hardware. It also can be used to remove the stock tube locking ring used on VFC, Ares and other high-end brands. I also recommend getting a rubber mallet and punch, which are useful for getting pins back together. Always use a rubber mallet instead of a metal one because it will lessen the chance scratching or denting a metal-bodied airsoft replica.
You should also have an assortment of common battery connectors and adaptors on hand. Adaptors come in handy when you need to convert one type of battery connector, such as Tamiya, to a Deans, and vise-versa on your AEG. Spare male and female connectors will allow you to solder a new connector on your battery or AEG to keep everything uniform within your arsenal. I have several large-to-small Tamiya adapters as well as Tamiya-to-Deans adapters on hand at all times.
I also like to keep a small, stiff wire brush in my toolbox. It is good for cleaning parts that have glue or thread-lock on them. The brush is not for external use as it will scratch the finish of your gun. A toothbrush is also helpful when cleaning out the internals of your gun. If it is a soft-bristle brush, you can also use it to remove dirt and debris from hard-to-reach places on the outside of your gun. Q-tips are also good to keep on hand for cleaning out the nooks and crannies of any airsoft replica. Black electrical tape, with its wide variety of uses, is the universal friend of just about any tech.
Always be sure to have a good set of safety glasses on hand. You cannot replace your eyes and losing one while working on airsoft equipment would not be a good story to tell. Finally, you need a place to store all these items. A small toolbox from The Home Depot or even a tackle box will do the trick. Also, small organizers can be found at Wal-Mart or Target stores and are handy for sorting out various small fasteners and components.
A more expensive item that you might consider purchasing is a Dremel tool with a cut-off wheel. This can help in a multitude of ways. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve used mine. The quick detach cut-off wheels do wonders. A heat gun is helpful for loosening up anything that has been set in place with glue or thread-lock.
A soldering iron with some good 60/40 rosin-core solder is also handy to have. You can find them at your local Radio Shack store. You should also invest in the proper size shrink tubing to be sure you have no exposed wires.
GREASE, OILS AND COMPOUNDS
I recommend having some thick grease in your kit to lubricate gear sets. White lithium grease can be found at many hardware stores and I find that it works pretty well for gear grease.
Silicone oil is commonly used for your rubber components such as hop-up bucking and O-rings. Be sure to use the 100 percent silicone type. I use silicone oil on leaky gas magazines and it always seems to do the trick for me. You can use it in a spray variety or in a dropper. Personally, I like the dropper as it gives me more control of exactly where I want to apply it.
You should also have a tube of blue thread-lock compound in your toolbox. The blue type is a semi-permanent adhesive that will hold fasteners in place but still give you the ability to easily unscrew them, if necessary. Super glue is also handy and has a multitude of uses.
A toolbox is a great addition to your airsoft arsenal and can save you a lot of money in the long run and make you an asset to your friends who may not know how to do it themselves. Take your time with it and add to the list as needed. There may be some tools or other items that will suit your needs better. That’s what’s in my box; now let’s see yours!