Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: St. John's, Newfoundland
Most of your questions have more or less been covered except for the pistol one, so I'll chime in on that:
Sidearms aren't really required right away so if you're on a limited budget then hold off on the sidearm for now. If you have the budget for it then what you want in a sidearm depends on three factors (besides cost of course) whether or not full metal is a must, exactly what model you're partial to, and what role you want them to serve (ie sidearm and last ditch backup or primary). Certain manufacturers tend to make certain models better then others. If full metal is a must then the best choice that isn't going to cost you an arm and a leg is probably KJW, especially for the M9 which they do very well. You'll see alot of WE's around, they're cheap and full metal but tend to have problems, especially their 1911 models. KJW has a rep of having mag problems, but I have had two KJW pistols and I haven't had any trouble with my mags. If full metal isn't a must then WA or especially TM would be very good choices.
I'll comment on a couple of the more popular choices:
The Desert Eagle is a nice looking gun, but it's large, heavy and awkward. Not really something you want to field unless you're a big guy. There's also the problem that as far as I know, no one makes a full metal version of the DEagle so you'd have to go ABS.
I have a 1911 and I love it, but if you're planing on using your pistol frequently as a primary or using it for CAPS style target shooting then go with the hicapa. The hicapa is basically a doublestack version of the 1911. I went with the 1911 specifically because I have small hands and find guns with double stack mags don't fit my hands well. If you're interesting in tricking out your pistol then you should definitely go with the hicapa, the bulk of pistol upgrades out there are all for the hicapa. And get a TM hicapa if you do get one, since all the upgrades are for TM. Yeah, other pistols are TM compatible, but that's not quite the same.
The M9 is a good solid sidearm. If all you want is a good sidearm and backup weapon then the M9 is a great choice. They're fairly common as well, so you'll be able to get one for a decent price.
Glocks in airsoft are like Glocks in real steel: functional, reliable weapons. But in my mind Glocks just don't have any soul. If you're one of those people that like glocks then go for it, if not go with the 1911, Hicapa or M9.
Another thing that concerns alot of people when it comes to pistols is full metal or not. ABS is more efficient, and all the higher quality manufacturers tend to only produce in ABS. But for those that only want a pistol as a sidearm, well full metal just looks and feels so much nicer, generally better kick as well. The downsides to full metal are they use more gas to move the heavier slide (this is particularly a concern in singlestack guns like the 1911) and generally cause more wear on the parts.
Upgrading the higher quality abs guns to full metal is possible but very expensive. It usually easily doubles the cost of the weapon if not more. Illusion is the guy to talk to about pistol upgrades. There's a couple of guys, Illusion included who sometimes build and sell upgraded pistols, frequently in full metal. But you're looking at a price tag of $700-$1300.
The brand names you generally want to keep an eye out for are TM or WA for the higher quality abs pistols, particularly TM. And KJW for reasonably priced, reasonable quality full metal guns. Stay away from WE's, they have a bad tendency to rip themselves to pieces quite quickly. Don't bother with the cansoft hybrids (clear or smoked abs receivers), since you're about to be AV'ed get a full black pistol out of the classifieds or ASC retailers.
I'll cover fueling them as well. Offical documentation usually states that GBB's (Gas Blow Back) run off of Green Gas. But the thing they don't want you to know is Green Gas is just propane, mixed with silicone oil, stored in an unsafe container, and marked up in price by like three or four hundred precent. If you get a GBB that runs off of Green Gas, and they pretty much all do now-a-days, then just get an Airsoft Inovations propane adapter for about $20 (which includes a small bottle of silicone oil) and a can of coleman's propane from Canadian Tire and you're good to go. Most GBB mags hold about 25 rounds. A single fill of gas in a double stack mag is enough, even with the heavier metal slides, to empty the mag of BB's at least twice on a warm day. The single stack mags are alittle more troublesome. Since BB's are tiny compared to bullets, a single stack mag holds as many rounds as a double stack mag. The problem is the gas reservoir is substantially smaller. With a ABS slide you can almost always get through a single mag's worth of BB's but not much more. With a metal slide you're reduced to no more then 15 rounds, maybe 20 on a hot day with slow firing. CO2 is the other major fuel source. It hits harder and is less effected by temperature, but causes more wear and tear and is considerably more expensive. It's also somewhat less common.
The other choice is an AEP (automatic electric pistol) but not a good choice in my mind. The problem with AEP's is they're weak fps. Small batteries mean they have little staying power as well. No blowback either, or if they do, then they're even weaker then normal.
GBB's fire hotter, last longer (or rather are much easier to refill) and, due to blowback, are much cooler. The only reason pretty much anyone gets a AEP is to have a sidearm for the colder months. The only way to get a good performance AEP is if you start going into the borderline smg area like mp7's or mp5k's. A good AEP is going to be about the same cost as a good GBB and still won't have as good a performance as even a cheap GBB.
One other thing to keep in mind with a GBB is the cost of spare mags, which generally tends to surprise newbies. A second-hand GBB mag will be $30-$40 and a brand new one would be $40-$50, each. If all you're using your pistol for is a sidearm and last ditch backup then one or at most two mags should do you just fine. But if you're planing on using it as a primary you're going to want four or five or more and that's going to equal or exceed the cost of the gun itself.