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Airsoft Batteries

Fun fact: Direct current or DC electricity is the continuous movement of electrons from negative to positive through a conducting material.  How can you tell if something is using AC or DC?  AC (Alternating Current) comes from the electrical outlet in your home.  DC comes from a battery.  You can convert AC to DC using a converter, a “wall wart” if you will, and you can invert DC to AC using an inverter, that little box that you can plug into the 12vdc port in your vehicle to run your boombox with the power cord after the batteries in it die.

Another fun fact:  DC was the brainchild of Edison, while AC was completely Nikola Tesla’s domain.  Edison claimed that there would never be a practical use for Alternating Current, yet once Tesla had all the kinks worked out, Edison stole his work for himself.  That’s why Tesla cars crack me up.. they run on batteries.

Regardless, batteries are batteries the world around.  They all do the exact same thing: store and provide power for electronic devices.  Some battery types do it better than others.  Some battery types are safer than others (lead-acid batteries are nasty).

There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding airsoft batteries, how they work, and what the numbers all mean.  Hopefully this quick-ish primer will help eliminate some of the confusion, and misleading/false information.

Battery Shapes

Airsoft batteries come in a few sizes and shapes: “nunchuck”, “butterfly” or “crane”, “brick”, and “stick”.

Left to right: Nunchuck (NiMH), Butterfly or Crane (LiPo), Brick (LiPo), and Stick (LiPo). Please ignore the cat hair.

Nunchuck batteries are probably the most popular.  They somewhat literally look like Bruce’s favorite weapon, and they will typically fit inside pretty much any M4 stock on the market.

Chucks! Not the sneaker but rather the thing that Mikey likes. Vague vague references, wow. But you can see the Kinetic Feedback System in this KWA T10 takes up the entirety of the buffer tube, however the side channels easily fit this 9.6v NiMH battery. It will also fit a 2000mah 11.1v LiPo crane battery; just slide two sticks into one of the side tubes. It will also also fit a 1500mAh brick in the empty part by the hook and loop strap in the photo. Tons of battery options for the PTS stocks.

Butterfly or Crane batteries are similar to nunchuck batteries, but they have a third stick.  This style will usually last longer, and so long as your buffer tube isn’t full of extra things, like an inline MOSFET, a Kinetic Feedback System, or the Slim Jim you stuck in there last game for a snack, but forgot about, the third stick can go into the buffer tube.  Some battery sticks are thin enough you can squeeze two in one of the side tubes.

Butterfly, or Crane, battery in the handguard of a rental M4. The sticks on these batteries are thin enough they slide between the outer barrel and the inside of the handguard.

Brick batteries are literally shaped like a brick.  These batteries are great for AEGs with a full (but hollow) stock like any number of AKs or M16s, or any M4 with a PTS stock.  Well, you’re not going to fit a 2200maH brick in a PTS stock, but it’ll definitely fit in that M16.

2200mAh brick sticking out of my M16A1. I could probably stick a 5000 or even 7000mAh battery in there if I wanted to.

Stick batteries are exactly that:  a stick.  You’ll see these a lot for AKs, MP5Ks, CZ Bren 805s, any AEG where battery space is at a premium.  Sometimes you can fit a stick into a buffer tube.

1300mAh 11.1v LiPo in my Cyma CM045 AKS-74U. I have not yet converted the AEG to Deans, but even with the adapter, there’s plenty of real estate in there under the dust cover.

Battery Chemistry

Battery technology continues to improve and expand, which is why we have the choices we do when it comes to what’s inside them.  There are basically three battery types available for use in airsoft guns: Lithium Polymer (LiPo), Lithium Ion (Li-Ion), and Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH).

Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries are the oldest type battery, and have generally fallen out of favor with most people, regardless if their hobby is RC or airsoft.  Simply put, NiMH batteries are bigger and heavier than the new modern lithium-based batteries.

One of the reasons NiMH batteries are bigger than lithium-based batteries is because NiMH batteries have only 1.2v per cell.  Since NiMH batteries typically come in 8.4v and 9.6v, you’re looking at a seven or eight cell battery.  Since each cell is approximately 30mm (1.18”) x 17mm (0.67”), that’s going to take up a lot of room in a hurry.

NiMH batteries have a poor charge/discharge efficiency of 66% to 92%, and can lose a significant amount of charge while sitting on the shelf, not plugged into anything.  However, NiMH recharging doesn’t really require specialized equipment and are somewhat more “idiot resistant” than more modern batteries.  Another disadvantage of NiMH is that as they are used, the voltage droops so while a fresh NiMH battery gives you good snappy performance and RPS, as the day wears on, your trigger response and RPS will continuously decline.

Older standard rechargeable batteries (Energizer/Duracell) were NiMH.

Lithium Ion (Li-ION) batteries are one of the most popular types of batteries worldwide.  You can find them in electric cars, a lot of rechargeable devices, and in newer “for high tech devices” rechargeable batteries (Energizer/Duracell).

Titan exclusively uses Li-Ion cells for their power packs.  While Li-Ion has an impressive energy density (more juice in a smaller package), its discharge rating is limited to 16C.  We’ll talk about the “C” rating in a bit. Also, don’t read through the FAQ on their website… it has a lot of wrong information, specifically regarding amperage.

Li-ion batteries have high energy densities, low self-discharge, and no memory effect, which makes them a great choice for airsofters.  They average 3.7v per cell.  Li-Ion batteries can also be fairly dangerous because of their lower charge/discharge rates, and as they heat up it causes a slight evaporation of the electrolyte which can cause the delamination of the internal layers of the cell.  Because Li-Ion batteries are housed in a solid case, they don’t get “puffy”.

Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries are arguably the best “bang for your buck”.  We exclusively buy and use Turnigy Nano-tech LiPo batteries in our personal AEGs, as well as in our rental fleet.  One of the main advantages LiPo has over Li-Ion is the higher charge/discharge rate capability (that pesky C number again).  Also, the Nano-techs are less expensive than Titan, but in our eyes, every bit as good.

LiPo batteries aren’t restricted to any particular shape or size, so they can be produced in a smaller/flatter package.  This is a Very Good Thing™, especially when you’re trying to stuff an 11.1v 2000mAh battery under the handguard on your MP5 or M4A1.  LiPo batteries do suffer from “puffiness” because they are not in a solid case, however, it’s more difficult to overwork LiPos because of their ability to withstand higher charge/discharge rates.

Connectors

Mini Tamiya (top) and a poorly-soldered Deans (bottom).

There are two type of battery connectors currently in use for airsoft: mini Tamiya, and T-connector or Dean Connector.

Mini Tamiya connectors are found in a lot of electronic and electrical systems.  They are cheap and easy to use in manufacturing, they lock the connection, and they don’t require soldering.  Mini Tamiya plugs are rated for 15 amps.

T-connectors or “Deans” are a little sturdier, have thicker contacts, rely on friction to lock, and require soldering.  T-connectors are rated for 50 – 60 amps.  You’ll hear a lot of airsofters say that Deans have lower resistance, and while that’s true, the difference is so minuscule that you’ll never be able to perceive the difference as a human.  Are Deans a good upgrade?  Absolutely.  Bigger is better, right?  But if you’re not melting your mini Tamiya, don’t worry too much about it.

What do all these numbers mean?

Voltage (V)

The volt is the unit of electric potential, electric potential difference, and electromotive force in the International System of Units. It is named after the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta.

Simply put, voltage is what makes electric charges move. It is the ‘push’ that causes charges to move in a wire or other electrical conductor.  The more volts, the more push.  This means more speed and power (and heat) produced by your AEG motor.

MilliAmp Hours (mAh)

A milliampere hour (mAh) is 1000th of an ampere hour ( Ah ). Both measures are commonly used to describe the energy charge that a battery will hold and how long a device will run before the battery needs recharging.

To put simply, the mAh rating tells you how much power the battery stores.  So yes, a 2000mAh should last twice as long as a 1000mAh battery.  Also, yes, a 2000mAh battery could just be called a 2Ah battery, but “2” isn’t as impressive as “2,000”.

Number of Cells (S)

Since you know each cell in LiPo (and Li-Ion) batteries have a nominal charge of 3.7 volts each, you can quickly math out that a 2S battery has is a 7.4 volt and a 3S battery is an 11.1 volt.  This is one of the reasons you won’t find an 8 volt LiPo.

If the label has been removed from the battery, you can simply count the number of wires on the balance connector.  If it has four wires, it’s a 3S (11.1v).  If it has three wires, it’s a 2S (7.4).  There is a wire for each cell, plus a ground wire.  The balance connector gives you individual access to each cell and is used to equalize the voltage across all your cells.

Coloumb (C)

Coulomb is the unit of electric charge in the metre-kilogram-second-ampere system, the basis of the SI system of physical units. It is abbreviated as C. The coulomb is defined as the quantity of electricity transported in one second by a current of one ampere.

One coulomb (C) of charge represents an excess or deficit of 6.24 x 1018 electrons.

The C Rating is a safety gauge that tells you the maximum current – measured in amps – you can draw without damaging your LiPo battery.  It certainly doesn’t tell you how many amps the battery can push.  Amps are never pushed, they’re drawn (echo echo echooo).  A 50C battery isn’t “too strong” or “too big”.  That is absolute poppycock.  What a 50C battery CAN do is charge faster, and not work as hard when you’re torturing your motor.

Max Current Draw (Amps) = Capacity (Ah) x C Rating

Let’s go look at the 2200mAh brick I have for my M16.  Here are the numbers:

      • 2200mAh
      • 35-70C (ConstantBurst)
      • 3S

With this information, we can math out the maximum current draw (amps) that this battery can handle.

Maximum Amps = 2200mAh x 35C = 2.2 x 35 = 77 amps.

So while in constant continuous fire mode (full auto), this battery in my beefed up M16 can handle up to 77 amps.

Looking at the burst capability, or how many amps it takes to initially spin up the motor (remember Newtonian Mechanics?):

Maximum Amps = 2200mAh x 70C = 2.2 x 70 = 154 amps.

If I’m shooting in semi auto, the battery can handle a draw up to 154 amps.  I’m pretty certain there aren’t any 1700 watt AEG motors out there, so that’s plenty of headroom (the “space” between where the motor tops out and where the battery is maxed out).

The C rating can also help you math out how quickly you can charge your battery.  If you’re told to “charge your LiPo at 2C”, charge your battery at a current of the capacity in Amp-hours (Ah) x 2C.  Using my M16 battery example above:

2.2Ah x 2C = 4.4A

I would charge that battery with 4.4 amps (that’s a setting in your charger).  However, I have a broad range of battery capacities, and a dual charger, so I’m never in a rush; I’ve opted to do a much slower charge on all my batteries at 2 amps.  I’ve found that’s a good safe number, and the only reason I started using 2 amps instead of calculating via C is because the tutorial video I watched when setting up my charger said to use 2 amps.

But if you absolutely need to charge up in a hurry, mathing it out with the capacity and C rating will let you know how much juice you can pump back into the battery without damaging it.  Please don’t always recharge your batteries at maximum capacity.   There’s a reason why the Enterprise D didn’t always zoom around at maximum warp.  Can it do it?  Sure.  Will it shorten the lifespan of the dilithium? You betcha.  Slow and steady always wins the race.

Amps (A)

The ampere is a measure of the amount of electric charge in motion per unit time ― that is, electric current.

Amps are generally not listed on the battery, but it’s an important electrical concept to understand.

It’s winter.  The wood stove is roaring.  The humidity in the house is excessively low.  You trudge across the living room carpet in your socks then while reaching for the doorknob **snap** static charge!  You probably just generated somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 volts!  So why did it not kill you?  Simply put, it’s because there was low to no electrical current (movement); low to no amperes, or amps.

Amps are never “pushed” out of a battery; I don’t care if others say otherwise.  Amps are drawn from a battery.  It’s “amp draw” not “amp push” for a reason.

The difference between volts and amps is that amps measure the volume of electrons flowing while volts measure the pressure causing them to flow.

TL:DR ->

Reminder that electrons from from negative to positive in a DC circuit, to the amp waifu is moving towards the positive on the battery. The ohm waifu is any resistance along the circuit: an LED, a microprocessor, the motor, hell even the wire itself.

Look.  Batteries are batteries.  They all have pros.  They all have cons.  We like LiPos over Li-Ions.  Others like Li-Ions over LiPos.  No one should be running lead acid batteries.

Shit like “LiPo Ready” is all marketing.  You can safely run a LiPo or Li-Ion battery in any newer AEG.  You do not necessarily need a MOSFET in order to run a LiPo; ASG Infinity motors handle 11.1v LiPos no problem.  So do KWA stock motors, Cyma, and SHS high torque motors.  The actual danger you could run into is having an AEG with sub-par gears getting stripped out because they’re crap (I’m looking at you, LCT and VFC).  Plastic racks on pistons also run the chance of stripping out as well.

Trigger contact “sparking” isn’t as big a deal as it’s made out to be online.  When you upgrade (or have it upgraded) your AEG, take a look at the trigger contacts and clean them with some isoprophyl alcohol and a q-tip if they’re starting to collect carbon.  Before every season, I disassemble the rental guns and that’s one of the things I check.  I haven’t had to clean the contacts yet.

For the record, a LiPo isn’t inherently more powerful than a NiMH battery.  An 11.1v LiPo is only 1.5 volts stronger than a 9.6v NiMH battery.  It’s like the same “HPA is more powerful than AEG” bullshit all over again.  Joules is joules and volts is volts. Lithium-based batteries are simply a ton more efficient and are able to pack more juice in a smaller space.  If I could make a 2.27 S LiPo battery, it would be the exact same voltage as an 8.4v NiMH.  It would just be more efficient and last longer.

No, you don’t need to worry about a lithium-based battery sucking the paint off your house and giving your family a permanent orange afro.  Just know what the internal chemistry is and learn how to properly care for it.  I recommend you learn from RC groups and not airsoft “influencers” who are actually trying to sell you Brand X batteries, because if they don’t, they stop getting free shit.

Remember!  Amps are DRAWN, they are never PUSHED.


As always, if there are things I should add, or things I got wrong, please let me know.  Cite your sources though.  🙂

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