Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Juice it up

Today, I join you during your day to talk about juicing.  Not like Barry Bonds' *alleged* juicing, but juicing of your AEG.  Powering that pea-shooter through the use of a Airsoft battery pack.

If you're savvy enough with a search engine, you'll find that there are many different types of Airsoft batteries available for the AEG.  They come in different shapes and sizes, volts and milliamp hour (mAh) ratings.  What you may or may not know is that those voltages and mAh ratings are important to pay attention to, as they affect the performance of your gun.

First and foremost, I would like to clear one very common Noob Myth about upgrading to larger batteries:  THEY WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR FPS.  So don't think that if you're currently running a small 8.4V battery and you bump up to a big ol' 12V battery that you're going to see an increase in the velocity of your rifle.

I. Voltage - More voltage equals faster trigger response and a higher rate of fire (ROF) when using full-auto.  Higher voltage is also needed in high-torque setups like DM rifles in order to give the motor enough power to pull back the heavy spring. 

II.  mAh - this stands for "milliamp hour" NOT the commonly-used phrase, "milliamps PER hour."  mAh is a rating used to indicate the storage capacity of the battery. Basically, how long it will last on a full charge before the battery's voltage drops below a certain level, deeming it useless unless recharged. 

III.  Deans vs. Tamiya

Get Deans connectors.  Tamiyas are generally regarded to be lame.  They are difficult to connect and disconnect and are said by those that would know to have a higher level of resistance than the Deans.  Another plus side to the Deans is that you are pretty much guaranteed a positive connection all the time, whereas with Tamiya connectors, even though the male and female might be physically connected, the metal pins inside the plastic cases may not actually be touching which will not allow the gun to fire.  Most veteran players use Deans on their guns, which means that if you are using Tamiyas and forget your battery at home, you may have a hard time finding anyone with a battery to lend you that uses Tamiyas.  Of course, if you just love your Tamiyas, you can always just make a Deans to Tamiya adapter cable to keep with you on the field in case you need to borrow a battery and the only ones available use Deans.  Boom.  Threat neutralized. 

IV. NiMH vs. Li-Po (C-rating) vs. NiCD vs. LiFePo4

NiMH = Nickel Metal Hydride. 
This is perhaps the most common battery type seen on the market.  They are very safe, very reliable batteries.  For AEGs, they come in voltages of 8.4, 9.6, 10.8, and 12.  Notice that the voltages get larger by 1.2?  That's because each time you go up a level in voltage, you're adding another battery cell to the pack.  Each individual battery cell in the pack carries a voltage of 1.2.  To get the total pack voltage, you simply add the number of cells and multiply by 1.2 volts.  Voila.  You have your pack's voltage. Crazy stuff.  The downside to these batteries is their large size.  The more volts and/or the more mAh you want, the larger your battery will have to be. 

Li-Po = Lithium Polymer.
This battery was somewhat controversial when it emerged onto the Airsoft scene. There was a lot of skepticism and rumors floating around about how dangerous they are.  Videos on YouTube started popping up of science nerds performing experiments that would cause these batteries to explode, or at least catch on fire.  This caused an Airsoft hysteria and many decided to avoid these wonderful batteries like the plague.  I would like to use an analogy now.

I equate Li-Po batteries to be the Pit Bulls of the Airsoft battery world in that they are very powerful, very compact and if you treat them poorly, they'll ruin your day and possibly that of others.  However, if you treat them well, you will enjoy a long and happy relationship with each other. 

Li-Po batteries for Airsoft AEGs come in voltages of 7.4, 11.1 (which is most common) and for extreme setups, 14.8.  Like NiMH batteries, increasing voltage means increasing the number of battery cells in the pack.  A single Lithium Polymer cell contains 3.7 volts.

Li-Po batteries have the advantage over NiMH batteries in that they utilize a higher voltage in a relatively small package.  The small package of the Li-Po comes in handy when you're limited on the space in which your AEG allows you to store batteries.  Often times, using a Li-Po battery will eliminate the need to use an external battery bag or mock PEQ box to store the battery outside of the gun in order to use a battery with a high enough voltage for your needs.   

NiCD = Nickel Cadmium.
No.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  These batteries are stupid.  They suffer from a memory effect that requires you to fully discharge the battery before recharging it, otherwise you will never get a full charge again.  The amount of energy the battery can store per charge will be reduced and you will have to charge your battery more often from there on out.  If you're thinking about getting this type, don't.  Just get an NiMH-type battery and call it a day.  The NiMH batteries are basically the new-and-improved version of the NiCD batteries.   

LiFePo4 = Lithium Iron Phosphate.
The new kid on the Airsoft block.  MadBull came out with a couple options using this type of battery.  They did not invent the Lithium Iron Phosphate battery, they just branded one.  In a nutshell, the main selling point(s) to this battery is/are that it has the safety of a NiMH but the high voltage level and small size of a Li-Po.  Essentially, combining the best features of the two prior batteries into one.  These battery packs come in voltages of 9.6 and 12.8. 

V. Chargers:

Do NOT use the same charger you use to charge your NiMH batteries to charge your Li-Po or LiFePo4  batteries, if you use multiple types.  Each type requires its own special charger.  Look in the product description of the charger you're giving consideration to purchase.  It will say what type of batteries it will charge.  In the case of the Li-Po or LiFePo4 battery charger, you'll need a balancer, not just a charger.  You can either get them separately or just do what I did and got a Li-Po charger that has a balancer built in.  Balancers help to ensure that each cell in the battery pack receives an equal (or very close to) amount of energy during the recharging process.  Not balancing your cells can result in ruining your day.  Remember that Pit Bull analogy?

Additional note on charging your batteries: there are a number of chargers out there for multiple battery-types that offer adjustable rates of recharging.  It can be argued that the slower the recharge rate, the better charge your battery will receive.  The rate of recharge is classified in Amps (usually 1,2 or 4A).  Basically take your battery's mAh rating (we'll say 2200 mAh in this example) and divide by 1,000.  2,200/1,000 = 2.2.  2.2 is the most amount of Amps your battery should be recharged at.  So obviously recharging at 4A is a no-no.  Personally, I wouldn't even charge it at the 2A level either.  Again, to err on the safe side, I just leave my charger on the slowest rate and let it sit while I do other things within the general area where I charge at.  It's best to keep an eye on your battery while it recharges just in case Murphy's Law comes into play and whatever could go wrong, DOES, in fact, go wrong.

Invest in a quality battery charger, regardless of your battery type.  Think about the longevity of your battery here.  When I first started playing several years ago, I used the cheapy charger that came with the battery I purchased.  It was just one of those chargers that plugs one end into the wall socket and the other straight into the battery.  No real "smart-charging" going on.  Long story short, my battery was ruined within a few charges and required me to spend more money on a new battery AND a new charger.  Learn from my mistake.  You're welcome.   

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