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The TLP AC94 charger is one of the more exotic currently seen in airsoft, borrowed (along with the NiMH battery packs and connectors) from the world of radio controlled cars. It can be powered from the mains or from a 12V car battery, will fast and trickle charge as well as discharging, and has an automatic facility that will drain a battery then slow-charge it to maximum before cutting off, all without intervention. Neat! I bought a couple of high-capacity 3000mAh battery packs, not expecting one to come with the gun, as well, and at my level of use I can go for weeks between recharges.

6mm BBs are light, smooth and slippery, especially when one's fingers are misted with oil from a gas gun's exhaust, and trying to stuff them into the magazines against the pressure of various strong springs often results in little white balls flying everywhere. The loading tube shipped with the SR16 works well to transfer BBs into a low-capacity magazine, but it has to be filled first itself and the funnel end that facilitates this is stupidly small. The other loading tools (that little elbow is for the M11) vary between bloody annoying and extremely bloody annoying, but are still better than trying to feed sixty-odd little balls manually. In my usual habit of throwing technology at a problem, therefore, I invested in the cutely named "Big Model" autoloader - the black, boxy magazine-shaped thing in the picture above. It's a battery powered magazine loader, allegedly compatible with most types of airsoft magazines, but so far the results have been mixed. It seemed to feed the pistol mags and the M16 low-caps well enough once I had the knack, but doesn't seem to fit onto MAC-11's gas magazine in any way, shape or form - and those are really the most annoying to feed by hand! I shall fiddle and tweak, though, and see what can be done - the idea certainly has potential.

Hydroflourocarbon refrigerant gas and silicone lubricant, the lifeblood of airsoft. Everyone agrees that lubrication is important, but although there are many authorities on the propellant gasses they usually end up saying something different... However, it seems to be like this - at the bottom end of the scale is plain old HFC134a (the spray duster beloved of computer geeks) containing a small amount of silicone lubricant to keep the magazine valves moving freely. Usually called "green gas", it's less powerful than the American Eagle winter and summer gasses, which according to some sources are mixtures of HFC134a and the higher-powered HFC22. Pure HFC22 is usually referred to as "red gas" or "top gas", and above it lurks the semi-mythical "black gas". This may or may not exist, and may or may not be a nickname for carbon dioxide, as used in the far more powerful Brocock pistols and other full-metal replicas. No matter how many Gas FAQs I read, it all remains a touch confusing - but at least when it comes to specific guns the advice is fairly unambiguous. To minimise wear and tear, I use green gas for the Beretta and the M11, and AE Winter for the Para-Ordnance and possibly the proposed M1100 shotgun. If I ever build a metal-framed pistol I might try feeding HFC22 as an experiment, but it really isn't necessacary for indoor plinking.

I've only used the standard 0.2g Excel BBs, so far, but will probably use lightweight .12g rounds for the shotgun. Although the manufacturer's claims of biodegradability are apparently completely false, they do seem to live up to their reputation for a consistently high quality and I've had very few mis-feeds or obviously stray shots. With two full-auto replicas, I have quite an appetite for BBs, and I'm on my third or fourth bag... well over 10,000 rounds, in other words, which I could never afford with real firearms!