AEGs have a lot of advantages in airsoft when compared to gas blowbacks.
They’re reliable, consistent, run on batteries and are, by and large, very upgradable and customizable.
Firing one, however, can leave some airsofters a little disappointed.
While they may look and handle like a real steel firearm, when pulling the trigger the quiet whine of the small motor and lack of any kick tends to bring users back to earth pretty quickly, reminding them that they are ultimately handling an airsoft replica.
Electric blowback airsoft rifles and guns are an attempt to bridge the gap between the very usable but rather blah-feeling AEGs out there and the very enjoyable but less practical gas blowbacks.
Using various internal mechanisms, they provide their users with a physical sensation that is not wholly unlike those provided by gas airsoft guns.
Although their adoption would seem like a no-brainer in airsoft (after all who wouldn’t want an AEG with a little kick), the reality of these electric blowback guns has more often than not fallen well short of expectations and so they have remained something of a niche item in the hobby.
What Is An Electric Blowback (EBB) Airsoft Gun?
Electric blowback airsoft rifles and guns are essentially a higher end form of airsoft AEG (Automatic Electric Guns) that use some kind of mechanism attached to the gearbox to simulate some kind of recoil or “kick”, such as might be found on a real steel gun or a gas blowback model.
The idea with these guns is to provide users with the best of both worlds – a more realistic and exciting airsoft experience with all the benefits of using an airsoft AEG (greater practicality in game, lower maintenance, battery power, automatic firing etc).
How Do They Work?
Electric blowback mechanisms are something of a desirable, valuel-add for airsoft manufacturers, turning their latest M4 rollout from yet another TM-compatible clone into something a little more special.
As such, reputable airsoft brands tend to build them in-house and usually try to patent them.
Because they are protected, at least in theory, it is a little bit harder for established airsoft companies to clone a popular mechanism and call it a day.
As a result there are a lot of different mechanisms out there in the airsoft designed to add a recoil sensation to an airsoft gun.
At the most basic level, EBBs use the mechanisms and actions of the AEG gearbox and internals to move a specialized part in order to produce more noise and vibration when the gun is fired.
Pneumatic types, for example, contain an mock bolt or piston, usually located outside the main gearbox.
Air from the main cylinder is bled into a small chamber, pushing the piston back and creating a vibrating sensation.
This pneumatic system can be seen in action in the video below.
In other models, the gearbox and piston is attached through various linkages to a small weight that reciprocates inside the airsoft gun to produce a more realistic sensation.
With airsoft electric pistols, on the other hand, the blowback feel is usually produced by a mechanism that moves the gun’s slide back and forth when fired.
Are these just as good as a real steel gun or gas blowback?
In short, not really.
Electric blowbacks are something of a middle ground in the airsoft world, at least as far as realism and feel go.
They tend to provide a better firing experience and kick than AEGs, which typically lack both, with a negligible at best drop in power and consistency.
On the other hand, their blowback tends to be considerably less powerful than decent gas blowback (particularly CO2 models).
When it comes to real steel models, there really isn’t much of a comparison, regardless of what a gun’s marketing material may claim.
Real steel guns, which use chemical propellants and involve the rapid expansion of hot gases, are typically far more powerful and have a far more powerful recoil than an airsoft gun.
Advantages Of Electric Blowback Airsoft Guns
Does add a cooler, more realistic feel to an AEG when firing
While they aren’t quite as powerful as GBBRs, good quality electric blowback airsoft rifles and SMGs do produce more noticeable vibration and more noise than a comparable, standard AEG.
They can, therefore, be something of a middle ground in terms of feel and realism between gas blowbacks and electric airsoft guns.
Tend to be more reliable and require less maintenance than GBBs
Because they are, essentially, AEGs, EBB airsoft guns don’t require quite as much maintenance and care as gas blowbacks in order to keep them functioning correctly.
More stable performance compared to GBBs in cold weather
Similarly, those who enjoy a realistic feel to their airsoft gun can do so year-round, as electric blowback AEGs don’t suffer the same inconsistent performance in cold weather conditions as green gas and CO2-powered options.
Disadvantages Of Electric Blowback Airsoft Guns
More expensive than typical AEG
Because they do require a variety of extra parts and blowback is something of a premium feature on AEGs, electric blowback airsoft guns tend to be more expensive to buy than their standard AEG counterparts.
In general, you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars for a decent quality model, in some instances more than double the price of a similar non blowback AEG model from the same company
More complex, proprietary parts limit repair and upgrade
In order to create a blowback feel, electric blowback airsoft guns need to add certain, often proprietary, components to their existing gearboxes.
In airsoft a good rule of thumb is that the more parts something has, the more there is to go wrong. And since these blowback mechanisms are often patented and somewhat niche, repairing and upgrading them can be somewhat more expensive and difficult than a traditional AEG.
Recoil is not always all that noticeable
Although some models deliver a very noticeable and impressive vibration or kick when fired, Tokyo Marui’s Next Generation Recoil Shock models being well-known examples of this, others can be a little more anemic in this regard.
With some models, in the midst of the excitement of a heated game some users report not being able to feel their gun’s blowback, which can be a little disappointing.
Electric Blowback Might Be Right For You If….
- You have the means and budget to buy a good quality model (~$300-600)
- You want the functionality and efficiency of an AEG but want a more realistic feel when firing it
- You don’t really care that it’s not quite as powerful as a gas blowback model
- You’re not really into upgrading or customizing the internals as much
- You’re looking for a more realistic feel for a milsim game
- You play a lot of cold weather games and are sick of dealing with gas performance issues but just don’t want to compromise on feel
- You’re willing to take the time to research a gun before purchasing it
You Should Stay Away From Electric Blowbacks If…
- You’re on a budget
- You want to buy something second (or third or fourth or fifth) hand and don’t want to increase the risk buying something with a broken part
- You like modifying your airsoft gun
- You are looking for a strong and realistic kick
- Don’t want to deal with extra moving parts and care that they require
- You’re more into performance and reliability than feel and realism
Electric blowback AEGs can be an interesting option for airsoft players who want to bridge the gap between a practical AEG and a fun to shoot GBBR.
That said, because they tend to be a lot more expensive and finicky compared to non-blowback AEGs, and tend to provide less of a kick than gas models, with EBBs it is extremely important that users consider their needs and budget and really do their homework on individual models.
Will Martin – Will has been into airsoft and paintball for well over 10 years, and has done it all – from upgrading and fixing gearboxes as a tech to building custom airsoft loadouts for his friends to supporting off those friends as a DM.