GBBRs (Gas BlowBack Rifles) are labelled as inconsistent, a sod to work on, in need of constant maintenance and in general, a novelty best left in the safe zone.
What I’m going to do here, is give you my opinion. It won’t be backed up by science, it won’t include “things I’ve heard” and it won’t be a monologue on why everybody should be using GBBRs… Because quite honestly, most people can’t hit a target with 300 shots, so keeping yourself in the game with 30 isn’t going to work.
Plus GBBRs have their own particular strengths and weaknesses, like any tool, it’s important you understand what these are and use them accordingly.
Myth #1: GBBRs require more maintenance than AEGs.
Bullshit. Not only are GBBRs often less prone to breaking than AEGs, they’re arguably easier to work on and diagnose an issue.
GBBRs don’t have a gearbox, they don’t have an electrical circuit, they don’t have a shitload of moving parts that are held in place by a gearbox that is designed to be as thin as possible whilst still often not achieving that desirable 1/1 scale body.
I think the only AEG users (and I use that term broadly) that could argue their platform is easy to work on are PTW users. And often they’re so shit scared of doing anything to upset their finely tuned PTWs, that they end up sending it off to one of the three people in the universe that they feel comfortable sending it to.
People talk about GBBRs as if they’re close to firearms, and the simple truth is that they’re not even close. They look the same, sure… But no matter now many cosmetic similarities they have, they operate in a vastly different manner.
Most of the problems with GBBRs happen when people try to treat it like a real firearm (or how they think a firearm needs to be treated), over-cleaning being the core issue that plagues many a GBBR.
Pro tip: Clean it when you notice a difference in performance. Sure, if there’s fucking leaves and shit in the chamber, it’s time for a clean. But go easy on the lube and try not to wipe off the grease that’s actually doing something!
I’ve owned my first MWS for about 4 years now, in that entire time, I’ve cleaned the barrel maybe half a dozen times and I’ve only once (after a particularly wet weekend) stripped the trigger/hammer group. Quite simply, it’s never needed to be taken apart.
My AEGs on the other hand? Well… I’m currently up to my nuts in NGRS guts. My newest recoil shock has stripped a piston (“upgraded”, obviously 🙄), requiring a virtually total disassembly. It wouldn’t be so bad if the piston was able to be taken out as with a GBBR bolt carrier group, but being an AEG, it requires the entire lower to be stripped apart.
There’s a degree of simplicity that goes into GBBR design (certainly in Marui’s designs), pretty much everything is modular and can be removed easily, making maintenance and repairs that much easier.
So, do I think GBBRs require more maintenance? No. And coupled with their intrinsically quick disassembly, you can spot check and keep an eye on any areas of concern far easier than you can with an AEG.
Myth #2: GBBRs make great DMRs
Even I subscribed to this belief for some time, but unfortunately it’s just not true.
Whilst a GBBR Mk12 might seem very cool (well, it is cool), the simple fact is that you’ll struggle to get the range and performance you’re after without introducing some rather odd performance traits. GBBRs are relatively easy to convert to a higher powered, semi auto only replica for sure… But often at the cost of reliability or accuracy.
Maybe I’m just shit at building DMRs, but I’ve had far more success with AEGs than GBBRs in getting the velocity and performance I was after.
In my personal opinion, GBBRs hit the sweet spot in CQB. They’re loud, they’re fast and the environment negates many of the advantages that an AEG user comes to depend upon in a stand up fight.
Nothing else sounds like a well performing GBBR in a closed environment… The snapping sound of a reliable and freshly gassed GBBR can be quite intimidating… It causes less experienced players to freeze, and on more than one occasion I’ve seen people choosing to walk out of cover with their hands up before getting hit. Like with most pain, it’s the anticipation that causes it to hurt more… So when they hear you shooting their way, they know what’s coming.
I’ll happily use a GBBR in Woodland, but I wouldn’t choose to convert another into a DMR. The one thing I will say though is that it will force you to aim properly and pick your shots wisely, making airsoft a game more about skill than simply hosing a barricade 50m away.
Myth #3: GBBRs are at a disadvantage when playing against AEGs.
For the reasons above and given that 30 shots is more than enough to win or lose a firefight in a corridor or room, I’d say that for CQB, that’s rubbish.
But is it actually any different in open woodland or FIBUA? Well, yes and no.
You’ll have to adjust your mentality to picking and shooting targets. One of the main bugbears I have with airsofters is their lack of ability to see past the next “kill”. Taking the time to quietly flank the other team and get yourself into a good spot before taking out the other side is vital.
A seasoned GBBR player will know the effective range of their “weapon”, they’ll understand the likely outcome of shooting four well spaced out opponents, they’ll choose their shots wisely and they’ll already be thinking about their next moves.
Being outnumbered with a GBBR against AEGs doesn’t always mean being outgunned, you have to pick your shots a little better, manage your ammunition far better and keep yourself moving, but you’ll often find airsofters are simple creatures of habit. They go the same way every time, they seek out their team mates far too consistently and they don’t like walking into the unknown.
If you can teach yourself to become more aware of the bigger picture and become more confident (although aware) of your and your replica’s abilities, it’ll make you a better airsofter than the guy who relies on his 100m hitting AEG to do all the hard work for him.
So are GBBRs outgunned? Only if you choose to let yourself be. But picking your shots carefully can often put you at a massive tactical advantage. If my opponent chooses to shoot as soon as they’ve seen me, I might be able to get back into cover, and you can be damn sure that the moment I’m in cover, I’ll be looking at a way to win or leave the fight.
Myth #4: GBBRs don’t work in winter.
Well, there’s some truth to this. GBBRs are affected by temperature, so you might notice that in colder weather your replica won’t be quite as snappy, and in hot weather.. Well, just be careful in hot weather. But they’ll still work very well in the middle of winter if you know what you’re doing.
I’ve gone from being a hard core NGRS user to now considering my NGRS platforms as back ups or simply part of the collection. My first choice for 12 months of the year will always be a GBBR, but if it’s not feeling like playing ball or it’s likely to drop below 5°c I’ll swap out to an NGRS AEG.
High power gasses such as Guarder Power Up or Abbey Vertex can extend your performance envelope, but I’m always conscious of the effects that high power gas and cold temperatures will have on brittle nozzles and pistons.
My personal advice? Carry an AEG in the car just in case. It might not be what you expected a GBBR advocate to say, but sometimes it’s just easier to say “fuck it” and play on easy mode for a while.
Myth #5: Marui make the best performing GBBRs.
Oh wait, that’s true. Don’t believe me or want to prove me wrong? I’ll take my stock ZET System M4, stand along side you and keep pulling the trigger until it vents/fails/I run out of ammo or gas. I challenge anyone with a GHK, VFC or WE to stand next to me and do the same. We’ll see whose replica lasts longer.