With endless brands, models and performance levels, there are various choices to make when it comes to picking which airsoft gun is right for you. When first starting out and getting a feel for different shooting styles, a primary factor to consider is what type of gun operating system works best for you.

Airsoft guns can be powered in several ways, but two of the main types that tend to get pitted against each other are AEGs and GBBRs. The pros and cons of each are frequently debated, and you’ll come across plenty of players who are loyal to one over the other – but which should you choose?

Unsurprisingly, in the end, this comes down to preference. What do you want from an airsoft gun, and which qualities do you value the most? The answers here will help shape whether an AEG or GBBR will suit you better.

What Does AEG Mean in Airsoft?

Before we jump into the differences between the two gun types, here’s a quickfire terminology lesson for the airsoft newbies – AEG stands for Automatic Electric Gun.

Airsoft AEGs are powered by rechargeable batteries that drive a gearbox, motor and pistons, which power the firing mechanism in order to shoot BBs.

What is GBBR in Airsoft?

Another popular airsoft gun type is a GBBR, which stands for Gas Blow Back Rifle. These guns are operated by a purely mechanical system – there’s no electricity going in; instead, the guns use compressed gas (either CO2 or Green Gas) to propel the BB.

Two airsoft players in the woods

The Advantages of AEGs

There are several pros when it comes to using AEGs.

AEGs are Usually Cheaper

While not universally the case, AEGs do tend to be a bit more affordable than GBBRs. This is thanks to their popularity and relative ease to manufacture. Running an AEG will also be cheaper than a GBBR, as recharging the batteries with electricity can cost considerably less than getting the gas to power a GBBR.

AEGs are More Beginner-Friendly

AEGs are arguably the more accessible of the two guns, not only because of their more budget-friendly price tags but also because they are easier to learn how to use, and you can usually start playing with them with little guidance.

The best airsoft tips for beginners

AEGs Can be Used in All Weather

Another advantage is that AEGs can be used in most weather conditions, making them one of the go-to winter options. The same can’t be said for Gas Blow Back guns.

AEGs Offer High Performance & Reliability

Because they’re powered by electric batteries, AEGs can provide a reliable, consistent and accurate shooting experience. On most AEGs, you can adjust various settings with precision, helping you fine-tune your gun so it works for you.

AEGs will also usually have a larger magazine capacity, so you can keep making shot after shot when you’re deep into a skirmish.

AEGs are Easy to Upgrade

Another reason why many people reach for AEGs is because they’re easy to upgrade. Their widespread popularity means there are plenty of affordable accessories and replacement parts on the market, again ensuring you can customise your airsoft experience.

The Disadvantages of AEGs

However, keep in mind that there can also be a couple of cons to using airsoft AEGs.

AEGs Don’t Provide Realistic Recoil

The main drawback of AEGs is their lack of realism. Most AEGs don’t provide recoil, so don’t they really replicate the real steel experience in its entirety. Along with the lack of realism relating to the feel of the gun, AEGs can also lack realism when it comes to the sound, as you don’t tend to get a loud bang when the gun is fired (which may be a pro in some people’s eyes).

AEGs Can Require More Technical Maintenance

If you ever need to take your AEG apart, you’re probably going to need some help from an airsoft tech, as poking around all the delicate gun internals isn’t a good idea if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Even a slight wrong move could throw the gun’s performance completely off.

Two airsoft players in the woods

The Advantages of GBBRs

And how do GBBRs measure up? Here are some of their pros.

GBBRs are More Realistic

Where AEGs fall short in regards to realism, GBBRs excel. Gas Blow Back rifles tend to feature a recoil system similar to what you might find in a real firearm. Many will agree that, compared to AEGs, they also provide a more fulfilling noise when fired.

The weight of a GBBR can also offer another element of realism, and they’ll typically weigh more than AEGs and give a more satisfying feel. This all adds up to a more immersive airsoft experience.

GBBRs are Robust & Durable

GBBRs don’t have a gearbox, so there are fewer moving parts to go wrong. This, along with being made from high-quality materials, makes them pretty durable and more robust overall.

GBBRs Have Less Trigger Delay

When you squeeze the trigger, you want a BB to fire. Simple, right? However, with some guns, there can be more of a delay between pulling the trigger and the BB leaving the barrel. GBBRs have more immediate trigger feedback than AEGs. This means that, for the most part, if two players – one with an AEG and one with a GBBR – were to fire at the same time, the GBBR would get its BB out sooner.

The Disadvantages of GBBRs

As with AEGs, there are a couple of cons to bear in mind with GBBRs

GBBRs are More Expensive

Beginners probably won’t be reaching for GBBRs as their first foray into airsoft due to the slightly increased costs associated with these guns. The guns themselves can be pricier than the average AEG, and the gas can quickly eat into your budget. Also consider that the more expensive magazines hold less ammo, so the entire GBBR endeavour can be less cost-effective.

Limited Use in Cold Conditions

The main area where GBBRs fall short compared with their AEG counterparts is when faced with cold weather.

You’ll find that your gun won’t perform as well in colder conditions as the gas, which is stored as a liquid, needs to be converted into gas, which requires heat. When it’s too cold, this transformation is less effective, and you’ll see a drop in performance that correlates with a drop in the ambient temperature.

There are ways to combat this, such as using different types of gas or insinuating the canister, but this, again, may require more investment and a little extra effort on your part.

GBBRs are Less Consistent

Due to this instability with the gas in cold weather and variations in gas pressure, GBBRs can be far less consistent than AEGs. This can mean that FPS output may vary more significantly, so you can’t necessarily be as confident your shot is going to behave as you want it to.

Should You Choose an AEG or a GBBR?

So, with a couple of pros and cons each, which airsoft option is better? At the end of the day, it’s not necessarily a case of what is ‘best’ but what your main concerns are as an airsoft player.

If you're a beginner or your main concern is the budget…

An AEG will probably suit you better.

If your main concern is realism…

A GBBR will probably suit you better.

Whatever you choose, we have a great selection of both AEGs and gas airsoft guns – so your next decision is which particular model you want!

We’ve just covered AEGs versus GBBRs here, so haven't mentioned HPA options in this instance. To learn more about these, check out our guide to HPA airsoft guns.

A guide to HPA airsoft guns