OK, I know what you’re thinking: “That’s a funny-looking pistol…” And you’re right, this is something a little different, a review of a 6mm Automatic Electric Gun (AEG) by Umarex. I have owned a couple of AEGs in the past and I didn’t particularly like them. They were nice enough replicas, but I didn’t care for the way they shot. When you pulled the trigger in semi-auto mode, they went “whizz.” In full auto they went “whizz, whizz, whizz…” I found the experience of shooting unsatisfying.
Using them for target shooting did not replicate in any way the experience of shooting a firearm because they were virtually silent and had nothing to replicate recoil effect. That’s not surprizing because most AEGs are designed for skirmishing where reliability and long range accuracy are more important. However, there are now Electric Blowback (EBB) replicas available, and I have been considering one of these for back-yard plinking for a while. I spotted this replica the website of a German distributor recently for not much money at all: considerably less than the price of any CO2 powered blowback pistol. So, I thought I’d give it a try.
I am by no means an expert on AEGs. This review is really intended for other people who, like me, may be considering dipping their toes in the world of AEGs but don’t know what to expect. Does EBB make them more fun to shoot? Is an AEG as cheap as this worth having? Does an AEG have a place in your replica collection if you aren’t interested in skirmishing? Let’s try to answer those and other questions…
What is an AEG anyway?
AEGs use electrical power from a rechargeable battery pack to drive a mechanical gearbox which in turn operates a pneumatic piston that fires the BB down the barrel. Just as on other Airsoft replicas, a hop-up system is used to adjust the flight and trajectory of the BB. It’s a fairly complex system first developed by Japanese company Tokyo Marui in the early 1990s – TM also had experience of producing electrically powered, radio-controlled toys and used similar technology in their early AEGs.
Tokyo Marui FAMAS 556F1 AEG from 1991. One of the very first AEGs.
AEGs quickly became very popular with Airsoft skirmishers. mainly because they had some significant advantages over spring and gas -powered replicas. AEGs are affected much less by temperature changes than either gas or CO2 replicas and they are capable of full-auto fire, unlike spring versions. They also tend to be reliable and consistent in terms of power and accuracy and they are cheap to use. Some AEGs are also very powerful indeed – a few have claimed power of over 5 Joules (over 700fps) though most operate around 250 – 400 fps.
Now, virtually all major Airsoft manufacturers produce AEG replicas of submachine guns, assault rifles and machine guns. There are also AEG pistols, though I have never tried one. Somewhere around 15 years ago, some AEGs were offered for the first time with Electric Blowback (EBB), which uses a mechanical or pneumatic system to operate the bolt and/or charging handle each time the replica is fired. Opinions seem to be divided about this. It uses additional electrical power, so you get fewer shots per charge. The recoil effect is also generally weak compared to, for example, a gas or CO2 blowback replica and there still isn’t much sound when you pull the trigger. But at least an AEG with EBB doesn’t just go “whizz” when you pull the trigger…
The Systema PTW Evolution M4A1 Max CQBR AEG. Nice, but it will cost you more than €1,300! I hope it comes with batteries and a charger at that price…
AEGs range from expensive, powerful, full-metal replicas (the Systema PTW Professional Training Weapon range, for example, are very nice indeed, but will set you back up to €2,000) to lightweight mainly plastic replicas that cost less than €50. The cheapest AEGs with EBB cost from around €80. Most come with a battery pack and charger, i.e., all you need to get you started shooting.
The Heckler and Koch G36
The Heckler & Koch G36 was first produced in 1996. It is an assault rifle which was based on the existing H&K G3 but which was chambered for the NATO standard 5.56mm round. While the G3 was mostly metal, the G36 made extensive use of polymer to reduce weight. It allows both semi and full automatic modes via an ambidextrous fire select switch on the receiver. The G36 was adopted by the German army and as the main battle weapon of the armies of more than 40 countries around the world.
A Latvian Army soldier using a G36KV in Iraq, 2007
Image: US Department of Defense, via Wikimedia Commons
A distinctive feature of the G36 is a transparent magazine that allows the user to see how many rounds remain. A shortened version of the G36, the G36K (Kurtz – short) was introduced soon after launch and this was followed by the even more compact G36C which has a shortened barrel and fore-end and a folding plastic stock and is intended for use by special operation forces and airborne troops.
Officers of the French National Police Intervention Group (GIPN), a tactical unit of the French National Police, with a G36C fitted with a dual sight setup.
As part of the Infanterist der Zukunft (IDZ – Infantry of the future) project, an improvement program for the German army, the G36 has been upgraded slightly to an IDZ version that includes an adjustable, folding plastic stock
The Umarex H&K G36C IDZ
As with many of their Airsoft replicas, this isn’t made by Umarex. Instead, it appears to be produced by Ares, an airsoft manufacturer with a good reputation for producing high quality, reliable replicas. It’s distributed by Umarex, and because they have a licensing deal with H&K, it carries full markings. One thing that I found a little confusing is that Umarex offer several different AEGs based on the G36C. Each is a little different, but if you’re an AEG newbie like me, you do need to know what you’re looking at.
This is the cheapest and lightest Umarex G36, but as you can see, it comes with some useful extras.
All versions feature selectable semi and full auto modes. The G36C is the most basic version. It’s mostly plastic construction but comes with some nice extras including a red-dot sight, forward hand-grip and mock silencer. It’s fairly light at 1.7kg but it includes a nice representation of the transparent magazine on the G36. This is available from around €50, but don’t be put off by the low price. If you’re interested in getting into AEGs, this may a good way to start. Next is the G36C IDZ. This is a little weightier at 1.9kg and it does have EBB, but it doesn’t come with any accessories and it has a generic, Hi-Cap magazine. It does have the adjustable IDZ stock and an “improved gearbox for increased performance” and it’s available from around €80. Both these replicas have relatively low power at under 0.5 Joules and both shoot at around 230 fps.
This is the heavier Umarex G36C Sportline. Nice, but no accessories, battery or charger.
The more upmarket version of the Umarex G36 has a metal gearbox and weighs in at 2.85 kg, close to the weight of the original. The G36C Sportline doesn’t come with any accessories, but shoots at a power of 1.25 Joules (350+ fps) and retails for around €150. Some versions such as the G36C Blowback come with EBB and some such as the G36C don’t and these cost anything up to €300. So, it depends what you’re looking for. If you want a weighty, powerful replica, go for one of the heavier models. If you’re less sure about an AEG, go for one of the cheaper models to see if you like it. Here, I’m reviewing the middle of the range, the 1.9kg G36C IDZ.
This version is sold as a “dual power” AEG, which simply means that it’s primarily intended for use as an AEG, but you can also use the charging handle to cock it and fire, in effect turning it into a spring-powered replica. External construction is mostly plastic, though the three forward accessory rails and some parts such as the trigger are metal. This is available in both black and tan colours.
Magazine capacity: Up to 400 BBs
Propellant: Electric (or mechanical)
Barrel length: 9.72″ (247mm)
Weight: 1.85lbs (1.9kg) is claimed, but mine weighs in at just over 2kg with batteries and an empty magazine.
Overall length: 29.3″ (745mm) with stock unfolded.
Sights: Front: circular “peep” sight, fixed. Rear: flip-up V-notch and circular, adjustable for elevation.
Action: Semi and full auto.
Claimed power: 230 fps (70 m/s) with 0.2g BBs, which equates to a whisker under 0.5 Joule
Packaging and presentation (2.5/5)
This replica comes in a large, sturdy card box liberally provided with H&K branding and the H&K “No Compromise“ slogan. A plastic insert holds the replica and other bits and pieces in place.
The box contains the replica, a single Hi-Cap magazine, a charger and battery pack, a sheet of brief user instructions and a box of H & K branded 6mm, 0.2g BBs. This replica has front and rear sling mounts which are plastic, but they look robust and easily capable of supporting the weight of this replica.
This replica also comes with a charger and a pair of 7.2v, 700MaH, NiMH rechargeable batteries with a Mini-Tamiya connector. That’s fairly low spec. but personally, I don’t care too much and I’m just happy to have batteries and a charger that I know will fit this replica and won’t damage it. If you were planning using this for skirmishing, where you might want to use your replica for several hours at a time, this might be an important limitation. For occasional bouts of target shooting, I’m hoping that the provided batteries will be up to the job.
Visual accuracy 8/10
As far as I can tell, the Umarex G36C IDZ is visually and dimensionally pretty much identical to the original weapon. All fittings and even fixing screws are identical to the original and everything is where it should be. This has H&K markings and the only non-original white text is on the left side of the receiver and reads “cal, 6mm BB, Energy <0.5J.” On the right side of the receiver you have “Licensed trademark of Heckler and Koch GmbH”, but this is small, unobtrusive and moulded into the plastic rather than painted.
Otherwise, you’d be hard-pressed to tell this from the original. The only exception to that is the magazine. The original comes with a transparent magazine that shows rounds remaining. Here, you get a solid, black M4 style Hi-Cap magazine. However, several manufacturers do make replacement magazines for the G36C that are similar, so this doesn’t entirely spoil the look of this replica.
Functional accuracy 10/15
The magazine release and fire select switch operate as per the original, though only the select switch on the left side is functional. The ambidextrous charging handle also works as per the original, though it moves only through a limited range as does the ejector port cover.
The sights and accessory rails also seem to be similar to the original and the IDZ stock extends, folds and adjusts as it should.
There is no way to strip down this replica other than by disassembly. The trigger, obviously has no feel at all – it’s simply an electrical on/off switch which means that the pull is short and very light. Putting the fire select in the “safe” position simply blocks the trigger from moving. Within the constraints of the fact that this is an AEG that doesn’t mimic the function of a firearm in the same way as, for example, a gas or CO2 powered replica, this isn’t a bad functional replica of the G36C.
Preparing this (or any other AEG) for shooting is a little different to a gas or CO2 powered replica. The first thing you have to do is to charge the battery pack. And the user manual provides no clues about this at all. I plugged the battery pack into the charger and then plugged the charger into the mains.
At that point, a red light illuminated on the charger, which I assume means that the battery pack needs to be charged. After around 45 minutes, the light on the charger turned green which I presume means that it has completed charging. Now, you have to install the battery pack in the replica. First, you remove the outer shell of the fore-end by removing a single plastic split-pin (arrowed below).
This doesn’t require tools – just squeeze the end of the split-pin with your fingers and remove to the left side. Then, the entire outer cover of the fore end can be removed.
This reveals the connector for the battery pack. You must now connect the battery pack and hold it in place under the flat area behind the connector and then slide the fore end cover back into place, being careful not to trap or pinch the wires. Happily the wires do seem fairly heavy-duty and I think it would probably be difficult to damage them unless you were to really force the fore-end back into place.
Now, it’s time to load the magazine, and that’s a bit different too. You load BBs through a small flap on the top of the magazine.
No speed loader is needed as the opening in the top of the mag is large enough to allow BBs to be poured in. Then, the instructions note that you need to “Turn the click wheel to tension the spring.” This wheel is located in the base of the magazine, arrowed below. Turning this wheels also moves BBs from the main storage area into the loading chute and towards the feed nozzle.
However, there are a couple of things you need to know about the magazine that the instructions don’t mention. First, there is no point in turning the wheel to tension the spring until the magazine is inserted in the replica. That’s what I did and, to my surprise, the magazine spring unwound with a loud whirr as I inserted the mag. Apparently that’s normal – you must insert the mag first and only then use the wheel to tension the spring.
When I first tried shooting, I had multiple feed problems and sometimes turning the wheel in the base of the magazine failed to tension the spring at all. I would get one or two shots, then the replica would fire but no BB would come out of the barrel. After some browsing on Airsoft forums, I discovered that these Hi-Cap mags work best if they are well-filled with BBs. Being more used to replica pistols, I had tentatively loaded only a dozen or so BBs, just to try it out. When instead I poured a generous measure of BBs into the mag, the feed problems disappeared. This is the first time I have used an Airsoft Hi-Cap mag, and one thing I don’t care for at all is the fact that the BBs rattle around in it every time you move the replica.
When you’re ready to start shooting, the first thing you’ll notice are the sights. These comprise a flip-up rear sight where you can choose between a circular or V notch aperture and a peep front sight. The rear is adjustable for elevation and I found the V-notch rear sight more useful for target shooting. To prepare to shoot, you simply place the selector switch in the semi or full auto position. The trigger pull is light, short and has almost no feel, not surprising given that it’s really just an electrical on/off switch.
When you pull the trigger, the electric blowback rapidly opens and closes the ejection port and the replica fires. This doesn’t really go “bang,” it’s more a moderately loud clatter, but IMHO, it’s a great deal better than the subdued whirr when you pull the trigger on a non-blowback AEG. There is really no felt recoil effect, but at least there is a direct audible response to pulling the trigger.
Given that this is a low power replica, shooting is way more fun than I had expected. The first shots, were all over the place, but it quickly settled down. On many Airsoft replicas it takes time for the hop-up to break-in and some people claim that the motor on AEGs also takes time and use to achieve optimum efficiency. After 50 shots or so, this had achieved perfectly respectable accuracy at the ranges at which I tried it. It may be my imagination, but it also seems to be gradually improving in terms of accuracy. The more I soot, the fewer flyers there seem to be and the tighter groups get.
Umarex recommend 0.12 – 0.2g BBs for this replica. I wasn’t able to try it with 0.12g BBs, so almost all my shooting was done with 0.2g. I did also try 0.25, just out of interest, and it seems to shoot these with no problems, but with no more accuracy than 0.2g. And when you’re ready to dial the fun-factor up to 11, you can simply move the fire select switch to full auto. This has a very rapid rate of fire – Umarex claim 1,000 rpm and I have no reason to doubt that. At that point, the blowback effect is much more notable and a stream of BBs is sprayed towards the target.
Mine was shooting about 3” high initially, but you can adjust the rear sight using the single crosshead screw or adjust the Hop-Up unit to change the trajectory of the BBs. To do this, you use the charging handle to cock the replica, which also locks the ejection port open. The Hop-Up adjustment wheel (arrowed above) is then visible. I found it possible to get the point of aim and point of impact to coincide forelevation at between 6 and 10m, though I must confess that I have never been particularly good using the peep-type iron sights on this type of replica.
Around 40 0.2g BBs, fairly rapid semi-auto shooting, freestanding at 8m.
Accuracy seems fair with the majority of BBs grouping at 2-2½” at 10m, though there are occasional flyers that hit anything up to 1½” above or below the main group. Mine shoots about 1½” to the right of the point of aim at this range and it isn’t possible to adjust the sights for windage. At my usual replica pistol shooting range of 6m, it’s possible to see groupings of 1 – 1½”, though there are still occasional vertical flyers.
OK, I know, 6-10m isn’t really a fair test of the accuracy of any AEG, but that’s all the range I have available in my back-yard. And at that range, it’s just fine for shooting targets or hunting stray soda cans though I can’t say how it performs at longer range where the lack of power may become an issue. Accuracy seems notably worse in full auto, though perhaps that’s to be expected? 230-240fps is claimed for this replica with 0.2g BBs. My chrony is now officially dead, so I wasn’t able to test that. All I can say is that at 10m, BBs are hitting the target with a satisfactory whap and easily punching holes in the fairly thick card targets I use.
How long do the batteries last? I don’t really know! Despite using this for several extended shooting sessions, I have never run out of charge while shooting and I tend to charge the batteries before each new session. I did use the ability to fire without electrical power a couple of times, just to test it. If you use the charging handle to cock, you get a single shot. There is no blowback, so it’s very quiet in this mode but seems to fire with the same power and accuracy. This dual function might be useful if you are skirmishing and run out of battery power, but for target shooting the mechanical fire ability probably isn’t something you will use much.
Quality and reliability 12/15
This is a relatively low-cost replica, but this is only apparent in a couple of ways. It’s a little light and the fire select switch on the right side is fixed in place and has no function, which may be an irritation for left-handed shooters. There are some fairly obvious moulding seams on the top and bottom. The plastic upper rail in particular has a very noticeable seam running along it.
The more expensive Umarex versions of the G36C are up to 0.8kg heavier than this, so I guess they have more robust construction. However, they are also anything up to three times the price of this one. It all depends what you want and what you’re willing and able to pay. At least the plastic external construction here looks sturdy, matches the original and means that there is no paint or other finish to wear, scratch or flake off.
Overall Impression 7/10
This feels solid and well put-together. It’s mostly plastic, but nothing flexes, rattles or appears to be loose. The IDZ stock is fairly sturdy and the ability to adjust it is a nice touch. This does feel a little light, but it has just about enough weight not to feel toy-like.
Downsides? I’d have liked to see a fire select switch that was operational on both sides, I don’t care for the way that BBs rattle in the Hi-Cap magazine and I have never particularly liked peep sights. That’s it really. Otherwise this seems very easy to use for an AEG newbie and it has been reliable so far, once I understood that it’s best to pour a generous measure of BBs into the magazine.
This is simply lots of fun at a cost below that of virtually any gas or CO2 powered blowback replica pistol. It’s also a very different experience from shooting with a replica pistol. It isn’t very powerful, but I didn’t find that a problem for target shooting at up to 10m and I enjoyed this replica much more than I expected. The lack of power and low-spec battery pack might be an issue if you plan using one of these for skirmishing, but for back-yard plinking, it’s really a joy to play with.
I just don’t have sufficient experience of AEGs to say how this compares to others, so all I can do is to give you my impressions. For what it’s worth and in my opinion, if you have been considering an AEG but you don’t want to spend a great deal of money, you could do a great deal worse than the Umarex G36C IDZ.
It’s fairly quiet, which can be a good thing if you don’t want to perturb your neighbours, and it seems nicely built and finished. Any problems? Well, you’re going to need more BBs! I’m used to relatively leisurely sessions with replica pistols where I shoot perhaps 60 – 100 BBs at a time. This shoots 100 BBs in 6 seconds in full auto, and even in semi-auto you’ll be squeezing off far more shots than you might expect. I went through my entire stock of 0.2g BBs in my first bout of shooting and had to wait impatiently for a new consignment to arrive in order to continue.
There are some changes I would like to make. In particular, I would like to change the magazine for a Mid-Cap or Lo-Cap that won’t rattle like a maraca whenever I move, but I’m not sure that’s going to be possible because the magazines in this replica seem to be of a design that’s unique to the Umarex dual-power G36C. Replacements are available, but these all seem to be the same Hi-Cap design. I found the power and accuracy of this replica to be perfectly adequate for my needs, so I won’t be attempting any internal upgrades (and I’m not even sure that’s possible on this replica) but that upper rail is just crying out for some sort of optical sight. A vertical foregrip might be nice and perhaps a sling too? And there is plenty of space on those rails for other accessories… I can feel a whole new obsession coming on!
You do have to be careful with AEGs that the whole accessory thing doesn’t get out of hand…
I like the fact that AEGs can be used in any temperature. I tend not to shoot my gas-powered replicas in chilly weather because their power drops notably. However, this just doesn’t apply to AEGs so I should be able to shoot this one all year round. This is also relatively cheap for an AEG with EBB (you’ll find a link below to a German site where it’s available for just €85) and it’s better-made and more fun than you might expect for such a low price. If you have been considering adding a low cost, reliable and fun AEG to your replica collection, this might be the very one to tempt you.
Total score: 77.5/100
Good visual replica
Easy to use for an AEG newbie
A little light
Mainly plastic construction
Relatively low power
Umarex G36C IDZ on the Versandhaus-Schneider website