Refurbishing a €20 AEG – Part 2

Having worked out what I have bought and fixed the loose stock, it’s time to try to work out why my €20 AEG won’t shoot. It didn’t come with batteries, but when I tried fitting the battery pack from my Umarex G36C, nothing happened when I pulled the trigger. The 7.4v Umarex battery is less powerful that the recommended 9.6v battery for this King Arms replica, but even so, it should operate. Clearly something is wrong.

I have to admit that I hate working with anything electrical. I have restored a fair number of elderly motorcycles over the years, and the bit I always dreaded was trying to sort out electrical gremlins. The crisply lined wiring diagrams never bore much resemblance to the rat’s nest of mismatched wires and soggy insulating tape that I found under the tank of most bikes. However, here I’m happy to report that the problem is fairly obvious, even to me.

The battery lives inside the vertically split front foregrip. To remove it, the sprung rear plate is held down and then one or both halves can be lifted off. Looking closely at the end of the Mini-Tamiya connector reveals that the wires have been fairly crudely bodged into the metal connectors. A couple of strands of one are even touching the other wire, clearly causing the connection to short-out.

It doesn’t take long to remake new, neater and more effective connections. I plug in the battery pack and it shoots in both semi and full auto modes. Hurrah! I haven’t yet tried it with BBs, but this AEG is certainly operational now.

Cosmetics

There is nothing else terribly wrong with this replica (and the red-dot sight works too – it just needed a new battery!) so all that’s left to do is to try to make it look a little better. I begin by stripping it down. To do this, you only need to remove a single pin, arrowed below.

This then allows the barrel assembly and upper receiver to be slid off to the front, being careful to guide the battery wires into the trough in which they sit.

The inner barrel and hop up can then be slid out to the rear and the inner plate that covers the ejection port can be removed.  

This disassembly probably isn’t essential, but it does give me a chance to check the internals. Nothing seems to be obviously broken or worn, the inner barrel looks straight and in good condition, the hop-up works as it should and I can’t see any other issues. It’s now time to start thinking about how to improve the way this rather tired AEGs looks. There is a fair amount of corrosion on metal parts including the ejector port cover, the handguard front plate and the collar that stabilizes the buffer tube.

All the metal parts are removed, sanded to remove rust and sprayed with a can of acrylic satin black that I have in the shed.

Then it gets cleaned thoroughly in warm water with a little washing-up liquid in it. This also gets rid of all the stickers. Finally, I go over all the plastics with a little silicon spray. When it’s dry, this helps to restore the faded plastic to its original black colour. Below you can see the two halves of the front handguard, on the left, after this treatment and on the right, before.

It may not be particularly obvious in this photo, but in real life, the difference is quite dramatic. All the plastics get the same treatment.

Then, it all gets reassembled. And I’m quite happy with how it turned out. It’s surprising just how much difference careful cleaning and touching up the rusty bits makes. This elderly M4A1 isn’t perfect by any means, but it is significantly better than it was.

The last stage is adding the carry-handle and rear sight. This replica didn’t come with either – it was fitted with a Swiss Arms red-dot reflex sight that I have decided to use on my Umarex G36. However, I was very happy to discover that it’s fairly easy to find replacements – I was able to source a generic Gexgune M16/M4 airsoft carry-handle and rear sight on Amazon for under €15.

It’s nicely made, fits well, incorporates elevation and windage adjustment for the rear sight and it matches the colour and finish of the rest of this replica. With this in place, it’s finally time to try some shooting.

Shooting

After all this work, I’m keen to find out how well this elderly AEG shoots. And the answer is: very nicely indeed! It has much more power than my Umarex G36C and it’s more accurate too. The Umarex AEG isn’t bad, but it does produce occasional flyers than hit the target at anything up to 2” from the main group. This one produces tighter groups at the ranges at which I shoot and the adjustable rear sight means that I can get the point of aim and point of impact to coincide.

The result of around 50, 0.2g BBs, from 10m in a mix of semi and full auto.

Problems? Well, very occasionally the trigger seems to jam in while in semi-auto mode, but flipping it to full-auto and back fixes this issue. The spring that retains the collar at the base of the handgrip seems much too powerful. Pulling it down to remove or replace the upper handguard halve takes a lot more effort that I’d have liked. And the Hi-Cap magazine rattles like a maraca when it’s full of BBs.

That’s about it really. I really don’t like peep-sights, but that’s just what you get with an M4 and I can always replace the iron sights with the red-dot sight I got when I bought this. The rate of fire in full-auto is fairly slow because I’m using the 7.4v battery from my Umarex AEG rather than the recommended 9.6v. However, I don’t find that a problem at all and, to me at least, this slower rate of fire sounds and feels more realistic than the rapid “Brrrr…” that some AEGs produce in full-auto.

Conclusion

I was nervous about buying an old AEG that wasn’t working, but relieved to find that refurbishing it was fairly simple and no more complicated than working on any other replica. I have enjoyed this project and I have even learned a little about how AEGs work, which can’t be bad. In addition to the initial price of €20, the only cash I spent here was on the new carry-handle/rear sight assembly, and even that was easy to find and relatively cheap. I could buy a more powerful battery and charger and replace the Hi-Cap magazine this came with for a Low or Mid-Cap, but do you know what? I don’t think I’ll bother. I’m quite happy with it as it is and I plan to just enjoy shooting it for the moment.

For not a great deal of effort I have ended up with a functioning AEG that’s fun to shoot and doesn’t look too bad as a replica of the iconic M4. This King Arms M4A1 has good weight (just over 2.9kg with batteries and the carry handle in place), looks convincing and shoots well. For a total outlay of just €35, I’m happy with the result of this project. If you are offered an old AEG that needs a little TLC and you’re willing to put in a little effort, perhaps it might be worth considering?

Happy shooting  

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Refurbishing a €20 AEG – Part 1

Umarex H&K G36C IDZ

Refurbishing a €20 AEG – Part 1

You don’t get a lot for €20, especially not in the world of replica guns. So, when I visited a boot sale recently and discovered a man with (literally) a plastic bucket filled with half a dozen or so well-used airsoft AEGs, I was immediately interested. All of them showed signs of hard use with rusty fasteners and cracked and broken plastic. But one caught my eye. It was a replica of the iconic M4A1 that had good weight, everything seemed to be there (including the magazine), the plastic parts were in good condition and it was fitted with a simple Swiss Arms reflex red-dot sight in place of the carry handle.

However, it lacked batteries, the buffer tube and stock were flopping around loose and appeared to be retained by a great deal of black insulating tape, the red-dot didn’t switch on and when I asked if the AEG was working, the answer was, “probably”. And a  smiling shrug.

I asked how much? He said €25. I offered €20 and he agreed. So, I unexpectedly found myself the owner of an AEG of completely unknown provenance. There was nothing on it to suggest who it was made by and no certainty that it worked at all. But hey, for €20 at least I’d have a red-dot sight that I could use on my Umarex G36C. Probably… Let’s see if I bought some cheap fun or an expensive source of spares for my other replicas.

The M4A1

Back in the early 1950s, the US Army began a truly futuristic project to develop a totally new infantry weapon. The SPIW (Special Purpose Individual Weapon) was planned as a fully automatic rifle that would fire not conventional rounds but steel flechettes at an astounding 2,300 RPM and from a weapon weighing only 3lbs. However, the project was dogged with problems and in 1964, the US Army instead adopted a modified version of the  ArmaLite AR-15 assault rifle as an interim solution until the SPIW was ready.

The futuristic Springfield Armory SPIW. It never got beyond the prototype stage.

The AR-15 became the M16 in US Army service, just in time for major American involvement in Vietnam, which didn’t work out terribly well at first. Early M16s, particularly when they were used in the heat and humidity of Vietnam, proved susceptible to corrosion and frequent jamming. Eventually, these problems were addressed and the M16 became the principal infantry weapon of the US Army when the SPIW project was finally dropped.

A US Army soldier in Vietnam with the then-new M16

The M16 finally proved to be reliable and effective, but it was always intended as a full size infantry rifle. However, Colt (who had purchased the rights to manufacture the AR-15) also later produced a carbine version, the CAR-15, which featured a telescoping stock and a 14.5 inch barrel compared to the 20 inch barrel on the M16. Initially, the CAR-15 was issued to crews of armoured vehicles and helicopters, where its reduced size made it easier to store and use.

A US Special Forces Delta operator with a CAR-15 during the First Gulf War in 1991

However, several US Special Forces units also began to use the CAR-15 and discovered that the slightly reduced muzzle velocity provided by the shorter barrel wasn’t a major issue. Soon other US military units became interested in this handy carbine version of the M16. Before long, it was adopted by the US military first as the M4 Carbine (with semi and 3-round burst modes) and later as the M4A1 with semi and full auto modes. Experience in Iraq and Afghanistan proved the worth of this weapon and now, variants of the M4 are used by most US Army and Marine Corps units.

US Marines training with M4A1s

First step – assessing the problems

Three functional problems were immediately apparent on examining this well-used M4A1 AEG. First, the buffer tube was loose, allowing the stock to flop around. In an effort to fix this, the previous owner had wound a great deal of black insulating tape round the base of the buffer tube, but this didn’t really address the problem. Second, when I got home and tried fitting a battery and pulling the trigger, nothing happened. Third, the red-dot sight didn’t work. This last issue is a real problem as this didn’t come with the M4 carry handle that incorporates the rear part of the iron sights, so I need to get the red-dot working.

In addition, there are a number of cosmetic problems. Almost all fasteners and metal parts such as the buffer tube collar, the ejection port cover and the front of the handgrip are lightly corroded. Most of the plastic is faded and grubby and there are stickers and the remains of stickers on the receiver. If it’s going to look half-way decent, all these things will have to be addressed. On the positive side, the receiver is in generally in good condition and none of the other plastic parts are cracked, broken or missing.

Finally, I have to work out what I have bought. I can’t see a manufacturer’s name anywhere on this replica. The receiver is heavy plastic with nicely engraved Colt markings and the battery fits inside the handguard which is split vertically. The magazine release and telescoping stock work as per the original and the charging handle retracts, though all it does is open the ejection port to give access to the hop-up adjustment. The forward-assist on the right side of the receiver moves, though the spring-loaded button doesn’t do anything.

The whole replica, with magazine but without batteries or BBs, weighs just over 2.6kg. After a great deal of looking at photographs of AEGs (the M4 and its variants must be one of the most common AEGs), I believe what I have here is a King Arms M4A1 Ultra Grade. King Arms are a Taiwan-based manufacturer of airsoft replicas and accessories and this particular replica seems to have reasonable reviews which makes me think it’s worth trying to refurbish.

Fixing the loose buffer tube

The first job is to fix that loose buffer tube and stock. After removing yards of black tape, nothing is obviously broken which is a good thing, but the base of the buffer tube and the adjustable collar aren’t sitting firmly against the rear of the receiver as they should.

All that insulating tape wasn’t actually doing much… You can see here the gap between the base of the buffer tube and the rear of the receiver and that the buffer tube can move from side to side. The screwable collar on the buffer tube should be flush with the plate on the rear of the receiver.

The plastic stock is removed by pulling the adjustor down all the way and sliding the stock off the end of the buffer tube. This then reveals an end-cap that is secured by a small hex screw. 

Looking down inside the buffer tube with the end cap removed reveals a cross-head screw. Unscrewing this allows you to remove the buffer tube.

With the buffer tube and retaining screw removed, the problem is clear.

Someone has replaced the retaining screw with one that has the correct thread but is much too long. You can see where they have tried to force the blank part of the screw into the threaded part of the receiver. When this hasn’t worked, they simply wrapped a length of insulating tape round the base of the buffer tube to hold everything in place. Happily, this bodging hasn’t damaged the thread in the receiver and simply swapping for a screw of an appropriate length fixes the problem completely.

Well, that was easy! If the rest of this refurb is as simple, I’ll be very happy indeed.

But, in the next part I’ll be doing something that I don’t enjoy at all when I take a look at the electrical side of things to try to find out why this AEG won’t shoot.

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Refurbishing a €20 AEG – Part 2

Refurbishing a Crossman Peacemaker

Umarex H&K G36 C IDZ

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.

Spec;

Calibre: 6mm

Magazine capacity: Up to 400 BBs

Propellant: Electric (or mechanical)

Barrel length: 9.72″ (247mm)

Hop-Up: Adjustable

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.

Shooting 38/45

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. 

Conclusion

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

Pros

Seems well-made

Good visual replica

Easy to use for an AEG newbie

Decent shooter

Low cost

Cons

A little light

Mainly plastic construction

Relatively low power

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Links

Umarex G36C IDZ on the Versandhaus-Schneider website