New players coming into our store will often have researched the sport a little bit before coming in. From places like Youtube or Google people will kind of get a general introduction of what is out there. As people who have been into the sport of airsoft for a long time, we are aware of what is out there and the pros and cons to the various models and systems out there that a new person might not.
So the first thing I wanted to talk about is gas blowback guns as a primary weapon in the game of airsoft. Remember everything I will be talking about is in the context of playing the sport out at an airsoft field, so some pros and cons might not apply to your unique situation.
Back to gas blowback rifles: They look and feel cool, they have recoil, have realistic capacities, and function identical to the real thing. Why don't you see too many of these in the airsoft field or at your local retailer? Well, when you are searching through Google or Youtube, you might catch a glimpse of what is available in airsoft on the other side of the pond. These items might not be available to us in the United States for legal reasons or licensing reasons. When I say legal reasons, I mean that these gas blowback rifles and SMGs might look or function in a way that the American authorities do not approve and so they are banned from importation. If you go out of your way to acquire one and have it sent to America, you run a high chance of getting the airsoft gun seized. When I mentioned licensing reasons, I mean that some models and designs have their trademarks and intellectual properties enforced in America whereas in Asia and Europe, the laws differ and thus we cannot get one of the many unauthorized reproductions here in the US and sell it as a retailer. If you go out of your way to get these items, you could get them seized by customs or if you manage to get it through, understand that you have zero product support as it is a grey market item essentially. This is a terrible way to start into airsoft as product support and retailer support are very important for you to get started the right way.
Let's talk about the practicality of a gas blowback rifle now. One of the most touted features would be how realistic they function and recoil. This is also leading to its greatest weakness. Airsoft guns are essentially high tech toys and when manufacturers make airsoft guns they have to adhere to certain restraints such as a price point that people will find attractive which is going to determine the materials put into it. Guns that recoil and have moving mechanical parts are subject to wear and tear. You have to be aware that an airsoft rifle probably costs a fraction of the real thing and are made with parts that are not as strong. On gas guns, the high wear items are almost always made with less than ideal materials to keep costs down so if you plan to use it a lot, things will eventually wear out, fail, and need replacement. When we talk about playing airsoft at a field for example, I could easily shoot 200 to 800 rounds on a busy day. An AEG can handle that no problem. A gas gun's parts will be significantly wearing and you also have to remember to clean and lubricate all the important parts. This is true of gas pistols which do not see as much use, however the same rules apply if you run the pistol as a primary.
That brings me to cost. To carry the amount of ammo that is usually used in a game, that adds up for the magazines. Gas gun magazines for rifles are around $50 or more and you might carry 30-50 rounds. Compare that to a $20 high cap AEG magazine that functions without much drama that can hold 300 rounds and you are behind the curve. Gas guns no matter what size have maintenance required for the magazines. A leaky magazine is the easiest way to put you out of commission so stay on top of that.
Now let's compare it to the preferred choice of AEGs for the beginner. If you ever walk into an airsoft store you will see the majority of the long guns will be AEGs. Why? Because they function well and don't take much to keep them going. They are relatively inexpensive to run after the initial investment of guns and batteries. All airsoft guns will wear out or break at some point, but a good running AEG can get you 15,000-25,000 whereas you will see way more downtime with a gas blowback rifle.
If you are new and looking to get started, do yourself a favor and go to an AEG first. The gas blowback rifles are better left to the collectors and those with the patience and understanding to keep them going. It is truly a labor of love!
Most importantly though, go out there, have fun, and stay safe!