"Bullpup" Airsoft AEG Rifles - What is a Bullpup?
What is a Bullpup Rifle?
What is a Bullpup rifle? A reasonable question, given that the name gives us no clues. No surprise that it was the British who came up with the name! The Thornycroft Carbine was the first Bullpup rifle, but during military testing, it was found to have poor ergonomics and excessive recoil; the bullpup would have to wait for firearms technology to improve before it saw the success it was due.
A Bullpup rifle is a rifle configured with the trigger in front of the action, as opposed to behind. The first bullpups came about early in firearms development, but their compromised ergonomics meant that until recent years the bullpup was purely an experimental concept. Early bullpups were generally conversions of conventionally laid out rifles, like the SRU SCAR-L Bullpup kit pictured above.
The first Bullpup rifle to be adopted for general service was the little known British EM2, which was adopted as "Rifle No.9 MK.I", but was quickly un-adopted after the US refused to use the British .280 cartridge as the NATO standard, instead insisting on a minimum of .30 calibre sized ammo. Our opportunity to be the first Bullpup users in the world was snatched away from us by those meddling yanks, but thankfully this wasn't the end of the Bullpup. The British interest in the Bullpup configuration continued in the form of the XL60 rifle series, which eventually led to the SA80, the marmite standard issue rifle to the British Army to this day.
The Bullpup's primary advantage is its shorter overall length without compromising on barrel length. This advantage translates directly to the Airsoft world, where having a longer inner barrel can improve accuracy at long range.
A good example of this would be comparing the Bullpup Steyr AUG platform to a standard M4A1. The M4 and AUG are roughly the same overall length, but the AUG packs a massive 509mm inner barrel, the same length as the M16, and the M4A1 only has a 363mm inner barrel.
The second advantage of the Bullpup stems from its more efficient use of space. In general, Bullpup rifles are lighter than conventional rifles with the same barrel length due to the stock being part of the receiver. Combining these parts inherently reduces the amount of material needed in the construction of a Bullpup rifle and thus, reduces weight. This is a big reason why, until recently, many European militaries went for Bullpup rifles over conventional rifles.
AR15 users will argue all day about how much faster they are with their M4 than anyone could be with an AUG, SA80 or FAMAS, though it is possible, and actually rather likely that they are judging the M4 by different standards than a military organisation would when choosing a rifle to mass issue to infantry. A big reason Bullpups are popular with militaries is logistical considerations. If you have to ship 10.000 rifles to a conflict zone, the space those rifles take up matters a lot when it comes to readiness and simplifying the logistics chain.
For Airsofters, this means you can carry an AEG like the P90 pictured above as a secondary to a sniper rifle, and still be able to hit out with an AR36C length inner barrel in an AEG which is more than1/3 shorter overall, making a concealable package which is easy to move with.
Soldiers are often expected to operate from vehicles, and helicopters and carry out static line jumps on a regular basis, and the shorter your rifle is, the better it will be for these tasks. Shortening the barrel is one solution to this issue, as seen on the shortened M16, the M4A1, though this comes with the disadvantage that muzzle velocity and thus effect on target at long ranges will be considerably reduced.
The final Bullpup advantage that affects Airsoft is purely subjective, but they do look pretty dang cool! This is the reason Bullpup rifles like the Steyr AUG and P90 feature so prominently in video games, movies and TV series; they look absolutely out of this world! If you are planning a sci-fi style loadout, there is nothing better for the task than an AUG, P90 or F2000 Airsoft replica, as their unconventional looks lend themselves perfectly to the sci-fi setting.
It isn't all good news for Bullpups; like everything in life, the advantages of a Bullpup come with certain compromises. The issue you will hear about most prominently in the real steel world is the spongy and long trigger pull which most Bullpups have due to their trigger linkage bar, which runs back from the physical trigger to the trigger group in the rear of the gun in most Bullpup designs.
This issue is a minor one for Airsoft, as we all know our triggers are one area which will never really feel like a real steel firearm, especially in an AEG. That said, AEGs like the AUG and P90 have a longer than usual trigger pull which is more challenging to use quickly, though the new Krytac P90 goes a long way to solving this with its redesigned trigger system. L85 AEGs tend to have a heavy but positive trigger, and although the trigger has a short pull it will not be as easy to spam as an M4 trigger, especially the more modern "flat" style triggers.
Another potential disadvantage is having to adapt your doctrine to suit the ergonomics of a Bullpup, though this is more of a training issue than an issue with Bullpups themselves, in many cases. The L85 is one of the primary offenders in this area, as it was designed in the 1960s for a different era of firearms use, and is laid out purely for right-handed use. As much as we love the L85, to run one in a skirmish you have to be quite dedicated, and get practising to get the most out of the iconic British service rifle.
This is less of an issue with designs such as the AUG, P90 and F2000, though all of these platforms will require adaptation if you are used to conventional rifle layouts. The latest and greatest Bullpup to enter the US civilian market, the Keltec RDB-17, is one of the best Bullpup designs we have ever seen as far as its layout and ergonomics are concerned and although is still a backwards rifle its ergonomics are practically as perfect as they can be for such a design.
The final disadvantage is compatibility with drum magazines, as the British MOD found out in testing the L85a1 LSW in its early life. The positioning of the magazine well on a bullpup means drum magazines can be inserted, but are very difficult to use in most cases, and can prevent you from holding the rifle in an effective stance and make the best use of the cover around you.
The P90 is a notable exception due to its top-mounted magazine but doesn't have access to drum magazines, though it does have its own box magazine driven by an M4 High-cap. Not great for realism, but the only practical solution if you want support gun-like firepower from your P90 AEG.
Notable Bullpup Airsoft guns
The following are our most interesting and noteworthy Bullpup AEGs, some of which are real steel Military rifle designs we all recognise, and others which are more unique and original designs either thought up from scratch,
The Cyber Gun FAMAS AEG is available in two versions, the Standard AEG which is equipped with a simple active breaking MOSFET to protect your battery, prevent motor overspin and protect the circuitry of the AEG, and the "Militarised" variant, which has a newly designed HOP-up unit which prevents BBs from spilling out when you remove the magazine and automatically stops the AEG from firing every 25 rounds, mimicking the real FAMAS capacity perfectly. The Militarised FAMAS would be a great pick if you play Milsim, and is one of the only Bullpups on the market that offer the "stop firing on empty" feature.
Both variants of the Cyber Gun FAMAS boast licenced realistic trademarks and are equipped with the FAMAS integral folding bipod, grenade launcher sights, and a 20mm Picatinny rail on the handguard for a vertical or angled foregrip. The FAMAS is equipped with aperture iron sights located inside the carry handle, but can also accept M4/AR15 carry handle rails with minor modifications if you want a scope or red dot sight on your FAMAS.
The FAMAS is a well-designed bullpup from an ergonomics point of view, as the safety is present inside the trigger guard similar to an M14 or M1 Garand, the magazine release is centrally positioned, and protected from accidental drops thanks to its "rock and lock" insertion style. The real FAMAS can be set up for either left or right-handed use with a few parts swapped, the charging handle is on the top, inside the carry handle/sight unit and is accessible from either side, and the fire selector is located to the rear of the magazine well and is also easy for left or right handed users to operate.
We love the FAMAS, but not strictly for its service to the French Military. The FAMAS first came to our attention when it appeared in the Metal Gear Solid game series for its futuristic looks and slick design which looked like nothing else out there. Just like in its game appearances, its real steel form and the original Tokyo Marui FAMAS AEG, the Cyber Gun FAMAS series have a very impressive rate of fire and can put down some serious plastic when it comes to exchanging fire in a skirmish. Its version 1 gearbox has had more advanced features integrated, and is now compatible with standard v2/3 gears and short shaft motors for those who want to push their FAMAS even further. Never underestimate a Bullpup AEG, particularly the FAMAS!
Ah the AUG, what a Bullpup! This rifle is a seriously underrated design, and has loads of advanced features even though it was designed in 1977! The AUG can boast a "hot swap" barrel system, meaning you can easily switch barrel lengths with the simple push of a catch. You may have seen this when the AUG starred (we think so, anyway) in the 1988 thriller Die Hard as Karl takes out his Steyr AUG with an angry expression only a German could pull off as he menacingly assembles this space-age rifle to take on our hero, John Mclain. This feature is appropriately replicated on the AEG AUG, and also means if you have two AUGs you can swap and change parts in seconds, and set your AUG up for the specific battle ahead.
The Jing Gong AUG also disassembles just like the real rifle, requiring the central pin to be pushed through to remove the upper receiver/optics housing from the rifle. This means that the AUG can be crammed into much smaller gun bags than even comparable Bullpups like the FAMAS, and can be the ideal AEG for a skirmisher who travels to the site on public transport or on a motorcycle.
The controls of the AUG are all ambidextrous, other than the charging handle which is positioned on the left but is angled so it is also accessible from the right side. The magazine release is positioned in a well-thought-out location, to the rear of the magazine well. This means fast reloads are possible for both left and right-handed shooters, and the magazine release is protected from accidental drops thanks to its low profile design and ideal location.
The AUG uses a rather unconventional trigger and fire selector setup, opting for a two-stage trigger and simple push-through safety as opposed to a traditional fire selector switch. This keeps the internals of the AUG from becoming overcomplicated and relying too much on linkages which are vulnerable to dirt ingress. The push-through safety catch is perfectly positioned for both left and right-handed shooters, and the two-stage trigger provides a semi-auto shot with a half pull and fully automatic fire when the trigger is pulled back all the way.
The basic AUG comes in two different configurations, the Civilian specwhich has a 20mm Picatinny rail on its receiver for an optical sight, and the Military spec which has a built-in optical sight with backup iron sights built into the upper. For the classic AUG look the Military version is the best choice (this is the one Karl from Die Hard uses), but if you are more about function and flexibility when choosing your optic, the Civilian AUG would suit you better.
The AUG is also available in several modernised configurations, including variants with quad Picatinny railed handguards, short-barreled Paratrooper and CQB variants, integrally suppressed variants and DMR-styled AUGs. The AUG is the Bullpup that best suits the Airsofter who likes to chop and change their setup regularly, and the modularity of the AUG system is a great excuse to get two AUGs and make the most of its hot-swap barrel system and quick disassembly. With the AUG it is entirely possible to change your entire upper from a long-range oriented setup to a close quarters run and gun style setup in seconds, and it is even quicker if you keep the same upper and just switch the barrel out!
Designed for use by tank and helicopter crewmen or troops on the move as a close-range PDW, the gun features a full external robust polymer build, with ergonomic curvatures allowing for a comfortable grip at all times. The Cyber Gun P90 sports an integrated red dot sight built into the "optics bridge", high density polymer construction and realistic FN Herstal trademarks stamped into the body. The real P90 has seen use by many special forces and special police units around the world and was most notably used by the US Secret Service, which replaced its Uzi submachine guns with P90s to more effectively deal with foes wearing body armour.
The P90 as a platform is known for being useful as a Sniper's sidearm, thanks to its compact size and full sized AEG gearbox. When you are crawling around in the woods and you need to lay down some fire and relocate, the P90 is the best tool for the job. Many Airsoft snipers have added homemade silencing mods to their P90s, involving a combination of gearbox upgrades and the addition of sound dampening foam to the excess space surrounding the gearbox.
The P90 makes use of a rotary HOP-up unit, giving it superb range and compatibility with AEG HOP-up upgrades such as flat HOP nubs and HOP-up rubbers. The Version 6 gearbox used in the P90 is compatible with Version2/3 gears and pistons but uses its own style of cylinder head and nozzle. Being a design which appeared after the AUG, the P90 benefitted from some of the lessons learned in that design and uses a similar two-stage trigger to that of the AUG. The P90 trigger also has a selector lever and can be locked to semi or set to fully auto, which brings the two-stage trigger into play.
The P90 platform can also be disassembled in seconds, and simply requires the magazine to be removed and the button between the upper and lower bodies to be pressed and the AEG can be split into two parts, making barrel cleaning easier and appropriately replicating the real P90. As far as aftermarket parts are concerned, the P90 has several rail extension options ranging from 20mm Picatinny to M-LOK and KeyMod, a seriously ugly yet effective box magazine, butt plate extensions and QD sling adapters. The Cyber Gun P90 is priced remarkably low for what it is, and if you are looking for a more specialised Bullpup with a strong emphasis on portability and concealability, the P90 is the best thing for it!
This one is for the M4/AR15 converts! If any AEG will persuade you to come over to the dark side, and join team Bullpup, it is the Keltec RDB-17 AEG from Ares. This is the first RDB-17 Airsoft replica to hit the market, and we would be very surprised if any subsequent release can outdo the Ares offering. The Real RDB-17 is a civilian sporting rifle designed by mould-breaking innovators Keltec, who is also responsible for the KSG, the twin tubed Bullpup shotgun, and the RF-B, a 7.62mm predecessor to the more refined RDB-17. The RDB-17 may look similar to other Bullpups in layout, but it has one notable trick up its sleeve. The real RDB-17 ejects its spent shells downwards, making it a fully ambidextrous Bullpup, one of the few such designs in the world.
The controls of the RDB-17 are laid out absolutely perfectly, with the fire selector being located above the pistol grip for easy access, and a super short throw between fire modes to allow you to change fire modes quickly when needed. The magazine release is centrally positioned to the rear of the pistol grip, which allows the RDB-17 to be reloaded with AR15-like speed by bumping the firing hand backwards as the support hand loads a fresh magazine in. The charging handle of the RDB-17 is located on the left side, above the handguard, but doesn't open an ejection port as it would on other designs.
This leads us on to the only disadvantage of the RDB-17, it's relatively hard to access the HOP-up adjuster. The RDB-17 uses a well designed rotary unit but is hampered by its faithfulness to the real RDB-17. To adjust the HOP-up of the RDB-17 you need to remove the magazine and use the tool provided inside the RDB-17 pistol grip to actuate the rotary adjuster. This means quick changes in HOP-up setting in game will be difficult, so we advise that you adjust your HOP-up before the skirmish to save on messing.
As far as the rest of the internals go, it's good news! The RDB-17 has an ETU and MOSFET pre-installed, which pairs perfectly with its super short M4-like trigger pull for an almost instantaneous trigger response. If you need to get shots off quickly in CQB with a backwards gun, your best bet is the RDB-17. The RDB-17 also takes M4/AR15 magazines, so if you are moving over from an M4 you won't need new magazines or pouches!
Ah the good old L85, the best of British, am I right? Actually, not really, the real steel L85 began its life as a bit of a rum 'un, suffering from stoppages due to bad magazines, poor quality parts and generally garnering a reputation as a heavy, unwieldy, pig of a rifle, though it has always been credited with superb accuracy. The L85 A2 was revamped by German firearms masterminds Heckler and Koch, and result was a considerably improved rifle which saw the British Armed forces through the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.
The G&G L85 A2 its an absolutely flawless replica of this improved A2 variant, and boasts a stamped steel receiver, high density olive drab polymer furniture, and a steel outer barrel. This makes the G&G L85 A2 the most realistic of our Bullpup picks, and you could easily throw this rifle in with a pile of issue L85s and have soldiers struggling to tell them apart, though the unworn finish of a G&G L85 will mark it out amongst a pile of 30 year old rifles that have been treated as tools!
The G&G L85 A2 ETU is named as such for its electronic trigger unit, which gives this AEG a ferocious trigger response and rate of fire whilst protecting the internal circuitry and battery from damage. The ETU also allows 11.1V LiPos to be used with no need for upgrades; an Airsoft holy grail! The L85 A2 requires a rail adapter to mount 20mm Picatinny sights, but comes with a set of steel iron sights and can take G&Gs SUSAT scope if you really want to do it justice and run it like a squaddie would.
This AEG uses its own gearbox type, which can be split down the middle for easier maintenance. Anyone who has worked on a split gearbox AEG will attest how much easier it is to work on a gearbox when you don't need four hands to hold everything in place under spring pressure! The L85 also boasts an electric blowback unit, and whilst this doesn't really provide much recoil, it does move the mock bolt carrier back and forth together with the charging handle, and makes the L85 an real treat for any Milsim oriented player with a lust for a British rifle!
The APS Urban Assault Rifle, aka, UAR is an original APS design which draws inspiration from several real world Bullpups, including the Steyr AUG and IWI Tavor. The UAR feeds from M4 AEG magazines, uses an AUG style version 3 gearbox, and has ambidextrous fire controls located just above the pistol grip; right where they should be. The UAR has a 20mm Picatinny railed handguard and upper receiver, QD sling sockets on either side at the front and the rear, and a charging handle which can be swapped to either side to provide ambidextrous access to the HOP-up adjuster in a similar manner to the AUG.
The UAR is constructed from high density ABS polymers with an alloy outer barrel, making it the lightest Bullpup on our list (the P90 is the exception because it is tiny). The unique sci-fi look of the UAR reminds us of certain rifles from the Halo game series. If you want something that looks like a BR-55, the APS UAR is currently the closest thing to it! Consider it the Battle Rifle at home!
At the tip of the outer barrel there are 14mm CCW male threads, meaning you can mount a tracer unit or suppressor whenever you are ready. The upper 20mm rail surface is long enough to fit large rifle scopes, red dot and magnifier combos, or other outsized aiming devices. The railed handguard offers a lot of options when it comes to adding your mission essentials, and you can mount whatever you want to the UAR, unlike more limited designs like the original AUG configuration.
Internally the APS UAR sports a version 3 gearbox with a quick change spring system which can be accessed through the butt plate of the rifle, which is also the battery compartment. The UAR has a 6.04mm tightbore installed out of the box giving it above average accuracy potential, and leaving you one less thing to upgrade! Speaking of upgrades, the use of the common version 3 gearbox means the UAR is ready for any upgrade parts you throw at it, so whether you are going for a high speed Bullpup or a DMR, the UAR can be made to suit without having to worry compatibility issues!