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"Wut am Bestest" Gun/Manufactuer/Type?
Written by ORCA   

It always seems that the question most commonly asked is "Wut am Bestest Gun/Manufacturer/Type?" (What is the best "Fill in the Blank").

The annoying parts of these questions to experienced airsofters is 3 fold;

  1. Currently there is a ton of information regarding airsoft on the web. Many of these types of questions already have answers and can simply be searched.
  2. Related to point 1, most of the experienced airsoft crowd has had to find out the majority of this info by spending their own hard-earned money and learning these things first hand.
  3. Many people have opinions they think are correct, but most are based on people only handling a few guns first hand. The rest of the info is based on "what they heard". This leads to alot of confusion, misleading and downright false info.

So with that said, is there really a "best"? Think of it this way, Airsoft guns do 2 things. First, they are replicas of real firearms and second, they shoot plastic BB's. Basically these are toys, sports equipment or a hobby. Depending on YOUR economic situation there are many levels of Airsoft guns you can get. So realistically, BEST, is a relative term based on what you can afford.

Instead of focusing on what/who is BEST right now, Let's spend some time getting to know a little airsoft history.

Brief Airsoft History

Airsoft as we know it started in the 70's with what we now call "Classic Airsoft". These were firearm replicas that used external air sources to fire plastic bb's made by manufactureres like: MGC, JAC, Asahi, Sunproject, etc. Similar to how paint ball markers are designed today, they used bulky external air supplys. The hobby in Japan grew slowly, but stayed mostly underground and was "Garage" based. In the late 80's early 90's, Tokyo Marui introduced the Automatic Electric Gun (AEG's), which were the first fully self contained, electric powered airsoft guns.

Tokyo Marui's popularity grew through the 90's and was creating international interest be the end of the 90's. In 2000-2001 we started seeing Hong Kong based retailers selling airsoft direct internationally and in the U.S. a few retailers opened. The floodgates for airsoft were about to open.

Tokyo Marui was the only game in town for AEG's at that time and in Japan there was a big aftermarket industry already thriving. Like all popular Japanese hobbies, there is always a industry that sells after market add-ons and upgrades. Due to the incredible popularity this burgeoning sport was enjoying all over Asia, Chinese companies soon got into that game, manufacturing aftermarket add-on and upgrades for Tokyo Marui AEG's.

Let's also make mention of the Gas Blow Back (GBB) handgun market, which was lead by Western Arms, KSC and Tokyo Marui. These also had a good aftermarket following.

There is a Japanese export law that prohibits direct exporting of firearms and parts (including replicas) to the U.S. In order for a Japanese company to export firearm replicas to the U.S. they need many Japanese government approvals. To compound that most if not all of Tokyo Marui's replicas violate some sort of US copyright laws in trademarks, design or both (i.e. Colt, HK USA, Glock, etc).

National Report on the Implementation of Programme of Action (PoA) to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects

During this period, there were a few Chinese based companies like ICS (I Chih Shivan) and Classic Army (Yick Fung) that began directly copying the Tokyo Marui AEG product. They were already creating add-on's and upgrades, and their marketing idea was to add value to their AEG offerings by including the reinforced metal bodies and upgraded internal parts that their customers were calling for. The main problem at that time was quality control of these early Chinese products.

But as the Chinese manufacturers built more and more products, their quality control began to improve as well. This brings us up to date with the current airsoft industry, but keep in mind, until 2005 or so almost all Airsoft AEG's were direct copies of Tokyo Marui designs and add-on parts were made to be compatible with Tokyo Marui.

Quality Control - Japanese Style

One thing to mention. When we are talking about the Airsoft industry and other cultures, The Japanese consumer view of product quality is unique. Unlike in the U.S. where we shop based on the knowledge that if the product is bad, we have 'X' amount of time to return the product for exchange/refund, in Japan shopping is much different. Retail stores do not have dedicated return areas. The expectation of the Japanese consumer is that these products are good and tested when purchased and there are typically no returns. This raises the bar of quality for Japanese products sold within Japan and is one of the reasons Japan limits some manufacturing to remain within Japan. That is what creates most peoples views of Japanese produced Airsoft having a higher standard of quality.

Airsoft Today

So does this mean Tokyo Marui or any other Japanese Airsoft manufacturer is best? Perhaps quality wise, but with the plethora of upgrade add-on and repair parts available, "BEST" is still a subjective term. What can be said is Tokyo Marui is the most copied and the original AEG. It can also be said that Japanese Airsoft products are still of the highest quality and the true 'benchmarks' of the industry.

Recently there has been a huge number of Cheap Chinese Clones (C³) in the AEG world. These AEG's are available in the $100-$150 range for U.S. consumers. Initially these were dreaded and thought of badly, the thinking being it would devalue the sport. The thing to keep in mind is the old statement, "You get what you pay for" So while these are about half the price of a Tokyo Marui AEG, the trade off is quality and durability. But these C³'s were all mostly made as copies of Tokyo Marui AEG's so repair/replacement parts are available. So they are 1 step above a "Throw Away" type of toy. Chinese clones are the 'Gateway Drug' of Airsoft. For the casual person or beginner they are fine, but for the people who get into airsoft more, they discover that there are other, better alternatives.

These C³ have brought 1 thing to airsoft in general. A larger audience. I have seen these being sold in general sporting good stores and gift shops, and at the neighborhood Wally's World Mega Mart.

Is there a best?

As stated earlier it is all relative to what you want to invest and what you want to get out of the sport. Even if you nail down certain situations like sniping, there are currently too many choices to make definitive statements about "Wut Am Best". It really boils down to:

    • Your personal preference.
    • What your budget is.
    • If you are willing to do your own upgrades/repairs.
    • Does the produt have easily available uprgrade/repair parts.
    • If there are any limits (i.e. FPS, gun type, etc) where you plan to play.

Mythbusting

    • Higher FPS = Better Gun - FALSE
      In most cases, especially with bargain AEG's, higher FPS only means a higher tension spring was installed in the AEG. If the related internal parts, gear sets, cylinders, etc aren't upgraded to handle the higher tension spring, this higher FPS results in a shorter life of your AEG. You'll also want to double check FPS limits where you plan to play.
    • Metal Slides on GBB Pistols = Better Gun - FALSE
      Like the above FPS issue, alot of bargain GBB Pistols come with metal slides, but everything else is not upgraded. This results in a slower rate of fire. While they are more durable then plastic slides it becomes a personal preference if the slower ROF is acceptable.
    • Metal Bodied AEGs = Better Gun - FALSE
      While a metal bodies on AEG's add realism, weight and durability, choosing an AEG based on if it has a metal body, is just 1 part of a total decision that needs to be made. There are plenty of questionable quality AEG's for sale with metal bodies.

Purchasing Advice

Try and find a local Airsoft Retailer that will let you 'Test Drive' the guns before you invest. A good airsoft retailer will actually work with you to save you money, with the expectation that a 'happy customer' is a 'repeat customer'. Or find a local airsoft group that has members that will help you make a decision first hand. Sadly, much of the advice you get from websites is from people who have had limited experience with only a small number of guns. (I've seen more bad advice than good on the forums).

This document wil always be in a state of flux.
Special thanks to our pals Guinness and Ferret Killer for proofing and editing of this document.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 06 July 2008 21:56