Budget vs Premium - My Opinions on Brands in Airsoft
Another opinion article! Hooray! While I'm stuck at home due to Covid, I find myself wanting to go airsofting more and more so I scratch that certain itch through planning and writing. Today I want to talk about the difference between going budget and going premium, both for airsoft RIFs as well as tactical gear.
First, I will actually start with the most important thing. Eye protection. Go premium. Don't go cheap. Ever. You only get one pair of eyes; we aren't in the cyberpunk future yet where you can get cybereyes and look like a badass. Protect your eyes and buy good quality eye protection. I have a pair of Revision Sawflys with prescription inserts and they're fantastic. Expensive, but fantastic and worth every penny.
Moving to RIFs, you may be surprised by my opinions on this. I'm a Tokyo Marui fan through and through; I love the fact that you can buy a TM gun and it will both work flawlessly and be very safely beneath your local site limit for AEGs. Also, their gas pistols are just great. They work in all temperatures and feel very snappy thanks to the plastic slides.
However, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that budget guns are fantastic. SOME budget guns. You will notice a difference in quality, even with the better budget brands. I have noticed that my CYMA m14 feels less solid than my TM m14 and the quality of the externals just feels a bit rubbish by comparison, not to mention there are no trademarks on my CYMA. However, internally my CYMA is fantastic. It fires harder than the TM (stock) and probably gets a tiny bit more range thanks to that and the fact that the hop is really solid, while still being under the 1.1J power limit for automatic AEGs with no MED. What I will do eventually is replace the stock and heatshield on my CYMA with the G&P DMR stock and probably shove a flat hop in and call it a day, firing .32s with no MED at decent ranges.
Furthermore, if you plan on upgrading or making a project gun, budget RIFs are, once again, a fantastic choice, as that extra £200 you would spend on getting a premium gun can instead go on all those shiny upgrade parts. I don't heed my own advice, as I turned my TM m14 into my project gun as well as using a TM VSR for the base for my bolt action rifle, but if you plan on stripping out all the internals and replacing a bunch of the externals, there's no point paying a premium for quality as you're just getting rid of all those quality parts. In my defence, I only bought the CYMA for the imitation wood stock so I can use my upgraded m14 for Vietnam games as stolen weaponry for VC, and I had my VSR completely stock for about 8 years before upgrading it. It doesn't matter that I wasn't airsofting for most of those 8 years, I'm trying to justify my perhaps unreasonable obsession with perfection, both mechanical and aesthetically.
I will say that I prefer more premium brands for RIFs, as I am fortunate enough to be able to afford them, as well as having done airsoft for over 13 years so I know it's a good investment for me. I prefer them because of the overall build quality, presence of trademarks and out of the box performance and reliability. However, there are budget brands that I have high respect for and will often recommend for newer airsofters, or people looking for a more affordable route into airsoft.
The following are budget brands that I like:
CYMA - Their AKs and m14s are amazing. Their M4s are questionable.
G&G - CM16 Combat Raider is one of the best starter AEGs. I don't like their m14s
Dboys - If they're still around, I had one of their M4s and it worked for years no issues
I don't have enough experience with any other brands to really comment on any others. I don't want to give any opinions on brands that I don't have any experience with. I've always done my research and found the above brands to be great, every time I've bought a RIF by them.
Second, I'm going to talk about tactical gear.
Where I prefer premium brands for RIFs, but will admit that some budget guns are fantastic investments, when it comes to tactical gear I'm a bit more hard line. I've had Viper gear in the past and still have some today, but it is, at best, peripheral gear like gloves, or a backpack that I might use sometimes, but more often will not. When it comes to tactical gear, I'm a strong advocate of just saving up and going premium.
My chest rig is Warrior Assault Systems. My belt kit is Warrior Assault Systems. My pistol lanyards are Warrior Assault Systems on my 1911 and Blackhawk on my mk23. The sling on my 416 is Magpul. The sling on my m14 is Warrior Assault Systems.
What's common between all of these? They're all premium brands and they're all designed for real steel shooting. I love Warrior Assault Systems gear, as you can probably tell. My chest rig, admin pouch and pistol mag pouches are 12 years old and still going strong.
I have a Viper sling. It sucks and I've almost dropped my rifle multiple times due to it detaching mid game. I have a cheap dropleg holster that swings around all over the place and doesn't hold my 1911 properly (I have now replaced this with a Warrior Assault Systems universal holster for the 1911 and a DTD retention holster for my mk23). My Viper gloves are... actually okay, but so are my £3 fingerless OD gloves that I got at an army surplus shop 12 years ago. I had a cheapo pistol lanyard (can't remember the brand, but it only cost me £10 or something) and it lasted a single pistol draw before it snapped...
When it comes to tactical gear, buy once and buy good. It'll last you and be a better investment in the long run. If you're just starting out, you don't need most tactical gear and if you've been airsofting for a bit and want to get into it for the long haul, just save up.
So, in conclusion? I'm generally an advocate of going premium. For eye protection it's mandatory and for tactical gear it's strongly advised. Only with RIFs will I recommend budget guns, but only if you're buying it with a view to upgrade it or buying it as a first gun, otherwise I think premium is again he better choice (though may require a bit of saving).