"they got gear that was good enough for a test."
That's the key right there my friend. Cdn Tire / Walmart guns don't even belong in that category. They're not good enough to try out airsoft. There's a big difference betwee airsoft and soft air, with the latter being what these stores sell. They may fire the same ammo and sort of look like a real gun, but that's where the similarities end.
Now, before you plug me into the elitist $1000+ to start category, I should make it pretty clear that I'm all about affordable guns. Yes, I have a couple of expensive guns that I've sunk well over $1000 into not counting accessories. But I also have a bunch of lower end JG guns. And I love those guns and will support them as long as they continue to be good guns.
Hence my post suggesting that a beginner should start with something cheap that will actually be able to perform. How much fun will a noob have and how much of an incentive will they have to play more if they can't shoot more than 30 feet or even hit a target at that range where they're getting hosed by BBs from 100+ feet away with people with good guns? To me, that would be a pretty shitty game as a first experience and would pretty much kill any ambition I had to continue playing.
With hockey, a stick is a stick (to some extent). Give a noob a cheapo $30 wooden stick or a $500 graphite über-stick and it won't make much difference. To an experienced player it will, but not to a first timer. Cheap crap pads? Yeah. Those will do to try out the game as long as they meet the minimum protection requirements of the league. You have skates, pads and a stick, and you're good.
With airsoft, you need something that will perform to a reasonable level to be able to play. Hence my recommendation of a "cheap" starter gun consisting of a JG, G&G or ICS. Even a $160 Kraken will do the trick just fine. They'll perform well enough out of the box and actually be gameable. And should you decide you don't like the sport, then you can resell it immediately for almost the price you got it for.
Honestly, if you're looking to try out the sport (assuming you're 18+), find a local game and arrange for a gun rental for the day. It will be cheaper than buying one of these junk guns and will actually be competitive.