Originally Posted by L473ncy
I'm a lefty and I just learned to accept it and figure out a way for me to change mags and all that. So instead of pressing the mag release on an M4 with my right hand, my right hand from the front stock lets go of the fore stock and goes to do a "beer can grip" on the mag in a "thumbs up position", with thumb pressing the mag release then dropping mag into dump pouch and getting fresh mag from vest.
+1 I'm a lefty as well and that's exactly how I do it as well.
As to the OP:
First I'd like to say it's nice to see a newbie with a realistic appreciation of what the start up cost of this sport is. $1000 to $3000 is spot on. I spent about $2000 or so getting started myself, more then half of that for the gun and the rest for quality gear.
For a First gun:
Manufacturer is generally more important then the style. Generally all airsoft aeg's work the same so how it looks like outside is up to you. Though the advice in the Airsoft Newbie Buying Guide about styles is good. Generally ak47, m16/m4 or mp5 are good starter gun styles due to the availability of accessories and upgrades.
I'll add my weight to the argument of cheap vs quality. Get the highest quality gun you can afford, you'll thank yourself in the long run. Upgrading a low grade gun to match a high grade gun almost always costs considerably more then simply buying the high grade gun in the first place. Not to mention having your gun break down on you in mid game due to cheap parts sucks rocks.
Another thing to consider is resale value. You don't want to spend too much cause you're not sure you'll stick with it? That's actually a good reason *to* get a high grade gun rather then not to. You spend $600 on a Classic Army gun and, provided you've taken decent care of it, you have a very good chance of recouping most if not all of that $600 back. On the other hand, the classifieds are continuously flooded with people trying to offload Aftermath guns with no luck.
If you can afford it (which it appears from your op you can), highgrade guns such as Tokyo Marui or Classic Army are the way to go. They're going to run you $600-$700. Though if the M4/M16 style is what you want then I'd recommend staying away from stock TM's, the barrel wobble and creaking are pretty bad on the stock TM M4/M16's (yes the new TM M4/M16's have fixed this problem, but the bulk of the ones in country are the old ones so best to just avoid them for now).
I did extensive research and settled on the Tactical Carbine version of the Classic Army M15A4 (basically a full stock m4 carbine) as my first gun. If an Armalite is what you're looking for then I think it's the best of all possible versions. You have the shortened M4 carbine barrel, which makes you less likely to smack your barrel off something when turning quickly, combined with the full stock which houses a large battery. Small batteries don't have near the run time of a large battery, not to mention that the reinforced slip ring (the ring that keeps the fore-grip on) is really stong. While this is mostly a good thing and a big step up over CA's previous M15 versions, it makes changing small batteries in the field very difficult if not impossible.
CA's M15A4 series in general is a big step up over their previous versions and as far as stock armalites go they're probably the best. All metal where the real steel version is, the plastic parts where the real steal version is plastic are made of high quality enhanced nylon fiber rather then abs for great texture and feel. Classic Army has a deal with Armalite so you get all the proper markings. Plus that deal also goes to show the quality of the manufacture, Armalite wouldn't put their name on a shoddy product.
Internally the gearbox is reinforced metal and all the gears are metal as well. It fires hotter stock then Tokyo Marui's as well, firing at 300-320 fps where your average TM only fires 280-300 fps.
All in all this is a great starter gun if you can afford it. Because it's all metal you don't have to worry nearly as much about breaking it and you won't get any of the wobble or creaking that is infamous in stock TM M4/M16's. Unfortunately affording it is the biggest problem, they're not cheap. For reference I got my CA M15A4 from the classifieds, upgraded with a bunch of Systema internals to fire 390fps, for $600 shipped which was a great price.
As you can probably tell, I'm a big fan of Classic Army. One thing to keep in mind about Classic Army is they now have two lines, a proline and a sportline. Originally they were easy to tell apart because the proline had the metal body and the sportline had a plastic body but recently CA has been releasing their sportlines with metal bodies. The price tag should still allow you to easily tell the difference, the sportline being $300-400ish and the proline never being cheaper then $500, usually more like $600 or more but it's still something to keep in mind. All the pros that I went over above were regarding the proline model. The sportline model has cheaper everything internally and externally.
There's alot of people that will expound the virtues of G&P as well. And I'll admit the externals of G&P are very nice, easily on par with CA, in some cases better. The reason why I don't say G&P over CA though is much the same reason why people weren't big fans of CA up until a few years ago: their quality control for the internals is not the greatest. That means a fair number of lemons. CA got a handle on this a few years ago and they've been making great strides in terms of their rep ever since, but G&P isn't quite there yet. This is simply my personal opinion and there are many people that would likely disagree with me, but it's something to keep in mind. ICS is about a cheap a gun as you can go and still get full metal out of the box. One thing to remember about ICS is they like to go their own way internally, so upgrading them inside will be more difficult then other brands. And needless to say it's not in the same league as CA or G&P. It's what someone on a budget but determined to get full metal would aim for. I should probably give TM some love here as well: Due to Japanese laws TM guns fire alittle cooler then most others and their externals are going to be almost entirely abs plastic. But *nothing* beats TM for internal reliability. You leave a TM stock internally and it will last for literally decades.
One of the perks of going with an M16/M4 variant is that mags are dead easy to come by and dirt cheap. You can get Star brand mags for like $5 a mag or less, plastic yeah but sturdy none the less (Star is also the easiest brand to get that makes realcaps too). Metal mags will run you a fair bit more, $15 to $30 a mag. There's no real reason to go with metal over plastic for mags except looks/realism. Though of course if you're going to go hicap then you might as well get metal ones. As to Brands, TM and CA make good mags. I've heard pretty good stuff about MAG brand mags as well. King Arms not so much, especially for M4/M16 mags. Star is always a good affordable fallback too.
I applaud your sense in not jumping on the GBBR wagon for your first gun. GBBR's have alot of going for them in terms of realism, but they're a fair bit more expensive (especially for mags), require considerably more maintenance, are more sensitive to temperature, and are just generally more finicky then a good AEG.
As to gear: Good eye protection which will run you between $30 and $50 (ESS is a great brand name). Camo would cost about $100, a chest rig or vest would cost another $100. A good loadout of mags, even the cheap Star mags, are going to cost at least $50. A good charger is at least another $50, with another $50 for a good battery. A sidearm is another thing that people like to have but isn't really necessary. A decent sidearm would cost you between $250 and $350. Probably another $100-150 for a duty belt, a holster, a sling (get a good three-point, you'll thank yourself later), gloves and a misc pouch or two.
Rails, such as a Z rail (like on my gun in the pic below), or just a straight up carry handle rail are easy to get and are more or less one size fits all. RIS/RAS are alittle more complicated since not all the ones you'll find will fit the guns you have, but provided you do your homework (which you seem sensible enough to do) that shouldn't be a problem. Both CA and G&P have a bunch of different variations on the M4/M16 so if you're willing to go BNIB (brand new in box) then you could easily get one with whatever rail configuration you want.
Sights: I admire your intention to use iron sights for a few games first. It will definitely make you appreciate your optics more when you get them. And it definitely will be 'when' cause they're so much more useful then iron sights. That said, some variation on the unmagnified RDS (red dot sight) is what you're going to want. The range on airsoft rifles isn't enough to make magnification on anything other then a highly upgraded sniper rife anything more then a hindrance. Even with those they usually stay low magnification.
Batteries: Unless the gun is specifically designed or upgraded for 9.6v then you're going to want an 8.4v. Really the only reason to even go to 9.6v is either to pull a really heavy spring (which most fields wouldn't let you use anyway) or get insane rates of fire. Since you mentioned you're a realcap man (good for you, me too) then you're probably not looking for insane rates of fire either, so stick with 8.4v. Now mah is a different story. Mah is basically your staying power, and you want as high a mah as your charger can charge, most mid-range chargers can usually muster no more then 3200mah, which is more then enough for a full day's play even on near constant spray and pray. If you end up getting one of the subguns or a assault rifle with a collapsible or foldible stock then as I mentioned in my praise of the CA M15A4 above, you'll be stuck with small type batteries which have a much lower max mah.
Sidearms aren't really required right away so feel free to hold off on the sidearm for now. For the newcomer, a pistol is good for emergency backup and the occasional pistols only battle, but little else.
That said, if you can afford one and have your heart set on one then what you want in a sidearm depends on two factors (besides cost of course) whether or not full metal is a must and exactly what model you're partial to. Certain manufacturers tend to make certain models better then others. If full metal is a must then the best choice that isn't going to cost you an arm and a leg is probably KJW, especially for the M9 which they do very well. You'll see alot of WE's around, they're cheap and full metal but tend to have problems, especially their 1911 models. KJW has a rep of having mag problems, but I have had two KJW pistols and I haven't had any trouble with my mags. If full metal isn't a must then WA or TM would be very good choices.
If you're planing on using your pistol frequently as a primary or using it for CAPS style target shooting then go with the hicapa. The hicapa is basically a doublestack version of the 1911. If you're interesting in tricking out your pistol then you should definitely go with the hicapa, the bulk of pistol upgrades out there are all for the hicapa. And get a TM hicapa if you do get one, since all the upgrades are for TM. Yeah, other pistols are TM compatible, but that's not quite the same.
Now for some gun pron:
My Classic Army M15A4 Tactical Carbine without external addons:
My baby, CA M15A4 Tactical Carbine with m203 grenade launcher, red dot sight and taclight:
Me in my full kit:
All my misc gear: