While there are many reviews on specific guns made by each company, and a lot of information located on this site, as a former noob, many of my specific questions were not answered and i figured this would be a way to help out the noobs. For other users, if this post does become worthy of ASC, perhaps we can answer more questions that noobs have, so lets keep this down to noob questions and experienced answers.
What is better, Classic Army (CA) or Tokyo Marui (TM)?
This is an excellent question and one i hope to answer in this post. To begin, lets first start off with a brief history of the two companies. For starters, Tokyo Marui is made in Japan (obviously) and were the first creators of the AEG (Automatic Electric Gun). From their first design (Version 1 mechbox with the FAMAS) started the basis for all other airsoft gun designs. But with the myriad of choices currently out there ranging from Full metal (Classic Army) to ABS (Tokyo Marui) many noobs have stopped to wonder which they should get. For me, when i first started, i was told to go with Marui. They are renowned for reliability out of the box. However, the Classic Army guns lure new folk with the promise of full metal bodies. So what do the two offer? Lets begin in detail shall we?
These guns offer incredible reliability out of the box and the chances of receiving a lemon from them are slim to none. While they are made of ABS plastic (most of the time) and have a moderate fire speed, they can take a beating and keep on kicking. Here is why that is in brief. In Japan, they have rules and laws regarding airsoft speed. Thus the guns are made to be bought and used without upgrading or any maintenance whatsoever! This means that as a noob, you dont have to worry about your gun crapping out on you. Keep in mind that you will always find the occasional person who had a bad experience, but generally, TM guns are made to last. I know countless people who kept stock internals (in one instance for 4 year!) without so much as a problem. However, i have also heard a handful who bought guns that failed in under 10,000 shots. Never-the-less, they are generally known for having excellent quality control (being made in Japan) and because of that, are known to be received in working order and made to run in their stock performance flawlessly for an almost indefinite amount of time.
Overview of TM
Out of the box reliability (Excellent Quality Control)
History of success (designed the first AEG; all other airsoft guns are based off their design)
Solid Performer (can take a beating and keep on kicking)
Little to no chance of purchasing a lemon
Medium Rate of fire
Low FPS out of the box; Averages 280-315 (315 for M14 only)
Expensive to upgrade; Needs both external upgrades (if you wish to make it full metal) and internal upgrades (if you wish to increase power and increase reliability) --> upgrades such as a piston, piston head, and air nozzle are a must for CA guns. I have also been informed that it is a good idea to replace the hop-up rubber.
These guns are quite superb and are recommended by many people. But despite that, they might not be the best choice for noobs. Lets find out why. Classic Army is a Taiwanese based company. That being said, they are known, especially in the past, for having shoddy internals that would either fail in a short amount of time, or in some cases (and i have witnessed this firsthand) have failed out of the box. However, it should be noted they have stepped up on their QC notably. However, it is still not equal to that of TM. It is for this reason that most people purchase these guns and upgrade them before they are fielded. Of course, there is the hadful of instances where people have opened them out of the box and have had them run flawlessly, but the general consensus is that you have a higher risk of buying a lemon from this company than from say TM. That being said, their exterior quality is excellent for what you pay for and you will receive a beautiful looking gun that is as solid as a brick. However, what use is a gun if you cant use it? This is why as a noob, with no knowledge of upgrading guns, one should stick with something that has the lowest possibility of breaking down. Hence TM.
Overview of CA
Come with Full Metal Upgrade (FMU)
High ROF out of the box
Higher FPS out of the box than TM (averages 315-330 for most of the guns)
Cheaper to upgrade (just internal upgrades to make it reliable and shoot harder)
High possibility of buying a lemon (Lower Quality Control)
Best bet is to purchase internal upgrades with your gun have have them installed just so your gun is gameable and wont crap out on you
In brief, higher startup cost if you want headache free gaming.
While both guns offer their own pros and cons, for a total noob to the sport, it is important to get a gun and start playing. It is for that reason why i recommend a TM gun, which has a track record of performing flawlessly out of the box for an incredibly long amount of time. That being said, it is important to note, that in the long run, it would be cheaper to purchase a Classic Army rifle as the exterior is already upgraded whereas the TM isn't. In both instances, as you progress in the sport, you will most likely upgrade your internals for both power and (in the case of TM) increased reliability (in Classic Army's case, just reliability to start with).
Example comparing a TM M4A1 vs CA M15A4
Both use a Version 2 mechbox, so both would have the same basic upgrades such as:
Cost is the same
However, the difference would come from the exterior where TMs would cost more
as they would have to pay for a metal body
on top of the internal upgrades to become equal to the Classic Army in every way. However, the internal upgrades mentioned are almost an upfront necessity with CA guns just to get them up and running reliably.
With regards to your purchases of airsoft. If you want reliability, but like the idea of a full metal gun stock, i recommend the following products by TM as they have metal where metal should be on the real deal. All of them are rock solid performers and are an excellent choice for ANYONE starting airsoft:
Full metal upper with synthetic stock (real wood stocks can be purchased). Shoots amazingly well for a stock gun. Can be upgraded to near sniper levels. Plenty of parts available for the mechbox (V.7), which is known to be reliable and solid. Overall, the TM M14 is a better choice than the G&G or CA M14 (both have the same mechbox and aftermarket parts). While said guns have a superior synthetic stock when compared to the TM, there are virtually no aftermarket parts available for them when compared to the TM M14. All of the aforementioned guns have metal uppers and out barrels.
TM M4 SOCOM:
A full metal M4 with RIS made by TM. A new V.9 gearbox that enables the gun to have a recoil effect. Aftermarket parts are already available by notable companies such as Prometheus. Takes special mags and has a working mag-catch feature that prevents the gun from continued firing once the last BB has left the mag. This is a great choice for those who want the blow back feel without splurging on a gas gun that can only work during the summer months. This is a good choice for those who want something unique to the airsoft world.
Metal rails and polymer body. Just like the real deal. Can't go wrong with this gun for both indoor or outdoor. Mags can be difficult to find, but with the advent of Echo-1's P90, compatible mags are no longer an issue. Tactical Tailor makes p90 mag pouches in a variety of colours
TM Type 89
Manufactured for the Japanese Army as a training weapon (that's right, made by TM for their army), this gun is full metal with a V.8 gearbox that has a mechanically controlled 3 round burt feature as well as the Safe, Semi and Auto. Takes both Type 89 mags and M16 mags. Many aftermarket internal parts available. a great choice for those who want a unique rifle that is durable and has TM's legendary reliability.
Despite the evidence i have just presented, i still hold fast to my belief in obtaining a gun that has a notable track record of running flawlessly out of the box for new players. This way, you can play with it and get the feel for airsoft and upgrade it over time both internally and externally. Without the headache of not being able to play.
Good luck with your airsoft endeavors!
P.S: To the vets, if i missed something (as i am fully aware that my knowledge isn't complete), either PM me or post it up and i will add it
To noobs, there is some gun specific problems listed below, such as TM specific Armalite problems etc. Read on to gain more valuable knowledge regarding airosft!
EDIT (for those who dont want to read the rest of the thread)
My thanks to LUTNIT, who posted the original version of this list. I have kept everything identical to what he wrote (including his final thoughts), except for the small addition of JG to the mid-level category as well
Aftermath (non-standard hopup units, rubbers, and barrels but easy swap)
CYMA (have been getting better, full metal usually now, I'd almost put them in Mid Grade)
Cybergun (they are an importer, not a manufacturer, Cybergun branded guns are usually Well)
Well (not sure I would even rank them this high, they are bottom of the Low Grade barrel at the very least)
JG (known to be solid performers but chance of getting a lemon and all plastic)*
Echo1 (rebranded JG's, sometimes with cheap potmetal bodies added)
AGM (at least their M14's, other than hopup/barrel its a TM clone)
G&G (full metal but known for shoddy internals)
STAR (known for motor problems and pistons stripping)
TM (DONSTER'S EDIT: can be put into high grade as well. depends on users point of view)
KWA (verdict is still out for long term reliability, might be high grade)
King Arms (again, verdict still out)
ICS (come stock with mechbox busting aluminum pistons, slightly non-standard gears but can be replaced with standard ones if you swap the bushings)
JG (known to be solid performers but chance of getting a lemon and all plastic)*
CA (full metal full goodness)
My opinions. I wouldn't put TM in high grade; I mean they are top quality for reliability and lasting forever out of the box (have heard stories of stock TM guns going 200K+ rnds without a problem) but they just need so much work to get them to a serious level. It does kinda pain me to put ICS in Mid Grade because I swear by them and love them, but out of the box performance could be better. With a little work ICS guns can be amazing though, definitely top end.
*Some would say this is a low brand, but the general consensus is that it is a mid level brand. That being said, companies like ICS, TM and STAR are a much better bet in terms of quality of parts and reliability. It is for this reason why i have placed it in both categories. However it should be noted that all parts on a JG can be swapped out for TM compatible ones. The logic is, is that if you are going to buy a gun and replace all the problem parts, why not just buy quality first. For more information on JG guns and their internals, i suggest reading this.