I've been trying a couple of gears for a couple of years now, and I m sure I m not the only one. Trial and error is expensive in airsoft, so sharing conclusion could be useful for newbie out there.
With this in mind, here is what I feel should be the initial newbie airsoft payload with a consumer report approach (best bang for the buck).
: IMO, airsoft is about real steel, so I would not consider anything not full metal. Marui AEGs are among the best, but they are still build with plastic body (except the newest release, which are $$$ for starter I would said). I would recommend going for a metal D Boy M4 or CYMA AK-74SU. Both are not expensive, have a nice look, use metal and wood for construction and are polyvalent (you can play CQB and outdoor with them). I would aim at running it stock at 350 fps (to play both indoor and outdoor). This could mean a spring swap, which can be done fairly easily by any gun doc. Both AEG are TM compatible, so basically, when they break (Chinese reliability is getting better in any case) you can use higher end part for replacement as you go along.
The good think is, you have a great all metal/wood platforms to start with, and it cheap
. You could consider putting a 6.03 Prometheus barrel as well for improve accuracy. It is a fairly cheap upgrade compare to the improvement in accuracy (but again, chinese stock barrel are getting better...). Changing the hop up unit and sleeve could be a good idea as well (depending on the performance). Prometheus purple sleeve is what I found to be the best sleeve wise at 350 fps.
M4 and AK type are also popular AEG, so getting part and accessory is easy. I recommend getting a new gun, don t buy use when you start (unless you trust the seller), you will avoid surprise (play with use once you have a bit of experience in AEG tech). Stay away from Draken, the stated FPS (350 or so) is with 0.12 BB... CYMA and D Boy (or any metal JG) would be my pick. I m no fan of clear soft, since it a nylon body that need to be painted. And getting a nice metal body will not be easy and expensive + you ll have to install it. If you don't mind plastic body, Marui would be your best bet to start with.
: chinese battery and charger should be avoided. Get Sanyo or Intellect brand for the battery. Don t go over 9.6V, higher ROF will imply more stress on your gearbox, more chance of breaking down. And ROF over 800 RPM is steering away from airsoft reality (real M4-AK weapon ROF are around 600-800 RPM). Don t go lipo as well, stay simple with NiMH battery (no need to discharge those after use, so very light maintenance wise). Charger, I would go with a Smart Universal Charger for NiMH / NiCd Battery pack 7.2V - 12V with charging current Selection/Temperature Sensor. It cheap and it does the job.
: Marui mid or low cap. Metal mags. (Unless it a bakelite mag). Again, to stay close to reality. They are expensive (compare to the other), but they won t jam on you (very reliable). Steer away from high cap (it not realistic to have 1000 rounds before reloading, you need to roll the wheel under to mag to ensure proper BB feeding and the BB move inside the mag when you move, making noise, thus reducing your chance of moving without being located. Get a drop pouch, you don t want to loose your mag in game. At 20$-25$ per mags, don t take any chance.
That basically my Consumer Approach to choosing an starter AEG. IE getting the most for your $
Airsoft is an expensive hobby.
What is above is my opinion, please feel free to add more or correct any mistake I could have made in my assessment.