What’s the best beginner gun? 2018 Edition
March 7, 2018
Working here in the GI Tactical Texas store, I have interacted with many-a-new beginner player coming through looking to get started, and the interactions usually start with the new player declaring they are looking for an airsoft gun, which is almost always followed up with three questions: What style of gun are you looking for? Have you played before/what kind of play style do you want to do? What kind of Budget are you working with?
The second most common question is “What is the BEST starter gun?” Realistically, the three questions above answer this, as in airsoft, there really is not a true “best gun”. There is only price point, and features of different rifle at said price point. With that said, in this article, I will be going over the rifles that I believe to be the best bang-for-the-buck rifles for new airsoft players.
For the younger player, or the player who does not want to spend too much money getting in to the hobby, there are two very solid rifles for under $160. They are the Lancer Tactical Gen2 MK18 Mod0, and the G&G Combat Machine “CM16” M4A1.
The Lancer Tactical (LT) Gen2 is the cheapest of the bunch at $100, but that doesn’t necessarily count it out of the race at all. The Lancer Tactical comes with a solid plastic body, with a fully metal gearbox, with all the proper internals being metal. The externals are where the price point really shows, nearly all of the externals, save for the barrel and charging handle are plastic, keeping the cost and overall weight of the rifle down. The rifle being plastic isn’t exactly a bad thing, as the Lancer Rifles can definitely take a beating. Our guys over in Airsoft GI California ran an extensive torture test in which they dropped the rifle, ran it over with a truck, submerged it in water, and then took one and put mayonnaise inside the gearbox, I won’t spoil the results of the test here, but it is safe to say, it quite impressive to see “the little gun that could”. The gearbox features an 8mm bushing gearbox, which is mostly seen with higher end gun builds, makes an appearance in a $100 AEG. Also a feature of the gearbox is a quick change spring system, which, in an M4 platform only goes so far, short of a few high-end guns, the quick change spring here just means you don’t have to take the gearbox apart to swap the spring, but just remove it from the lower receiver. The internal components are nice and solid, with a polymer rotary hop-up up unit to house the barrel and bucking, and an M120 Spring to produce a velocity of nearly 400FPS, and a set of 18:1 standard ratio gears that are the powertrain of the gearbox, that are paired with a durable polymer piston with a full metal rack of teeth, which greatly help reduce the chance of stripping the piston. The internals have longevity in mind. The box includes a 9.6v battery in the box, as well as having a basic trickle charger, that just simply charges the battery.
Next up is the G&G CM16. When most players get started, they often hear the brand name of G&G thrown out as the “go-to” beginner rifle. Because let’s be honest, a rifle package that is $160 that features a very high-quality gun for the price, as well as a decent battery and a smart charger, with a 450 round high capacity magazine, what more could you ask for? For a long time, the G&G Combat Machine was the quintessential starter package, and with good reason. The rifle itself has an excellent nylon fiber polymer body, with a drop dead reliable gearbox on the inside that featured 8mm bushings, an M100 Spring (or M120 if the rifle is of the “High Velocity” variety) to produce a velocity of roughly 330FPS, with very solid 18:1 ratio gears to turn the gearbox over, and a great polymer piston that features a half rack of steel teeth, the Combat Machine was built to last, and could take upgrades is the end user had the desire to update their internal build as they changed as a player. The polymer body on the outside could really take a beating. From anything from a chest high drop to being fallen on, the Combat Machine will endure it all. With a metal receiver extension to support the stock, and a metal outer barrel, the important bits of the rifle wouldn’t fall off to a simple fall, which is what made the Combat Machine line so attractive. The battery included in the box is a decent quality 9.6v nun-chuck style battery that fits usually in the handguard. The charger is of the “smart” variety, which simply means that the charger will indicate when the battery is done charging with a simple LED that will turn from red to green, depending on the state of the battery, as well as switching to a “trickle” charge, to keep from over charging the battery and destroying it.
Stepping up on the price ladder, to the $190, we hit the top of the line beginner AEGs. Generally, anything over the $200 mark is going to have a decent quality metal body. But what makes the AEGs that dance next to the $200 line so special?
The mind-blowing power of good tech, and smart design that doesn’t break the bank, and just a few years ago, these features would only be found in a rifle that cost over $400.
At $190 for the G&G CM16 Raider 2, it is a new take on the old G&G Raider Platform, with an updated G&G Polymer body, a micro-switch Trigger, and an inline MOSFET, the G&G Raider 2.0 packs features into a rifle that is value oriented. The gun awesomely functional and is worth the price to the new player who wants a rifle that has the classic G&G reliability, with a handful of new, pre-upgraded parts on the inside and the same amazingly durable polymer build. With a much improved rotary style hop-up unit, for more consistent placement of the adjustment arm, as well as having a 6.04 inner barrel, and completely rebuilt gearbox with a micro-switch trigger as well as durable gears and piston system, and a new blue cylinder to denote the newer, updated G&G Gearbox. The wiring is also new, featuring an inline MOSFET out of the box, making the Raider 2.0 a perfect candidate for running a higher voltage 11.1v battery. Out of the box, the Raider 2.0 clocks the chrono at 390fps consistently for the high-velocity version. The barrel is 363mm long, right at 14.5inches. Externally, the rifle has been updated with a licensed Magpul MLok platform rail that will accept any MLok compatible accessory.
Lastly, and probably my personal favorite of the bunch, is the Classic Army ENF-Skirmish Line. The Classic Army ENF platform is a polymer bodied line of rifles from CA that sets a new standard for beginner platform rifles, and comes in several different variants to suit the user’s fancy. Coming at $190, the Classic Army ENF series all feature a solid polymer body that is on par with the G&G nylon fiber body, the rails are polymer with metal reinforcements around the body. The outer barrel is a single piece design, which significantly ups the durability of the front end of the rifle as a whole. The gearbox and hop unit are where the CA-ENF platform shines, because it features the gearbox of the Nemesis line entirely, and where the ENF line derives it name. The E in ENF denotes the ECS Trigger unit being part of the internal build. The ECS System is unique in that it not only provides a micro-switch platform for the trigger, allowing for great spin-up time with a high torque motor, as well as the unique feature of being able to switch from the standard Safe-Semi-Auto to Semi/Burst, Burst/Auto or Semi-Lock the trigger entirely. Along with the ECS Trigger, the gearbox features a Quick-Change Spring system, though the gearbox does have to be removed from the body to do so. Featuring an M120 Spring and high torque gears with a high torque motor, the gun has a great trigger response on an 11.1v Lipo battery. Outside of the gearbox, the ENF platform features two major updates to the platform over the old version. First of which is the new blue polymer “pro-line” hop up unit, which is vastly improved over the old cast metal hop up unit that Classic Army used previously. This allows for much more stable adjustment as well as better consistency. The second is an updated pistol grip, the Classic Army quick access grip, with a golf-ball texture on it that has a unique feature of hinging open to allow quick access to the motor without any tools. All of these features of a rifle combined with the fact the rifle still comes with a battery and charger makes this rifle a great value for the more discerning starting player.
With all of these options, in varying price points, there is always an option for just about any budget a new airsoft player is working with, as all the options are great on the field, and have witnessed personally in action and all of them are impressive in their own right, whether it’s the great value of the Lancer Tactical Gen2 or Classic Army pushing the bar for what the internals of an AEG under $200 can or should be.
All of these rifles are carried in the GI Tactical store, so swing by and check them out in person, or see them on the AirsoftGI website.