Airsoft That Was
Back when I started airsoft, choices were limited to Tokyo Mauri and a couple of really crappy Korean brands. If you were serious about airsoft, Tokyo Marui was the only choice. Built well with great quality, they were perfect for both collecting and for gaming. However, buying them involved a handful of overseas dealers with questionable ability to import them to the US or a domestic dealer with very limited selection and huge markups.
Today, airsofters still can buy Tokyo Marui, but at a significant discount. Marui's today cost about half what they did eight years ago. Great news, but an airsofter today has many quality choices, such as Classic Army, ICS, Olympic Arms, Star, G&G, and G&P. Still, these brands can set you back several hundred dollars, making the decision process of which model to buy challenging. AEG's still represent a huge investment in something you may decide a few months after use isn't really what you wanted.
A new breed of airsoft brands has invaded the airsoft world, made by unfamiliar companies in China, that have, at least on paper, the same features as more expensive and familiar brands at half or even less than half the price. At first glance, it looks like it's too good to be true - all metal airsoft with similar metal mech boxes, parts, and performance. How could these possibly be worth getting? How are they so cheap? What did they skip on? Subpar springs and materials?
At a recent game, I noted many players with some of the cheaper brands. Examining a few, I noticed they did indead have the features of the more expensive brands. I decided to order a few to learn for myself whether these new cheaper 'mid-grade' airsofts are the real deal or not.
BOYI Oh Boy
Many of the new Chinese AEG's are retailed domestically by the same companies that specialized in the low-end springers and mini guns - stuff that no serious airsoft player would considering using at a game. I choose to buy from Airsplat.com, a retailer in California that had reasonable deals, including free ground shipping.
I was interested in the BOYI BIM4 CQB-R, a model very similar in features to a model made by Classic Army and reviewed here on this site. The CA model combined some great features that I felt would be useful at the indoor Demo games we do a lot of here in Central Florida: a reinforced short barrel, M4 varient, RIS, flat top, six detents on the collapsible stock, metal body, and a battery compartment built into the stock. Order process was painless and arrived 5 working days later.
The AEG was packaged in a box very similar to Classic Army models - plain brown cardboard printed with a graphic of the model and some non-sense words describing what was inside. Inside was a combination of cardboard and foam. The AEG was surrounded by accessories that came with it, including: front broom handle for the RIS, an 8.4v 1100 mah NiMH nunchuck battery, trickle charger, small bag of BB's, misc tools include a small screw driver, a barrel extension, cleaning rod, hicap magazine, manual, cleaning rod, and a 'one-point' sling. The manual was the first noticeable joke - it could be more accurately be described as a black and white catalog; almost no information on the operations or care of the model in its four pages. Most of the accessories had shifted during shipment and were scattered around the box.
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
The BOYI AEG itself looks pretty decent. The metal body is painted a nice flat black and had no real significant scratches on it. Its very heavy and very solid. There are no trademarks whatsoever. The fire select switch moves perfectly with solid detents and the mode indicators around the switch are well marked in grey. The main handle is made of a nylon looking material instead of shiny ABS plastic and feels good when handled. Mag release operates smoothly. Most of the items have decent looking seems, including the butt stock. Fitting a mag is perfect, though a bit wobbly which is similar to other metal body AEG's. On the right-upper side of the body are the letters 'C' and 'A'. Hmmm...
The rear site looks very nice until you examine it up close - its solidly attached to the rail, but the adjustors are wobbley and look horribly inaccurate. But this is airsoft so it hardly matters. You can flip between a near and far shot sight, however the near shot hole is painted up and you can not see anything through it at all.
Moving forward to the RIS and barrel, you notice immediately how heavy the front end of the AEG is. Taking the RIS off confirms the issue - the RIS weighs probably a third of the total weight of this AEG! The rails themselves are very sloppy looking; rounded edges and an inconsistent shape. You don't notice this stuff until you're looking right at it. However, things that I attached to the rails seem to hold steady and thats all that really matters, right? The left and right side rails have fiber plastic covers that are easy to put on and remove and seemed secured when positioned correctly. The outer barrel is solid and styled like a reinforced barrel which explains why the barrel on the model feels great - no movement whatsoever. There is a fake gas tube running the entire length on top and the lower part of the RIS has a fake heat shield - all very nice details. The length of the RIS is identical to the foregrip of the TM M733 and TM M4-S, which means its a tad bit longer that the standard TM M4. Front sight post is solid and well shaped.
The flash-hider is made of pot metal and feels crappy. It has an interesting design and is longer than either the M733's or M4's cage. The whole piece has been soaked in blaze orange and looks like it was originally black underneath. I don't think there is much of a chance of scrapping this stuff off - looks like your best bet would be to sand it down as best you can and re-spray it black. Personally, I don't care what color it is. There is no sling attachment point in the front like you would find on an M4. In the box was a barrel extension shaped like an M4 barrel. I unscrewed the flash-hider and put the extension on, but the threads on the end to put the flash-hider on were complete crap - not a chance I'll ever be able to screw anything onto the end of the barrel extension. Personally, I didn't buy this model for a M4 sized barrel - I bought it for its short barrel. However it does seem strange why they would go to the effort of including the extension but make it completely useless.
On the other end, the stock extension tube is aluminum and similar to other M4 variants. There are six detents for extending the stock and make it easier to find the perfect position. Between the body and the stock tube is a sling mounting point, perfect for single-point slings. The actual stock itself is made out of ABS plastic with fiber like finish - its a nice matte look to it and is a crane style with a special compartment for a battery. To insert a battery, you need to remove the rubber butt plate at the end, remove a screw, then push on two cheap plastic tabs to remove the back portion of the stock. There is a battery connector in the main tube and tubes to either side to insert the nunchuck shaped battery. The first time I did this, I managed to break one of the tabs and never saw the screw, breaking it right off. However, even without any repairs, the butt plate can still be secured to the stock. Putting the battery in looks easy, but involves a lot of trails and error. Its not nearly as easy as putting a battery in the front grip of a standard M4 model.
The included rail broom handle is nice and very similar to my old Knight's version. The 'one-point' sling is beyond my ability to figure out and as far as I am concerned, is even worth putting on a gym bag because the construction isn't great. Thankfully I just bought a decent one-point sling from another company. The 300 round hicap mag looks well constructed - better than many I've seen - and adds to the value of this package.
Shoot Like You Mean It
Though I haven't had a chance to field test this AEG, I did empty a mag out back. The motor operation is smooth, but not like that of the newer Classic Army's. BB's flew true with no significant deviations in their flight path and I experienced no mis-feeds or double feeds. The BB's impacted the backstop at 50 feet in a manner similar to my other AEG's with a nice loud snap.
Without giving it a few months to see how reliable this thing is, I can't really make any recommendations, especially for new players shopping for their first AEG. My impression is that this would make a horrible first AEG, given the lack of a decent manual and some of the issues I observed, like the opaque rear site. How would a new player deal with these kinds of issues? Experienced players on the other hand won't find much delay in these issues and could have all the small problems fixed easily.
One thing I did notice that might cause problems down-the-line is the crappy paint used on the metal parts. The body itself looks decent, but the sights, mag release, or any part hanging off the body or barrel scratches very easily - just looking at it seems to scratch it. Though a few scratches should be anticipated with use, I suspect that these parts may flake most of their paint off and might cause issues with rusting or loosening of screws and other fitting. Only time will tell.
The supplied battery is essentially a mini battery, but wired together nunchuck style to fit in the crane stock. You can buy batteries set up this way from retailers (including 9.6v that will easily fit), but if you already have a significant investment in regular minis, this will be a pain in the ass. The battery is also a NiMH instead of the normal NiCd. I prefer the latter even though they don't store as much and many fast chargers will not work with NiMH. Double check yours before you try a quick charge.
All that said, I feel that this package is a great value to the experienced player. Many of these problems are not much different than what you would find with Classic Army models a couple of years ago when they first started. My plan is to use this model until it breaks or fails to operate as expected and then use the pieces on my aging TM M733. The parts and pieces alone make this a fantastic value (except for the crappy sling).