In the airsoft marketplace today, we have so many options to choose from. Whether your budget is tiny or as vast as the ocean, there is an airsoft gun designed to fit your needs and style. The question becomes: When is it worth it to spend more money?
Today, we've taken two rifles we've reviewed in the past and put them head to head to see whether you are actually getting something for your extra rubles. The Lancer Tactical Gen 2 M4s will be going head to head with the Elite Force VFC 416A5 powered by their legendary Avalon gearbox. Let's get into it!
To get the best initial picture of quality, let's start with the gearboxes.
The Lancer Tactical Gen 2 gearbox is pretty simple. It is very expertly crafted for the price, with metal components, a proper amount of grease, and no immediate need to re-shim and re-lubricate the box upon purchase. While it may lack the features of other high end blasters, it is well built. Whether you get the low power rifle or the high power rifle will be the determining factor of your FPS readings, but both hit their advertised marks, as we covered in our review.
The Avalon gearbox inside of the VFC 416A5 is another matter entirely. This gearbox was something we described as about as close to perfect as you could get in 2019. The gearbox is a master class is airsoft craftsmanship, with high quality components, not even a hint of concern for lubrication or shimming tolerances. The included ECS (electronic control system) parts make this gearbox sing. However, minus the added features, it's still only slightly higher quality than the Lancer Tactical box. If we compare the high power model from Lancer to this gun, they are both in the upper range of velocity, near the 400 FPS cap of most fields. This begs the question: Where are you really spending those dollars?
Surely, if the 416A5 is a more expensive gun, it has to have a more expensive barrel right?
Both barrels are actually brass in each gun. The VFC sports a standard bore barrel, while the Lancer uses a tight bore barrel. We found the VFC to shoot more accurately, however only slightly. This is likely a factor of the VFC's better designed hop up unit, which more finely adjusts pressure, and a higher quality more grip-friendly hop up bucking in the 416A5. The Lancer rifle compensates by utilizing the tighter bore, and you are able to get similar, though not quite as good performance.
We've covered the insides, and still haven't found a reason to justify the over $300 difference in price between these guns. Perhaps it lies on the outside.
The Lancer Tactical rifle is very clearly a polymer body gun. From the grainy feel of plastic, and a finish we found less than ideal to the touch, to the little flex you get in long flat portions like the walls of the magazine well, everything screams "Plastic!"
The 416A5 on the other hand is finely crafted metal. It does not bend nor break to the touch of human hands. The receiver on the 416A5 commands a certain kind of respect when you hold it. It washes over you with a supernatural call to battle with it's very rugged exterior.
The 416A5 also happens to sport more features. It's controls are universally ambidextrous, and while they are not perfect, it's a welcome addition above a right-handed gun in the Lancer model. There is no barrel wobble that we found on some Lancer rifles we have handled (though the models we reviewed did not experience this, as it is dependent on the handguard).
The answer to our question may yet be at hand. If one is clearly better, then who are these guns for?
These guns are very clearly not designed to accommodate the same player. The price of the 416A5 is clearly not meant for the new player, while the fit and finish of the Lancer Gen 2 is not going to win over long time players with it's cheap feel.
Performance is surprisingly close though. We got similar accuracy out of either gun, while the 416A5 did edge out on distance. Trigger response and rate of fire go to the 416A5, but again only barely. Performance is not worth the $300 difference in price. Most of that comes from the realistic rugged feel of a full metal construction and the benefit of Heckler and Koch branding and style.
So what was the point of all of these direct comparisons between two obviously different guns?
We wanted to illustrate how far lower price guns have come. It used to be that if you paid entry level price for an airsoft gun, you got entry level performance. Now, that isn't the case. If you only want to spend $200 on a gun, you won't be so vastly out-shot by a higher end rifle. Most of the cost increase in modern day airsofting comes from licensed guns, higher build quality or external features. All three of these are factors present in the VFC rifle, and while it does edge out on performance, it is only a 10% difference at best over the 75% increase in cost.
All we're really saying here is: Don't judge a book by it's cover.
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