Fifty Shades of Flat Dark Earth: The Hk416A5 by Elite Force
When we reviewed the VFC MP7 AEG by Elite Force, we said it wasn't worth the money. We didn't say it because the gun was bad (far from it, see for yourself) but because for the price asked for that gun, you could get something with significantly improved performance. The HK 416A5 by VFC and Elite Force was that gun. To try and downplay any sense that we were anything short of floored by the quality of this gun both inside and out would be disingenuous.
Before we break into the particulars of what makes this gun so astonishing, let's talk price. This gun is $455 at Airsoft GI, which is the definition of a premium price tag. That gets you one rifle, one magazine and one of the strangest methods for internal box packaging we've ever seen. That means every dollar of the price tag on this gun is derived from the quality of it's external features, and the performance from it's Generation 2 Avalon gearbox. While it's definitely not perfect, these are the types of guns we wish every manufacturer would produce, but few have ever managed to succeed at.
The external quality on this gun doesn't have very many equals. High end boutique brands like Innokatsu or Real Sword may be the only real competition this gun has in terms of the realism and authenticity of this gun's outer components. It's covered front to back in Heckler and Koch trademarks. The proportions are spot on, as is the weight, and the second you pick it up, you know you are holding something special. The 416A5 adds some new features to the older line of 416 rifles as well. These features include an ambidextrous bolt catch and magazine release, a new stock, and integrated front sight.
While the rear sight is removable, the front sight is built into the hand guard. It sits flush into the rail itself when not in use and unlike other guns that try this, does not provide any real downside. While I am always going to have a soft spot for old school HK drum sights, these new sights are a breeze to shoot with. While most people will add some sort of optic, at least the basics work, which always builds a great foundation for customization later.
The new stock and the ambidextrous controls however provided us with some of our only real issues with this gun. None of these were truly experience breaking, but we wouldn't be doing our job as an unbiased gun reviewer if we didn't point them out. The new stock replicates the kind found on the real model, so for every point Elite Force and VFC get for authenticity, they lose a couple because this stock just isn't very functional for battery storage the way other guns, including older iterations of the 416 are. It is very comfortable, easy to adjust, and doesn't have a sling loop that just gets in the way like the 416A4 did, but it has almost no battery space. The ambidextrous controls all function, but the left hand side magazine release was very stiff. We've heard from some of the local airsofter population that they do break in over time, but they never get to be as usable as the right hand side button.
To Elite Force's credit, they did release a battery specially designed for this gun and the MP7. It does the job, but much like in the MP7, it lacks as much power and battery length as the other options on the market. However, at least effort was made to make the gun functional, and it does fit other batteries, but you may find yourself shortening your wires, or switching to deans plugs to make it all function correctly.
Overall, the external quality wins more points then we have to dock it for a couple of minor gripes though. All of these minor issues are in service to authenticity which is a decision we can respect. If you're a collector, that's going to be more important anyway. This 416A5 was also in the limited edition bronze/tan/khaki colorway that has been the source of much contention. Whether or not you like it is going to be a matter of personal preference, but having seen the real deal in person, this is pretty spot on, we just wish Heckler and Koch would be a little less of a spaz with their color choices.
Before we dive into the guts, we did clock some statistics on this gun. Our model chronographed an average of about 353 FPS, with a peak high at 358, and a weird low shot at 346. This gun is definitely on the lower power side of the spectrum, but we didn't notice any issues test firing it at distance. We easily hit shots past 200 feet, and with some minor upgrades this gun is an easy candidate for the 300 foot club.
The reason for this awesome performance is the Generation 2 Avalon Internal components inside. VFC took the internal parts to another level of outrageous performance. This gearbox is a work of art on the inside. The Electronic Control system included in the gearbox makes trigger response snappy, and cuts down on over spin, something that was a problem on the first generation of guns with higher power batteries. The quality of metal used on the gears is more than adequate for the kinds of abuse your average player will put this gun through, and the striking red color of the cylinder makes sure you know you have an authentic Avalon blaster.
Speaking of abuse. we put this gun through it's paces. Having owned many a VFC rifle in the past, I can tell you first hand the piston is often a very quick part to snap in these guns, but magazine after magazine, this gun chugged along without any real signs of imminent doom inside. It could maybe use a little bit more grease from the factory, and the shimming could use a touch of improvement, but it was still far and away one of the best stock gearboxes we've looked at so far.
The electronic control system is the brain of this whole operation, and while it works absolutely flawlessly, it hasn't been on the market long enough to see if it's going to hold up long term, or have issues the way early models of the ARES chips did at release. So far we are impressed, but firmly fall into the "We're not sold" camp for now. Thankfully, it doesn't seem like the way it's been implemented is going to adversely affect installation of a higher end unit such as a GATE Titan, if you ever decide to go that route with your own 416A5.
The artistic nature of this gearbox is absolutely the secret to it's success. After all, an authentic exterior isn't worth the money if the gun cannot perform when you pull the trigger. It's not just a looker, this 416A5 can absolutely perform on the field, and make sure your equipment isn't the thing holding you back on the field.
Short Answer: Yes
The long answer is that this gun not only met but shattered our expectations for what a good airsoft gun should be. While we did have a couple of small gripes, all of those things stemmed out of a desire to be authentic to the source material, and we can't really fault VFC or Elite Force for their commitment to making one of the most accurate replica AEGs on the market, especially when it shoots this well. Make no mistake, this gun is not just another M4 rifle. It is possibly one of the best on the market for sale right now, and it absolutely should find a place in your collection. Pick one up, you won't regret it.
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