Well I should think that this is going to be one of the longest reviews that I’ve written to date by the time I’ve got it all finished. To cater for folks that have differing levels of familiarity with the CA36C the review is broken down into handy sections to allow you to easily find what you’re looking for. As a bonus if you get bored of me wittering on at any point you can also skip entire chapters. Remember there’s still time to grab refreshments before you sit down for the review…
CA36C? It seems like ages since Classic Army announced their intention to release their own copy of the HK G36C. The first images appeared of a prototype on Classic Army Italia about a year ago.
Henrik over at ActionSportGames A/S really kindly offered to send over one of the latest prototypes for the new ClassicArmy for me to have a look at which arrived this morning by courier (ParcelForce.. more on that later).
It should be pointed out that as this is a prototype and still not a production sample that a series of issues that are apparent with it are listed to be fixed/improved before release. As at this time (14/10/04) the CA36C has not been officially released yet.
We expect the new CA36C to be released in November (next month) or at the latest December ’04. As we all know plans can be delayed, and just about any release date in the Airsoft scene is prone to slippage.
In the box The CA36C arrived promptly this morning delivered by ParcelForce. Taking the parcel back to the office I set about removing the decent amounts of wrapping that the guys at ActionSportGames A/S had wrapped the box in. With the wrapping removed the box could be opened. As the lid was removed the carpet was covered in a positive shower of white polystyrene snow. My heart sank thinking the worst.. the rifle was at an angle inside the box with the rifle itself, magazine and cleaning rod loose.
In transit the box had been smashed around so much that with every impact chunks of the polystyrene packing had been chewed from the packaging. The floor was now covered with all of these chunks. I’d personally like to thank ParcelForce UK for quite literally drop kicking the box all the way from Heathrow to my door.
Please do note that it was not ActionSportGames A/S fault that the parcel was abused, the parcel was damaged in transit.
My main worry was that the rifle had become damaged in transport, and given the amount of damage to the box I was expecting to find some cracks and broken parts. Given the obvious damage to the box I was actually very impressed, as despite being obviously slung around so much there was no visible damage to the AEG itself. I think the fact that the rifle wasn’t rendered a sack of broken parts is somewhat of a testimony to the build quality of the ClassicArmy’s new AEG.
In the box supplied there’s a hicap magazine, cleaning rod and the rifle itself. As this is a prototype there are no BBs manuals or paperwork in the box to refer to.
So, it survived the rather traumatic trip through the post. How does it fair after all the polystyrene balls had been cleaned out of every AEG orifice?
A little CA history ClassicArmy’s new AEG is a replica of the Heckler and Koch G36C. Tokyo Marui of course produced the first mainstream production G36C AEG not so long ago (December 2002). I think it’s worth mentioning some of the history when it comes to TM and CA designs.
Marui’s AEGs are made (primarily) for the Japanese market from inside Japan, so whilst they don’t produce any authorised copies they are effectively untouchable when it comes to the application of international copyright laws. Heckler and Koch are more than a little tetchy when it comes to the protection of their good name. They do not allow any replication of their designs. Most recently Asia Paintball ran into some legal issues over their RAM pistol with H&K taking legal action against their distributors in the US. This led to a sudden change in the design of the pistol and further dilution to an already flawed design.
Now Classic Army AEGs are made in Hong Kong with the bulk of their production going for export to the EU and US. Imports into most countries which are inspected by customs can be impounded if the trademarks on them are improperly licensed. With this in mind CA are careful when it comes to their designs and trademark infringement.
After what seemed like a bit of a scare the first release of the CA M4s were quickly rebranded from their original Colt markings shortly after launch of the v2 model to “Classic Army” for the v3 model. ActionSportGames A/S first signed a worldwide exclusive
From this point Classic Army and ActionSportGames A/S started to work closely
Several original parts – like the receiver, carrying handle, sights, stocks,
The rifles were first shown to the public in the USA at Shot Show 2003 in
CA’s own MP5 replica line does not sport any HK markings or logos, and the new CA36C is even more careful in it’s design. Whilst looking like an HK G36C in almost every respect all HK specific markings are lacking, both on the box and the AEG itself.
I don’t think it would be unfair to say that ClassicArmy took more than a little inspiration from Marui’s design to produce their own replica, nor do I think it’s unfair to say that basically they reverse engineered TM’s product. CA’s design is almost identical to that of Tokyo Marui’s own copy but with some minor differences. The two main design flaws originally pointed out in the TM design were the leaky hopup unit which allowed unregulated gas expulsion and thus power drop offs, and the sometimes dodgy buttstock hinge/catch – it’ll be interesting to see if these flaws have been fixed.
I’ll be careful to word this right, as I don’t want to come across as bashing CA, because I’m not (no really I’m not). Anyone that remembers the MP5 range, and the Colt/M15 range when they were launched by CA will remember how bad some of the first versions were, and the time it took for faults to be fixed in the production cycle. The CA33 seems to be the break from this trend of effective prototyping and gradual improvement through public sales. Instead we are seeing good reports and feedback from the outset. Hopefully the CA36C will continue in the new pattern of dependable replicas right from the word go, so lets see how they’re doing so far.
Naturally with the TM model being available, the CA model will be looked at both in its own right and in comparison.
Opening the box
First looks When parcels arrive from couriers they are normally quite cold, which provides the perfect opportunity to quickly discover which parts are metal as they feel much colder to the touch than the plastic equivalent. With the better quality plastics coming out these days it’s getting harder and harder to spot metal parts without physically scratching them.
When I first grabbed the CA36C the first thing that came to my mind was the quality of the plastic. It’s difficult to describe, but the plastic almost feels dull/matt to the touch, which is certainly not a bad thing. CA have obviously been learning and haven’t lapsed back into using standard non-fiber reinforced ABS which has been seen from them in the past. The real HK G36c itself is made from a fibreglass style polymer, but for Airsoft use, glass fiber mixed ABS is a good substitute.
I was curious, as picking the 36 up for the first time I thought it was heavier than the TM copy, but weighing the CA model on the scales here it comes in at 2590g without magazine/battery and the mag itself weighing 160g. The TM G36C model weighs 2650g, so there’s really nothing between the two. The real thing weighs 2.8Kg, so with a full mag and mini battery installed you’re going to be bang on the real weight.
CA are known for making AEGs that whilst based on technology compatible and similar to TM’s offer better value for money with more reinforced internal parts, better performance and a greater quantity of metal (normally a full metal body). The choice to make a G36C copy is unusual, as from first looks I can’t see any parts that are metal that aren’t on the TM model, although to be honest the only real change I was expecting visually between the two was a metal scope rail on the CA.
The real thing doesn’t have a metal scope rail, instead it’s another very high density tough fiber polymer from H&K. In the Airsoft model the rail is made of the same fiber reinforced plastic as the main body. Upon further inspection this rail is not just fiber reinforced plastic as there is a metal rail bolted into the underside of the rail which adds to the rigidity.
With no easily discernable difference in external design between the TM and CA (apart from markings), in order to sell itself and set it apart from the competition it will have to offer better value for money and better performance.
Build quality is good, there’s no obvious rattles or loose parts and the molding is up to scratch although not quite perfect yet, but more on that in a later part of the review.
Features/options: Taking a look at the functionality of the rifle and working from the front of the AEG to the back, here’s what you’ll find on this rifle.
The G36C is a shortened G36 and the newest release from HK in the G36 line. It features a short handgrip with handstop underneath which doubles as a front sling point. The buttstock is shorter than previous G36 variants and it comes fitted with open sights and no carry handle. The foregrip has hard points for fitting rails for aiming devices to both the left and the right sides and comes with a lower rail prefitted. In the real world the unit is intended for use in confined spaces.
Markings: Sadly because of the limitations of molding, the serial umbers for the CA36C series are all the same. Unlike the M15s you don’t get a unique serial number as the markings haven’t changed since the first prototype mould. There’s also no logos for the reasons mentioned previously.
Sling points: There are four sling points. One rear sling point is next to the stock hinge on the left hand side, and there’s another at the rear of the stock. Things are slightly different at the front, where there are two fixture points either side of the forward hand stop.
Metal parts: Like the TM G36C the CA36C sports a metal subframe that adds to the rigidity. Metal parts include the front rail, front sling point, muzzle, front barrel, ejection point, sights, fire select switch and internals. The gearbox is the same as that found on the AK47 replica, with the motor mounted in a reinforced metal chassis bolted to the gearbox itself. For a plastic rifle it’s a pretty strong piece of kit.
Sights: The CA36C comes with open sights fitted to it. Both the front and rear sights are metal. The front sight is a pretty standard HK style foresight, and the rear sight is an adjustable unit with two differing diameter flip up aiming apertures, giving you a rear sight that’s usable in most reasonable lighting conditions.
Rails: The CA36C comes with a single lower rail fitted right out of the box. You could fit all kinds of aiming devices and accessories to the lower rail, although it’s most likely best suited to a vertical grip. there are two further sets of rail mounting hard points, but you’ll have to pick up some spare rails separately. First Factory, and various other manufacturers make suitable rails and just about anything made for the TM G36C will fit the CA36C, so when the rifle is launched there will be loads available to choose from.
Folding buttstock: The side-folding skeleton buttstock is standard on all G36 rifles although it’s shorter on the C variant. The stock folds to the right side and secures against the shell deflector (which doubles as a locking latch) and does not interfere with rifle operation when folded.
One point of note is that you can’t fold the stock if you have a mag clipped on to the left as it will obscure things.
On the underside of the stock you’ll find a series of holes. Somewhat of a puzzle the holes are on the real thing to give you somewhere to secure your receiver and foregrip pins when you are servicing the rifle.
Button inside trigger guard? The real G36 series are equipped with a bolt catch (a feature that automatically retains the bolt in the rearward position when the last round is spent or when the weapon is cocked with an empty magazine inserted). The bolt catch can also be manually engaged by depressing a button located at the front inside the trigger guard the retracting the cocking handle. The bolt can be released by either removing the empty magazine or loading a magazine with rounds in it, then pulling the cocking handle further back and letting go. On the Airsoft replica the bolt release button doesn’t do anything, and is merely for show.
Using the rifle:
Battery fitment: Obviously you’ll have to fit a battery inside the foregrip to use the CA36C, these things are electric and not much more than a pretty paperweight without power. Fitting a battery is quite simple really, just remove the foregrip pin, and slide the front grip off to the front as shown here:
Now you’ll find a mass of wire inside the grip, things aren’t as tidy as the TM wiring system, so best to tidy things yourself before sticking the grip back on. Personally I prefer to hide the fuse box tot eh side of the barrel between the muzzle break and the knee bend in the metal reinforcing subframe, then hiding the connectors in the same place on the other side of the barrel.
With the wires tucked away in place you can just slide the foregrip back on carefully. With the wires and battery in situ you’ll find the foregrip is much tighter and once the pin is back in place there’s almost no lateral movement at all. You won’t have to worry about the foregrip pin falling out with the battery in place either.
The magazine: The magazine provided is a 470round high capacity (aka hicap) model. This is pretty normal for CA, they provide high capacity magazines with all their rifles on the assumption that more people use hicaps than locaps. The added value of not having to buy a new magazine from the outset for some is a good selling point.
The mag is made from a transparent plastic so you can actually see through it and how full it is from the outside. It should be noted that this may not be suitable for purists that prefer exact copies of real gear.. however the same people may also be best suited to getting hold of the more realistic low capacity magazines with the false rounds housed inside anyway.
On either side you’ll see attachment fixings. One side there are two shoe like moldings, and the other side there are two locations into which fitments like that will fit into. This simple idea allows you to clip together multiples of magazines for easy changeover.
On either side of the magazine you’ll find these markings:
To fill the mag you’ll find a ribbed section on the rear area at the top. This pivots backwards leaving you with a hole through which to fill the magazine. The latch cover is tight and secure, so you’re unlikely to get mags popping open inside your webbing like the G3 or MP5 series can when carried upside down.
At the foot of the magazine you’ll find the winding wheel. The wheel needs to be turned towards the front to drive the clockwork mechanism and feed BBs into the rifle when used. As with any other hicap you fill the magazine then wind the wheel until there’s a louder click than normal which indicates that the clockwork mechanism is wound tight.
Rock and roll: Well with a loaded magazine and a battery installed it’s time for you to have a play with the CA36C
Mag fitment: I should say from the outset here that there’s a fault with the prototype’s design that will be fixed for the production version. Basically the tolerances on the moldings are too tight for the mag well which means that the magazine needs to be pushed in quite hard before the mag catch audibly clicks into place. The securing lug on the catch could be adjusted, but my guess is that CA will take the obvious simple option and modify the mag catch lever itself reducing the overall length above the pivot point by about 0.5-0.8mm or so to give a better fit that’s still secure.
Unlike the CA MP5 series and the M4 set to an extent, there’s no lateral play in the mag well which really tells you how well the moulds have been made. Obviously the mags are almost overly secure in this model (due to he flaw mentioned above) but should remain so in the production versions. You are highly unlikely to unexpected see any mags dropping out while in use with this replica.
fire select switch
Markings: So lets have a look over the external build quality of this new AEG from Classic Army. Visually you’re looking at a pretty good copy of the real thing, and apart from the differing markings externally you’d be hard put to spot that this is not a Tokyo Marui which is not a bad thing in my opinion.
Markings: As I’ve previously mentioned there are no official markings on the CA36C, instead of the ‘HK’ logo there are CA’s own markings. Down the left side of the rifle you’ll find the following lettering:
I’m sure the lack of original markings will be a sore point for some, although it does mean that imports into the US will be easier without unsightly trademark removal or obscuring. The rifle could fall foul to any relevant ‘look-a-like’ patents should they so be enforced at the time of import.
Build quality: To me the fiber reinforced plastics used by CA look better than any I’ve seen in any other G36 replica. All the plastics are the same colour, with no difference in shade between sections that you sometimes see. The glass-fiber reinforced material is not only stronger than standard ABS, but looks more like the composites used by HK themselves.
There’s very little play in the design, although the foregrip is loose with no battery fitted. This is a known issue and one that CA will have fixed in the production versions. For some reason the foregrip pin fits more securely when inserted from the right than from the left which as far as I can tell can only be down to molding tolerances.
Because of the way that almost all molding systems work most of the body for the CA36C body is molded in two halves then attached together to make the complete part. All the major parts have molding seams along the centre line.
The handguard, main body and folding stock all have these mould lines visible on them. The foregrip lines are not perfect (although this should be improved before release) but are comparable to TM quality, on the model that I have the molding on the main body and stock is very good. As ever there can always be improvement, but you have to remember that this is a low cost replica and therefore never going to be up to the same quality as very expensive real firearm.
The foregrip has 4 hard point mounting holes in it, two either side, which allow you to bolt on the side RIS rails. These threaded holes could be a point of failure in a cheaper design, but thankfully CA have nicely over engineered these with some decent material making up the threads (see photo).
Description of the build quality of the AEG.
metal parts list?
The mag well is held in by a straight through pin bolt. When you undo the nut the bolt can be retracted from the opposite side and the mag well then swivels away from the main body pivoting on the front lugs then away from the body.
With the middle bolt removed, you need to carefully detach the power connector hidden next to the hop unit (under the mag well hinge area). It’s a standard battery connector, so just unplug it and free the wires so that they aren’t wrapped around anything.
Before you try to remove the gearbox fold the stock back and remove the bolt that you will find in the rear of the main hinge. This bolt secures the hinge to the gearbox itself. To unscrew the bolt you’ll need the 3mm Allen key.
Now with the last bolt removed carefully swing the gearbox away from the main frame. Don’t force anything as there is not a great deal of room between the hopup unit and the front of the gearbox. The inner barrel is actually sprung against the front of the rifle meaning that as you swing the gearbox out the barrel and hopup unit move forward, and then spring back in place. This is worth bearing in mind as when you go to put things back together it’ll look like there’s not enough room to move the gearbox back into place. Don’t worry, as you edge things back together the hopup unit will move forwards out of the way, just don’t force things.
Inside the gearbox: With the gearbox out of the chassis, and if this is the first time you’ve seen a mechbox yourself it’s worth familiarising yourself with how everything works and where it should be, especially if you plan of taking the gearbox itself to bits. In these shots you can see how the tappet plate and fire select movements line up for safe/select
First signs inside the gearbox look good, there is grease visible in the right amounts and no metal shards (lack of grease and visible metal filings are symptomatic of poorly run workshops). My only slight worry is the angle of the gearbox nozzle which seems to be drooping alarmingly downwards.
Stripping the gearbox This is the bit I normally dread. To be honest there’s no real reason to take the gearbox to bits.. but I have to if I’m going to show you guys what’s inside there. Ladies and gets welcome to the world of tiny parts and even smaller springs. :)
Differences between TM and CA version? So what is different between the Classic Army AEG and the TM version?
Here are some shots of the TM G36C which are courtesy of
CA wires not as tidy – Every TM rifle I’ve ever looked at always has wires that are quite tidy at the front. The MP5-RAS for example has the wires neatly zip tied to the inner barrel. The CA36C wires in the foregrip are rather loose, and you’ll have to tidy things yourself to get the battery in. It’s not a huge issue, but it’s something worth pointing out.
Colours – Classic Army metal parts have a different sheen to them compared to Tokyo Marui. TM metal parts tend to have a browny/black anodised colour, whereas the metal parts on the Classic Army have a fine finished powercoat look to them that is distinctly dark grey in colour.
CA’s plastics are more uniform in colour too. Whilst TM’s parts vary in colour slightly (most likely due to inconsistent plastic mixes used for molding), CA’s are all the same dark grey/black. TM’s version sports a plastic body that is best described as an partly glossy black, whereas the CA model is distinctly matt black.
Parts missing – the CA version is an almost a direct copy of the TM, however parts GC-14 and GC-15 (TM part numbers) are not copied and nowhere to be found. In the TM version they are simply cosmetic moldings that fit around the inner barrel inside the foregrip, and are normally removed to allow the use of larger battery packs, such as the double stick packs that are available.
Connectors – the CA36C has a standard mini battery connector hidden inside the magwell area that allows for much easier disassembly than the TM (which features mini hard wired joints), which I felt was a nice touch. If you want to turn the CA36 into a CA36K replacing the wiring loom takes a matter of seconds.
Known problems with the current design: These current issues are already known about and are due to be fixed for the production version:
Improvements I’d like to see:
Options/Addons: There are a selection of addons that you can get specifically for the CA36C.
External links: Links to external sites of interest.