A&K CA33 AEG/Springer Hybrid review by Booligan
Discuss this review: HERE
Basic Gun Information
In my eternal quest to try out damn near every obscure airsoft system out there, I've come across the A&K CA33. It is a clone of the KSC CA33, which came out in 2005, and features the same revolutionary gearbox design. JLS also released a clone of the KSC model, but I cannot verify any differences between it and the model being reviewed today.
I found this gun on Evike, in their "Check out what's new" section. I've been in the market for an inexpensive CA33 (copy of the CA or KSC system) for some time, and I was thrilled to see one come out that used the system that I really wanted to dive into; the KSC derived model. It is available HERE, priced at $140.00 at the time of this review. It arrived two days after ordering using UPS ground shipping, and it came in perfect condition, thanks to the sturdy packaging.
Basic Gun Information
This is an AEG system that most players have no idea exists. It is a hybrid gearbox, allowing it to function both as an electrically operated, fully automatic AEG, as well as a single shot spring action gun. It accomplishes this using a special gearbox that pre-cocks the gun before firing, operating in a similar manner to the TM PSG1 V4 gearbox. With a flip of the switch, the gearbox powers down, allowing you to operate it solely as a springer, as well as allowing you to fire a single shot to totally decompress the spring (no 2-3 shots on semi HOPING it decompresses the spring).
The CA33 comes packaged in a very plain brown cardboard box, with a sticker displaying the item number on the front. Inside, everything is VERY snugly secured in their individual cutouts in the plain (albeit quite flakey) foam lower. The foam started flaking off, and was sticking to the high-static parts of the gun, which was slightly annoying to clean off.
The package includes the gun itself, one stamped steel 40 round magazine, a small bag of BBs, an 8.4v 1100 mAh stick battery, trickle charger, cleaning/unjamming rod, and a very detailed manual.
Weight: 7 lbs
Length: 26.5" - 34"
Sight Radius: 20"
This can be considered a "Full Metal" replica, as nearly everything that is metal on the real gun is metal on this gun. I will go over each individual part in detail in this section.
From here on, click all pictures to enlarge
Externals, stock extended. I added a custom silver barrel extension in this picture
Starting at the rear, you will notice that the retractable stock is constructed of metal, with a rubber butt pad. It is retractable, and extends to two different positions. When collapsed, it locks in, and the adjustment lever must be rotated to allow it to extend. At the fully extended position, it displays a fair bit of freeplay, about ¼" in each direction.
First extended position
Moving forward, you will encounter the polymer lower receiver, which houses the main fire controls, as well as the "Power" switch. It is nicely textured, and feels VERY similar to the polymer that SRC uses on their Gen 2+ G36 series. One thing to notice is that it has a visible seam line, but once you're holding it, you can't notice it. The design of the grip is for right handed users, with a mild thumb rest being present on the left side, but left handed users can certainly operate the gun. The selector switch moves smoothly between the three fire modes (Safe "S", Semi "E", and Full Auto "F"), but it doesn't really click into any of the positions. One nice bit about the selector switch is that the indicator on the right side of the gun does display the chosen fire mode. The trigger pull is HEAVY for an AEG, but it is due to the fact that the trigger actually releases a sear, allowing the piston to fire freely. It's not just an electrical connection like most AEGs. Just in front of the trigger, you will find the main power switch. This is what allows you to switch from AEG to spring powered mode, as well as acting as a safety of sorts (although, if the gun is cocked already and the power is off, it will allow you to fire a single shot).
The upper receiver is made of a non-magnetic metal, which appears to be similar to Dboys metal receivers. The receiver is a multi-piece design, comprised of the two side panels and an upper piece located in front of the rear sight. Multi-piece design notwithstanding, the receiver is exceptionally solid, and features very few noticeable seam lines, namely at the front of the magwell, and the top of the rearmost claw mount receptacle. The paint finish on the receiver is smooth, but scratches easily. On the right side of the receiver, you will notice that the mock bolt is actually molded into the gun, and as such, does not move. The magazine release is connected to the lower receiver, and functions both as a "paddle" style release as well as a push button release.
Upper receiver left side
Upper receiver right side
Moving forward still, you will encounter the plastic handguard, which is easily removed using only one pin. On my gun, the handguard displayed a bit of free play, but this was rectified with a piece of Velcro stuck on the inside of the handguard to act as a spacer. Underneath this handguard is a metal and plastic chassis, which is what helps give this gun its stability. You will also see a large rotary dial just in front of the receiver. This dial is how you adjust the hop-up, and it is VERY secure once rotated to your chosen setting. Above the handguard is the cocking tube/handle. The tube is made of sturdy plastic, and the handle/cocking assembly is made of metal. It takes some force to pull back the cocking handle, mainly because it is actually cocking back the piston in the gearbox. It springs back forward when released with a satisfying "clink".
The very front assembly is made of metal, and consists of the 14mm+ threaded muzzle and the front sight. The positively threaded muzzle is a bit of a bummer, but there are muzzle devices out there threaded in this manner. The included flashhider is a solid orange plastic pseudo-birdcage design with two ports on the sides. Not terribly attractive, but easily replaced. The front assembly is attached using the sling mount, which screws through a bracket hidden underneath.
Aiming this replica is accomplished using the metal iron sights, which are adjustable for windage and elevation. You can also use a claw mount to attach pretty much whatever aiming device you desire.
Overall, the build quality is quite nice, but the finish leave a lot to be desired. The stock, sights, selector switch, cocking handle, and front assembly all have a very unattractive mottled black finish that scratches easily. The receiver has a very nice looking matte black finish, but it too scratches easily. A quick once over with some flat black spray paint would work WONDERS on the finish.
Oddly enough, there are some trademarks in the form of caliber markings located on the left side of the magwell. "Cal5.56x45" is molded into the magwell, giving it the correct caliber markings for this gun.
The fire mode indicators are molded in and painted, but the paint is a little sloppy on some of the markings.
Fire mode indicators
The included magazine is made of stamped steel, in a similar fashion as the real magazine. It is a low-capacity design, and only holds 40 rounds in my tests. Additional magazines are available for the KSC, but they are fairly rare. I do not yet know if CA CA33 magazines will work in this, but my guess is probably not. You can try and find KSC/JLS magazines, but as said earlier, they are relatively rare/expensive.
Baseline performance after a 500 round break in period is as follows:
FPS (Recorded using TSD .20g BBs shot through a Madbull V1 chrono):
Average over 10 shots: 304.8
The hop-up is fairly effective at spinning .20g ammo, but due to the low FPS, it doesn't like anything heavier than that. My maximum effective range with this gun was only 120', which was the furthest I was able to hit a man sized target 90% of the time.
Rate of fire is relatively low, and is not easily upgraded. I was only able to get it to shoot at 13 RPS max, using the stock battery. With an Intellect 8.4v 1600 mAh stick pack, I saw 15 RPS, so a replacement battery is a good idea with this gun.
Overall, performance was a little underwhelming, but I don't really consider this a hard-core skirmish gun to be honest. Until magazines are available inexpensively, the gun's use in a skirmish is relatively limited.
Accessing the gearbox for basic maintenance on this gun is extremely simple, only requiring the removal of two spring retained pins. Basically, you must first remove the magazine, then push out the magwell and stock pins. You can now slide off the stock, as well as the entire lower receiver, taking the gearbox out with it. This will also free you up to remove the hop-up/inner barrel assembly by sliding it out through where the gearbox was previously located.
Gearbox and motor
This gun uses a proprietary hop-up and barrel design, with two holes located in the feeding end of the barrel. There is a nub at the bottom that helps secure the BB before firing, and the main nub at the top to give it backspin. It's a funky design, and only PDI makes a replacement tightbore barrel for it.
Manual cocking "rod"
The battery is installed above the gearbox, and it only will take 8.4v stick batteries. Space is an issue here, as the battery basically shares room with the manual cocking assembly. To install the battery, you just have to remove the pin from the stock assembly, slide the stock off, and pull out the end cap/fuse assembly. You can then install the battery, ensuring that the wire is located in the bottom right corner of the battery tube. The plug is built into the end cap/fuse assembly, so just get the battery shoved in there, plug it in, and put the cap back in place.
End cap pulled out
Plug is built in
This website has detailed pictures of the KSC original version of this gun, but is in Chinese. It should help you disassemble the gun, as well as give you pictures of the goofy internal components: http://www.power-dy.com/html/c6/2006-05/164.htm
You are somewhat limited in your modification ability with this gun, namely because it isn't really compatible with anything other than the KSC and JLS models. DIY modders will find methods to tweak it, but overall, it is what it is. High FPS mods are not suggested, mainly due to the unavailability of spare parts, and the noncompatibility with standard upgrade parts. This is not a gun you really futz with, just enjoy the rare nature of your gun as is!
Very uncommon design - not many CA33s out there
Very unique operating system - AEG/Springer gearbox
Full metal construction
Absolute spring decompression
Inexpensive - $140
Poor paint finish on some parts
Not compatible with most anything
Not particularly upgradeable
HEAVY trigger pull
Limited to 8.4v stick batteries
I wanted something unique, and I certainly got it! This is an uncommon gun that you are not likely to run into someone else holding on the field. Sure, it's not the most tuner friendly gun, but it is very unique and will turn some heads on the field. It will also deliver a fun, albeit quite different shooting experience that you can't really get any other way. Is it really a skirmish ready package? Not really, with the low magazine capacity and difficult to find spare mags, but for a plinker/wall hanger/occasional use gun, it can certainly hold its own. All in all, I like it!
Many thanks again to Evike, Deadrag Airsoft Radio and of course, Airsoft Retreat!