Bite The Bullet
Attack of the (China) Clones (2009-10-22)
1991 was the year that Tokyo Marui's "Marui Man" introduced us to the concept of the automatic electric gun in a video commercial that would reveal the raison d'Ítre of their battery-powered toy gun. In that 10 minute masterpiece, which is now legendary in the airsoft community, we saw the battle between a bunch of guys using clumsy gas-powered rifle set-ups against the super-cool Marui Man using the new sleek Marui method, which used a neat little power solution stored in the stock of the gun. Of course, the battery-powered solution wiped the floor with the gas-powered ones in a slightly cheesy video that gave a slight nod to some of those Chow Yun Fat movies from back in the day. To make their point more apparent, they showed the power that could be unleashed from the mechanical gubbins within by shooting cigarettes (they must have pre-empted the current hostilities towards smoking) and by destroying a red apple.
The Marui man grinned, but despite the smugness, Marui probably wouldn't have predicted back then that the workings of this toy gun would become the benchmark for all other airsoft guns that followed.
A decade on, and Tokyo Marui & the other Japanese manufacturers had enjoyed a golden period in the airsoft industry. New brands popped-up from Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong, although there was no denying that Marui was the grand-daddy of them all.
|The new type Tokyo Marui M4A1 - a popular choice.||The workings of the AEG shown in the original Marui Man advert.||The Jing Gong M4A1 - one of the better clones out there.|
However, a couple of years ago, a new bastard love-child was born that threatened to ruin the party, run off with everyone's wives and make its grand-daddy turn in its grave (even though it wasn't dead yet). It marked the birth of the "China clone". On paper it sounded nice, but slightly naughty - full-metal, low-priced AEGs, which were exact copies of the Tokyo Marui innards. With a market filled with Marui mods, it opened up airsoft to a whole new community; with those on a tight budget or those who don't want to invest heavily on a first gun, it proved to be the ideal solution for them.
There was one big problem however...the production and sales of these replica toy guns on the mainland is kinda illegal. The unruly child enjoyed a bit of naughty fun while it lasted, but there's no running away from the fact that what they were doing is as illegal as smoking crack while driving a stolen car full of prostitutes.
It's 2009 now and China has launched "a crackdown on gun crimes to ensure social stability" (Ministry of Public Security said Tuesday in an online statement). The campaign which started back in March and will end on the 31st October includes confiscating illegal weapons (both real steel and replicas), which also includes seizing groups or individuals who produce them. Source: http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90776/90882/6621164.html
"Shenzhen Customs officers destroy replica guns in the warehouse of its Huizhou anti-smuggling office Thursday. About 2,790 guns and 1,500 kilograms of spare parts were destroyed, Customs officials said Friday. The popularity of field warfare games has contributed to increased demand for replica guns in the domestic market, which has led to an increase in replica gun smuggling cases, officials said. The guns resemble the real thing in color, weight, size and quality, and as such can be used by criminals to threaten victims in robberies and muggings. So far nearly 12,000 smuggled replica guns and spare parts have been seized by the Customs this year". Source: http://szdaily.sznews.com/html/2009-09/28/content_794341.htm
To coincide with the 60th anniversary of the introduction of Communism in China, the government decided to get heavy on the airsoft manufacturers; the boss of AGM was arrested and penalized with a lengthy jail sentence. Also, we've received reports that the A&K factory has been closed indefinitely. And with a reported 34,690 imitation guns seized in Guangdong province alone (source), the question on everyone's lips is - who's next on the chopping block? Does this attack of the clones mean that the Chinese airsoft industry is just a flash in the wok?
What's going to happen to the Chinese airsoft industry now then? Well, the fact that this "industry" was underground in the first place and that they got away with it so long means that there is a likelihood that the factories may continue to product them after the 31st October. There have been rumours about Magpul teaming up with A&K to make an airsoft version of the Masada, but we wouldn't bank on that being likely to come to fruition, what with the happenings going on in China currently.
It's possible that airsoft manufacturers might try to fill the void that might be left from the closure of Chinese factories, by making their own line-up of economy guns. For example, VFC have recently created an "E-series" of guns, with the "E" standing for "economy". It might well be up to Taiwan and Hong Kong to come up with more economical airsoft guns. Or perhaps the balance will swing back to the Japanese manufacturers? It seems, 2 decades on, and we are still turning to Marui Man to come up with the answers...