Review text and images by Mark 'Blondie' Ormerod.

The Classic Army 33E is based on the H&K33E. The 33E in real steel is essentially a G3 downsized to the smaller 5.56x45 calibre round whilst still employing the same delayed action roller bolt. It has a reputation of being extremely durable, with magazines reportedly still feeding having been run over by a vehicle.

Classic Army have in the past had a fairly poor reputation amongst airsofters. The external build quality has always been somewhat questionable - although regarded to be better than a stock plastic Tokyo Marui offering - with poor internals.

With their latest models however it does seem that CA have finally overcome both these issues. The CA33E comes with a loading rod, hop adjustment tool, excellent English(!) manual and a 330 round hi-capacity magazine. It's a well built gun - with the receiver being fully metal. They seem to have improved the quality of this metal over their earlier pig iron M15 / MP5 variants. The whole gun is sturdy and rock solid with none of the creaks or give found for example in the TM G3 series. The receiver and ABS components are all jet black with no visible seams or mould lines. After holding and skirmishing with this I put my TM kit up for sale. I hadn't realised just how creaky and plastic my Beta felt up until then!

Sadly, it is completely lacking any trademarks (also reflected in the CA designation before the 33E). The selector switch accurately replicates the SEF configuration. The selector switch feels smooth - a little too smooth as it can be hard to feel when it clicks into semi-automatic. However, given that this is an AEG and is generally on full-auto or safe its a forgivable problem. It features the standard G3 style open sites which are adequate for the job as you would expect. One thing to be aware of here is that whilst the low profile mounts all fit straight on (Tokyo Marui / Classic Army / PGC) - most of the other G3 / MP5 mounts such as the Claw Mount variants will require modification before they fit.

Moving onto the hi-caps there's good and bad news. First, the good. The mags fit and hold well in the gun - with no feed issues. The 5.56 Nato magpuls fit (although they're so tight you'd be advised to put the magpul into hot water for a few minutes to soften it and ease the fitting).

Now the bad. The trapdoor is extremely weak. Be very careful when opening and loading your mags as they have a tendency to shed the flap - resulting in an all but useless magazine.

According to the manual the hop should be adjusted with the provided tool - but its a simple and less fiddly task to turn the cog (which reminds me somewhat of the old TM M4 hop). Once set the hop seems to stay fine. There are some reports of the hop being poor but they don't actually detail in what way. So far, whilst not as finely adjustable as for example the G3 or AK series hops I haven't seen either of the old issues I suffered with TM M4 series guns. The hop is easy to set (the M4 was always too much or too little) and doesn't unwind over time.

Given the amount of metal in the gun its surprisingly light. The length precludes this from being an ideal CQB piece but its well balanced and will give you no back problems lugging it around all day.

Replacements parts - including the receiver - are easily and cheaply available from the usual CA sources. be aware though that the offical CA retailer in the UK (Airsoft Armoury) doesn't stock them! Accessories are fairly limited - although obviously you can add virtually any type of scope or optics onto it by employing a suitable mount. It is also compatible with H&K style torch / laser mounts and CA have released a metal RIS to replace the foregrip should that float your particular boat.

Power out of the box was around 280FPS and not the 330+ widely reported elsewhere. This rose to 340 with an M100 spring - although the power output does seem to vary from 325-340 with this current setup. I suspect the low out of the box power was down to the retailer, in this case Airsoft Armoury downgrading the AEG. There is a line of thought that both AA and ZeroOne either downgrade their kit or purchase it in at lower power ratings than foreign vendors. The cynical view is that margins are so small in the UK on AEG's that it is surmised that they are looking to encourage customers to take advantage of their upgrade service - on which the margins are considerably better. Evidence for this however still remains anecdotal - although we've noticed this power issue in all CA / ICS kit purchased from the above retailers and not in kit sourced from Hong Kong.

There are also reports that the CA range suffers from spring compression problems leading to quite radical power drops over time if the gun isn't fired empty for a short burst on full auto after use. Time will allow us to confirm or reject this.

The gearbox is high quality - a huge leap over earlier CA incarnations and will happily take at least an M100 spring out of the box. Interestingly enough, the rate of fire is higher than a comparible TM AEG (something we've seen also in the latest ICS kit). ROF with a 8.4v 2400 battery is comparible to a TM on a similarly rated 9.6v battery!

As an alternative to a Tokyo Marui this really is a no brainer. You're getting a solid, full metal gun with a better gearbox as stock. CA have finally addressed the quality issues which dogged them in the past and unless you can't find your preferred model as a CA or ICS offering you'd be mad to shell out for a TM replica now.

In summary then this a great piece of kit - only let down by the slightly poor mag design, lack of trades (if that's essential to you) and the light selector switch. This is a high quality durable AEG which will happily take whatever internal upgrades and hard skirmishing you can throw at it.

Mark 'Blondie' Ormerod.

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