Review text and images by Mark "Blondie" Ormerod.

The Beta Spetsnaz is an oft overlooked and somewhat uncommon sight at skirmishes. Whilst the Beta doesn't exist in "real steel" form - it is essentially an Kalashnikov AKS-74U with a solid stock - in Airsoft terms this means large capacity batteries - and black furniture.

So, what's in the box ?

The usual TM paraphernalia, your barrel plug, cleaning rod, 0.25 BB's, TM Catalogue, AK47 Manual, Beta Spetsnaz schematics and a 250 round hi-cap. The new hi-cap is a good place to start - they are very compact - and definitely add to the streamlined effect of the Spetz - although whether or not you'll abandon them for the higher capacity standard mags will largely depend on your personal loadout. Of course the main thing about the Spetsnaz is that it is just an AK - with black furniture, a different front end and importantly for me as I could never get to grips with them - new open sites.

Having skirmished with an AK47 previously and with Jezz our resident AK freak having played alongside me for what seems like an age, I'm always pleasantly surprised at the decent rate of fire the EG700 motor and AK gear box give you - even with an M100 spring in the box. It's not that much different to my converted SR16 - definitely slightly slower when you hear them going back to back but that's it. The Spetsnaz is also a loud gun - making considerably more noise than its older bigger brother - think of the AK "slapping" when you fire - this definitely "claps" - the stubby short barrel of the Spetz I assume supressing the sound of the gearbox less.

Grouping and accuracy given the barrel length are good - not I will grant you as good as an AK47 with its extra inches - but in comparison to an AK47 with the same upgrades (admittedly it had a tight inner barrel) the grouping is only slighty wider and maximum range a matter of ten yards or so.

As you would expect with the mags being clipped and held in place in the magwell feed issues are non existant and the hop is perfect once set and consistent with no tendancy like the M4 range for example, to unset over time.

I was a little concerned that the rail on the base of the front grips would be a little uncomfortable but they're perfectly adequate - feeling less "sharp" edged than the metal RAS I was used to. This rail is a real boon for night games making easy installation of a torch possible - and is a nice alternative to the tried and tested AK method of gaffa tape and a maglite.

There aren't a huge wealth of options for the Beta - although you can obviously fit full metal bodies and different AK compatible grip kits to it. The upper receiver as on an AK is metal and the stock body is strong and free of creaks. Compared to other solid stocked guns - especially the M4 / M16 series - the stock is externally smaller but still fits a 2400 84v large battery with no problems whatsoever. Removing the flashhider reveals a 14mm negative thread so that you can fit pretty much any type of flash hider or silencer that you wish. There are also a wide range of scopemounts allowing you to attach a weaver rail to both the front and the rear of the receiver. I experimented both with open sites and a rail mounted Cobra - but after several skirmishes I have decided the open sites are the way to go with this piece.

The fact that there aren't a huge array of external upgrades / bolt ons for this piece certainly isn't a problem - as I do feel with this TM have in my mind created the perfect configeration for Airsofting. They've taken the solid and reliable AK gearbox and design - put it in a nice compact body - large enough to take a decent battery (and huge mags should that float your boat) - but still small enough for both CQB and tight woodland play. In other words - powerful and suits every role you could want in an Airsoft skirmish. Despite a shorter barrel length than the AK47 it stil boasts great range thanks to the hop - and if you don't believe that a good hop is at the heart of a good gun - in fact more so than barrel length - powers upgrades or TN barrels - set the hop off completely and observe the results.

The addition of a rail to the base of the foregrip is an excellent innovation for night games - fitting standard rail mounts for lights and lasers.

Mark "Blondie" Ormerod.

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