Weight 3400 g
Power 328 fps
Motor RS High Torque
Battery Custom 8.4 V Small type
Shooting Mode Semi, Full Auto
Construction Steel, aluminum, nylon polymer
REAL GUN BACKGROUND
Norinco is a fairly well known name for anyone into real firearms. The name is short for North Industries Corporation, and the production facilities are used to manufacture a very wide selection of pretty much anything from sewing machines to high-tech long range suppression weapon systems! While the finish of the equipment is not always made to please the western eye, the functionality of the products is very high in contrast to the low cost. Their 1911A1-clone is actually credited for having the slide and frame made out of higher grade steel than many of its American produced counterparts! It is a popular base for custom 1911s among people who want a cost-effective base for their handgun.
Naturally, the weapons for the Chinese military forces are nowadays produced mostly by Norinco, and this includes the QBZ97, or "Type 97". The Type-97 is a 5.56x45 mm export version of the standard QBZ95, the former being chambered for the Chinese-developed 5.8x42 mm cartridge. As much as we'd like to go into detail about these, this article is about the airsoft version.
UNWRAPPING THE CANDY
The RS Type 97 comes packaged neatly in a cardboard box with padding to protect the AEG in the rigours of transit. Apart from the Type 97 and a 130 round M16 type magazine, the box contains a manual, a red muzzle cap, loading tools, an accessory/cleaning kit (real type), and a small oil can.
The manual is a very positive surprise for a change. The manual has clear diagrams, but also all the text in English, as well as a history explanation about Chinese assault rifles and the QBZ97. This kind of devotion indicates that the manufacturer has a deeper understanding of their product, instead of just making something that looks the same. The Type 97 has a standard 14 mm left hand (CCW) thread on the steel outer barrel, for attachment of a different flash hider, muzzle brake or suppressor.
THE ELECTRIC EXPERIENCE
The RS Type 97 feels incredibly solid in the hands, and quite heavy for the average size. The first comparison that springs into mind is the FA-MAS (because the amount of plastics, and flat surfaces), but still the Type 97 is completely different inside out. The first very obvious difference is that instead of the ABS plastic found on Japanese AEGs, RS uses reinforced polymer 66 (Nylon) for the plastic components. This is the same polymer that's most popular in real firearms with plastic parts as well. There are no creaks of flexes to be found in this model, and the center of balance is just a bit to the rear of the grip.
Not only are the plastic parts higher grade with better looks, but the metal parts are all steel, with the exception of the receiver, which is forged and CNC-machined duraluminum. The one-piece steel outer barrel is attached to the receiver via a trunion block and two large hollow pins (not the spring type though), to create a rigid platform for everything that is attached to the AEG: The inner barrel and hop-up have a precise fit with the outer barrel, and the gearbox locks onto the receiver positively as well. Add to this the steel scope mount rail that is also monolithic with the other parts, and you have a rock solid spine.
The receiver is finished by hard-anodizing to match the exact look and durability of the real one, but on the inside it is designed to fit the AEG gearbox only. Naturally as real as an airsoft gun looks on the outside, the insides still have to meet the requirements of a gearbox. The outer barrel has six holes drilled straight through, to further prevent any conversions and to meet the import requirements of certain countries. The holes are only visible when you disassemble the AEG, so they don't compromise the realistic looks at all!
Getting the gearbox out of the AEG proved to be easy, but it doesn't stop there. The gearbox features a rear cap that allows removal of the spring guide and spring by unscrewing one screw. For example if you prefer 400 fps for woodland gaming and a more target friendly velocity for indoors, you can swap the spring in three minutes with just one screwdriver! The parts inside the gearbox can handle hefty upgrades, but we would suggest solid bushings on the sector gear if you go over 450 fps. Naturally with harder upgrades you will also need a bigger battery to cycle the mechanism.
The internal parts are nothing short of great quality. Everything from the shell to the polymer and metal parts is high quality, and professionally assembled for a smooth running result. The gears are marked RS, and have a slight chamfer on the edges. The material is rock hard, and we have no doubts that these gears are virtually indestructible! (A too strong spring would break the bearings or stall the motor far before the strength limit of the gears is met.) The anti-reverse latch catches the bevel gear teeth directly, so instead of the traditional 2-5 steps the latch has 10 steps for stopping the gear backlash.
The spring guide as well as the piston head are standard AEG type, and can be changed to bearing versions. The spring guide rear tab is specially made for the RS, and not all spring guides allow you to change this part. We recommend the Systema spring guide if you wish to add a bearing for the spring.
One example of the amount of thought and design that has gone into this gearbox is the cylinder head. Now, offset nozzles is not a new thing. The TM Version 6 and 7 gearboxes have it, as well as some other designs. But with the Type 97, the barrel meets the receiver at a height that required the nozzle to be offset even more, right next to the cylinder wall. Because RS wanted to keep the external dimensions precise, enlarging the stock and receiver even just by 1 mm was out of the question. The solution was to machine a thinner groove for the O-ring on the cylinder head, and use a special O-ring with a cross section that looks like this: () instead of being completely round. The nozzle has an O-ring as well, and the piston head is ventilated as the norm is today. We tried to push the piston manually into the cylinder assembly with the nozzle plugged, but the pneumatics are air tight. The rear stroke and nozzle movement were smooth, so the tightness was not achieved by increasing friction either.
After seeing the first pictures of the real QZB95 and the Type 97 variant, we thought the best word to describe it would be "different", to say it politely. The pictures don't really do justice to the sleek and ergonomic appearance of the Type 97, but you have to see and feel it. Despite the real one being among the most popular assault rifles in the world when it comes to production numbers, it is not very widespread outside of China or instantly recognizable by the big public like an M16, AK, MP5 or UZI. Still, it is an effective and versatile airsoft gun, and the practical points speak for this AEG if you want to choose something different to stand out from the crowds.
The RS Type 97 is in training use with the Chinese armed forces, and was not accepted by light standards either. It is safe to say that it is an electric gun closer to a true training weapon than simply a BB hose for skirmishing.
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