Review: Classic Army CA53
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Like so many other reviews this one will start off with a brief history of the replica being reviewed. The CA53 is a replica of Heckler and Koch’s HK53 assault carbine. The HK53 was offered in numerous variations, including 2 different sliding stocks (A3 version), a fixed stock (A4 version), and a stockless version used to fire through ports on vehicles, known as the HK53 MICV. The carbine is chambered for the NATO standard 5.56x45 round, and has magazine capacities of 20/25/30/40/100, with the 100 round BETA-C magazine being manufactured by the BETA Company (www.betaco.com/)
The review begins
As soon as I got wind of an HK53 replica, I knew for certain that one would end up in my collection, and sure enough the gun had been at Airsoft GI (www.airsoftgi.com) for no more than 2 days before I took the plunge and purchased one for $270. The following week the package was at my door.
Opening the box reveals the usual goodies, little bag of BBs, unjamming/cleaning rod, manual, battery care guide, and a catalog of Classic Army products, oh, and there’s a CA53 with a 450 round magazine in there too.
the CA53 is a shortened version of the CA33E, sporting a retractable stock, new hop-up design, short barrel and hand guards, and a new 450 round hi-cap magazine. The gun looks mighty fine, but that's to be expected when you are purchasing and H&K modeled rifle. The metal looks great, and the longer magazines really enhance the look of the carbine.
The plastic could be a little better, as its finish is pretty shiny. It'd be nice if they used the same plastic on all their guns as they did on the CA36 series.
The carbine features a sliding stock making it an HK53A3. The stock works pretty well, but if you pull out on it fast enough, you can pull it off of the rifle, the CA53 doesn’t have the auxiliary catch tab like the MP5’s do. It also wobbles a bit vertically, but not enough to cause concern. This is also the area f the most noticeable flaw on the CA53, the small amount of wobble has caused some of the finish on the stock to wear off during transit, as it rubs against the stock coupling.
The lower receiver is the SEF style, meaning it has an ergonomic bulge on the left side of the pistol grip, so lefties may want to consider a different rifle. The selector switch works very well, fluid movement, and it locks firmly into each setting. The indicator disc on the right of the lower receiver is cosmetic, and doesn’t do anything.
The front end of the gun uses the same flash hider design as the CA36C. It is CCW threaded, and is much easier to unscrew than the one on the CA33E. The hand guard is small, but you can fit a 9.6Vmini battery in it, the rear of the hand guard has a stabilizing bar on it to help the hand guard hold its shape when you cram an oversized battery in it.
The new hop-up is an excellent design, essentially it is an M4 hop-up with the transfer gears removed, it is very easy to adjust, in fact if your finger fits in the ejection port, all you have to do is push the large dial front or rear. The hop-ups are completely interchangeable between the CA33 and CA53, with any luck Classic Army will release this chamber separately, and I can drop one in my CA33.
While I haven't performed any definitive accuracy tests, shooting off hand at around 120 feet, it is easy to nail a man sized object, but I’d still recommend a tight bore barrel over the stock Classic Army part.
The rate of fire on an Intellect 9.6 mini is just as you would expect, maybe a bit faster, I'd guess around 17-19 per second. I also managed to swap stocks between the CA33e and CA53, thus allowing for use of large batteries and a fixed stock, greatly extending the amount of time you can run on one battery.
The gun sounds good when firing, no loud gear whine, and each shot has a nice pop sound. Shimming looks good, and the gearbox is well lubricated. In typical fashion, Classic Army used their yellow piston in this gun. While some people consider it crap, I haven’t had to replace one yet, could just be abuse on their part, or luck on mine.
According to the Airsoft GI chronograph (am I the only one who hates that somebody else gets to shoot my new rifle before me?) my gun’s averaging 320 fps, a number that I have verified with my own chronograph. I have since installed a Prometheus 110 spring, and plan on running it on the stock gearbox. This combo yields a consistent muzzle velocity of 385 FPS.
The Classic Army CA53 ships with the 25 round style magazine, as opposed to their CA33E which ships with the 20 round style magazine. Just as in real life, this larger magazine carries more ammo 450 rounds compared to 330. The 25 round style magazine is slightly taller than its lower capacity cousin. CA redesigned the reservoir door on these new magazines the plastic is thicker, and the doors snap shut much more securely.
The magazines lock into place in both the CA53 and CA33 with no problem, and feed fine. Classic army has recently released a six pack of the new 450 round magazines, at the time of this writing, they are available for $102USD from UN Company (www.uncompany.com) I have purchased the six pack, and they too work great.
CA33 and CA53 Parts Comparison
While both rifles are in the same family, the components of the CA53 differ wildly from its sibling, the CA33, I'll detail the differences between the two replicas in this section..
The front section of the upper receiver on the CA53 the 53 is a good 2" shorter than the 33, this is done so it can use an MP5 hand guard, and accommodate a battery at the same time. Externally the carbine still matches the dimensions of the real deal. Classic army also decided to change the barrel support tabs. They were notorious for breaking off on the CA33E, but I think the new design is solid, and I am confident they won’t break under even the harshest use.
The rear of the upper receiver is also different on the ’53. It has the screw that holds the halves together moved forward, and a large notch is cast into the receiver. This combination of changes allows the sling point on the stock coupler to fit on the gun.
Another variation from the CA33E is the use of pushpins to secure the stock to the body of the rifle. I love the pushpins, and even replaced the screw and post system on my CA33 with real H&K pushpins. Had Classic Army been thinking they also would have used a pushpin for the magazine well pin. The entire gun could be torn down in a matter of seconds, granted it’s still much faster than breaking down an M4, but it could be even faster, and pushpins all the way around would be an added bonus..
There are a few other changes too. The part that helps guide the stock on has a relief cut in one side, thus allowing for the female end of a mini Tamiya connector to pas in to the stock coupler and plug into the wire harness coming from the gearbox. The wire itself is run in the channel below the stock rail channel; this keeps it from getting pinched when inserting the gearbox. The wire proceeds to run to the front of the carbine and into the hand guard, there is no fuse in the CA53.
The magazine well also seems to have been widened slightly. This causes some wobble with the older 330 round hi-caps, but they still work fine.
Of course despite these changes, many parts are still interchangeable between the CA%3 and CA33E. Among these parts are the stocks (provided you don’t you use coupler mounted sling position on your CA33E with its new sliding stock) and lower receivers. The gearboxes are also interchangeable, but be aware, the guns use different cylinders because of their differing barrel lengths. Both guns use an MP5 selector plate and M16 air nozzle and wire harness; all other parts are the standard V2 components you would expect.
In The Field
There is no better way to test a new rifle than to run with it in a few games. In my case I carried it for three before writing this article.
The carbine’s size proves to be both an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. Have a ladder to climb, tight spaces to maneuver in, a vehicle to drive into combat? Definite advantage in these situations. Got lots of ranged combat, or friends who run away from the sound of an AEG. Disadvantage here, the barrel is on the short side, and this is reflected in ranged combat situations.
The sliding stock is great, it really helps shrink the gun down for close quarters, and if you need to sling it for along period of time, the smaller size is much appreciated.
The gun is also very light, and is a natural “pointer” in that it fits into the shoulder very well, and feels almost like an extension of your body. A three point sling or even a standard rifle sling installed backwards and used with one arm over the sling (think pseudo 3pt sling) makes for a very comfortable carry method.
The CA53 is a very capable carbine, and Classic Army has done an excellent job on this replica. They fixed the problem with busted barrel support arms, and even reengineered the upper receiver. Accuracy could be better, but you shouldn’t expect to be getting a sniper rifle with a carbine anyway. I’d definitely recommend the CA53 for anyone looking for an alternative to an M4 or MP5.