AEG

FAMAS F1 - Tokyo Marui

For many, airsoft is all about one thing - Skirmishing - and for everyone, bar a few hardy souls labouring with spring sniper rifles, GBB SMGs or classic airsoft weapons with bulky external gas supplies, Skirmishing means Automatic Electric Guns, or AEGs.

This won't be the first of many AEG reviews on this site, but I thought it would be useful to have one review to put the other guns in context. For reviews of AEGs by people more experienced and better qualified to review them than me, check the Links Page.

I'd never really felt the need for an AEG, as I don't skirmish, but when Firefight were selling off their fleet of ex-rental FAMASes, it was too good a chance to miss and I quickly became the owner of my first AEG, a FAMAS F1.

Distinctive 'Bugle' shape of the Bullpup FAM-AS F1 - Bipod unusual to F1.

The FAMAS is the standard French Assault Rifle and of Bullpup design (where the magazine is behind the trigger, giving a compact weapon, with a full sized rifle length barrel. FAMAS stands for Fusil d'Assaut de la Manufacture d'Armes de St-Etienne, which translates as Assault Rifle by St-Etienne Arms Factory, which is a member of the French govt. owned GIAT Industries concern).

The FAMAS was also the gun that started the AEG revolution, ousting the external supply gas guns as the weapon of choice in skirmishes.

Being TM's first attempt, it has some foibles, but it is still in production and highly regarded, partly for its proven robustness and partly for its high Rate Of Fire (ROF), although the jury is out on the way it looks!

In The Box

My FAMAS had long since lost its box (I received it wrapped in two bin liners!), but I found the photograph below on the web.

This is a standard FAMAS F1 box - Not mine!

As well as the gun, manual (Link to scanned version at the bottom of the page) and a bag of BBs, you also get a cleaning rod and a loading tube and rod for loading the standard magazines.

For any AEG, you will also need a battery (The FAMAS takes a full size 7.2V or 8.4V one) and a charger.

First Impressions

Ignore the looks, once the battery was fitted, the first impression was of solidity and weight. At just 757mm long, the FAMAS is a compact weapon, but it weighs around 3KG. You know you're holding this!

Oddly rear heavy design, but chamber at rear means long barrel for good accuracy.

Everything on the outside of the FAMAS, though, is plastic, with the exception of the outer barrel, the bipod, the trigger guard and the sling mounts (on the rear). The removable magazine is also metal.

The gun LOOKS butt heavy, but, with the battery inside the front handguard, it is not as unbalanced as you might imagine.

My F1 - Previously a rental gun - YOU may have used 06 at Firefight Reading!

I have only ever seen a real FAMAS from a distance, but from photos the TM AEG looks the right sort of size and shape.

F1 "06" is a bit scratched and clearly been in some dusty places during its life, but evertyhing was still intact and in full working order.

The whole gun is black, with the exception of the mag well and the ejection ports,which are both visible on this gun, without the ejection port cover. On the real thing you can switch the cover over for left or right handed operation, but it serves no operational purpose on the AEG.

Being an F1, the gun is equipped with a bipod, which gives the gun a more LMG look when the two separate legs are folded down. The downside to this, is that there's no forward sling swivel.

Closer Look

As already stated, the FAMAS was TM's first AEG (I believe the earliest models had no Hop-Up). This is notable in a number of ways.

Most TM AEGs have flash hiders which screw on, permitting a silencer to be fitted, not so the FAMAS

On most TM AEGs, the flash hider is simply threaded on and can be unscrewed and replaced with a silencer (or TM's tracer unit, which makes special BBs glow!). The FAMAS' flash hider is a push fit and secured with a lock screw underneath. There is a silencer adaptor, however, if you are thinking of adding one.

Cocking handle moves, but does nothing.

Under the prominent carrying handle is the cocking handle and a device for (I believe) launching barrel mounted Anti Armour grenades.

Grenade launching feature NOT replicated in AEG form.

The cocking handle moves, but serves no functional purposes. As this is an AEG, the handle does not cycle back and forth in operation and is just for cosmetic accuracy. The grenade launching capability, sadly, is not replicated on the AEG.

Rail mount is home made, but closely replicates TM original

Within the two sides of the carrying handle (which is a large square U shaped section) are the 'iron' sights and a replica 'grenade' sight. I've removed the latter as it simply gets in the way of the iron sights, but it's intended for use when firing barrel mounted grenades on the real thing.

The front sight is a fine post, with two flip up holes for the rear sight, for different ranges/night shooting.

Not a lot of metal on outside. Bipod and outer barrel two of the few parts.

The bipod comes in the form of two separate folding legs, which are attached to the upper front of the gun and fold down to provide a more stable platform. These are metal and sprung loaded. When folded up they are commendably out of the way and my guns are still well sprung and need some gentle pressure to fold down, as you would want.

Folded down, they provide a pretty stable platform and, with the difficulty of fitting a sling, many just use the bipod to keep the FAMAS out of the dirt during the breaks in a skirmish.

FAMAS Butt - Ejection port is ambidextrous, but my F1 lacks the cover, which
also hides the Hop Adjustment.

The butt has a very nobbly back, presumably to provide a secure hold, which is not padded in any way (The real thing may be rubber).

Hop Adjustment detail.

On top of the butt (at the base of the carrying handle, the Hop Adjuster (usually covered) can be found and, as visible above, is very simple to adjust, if you feel the need.

Safety, inside trigger guard, doubles as battery cover lock.

The safety within the trigger guard is accurately reproduced and pushing it a little further than 'live' permits the front handguard to be pushed forward off the gun, allowing access to the full size battery. This size battery are generally good for a full day's skirmishing. Another feature which has made the FAMAS popular as a rental gun.

Fullsize battery sits in front handguard.

The motor and gearbox are unique to this model. They were designed to work with 7.2V batteries (similar to those used in radio controlled cars), but many people use 8.4V batteries, which fit and provide a remarkably high rate of fire (reckoned by most to be the highest of all the TM AEGs). Upgrades are difficult and, although the motor's available as an aftermarket unit, upgrading the gearbox (or replacing it) is nigh on impossible, due to lack of repair/upgrade parts.

Magazine seems a secure fit.

The magazine (available as a 60 round standard or 300 round clockwork Hi-Cap. The Hi-Cap needs winding up from time to time via a 'wheel' at its base) is a secure fit in the well and I have never seen a magazine not locate accurately in the catch.

Detailing on mag well.

The mag well bears the only markings on the gun. These are moulded into the mag well and read "FA-MAS 5.56-F1" with "SP 873" on the line below. The prominent "06" stenciled on the butt of my gun is another remnant of its life in Firefight's rental fleet.

Oddly positioned selector - Off, Semi and Full auto. Button releases tensioned spring.

Underneath the rear of the butt is an odd place for the selector, but that's where the makers of the real thing (it seems) chose to put it, so you cannot really blame TM for following suit! There is a switch which has settings for Off, Semi Auto and Full Auto. There's also a button (not seen on any other AEG) which allows a spring left compressed by full auto operation to be uncompressed. This should lead to a long life of consistent power from the spring and my FPS figures suggest my tired old FAMAS is still pumping out reasonable power from its spring.

Most FAMAS owners tend to set their gun on Full Auto all the time and restrict bursts with their trigger finger. The semi-auto mode is one of the few things that tends to go wrong on an AEG FAMAS, so this is doubly sensible.

Sling mounts (each side of butt) require F1 to be hung vertically. SV is different.

The SV does away with the bipod (and has a space age trigger guard which allows the gun to be fired wearing mittens - not so daft when you consider the amount of mountainous terrain in France) and has a front sling swivel, allowing a conventional sling to be fitted. The F1, however, simply has two metal brackets at the rear that allows a sling to be looped around the butt, leaving the gun hanging down under the armpit (presumably for quick pick up with one hand, the shoulder taking the weight of the gun and the grip being used to raise it). Some people fit 3 point tactical slings by looping part of the sling around the carrying handle.

I had a short piece of rail knocking around, so quickly made up a replica of the TM scope rail. This consists of a U shaped unit topped with a section of 20mm rail. The U shaped section is held in place with a bolt (topped with a knurled knob on the real thing) which passes through the mount and a hole in the left side of the carrying handle. Mine cost all of 1.30, but the TM one is undeniably neater.

The whole gun is 757 mm in length, but in real steel form it packs a 488 mm barrel (equal to, or better than, the larger H&K G3, AK47 or Armalite M4 and only slightly less than the FAL and M16, both 'full size' rifles. In airsoft form, too, the FAMAS packs a 'rifle' length barrel (472mm inner barrel) in an SMG sized frame, making it very good as a general purpose CQB and Woodland AEG.

Shooting Impressions

I had to devise a new set of tests for the FAMAS. There is no point assessing this gun's accuracy at a mere 5m.

For this gun, I decided to fire 16 shots (in semi auto) at a target set 18m (60 feet) away (the length of my garden).

Target
Click on image for bigger version in separate window.

As you can see, the rounds all hit the A4 (8.25" x 11.75") target, with the majority actually hitting the high scoring part of the target. I could repeat this accuracy over and over again, but it was actually impossible to see the BBs hitting the target. Only the sound of the BBs impacting the polytstyrene backing allowed me to determine that hits were on target.

I used the iron sights, with the smallest hole in use, for all these shots (not having zeroed the G&P Aimpoint replica at this point) and aimed at the centre point. I felt the accuracy was good enough at this range (Redwolf's report on the G36 stated "Adjusting the hop-up mechanism allowed us to reach a maximum effective range of approximately 130 feet, with a maximum travel range of about 150 feet."). Clearly at this range it is possible to group shots on a target as small as a person's head, at double the range, hitting the torso should pose few problems.

Despite being an old gun, from Firefight's rental fleet, it clocked a pretty impressive (for a stock AEG) 261 FPS average over 10 shots.

Shot      FPS
1 259.9
2 258.8
3 258.4
4 259.7
5 258.0
6 263.7
7 258.5
8 260.8
9 262.7
10 260.1

A story to these figures. First time I tried to take them I used the sights (at close range) and put the first shot through the front panel of my chrono, smashing the LCD display! Fortunately, I had bought a Chronotar CE-2 and the guys at Chronotar (In Canada, whilst I'm in the UK, remember.) offered to ship replacement parts FOC! They even made a lexan front panel (to prevent future incidents...). If you want a Chrono, check out Chronotars. Service like that is VERY rare anywhere...

Firing an AEG is nothing like firing even my NBB Bullet Valve Beretta M12S.

The over-riding sounds is of the electric motor, but there is a notable jolt and thud each time the piston is released.

Like the Beretta, of course, nothing external moves (as it does on a GBB SMG, for instance) and so directing a stream of BBs onto a target is very simple, although in a skirmish, this is likely to give away your position if you are concealed.

Conclusions

Overall, it is easier to assess the AEG experience than the FAMAS in particular, as I have (as yet) not tested any other AEGs (although I did fire an MP5 - I think it was - at the Aldershot show a couple of years ago).

A French Solider with his F1

The FAMAS feels solid and sturdy, although it feels very plasticky, but is probably the most Marmite of AEGs - You either love it or you hate it, with few falling into the middle ground. However, it's reputation as a reliable rental gun must speak volumes for its reliability and sturdiness.

With nothing moving around, the AEG experience is pretty sterile, but I can imagine in the thick of a skirmish firefight that the added realism of a GBB weapon is somewhat lost and there is no doubt that the AEG is king of the hill in the field.

FAMAS equipped with replica of Aimpoint sight shown on real steel, above.

Whilst many rental sites are now carrying a range of rental guns, many still have some FAMASes and it has a strong following amongst its admirers.

A common complaint is its lack of upgradability, but with the 328fps limit in force in the UK, it is hard to see that this is a major problem. More worrying is the lack of repair parts for the Version 1 gearbox, although the unique motor is available.

Like it or loathe it! The FAMAS is 'unusual'!

Like it or loathe it, the FAMAS is a sturdy work horse and does its job with no fuss. As I said to someone who asked if I'd sell the FAMAS for them to use as the basis for a custom gun, seeing it end its life as parts would be like selling my trusty old pony to the glue factory!

Weight : 3,000g (with battery)

Realism : ****
Quality : ****
Power : ****
Accuracy : ****

Real Steel link at World Guns

Real Steel link at Remtek

A multipage site on the FAMAS - includes parts diagrams, etc

Excellent review of the FAMAS F1 on Arnies Airsoft

Manual for the Tokyo Marui FAMAS AEG


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