Colt 1911A1 - Wei E-Tech (WE)
For a long time Western Arms had the 1911 market pretty much cornered.
When TM launched their excellent 1911A1 they had serious competition, but WE quickly joined the fray with what looks like a clone of the TM gun, but in full metal construction out of the box.
Opinions are divided on WE guns, but I have found their recent guns to generally be pretty good, especially for the price. This one is just £79.99 from Airsoft Direct, who kindly provided this example for review.
So, what's their all metal 1911A1 like?
In the Box
The box was a bit of a surprise. In the past WE guns have always come in the most minimalist of boxes, but this one looks like it's trying to be a cross between a Western Arms SCW box externally and a TM 1911 box internally.
The outside is all black with White writing, whilst inside the 1911A1 and the spare magazine sit on a black cloth base. The quality doesn't come close to either WA or TM, but it's quite nice to see them making an effort on presentation and it doesn't really matter that much.
Inside the box the gun is fitted with a magazine, whilst another sits in a separate space in the base.
There is a manual, printed in English, Spanish, Italian and German, but no BBs or tools.
On picking up the WE 1911A1, the first impression is of the way it feels, it weighs around a kilo and is cold in the hand; It feels good to hold, with a realistic heft and comfortable balance.
The finish of the gun is typical of WE guns (this particular example bears few markings, although there are versions with the full 1911A1 trademarks), with the gunmetal grey finish looking smart and evenly applied and the plain plastic grips look smart enough.
No collector is ever going to get excited over the look of the WE 1911A1, but that's not their market and a plain looking WW2-era 1911 is easier to forgive than one with silly 6mm trades.
Everything on the WE 1911A1, except the plastic grips, is metal, which is its great appeal, especially to those on a budget.
I have to say my first impressions were very positive. It looks nicely made and feels great in the hand.
Up close things are pretty good, too.
With the magazine out, the gun seems to rattle a bit, but nothing really seems that loose.
The recoil spring, however, seems a bit soft for the weight of the slide, but we would see if that posed any issues to operation later.
The 1911A1 design is reproduced well, with the familiar elements all present and correct.
The slide and frame are, as already mentioned, devoid of trademarks, but look good in the familiar WE gunmetal finish.
There is a tiny WE in a circle on the front of the left side of the trigger guard, where a proof mark is found on the real thing and most other airsoft replicas. The silver chamber (one piece with the barrel) has ".45 ACP" cast into it.
Atop the slide the sights are the normal rudimentary rear notch and front 'speed bump' blade. These aren't target sights, so there is no adjustment at all, but this is what GIs made do with for decades, so it'll suffice for most skirmishers.
The barrel is a straight, silver finished (looks like bare metal, rather than paint) unit, which is supported in the slide by the expected barrel bushing and plug. Again, as expected of a 1911A1, there is no full length recoil rod.
The slide lock has a chequered upper face, as does the curved mainspring housing on the back of the grip and the hammer spur. The mainspring housing has a useful lanyard ring on the bottom, so you shouldn't ever loose your WE 1911A1.
The trigger is a simple curved blade and there a single thumb safety for the right hand, which enables you to carry the 1911A1 'cocked and locked', although, with the relative lightness of airsoft springs, whether that's a good idea is another matter.
The grips are plastic (not surprisingly) and look acceptable. although they can't match the finish of those found on the TM 1911A1 or Western Arms guns. Real steel grips should fit without much work, though.
Of course, the classic 1911 grip safety is present and worked reliably throughout my testing.
The magazine is unusual (and not compatible with TM's gun, sadly). It's a strict single stacker (holding 14 BBs, although you get two with the gun as standard, which means you have as much firepower as with the TM gun). You can lock the follower down and drop BBs into a hole near the bottom of the front face of the magazine, but equally you can simply slot them in through the plastic jaws at the top of the magazine.
Unlike Tokyo Marui, WE have based their 1911 design closely on their Hi-Capa, so some TM parts won't fit, but if you're looking to build a custom race gun or specialised 1911 model, its unlikely you'd start with the WE.
I liked the WE 1911A1 from the moment I picked it up, but would it disappoint in performance terms?
Sliding the magazine into the WE 1911A1 and releasing the slide lock relieved one concern; The slide snaps back into battery swiftly when the slide lock is released, so the soft feeling spring isn't too much of a problem.
Firing the gun is rewarding, too. It makes a good hard crack when fired and there is some felt kick and the gun cycles quickly enough for a combat pistol.
Click on image for bigger version in separate window.
Carrying out my standard 5m/6 round, off hand test, the WE 1911A1 managed to put 5 rounds into a 40mm diameter. A decent performance for a GBB with no pretensions to target accuracy although lagging behind the Tokyo Marui 1911A1 I tested a little. Even with the basic sights, all the shots fell impressively close to the target centre.
With a wheel style Hop-Up adjustment the WE 1911A1 had no trouble with the 'Pig Test', hitting a postcard sized target repeatedly at around 70ft.
I had heard bad things about WE's 1911s with regard to their gas performance. Expressions like 'gas hog' and 'terrible cool-down' were thrown around with casual abandon, but surely they couldn't be that bad.
Over 10 shots, the 1911A1 averaged 251 fps (using Propane gas) indoors (at 12C), which I'd estimate to equate to around 288 fps at 20C, fair performance (the TM 1911A1 is probably a little less powerful), but, as you can see below, cooldown was a significant issue.
Due to the gun's full metal construction I decided to warm the magazine to room temperature and try again.
The figures, as with the Officer's Model, were a little better, but the cooldown effect just as noticeable.
Luckily, before I returned the gun I was able to test the gun again at 17C (it felt notably more comfortable) and observed the following.
Power was pretty much where the results at 14C had suggested it would be (283 FPS), but the cooldown effect at this warmer temperature was notably reduced, to a perfectly manageable level, in my view.
Gas consumption was hard to assess. The magazines are fitted with a 'silent fill' valve and clearly don't always take a full fill. Sometimes I could get 3 or 4 shots from a 'fill' (nothing vented after 10 seconds or so), but at others it would fire all 13 rounds without problem and lock back on empty. On one fill I actually managed to fire 38 shots before the gas ran out.
Trigger pull was 580g (20 Oz), which is a commendably light weight pull for any GBB and the pull was crisp and drag free on this example.
Take down of this gun will be familiar to anyone who has field stripped a 1911, real or airsoft.
With the magazine out, the slide should be moved back until the slide lock can be pushed out of the frame. The slide and barrel can then be slid off of the front of the frame.
The barrel bushing should be rotated 45 degrees anti-clockwise, it can then be removed. The recoil plug and spring must be removed from the barrel/slide and then the barrel and chamber can be drawn out through the front of the slide.
Overall, I liked the WE 1911A1 greatly.
Like other WE guns, it's not the absolute best quality, but it goes about its business in a workmanlike fashion and feels good in the hand, due to its metal construction.
If it was £130, I might find fault with the lack of markings and the slightly less than tight tolerances, but at under £80 that would just be churlish.
It's a bit of a shame that parts aren't compatible with TM's 1911A1 and I'd really want the gun to have trademarks, personally, but neither make any real difference to this gun.
If you're in the market for a Colt 1911A1, but don't plan to upgrade it into a quality aftermarket metal kit, you would be foolish to not consider the WE gun, in my view.
Weight : 950g (190g Magazine)
Realism : ****
Quality : ***
Power : ****
Accuracy : ****
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