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The Both Elephant Type 89 Review
#1
The Both Elephant Type 89 Review

As many of you are aware I recently returned from a trip to Hong Kong and Main Land China to meet with some of the movers and shakers in the Airsoft industry.

One of the things I announced was the release of the JSDF TYPE 89 Rifle by Both Elephant along with some images of the prerelease production model, I also promised a full in depth review of the Type 89.

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I would like to thank Keith at [url="http://www.rsov.com/"]RSOV[/url] for getting us this prerelease sample and his continued support and dedication to Arnie's Airsoft.

So here it is!

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But before we start on the review here is some information on the real steel weapon:

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Quote:The Howa Heavy Industry Type 89 Assault Rifle, referred to as the 89式 (はちきゅうしき or hachikyuushiki) or "Buddy" (バディー or badhii), is a Japanese-exclusive assault rifle used by the Japan Self-Defense Forces, Japan Coast Guard and the Special Assault Team. It was never exported outside of Japan due to its strict anti-hardware export laws. It has replaced the Howa Type 64 battle rifle in frontline units.

During the Vietnam Conflict, the United States military replaced the M14 with the M16 for a variety of reasons, one of the most important being the advantage of increased rate of fire and accuracy of the 5.56x45mm NATO round over the larger 7.62x51mm NATO round. Despite the fact that this shortened the effective range of the average infantryman during a firefight, the 5.56x45mm round (SS109) eventually became the standard of ammunition type for NATO member assault rifles. In accordance with this, the Japanese Defense Agency began development on their next generation assault rifle to replace the 7.62x51mm Type-64 assault rifle after its 25-year span of service.

Development was handled primarily by Howa Heavy Industry since it was already licensed to produce the AR-180 version of the Armalite AR-18 rifle for commercial purposes. In order to determine suitability of the rifle, it was issued in limited numbers to the Japan Self Defense Forces for field testing purposes. After the data collected from the field testing stage of the AR18 was examined, formal development of the next-generation assault rifle began with its redesignation as the HR-16 (HR1604). The HR-15 was the first version of the experimental rifle that would eventually become the Type-89, but was developed concurrently with the HR-10, HR-11 and HR-13 by 1989.

One of the most advantageous features of the Type-89 rifle over the Type-64 was the ability to ease the load on the individual soldier in relation to the amount of ammunition that he could carry. Also, due to the use of aluminum and thermoset plastic as opposed to the steel and wood construction of the Type-64 rifle, reaction time to possible threats was reduced as well. The fixed stock version of the rifle contains a storage space covered by a rubberized cap that may be accessed by pulling the cap away from the body for the rifle and rotating it in either direction. Although the typical issue model is equipped with a fixed stock, a small number of the steel tubing folding stock version were produced for AFV crews and paratroopers.

It is believed that the rifle is at least as accurate as the Type-64 rifle, but it has not been verified since the information has not been released officially by the Defense Agency. The Type-89 rifle is equipped with an integrated bipod as its predecessor the Type-64 was in order to facilitate accuracy. However, unlike the bipod on the Type-64 the version on the Type-89 is easily removable as it is clamped onto the barrel behind the bayonet lug with a clothes-pin style spring mechanism and retained with a lever-like lock. Also, the Type-89's handguard is molded with inlets along its lower edges in order to accommodate the legs of the bipod if they are folded inwards for storage.

Fit and finish of the Type-89 was improved greatly over the Type-64 due to the use of forged aluminum, molded thermoset plastics and stamped steel manufacturing methods pioneered by the processes used to produce the AR-18 and Heckler & Koch G3 series rifle. Also, because the rifle was designed from the beginning for the Japanese physique it shares the ergonomic and weight advantages of the Type-64 rifle over similar weapons of its type.

The Type-89 was designed with simplified operation and minimal number of parts due to the understanding that the complex structure and large number of parts were responsible for the often defective operation of the Type-64 rifle. Because of this, the cost of the Type-89 rifle was roughly half that of the 870,000 yen Type-64 rifle in 1989. According to the Defense Agency, the unit cost of the Type-89 rifle was reduced to about 340,000 yen by fiscal year 2005. Despite this, it is still considered too expensive for general issue as the ideal price required by the Japanese Government for general production is between 10,000 to 100,000 yen per unit. This is further complicated because the procurement method for the weapon is limited to single fiscal year accounting and further reduction in manufacturing process costs are currently non existent.

Type-89 rifle ammunition is interchangeable with the 5.56x45mm SS109/M855 round used by the U.S. Military and NATO. It along with the 7.62x51mm round used in the Type-64 rifle allow for interchangeability with ammunition stockpiles of U.S. forces stationed in Japan. Since the ammunition developed for the Type-89 rifle is produced in Japan, it is head stamped with the sakura mark of the Self Defense Forces instead of the typical NATO circle-cross used on the SS109/M855 round.
The Type-89 can accept magazines designed for the M16 series of rifles. However, the magazine produced specifically for the Type-89 uses a follower that has a special shape to hold the bolt open after the final round is spent. If an M16 series magazine is used, the bolt will not lock back after the final round is expended. The magazine designed for the Type-89 also differs from ones produced for the M16 because it has holes in the sides of the body to indicate if it has been loaded with 30 or 20 rounds of ammunition. Unfortunately this feature is considered a bit of a nuisance because it allows sand and other foreign bodies to enter the magazine easily and cause malfunctions in the operation of the weapon.

Unlike the M16, the magazine well of the Type-89 is not beveled or tapered to ease loading because the lower receiver is only slightly wider than that of the magazine body. This is a point of considerable dissatisfaction by SDF members since it was discovered during recent urban combat training scenarios that it increases the time it takes to reload the rifle under certain combat situations.

The selector switch is located on the right side of the lower receiver and is often referred to as the "Atare 3," (アタレサン ataresan) referencing the different selection positions. The markings and associated feature are as follows in functional order:

ア (Safety position) → レ (Full auto) → 3 (three-round burst) → タ (semi-auto)

The bayonet manufactured specifically for the Type-89 rifle can be used as a wire cutter by connecting it to a lug on the scabbard. Furthermore, the end of the bayonet scabbard can be used as a bottle opener. The US Military M9 bayonet may also be affixed to the rifle.

Attachment of the M203 grenade launcher is possible with the proper adapter.
Special forces units of the JGSDF are additionally issued a pressure switch activated targeting laser and flashlight which are mounted on the barrel end of the weapon ahead of the front sight assembly. Regular members of the SDF may also obtain these, but must pay for them out of their own funds.
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So with Both Elephants current reputation, will the Type 89 improve their current standing within the Airsoft community?

Due to this being a prerelease model the box it came in is not the final production box so I’m going to skip this part of the review. Also please note that as this is a prerelease certain features maybe missing and quality might not be as good as the final release model.


What You Get

The Both Elephant Howa Type 89 comes with very few accessories, in this pack you receiver the Howa Type 89, 1 high capacity magazine and the quick release barrel mounted bipod. Please note though that this is a prerelease model and may come with more accessories and battery charger combo.

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The magazine is a 350rd high capacity magazine, one of the first thing I noticed is that the Both Elephant variant does not come with the fake rounds behind the windows in the magazine. A simple thing to achieve that does make a difference to the look of the magazines.

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One feature that I do like about the Chinese made magazines is quick winding feature, which allows you to use a key to wind the spring to full tension with just a few rotations.

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Regardless of the lack of fake bullets, the Both Elephant magazine feeds perfectly though the weapon without any misfires or double feeds.

The Type 89 also comes with the quick release bipod that attaches to the barrel through a spring loaded clamp system.

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Just squeeze the legs of the bipod together that the jaws of the clamp will open allowing you to attach the bipod to the weapon.

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The legs of the Bipod can also be folded back allowing the operator to skirmish with the weapon while the bipod is still mounted without it getting in the way. Then when you need the bipod for marksmanship they can be redeployed quickly.

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Howa Type 89 Combat Rifle

The rifle is superb and is a perfect copy of the Tokyo Marui except for two things and I will go into these in more depth a little later on in the review. The over all look of the Type 89 by Both Elephant is excellent and they haven’t missed out anything.

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Apart from one thing, the trades! Now I really don’t see why this would be an issue as it’s actually a government rifle that is only available in Japan. Also what with the import restriction due to patented technology in the Airsoft version, there is no way this would make its way to Japan for mass retail sales.

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You will be glad to know though that both the left and right hand side of the receiver does sport Kanji on the selector switch and for those wondering…..it is correct!

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The flash hider is the standard Howa heavy industries version that is standard issue on all Type 89’s. The Both Elephant release is cast and the seam lines are visible and there is no grub screw to hold it in place. Although this is a preproduction model so certain things might be missing.

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The flash hider attaches to the barrel with a CCW (counter clock wise) 14mm thread and actually has a rubber o-ring that prevents you from over tightening the flash hider. Not only that but it sits in its own grove to prevent it from bulging out when you tighten the flash hider.

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The barrel is a one piece assembly wit the flash hider, battery tray, wire guides all mounting directly on to it.

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The gas block is cast as one piece with a dummy gas regulator that can be twisted into the preset settings. This doesn’t actually have any benefits but it is nice that it’s been included.

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The Iron sight can be adjusted for distance, although you will need to have the appropriate tool to adjust this though.

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The fore grip is identical to that of the Tokyo Marui Type 89 apart from one thing; the grip section of the fore grip is actually rubberized, just like the real Type 89. Unlike the Tokyo Marui!

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Unfortunately the frame of the fore grip is plastic and it would have been nice for the frame to have been made of metal, thus improving further on the original. Another thing to note is the venting over the grip is not cut out, this is to hide the battery but again it would have been nice to have the vents.

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The upper and lower receiver is metal, needless to say low quality metal but metal all the same and the finish is pretty good and as you can see, they have replicated weld marks and folds in the metal very well.

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The ejection port is semi-functional and when pulled back locks into place to reveal the hop-unit. The bolt release catch does not release the bolt and must be pushed back manually.

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The selector switch is the standard issue version and only operatable from the right hand side of the receiver. The lever has a nice click sound when rotated through its positions and leaves no guesses to if you have the selector in position or not.

Also like the original the weapon fires in “Full Auto”, “3 round Burst”, “Semi” and Safe modes.

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The magazine release catch is surprisingly small when compared to a standard M16/M4 variant but owners of them will see the similarities between them. Players wearing bulky gloves though might find it difficult to fully depress the latch.

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The grip and trigger guard assembly is very ergonomic and very pleasing to hold. The whole unit has also been rubberized giving the operator a very positive grip along with a very comfortable hold. Players with large hands need not worry as I found this grip fitted very well.

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The rear sight is a block; just like the real one and I’m sure the JSDF could have come up with something better. No wonder standard infantry are allowed to use there own sights, although out of their own pockets!

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The windage can be adjusted by using the dial on the right hand side of the receiver and clicks at each position; while the elevation can be adjusted by winding the dial on the left sided. Again each position is found with a click.

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Finally the solid stock is just that, solid with no wobble what so ever. In fact the whole gun is very solid. Yet again the stock is rubberized which is incredibly nice, especially when you have the weapon up against your cheek.

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Just like the real weapon the butt stock pad is twisted aside to reveal a storage compartment, although this is not big enough to place a battery inside. Players that are accustomed to Li-Po batteries will have no problem fitting a custom sized battery, although they may find modifying the weapon to do so a little tricky.

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Conclusion

Overall even without the trades this IS a Howa Type 89. In some areas the replica is better than the Tokyo Marui, especially with the rubberized parts. Yet the Both Elephant version falls into the same trap as all other Chinese manufacturers and that is the finish of the paint.

If Chinese manufacturers can get the finish of the paint perfected and to actually last like that of the original then they will be on to a winner, but time and time again I have bought or received samples of Chinese airsoft products and the paint work is appalling and starts to flake off or chip at the slightest touch.

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Gear Box & Internals

The breakdown of the Both Elephant Type 89 is identical to that of the Tokyo Marui Type 89, so I will not be writing a breakdown guide of the Type 89 but will focus more on the internals of the Both Elephant Type 89.

Now probably like many other readers here, I have never opened the new gear boxes found in the Type 89 and without a manual to guide me on the layout or reference I was a little reluctant to open it up.

Now before I go into the internals I will share some advice for members who are not familiar or are opening any gear box for the first time.

When I strip a weapon for the first time I document everything with my camera from start to finish, not only do these images make up the core of the photographs found in my reviews but they are also a documentation of how the parts originally fitted together, thus making a perfect reference for when I come to rebuild the weapon.

So on with the review.

The Hop-unit is 100% compatible with Tokyo Marui parts and requires the barrel to be stripped out before it can be accessed. Owners of G36’s will be familiar with the layout of the actual unit and is of an acceptable quality. One thing to note was the amount of grease coating the unit. Players will certainly need to strip out the hop-unit and give it a clean before using it.

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The barrel is a standard brass affair and just like the hop-unit was coated in grease. I had to break down the whole barrel and hop-unit assembly to give it a good cleaning with alcohol to remove the last traces of grease.

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The motor engages the gearbox in exactly the same way as a typical M16 variant and is mounted in the pistol grip of the rifle. The motor found in the Type 89 is a generic motor found in most Chinese products and is made by Chaoli Motor Machinery Company. These are certainly not the best motors on the market but they are far from being the worst, especially in a stock weapon.

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Now I was surprised with the quality of the wiring of the Both Elephant Type 89, I have worked on several Chinese made weapons from various manufacturers and one thing that has struck me in each case is the poor wiring. The Both Elephant however uses a higher quality wire than most, although the soldering really needs improving.

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The gear box shell looks exactly like a Tokyo Marui and is fabricated from pot metal. Overall the finish doesn’t look as clean as a Marui but it looks perfectly capable of the job it’s designed to do.

Now owners of version 2 gear boxes will see many similarities between the two which gives your confidence a little boost when it comes to working on it.

The main differences though are the selector switch, and selector plate. You might notice the markers on the selector dials; these are so that you can realign the selector switch before reassembly of the weapon.

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Also on the left side of the gearbox there is a window that gives you a clear view of the sector gear that is designed for the V8 gear box.

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To open the gear box you will need to remove the selector switch assembly, once this is done the gear box is opened in exactly the same manner as a version 2. Now readers that are new to the version 8 gear box need not fear as the 3 round mechanical burst mechanics are attached to the left side of the gearbox and need not be removed to work on the gearbox.

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Now the first thing you notice about the Both Elephant gear box is the awful amount of grease they are using. Pretty much everything is coated in it.

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After cleaning it all off I was very surprised at the quality of machine work on the shell. You can also see the differences between the version 8 and the version 2 gear boxes especially the reinforced areas.

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The gear set that Both Elephant is using are of excellent quality and I was very surprised that these are steel. Not only that but the quality of the gear set especially the sector gear, is better than that of the Tokyo Marui gear sets.

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Both the bevel and spur gears are both generic style used in most other version’s of gearboxes. Again these are both made out of steel and are very well made.

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You can see the difference in this shot between the three types of gears.
please not the sector gear shown is a version 2 sector gear

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[Image: sectorgearcomparisonmedte3.jpg] please not the sector gear shown is a version 2 sector gear


The anti-reversal latch is steel as well offering a hard wearing latch that will take some wear and tear before needing to be replaced.

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The piston is a 16 tooth version which will make the majority of readers very happy; this means that replacement and upgrade parts will be easy to come by while also allowing players to boost the FPS of the weapon to their personal requirements.

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The piston head is of a mediocre standard and also of a three part design, which is a first for me. To be honest I would probably switch this over for one of the spares in by bit box as the air seal seems very weak using the standard Both Elephant piston head.

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One thing to note though is the use of thruster bearings in the piston assembly and this is also the first time I have found such hardware in Chinese made replicas. Although the quality is of a very low standard compared to Systema or other brand names on the market. This does offer a bonus to new players looking for a weapon that will go the distance.

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The cylinder is a generic non-vented version; you might be wondering why I have the cylinder head still attached. This is because it was physically impossible for me to remove the head from the cylinder. On closer inspection of the unit I found that it seems to have been nipped at the end to give a full air seal to the complete unit.

Reader’s whishing to upgrade may need to replace both the cylinder and head.

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The head is made from a polymer with a brass vent tube, now although this is of a generic standard I have found that with some Chinese manufacturers that the vent tube will eventually break off after extensive use. But for a stock weapon the one supplied with the gun is ok.

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The air nozzle is again of generic quality and was showing signs of wear and tear, although as this is a prerelease model a fair few thousand rounds had been passed through the rifle before I received it.

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Tappet plate again is pretty generic with no special features, but then again I find it amusing when companies try to palm you off with “Reinforced” or “New Design” when in actual fact all that is different is the colour. The Both Elephant tappet plate will have no problems with any forces that the system puts on it.

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The spring guide is again of generic standards and with the weapon being at stock power will certainly be more than capable of withstanding the wear and tear the spring induces on it. Players wishing to upgrade will certainly need to replace this part though.

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The spring is non generic, due to the FPS restrictions in place here in Japan the spring was changed over so that the replica would fire under the 0.98 joule stipulated under the Japanese swords and firearms act.

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The switch assembly is well made again using the same polymer found on the piston head, tappet plate and piston. Again the one thing that lets this down is the poor soldering on the connections.

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Conclusion

All in all, the entire gear box is pretty well built and if you plan to run the weapon at stock velocities and rate of fire it should last a good while. Although the gear box was pretty much clogged up with grease it didn’t effect the functioning of the weapon.

Also the soldering of this weapon was incredibly poor, but if you have the skills to open and maintain a gear box then this will be a walk in the park.

Performance

The Both Elephant’s gear box performs exceptionally well, the 3 round burst is awesome with very little delay between each shot. Semi auto and full auto likewise perform well, but the trigger seems a little stiff.

The rate of fire seems very close to the original Tokyo Marui Type 89 and fires around 12 shots per second.

As I said in the review, the weapon has been down graded for importation in to Japan, but with the down grade the Both Elephant fires at a very respectable 1.2 Joules (Still very illegal here in Japan).

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The range of the Type 89 is pretty good as well, I’m not sure how it would have performed if I hadn’t removed all the grease in the inner barrel but the Type 89 is able to reach out at targets at about 50 meters with very little accuracy, but as woodland engagement range is around 20 to30 meters I set the target up to the about the same. As you can see the groupings with the weapon set at semi auto are pretty good with a deviation of about 8 cm between the 1st and the last shot fired in quick succession.

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Target: 30meters. BB’s: SIIS .20g Weapon: Both Elephant Type 89 with 2x32 scope

With the weapon set to 3 round burst, the groupings are pretty impressive. With a deviation of around 6cm.Burst mode makes this the optimum choice for woodland engagements.

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Full auto is slightly disappointing but not surprising. As you can see the deviation is a lot more compared to the 3 round burst. This could probably be improved with a tight bore barrel.

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Conclusion and closing thoughts.

The Both Elephant performs pretty well, especially for the cost of the weapon. Players looking for a skirmishable weapon will not be disappointed or need to spend more money to get the weapon to perform on the skirmish field.

Now I need to explain how the scoring works as some might be a little confused by how I grade things. When reviewing ACM or clone products I am comparing them to other ACM or clone products on the market.

This means that an ACM product scoring a 9 is by no means as good as a VFC or ICS weapon that scores the same.


So with the explanation of how I grade things out the way, I’m going to give this 8/10 the reasons for this is that there are a few things that really need to be looked at before this goes into full production here are the following:

External:

• Better paint job/finish to all metal parts.
• Fake rounds in the magazine.
• Trades and serial numbers.

Internal:

• Q/A in soldering improved.
• Less grease in gear box.
• No grease on hop-unit.
• Longer pins to attach selector switch.
Although the Tokyo Marui also suffers from this.
• High quality grease rather than industrial.

But don’t let these things deter you; the Both Elephant Type 89 is exceptional! Straight from the box and a quick cleanout of the barrel the Type 89 is essentially ready to skirmish straight from the box and for the money you pay for ACM products this gun should certainly be on any players wish list for 2008 that want to impersonate a JSDF look.

On a closing note it really seems that the rumors are true in regards to Both Elephant actually working and listening to wholesalers in regards to quality, let’s hope that Both Elephant continues to improve in 2008.

Again, I would like to thank the Team at [url="http://www.rsov.com/index.php?osCsid=a080be510670ce0e09e994a2db14c499"]RSOV[/url] for supplying this prerelease for our exclusive review. [url="http://www.rsov.com/index.php?osCsid=a080be510670ce0e09e994a2db14c499"]RSOV[/url] will have be the first to stock the Both Elephant Type 89 rifles as they have secured the first several batches from Both Elephant.
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