Airsoft Hi-capa / 2011 Style GBB Pistols - A Quick Run-Down
The Real Hi-capa - History Lesson
The Hi-capa/2011 style pistol saw its advent with the introduction of the first 1911 variant to feature a widened lower frame and a double-stacked magazine - The Para Ordnance P14. With double stacked magazines having reached their prime, providing additional capacity along with superb reliability, the addition of a double-stacked mag to the venerable and ancient 1911 pistol was a natural progression. By increasing the capacity of a 1911 from 7 rounds to a whopping 14 rounds of .45 ACP, Para Ordnance had brought the near-obsolete 1911 into the 21st century, allowing it to compete with the more modern handguns of the time, such as the SIG P210 and Browning Hi-power whilst providing "muh stopping powa" with a larger caliber which American civilian shooters are more comfortable with.
Next came the 2011 pistol, with the term "2011" being introduced as a trading name for STI, manufacturers of high-end competition pistols costing thousands of dollars. Notable features of the 2011 style of pistols include ported slides, advanced competition-style adjustable sights, and a two-piece aluminium and polymer hybrid frame featuring a full-length dust cover with an integrated Picatinny rail for attaching compensators, optic mounts, and tactical weapon lights. One of the biggest draws for the 2011 was its familiar but enhanced ergonomics, combining 1911 controls with extensions of the manual safety and slide lock/release, allowing you to return your slide to battery or put your firearm on safe without breaking a firing grip. The 2011 was offered in several calibers, from .45 ACP to 9mm and even .380 ACP, a very light recoiling cartridge ideal for competition-geared 2011s. The combination of 1911 accuracy with large capacity was a match made in heaven, and as soon as STI's patent expired, the US civilian market erupted with Hi-capa style pistols. The Airsoft world had already taken note of the Hi-capa by this point, but the best was yet to come...
As it pertains to airsoft, the Hi-capa was the creation of the Japanese airsoft manufacturers Tokyo Marui. Being the daddy of the vast majority of Airsoft designs for pistols and rifles, Tokyo Marui saw the potential of the Hi-capa design for airsoft, both for skirmishing and for AIPSC. The TM Hi-capa variants, ranging from the tiny 3.8 to the 1911-sized 5.1 are some of the oldest and most after-market supported Airsoft pistols of all time, and ironically forms the basis for the internals of many Airsoft 1911 pistols, including TMs. The TM Hi-capas function brilliantly, offering superb accuracy, range and upgradability straight from the box. The Marui pistol was designed with Japanese law in mind, and as such the frame and slide are made of well-finished polymer, which is advantageous for gas efficiency but lacks realism. Demand for metal Hi-capas gave way to metal body kits, ranging from more affordable options for around £250 to limited production full steel kits costing over £1000! Such was the world of Airsoft Hi-capas before companies started to produce affordable full metal 2011 replicas!
The first to provide a full metal Hi-capa was Wei tech, also known as WE. Brand new to the game at the time and based in Taiwan, WE took pure advantage of lower labour costs than the Japanese airsoft giants and began churning out full metal pistols for a reasonable price. The early WE pistols, whilst lacking in longevity compared to TMs would give you at least 2 years of full metal fun and excellent performance in the summer months. As the popularity of the Hi-capa 2011 design grew, WE updated their Hi-capas with better quality internal components, higher-grade metals in their construction and improved magazines providing better performance in colder weather.
The recent surge of Hi-capa popularity comes with the advent of Speed-soft. Almost an entirely new sport, Speed-soft uses Airsoft guns but in a manner similar to tournament paintball, requiring speed above all and sacrificing realism for extreme performance. The Hi-capa platform became the bread and butter of the Speed-softer, due to its combination of excellent performance, high capacity magazines, variety in looks, and ease of tapping the magazines for an external air rig. Newer companies such as Raven, Vorsk, and Armourer Works jumped on the opportunity to serve this new breed of Airsofters, providing split slides, pre-installed optics, and some serious variety in configurations and colours. By 2021, the Hi-capa has very much arrived on the scene and continues to dominate, followed closely by Glock-style replicas for the more military/Law enforcement loadout enclined.
The most 'normal' looking of the bunch, the WE Europe Hi-cpap 5.1R fuses the classic 1911 style slide featuring an adjustable rear sight with a flat rear face and raised front sight for fast target acquisition. Its modular two-piece Hi-capa frame features a 20mm rail on the dust cover and a subtly textured polymer pistol grip. The pistol still has an extended magazine well installed but it is less intrusive than other Hi-capa pistols, providing an amount of functionality when reloading under pressure but keeping the classic 1911 lines. There is a 12mm female thread on the barrel, retaining the 1911 looks but leaving an opening for a more tactical appearance, with a suppressor. This is the perfect pistol for you if you prefer the classic look but want higher magazine capacity and greater gas efficiency than a 1911 replica, whilst reserving the right to be tart it up with a new body kit or an RDS.
The first step towards the 'race pistol' style of Hi-capa, these VORSK pistols combine sleek modern Hi-capa looks with combat pistol simplicity, providing raised fiber sights, a full-length dust cover with an extra-long rail with an aggressively textured lower frame to ensure you don't throw the pistol whilst drawing it! Available in about 6 million different colour combinations, no matter your tastes VORSK has something for you! These Hi-capas have a full slide giving strong recoil and a realistic firing experience. Both pistols feature a large mag well extension, assisting you in achieving smooth, fast reloads. The difference between the two variants amounts to the length of the pistol, with the '4.3' and '5.1' being a reference to the slide length. These Hi-capas feature vents across the 3, 9 and 12 o'clock positions of the front of the slide, providing cool looks and additional contact surfaces for efficient manipulation of the slide, functioning as front serrations. The pistols also come with a thread adaptor and thread protector for the tip of your barrel, adding to the aggressive look of the Hi-capa and allowing you to mount muzzle devices such as suppressors and tracer units. The pre-installed tight-bore barrel means the VORSK Hi-capa series shoot as good as they look.
Vorsk's range of BDS-equipped Hi-capa pistols represents great value for money and saves on time and fitting issues by providing a pre-fitted optic. Considerate as ever, Vorsk have added raised iron sights to provide an aiming solution even if your BDS runs out of battery you can still engage your target through the BDS using the fiber iron sights. Whilst slightly less intuitive to aim with initially, using red dot optics on pistols is becoming a standard in the world of real firearms. With a small amount of practice, a red dot optic becomes much easier to pick up and encourages a consistent hold on the handgun. This speed advantage comes from only having to align the red dot with the target, rather than having to align two sights with the target. Other than this, the Vorsk Hi-capa 4.3 with BDS is identical to the aforementioned 4.3, with all the modern ergonomic advantages, extended mag well, and aggressively textured modular pistol grip.
Here's where things accelerate! The super-fast split side Hi-capas feature enhanced gas efficiency and higher cyclic rate, due to the lighter slide. The extra-grippy lower remains, as does the enlarged mag well and extended controls, the slide changes significantly, as does the optic mounting position. The front of the slide remains stationary whilst firing, improving accuracy and facilitating a fixed position optic, mounted to the Picatinny 20mm rail positioned on the top of the forward fixed slide. This slide design also reduces recoil, which can be good or bad, depending on your needs as a skirmisher. The reduction in recoil means faster follow-up shots and but slightly less realism. The true advantage comes with the optic mounting solution. With a standard slide-mounted BDS the optic is thrown around as the slide cycles, reducing its lifespan and making it harder to acquire. Mounting the optic in a fixed position allows a more reliable zero and, together with the forward mounting position makes the sight easier to find when raising the handgun and allows rapid follow up shots by allowing the user (if you are fast enough!) to acquire the next target before the slide completes its cycle! The balancing factors are potential issues with using a holster, although there are several optic-friendly options out there that suit even forward-mounted optics.
Ideally suited as a primary weapon, the Raven Dragon 7 is a looong pistol. Looking down the sights feels like looking over a container ship from the bridge, providing a long inner barrel for improved accuracy and range. Featuring a lengthy Picatinny rail across the entirety of the dust cover and pre-installed compensator, you are left with no shortage of rail space on this pistol for mounting vertical foregrips, tactical weapon-lights, or both! The Dragon 7 features a split slide and a rigidly mounted competition-style BDS, positioned forward of the ejection port for quicker acquisition. The extra-long nature of the Dragon 7 provides an extremely long sight base, meaning you will get superb accuracy when using the iron sights. A surprising feature of the Dragon 7 is its combination of a front fiber sight and a flat-faced glare-reducing rear sight, a personal preference of mine and a very modern feature. A consensus was reached recently by real firearm users that 3 dot sights are not ideal, due to the potential to confuse the front sight for one of the rear dots and misalign your sights when shooting under duress. Either Raven knew about this or it is pure coincidence that they include this remarkably up-to-date feature on the Dragon 7 GBB pistol. The included compensator, whilst not providing any recoil reduction in the manner a real compensator would, functions as a muzzle weight to assist you in bringing the pistol back onto target after the action cycles, reducing muzzle flip and giving you that slight but ever-important edge in speed. It also looks supremely cool, and if a cyborg named Murphy had the option back in the early 90s he would have chosen this pistol over his AUTO-9.
Whilst the surface of the Airsoft hi-capa world has barely been scratched here, the sheer number of options available to the Hi-capa user means if I detailed every single one in this article it would be dictionary length! Speed-soft obsessed? There's a racy bright coloured swiss-cheesed Hi-capa for you. Milsim player who detests garish guns? We have gentlemanly hi-capas available also, with no-frills functionality and classic aesthetics. The vast range of Hi-capa pistols provides for both ends of the Airsoft spectrum and everyone in between. While many airsoft replica purchasing decisions come down to how the replica looks if you are a hi-capa fan, I hope this article has helped inform you of the pros and cons and the practical aspects of the most common and popular Hi-capa variants out there.
Hi-capas! Whether you are the tactical type, SPEEDQB hero or anything in between, there is an Airsoft Hi-capa GBB pistol to suit you. Packed with modern features but with classic 1911 layout and giant magazines, who doesn't want to own one of the most practical and tactical modern Airsoft sidearms available!
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