Similar to real steel, there is no lack of gear snobs in the airsoft community and there's definitely no lack of opinions. I've seen it over and over again, someone asks, "I'm just starting. What gun or plate carrier should I get?" Often times there are is myriad of advice and opinions followed by a lot of debate and arguments about certain brands or products.
Many times, the people asking these questions don't have an endless budget to get all the top end "cool guy" gear. The result is a very confused new player who still doesn't know the actual bang for their buck of any product.
With all that said, Lancer Tactical sent me several items recently to review and I agreed to do so with a slight caveat. I told Lancer Tactical that I would not sugar coat any of my results and stick to my previous reviews of telling the good...and the bad.
To my surprise, Lancer Tactical said they were all for this idea. Lancer Tactical is on a mission to start bringing better products to the market and said that any criticism will help them make their products better and I can respect that.
For my review, instead of doing individual products I decided I would throw together a very basic, budget-minded load out with the goal of letting the beginner or cash-strapped player know exactly what to expect from economy products. Bring in the Lancer Tactical LT-14B, the Lancer CA-726B Fast helmet, and the Lancer 4906 plate carrier. I shall forewarn everyone from the new player to the veteran that I did this with an unbiased view. Whether or not I like Lancer products is irrelevant. The goal here was to let the players who may only be able to afford these products know what they are getting.
The Lancer LT-14B CQB M4 with Keymod Rail
Arriving in a very plain box with a sticker on top that says, "LT-14B" it was obvious this was going to be a low-budget Chinese gun. I quickly opened the box to find that it is packed with everything a beginning player would need. The gun is a package deal, containing gun, hi-cap magazine, battery, and a non-smart charger. The first thing I noticed was that the instruction manual clearly stated the gun is manufactured by Golden Eagle. Some of you may recognize this as the brand that Airsoftmegastore offers in their "gunbuilder" app on their website. I confirmed with my contact at Lancer that the gun is manufactured for them by Golden Eagle, so I was a little excited to see just what Golden Eagle has to offer to the "customized" gun buyer.
So, fast-forward a few minutes to me picking up the gun. Immediately I took a sigh of disappointment. As soon as I picked up the gun I could tell two things. One, the plastic is sub-par. it doesn't event appear to be a poly-fiber blend. If it is, it's weak. Second, the grip is awkwardly shaped with a very squared off grip. To detail what you get on the gun exteriors: Plastic - upper and lower receivers, crane stock, and front sight; Metal - buffer tube, keymod rail, outer barrel, and rear sight.
The ergonomics of the gun are as expected of any AR-styled AEG, minus the awkward grip. It has a functioning charging handle, which releases the dust cover allowing for hopup adjustments. Nothing unusual there. I did find that the fire selector functions pretty well with a distinct "click" into place. That is a pet peeve of mine when it comes to airsoft guns.
As for performance, I will detail these below:
After adjusting the hopup and sights, the gun shot quite well at the 25' and 50' range. I used a 10"x6" piece of aluminum as my target so I could hear a distinct sound when the bb hit. However, once I reached the 75' and beyond targets, the gun's accuracy, range, and consistency was quite lacking. I would estimate the maximum effective range of this gun to be between 75'-100' out of the box. Definitely, a CQB-only gun.
After checking the range and accuracy, we tested the FPS of the gun. For the test, I was using Goldenball .25g bios. The gun fluctuated a bit during the chrono test, but averaged around 320 FPS, making it good for just about every CQB field you would attend. I did find through the testing that the gun will pre-engage if you let off the trigger too fast. It was obvious that it has a very weak motor. Also, if you pull the trigger too fast in semi-auto, I could literally hear some gear grinding going on. At the time of this article, my tech has not had the chance to open up the gearbox to inspect the internals.
Problems and Concerns:
The only "problem" that arose during testing, other than what was mentioned about the gears, was that the factory hi-cap mag fell apart in the first use. The screw underneath was not tightened during manufacturing and apparently fell out during my tests. I definitely suggest tightening that immediately if you intend on using it. We also discovered that it has a KWA-style hopup, not a standard M4 hopup, so this could cause issues later if you want to upgrade.
At a price point of $160.00, I have to admit that there are far better guns out there. Sure, you get a decent keymod rail that is solid, but the performance of the gun itself and the materials it is constructed with leave a lot left to be desired. Lancer Tactical should re-engineer this gun with a better poly fiber receiver set and a better motor. Only then would I say that the gun may be close to being competitive with other lower priced starter guns, and that is being nice.
The Lancer CA-726B Fast Helmet
I have previously owned a Lancer Tactical Fast helmet, so when this arrived I already had an idea of what to expect. The first thing I noticed about this particular helmet was the lightweight, low-quality plastic used in its construction. I could literally bend the helmet any which way I wished with very little effort. I also noticed at the top of the helmet that there was an obvious point where it was cut from the mold. No effort was even made to make it look nice. On top of that, the plastic had a few hazy rings where the plastic appeared to be weaker (or just cured faster). They also made no effort to put any texturizing or flat-styled coloring to the helmet. It has a semi-gloss finish with a minimum amount of texture.
The next item I inspected was the NVG mount on the front of the helmet. It was also manufactured from a very cheap plastic and not mounted very well. Personally, I would not trust any night vision and/or camera equipment to this particular mount. Use at your own risk!
The strap and ratchet system are decent and comfortable. It does have the "advanced" model strap system, so it is not the bicycle helmet style that comes on the "basic" model. It also has the turn dial/ratchet to tighten the helmet snuggly around your head. I had no issues with this and it functioned as it is designed. The only issues I had with the helmet other than the lack of quality materials were the padding. The padding is basically bicycle helmet foam with thin felt padding attached. It was rather uncomfortable on my head and put a lot of pressure on the sides of my head.
My overall opinion is that it seems a little pricey for the quality. My personal MICH2001 helmet was much lower in cost, much higher in quality, and I was able to add the ARC rails and accessories to it for a final cost around the same at the Lancer helmet. I personally would not trust the safety of my noggin to this quality of plastic.
The Lancer 4906 Plate Carrier
It seems that plate carriers and other "kit" is where people get the most opinionated and brand snobbish. I for one do not participate in the airsoft fashion show and am just fine with my Shellback Tactical Banshee. However, let us look at the true purpose of a plate carrier (in airsoft). Really, its only function other than to give you your "cool guy" look, is to hold various gear throughout a game in a functional manner. Does the Lancer 4906 succeed at this? Yes. Will it provide the functionality you need for numerous games? Yes.
Despite what many websites list (constructed from nylon) Lancer informed me that it is in fact polyester. The finish of the material is a little shiny and stiff, but functional. It comes in a multitude of colors; however, Ranger Green is not available. Lancer informed me that when they made their purchases, Ranger Green was not available. I would hope that they look into getting this color in the near future.
As for comfort, it fits fine, but the shoulder straps on the carrier they sent me seemed to be off a little. No matter how I adjusted it, I just couldn't center it well on my traps. The construction seems to be single-stitched throughout, so I would suggest if you do purchase this carrier you get a tailor or someone familiar with sewing to run another line of stitching through high-use areas.
My biggest complaint about the Lancer 4906 is the quality control. Several of the stitching lines were not straight and appeared to be rushed. On top of that, some parts were not centered correctly and this was noticeable. Does it affect functionality? Somewhat. One area that was a problem was the flap, which goes over the cummerbund. It was off center to the right approximately 1" or more. This allowed for a bit of the flap to hang out over the side of the carrier and potentially could cause hang ups with slings or other items.
Overall, for about $60 it performs the functions it is designed for and will likely last you at least a year to save for the higher end carrier your fashion show buddies will pressure you into getting.
-Brandon Roberts is a counter-terrorism task force officer based out of Meridian, Mississippi. He has been in law enforcement since 2001 and has served as a private military contractor for the U.S. government overseas. Brandon is the author of the Amazon Best Seller List book 'Evading Honesty' and runs milsim with the Florida Tactical Action Club where he serves as Treasurer