The purpose of this article is not to tell you which to buy, or which is "the better gun". Those decisions will be left up to you. Rather, I have had the opportunity to handle both of these guns, and as such, am providing you with my impressions about the two guns. So decide what is important to you, and make your decisions based on that. Before using this article, you really should read the two independent reviews I have done of these guns (CA MP5, v2 AE MP5), as they have the pictures and other information to aid you in choosing.
Airsoft Elite v2
The CA is very heavy, due to just the metal composition I suppose. Deck out a CA with a scope and scope mount, and you will have yourself a very robust gun. You KNOW you have a metal gun.
The AE is surprisingly light, considering it has just as many metal parts as the CA. At first you may even doubt it has all of the metal parts they claim. But it does.
Metal Body Quality
I have toyed with the G3 and MP5 metal bodies by CA, and neither really impressed me much. I had a part break during a simple manipulation on the G3, but no such problems with the MP5. The pieces fit together very well, and friction is the main adhesive that holds the gun together. Don't count on the screw underneath the barrel by the receiver to actually stay in place.
The metal body on the AE is certainly cleaner, and looked much more refined, especially on the inside, but the metal quality is the same. Certainly feels like a different metal, but no more or less sturdy than the metal used for the CA. Also fits together well, friction is still employed but perhaps less so.
I consider both guns to be the same high (low?) quality.
Metal Body Finish
The CA has a 'cool' dark black matte finish, no shine at all. The guns do not come with the groupings on the receiver painted on. They are in the metal so you can paint them yourself if you so desire.
The AE has a glossier finish than the CA, but it is not glossy at all. Looks more like metal, in my opinion. All groupings are painted on the gun.
This again is personal preference. From what I have heard and seen, the AE finish is technically more realistic, if that matters.
Metal Body Takedown
The CA takes down just like the TM does. You have to take apart the upper receiver in order to get to the mechbox. Pretty tricky to get the lower receiver back on with the fire selector in its proper place. Once you do it a few times it's not that bad.
The AE comes apart like the TM G3 series. Pull two retention pins out, remove the stock, and then pull on the handle, and the mechbox slides out the back of the gun. Can't beat it. Wonderful feature. This also means you can hook up the motor to the mechbox and test it on a battery without having to reassemble the entire gun.
If you EVER plan on doing work on your own gun, take this into consideration.
The CA comes with a 200 round hicap mag. It's quality does not seem to differ much from the TM guns. The CA's mag locks in VERY tightly into the gun, really no mag wobble to speak of. TM mags don't seem to lock in as well. Remember, the metal body doesn't flex like the plastic ones do, so it you ever mis-shape the mag, you will have trouble keeping the mag in properly.
The AE comes with a 200 round hicap mag. It's quality does not seem to differ much from the TM guns. The AE's mag locks in VERY tightly into the gun, really no mag wobble to speak of. TM mags don't seem to lock in as well. Remember, the metal body doesn't flex like the plastic ones do, so it you ever mis-shape the mag, you will have trouble keeping the mag in properly.
I didn't just copy and paste these cause I am lazy. They are for all practical purposes, identical.
The CA guns only come with the G3 style receiver, which is more useful to a right handed shooter. The fire selector is very strong, and much better feeling than the one on the TM G3 line.
You can get the AE in both receiver styles, the G3 style and the newer Navy style. The fire selector on the Navy is better than the one on the stock TM, and the selector on the G3 style is about the same as the TM G3 line. The AE has a 'motor heatsink' on the bottom of the grip, but I am not sure how effective or even necessary that part is.
If you want the Navy style, then AE is your only option.
The CA, out of the box, because of the lack of markings on the receiver, does not strike you as being a real MP5, but the weight does lend a hand to the realism aspect. The CA does have proper MP5 markings on it.
The AE, aside from the receiver markings, has made other changes, such as the size of the cocking handle and the holes in the stock, to make the gun a closer replica to a real MP5. The AE, however, is an AE5, not MP5, for they do not have a license to use 'MP5.' As such, you will not find any MP5 markings on the gun.
If you just have to have the trademarks, CA is the only one that has them. AE offers an overall more realistic gun.
The CA comes in a box very similar to the TM guns, except that there is an extra layer of Styrofoam on the top surface of the gun, so the whole gun is surrounded by Styrofoam inside the box. Very well done. Best packaged AEG I have seen to date.
The AE came in a plain cardboard box, with the gun mounted to an elevated piece of cardboard by nylon ties. It won't shift in shipping, but also has minimal protection. Some bubble wrap is tossed in for peace of mind. This is the biggest area where the AE guns are lacking.
In all fairness, I have not had an AE gun messed up in shipping. Yet.
The CA is 100% compatible with TM accessories. Unless you are blind, you will also observe that the CA A series also comes with the tac light. Can't ignore that.
The AE is also 100% compatible with TM accessories. No tac light.
I should also note you can, for example, install a CA SD front end onto an AE gun. Finishes won't match, but it can be done no problem.
The CA line of mechboxes have been out for a while, and are well known for their durability. You should just do some research on these mechboxes to find out more. There has been skepticism on the quality of the internals of the gun, which is why some retailers (AirsoftExtreme) perform upgrades on the gun to shore things up before they sell it, and why some other retailers (WGC) even have a disclaimer before you view the page with the CA guns on it. But if you buy a CA from a retailer that does upgrade it and tests it ahead of time, the risk is minimized.
AE also has a separate mechbox, it sold before the line of guns came out. The mechbox in the new AE guns is VERY strong, and the gears are reinforced. The piston/piston head is perhaps the weakest point in the AE mechbox. The AE also comes with a metal spring guide with bearing, which is nice as well. The AE has not been out as long as CA, so not as much is known, and the V2 AE has just recently become available for purchase.
Neither model has been out as long as TM, so neither has a proven track record like TM. If you are capable of doing mechbox work, either gun would be fine.
This is based totally one what you want, and where you get it from. Keep all of the above information in mind, and just make sure that when assessing which is the 'better value' you take everything into account.
You will find that both guns will serve their purpose, and you will find people that love and hate both lines of guns.
I, Pikachoad, personally would take the AE primarily because of the quick take down feature. I always tinker with my guns, and having the quick take down feature is invaluable.
Original review at http://www.airsoft-guide.com/default.asp?view=52&ad=1