In replica terms, hype is a double-edged weapon. It can mean that you assume something is going to be good before you ever pick it up but it can also mean that you have expectations so high that the reality is bound to be disappointing. For these reasons, it’s not easy to approach a review of a Tokyo Marui replica pistol completely objectively. After all, TM have a reputation for producing some of the finest airsoft replicas. But hey, this is the Pistol Place and the word “objective” is right up there on the site banner, so, let’s put those preconceptions aside and take a look at the TM Hi-Capa Custom. Is it really as good as they say? Is it worth the money? Will I run out of superlatives before I finish the review? Sit down, strap-in, grab a mug/glass of your favourite beverage and let’s take a detailed look at this iconic replica.
The first question to address is: what is this a replica of? The Tokyo Marui Hi-Capa Custom Dual Stainless doesn’t claim to be a direct replica of any specific firearm, but it is obviously very similar in appearance and function to the Hi-Cap 1911s produced by companies such as Springfield Armory and STI, so that’s what I’ll be discussing here.
The 1911 by John Moses Browning has been a popular handgun since it was first introduced in the early 1900s. However, one of the limitations of this design is that its slim grip accommodates a magazine which holds just seven .45 ACP rounds. By the 1970s and 80s, many shooters were switching to 9mm semi-automatics which had much larger capacity magazines. In response, companies like Springfield Armory and STI in the US and others elsewhere began producing 1911 pistols with wider, double stack magazines which could hold up to 14 rounds. These designs, which quickly became known as “1911 Hi-Caps”, often also added other features which addressed shortcomings of the original 1911 design such as ambidextrous manual safeties, accessory rails and extended grip-safety beavertails to avoid hammer bite. This resulted in new pistols which lost the wonderfully slim grip and clean look of the original, but became in many ways much more practical handguns.
The STI Edge, a custom 1911 Hi-Cap
Illinois based Springfield Armory Inc. started trading in 1975 after purchasing the rights to use the famous Springfield Armory name (the original Springfield Armory in the city of Springfield, Massachusetts closed down in 1968). Springfield Armory is now one of the biggest firearm manufacturers in the US producing the XD range of semi-automatic pistols as well as several 1911 designs and automatic rifles.
The Springfield Custom shop produce a range of very high-quality handguns which are used both by competition shooters and carried by law enforcement agencies. For example, in 1996 the FBI Hostage Rescue Team set out on a very exacting series of tests in order to select a new handgun. The winner was the Springfield Professional 1911 A1 produced by the Custom Shop. Springfield Armory produce several variations on the Hi-Cap 1911 theme.
A 1911 Hi-Cap by the Springfield Armory Custom Shop
Although you won’t find any Springfield Armory markings on the TM Hi-Capa Custom, things like the angled front and rear slide serrations and the use of black and polished stainless on the slide make it look very like a custom version of the basic 1911 design produced by Springfield Armory. It’s also possible to buy a replacement metal slide for this replica from airsoft customizing manufacturer Intrudershop which includes full Springfield Armory markings.
TM Hi-Capa Custom fitted with an Intrudershop Springfield Armory metal slide
The Tokyo Marui Hi-Capa Custom Dual Stainless
The TM Hi-Capa Custom is a replica of a railed 1911 4.3 Hi-Cap. It is constructed of a mix of high-grade plastic and metal. The slide, outer barrel and grips are plastic while just about everything else (including the frame, guide rod, trigger, hammer, sights, safety and grip safety) is metal. The inner barrel is brass with hop-up which is adjusted via a small wheel under the barrel. A full size, metal, drop-out magazine holds up to 28 BBs and there is an ambidextrous manual safety which can only be engaged when the hammer is fully cocked. The hammer can also be manually de-cocked to a half-cock position in which the pistol cannot be fired. This replica is an improved version of the original Tokyo Marui Hi-Capa design which is claimed to be more accurate and to incorporate “Hi-Kick” blowback for increased recoil effect. TM also produce a similar 5.1 Hi-Capa version, but not in this distinctive Dual Stainless finish.
Packaging and presentation (2.5/5)
The TM Hi-Capa Custom comes in a polystyrene base with cut-outs for the pistol, magazine and accessories and a colourful, printed card lid. This replica is supplied with a single gas magazine, a small bag of TM BBs and a plastic clearing rod. It also comes with what may well be a comprehensive user manual, but as it’s entirely in Japanese, I can’t be certain about that.
The information on and inside the box is slightly confusing. For example, it gives the caliber of this replica as .45ACP and the magazine capacity as 13 + 1, both of which are true of the original firearm, but not this replica (which, of course has a caliber of 6mm and a magazine capacity of 28 + 1). At first I assumed that this information simply referred to the original weapon, but the box gives the weight of the pistol as 865g, which is close to the replica but much too light for the original.
Visual accuracy 8/10
Although this isn’t a replica of a specific firearm, it’s a good general visual replica of a custom 1911 Hi-Cap with a 4.3” slide and barrel. The markings on the slide (“OPS Tactical .45”, etc.) don’t have any particular meaning or refer to any firearm as far as I know.
Functional accuracy 14/15
Functionally, this is very good replica. It has blowback over a full range of movement, a full-size magazine and all the controls are located and work just as they would on the original. Even small details like the fact that the front and rear sights are separate metal parts which are fitted on to the slide replicates what you’d find on the original. This replica can be stripped in the same way as the original.
The first thing you need to do is to load the magazine with gas but, unlike most of the other airsoft replicas reviewed on this site, the TM Hi-Capa Custom is designed to use HFC-134a gas rather than the more usual HFC-22 (Green Gas). Many Japanese designed and manufactured replicas, such as those produced by Western Arms and KSC as well as TM, are specifically designed to work best with HFC-134a. This gas is a refrigerant (chemical composition 1,1,1,2 tetrafluoroethane) and is quite different from Green Gas which is simply propane. The main reason that Japanese replicas are designed to use HFC-134a is that there are very strict power limits on replicas in Japan and the use of this gas ensures that replicas won’t exceed these limits. You can use Green Gas in any gas-powered replica, and it will give more fps and a stronger blowback compared to HFC-134a, but many Japanese replicas use plastic slides and restricted flow gas valves and these can be damaged by using higher pressure Green Gas. That said, I know that some people have used Green Gas in Tokyo Marui replicas for years without any adverse effects – you’ll find a link at the end of this article to a review of a TM 1911 that has been run on Green Gas for over six years without any problems!
For some reason, I found it more difficult to load the HFC gas into this replica without leaking that I do when filling Green Gas magazines. It wasn’t a major issue, but there was always some leakage when I filled this magazine. Once it’s filled with gas, you can add up to 28 BBs. The follower doesn’t lock down so you have to hold it down while you add the BBs to the wider part of the opening on the front of the mag. The mag inserts and locks positively. Rack the slide to queue up the first BB in the breech and you’re ready to go. Incidentally, the slide racks with a very satisfactory sound – it may be made of plastic, but at least it doesn’t sound like it! The ambidextrous manual safety can only be engaged with the hammer fully cocked and it moves precisely and smoothly. The pistol will not fire unless the grip safety is depressed, and this is also smooth and light in operation.
The sight picture is simple and very clear. There’s only one white dot, on the front blade, but it’s easy to acquire a good sight picture. The single-action only trigger is short, precise and very light indeed – so light that I had a couple of unintentional discharges before I got a feel for it. This isn’t particularly loud and the recoil effect provided by the Hi-Kick blowback simply isn’t as strong as it is on some replicas with heavier, metal slides, but the blowback action is very snappy. I know that some people don’t like the feel of the blowback action on plastic slide equipped TM replicas but, while I agree that it isn’t as powerful as some other replicas, it seemed to me to provide an entirely satisfactory shooting experience. This has good weight though, like many airsoft replicas, around 30% of the total weight is in the magazine, which does give it a slightly butt-heavy feel.
The fat, polished metal double stack magazine certainly holds plenty of gas – I was able to get more than 70 full power shots from a single fill of gas. Which also suggests that the gas efficiency of HFC-134a is as good as claimed. It also seemed to me that cooldown was far less noticeable using this gas than either Green Gas or CO2, though that’s a subjective thing which I can’t confirm by measurement.
Hop-up adjustment wheel (arrowed)
The hop-up is adjusted via a small, toothed plastic wheel under the barrel – you have to remove the slide to access it. Just like everything else about this replica, hop-up adjustment is precise and accurate. Using .2g BBs at 6m, the full range of hop-up adjustment moves the point of impact vertically by just over two inches. Even a small movement of the adjustment wheel gives a corresponding change in the vertical centre of the point of impact. Add to this the fact that the front sight is drifted into the slide and can be moved from side to side, and it should be possible to get the point of aim and the point of impact to coincide precisely. Out of the box, with the hop-up set to the minimum, mine shot precisely to the point of aim with .2g BBs.
In terms of power, my TM Hi-Capa Custom certainly isn’t going to break any records. I ran ten shots using .2g BBs over my UFC Pro chronograph on a fairly warm (20°C) day and I got the following results:
Now, these readings are certainly low for a replica rated at 280fps and I can’t explain that. However, what is noticeable is that they are amazingly consistent. The maximum difference between the highest and lowest readings is under 2.5%. If you want consistency in shooting from your replica, what you need is consistent power, and the TM HI-Capa Custom certainly has that. Am I concerned about the lack of power? Not really. I use my replicas for target shooting and plinking only. For that, I need enough power for the BB to travel on a fairly flat trajectory and to have enough energy to pierce the target cleanly when it gets there. Any additional power is actually wasted. So for me, it’s largely irrelevant whether a BB is traveling at 200, 300, 400 or 500fps as long as it works for shooting, which this replica does. However, I know that other people (especially those who shoot at longer range) disagree and want as much power as possible from their replicas. All I can say is that, for me, the standard TM Hi-Capa Custom is adequately powerful.
A full magazine of 28 .2g BBs, shot freestanding at 6m range and fired fairly rapidly. Black, centre circle is 1½” in diameter.
Overall, the TM Hi-Capa Custom is very, very satisfying to shoot. It has, in my opinion, enough recoil effect to be satisfying, it feels good in the hand and it’s as accurate and consistent as any BB shooting replica can be. It also seems to work flawlessly (I haven’t had a single misfeed or failure to fire) and it’s frugal with gas. I’m not sure what more you can ask from any replica?
Quality and reliability 15/15
The TM Hi-Capa Custom feels very well made and constructed. The slide fits tightly on the frame and moves with a precise action. The fit of the inner barrel inside the outer barrel and the fit of the outer barrel in the slide are both very good indeed with very little play and no gaps. The grip safety and manual safety work smoothly, precisely and with very little effort. The shiny finish on part of the slide does manage to look a lot like polished stainless steel and there are no visible moulding seams anywhere on this replica (except for a barely noticeable seam on top of the outer barrel). Even the magazine is beautifully made and finished. It was also notable that my TM Hi-Capa Custom arrived well lubricated out-of-the-box, something that isn’t true of most of the replicas I test.
Hammer in the half-cock position
Overall, I haven’t had any issues with the quality or reliability of this replica at all and it seems to confirm that TM replicas are manufactured and assembled with a care that puts some other replica manufacturers to shame. Most people also say that long term reliability with TM replicas is also good. The only thing I did notice is that the slide on the TM Hi-Capa Custom is made entirely of plastic, unlike some TM replicas where metal is used to reinforce the plastic slide. This is one of the reasons that, so far at least, I have chosen to run this only on HFC-134a, as recommended by TM.
Overall impression 14/15
This replica feels good from the moment you pick it up. It has convincing weight and feels solid, balanced and very well finished. Everything about it works precisely, smoothly and without undue effort. And it shoots like a dream – it’s accurate and amazingly consistent and extremely frugal with HFC-134a gas.
OK, perhaps it isn’t especially powerful or as loud as some replicas and the recoil effect provided by the blowback isn’t as strong as some, but overall, I don’t think you’ll particularly notice any of those things while you’re enjoying shooting one of these.
The TM Hi-Capa Custom makes me smile every time I pick it up. That’s all I can ask from a replica. Yes, there’s a price differential between this and some other replicas. But, believe me, there’s an even greater enjoyment differential. And if you don’t care for the standard version, the upgrade options for TM replicas seem endless. Would you like a metal slide and outer barrel with Springfield markings? No problem. Or a tightbore barrel? Or upgraded valves, springs or sights? Or custom grips in a range of eye-searing colours? Or internal and external changes that will allow you to safely use Green Gas? All of these and more are available, which means it’s possible to customize your TM Hi-Capa and make it into something completely unique (you’ll find links to a couple of places which sell custom TM parts at the end of this review). Just be careful – customizing TM Hi-Capas can be addictive, and some people have ended up spending a great deal of money on upgrade parts…
Before doing this review, I wasn’t sure that I’d care for TM replicas. The main issue for me has always been the use of plastic in their construction – I generally prefer metal replicas. However, although the slide is plastic here, just about everything else is metal which gives this replica a convincing heft and feel. Overall, I can’t recommend this highly enough. I can’t say if the Hi-Capa Custom is typical of all TM pistols, but this one is just as outstanding as the hype led me to expect. And that doesn’t happen often!
Coming soon: OK, I admit it, I have given in to the urge to upgrade this replica, mainly to allow me to safely use green gas. I’ll be posting up my findings soon.
Plastic slide and outer barrel.
Blowback isn’t especially strong.
More expensive than some replicas.
Beautifully made and finished.
Shoots like a dream.
Worth every penny.
Lots of upgrade options available.
Intrudershop replacement metal slide with Springfield markings for TM Hi-Capa Custom
Elite Shooting Centre in the UK is run by champion shooter Mike Cripps and sells custom parts for TM Hi-Capas