Area51 Airsoft - A Sorry Tale Indeed (But with a happy ending!)
In October 2003 a small airsoft manufacturing
firm named Area51 Airsoft announced that they were going to
diversify from their usual range of custom pistols and conversions,
and also supply shell-ejecting replica M4 assault rifles. These were
based on the RAM paintball markers produced by Asia Paintball,
converted from paintball calibre to fire the much smaller 6mm
airsoft BBs instead.
I had been interested in the RAM replicas since
they were announced a few months earlier, as the idea of a stream of
shell cases being ejected as I fired was very appealing - I grew up
with a passion for real firearms before the nineties Conservative
governments embarked on the series of bans that have left the sport
of shooting in the sorry state it is in today, and these replicas
were undoubtedly the closest thing to the long-lost full-auto
experience that could now be obtained, even with a firearms
Area51's RAM airsoft conversions were launched
amid massive hype on the airsoft forums, with claims that there
would only ever be a small quantity made - and although with
hindsight it was a foolish move, I eagerly joined the scramble to
purchase before it was too late. I paid out slightly more than £1000
in the middle of October 2003 and, as I write this more than six
months later in May 2004, I am still waiting for all the items that
I have been promised.
I've been documenting the endless series of
broken promises, missed deadlines, outrageous claims and
unconvincing excuses in my weblog over the last six months, and the
time has now come to pull it all together into a single place. Area
51 have manufactured a reputation for quality and innovation in the
airsoft world that is at least partly deserved, but they have
grossly mishandled the entire shell-ejecting range and as far as I'm
concerned their reputation is now irreparably tarnished. Hopefully
this page will provoke second thoughts for anyone who is considering
doing any significant business with this company - I really, really
can't recommend them at all...
One final note - it might interest the owner of
Area51, David "DeeDee" Sheldrake, that
a search for their company name at Google currently shows my
complaints about his company on the first page of results - and
subsequent postings here will probably move them even higher on the
page when Google catches up. In these days of weblogs and net-based
amateur journalism, even a single disgruntled customer could be
enough to make a difference to your company's reputation.
- May 2004
Update - 18th May:
How nice - a happy ending! After a personal visit from Dee, I am very
pleased to report that all my gripes have been resolved. He has now
supplied all the outstanding items from both my original order and the
eBay auction, re-affirmed his intention to provide warranty on the shell
ejecting replicas if required, and generally resolved my problems and
allayed my fears. I'm going to leave this page intact, but I am looking
forward to being able to update it with news of the performance of the
shell ejecting replica rather than endless griping. I'm extremely glad
that, even after so many problems, we could sort it all out in the end.
Nice one, Dee!
Problems with the shell-ejecting M4
replica to date
Although the heart of the replica is actually very
impressive, in operation there have proved to be a number of serious
issues which make sustained, reliable firing extremely rare. All of these
issues have been reported to Area51, but no solutions have been proposed
to date - and now that Dee has washed his hands of the entire range, no
solutions are likely.
1) The various gas charge/coolers supplied were
completely useless... They leaked like sieves (which is actually quite
dangerous, when it comes to CO2!) and suffered from
a serious design flaw that emerged in use - a number of different metals
were used in the assembly, and as a tank was filled the cooling effect
created by the expansion of the CO2 caused some
components to contract more than others. This meant that the screw joint
where the gun tank connected to the charge rig tended to bind solid to the
tank's thread, while at the same time loosening from the rest of the
charge/cooler assembly - as a result, the cooler would come apart as the
tank was removed, leaving a metal collar firmly bound to the tank itself
and rendering both tank and charger useless until they warmed up again! In
the end I bought an equivalent, at my own expense, from a paintball
supplies company - and it works perfectly every time...
2) The shell cases are extremely inconsistent in
their manufacturing quality - in a significant proportion of those
originally supplied the rubber insert used to reduce the calibre to 6mm
protruded too far from the metal casing (around a millimetre, in some
cases!) and so fouls on either the magazine feed or the gun's chamber,
causing frequent jams. The excess insert can be trimmed off, but
this tends to cause the remaining insert to creep forward in the metal
case, repeating the problem and also loosening the grip on the BB - which
means it tends to fall straight out through the barrel! This problem is
getting worse with time, too, and more and more of my original shell cases
are now affected - apparently the inserts were fitted under pressure, and
are gradually sliding forward even when not in use.
3) The replica itself seems to have a very nasty
tendency to hangfire on the last shot of a gas tank: as the tank runs
down, the final pull of the trigger doesn't actually do anything - so one
lowers the gun and prepares to make it safe, and half a second later the
gas pressure has built up somewhere inside the mechanism and the gun fires
without any further contact with the trigger! I can't tell whether this is
a problem with the original RAM core, or has been introduced by the
modifications performed by Area51, but I have to admit that the former
seems most likely.
4) The main problem, and the reason for the
existence of this page, is Area51 itself - it should not take six months
and one hundred and fifty email messages sent and received in order
to buy something and receive what you have paid for! I have been let down
over delivery dates countless times, been fobbed off with excuses that
became less and less plausible as time went on, cancelled plans and waited
at home for two evenings and one entire weekend for personal deliveries
that never materialised, and generally been jerked around and mistreated beyond
all reasonable forbearance. I've said it before, and I'll say it again -
this is no way to run a business!
Timeline of my dealings with Area51
A51 announces launch of shell-ejecting range
Paid for the gun, an additional front end, and a
compressed air charging rig
Told that the air charger was being withdrawn,
and replaced by a CO2 system
Told that the gun would ship - it didn't...
After advice from A51, obtained CO2
tank from BOC
Informed that my gun will have added extras as a
bonus - this is not the case
After some background reading, determined that I
had the wrong sort of CO2 tank
Acquired replacement CO2
tank from BOC
Promised instructions on how to fill the CO2
gun tanks - still waiting...
Promised additional Bushmaster-type front end as
a bonus - it took 20 weeks to arrive, and wasn't what I wanted even when it
Told that the gun had shipped - it
hadn't, and the tracking number was invalid
Told again that the gun would ship - and again
A51 announce that they will no longer supply
direct to the public
Told yet again that the gun had shipped
Gun finally arrives on its own, without front
end, shell cases or gas charge/cooler
Told that shells and charge/cooler had been sent
out - they hadn't
A51 forum at Arnie's Airsoft locked "for four
days over christmas"
A51 forum at Arnie's Airsoft completely locked,
Promised CO2 caplet
adapter as a bonus - still waiting...
Gas charge/cooler finally arrives - and fails
immediately in use
Replacement charge/cooler arrives - and also
fails immediately in use
Promised additional 11mm barrels as a bonus -
Most recent order status update on A51's
Shell cases finally arrive - and a number of
them fail immediately in use
From this point I can actually
use the gun for the first time!
Promised 3rd generation charge/cooler - still
Returned both faulty charge/coolers, together
with faulty shells and gas tank
Until now, when it's back to
being a paperweight once more!
A51 announce their intention to supply direct to
the public again
A51 announce that the shell-ejecting Glock
pistol range will be withdrawn
A51 remove references to authorised dealers from
their web page
I finally run out of patience...
Email sent to A51 telling them what I think of
them, and putting my foot down
They reply with more promises, and claims that
my problems are unique among over 31,000 guns supplied... Needless to say, I
don't believe that for a moment!
I've given them until the middle of next week to
deliver what I am owed, but I'm getting more annoyed with every email
message exchanged. Let's see what happens...
The additional front end arrives - more that
twenty weeks after I ordered and paid for it. I've completely given up hope
on the many freebies I was offered, as by this time just getting the items
I'd actually paid for feels like a major achievement!
In the vain hope that buying from the company
via an eBay auction might somehow bring better results, I tried to obtain an
extra barrel. Boy, but that was a mistake...
Told that the barrel had been sent. It hadn't.
After weekly emails enquiring about the barrel,
finally told that Dee would be in the London area and would deliver it in
person. I waited in all weekend, and not only did he never show up, but he
never apologised or even acknowledged the failure!
More weekly emails, resulting in various claims
that the barrel had been sent. It still hadn't...
A further email resulted in the news that Dee
would be in the area again that evening. Once again, he never showed up...
Terse email from Dee - some of the other
frustrated customers that I have been in touch with have rather tactlessly
forwarded our email conversations to him... However, he promised that the
new manager, Arnie of Arnie's Airsoft fame, would deliver that
evening in person. Unsurprisingly by now, he never showed up either.
Dee announces on the A51 news page that he is
washing his hands of everything to do with the shell-ejecting replicas - no
spares, no support, no service, no warranty... This completely reverses all
his previous promises of continuing support for the products - is the man's
word completely worthless?
Two months after the eBay auction ended, and a
week since I was promised delivery for the third time - once more, enough is
enough, so I've finally left negative feedback at eBay pointing to this
page. I am so fed up with this...
Dee threatens legal action over the contents of
this page. He also promises to deliver the outstanding items personally (for
the fourth time) - if I tell him what is missing! A long article admitting
the shortcomings of his company is posted on the Area51 news page, and then
withdrawn a few hours later. (Reproduced below)
Now that's more like it! Dee and Arnie arrived
unexpectedly, bearing goodies. I now have all that I've been waiting for,
and more besides, and after a long chat we've back on friendly terms again.
It would have been better if all these problems had never arisen in the
first place, of course, but I'm very glad indeed that an amicable resolution
was possible in the end. Nice one, Dee!
A message posted on A51's web page announces the
end of the company, citing the UK's impossibly restrictive firearms
legislation. Critical threads in various airsoft forums might have
precipitated the decision, though...
Six months ago, when I chose to criticise A51's
customer service on this web site, I was insulted, threatened and
generally flamed lightly all over by supporters of the company - but now
it seems that almost overnight their former fan club has changed into
their worst enemies! The level of venom directed at Dee Sheldrake, the
original manager of the company, and at new manager Arnie (he of
Arnie's Airsoft) is actually rather disturbing, with their
personalities, motives and qualifications criticised and called into
question - together with a re-emergence of the bizarre allegation that
Arnie and Dee are actually one and the same person!
I can refute the latter, of course, having
met the pair of them when
they came to personally deliver my M4 SE hardware, and although I can't
speak with any authority on Dee's ballistics qualifications, I like to
think that I know quite a lot about firearms and it was clear to me that
he knew considerably more. It's also clear that nobody should
under-estimate the value of Arnie's contributions to the airsoft scene in
England: his website is one
of the best airsoft sites in the world, and in the two years since I
discovered the hobby I have always found it to be the most informative,
helpful and accessible of resources. Unfortunately it has has been
suffering from considerable technical difficulties in the last few months,
but I've been very pleased that the problems now seem to be over and
following a complete re-vamp the site is back online and better than ever.
The same cannot be said about Area 51 itself, though -
although neither Dee or Arnie has been involved in the vicious thread at
UKAN (a very wise move, in my opinion, as there's no chance of winning in
a discussion that is already that hostile), earlier today an announcement
appeared on their web site
stating that the company was being wound up. The reasons given involve the
UK's highly restrictive and convoluted forearms legislation, and given the
complexity of the laws and the horrendous penalties for even innocent
transgressions, they are good reasons indeed... But one has to assume,
however, that the sudden turning of the tide of public opinion has at
least precipitated that decision.
It might come as a surprise to some to see me defending
A51 here, after having written many thousands of words criticising the
company... But I have to say that I found both Arnie and Dee to be very
friendly, pleasant and knowledgeable people, when I met them, and whatever
the problems I've had with their company in the past, I do not like to see
them under such fierce personal attack from people who obviously don't
know them even to the small extent that I do - especially when so much of
it seems completely ill-informed and unwarranted. I'm afraid that, when
the mood of such an easily-excitable online community shifts, it tends to
shift from one extreme to another.
Well, there's a turn-up for
the books! Yesterday evening I received an unexpected visit from Dee
Sheldrake, the owner of Area51
Airsoft. He brought me all the outstanding items from both my original
order and the eBay auction, together with a generous
handful of freebies by way of an apology for the delay, and we
ended up having quite a long chat. He explained the background to some of
the problems that he and his company have been facing over the last few
months, and it does all sound far more reasonable now that I have
some facts to go along with all the speculation. As Dee freely admitted,
it would have been preferable if the issues with delivery delays etc had
never arisen in the first place, but given that they have I really think
that he is now doing everything possible to correct the problems
and make amends to his customers. I have to admit that having talked to
him in person, now, I was impressed with his sincerity - and that actually
I've ended up with a degree of sympathy for someone who is obviously being
run ragged by the demands of his business. I wish him the best of luck in
sorting out the remaining problems, and I hope that he can resolve the
complaints of any other dissatisfied customers as effectively as he has
now resolved mine.
He has also re-affirmed his position on the warranty
for the shell ejectors, and I am considerably re-assured to know that if
there are any problems in future, I will have somewhere to turn for
advice, repairs, and spare parts. I'm very pleased to be back on friendly
terms with the company again, actually - I've never wanted to pursue a
refund for the M4 Shell Ejector as it is basically an extremely
elegant piece of hardware, and shows great potential once the teething
problems have been worked out. Indeed, I'm hoping that the
long-anticipated move from 6mm to 11mm calibre, thus losing the rather
problematic sleeved-down shell cases, will bring a significant
improvement. Watch this space later in the week week for pictures of the
Dee was accompanied by Arnie of Arnie's Airsoft fame,
and it was especially nice to meet him, too - his site served as an
excellent introduction to the hobby when I discovered it last year, and as
well as being a fascinating source of information when I needed it most, I
was highly impressed by the depth and quality of his reviews - and,
indeed, have bought a number of my own replicas based purely on his
opinions. Meeting Arnie and Dee together also allows me to dismiss a
strange myth that has been circulating in email, recently - a number of
people have suggested that they are actually one and the same person, but
I am now in a position to reassure anyone who is unconvinced that there
were definitely two complete people present, with no sign of any
shared body parts at all.
[Update: I have to admit to being rather less impressed
with Arnie, right now, having just read his contribution to
this thread at the RAP forum. I have decided to shrug it off,
though, together with the deranged rantings of some of the regular
denizens of the board (one of them, six years younger than me according to
his profile, referred to me as "that Dominic kid"!), as I have now
become extremely tired of the whole issue. Now that I finally have the
11mm calibre barrel, I can abandon the highly problematic sleeved-down 6mm
shell cases and hopefully that will actually make the replica practical to
use at last - and at this stage it would be preferable to be able to enjoy
shooting it, for a change, instead of just complaining about
negative feedback I left for Area51 at eBay, Dee has given
his side of the story on the
news page of the company's web site. Read it while you can, though -
things posted there have a habit of not staying for long. [Note: And,
indeed, the entire posting was removed a few hours later] The publicity is
bringing a number of other highly dissatisfied customers out of the
woodwork, though - I am NOT alone.
So, Area51 Airsoft seem determined to add insult to
injury. Even though I'm still waiting for my replacement M4 barrel after
more than two months, yesterday Dee posted a message on the
news section of
their web site saying that they're giving them away for nothing!
It's that time of year
where I do silly things. After having a good weekend and generally
sorting out stuff like the new workshop and premises I'm in a good mood
:) soooo if anybody who has bought an airsoft or 11mm MP5 shell ejector
from me or has gotten one as part of a trade from me or anybody else
wants to drop me a line I will send them a complete HK94 Barrel and kit
free. (Yes free means free as in costs nothing). No strings and no
catches. All you need to do is drop me a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
and I'll mail you one out by return of post :) Why? simple. I'm that
impressed with the new kits that I'd like more people to be able to see
them so the easiest way is to give some away. M4 owners?? your not to be
left out and if you also would like to drop me a mail I'll send you one
of the 10mm Paintball DBD signature series barrels for nothing so you
can fire Paint from your M4 series guns. Same applies, all it costs you
is the time to mail me :)
Maybe I'm excessively paranoid, but after everything
that has happened it actually does feel as if he's doing this mostly to
annoy me! <sigh>
"While you're at it, why don't you give me a nice paper cut, and pour
lemon juice on it?"
So, this morning I received a terse and sarcastic email
from Dee at Area51, as apparently some of the other frustrated customers
that I have been in touch with have rather tactlessly forwarded our email
conversations to him! I can't say I approve of that, but what's done is
done and now I think it's time to "go public". I've been busy pulling all
the Area51 Airsoft weblog snippets together into
one unified page, and I'm about to leave long
overdue negative feedback on that two month old eBay auction containing a
link pointing straight to that page. I can only be pushed so far, and
after six months and more than one hundred emails trying to get what I'm
owed from them, I think this is as far as I go... Dee also said that the
new manager, Arnie of Arnie's Airsoft fame, would deliver my
outstanding components himself this evening - but as it's 11pm now, just as
with the last two promises of personal delivery this one has also
completely failed to materialise. What a company!
Airsoft are continuing to provide their expected but still thoroughly
disappointing levels of customer service. It's been seven weeks since the
eBay auction for the replacement barrels ended and, as far as I can
tell, it seems that none of the winning bidders have received their
items yet. I'm actually in regular contact with a pair of them in America,
and apparently manager Dee Sheldrake is blaming import problems - but I've
warned them that as my barrel hasn't been delivered within the UK, either,
it probably isn't quite as simple as that...
Having sent yet another email to ask for an
update on Monday afternoon, I received a reply from Dee saying that he
would be in the area that very evening and offering to deliver the barrel
himself. After the last time he suggested this he then
failed to turn up or even to
contact me, so I wasn't at all surprised when he didn't turn up again this
time... In fact, I can't think of a single promise that he or his
colleagues have so far made to me that was actually fulfilled on time -
and the vast majority of them
haven't even been
fulfilled at all!
Bizarrely, having stated earlier this year both in
private email and on
various public forums that the shell ejecting rifles for which these
barrels are designed are neither economical to produce or reliable in
operation (and my own experiences certainly support the latter!), and
subsequently playing down the entire shell ejecting range, this week they
announced a major ramping up of production for the US market instead. What
a ridiculous state of affairs!
Airsoft truly lived up to their name this weekend - the UFO-obsessed
conspiracy theorists who monitor the
US government test area of that name would be thoroughly familiar with
my recent experience spending days watching and waiting without seeing any
signs of activity whatsoever...
I don't quite know why I decided to give this most
unreliable of companies
yet another chance, but a few weeks ago I spotted their mainstay Dee
Sheldrake advertising a replacement 11mm barrel for my M4 shell-ejector
on eBay, and foolishly decided to bid. I suppose I thought that under
the strict terms and conditions of an eBay auction he might actually be
capable of completing the deal in a reasonable timescale - but if so, I
have been completely disappointed once again.
The auction ended on the 14th of March, and over the
subsequent two weeks I sent a handful of queries to Dee, receiving in
reply the traditional assurances that the barrel would be in the post to
me imminently. Nothing materialised, of course, and eventually another
enquiry brought the news that Dee would be in London over this weekend,
and could actually deliver it personally! I was intrigued at the prospect
of actually meeting this phantom at last, and so we agreed that he
would come to my house sometime around Friday teatime.
Friday teatime came and went, along with the rest of
Friday, but when I got up on Saturday morning I found that Dee had sent
email at around 4am claming to have been delayed in a business meeting
until 2 o'clock in the morning! Its hard to imagine what kind of business
meeting takes place at that time, I must admit, but I shrugged it off and
sat down to wait for his promised appearance on Saturday morning instead.
The entire day passed without any sign of him, or any further
communication - and as I write this on Sunday evening I very much doubt
that I'm going to see any sign of him now. I shouldn't really be surprised
or disappointed, I suppose - but, actually, for some reason I am...
It would be completely wrong to refer to Dee Sheldrake
as a con man, as I'm quite convinced that there is no basic dishonesty
involved and that his intentions are completely honourable - but it has to
be said that the end result is exactly the same. The money is paid,
the goods take forever to arrive and are of unpredictable quality when
they finally do - and a lot of broken promises and unconvincing excuses
are offered along the way.
experiences of this company are nothing out of the ordinary, either -
in spite of the widespread propaganda on the UK airsoft forums, it's easy
to find the truth, and I've spent the last couple of months chatting in
email with a number of Area51's other customers, including a fellow owner
of the shell-ejecting M4 replicas. Our experiences are uncannily
similar, it turns out, and as a result we're all equally frustrated and
disillusioned with both the products themselves and the company's general
attitude and abilities. It's a damn shame...
I've finally given up on
Area51 Airsoft, the supplier
of my shell-ejecting M4 replica... After almost five months of broken
promises, missed delivery dates, evasions, excuses and even a handful of
just downright lies, I've had enough, and I've finally admitted to myself
that the chance of getting everything I'd originally ordered, let alone
the additional items they promised, is minimal. Each time they've let me
down they've offered some new freebie - additional front ends, large-bore
barrels, CO2 tanks, extra shell cases, you name
it... but just like some of the hardware I originally ordered and paid
for, none of the freebies have ever actually arrived!
In summary - the gun itself is basically functional in
the form supplied. The modification to convert it from .43 calibre
paintballs to 6mm BBs seem to have been carried out competently, and I
have no major complaints in that area. There is a nasty design quirk where
an almost empty gas tank can cause a delay of several seconds between
pulling the trigger and firing the final round, but disconcerting and
worrying though this is I suspect it to be a problem with the gas
mechanism itself and nothing to do with Area51's modifications. I'm a also
a touch concerned about the overall longevity of the gas tanks, as I've
already experienced two failures in the seals even during very limited
use, and these are obviously a weak area.
On top of these issues, though, everything else about
Area51's overall package is less than satisfactory and shows clear signs
of being pre-production prototypes rushed to market with grossly
inadequate design and testing. Firstly, the CO2
charge/cooling rig, even after several redesigns, is at present a
thoroughly unworkable device - both models supplied to date leak like
sieves, fall apart at the drop of a hat, and seize solid with depressing
regularity. However, in spite of this I finally evolved a technique of
filling the gun tanks that worked most of the time (if with much wasted
gas and chilled fingers!) and I could have coped in the short term -
except that I was asked to send both units back to Area51 almost a
fortnight ago to exchange for a 3rd generation unit which, of course,
still hasn't arrived in spite of promises of being sent out "tomorrow"!
Secondly, the shell cases themselves, heavily modified
from the original paintball cases with the addition of a soft, rubbery
plastic sleeve to reduce the calibre to 6mm. Unfortunately they are wildly
inconsistent in manufacture, and seem to showcase Area51's quality control
shortcomings in the worst way. A significant number of them failed right
out of the box, as the plastic insert protruded several millimetres
outside the aluminium case and so jammed solid in the gun when chambered.
More worryingly, an increasing number are starting to exhibit this problem
after only light use, as the insert creeps forward inside the case - and
this is even more serious, because as well as tending to jam, when this
happens they also become too loose to retain the BB while in the chamber,
and it tends to roll out of the barrel when the muzzle of the gun is
Now, although these are extremely irritating factors
given the timescale involved, and have lead to me only being able to use
the replica for around three weeks in the five months since I paid, it is
after all only a toy gun and I've been reluctant to let the matter get out
of proportion. However, what really annoys me is the way that Area51 has
treated me and, from what I read, a significant number of other customers.
We have been made to wait many months for deliveries promised in days or
weeks, given Parcelforce tracking numbers that don't exist, told that
packages have been sent on particular dates when they clearly haven't,
offered additional items which never arrive presumably just to shut us up
temporarily, have had the forums which were the only source of information
and feedback sneakily closed down on us, told to our faces (as it were!)
that we were less important than the big government contracts that are
apparently the company's bread and butter, and generally screwed over and
messed around from start to finish!
It's an old and familiar story, I'm afraid - a small
company dealing in a specialised market becomes unexpectedly successful,
outgrows its own ability to cope with demand, and subsequently abandons
the very customers who made it successful in the first place in favour of
the quick buck... Experience has shown that the quick buck is often
surprisingly ephemeral, though, and a company that has alienated all its
original customers may find itself in serious difficulty when the big
contracts suddenly move elsewhere.
So, enough is enough, at least where I'm concerned.
Although the original manufacturer of the replicas,
Asia Paintball, supply
some accessories for the unmodified paintball markers, I found a US
company called Real Action Paintball
with a far more extensive range. They seem to be well thought of in the
paintball market, and I've just ordered a number of the things that were
promised by Area51 but never delivered, including a charge/cooler rig of a
standard design that has proved its worth for many years in paintball. I'm
going to take something of a financial hit on the whole deal, of course,
and it's a shame to miss out on the large-bore barrels that Area51 have
promised, but a bird in the hand is worth any number in an imaginary bush
and I'm so frustrated with it all that I'm more than call it quits.
I've exchanged more than ninety email messages with
Area51 over the last five months, trying to get it all sorted out, and I
still don't have everything that I ordered and paid for - let alone have
it all working satisfactorily!
I'm so very exasperated with
Area51 Airsoft, erstwhile
suppliers of my shell-ejecting M4 replica, but for some reason I just
can't stay mad at them... The
replica itself arrived a while before christmas, but has been nothing
more than a paperweight without the CO2
charging/cooling unit - and although that arrived today, the
replica is still useless without the shell cases which hold the
BBs, currently promised for the end of the week! However, in spite of the
fact that we're now looking at around a three month delay on my original
order, that delivery date after delivery date has come and gone with no
result, and that so far fifty-five email messages have been exchanged
trying to sort everything out... In spite of all that they are obviously
trying their best in the face of very awkward circumstances - it's just
that their best is still rather ineffectual! However, although I've been
making my displeasure known again today, we've all managed to keep polite
and non-confrontational and as they've added freebie after freebie to my
order, once it all finally arrives (I'm estimating sometime in February,
realistically!) I'll probably be more than happy with all the hardware. I
should damn well hope so...
Meanwhile - it's amazing what making a bit of a fuss in public can do to
encourage a company to fulfil their obligations, isn't it! Only two days
after I started making my feelings known on Area51's
bulletin board rather than in private email, the first part of my
shell-ejecting airsoft replica arrived bright and early this morning. I
was told that it had definitely, positively been sent out ten days ago,
but as the parcel was dated yesterday that obviously wasn't the case.
Still, progress is finally being made, and I'm not going to bother
complaining about that now. Area51 have just announced that they won't be
dealing directly with the public, in future, and I have to say that I
think that's probably for the best...
On the subject of airsoft, though, I'm becoming increasingly exasperated
with the failure of Area51 Airsoft
to actually deliver the shell-ejecting M4 replica I ordered from them
over two months ago. I've
had an apparently endless succession of "it's ready to ship" and "it
will be sent out tomorrow", and at one point I was even given a
tracking number (which the Royal Mail refuses to acknowledge as being
valid!) but in spite of many email messages politely asking for
explanations and updates, no real information is forthcoming and there is
still no sign of the replica some six weeks after the promised delivery
date. I'm always very tolerant when it comes to small, specialist
companies, but enough is enough and I've now lost all patience with this
particular one - and I'm obviously not alone, either, as their
forum at Arnie's is suddenly filling up with unhappy customers,
their attitudes ranging from the angry to the resigned... Enough is
enough, though, and they don't have much more time to sort this out before
I start getting really stroppy. Kate and DeeDee, you have been
Thread on the RAP forum where Dee Sheldrake (using the screen
name "DeadByDawn") discusses how the shell-ejecting airsoft
conversions were a flawed project, and are generally unsatisfactory and
unreliable in use.
Thread on the RAP forum where a fellow eBay buyer attempts to
complain about the delay, and is shouted down by Area51's lapdogs and
toadies. There were a number of these in other forums, too, but most have
now been deleted.
Thread on the RAP forum where somebody links to this page, and
I am immediately jumped on by all and sundry. Love the post where
Bigdog1 refers to me as "this Dominic kid" - having checked his
profile, he's six years younger than I am! :-) I have
decided not to be insulted by the toadies, though.
Thread at Arnie's Airsoft where I try to find out what is going on
with the company, and Dee makes some rash promises about customer service
and fulfilling outstanding orders. None of the things he promised me here
The eBay auction where the barrels were sold - item #3665363247,
auction finished on 14th March 2004.
Paintball - Hong Kong based manufacturer of the original
shell-ejecting M4RAM markers.
Real Action Paintball
- US supplier of unmodified paintball markers, with an extremely good
range of spares and accessories most of which will also work with the 6mm
Commando - UK supplier of unmodified paintball markers, and
probably the only domestic source of spares and ammunition now that Area
51 has thrown in the towel.
Relevant entries from Area51's news
15th September 2004
Draconian power limits affect businesses?
After reviewing the current product line, we've come
to the conclusion that we don't actually produce anything with viable sale
value for the current UK market. Pistols at 600fps although legal and
superiour in quality offer little advantage at 3 times the price over
currently available Umarex air pistols. Rifles at 1200fps are quite
clearly unskirmishable and as such have limited appeal in the UK market.
With this is mind its been decided that running A51 and producing Airsoft
guns and associated equipment is no longer a viable option.
This won't affect warranty it will also not affect outstanding items that
I shall be dealing with personally during this week. Bottom line until
such time as our draconian gun laws become more reasonable in the UK A51
will cease to operate.
Current stock of Airsoft accessories will be randomly mailed out to people
we have had dealings with in the past without charge as a thank you for
the last three years. I would like to say that the last three years have
been fun, however the UK's firearms regulations make this impossible.
Kind regards Dee
14th May 2004
Getting it wrong! Yes we get things wrong sometimes,
BADLY wrong, for an example of what we mean please feel free to visit
here. Mr Thomas is rightfully aggrieved about the problems he has had
however unlike some people we do not attempt to hide our mistakes. If Mr
Thomas would like to contact us I am certain this can be resolved. In
general I would say that around 5% of orders go haywire for various
reasons no small part of that being me trying to do 30 different things at
once and actually achieveing none of them instead of doing one thing at a
time and getting it right. What are we prepared to do about it? Well
overnight fixes just don't happen no matter what anybody says. So what can
be done? Increasing stock levels is underway so items are no longer made
to order. Accounts so people can buy what they want THEN pay for it when
it arrives and they are satisfied with their purchase. Reducing the number
of items that are actually made so we can concentrate on getting service
right instead of looking at volume and turn over. Can I do this by
tomorrow morning? no, of course not but it is being worked on and will be
resolved so people should they decide to chance an order get the service
they should have gotten from the start.
A51 is now my puppy so the buck stops with me, if people aren't happy or
wish to voice complaints then they can mail me direct and I will do my
best to address their problems. Can I promise that no errors will happen
in the next week, No I can't, mistakes do get made however I can give my
word that those mistakes will be resolved to everybodies satisfaction.
Why has delivery been such an issue? simple, that was my fault for
underestimating demand. I never thought custom gun parts would be so
popular so didn't have the required engines on line to deal with what
amounted to an influx of unexpected orders.. I will add though that
anybody who has purchased one of our components or custom guns can tell
you that quality of manufacture of the parts we are responsible for are
99% flawless. Communication can be sporaddic but that again is down to not
enough staff to do the job, this has been addressed and will be increasing
as will manufacturing facilities along with a single member of staff who
can deal with all email promptly when it arrives. That leaves service,
more staff and larger stock holding will help.
If you have a genuine complaint, post it to me and I will put it online so
people can make an informed choice.
[Note: This entry was withdrawn a few hours after
Area51 Area 51 Dee DeeDee David
Sheldrake DeadByDawn shell-ejecting shell ejecting
RAM airsoft real action marker Asia Paintball RAP4