Words and pics: Rich Norman

HAO smashed their way into the boutique airsoft market a few years back with their HK416D V2.0 and HK SMR.

Prior to this, it had been strongly suggested (by me, amongst others) that the company was Eagle Eye’s original OEM; although this has never been publicly admitted by HAO.

If the suggestion is accurate, the Eagle Eye would be HAO’s V1.0 HK416D.

The Eagle Eye was a brave attempt, but there was a huge gap in quality between it and SGT’s contemporaneous offering in almost every way (I know as I owned both the Eagle Eye and SGT sets).

In fact, SGT established a number of benchmarks against which PTW receiver sets are still measured today.

Use of 7075T6 billet aluminium is one example, as is gundrilling.

The HK416D V2.0 was HAO’s attempt to equal SGT. It hit all the benchmarks pioneered by SGT, but at a lower price. HAO did such a good job, in fact, that they now have very little in the way of competition.

SGT themselves retreated from the PTW market some years ago, to concentrate on painting Marui’s MWS receiver. The offerings from Japan’s NBORDE are eye wateringly expensive. Only Zparts is positioning itself to challenge HAO at the same price point; so we could soon be witnessing a battle between HAO and Zparts – both of whom hail from Taiwan.

HAO has built a solid brand and earned a lot of goodwill in the PTW community and beyond. They stand for high quality, trustworthiness and honesty. However, it only takes a few mistakes to tarnish a hard earned reputation.

What troubles me about the lack of competition is whether it has allowed HAO to become less focussed. So far in 2018 they’ve launched a number of new products, with a number of substantive releases – like the L119A2 – yet to come.

Have they spread themselves too thinly?

My HAO HK416A5 arrived from Tackleberry yesterday and I’ve had some time to give it a once over. Acquiring V1.0 of anything is a risk, so I was eager to see the product in the flesh.

The Build

Rather than use a donor PTW lower as originally envisaged, I ended up investing in a ‘Turnkey’ build using a Systema Value Pack 3 and – of course – I selected full Tackleberry mods. Aside from my inner barrel/hop group – which was already Tackleberried – everything is new.

In addition to implementing his gold standard modifications, Tac deals with any issues that arise during the build process.

No stress, no fuss – just out of the box reliability and consistency.

Nevertheless, in preparation for a blog article I asked Tac to send me some notes on the A5’s build process. Interestingly, the A5 does require a little more rectification work than HAO’s HK416D V2.0.

In addition to this, you may notice in the pics that I am not using the A5 mag catch assembly which was supplied by HAO. That’s because it was off spec.

Needless to say, as soon as they were alerted to this issue the company issued a replacement which arrived in just a few days (thanks Bismarck and Miguel).

When built and ready to ship to me, Tac said this:

…to tell you the truth, in the flesh I think I prefer the A5 to the D !

And it is certainly a handsome beast.

RAL8000 Anodised Finish

RAL is a German colour standard, a bit like the more familiar Pantone. RAL8000 is the designation for a precise green-brown colour.

Confusingly, H&K seems to use the designation as shorthand for a family of low-observable colours. You can read more about this theory in my Fifty Shades of RAL8000 series and related articles.

HAO’s interpretation of H&K’s RAL8000 is based on the iconic ‘brown’ pre-production A5 – a rifle much photographed and drooled over at military trade shows.

The RS:

HAO (no filter)

As you can see, the company has made a solid effort to replicate this, with a two tone brown ano upper and lower; plus a green-brown ano quad rail. For me, the colour of the latter could be the highlight of the set.

HAO: if you’re reading this, the rail’s colour is a candidate for the European SF Edition receiver 🙂

That said, the RAL8000 ano finish marks easily; easier than HAO’s black ano – which is dyed more deeply – I am told.

But who wants the finish to remain perfect? One of the annoying things about Cerakote, for example, is that it doesn’t show natural wear and tear in the same way as ano.

Details

Needless to say, I don’t have access to military rifles so I can’t compare HAO’s A5 to the RS. However, I gather HAO somehow managed a couple of close encounters. The story is that Bismarck (HAO boss) made up his mind to market an A5 after seeing the RS at Shot Show; but HAO doesn’t replicate a rifle unless they are able to 3D scan the RS. That too was organised, allegedly.

While taking pics for colour comparisons, I was pleased to see that HAO had replicated the A5’s flared mag well:

I didn’t think the HK416D’s mag well could be improved upon, but if anything does this is it.

The fake pins are also a nice touch:

You can also switch the gas block from normal to suppressed. Completely useless, but enjoyable nonetheless.

The front sight pillar also functions exactly the same as the RS (I know because I have an RS A5 rail), and it has a glow in the dark segment on the rear.

HAO’s cylinder, with its cool little bolt sticker:

Clearly the ejection port cover is wrong (it should be a plastic RAL8000 version) and will need to change. I’m using the placeholder provided with the kit, plus my own Magpul CTR – to be replaced by a RAL8000 Slim Line stock.

The A5 comes bundled with HAO’s Recoil Charging handle. Again, completely pointless and actually a backward step because it removes useful functionality: you can no longer retrieve the cylinder from the upper by sliding it back.

Having said that, it’s rather satisfying to use; although that wears off pretty fast. You realise the charging handle catch is eroding your lovely RAL8000 finish, and biting into the receiver itself. Hardened steel > aluminium (even 7075T6).

A big surprise for me was HAO’s plastic. It is extremely high quality. Also, the grip’s surface texture is like art.

Beautifully moulded:

After using RS Hogues converted for PTW for longer than I care to remember, I was also surprised to find that I didn’t have any issues with the grip’s ergonomics.

Lastly, before I fitted the cylinder I noticed this:

Thanks for the personalisation, guys!

You can watch the accompanying video supplement here.

The next part in this series, which shows more HAO A5 details, is here.

Catch up on more A5 stuff, here:

Fifty Shades of RAL8000 Part 1

Fifty Shades of RAL8000 Part 2

Fifty Shades of RAL8000 Part 3

Fifty Shades of RAL8000 Part 4

Fifty Shades of RAL8000 Part 5

Fifty Shades of RAL8000 Part 6

Fifty Shades of RAL8000 Part 7

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