Evolve or Die (Notionally) – The MilSim Hi-Capa Through the Years

BaCk iN mY dAyS, the good ol’ Tokyo Marui (TM) Hi-Capa filled a funny spot back when Western Arms was making the “best” 19/2011 style GBB pistols, the popularity of the affordable KSC/KWA Glock series was in full swing, and TM’s new Sig P226 replica was gaining traction as the MilSim sidearm of choice due to its durability and reliability. The Hi-Capa, on the other hand, was used and optimized mainly for target and competition shooting with little support from the “tactical” side of the house; with few exceptions, it was not very popular as a field sidearm. Some of the features that made it great for target shooting were (at the time) detrimental in the eyes of some MilSim players – I was one of them.

Jon’s airsoft kit ca. 2007, with an early production Tokyo Marui Hi-Capa 4.3. Never before has “back in the day” been summed up so well by a single image

One of the other WGW guys, Jon, was an early adopter of the Hi-Capa for field use. He opted for the 4.3 “Tactical” model which solved some of the “issues” of the original 5.1; namely, it had a smaller magazine release, a toned-down appearance (less silver parts), a more robust accessory rail system and, most importantly, a lanyard loop. You have to remember, this was back in the day before Kydex and injection-molded holsters were commonly available – many of us in the MilSim crowd ran pistol retention lanyards in case our soft nylon holsters dumped out our GBBs somewhere in the woods. These same holsters did NOT play well with extended mag releases – that was a $45 mistake that many of us had made previously, and weren’t too keen on repeating.

Jon transitioning to his pistol, Davis Paintball, 2009. Note the pistol lanyard.

The 4.3 worked well for him for a few years, until we both fell into the trap of “train how you fight” – we started shooting real guns and ended up as Glock guys, so for years, our airsoft pistols matched our real ones. It was great having cross-compatibility with the same weapon lights, mag pouches and Safariland holsters across the board – this was nothing like the old days. Everything just worked, and for a little while all was good.

Custom “speedsoft” Hi-Capa from Malcolm F. of Airsoft Extreme, pictured with WGW’s Speedsoft Mia patch (photo courtesy of @sandmanuci)

Fast forward to 2023 – 18 years after I first saw the TM 5.1 at Airsoft Extreme Oakland – and the Hi-Capa now might just be the most popular airsoft pistol in the world. The Capa, as it’s affectionately known, has been adopted primarily by the speedsoft community because of its performance, capacity and endless customization options. Go to any indoor field or SpeedQB competition and you’ll be sure to find a gang of colorful pistols throwing out laser beams of tracer BB’s. Unlike MilSim guns, these are maxed out for flair and raw performance – some builds are worth a few hundred bucks in parts alone, not to mention the labor from hand-building and parts fitting.

For the MilSim crowd, however, Glocks are the most common. With the actual striker-fired gun replacing the 1911, Sig 226 and M9 across the SOF realm during the mid/late-GWOT, so too has the Glock become the GBB of choice for most MilSim players. With 1:1 licensed airsoft Glocks flooding the market and now truly compatible with common duty gear and accessories, it makes the most sense both logistically and aesthetically – and for what it’s worth, they’re not bad guns. Just afflicted with underwhelming shooting performance and (relatively) small magazine capacity.

So Why The Switch?

Moving from our Glock GBB pistols to the Marui Hi-Capa was driven by a few main factors.

Performance over everything

Using a brand-new TM Hi-Capa 5.1 at Asobiba Akihabara, 2022DEC. The stock gun was able to perform well even against players with AEGs, and was as accurate and reliable as my 4.3 back home in the US.

I’ve used many gas blowback pistols over the last twenty years: from Marui Sig 226s to Western Arms 1911s and everything in between, all performed reliably and accurately enough. The only one that “wowed” me out of the box, though, was the TM Hi-Capa. I don’t give a shit about chrono’ing my airsoft pistols, and I don’t care about how well they “group” either; in my 100%-unscientific analysis, my Hi-Capa had held it’s own against AEG players without any upgrades done to it. Though many Capa users love tuning or modifying their triggers, the OEM single-action trigger provides excellent break and a short reset – I can achieve sub .20 splits out of the box. All of this is accomplished with (30)+ round mags, a full (10) rounds more than the Elite Force full-size Glock mags. In addition to the higher amount of rounds on tap, the 2011-style double stack mags allow for a larger gas reservoir as well – meaning less time spent fucking around with a green gas bottle and more time shooting.

Wider aftermarket support

The Hi-Capa cabinets at Airsoft Extreme Sacramento. Other pistols usually have a couple of rows dedicated to their parts – the Capa has an entire display

Much like their real-life, tricked-out race gun counterparts, the aftermarket for the Hi-Capa is equally as vast. Thanks to the accurate construction of the base gun, it’s possible to swap out single components to customize the gun based on user preference. Want to have a tackier texture on the pistol grip? Easy – some companies offer pre-stippled options based on fineness/coarseness, and there are even blank grips available for you to fuck up modify yourself with a solder gun. Prefer red dots instead of irons? Both dovetail-fit and frame mounted options exist depending on what your application, holster and shooting style might be. From magazine base plates to accessory rails, the Hi-Capa remains the most customizable GBB pistol in existence – that’s what we call a “clue.”

Nylon holsters => Kydex/Injection molded

Hi-Capa 4.3 fitment inside Safariland 6390RDS. Safarilands for Hi-Capas were hard to come by between 2004-2010

In the last nineteen years, a few advancements in technology have made it possible for quality holsters to be more easily accessible than ever. The Blackhawk Omnivore, PHLster OWB Floodlight and even some models of Safariland built for the Staccato P allow for weapon-mounted lights and duty retention for Hi-Capas. Even without those, the number of Kydex jockeys has skyrocketed and you have a buyer’s choice of custom-made rigs from a wide number of makers. Thanks to the wonders of modern holster production, we are now able to have options that will protect and retain our pistols, allow for a lightning-fast draw, and still fit into our existing gear and accessory ecosystems (aka look cool).

“Train how you fight” for airsoft is fucking dumb, Hi-Capas are sick and very awesome

Whoa! Pretty cool!

Let’s face it. When we were younger, before any of us owned real guns, it was fucking awesome to run M4s and Glocks purely for the fact that none of us could even HAVE that shit. Now, several thousand rounds of 5.56 and 9mm later, and well into our middle aged years, why would we own airsoft versions of what we shoot for real? Having played airsoft going on two decades, and been involved with shooting for a little over half that time, I believe that there is very little benefit to be had in having matching guns; you simply do not need to have 1:1 replicas of your real shit to get what little “practice” value is available from playing airsoft.

With that in mind, nowadays I only buy airsoft replicas that are hard or impossible to get. A real Staccato is worth $2500, even more if I can find it in California – to me, that money could buy a new aiming laser, several training classes, a few thousand rounds of ammo, etc. instead of a pistol that I won’t get the true benefits from, a flex piece. An airsoft 2011 (the Hi-Capa) is $150 and performs extremely well, even out of the box- the math is simple. Most importantly, there’s just something undeniably cool about the 19/2011 family of guns. I wouldn’t necessarily carry a real one on the daily, but when nothing real is at stake and looking dope is 90% of the mission objective, I don’t think there’s a better choice for a pistol.

The Builds

HiCapa DOR and 4.3 set up for MilSim use with RDS and Surefire weapon lights

Our MilSim Hi-Capas very closely mimic our real pistols in terms of accessories – I believe that every “duty” or “carry” pistol deserves a weaponlight and optic. Pictured above are Jon’s and my Hi-Capa builds, respectively. We bought our base guns, and most of our parts and mags, from Airsoft Extreme.

Jon’s Capa
Base: Tokyo Marui Hi-Capa 5.1 DOR
Optic: Tokyo Marui RDS
Weapon Light: Surefire X300U-A
Additional: Tanio Koba Grip Module (OD)
Compatible Holster: Blackhawk Omnivore (X300)

Mark’s Capa

Base: Tokyo Marui Hi-Capa 4.3
Optic: AEX RMR on DCI Guns RMR mount
Weapon Light: Surefire X300U-A
Compatible Holster: Safariland 6390RDS for Staccato P

If You’re Not Evolving, You’re Falling Behind

Unless you’re trying to achieve a certain look or working with a very specific kitlist, the benefits for using a Hi-Capa far outweigh what little perceived drawbacks there might be. Don’t let your ties to whatever striker-pistol you carry in real life, keep you from max’ing out the performance of your airsoft sidearm. That’s a lot coming from a guy who has been hopelessly devoted to Glocks since 2011. The era of MilSim Hi-Capas is here – get with the times!

No lanyard, no nylon holster, no problem!

Patch Notes

MilSim Capas are few and far between. Want to show your love for the concept on your gear? Check out our MilSim Sayori (R18+) patch, where she’s armed with Jon’s very own customized Tokyo Marui Hi-Capa. Use code MILSIMCAPAGANG for 15% off those two designs!

Author: Mark

I'm just a Regular Dude who likes doing cool stuff with my friends. Mediocre shooter who, according to the Internet, only started shooting two years ago. I like trash-talking PVS-14s, starting AK vs AR slap fights, and reading josei manga in my free time. USPSA: TY117946

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