I own 2.5 classic army SAWs, and have worked on several A&K/Echo1 saws. Ben's G&P saw is amazing, and in general the V2 gear box is pretty sweet. However I feel that the PGC gear box is better, since it was specially made for the SAW. I do like the quick change spring, and that it take the same upgrades as a M4/M16. It is also a tank, I am the only person that I have ever heard of that has broken one.
With that said, I would not buy an A&K/Echo1 saw, because even though their gear box is basically a clone of the PGC, and their body is basically a clone of a CA they have some major flaws.
The first one I noticed was that almost every hole, screw, baring, etc, still had metal burs in it. Also the stock gears we very hard to remove, so if a gear would be striped it would be more difficult to change them.
2nd the stock hopups are also poorly finished, two out of the four that I have seen either still had metal burs in them or were poorly drilled so the bb's didn't fed very well.
3rd there is much more plastic on the gun then the CA or G&P. I personally want a gun that is rock solid, and metal tends to be stronger and more durable then plastic. I am a big guy so I want to know that if I fall on my SAW that I can pick it up it will still work fine. Also maybe this is just the Milsim in me but I like a gun that feels real and has the same metal, or as close as I can get, as the real steel version.
There are other minor issues that have to deal with quality control and overall quality, but I feel that those are the main problems I have. I feel that the CA is the best chose for the M249, also with the price drop you can find them for around 600 bucks or even less at other places. I know that 600 is a lot of money but not to long ago they were twice the much. I feel that people should know that M249 is not a cheap weapon, with the cost of BBâ€™s, upgrades you will blow through the price difference between the A&K/Echo1 in no time, why not spend a little more up front and get a better quality, more reliable platform.
"Jesus wept and it's no wonder why"