As you noted us don't have sticks with quality (and price) of these racing sim accessories:http://ecci6000.com/6000_wheel_01.htmhttp://www.frex.com/gp/ffbwheel/
But someone would pay U$ 1000.00 for a HOTAS made by ECCI or FREX?
CH models. i think the whole gimbal insides of it are plastic to, with the stick casing being plain plastic
The plastic bias: CH are made in plastic, but they use a sturdy plastic. I compare this to R/C servo accessories, like horns. Coincidentally the gimbal design used by CH is similar to these used in R/C transmitter sticks, ie Futaba.
Generally speaking i think they are the better option, mainly on the gimbal side.
It has its drawbacks such as lack of two stages on trigger (Cougar, X-52's and G940 have), pinkie lever (Cougar and incoming X65F have), hand rest with adjustable height (X52/X65F have) - as the primary HAT is difficult to reach by those who do not have big hands.
About metal. This picture is from Cougar guts:
This metal worth?
The incoming Saitek X65F supposedly will be all metal. Hopefully establish a new level of quality.
About HALL: currently stick sold with HALL sensor:
X-52 and X-52 PRO - individual HALL in X and Y axis - magnets moved whit gears - and resultant backslash...
T.16000M - HALL and X and Y axis - all in one type, so movements in X cause some movments in Y, and vice versa.
G940 - HALL in X and Y, type...?
HALL are better than god pot? Maybe or not, but the case is: any joystick manufacturer that made theirs sticks in China will use pots that cost U$ 9,95 (price that CH sold replacement one for their sticks)? Then is better that everyone use HALL, after all their are cheap actually.
G940 have HALL sensor, supposedly in X and Y axis, and in other axis? They use the same pots seen in 3DPRO?
You may have seen the Russian HOTAS project called Defender, with bearings in gimbal and MaRS (magnetoresistor) instead pots or HALL, but it seems that the market is not favorable ...
Edit - You have some another specific (and priced) options, like:
Tarmac Aces universal base: metal, bearings, damper instead springs, HALL sensro, BU0836 eletronics...
Or these german made - bearins, high quality pots:http://www.simw.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=dsp_product_details&pid=2014
Think these match ECCI or Frex level, but you don't find in Walmart...