They don't teach weapons until 3rd Dan. which kind of bummed me out because that's my favorite class.
He said that the average time for making Black Belt is about a year and a half. His complaint about organizations is that they hold you back from rising through the ranks at a respectable speed.
Here are some thoughts based on my personal experiences
with Aikido: [I have trained approx. 3 years in Aikido]
If you like weapons, Birankai Aikido, especially from what you said, will be your best bet for now.
I know a guy who trains in the Birankai style of Aikido and it appears that they do focus more on weapons than a typical Akikai affiliated dojo.
Just look at Hombus testing requirements - no weapons at all.
[Doesnt mean you wont find dojos who do try to specialize in this, but in your case you know what your up against.]
Black belts... ah yes.
One of my biggest gripes is the apparent lack of structure in Aikido. This alone is what I see as taking people 5 years and a decade to get anywhere.
If I had my choice of dojos, I would personally start out with a Yoshinkan Aikido dojo... and thats only based on what I have read and seen of how they train.
It is said they dont look like they flow, but a lot really depends on perspective. Personally I feel they [Aikidoka] need to get a solid base first, which Yoshikan seems to give, especially if they want to work with other martial arts and/or even do sport fighting. [Tomiki even, I suppose - though Im really not familiar with it. Im referring to cross training with BJJ, ThaiBox, etc.]
The belts are really only guides anyway and arent the most important thing. You will find many a black belt that can get their rear ends beat.
Aikido is multi-purposed and can serve various goals, etc.
What takes the time, is learning about this flexibility of Aikido and its place within various given scenarios.
Sure it would help if someone just told you from the get go, but the reason no one does is the same reason many dojos lack structure... they grew up in a dojo and some pass on what was given to them, vs. really finding out for themselves what its all about.
In the end you dont seem like you have much choice if your limited by finances... if you like weapons and your not limited... stay with the group your with... and maybe train on the side with the other guys to get the feel.