Airsoft Categories: Assault Rifles: M4 Livestream Recap

Airsoft Categories: Assault Rifles: M4 Livestream Recap

History Lesson: The Real world M4 platform - Eugene Stoners AR15 Rifle

The M4 platform takes its name from the M4A1 Carbine, first issued to the US Army in 1994. The history of the rifle platform itself reaches back further to the late 50s, and its chief designer, Ugene Stoner. Regarded as one of the greatest firearms designers of all time, Stoner created the AR10 and AR15 to fulfill his vision of the future of Military firearms, taking inspiration from the Johnson Automatic Rifle, STG 44, and others. The M4 platform is also often referred to as an "Armalite", a term which originates from the original company producing the AR15, Armalite Inc, a subsidiary of Fairchild Aircraft Company. Due to financial difficulties and the rejection of the AR10 from NATO trials due to parts failure, Armalite sold the design of both the AR15 and its daddy, the larger 7.62mm AR10 to Colt's Manufacturing Company in 1959, who were themselves on the verge of bankruptcy. This purchase paid off big time for Colt, who quickly gained a US Military contract for a new rifle to replace the then, still new, M14. The M14 was removed from service so soon as it was a relic of a bygone era and was found to neither be controllable enough in full auto nor allow soldiers to carry enough ammo to maintain fire superiority over AK47 toting adversaries. The M4 platform was then and still is at the cutting edge of firearms technology, with its forged Aluminium receiver and polymer furniture completely baffling soldiers who were giving up their wood-stocked M14 battle rifles for the new M16. The polymer handguards of the M16 were even made by the Mattel toy company, earning the M16 the nickname of the "Mattel Deathtrap". The first soldiers testing this system in the field were skeptical, but after myths of the M16 never needing cleaning were cleared up, and soldiers were encouraged not to try and lower the rate of fire by cutting sections out of the buffer spring, the M16 became a well-loved rifle by its users, and began to gain international popularity. One of the early adopters of the AR15, together with the US Air Force was the British SAS, who still to this day use an M4 platform rifle, the L119A2 as their primary weapon. During the Vietnam war, several carbine variants of the M16 were trailed for Special Forces use, with the eventual entry to service of the XM177E1 carbine, featuring a 10.5-inch barrel, large flash hider/moderator, and collapsible stock. As the XM177E1 and E2 aged, the M727 and M733 carbines took the torch, sporting 14.5 inch and 11.5-inch barrels respectively, with fixed carry handles and A2-type adjustable rear sights. As the 90s rolled around, the era of modularity began, and the modern rifle was expected to have facilities for mounting optical sights, tactical flashlights, lasers, and night vision devices. Whilst older carbine platforms still served their purpose with Special Forces units, the M16A2, issued at the time to the US Army, was beginning to show its age. Enter the Colt M4. Originally using "safe-semi-burst" fire controls, but soon after reverting to the original "safe-semi-auto" configuration with the introduction of the M4A1 model, in 1994. By the late 90s, US Special Forces were using exclusively M4A1 rifles, as was the majority of the front line US Army, as well as certain USMC units. 

Since the early 2000s, the M4 platform has seen significant changes to keep this brainchild from the 50s up to competing with more modern designs. The end of the "Assault weapons ban" in America saw a Renaissance in AR15 design, with the now legal to build rifle shooting up in popularity. This saw a massive rise in the AR15 aftermarket, which due to the nature of Airsoft being about mimicry of real firearms, found its way to us. Modernized M4 variants, such as the HK416, were starting to be taken seriously by Militaries all around the world, and civilian rifle manufacturers began to introduce innovations in the M4 design which would see it outlasting many much younger rifles in service. 

The M4 Platform in Airsoft

The M4, in its Airsoft guise, originated with the Tokyo Marui M16A1, released in 1991 with Marui's groundbreaking revolutionary 3 gear electric gearbox system. This concept actually originated about a decade earlier, with the hypothesis that with a powerful enough battery an automatic electric Airsoft gun could be manufactured, replacing the then-popular external Air line powered guns (HPA, in other words). Once the version 2 gearbox had been designed, using the M16 as a template, Marui went on to release an XM177, CAR15, M733, M4A1, and numerous other variants, helping propel Tokyo Marui to the top of the Airsoft industry in Japan and helping project the awesome aspects of the hobby and sport worldwide. The introduction of the Toyko Marui AEGs spelled doom for the obsolete compressed air systems and soon saw aftermarket parts began to flow in as Skirmishers sought to enhance their cool new electric guns. Though Marui rifles have excellent build quality, at the time they were hamstrung by Japanese law related to replica weapons; mandating that they have polymer receivers. This led to companies in Hong Kong producing metal bodies for the M4 platform, and later, their own fully metal M4 style rifles. Companies such as Classic Army and G&P produced their own M4 AEGs, copies of the Tokyo Marui design, offering metal receivers and high FPS for around twice the price of a TM AEG at the time. The Airsoft aftermarket was, at the time, in its infancy, and if you had RIS rails on your M4 it was considered a "gucci" M4. How things have changed! 

Once we get to the early 2010s, the flood of Chinese-made clones of Tokyo Marui's M4 platform had begun. Now you could have a railed M4 with a full metal body, shooting over 350 fps for less than the price of a stock Marui M4A1. Whilst the morality of this blatant copying is arguable, the result was fantastic for us, the skirmishers. The availability of well-equipped and skirmishable M4 rifles encouraged more people to join the sport and led to more Marui innovations, such as the Next Generation Recoil System AEGs and the M4A1 Modular Weapon system Gas blowback rifle. The entry of Chinese companies into the aftermarket also expanded the availability of parts for the M4 platform, rapidly growing to the point that the Airsoft M4 is as modular as its real firearm counterpart. 

The handling of the M4A1 in its basic configuration feels extremely natural, even to an untrained user with no experience. All the controls are right where you need them. The buffer tube mounted stock has an adjustable length of pull to suit all body types. The sights are raised but when the rifle is shouldered they line up perfectly with your eye and are easy to acquire and align. The Picatinny receiver rail enables easy mounting of optics, and the AR15 buffer tube enables mounting of a stock of your choice, depending on preference in looks or battery space required. The magazine release is particularly well placed enabling smooth, fast reloads more easily than other platforms, which require various workarounds and complex, unnatural movement which requires a lot of practice to match the AR15's reloading speed for the average user. The magazines drop free and are of a "straight in" insertion style, simplifying the reloading process and shaving off those precious seconds from your "offline" time. Whilst the sport has evolved over the years, there is one change that is particularly noticeable. The sheer volume of AR15 AEGs now on the skirmish field. At the time of writing, probably 80% of AEGs out there and being used are of the AR15 design and it owes its popularity to both its design, aftermarket support, and the wide variety of real world M4A1 users out there. 

Lancer Tactical M933 Commando AEG Gen.2

Lancer Tactical M933 Commando AEG Gen.2The M933 is a follow-on from the 1980s era M733 Commando, featuring a heavy A2 profile barrel, flat-topped receiver with Picatinny rail, and sliding M4 law enforcement type stock, mounted on a 6 position buffer tube. The iron sights are of the M4A1 configuration, with a solid triangle front sight post hosting an elevation adjustable sight blade, and the windage adjustable rear sight being integrated into the detachable carrying handle. The length of the M933 lends itself well to CQB, though is not too short to hold its own in a woodland skirmish if you have an aggressive playstyle. As a "blank slate" platform, the M933 is a perfect set up, featuring the prolific Delta ring handguard attachment method, allowing numerous aftermarket rail systems to be simply dropped in to replace the polymer handguards, and "free float" rail systems to be added by switching the delta ring out for a standard barrel nut. The version 2 gearbox inside is a proven system, with full compatibility with all aftermarket gear sets, pistons and capable of being outfitted with any MOSFET designed with version.2 gearbox compatibility in mind. The Lancer M933 features a polymer receiver, keeping the weapon light and resistant to scratches, with the modularity of the M4 platform leaving the user the option to upgrade to a metal receiver down the line. Equipped with a 14mm CCW male thread at the tip of its alloy outer barrel, the M933 can have suppressors, tracer units, flash hiders, and muzzle breaks added with no trouble, to match the M933 to your playstyle and taste in accessories. The M933 sports a rotary HOP unit, a modern design with very secure adjustment and little chance of it backing out due to vibration from firing. The HOP unit is fully compatible with aftermarket parts, including enhanced HOP rubbers and nubs. The Lancer M933 Commando is perfect for a beginner who wants access to the most modular platform in the Airsoft world, but without committing to a specific look. With the M933 you can decide down the line what you want from your M4/AR15 whilst enjoying an excellent out-of-the-box performance from this simple, lightweight build. 

NUPROL DELTA Pioneer Defender AEG Carbine

NUPROL DELTA Pioneer Defender AEG Carbine

The Nuprol Delta Pioneer Defender is a replica of a more modern M4 variant, featuring a railed upper receiver, Picatinny railed handguard complete with an optics riser bridge, attaching to the Delta ring barrel nut. The 10.3 inch barrel on the Pioneer Defender makes it very maneuverable, suited to room clearing or mud moving, depending on your preference. The AEG is extremely well equipped for the price point, featuring fully adjustable flip up iron sights, a crane battery stock at the rear and 14mm CCW male thread at the tip of the Aluminium outer barrel to facilitate mounting suppressors, tracers and other muzzle devices. The flip up iron sights give the Pioneer Defender a sleek look, whether deployed or not, and with the sights flipped down the AEG allows for low mounting of optical sights. The Pioneer Defender also features a Polymer receiver, making it nice and light for use over a full day and allowing less chance of damage from a drop or scrape. Also featuring a version 2 gearbox based on the original Marui design, the Nuprol Delta Pioneer Defender can take anything the M4 AEG aftermarket can throw at it. The HOP unit on the Pioneer Defender is of the rotary type, allowing easy adjustment and excellent stability with each shot. The Pioneer Defender is perfect for the beginner who wants a more customizable M4 platform out of the box, ready to mount accessories as it is. Obviously being an M4, you can still change up the looks down the line, but the Pioneer Defender comes ready to mount tactical flashlights, lasers and front grips to suit your taste and mission requirements.  

Lancer Tactical LT-15 M4 SD AEG GEN 2

Lancer Tactical LT-15 M4 SD AEG GEN 2

Another of Lancer Tacticals' Gen.2 M4 AEG lineup, the LT15 M4 SD features a free floated Picatinny quad rail with a short outer barrel and suppressor concealed beneath. The alloy outer barrel features the usual 14mm CCW male threading, allowing you to switch out the suppressor for a tracer or barrel extension should you chose to do so. The M4 SD also uses a flat top upper receiver, with a Picatinny rail running across the top allowing optical sights to be mounted. The included flip up iron sights provide a constant and clear aperture for aiming and can be folded down or flipped up in an instant thanks to their spring assisted deployment. At the rear of the rifle we can find what we expected, an M4 buffer tube, supplied with a Crane battery stock mounted but capable of mounting any M4 stock intended for a buffer tube, and others if the buffer tube is removed. Like Lancers' other M4 AEGS, the SD features a constant rotary HOP unit, giving you the range you need to make the kill and allowing full compatibility with upgraded alternative HOP units, nubs and buckings/rubbers. The M4 SD is great for the sneaky types, sporting the integrally suppressed look, and would suit either CQB play or some sneaky stuff in a woodland skirmish. The M4 SD would be a great choice for a skirmisher who likes the suppressed look, and wants an AEG that is ready to go with rails for mounting accessories for whatever sneaky mission they may be undertaking. 

Evolution Airsoft Ghost XS EMR Carbontech w/ETU

Evolution Airsoft Ghost XS EMR Carbontech w/ETU

The Evolution Airsoft Ghost XS is a modernized M4 platform, featuring a redesigned receiver with weight reducing cuts and groves, with a new material used in the build, known as Techno-polymer. Inside the Evolution Ghost XS is an electronic trigger unit (ETU) that cuts down on resistance in the internal circuits, allowing your power source to be more efficiently used and minimizing wear on the internal electrical parts. The sleek, compact aluminium M-LOK front set installed on the "XS" model, coupled with the "gunfighter" style pistol grip and a slim Crane style stock give the user all the latest ergonomic advantages out of the box, allowing you to rightly dominate your local CQB Airsoft site. Textured areas on the Technopolymer receiver ensure you have full control of your GHOST XS airsoft rifle at all times. The integrated trigger guard design increases the strength of the receiver and is enlarged to allow the use of gloves. The Ghost XS AEG rifle features a 6.01mm tight bore inner barrel combined with a rotary hop unit, meaning if you don't play CQB with this AEG you won't be outgunned amongst the long bois at the Woodland Sites. The 14mm CCW thread on the tip of the CNC machined aluminium outer barrel allows you to attach Suppressors and tracer units if the mission requires it. The quick removal spring guide within the modified version.2 gearbox provides flexibility to the Skirmisher who attends both CQB and woodland, allowing the switching of springs depending on on-site limits, meaning this one replica can do double duty if required. The Ghost XS is the perfect choice for the Airsoft Skirmisher who wants a dedicated CQB platform or a maneuverable Snipers back-up carbine with a super short front end, large battery space and custom externals, with the option for further customization in the future. 

G&G Armament ARP556 V2S AEG

G&G Armament ARP556 V2S AEG

G&G's ARP556 V2S sports some of the more modern enhancements available to the M4 AEG platform. At the front we can find a hyper-aggressive muzzle device, which also serves as a sound amplifier, giving this AEG and intimidating muzzle report with each and every shot. The handguard features M-LOK slots for attachment of accessories, keeping the setup light and giving it the modern, custom aesthetic. Provided with the ARP556 are metal flip-up iron sights, providing an extra-fine aperture for aiming which is fully adjustable in fine increments without tools. The receiver sports modern styling, with the angular surfaces of the upper receiver mating seamlessly with the collapsible PDW-style battery stock. The stock can be adjusted to two different positions, the more compact of the two being shorter than an M4 buffer tube, adding to the exceptional handling of this AEG in close quarters. The lower receiver features gripping surfaces around the magazine well, and a flaring to facilitate extra fast care-free reloads. The controls on the ARP556 are fully ambidextrous, providing a fire selector and magazine release on both sides, allowing for left-handed use and extra tight cornering by switching shoulders when negotiating a right-hand corner. Inside the ARP556 there is an upgraded version 2 gearbox with an electronic trigger unit and a MOSFET, allowing the rifle's fire selector to be programmed for burst mode. The ARP556 also has a rotary HOP unit, availing itself of the best design of HOP available for the M4 platform, allowing it to reach out if taken to a woodland skirmish and take the enemy by surprise. The ARP556 would be perfect for the player who wants an ultra short back-pack-sized CQB dominator with all the performance advantages and hi-tech internals of the ARP9 but with the larger and more common M4/AR15 magazines. 

So there you have it! The M4 platform, known as "Barbie for men" or "Gun lego", is literally is that customisable! There is no end to what you can do to your M4 rifle, both externally and internally. With over 30 years of proven performance, the version.2 gearbox is without equal. With modern innovations such as ETU and MOSFETs offered for the M4 platform, this venerable system has everything it needs to stay at the cutting edge of Airsoft technology for years to come. The vast aftermarket, together with the buffer tube system's easily swapped stocks give you an unrivaled selection, with everything from Vietnam era XM177 stocks to modern CTR stocks with friction locking and ergonomic rubber butt plates ready to throw onto the M4 buffer tube without even breaking out the toolbox! The M4 ergonomics have rapidly risen to the top, to the extent that even someone without hands could appreciate an M4's well-placed controls and ambidextrous options. The M4 is a rifle, but it is not only ONE rifle. It is a platform, it can be built and modified to do whatever you need it to, as long as that involves shooting! The limitless options in the M4 aftermarket mean if you want your AEG to be one of a kind, it is easier than you think! Many Airsofters will tell you "when I started I swore I would never buy an M4, now I have several", and I can count myself amongst that number. M4s are akin to a catchy tune you hate, at first you hum it, then you somehow learn the lyrics, now you sing it in the shower! If you weren't convinced by the M4 before I hope this article has made the case well, and if it hasn't brought you around I have a feeling you just haven't met the right one yet...