The guys over at AirSplat were kind enough to send us something a bit different to review this time. You’ve seen us review AEG’s and GBB pistols, gear, M203 shells, batteries, and chargers; but today we’ll be reviewing the WE M4 GBB Black Edition (closed bolt) airsoft rifle!
Well, the box isn’t built to impress. It’s a simple brown box with lettering on the front. Nothing fancy inside, not even foam. It would have been nice to see a bit more secure packing material inside, but I guess that just adds to the price. Included with the gun is one mag, one manual, and the gun itself.
The gun seems solid at first glance, and much more accurately to scale than AEG’s are. There are no trademarks anywhere on it.
Materials and Construction
The receiver and most of the construction (minus screws and pins) appear to be aluminum, with the pins and screws being some form of steel. The handguards are plastic and held in place by the typical bog standard delta ring. The overall build is assembled much like a real AR-15 / M4 / M16, so if you know your way around one of those then this should be familiar territory.
The front sight post adjusts like the real steel version and clicks solidly in place. The rear sight clicks for each adjustment of windage and elevation, however it is not as firm as one would expect to find on a real one. That said, it seems robust enough for airsoft use. The rear sight offers dual diopters as one would expect from an M4 carry handle.
The fit between the upper an lower is a little loose and provides a bit of rattle but it’s minimal. There is far more rattle and wiggle found in the stock than anywhere else in the gun. The factory retractable stock is your standard nylon resin with four positions. The buffer tube fits my real Magpul CTR stock perfectly
The flash hider is your typical A2 birdcage style and is bright orange for this US version.
The WE M4 uses a closed bolt system, however an open bolt system is also available. With the optional open bolt you have a more realistic looking gun, as the bolt and carrier look more real; however it functions less like a real M4 which fires from a closed bolt.
Given that this gun uses gas instead of a gearbox, it has been made closer to 1:1 scale. This allows the fitting of real steel parts such as stocks, grips, rails, etc.
The mags can be configured to lock the bolt back on the last round fired to emulate the functionality of a real M4/M16.
The first test is is going to be the usual chronograph test. With the magazine at 87*F and filled with propane, the average FPS was 480. The ambient air temperature was a cool 72*F, so I would expect on a hot summer day for this gun to be shooting closer to 500 fps. This is awesome, except that many fields require the fps to be under 400-425 fps for full auto operation. Luckily you can install the NPAS valve from RA Tech to lower your fps and regulate it as needed. For those of you looking to use this more as a training tool than a skirmish gun, the FPS means a lot less.
From a training perspective this gun looks solid. The high fps allows you to hear and / or feel your hits even through whatever gear you’re carrying. Going with a GBB rifle allows you to also configure your gun as you would your actual duty rifle; making for a more effective training tool. Weighing in at 6lbs without a magazine, this gun weighs fairly close to the real thing. There are limitations to using airsoft as a training tool (ie. practicing malfunctions), this gun still makes for a solid base with which to learn basic weapons manipulation and target acquisition. For an experienced shooter of real firearms, the recoil system is weak-sauce, but much better than anything offered by AEG’s and it at least adds a touch more realism. I would equate the recoil to being about the same as a .22 LR caliber rifle. As a training tool, the WE GBB M4 is a lot less expensive to run than a real AR-15 / M4 with simunition rounds. Another nice touch is the the ability to prevent dry firing by forcing the bolt to lock back after the last round is fired. One thing to note; during testing we did have the castle nut on the buffer tube loosen up considerably. On a real firearm the castle nut would be staked. I wouldn’t try that with airsoft equipment, but a dab of blue loctite wouldn’t hurt.
Given the high fps levels, we tested the range and accuracy of the gun with .4g WE bbs. At 50 feet, on a rest, we put 10 shots into a 2” group. At 100 feet we were able to keep it in a 8” circle. Overall, I’m pretty impressed at the accuracy. Our range is limited to about 180 feet, which this gun had no problem reaching with .4g bbs.
Coming from a background using mostly AEG’s I found adjusting the hop unit to be a bit cumbersome given the requirement to pull the mag every time, but aside from that, I really couldn’t find much to fault in the gun overall.
If you’re a regular airsoft skirmisher, then this would be a blast for use on the field. Given the high cost of green gas, I would certainly use propane; but be ready to shell out some dough for mags because they are about $40 per mag. If you can afford it, and are not the spray and pray type, then this gun could be the one to own. If you’re playing indoor though, make sure to pickup the NPAS kit to drop the FPS. If you’re playing outdoors, remember that cold weather does negatively affect the fps due to cool down. While the cool down we saw under 72*F weather was not considerable, I expect in winter it would be much greater. Of course you indoor CQB types need not worry about that!
Where does all that leave us? Well, let’s look at it from two different perspectives. First, if you’re a skirmisher then you’re looking at an expensive gun to run. The build quality is very nice, so that’s not a deterrent, so if the price of mags and gas doesn’t deter you, then this would be a great addition to your armory. If you’re MIL/LEO/PMC or a competitive shooter who would like to get more training in when a trip to the range just isn’t possible, or squeezing in a few extra practice runs in the backyard / basement when the chance presents itself then this gun might just fit the bill. The cost of ammo, mags, and gas for running this gun are far less than the cost of ammo and mags for a real AR-15 platform. Sure, you can’t practice all malfunctions and some scenarios, but overall it’s an excellent training tool.
Construction 9/10 This gun is solid throughout with just a few fiddly issues of no real concern.
Features 9/10 When you look at it from a training perspective, this gun has just about everything you could ask for.
Durability 9/10 We didn’t see any noticeable wear or have any breakages during testing.
Performance 8/10 We had to ding this just a touch due to the very high FPS without any built in ability to regulate it. In all other regards it performed quite well.
Value 6/10 or 9/10 Okay for the first time ever, two ratings. For you guys looking to skirmish with this gun, it’s a costly gun. There is the initial purchase price, then the cost of gas and expensive mags. For you, it might not be a good of a value. For those of you needing a training tool for competitive shooting, or MIL/LEO/PMC this is a great value. When you weight the cost of real ammo and range time vs. the cost of using this platform for training, it’s almost a no brainer. The more training you can get in the better you’ll be at your job and the safer you’ll be.
Price $329 @ AirSplat.com as of 11/15/2011