Review: TSD Tactical Gen II M4A1 Carbine (SR4)
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SRC is most well known as the maker of less than fantastic MPEGs, so when I was approached by TSD Tactical about reviewing their line of custom manufactured SRC M4s, I was a bit leery of just what I would be receiving.
The guys at TSD Tactical informed me that the guns are manufactured by SRC to TSD's specifications; which include stainless steel bushings and an M110 spring.
TSD then supplies the purchaser with a 60 day warranty. Should anything go wrong, TSD repairs the gun for free, minus the cost of shipping; a pretty sweet deal.
The rifle ships in a glossy box with the image of a generic M4 on it. The box is a one size fits all affair, allowing them to use one box for all different length AR-15 series AEGs. With the cover removed I was able top get to the gun, it is under a foam sheet, and sitting in a molded tray to keep it from sliding around. Also in the box are the cleaning rod, and documentation.
The rifle is heavier than I expected for an M4 with a sliding stock. Empty, the gun weighs 6 lbs, it is 7 ½ lbs fully loaded.
The gun looks very nice, a dark gray body, with black furniture, magazine and barrel.
The trademarks are also well done. They are laser engraved, and feature a unique serial number for each rifle. My pre-production sample still has the SRC trademarks on it; however production models should include the same trademarks as those on the ICS Armalite line-up.
All the external features on the gun do something; the selector switch selects the fire mode, the charging handle pulls back to allow you to access the hop-up, the sights are adjustable, and the stock adjusts to six positions.
This is all well and good, but what really makes a gun worth owning, is its gearbox and the parts there-in.
Well, it was only a matter of minutes, before I decided to pop the hood on the TSD M4A1; what I found was a pleasant surprise.
The gearbox is very well cast, and there are no weird ripples or colors in the metal, it is one continuous shade of gray with the steel bushings shining in their holes.
Once it was opened, I was pleased to see shims between the bushings and gears; it seems these are sometimes overlooked or intentionally omitted by SRC.
The gears themselves are not marked by their manufacturer; however they look much better than XYT gears do. The gear grease is pretty lightweight, and is smeared all over the inside of the gearbox.
The cylinder is actually brass, not plastic like a lot of MPEGs; and the seal between it, the piston, and the cylinder head is what it should be.
The tappet plate is a standard V2 plate, and does what it should. One thing that really impressed me inside the gearbox is that there are no cheap semi-transparent plastic parts. Everything is made of the materials you would expect to find in a high end rifle like a Marui or Classic Army.
The spring in the rifle is an M110, and it does get the BBs moving around 340-350 feet per second. The spring guide is plastic, and has no bearing on it; a small flaw in an otherwise well thought-out gearbox.
Getting to Know Your M4A1
This is the part of the review that I'm sure a lot of folks skim through, or just skip over. Those with a longer attention span will actually learn a good deal about the gun by reading this section.
I'll start this little walk-around at the muzzle, and work my way down the right side of the rifle, swing around the backside, then head up the left side back towards the muzzle.
The muzzle, since we are starting off here, it's the first thing I get to tell you about. It is powder coated orange, and is secured to the outer barrel with both a 1.5mm allen screw, and counter-clockwise threads. At its base are a silver washer and a compression ring. That's a lot of insurance against loosing a flash hider.
The fore mentioned flash hider is attached to a one piece aluminum outer barrel, it is finished a matte black, with orange on the end, and does not wobble one iota.
Fixed to the outer barrel is the front sight, and the tactical sling mount. The sight has the ability to be adjusted for elevation with the use of the included tool. The tactical sling mount, to me, really ruins the look of the rifle, granted while it does work great; it doesn't look so hot. The sling mount is removable, and the sling loop can then be installed on the bottom of the front sight where it ought to be.
To the rear of the front sight, is the hand guard. It is held in place by a steel retainer in the front, and the delta ring in the rear. The bottom half houses the battery and the top half holds the 30 amp fuse and wiring.
The hand guard is designed to hold either a mini 8.4 volt battery, or a 9.6 volt nun-chuck style pack. There are two sets of tabs on the inside of the lower hand guard that hold the batteries in place. By removing the front set of tabs I was able to fit a 9.6 volt mini pack in the hand guard.
Behind the hand guard is the ejection port. Concealed behind the port is the hop-up adjustment, to access it, pull on the charging handle. Turning the wheel forward increases the amount of "hop" and turning it rearward decreases it.
Just below the ejection port, on the side of the magazine well, is the first set of trademarks. On my pre-production model, I have the SRC trademarks, they read:
STAR RAINBOW Inc.
CAL 6.00 MM
Yep, that's right; star rainbow. There is no less manly a phrase than that, with the possible exception of "fuzzy bunny toys inc." Production models will be blank on this side of the magazine well.
Slightly to the rear of the rifle from the trademarks and ejection port is the magazine release, simply push it in and the magazine will drop free. I really do not like this feature of the M4, the magazine release is right where I tend to rest my finger when it is not on the trigger, and it is easy to accidentally release the mag, which then hits the edge of the foot bridge, and falls into the cold crick. Yeah, that happened, the magazine was fine.
Going further to the rear of the gun we find the fire select indicator and the forward assist. Both are cosmetic, the indicator is permanently on semi, and the forward assist just pushes in and springs back out.
Finally we come to the stock. The M4A1 has a collapsible stock, which locks into six positions. The TSD M4A1 uses a different stock than the SRC M4A1 the sling loop on the SRC is on the top of the stock, and on the TSD it is on the bottom. The stock is released by squeezing the lever and either pushing or pulling the stock to the desired position.
Well, now that the right side is done we'll cover the left, which I promise will go much faster.
Moving from butt to muzzle, the first thing to be found is the selector switch. The switch has three positions, safe, semi, and auto. For the uninitiated, the selector switch on the M4 and M16 rifles has a large section, used for manipulating the switch, and a small nub that indicates the selected setting, these are on opposite sides from each other; to me this is totally backward.
Just ahead from the switch is the bolt release it is cosmetic and doesn't do anything.
Lastly, we come across the SRC trademarks. My pre-production model has the SRC logo, as well as a unique serial number. A sample of the final production run lower receiver is shown below the pre-production one.
Detailed Analysis of Selected Components
Ok, maybe the title of this section is overdone, but I needed a name for it. I'll be covering the sights, carry handle, magazine and hop-up here.
The rifles carry handle is constructed from metal, and is removable. Under the handle is a weaver rail that is integrated into the top of the receiver. The rail is perfect for mounting ACOGs, scopes or any other device that you probably don't need, but can't live without.
The carry handle houses the rifles rear sights. The sights are adjustable for elevation, and windage. Rotating the large disc below the rear sight forward raises the sight up, rotating it to the rear lowers it.
To adjust for windage, rotate the knob on the right of the carry handle, forward to move right and backward to move left. The rear sight also features two apertures. One for close targets and one presumably for further targets. The front sight is adjustable for elevation using the included tool.
The magazine is built from stamped aluminum and plastic. The housing and floor plate are aluminum, and the inner frame is plastic. The magazine holds 300 rounds, and feeds very smooth.
It takes forever to wind the magazine, and it will actually wind more than needed, and once out of ammo, it un-winds very noisily.
The mag is a pretty durable unit, I accidentally dropped mine onto a foot bridge, and then it bounced into a stream. It still works fine with no signs of rust.
The magazine has a matte black finish that wears nicely where it is inserted into the magazine well. The mag fit's fairly tightly, but there is a bit of side to side wobble; nothing bad though.
The only problem I've had with the magazine is that the BB hold back is just a hair short, and it sometimes lets go when winding the mag.
The chamber itself is metal with plastic gears, and is concealed behind the ejection port. The charging handle is also a bit of a problem. It doesn't always close completely; it seems to hang on the mock bolt. Just push it closed.
The "hop" could be better. It adjusts easily, but it is very finicky. Perhaps a new bucking will cure the problem. The difference in under hopping and over hopping is about one gear spoke.
The box states 270 feet per second, I beg to differ. The gun is actually shooting around 340-350 feet per second.
Range is around 110 -120 feet, accurate groupings can be achieved out to about 100 feet. Groupings with .20 gram TSD BBs are as follows:
35 feet 4" x 5"
60 feet 6" x 6"
80 feet 8.5" x 4"
Click here, to see the gun in action.
(24Mb, Requires Quicktime)
As for reliability, I have dumped 16,500 rounds through this gun in the course of one week, an absurd amount by almost any standard. I have treated the gun the same as I do with all my rifles, extended periods of full auto, occasionally dumping an entire magazine in two trigger pulls.
After about 75 continuous rounds, the motor slows down slightly, and the grip gets a bit warmer. The motor is a strong one; it attracts metal objects through the grip. When removed from the grip housing, it has a tendency to draw Allen wrenches and screws towards itself.
At about round 10,500 I decided to crack the gearbox open again to check on the components. I am very pleased to report that every thing was still looking like new, with the exception of the gear grease, which seems to be spreading itself very thinly throughout the gearbox.
The first failure was when the positive terminal on the motor came loose, around round 11,500. To fix it, I tightened down the terminal with a lineman's pliers and put it back on.
The second failure was around round 12,000, someone (me) didn't tighten the front motor plate screw tight enough and it rattled out. Luckily I had a spare and was able to continue testing.
The next issue to develop was at about the16,000 shot mark. The many extended periods of full had begun to take their toll on the gearbox. I was now able to fire full automatic, by pulling the trigger halfway back with the rifle set for semi automatic. I was unable to determine what was wrong with the gun. I guess I'll live with it for now.
The rifle has a metal upper and lower receiver, as well as a one piece metal outer barrel. The rifle is very solid, with the exception of the sliding stock which wobbles a little. The metal body is just as good as that on my CA33E, with no seams cracks or oddities in the finish, it's nice and smooth.
The hand guards are well made. They have a textured finish, and feel nice in your hands. The pistol grip is checkered, and made from a thick ABS plastic. I've felt more realistic grips, but this one is pretty good.
The butt-stock, as mentioned earlier, wobbles from side to side a little bit. It also has streaks in it, which appear to be an attempt at imitating fiber reinforced polymer. It has provisions for two sling mounts, one below the stock tube, and the other is a metal one mounted to the bottom of the stock. The butt plate is molded into the stock and has nice deep checkering to allow it to grip your shoulder.
All the components on the TSD M4A1 fit together just like you would expect, there is no forcing pieces into place, everything slides in easily, and it is a joy to work on.
In the field the rifle is great, the carry handle is nice if you don't have a sling, and the rifle balances really well. The selector switch locks positively into position, and does not wobble at all.
While only time will tell just how long the TSD M4A1 will last, I am confident that it will have a good long life span. I would place this gun in the same category as TM and CA rifles. It is priced between the two, and is a very good performer.
60 day warranty
One piece outer barrel
Hop-up is finicky
Stock wobbles a little
Charging handle doesn't always retract fully
Magazine takes forever to wind
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