Date product posted
Tue August 12, 2008
Review: Star M4A1
If someone told me a month before writing this review I’d be praising a Star anything, I’d have called you a liar. If you told me that in that one month I’d buy two Star guns, I have called you crazy. And if you told me that I would have no urge to even put a M120 spring in any of them I’d just walk away. Well a month later and I’m writing this review for the Star M4A1 which, out of every gun I’ve ever owned (and that’s been embarrassingly too many) this is the most impressive (including a Systema M4A1 PTW kit).
First of all, at this moment, I own the following guns:
CA M15A4 Carbine (Upgraded)
CA M15A4 RIS Carbine (Upgraded)
CA SLR-105 Wood/Steel
TM M1A1 Thompson
TM P90 Red Dot (Upgraded)
TM M3 Bennelli
JLS F2000 (Upgraded)
KWA USP .45 Full Sized
Why mention this in a Star M4A1 review? Well it’s something I wish was done more often in reviews. I hate finding out at the end of the review that the reviewer’s only other guns (and therefore what he compares the reviewed gun to) are various MPEG’s or crappy springers or a single stock high end AEG. If I knew that at the beginning I’d probably take what they had to say with a grain of salt. I simply want to mention my guns to show that when I say a gun is good, I have a real, varied background to base that on.
I bought this Star M4A1 from eHobby Asia Supply less than a month after buying the Star M249 from them as well, based solely on my impressions from that gun and what little information on the Star M4A1 I could get from various boards.
On to the review.
Real Steel History
*Taken from Modern Firearms a.k.a. world.guns.ru
“The Colt company developed various carbine versions of the basic AR-15 / M16 rifle since 1970s. These carbines were intended for all markets - military, law enforcement, civilian. US Military (and some other armies, most notably - Israeli Self-Defense Forces) had adopted the Colt CAR-15 Commando and XM-177 carbines during the 1970s and 1980s. But early in 1990s the old idea of replacing the pistols in the hands of the troops with some more effective, shoulder fired weapon, rise again in the heads of the US Military. In fact, this idea can be dated back to the US M1 Carbine of 1941, but good ideas never die. So, in the 1994, US Army adopted the Colt Model 720 selective-fire carbine (basically, a shortened M16A2 rifle), as the US M4 Carbine. This weapon was intended to replace in service some M9 pistols, as well as some aged M3A1 submachine guns and some M16A2 rifles. New weapon was much more handy and comfortable to carry, than the long M16A2 rifle, so the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) put its eye on the M4 as a possible universal weapon for all Special Operations community. For this purpose M4 was latter modified with the M16A3-style flat-top receiver with integral Picatinny-type accessory rail instead of the M16A2/M4-type integral carrying handle. The other change in the M4A1, when compared to M4, is that its trigger unit is modified to fire full-auto instead of the three shots bursts.”
I woke up to the sound of that beloved blue and white mail truck driving away. I grabbed the box and tore it open, awaiting to see my new toy. The Star box is the average plain brown cardboard type, with a form fitting foam insert with the gun and materials.
As soon as I saw it I just thought whoa. Unlike all the other M4’s I’ve ever gotten, it look nice and matt still in the box. The only shinny parts were the hand guards and they are still fairly matt compared to some plastics. The gun comes with a single midcap and a loading rod, both of which feel high quality.
Picking it up it feels real in ever sense of the word. A real steel loaded M4A1 weighs in at 3.0 kg’s while the Star comes in on an amazingly close 3.1 kg’s. Moreover it feels the same as the real steel. Having a father with a pre-ban Colt M4A1 flat top, I have a pretty good understanding at what Armalites should feel like and this just feels right. The Aluminum body is great, no mold lines what so ever, not even scratches that other metal body guns normally come with. Also the gun is solid as a rock. The stock is no looser than the real M4A1 and the handguard/outer barrel just sit tight as a tick.
[img width=576 height=768]http://i4.photobucket.com/albums/y104/Ranger_Captain/StarM4A13.jpg[/img]
This is where you fall in love with the Star M4A1. There are trademarks everywhere and they are perfect. The gun itself has Colt Government Issue trades that read in the forward portion of the lower receiver:
OF U.S. GOVT.
CAL. 5.56 M.M.
And next to the selector:
COLT’s MFG. CO. INC.
------ U. S. A. -------
And on the outer barrel just after the forward sight post:
5.56 NATO 1/7
On the bottom of the magazine it reads:
CAL. 5.56 MM
COLT’S FIREARMS DIVISION
HARTFORD. CONN. U.S.A.
(Sorry for the blurry photo)
It came with rubber gunk on all the trades (except the magazine), which was easily removed with my thumb, which is good news to American buyers who want a Colt Trade gun with an aluminum body stock.
As mentioned the gun is a nice matt black, identical to the real steel, with the plastic parts (LE Stock, hand grip, handguards) are a tad shinny (no more so than a Marui M4A1) compared to the real ones but look great nonetheless.
The paint on the receiver/outer barrel is a tad confusing. When I first held it I thought it wasn’t paint, it was simply the color of the gun, then when I was removing the trademark gunk and some paint scratched off (or appeared to) I began to think that it was just amazingly thick, yet now I’m back to thinking there’s no paint since I can no longer tell where those scratches are.
Look Grade: 9
The gun’s weight distribution is fairly even for a very balanced weapon (as opposed to the real steel being barrel heavy). It feels a little wider in my hands but it’s very hard to notice (I had to switch back and forth to really tell). The best thing about this gun though is that if it’s metal on the real M4A1, it’s metal on the Star. Charging handle, bolt release, barrel, tactical sling post, pins, forward assist, bolt cover, and faux gas tube. Moreover it feels as though they made each part of the same materials of that the real steel is; I.E. the gas tube is aluminum whereas the charging handle is clearly steel.
Overall it feels great. It just screams, “Pick me up and shoot me.” It has no creaks, no taps, the magazine clicks right into place pretty much perfectly, leaving just enough room to fall out unaided. The handgrip is rock solid, as is everything else and the gun just feels like you can stand on it without worry. Having already fielded it I can say that it is indeed drop proof and tree-bang proof.
The plastics feel okay. The stock feels the same as the plastics used in the real stock, as the handgrip. Only the handguards feel a little different, and that is in the sense that as opposed to actually having stand on them to bend them, you need to make a point to squeeze them as hard as you can. The handguards have aluminum heat sink reinforcement plates inside that only make them sturdier. Simply put, you’d have to try hard, very hard, to break and of the plastic parts.
Unfortunately though, these handguards are completely useless. It seems that the only thing that Star cinched out on was actually testing the gun for actual use. They claim in the online manual that you can fit a numbchuck design battery in the handguard. That is completely untrue. I tried to fit an Intellect 9.6v 1400 mAh mini type battery any way possible and it just refused to fit without causing a bulge. My only solution was to take the handguards of my CA M15A4, cut a notch in one for the Star’s gas tube, and use them instead. This is a minor problem if you own a second M4 but if you don’t I would highly advise you purchase a second set of handguards that can definitely fit a battery in.
And most of all, the bolt carrier and bolt release do really work. Pulling back the cocking level pulls back the bolt and opens the bolt cover, like almost any TM derivative, but unlike the TM it locks back the bolt, which makes hop-up adjustments sooooo much easier. Then, once you’re done, simply press the bolt release and you hear a satisfying click as the bolt closes. As someone that shoots real Armalites regularly this is such a nice, satisfying feature that before now only the Systema reproduced.
Again, trying to make this gun appear as real as possible, the stock tube is real and does require a tool to remove it. This is good and bad for a variety of reasons though. First of all it is good because the stock is solid. Testing it out I put all my body weight into the tube itself and it was fine. At the same time though if you don’t have the $30 barrel tool, it’s not coming off no matter what. Also, being real, any other telestock will not fit on this tube. I attempted to replace the LE stock with the CAR type from my Classic Army’s but the Star’s tube is simply too wide.
On the subject of the stock tube, beneath the stock tube is the quick-change screw for the spring. With the tube removed you can easily unscrew the spring guide and replace the stock spring with whatever you want. The problem is though take the stock tube out is a bit of an adventure, requiring the mentioned tool which really takes the “quick” out of quick change. That aside I have to say you really don’t want to change the spring, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
The one thing I’ve noticed in reading pre-release notes on the Star M4A1 was that the carry handle is mis-sized, too big, too small, or just plain wrong. Well it’s not. In fact it’s closer to the real steel’s than a CA’s. I assume this rumor started because people cannot think past what they see in the pictures of the Star M4A1 online:
[img width=331 height=768]http://www.wgcshop.com/WGC_Shop/images/star_aeg_m4a1wm.jpg[/img]
All they did in the photos was set the carry handle one seat back on the top rail, as opposed to putting it in the normal place as so:
This is a comparison shot between the Star Carry handle and a CA M15A4 Carry Handle (Star on the bottom)
Classic Army Carry Handle
Star Carry Handle
As you can see there’s no real difference, so those of you worried about this silly detail should fret not (and buy the gun NOW )
Moreover the sights on this gun are actually pretty nice.
They function better than other carry handle sights I’ve seen before, with no jiggling of the rear sight after you’ve adjusted the windage knob.
All together it is everything that one wants to see and feel in an airsoft M4A1; perfect metal body, realistic aesthetic features,
Feel Grade: 10
Aesthetics: 8 (a 10 the handguards were designed less realistically)
This is what you want to know, how the hell does this thing shoot? Star seems to have become known for testing new and innovative concepts for high-end guns, and it seems that the M4A1 is continuing this feature.
Chronoing in at 335-345 FPS it would appear to be nothing that special but this guns muzzle velocity does not betray the beast of a gun that it is.
Taking it upstate to a friends house for some skirmishing I wasn’t sure if it was smart to just test it out stock but having used the Star M249 with only a M110 stuck in it I figured that the stock gun wouldn’t do bad. Also, since it was a small, 4 on 4 match with good friends, it wasn’t going to be a serious match anyway so it wouldn’t be that big of an embarrassment.
Amazingly, out of the 9 or so guns present, 5 of which were upgraded, the Star M4A1 was without question the best.
Using the Intellect battery loaded in the CA handguards, the Star’s magazine, and Excel perfect .25g BB’s I loaded up the M4A1 and sat down by the door waiting to go. A portly friend who had finished loading up before me started asking questions about the gun which eventually turned to me testing the first shot from this gun ever on his stomach.
Wearing no vest, only an ACU top, I shot him dead center chest (his request) from about 4 feet away (also his request). The bb was instantly stuck in his belly, which at first made me think “Oh great, it’s a piece of ****” but a second later he groaned and fell to his knees horrified and writhing in pain.
Seeing this of course one of my other buddies requests to be shot, this time about 20 feet away, once we get outside. Once set up I give him shot and he dropped almost instantly, again, writing in pain.
By now I’m smiling thinking either these guys are just putting me on or this gun is something else. So with our goofing around done we start our match in a small 2 ½ acre wooded area covered in snow. Out of the three other guys on my team, 2 had TM M4 types and the other a G&P M16A3. All three were upgraded to about 370-380 FPS, with the M16A3 toping range at around 145-150 feet accurately, 175 feet max. The Star M4A1 plowed these.
First contact was maybe 75 away from a friend with a CA G36K, we traded a few shots but I caught his leg sticking out from behind a lock he was hunched behind. It was a lucky shoot, I thought, so I moved on. The next guy I caught was 170 feet off. We saw each other but knew we were both out of our ranges so we just kinda sat and waited. Board I took a few pot shots at him, aiming above him to try and drop a few rounds in front of him, I see a second or two later him looking up above his head, confused.
He looked back and shrugged and shoots at me, his shots landing fifty feet in front, like you’d expect, all over the place.
I switched to full auto and this time only aimed maybe a head length above him and gave a short burst, which a second later landed flat in his groin. Granted he didn’t drop but he didn’t look happy.
Back at the house the two guys I picked off just started complain about my gun, saying that it was a hot gun and that there was no way it was stock. I knew it was 340 FPS because I had done a Coke can test and it hadn’t even penetrated the bottom (which can be done anywhere in my experience from 350-370) but they were relentless so we broke out a chrono. Sure enough, first shot was 335. The second was 340. The third was 340 again. I shot one of them again (my sadistic side showing ) this time about 7 feet away, right in the stomach where it left a good sized bleeding blister.
If it were one of those guys writing this review they’d focus purely on the pain/power aspect. To me though, the most impressive part was the accuracy and consistency. I had about a mile of clear range to shoot (the house being on a frozen lake) so we set up so target practice to really test out this gun.
Every 25 feet we put a paper target, 1” x 1”. Still using .25’s and no hop, I was able to bull’s eye the targets from the prone supported position to about 125 feet without a problem, and hit the bull’s eye most of the time 150 foot target without a huge problem. With hop I hit the target at 200 feet (the farthest we set up) 5 out of 15 shots, which despite being 1/3, is still kickass for a stock carbine.
The hop up is amazing too. It’s rare in my experience to find a M-series hopup, other than Systema or G&G that work's as you’d expect a hop up to work. There are definite adjustments with each movement of the hopup wheel. Also the wheel does not come undone as you shoot. Once it was set, it stayed set, and there was no change in the hop on the bb’s.
A little P.S. here; my mag tests show that every mag type works in this gun flawlessly; the G&P Illuminated Tracer magazine working better in this than even a G&P gun, but the Star Midcap the M4A1 comes with WILL NOT WORK in most metal bodies. My M15A4 would not take it nor would my friend G&P M16A3.
I have no idea why this gun does what it does. I had, at least I thought I had, enough understanding about airsoft to say that a 340 FPS gun with a 363 mm barrel shouldn’t shoot more than 125 feet away. I can say that this gun can definitely hit man sized targets, with appropriate hopup, at around 200 feet. Groups were no more than an inch apart until 100 feet, and then they drifted around the center of the bull’s eye circle. I didn’t test auto much but it seems just as good.
Being that this is a stock gun my mind says at least put a Tightbore in it, or take advantage of the “quick” spring change feature and stick a M120 in it, but to be perfectly honest I wouldn’t change anything. Range and groupings are perfect for airsoft purposes, power is unbelievable, the first airsoft gun I’ve seen that gave bumps through empty plate carriers, and it sounds distinctly solid and strong.
I’ve read reports that the gears and motor are not adequate for use, but I have to say that my experience so far seems to say the opposite. The Star didn’t misfire once and had 0 lock ups. I think Star’s new trigger design might have something to do with that but I’m not 100%
Either way, performance wise it gets an 11/10, mainly for the confusing range regardless of a “low” 340 FPS.
All said and done, I’m massively impressed with the Star M4A1. It’s sad that Star is such an overlooked company but do yourself a favor, if you want a new M series gun and want something other than the mundane TM and CA guns (which are good don’t get me wrong) the Star M4A1 is just what you want.
150 Ft. Stock .25g Range
Working Bolt and bolt release
Real Stock Tube
“Quick” Change Spring Feature
Foregrip can’t hold any battery
LE Stock (really just my preference of CAR type)
“Wrong” Sized Carry Handle (If you don’t realize it’s really closer to the real steel)
Hard to find (Few American Dealers, almost all are in Asia)
Overall I give it 9.5/10, and with replacement handguards it’s a perfect 10/10
For years I’ve been an ardent CA fanboy, but after this I’m a definite convert to Star M Series. You want a perfect Colt M4A1 repo? You want a stock M4 that will get the job done with the best of them? You want a Star!
*Thanks too eHobby for their service, my friends Dragomir, John, Sal, and Moen for being targets, and Star for making a kick ass gun.