CA M15a4 review

Classic
Army M15a4
by Arnie

Stock
Specifications
FPS
95-105m/s
(stock fps may vary)
Barrel
length:

363mm (6.08mm diameter)
Weight: 2974g

Ammo
capacity:

300
rounds (with provided mag)


Henrik
Grobelnik ( of ActionSportGames, A/S – http://softgun.dk/
) very kindly organised for this new CA M15A4 to arrive with
me for review and testing. ActionSportGames A/S, Denmark are
the exclusive world wide licensee for the ArmaLite trademark
and design in relation to Airsoft guns. So firstly a big thanks
go out to Henrik for making this review possible!

The
Classic
Army
M15 as we see it now in it’s latest incarnation, the
M15, is the result of several permutations of this AEG from
Yick Fung.

The
original CA Colt M4 series hit the shelves around mid-June 2002,
at which time we published an
honest review of one of the first batch
(written by Comega).

I
had the chance to use and fire the original version 1 ClassicArmy
M4a1, and true it was a heavy full metal item, but as out the
box rifles went, truth be told it was not exactly desirable.
The gearbox sounded distinctly painful when fired, and running
on standard batteries the gearbox had a habit of locking up
(it really needed a >=9.6V high mAh to crank it). Numerous
problems surfaced over the coming months after it’s release,
with major issues highlighted such as:


  • the plastic that the stock and foregrip were made from being far
    too weak, and prone to snapping

  • the barrel tightening ring lubs snap off

  • the foregrip fell off far to easily

  • the gearboxes regularly jammed

Over
the coming releases several improvements were made:


  • v2 had general updates to it, these being mainly internal adjustments.

  • v3 had the original Colt markings removed, which were instead
    replaced with ClassicArmy markings. One can only speculate over
    the removal of the original trademarks, but it’s almost certain
    that a dispute of some sort took place. The bodies were much more
    well built in this version. V3 also had one piece receiver tabs,
    rather then singular ones stuck to the upper receiver that broke
    off.

So
what’s new to the v4 ArmaLite series? Well CA teamed up with
ArmaLite Inc. in the US, and ActionSportGames A/S in Denmark
(http://softgun.dk/).

The
main improvements surround the power output, and the external
build quality. The plastic parts are made from a much more durable
fiber reinforced polymer, that is much less likely to shatter
or crack, the bodies have been severely improved, this time
featuring original decals, and the gearboxes have been fixed
up.

It
transpires that a spacer/shim fitted to the spring guide in
the pre v4 CA ArmaLite was responsible for the gearbox failures
as it placed considerable strain on the gears, and led to catastrophic
failure when the slightest problem occurred.

The
official list is given as (ref
news article
):


  • New Metal Body – ‘Armalite’ Real Gun Logo / Laser Script

  • Improved material of Hard Grip, Foregrip and Retractable Stock
    (Change from Plastic to Nylon & Glass Fiber)

  • Individual Series no. will be added

  • New Gears will be used (high speed gears and motor)

  • Re-enforced Adaptor Ring for Foregrip

  • New Version of Hop-up Chamber & Rubber

  • High Speed & High Torque Motor
  • Takes up to
    10.8V in stock

To
say that the v4 rifle is an upgrade is really complete rot,
the v4 is miles ahead from the previous versions, it’s like
saying that humans are an ‘upgrade’ from monkeys, there’s really
just such a huge gap between them, sure they look similar, but
they don’t act or perform in the same way. The effort placed
into the v4’s production positively shines.

The
new ArmaLite Airsoft rifles were first shown in the US at the
Shot Show in Orlando on 13-16 February 2003. ArmaLite had them
on their booth where they drew a lot of good attention and were
met with a great success.

I’ll
try to leave off making direct comparisons between this AEG
and the TM M733, as I’m putting that into a separate review.

Please
note
that in some shots you may see what look like scratches
and marks in the receiver if you look closely. These weren’t
on the M15 when it arrived, but after being dragged around with
me for a skirmish, and generally ‘used’ is aquired a set of
scratches on the front ring, receiver and flashhider on the
LHS (the side facing me when I hold it). That isn’t CA’s fault,
it’s just that I was testing the M15 in the frield for this
review.

Out
the box
Well the word “wow” comes to mind. To
put the looks into one simple phrase this is, put simply, the
best stock/standard AEG I have ever seen out the box. The realistic
markings are amazing, the plastics look great and generally
speaking I can’t think of anything that either gives it away
as an Airsoft piece, or could be improved upon.

The
box itself is getting somewhat similar to TM’s own, even with
a mock TM style ‘hopup’ logo. Of course there’s CA’s new logo
on the box, and ArmaLite’s own logo emblazed on the front. A
nicer touch with the new CA boxes is that it has the right picture/label
on the top of the box, rather than a generic logo of some sort.
Hey it’s the small things in life that matter. :)

Grabbing
this piece out the box and swinging it around, it just doesn’t
feel like it was made by the same company as the first CA M4a1
I saw. It just feels stronger, more rigid, and simply put better
constructed from better materials.

In
the box you’ll find the AEG itself, a cleaning rod, sight adjustment
tool, and a hicap magazine (and a heap of paperwork).

First
looks:
Well it’s a heavy beast, clocking in at 2.7kg with
no battery.mag/ammo in it. You really feel the weight when you
pull it out of the box for the first time. The other thing that
struck me was the feel and texture of the front and rear grips,
there’s no rattle to the piece, and it just feels dead solid.

This
can really be split into three sections:

Metal
parts: Unlike my older CA MP5, there’s no horrible pot metal
(aka monkey metal) anywhere to be found. The castings on the
carry handle aren’t exactly wonderful, but I’m sure the real
thing isn’t too hot in that area either,

Plastic
parts: As has been mentioned the new plastics are glass fibre
reinforced, and very very nice. The stock doesn’t split apart
like previous versions that I’ve seen, and I’m fairly sure I
could stand on the grips and not have them crack. Again, I don’t
know what the real grips are like, but these are a very pleasant
texture to hold and feel very strong.

Detailed
parts: The sights are very robustly built, with all the correct
lettering. The markings are laser engraved in white down the
side of the receiver.

Features:
The M15 tactical carbine features a one piece metal barrel,
all metal parts, a tougher foregrip, engraved receiver, removable
carry handle, comes with a hicap magazine in the box, reinforced
stock and features better wiring.

The
fire select switch is much improved over previous versions,
it’s a nice tight fit, and clicks into place very nicely. The
marker on the other side of the receiver does not turn with
the selector (like the real steel does) as there’s no way to
put a connector through the gearbox at that point.

Unlike
the TM Armalite copies, pulling the handle below the carry
handle back does not release the dust cover. This is mainly
down to the thickness and differing shape of the metal
body.

Lets
start from the front of the rifle, the flash hider is
removable to reveal the usual 14mm threading for accessory
fitment.

The
barrel has a nice powdercoated look to it, matt and looking
very realistic. Orientated on the RHS slightly to the
top of my barrel I found the markings “5.56 NATO
1/7” with “C MP” marked above that.

The
front sight mount features a side mounted sling loop,
which is more useful (at least to me) than the underbarrel
mounts. You’ll also find the bayonet lugs underneath the
sight, which is suitable for mounting items
such as bipods
. The front sight can be reversed and
place on the other side of the barrel if needed, simply
push out the securing pins and remove and refit the unit.

Under
the front sight you’ll find a small allen key threaded bolt,
if the front sight becomes loose, that one will need tightening.

The
foregrips as I have mentioned are of a texture and build that
is very pleasing.. it’s difficult to say more. The ring that
you must slide back to remove the foregrip halves is more than
a little amazing. Unlike some TM models, and the older CA models
where the slightest knock or gentle breeze would leave them
dropping to the ground, the new CA ring is held on by a spring
that need hands of steel to move.

Yes
guys, CA took the world rather seriously when we said the foregrip
ring spring was a little weak. Unless you have a habit of turning
green and bulging when you get angry you may find this ring
almost impossible to slide back to remove the grips.

This
isn’t so much of a problem for people with the tactical carbine
version, but anyone looking to hide a battery inside the foregrip
(such as on the M4a1 clone) may wish to look into seeking out
the real M4/16 foregrip tool, which allows you to easily slide
back the ring to remove the grips.

I
found that it is possible to push the ring down by hand and
remove the grips, but it takes a certain ‘nack’. Place the stock
on a flat surface at your feet with the barrel pointing vertically
upwards, stand over the rifle and then place both hands around
the ring. Using your bodyweight carefully press down on the
ring and remove the grips. Refitting is simply done in the same
way.

The
rear sights are fitted into the carry handle. There are two
backsight holes available, one larger and one smaller. The larger
hole allows more light through, and easier snap shots to be
taken, in short the larger hole is more tactical whereas the
smaller hole affords a more accurate shot.

For
Airsoft usage the larger hole serves me well but you may
find your personal preferences differ. A fair amount of
light can get around the backsight, personally I prefer
blocking the side up with a little black PVC tape to allow
easier co-opting aiming.

The
carry handle is easily removed – there are two thumb clamps
with slots in them. Should they prove to be too tight
to remove, simply use a large slotted screwdriver to easily
undo and remove them.

The
threading is perfectly normal in orientation (counter
clockwise to remove, clockwise to tighten), but don’t
force it the threads aren’t as strong on the real thing
and you can shred them if you’re not careful.

If
you have a look into the mag well you’ll see the black
gearbox chassis the reinforced hop unit, and the metal
nozzle. I’m afraid it’s difficult to get good shots inside
the well as it confuses the auto-focus on my digital camera:

The
grip externally looks pretty much like any other M4/16 grip
that I’ve used, although the CA version features a heat sink
style grip plate. I’ve not managed to get the motor so hot that
it needed the heatsink myself, but I’m sure on higher voltage
batteries and hotter days it may well come into play.


The motor tightening bolt is large and easy enough to get to.
There’s no need to touch this unless you upgrade things internally
(which is unlikely to do), but again, it’s nice having an overspec’d
adjuster, as the TM allen key bolts are a bit too easy to accidentally
undo and loose.

The
rear stock features what I am given to believe is a replica
of a tool storage cover, but on the AEG version allows
you to slide the battery into the stock.

MY
8.4 3000mAh fitted fine (7x C cell), and CA tell me that
a 10.8 will fit in there. Heaven knows how fast the thing
will turn on a 10.8 though.

To
fit the battery, slide the wires out, then slide the battery
in bum first, attach the power wires together and tuck
the connectors/fuse in after the battery.

You’ll
also find the rear sling loop mounted underneath the stock.
This is somewhat confusing, and may hinder the fitment
of some 3 point slings, as the front sling mount is on
the side and the rear mount is on the underside of the
stock. I prefer side mounted sling points as when the
rifle is on your back it allows for it to be more tidily
stored away. Again each to their own here.. I just prefer
both sling mount to be on the same side as easch other.
^_^

Functionality
– so what do all these levers and things do?

Dust
cover
– The dust cover hides access to the hopup unit adjuster.
It’s held closed by a magnet, and to flip it down, you just
flick it with the corner of a nail. The cover is spring loaded
and will stay open until it’s moved back into position for the
magnet to hold it.

Cocking
handle
– the cocking handle does move, but it’s just for
show, pulling the handle back doesn’t do anything, but it does
make a nice sound when you let go and it springs backl into
place.

Bolt
release catch(s)
– The push button on the RHS, and the lever
above the mag release catch don’t do anything, and are simply
there for show.

Mag
catch – the mag catch does of course work, as does the fire
select switch and trigger.

Performance
So how strong is the M15? Well I’ve taken the piece out
with me, and the AEG had as much of a tough time as I did (believe
me it took me 48hrs to recover from the last game). I didn’t
abuse it, but I gave it a very thorough test, and I can find
no problem with it so far.

Now
onto this new metal body I mean, how strong is it? Well you
can actually clamp the flashhider to a table and suspend the
entire body of the rifle (with battery and mag in it) horizontally
– as in free floating in mid air. Now that’s impressive! If
you did that with my stock TM SG1 you’d be a very unhappy bunny
with the rather bent and buckled results.

Gearbox
innards:
I can’t really strip the model that I have here
for review, as it will invalidate my long term tests of the
piece, but I do know what is in them from my discussions with
Henrik ( of ActionSportGames A/S – http://softgun.dk/
), and from information from CA.

The
older model that I tried out a year ago sounded terrible when
you pulled the trigger. Strangling cats viciously would have
been nicer. The reason for this was simple, there was too much
strain on the gears and not enough grease. This has completely
changed with the new gearbox setup, it sounds wonderful and
truly purrs.

The
gearbox features highspeed gears and an EG1000 motor, the gearing
is basically a copy of the Systema standard ratio flat gear
set, and there’s also a bore-up cylinder, reinforced spring
guide and one of those new yellow pistons in the box too. Lets
not forget the reinforced tappet plate, reinforced hopup and
metal loading nozzle. It’s worth noting that all the gearbox
screws have philips heads, which makes any gearbox work a whole
lot easier!

Bearing
in mind that a few years back I had to pay around £120
for a Systema FTK (and the ensuing exercise to fit the thing),
getting an AEG prebuilt to the same spec is somewhat of a luxury.

I
also note that the wiring has been improved, and the loom is
now made from a much nicer fatter and more flexible wire set.
The previous incarnations featured much more brittle wiring,
which although got the job done, just seemed “too cheap”.

Take
down:
So how do you field strip this sucker? Well it’s not
too hard, and the manual, which is all in English (handily,
and also shows you CA’s target audience), details exactly what
you need to know.

Firstly
use a good screwdriver.. not a leatherman or multitool. You
want a nice flat bladed thin screwdriver that fits the bolts
screwed into the receiver pins.

Firstly
undo the rear bolt, now with something like a punch (or anything
that won’t damage the threads) tap out the pin itself.

When
you’ve done this carefully lever the upper receiver away from
the lower. Be gentle and apply a steady pressure, and you’ll
find that the top receiver swings upwards and away, hinged on
the front receiver pin. The motion is tight, as the metal receiver
tabs slide over the gearbox.

Now
two things will most probably drop out of the receiver as you
do this. One is the ‘orrible shiny cover that the dust cover
sticks to to close. The other item is the bolt release button
on the LHS next to the “ArmaLite” lettering. So don’t
do this over grass or you’ll be hunting for the parts for weeks.

Because
I’m such a nice chap you’ll find photos of the two parts
so you know where to put them if/when they fall out. ^_^
(ain’t my coffee table lovely?)

Take
out the front pin (again undo the nut) and you’ll now
end up something like this (image shown to the left)

The
boreup hole is on the RHS of the cylinder so you can’t
see it in this shot.

The
inner barrel can now be removed if you want. Before you
pull it out of the outerbarrel make a note of the way
up it goes. I was stupid enough to slide the inner barrel
back into place upside down with the hopup the wrong way
around.

Retracting
the inner is easy, but again it’s a tight fit, so don’t
force it. The hop unit is reinforced plastic, so don’t
break it. Carefully pull the unit backwards from the muzzle
end and slide the inner barrel out along the receiver.
It will fit between the receiver tabs, but it’s tight.

With
the barrel out you’ll see that it goes right to the end
of the barrel and stops just before the flashhider.

Here’s
a shot of the hopup unit, watch that little spring, there’s
not much holding it in place so make sure it’s in right
when you stick the inner barrel back in place.

As
you can see this hopup is a straight copy of the TM version,
so sourcing spare parts (if needed) won’t be difficult.

When
you push the inner barrel back into place, again be careful,
it’s not easy to slide into place back again, so don’t
force that hopup unit.

When
you refit the receiver pins make sure that they are nice
and tight.. you don’t want to loose one when you’re out
and about.

Mags:
Okay, well here’s a selection of mags from the cupboard. From
the left we have the following magazines: G&P midcap, TM
lowcap, CA HIcap, TM Hicap

As
you can see there’s quite a variation here in colour.
I took the shots in natural light to get them as close
to how you see them as possible.

All
the mags have lettering stamped into the base of them,
the GP mag says “Adventuer MFG.Co.INC. Parsons KS
USA”. The TM hi/low caps say the same, but in lower
case lettering. The CA mag says ” Yick Fung Ind.
Int’l Ltd. Classic Army”. It’s also worth noting
that the new
Thermold mags
do not fit into the CA receiver, they
seem to be around 1/2mm too wide.

I
had no feed problems using either the CA or TM hi-cap
mags (actually all of the ones shown here worked fine),
so given the price difference I’d recommend buying real
CA mags for your CA ArmaLite.

Manual:
Here it is scanned in all it’s glory. Click on a thumbnail for
a larger image (pages are in order).


Niggles:
So what is there to complain about? Truth be told..
not a great deal

  • Dust
    cover magnetic catch – I know it’s a very cosmetic thing, but
    the dustcover is only held closed with a small magnet, and the
    metal cover inside the chassis that is meant to look like the
    real bolt is awfully shiny and unrealistic. The shiny ring around
    the end of the barrel near the flashhider may not be to everyone’s
    tastes either.
  • No
    foregrip removal tool – CA should give a foregrip removal tool
    out with the M4 series, as to be honest it’s really needed, especially
    for quick battery changes.

Conclusion:
Well the CA ArmaLites had a really bad rep a year ago, and
this new rifle is just a whole new beast. There’s nothing really
wrong with it, apart from a few minor niggles. Not only does
it perform well out the box, but it represents huge value for
money. The decals are nicely printed, and for our US brethren
as the logos are ‘approved’/licensed there should be no problem
importing these pieces with the logos intact.

Upgrade
Potential

8/10
internally it’s all nicely copied and the same dimensions
as TM gear. Externally you’ll find that grips and cosmetic
addons may not fit so easily because of minor sizing differences.

Build
Quality

10/10
it’s built like a rock

Value
for Money

10/10
It’s just impossible to fault

Overall
Potential

10/10
I’m an official CA ArmaLite convert now

In short…
I don’t think I really want to go out onto the field with a different
rifle ever again. The only minor niggle is that as the rifle is
pre-upgraded to 1J, it isn’t quite as user-friendly to use it
for CQB/indoor use against living targets.

External
Links:
Planet
Airsoft CA M4a1 review

Classic
Army

ActionSportGames A/S in Denmark (http://softgun.dk/)
Armalite (www.armalite.com)

Site
links:
TBA

Comment
on this review in the forums


Last
modified:
Tuesday, August 12, 2003 6:26 PM
Copyright 2003 ArniesAirsoft




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