Classic Army M16A3

Classic
Army M16A3

by James
Elliott (aka Walking Target)
Stock
Specifications
FPS
340m/s
(stock fps may vary)
Length:
850.0 mm
Barrel
Length:
???
Weight: 4,000
g

Ammo
capacity:

300
rds


Why
and from Whom?
Having used an upgraded M4A1 for the
past 3 years for my woodland skirmishing, I have become a little
bored with it. Thoughts of Gucci gear like metal bodies, RIS
units and silencers do not excite me greatly, although from
a practicality point of view, a metal body would have been nice.
So I thought about getting an M16A2 after using Patterson’s
(a team-mate) for the benefits of better accuracy for the more
open area games. I considered swapping the M4 for a TM M16A2
and then upgrading it, but then I worked out the rough costs
of getting it to be anywhere near half decent:


TM M16A2 (free assuming I did a straight swap), but you can pick
them up for less than or equal to about £180
– Metal body kit – anywhere from £90-160 not including fitting
(dependant on brand purchased i.e. CA or Systema)
– Gear box upgrades (spring, piston head, bushings, gears etc) £80-100
(inc. fitting)
– One piece barrel unit for strength – £80
– Labour charges for putting it altogether – £50-100 ish

So
that little lot (not including the cost of the TM M16A2) comes
to a grand total of a minimum of £480 GBP. Now that’s
a fair whack of cash, and that’s the just the upgrades and the
cost of fitting them. Due to my situation, I try to skirmish
on an absolute shoe-string budget, so there was no way I could
afford a nicely upgraded A2. That was depressing. Obviously,
at this point I say “Enter Classic Army”. CA has had a fair
amount of flack over the past couple of years for the poor quality
and reliability of their products. However, they seem to have
been listening to their customer feedback and have improved
the quality of their MP5 range immensely. The CA M4 releases
didn’t impress me at, a member of my team had one and it was
a bit lame to be honest; mainly plagued by reliability issues.

However,
after a tonne of investigation, I came to the conclusion that
a CA M16A3 is actually a really good deal for the following
reasons:


It has a pro-reinforced gearbox as standard and the mech-box is
upgraded (usually too far!)
– Full metal body
– One piece metal outer barrel

So
you are basically getting a hugely expensive rifle for a rather
low price, this is something that a lot of people don’t seem
to have picked up on yet. After looking around on the internet
at the various UK Airsoft shops, Airsoft
Armoury
(http://www.airsoftarmoury.com)
had the best price at £224 not including shipping. You
do the maths, £224 for an upgraded, metal M16A3 or £200
for a standard TM M16A2….humm…to me, the choice is quite clear.

My
research did, however, uncover a couple of immediate problems
with the CA M16 rifles. Firstly, the gearbox’s do tend to be
bone dry when it comes to lubrication. This is obviously not
a good thing as lack of lube = exploding gear box. The second
is the range of FPS that the rifles fire at out of the box.
They appear to range from anywhere between 330 and 400FPS. The
site limit for my regular haunt (Combat
South
– http://www.combatsouth.co.uk)
is 350FPS, therefore I had to ensure that I am not breaking
this rule. After speaking to Airsoft
Armoury
, they ensured me that the gearbox would be lubricated
and the FPS would be checked to make sure that I would not receive
an Airsoft cannon prior to shipping!

I
ordered a CA M16A3 on a Friday from Airsoft
Armoury
and received it on the following Monday morning,
despite a slight mix up with the courier trying to deliver it
to the wrong house. Airsoft Armoury’s sales people were helpful
throughout the purchase and should be commended.

First
Impressions
Well, it comes in a box, which is generic to
accept all of the CA M16’s/M4’s and has a nice picture of a
rifle on the front. Open the box, and what have you got? Well,
shockingly, there is a CA M16A3 in the usual polystyrene casing,
a CA high cap magazine (yuk, wrong colour!), a clearing/cleaning
rod, manual and promotional gubbins. All looking good so far.

When
you first pull the M16A3 out of the box, the first impression
is of sturdiness. The metal body combined with a one piece outer
barrel appears to make the rifle rather solid. No barrel wobble
at all (something that plagues TM M16A2’s/M4’s); it does feel
like it will be able to easily withstand skirmish use.

The
detail on the body is consistent with the new version CA bodies,
with no Colt logos and is marked with “Classic Army AR-15A3”
(see picture) in white writing, which appears to be simply painted
onto the body itself. The writing is a little ugly, so I might
attack it with some nail polish remover; it feels like it will
come off easily enough. Why AR-15A3? Well, I am 99% sure that
goes back to the trademark issues with Colt. The AR-15 is (in
real steel versions) the civilian version of the M16. The stock
is good and solid and actually quite close in appearance to
the real thing (I have fired the M16A2 real steel extensively)
and feels good and solid. The front end looks ok, although I
am not too pleased with the quality of the fore grips, they
have a rough texture which is, again, not consistent with the
real steel version. However, this is easily remedied if I can
hold of some TM ones.

The
only comment I would make about the metal body is the working
part release catch wobbles slightly more than I would like.
However, this is a minor point. The forward assist knob (also
metal) is slightly odd. On the real steel, the knob has a round
end, but the CA M16A3 one has one side (next to the body) chopped
off. Another deviation from the real steel design. Since the
M16A3 basically has an M4A1 receiver, the two can be compared
in the following picture.

Upon
opening the stock via the usual pull down catch, the wiring
is exposed. I have a CA MP5 SD2 and the quality of the wiring
is awful. Not the case in the A3, they have obviously put in
some much better quality wire which is pleasing to see. The
fuse is there (which is good to see!) and is in a slim line
case. I have, so far, only tried putting an 8.4v 2000mah battery
in, I will try a 9.6 as soon as possible. It should fit without
too many hassles, indeed CA seem to think that you can get a
12v in there! After I had a peer down the stock with a torch,
it is possible to see a strengthening bracket which also acts
as a back stop for the battery. They did something similar with
the MP5 solid stock and this is quite easily removed to accept
a larger battery, which I will do if getting the 9.6 in is problematic.

The
magazine is, well, a Classic Army high-capacity magazine holding
the usual 300+ rounds. The colour is a really odd greeny-gray
colour (I am colour blind so I might be wrong!), which is certainly
not consistent with the real steel magazines. Quite why the
designers at CA painted the magazine this colour I am not sure.
The CA M16 magazines are not renowned for their outstanding
quality; to be honest I will probably not even bother to use
it and stick to the superior TM magazines.

Firing
Out to the garden for some plinking with a magazine and
battery in. There appears to be a bit of a problem with the
magazine release catch, I changed it out for a TM one, and it
didn’t fix the problem. I have a sneaky feeling that there is
something in the magazine well that needs to be ground down
to make the magazines fit and lock in more effectively. They
come out fine; just putting them in is a bit of a pain.

Anyway,
magazine in, fire selector to semi automatic. A nice pleasing
action in the fire control switch, makes a good solid click.
On the real thing, it’s a fair old click when you chance fire
modes, I am yet to find an Airsoft Armalite that comes close
to the real thing, but then we can’t have everything. With the
battery and magazine locked and loaded, the A3 is well balanced
and certainly not front heavy. Weight wise, it is not all that
far off the real deal.

First
round out without hop and the range is fine. Access to the hop
on the CA rifles is different to the TM ones. You don’t pull
the charging handle back to access the Hop-Up mechanism. The
dustcover is secured in place by a small, yet quite strong,
magnet. Once released with a finger nail, the dust cover flips
down on the usual spring mechanism. A couple more rounds and
some Hop-Up adjustment later, the rounds sail right up to the
end of the garden with ease (the garden is probably about 35M
long). My only fault with the hop adjustment is the colour of
the piece of metal covering the gear box (bolt cover), which
(for some weird reason) is bright chrome. Hummm, never seen
that on the real thing unless the person cleaning the rifle
has gone into over-kill with the oil and rag, in which case
it wouldn’t fire very well! However, if and when I get the rifle
serviced, I will get this piece sprayed black (as that is what
is on the real deal).

To
my eye, which could be completely wrong, the FPS appears to
be around 340FPS which is what I am after. This will be confirmed
at my site. Accuracy wise, it appears to be easily comparable
with my M4A1 with a TN barrel installed. Once I get into a big
open space, I will be able to test it more effectively. If accuracy
proves to be a problem, then a TN barrel and possibly a Systema
metal Hop-Up could be installed. I have a feeling that this
might not be strictly necessary, but we’ll see.

Switching
to fully automatic, the RoF (Rate of Fire) is pretty good (bearing
in mind that one BB = one kill, in theory at least) on an 8.4v
battery. I grab my U shaped 9.6/wire converter and the RoF becomes
rather insane begging the question of the necessity of a higher
voltage battery. As a fire support weapon, a bigger battery
may be necessary. A 2000mah 8.4v should last a fair amount of
time, and it certainly does not have a problem turning the gear
box over. Accuracy on fully automatic is pleasing and can be
compared to any other relatively long AEG. The gear box is louder
than I was expecting, no bad noises or anything, just louder.
I am going to say that this is because of the metal body; a
plastic one absorbs a lot more sound than a metal one (see your
GCSE physics book as to why). Certainly not a cause for concern.

Releasing
the magazine is smooth and easy. However, reloading it is a
little sticky and can be a pain. I am 99% sure this can be fixed
through some filing inside the magazine well.

Compare
and Contrast
Comega wrote a
first impressions review of the CA M4A1
a while back. Due
to the similarities of the Armalite range, the points raised
in his review are highly relevant to this one. For those who
have not read it, the major points brought up in Comega’s review
include:

1.
The M4 feels like it is going to fall apart when handling
2. Battery problems i.e. a 9.6 U shaped won’t fit (irrelevant to
this work)
3. High consumption of battery power
4. Selector switch wobbles and feels like it is going to fall off
5. Fore grip wobbles and feels weak
6. Looks and sounds like a cheap M4 with a metal body.

Point
1: In contrast to the M4, the M16A3 feels incredibly solid.
I wouldn’t want to wrap it around a tree or anything daft, but
it really does feel good. No barrel wobble and no movement in
any of the parts. It will certainly stand up to vigorous use
in the skirmish environment.

Point
2: Obviously, the battery is not in the fore grip. The one piece
outer barrel is substantial and impressive, I have always wanted
one. I have experienced no battery problems of any kind with
the A3. Getting them in and out is not a problem and the wiring
is of a high quality.

Point
3: Well, to be honest, I think this is to be expected. The springs
used in the CA gear boxes are pretty strong, especially when
compared to a standard TM or M80 spring. Therefore high battery
consumption is an issue, but I would not anticipate this being
a problem when using a solid stock with a good sized battery.

Point
4: The selector switch problems have certainly been ironed out
in this replica. The movement is solid and reassuring and does
not appear to suffer the problems experienced in the M4 series.

Point
5: As stated previously, there is no movement whatsoever in
the front end of the rifle, another good point fixed since previous
versions.

Point
6: The overall build quality and finish to the A3 is, what I
would consider to be, pretty good. In all honesty, the CA A3
really does compare pretty well with the real deal. The colour
and finish of the metal work is good and it is a joy to hold.

Summary
and Conclusions
My
motivation for purchasing a CA M16A3 was entirely
price orientated, something I am certainly not
embarrassed to admit. The high costs associated
with starting with a TM M16A2 and then upgrading
it to a sufficiently high level are so high,
it would have stretched my financial resources
too far. The CA M16A3 offers an excellent cheap
alternative. The overall quality of the package
is surprisingly good. I was shocked by how solid
the rifle is; I was fully expecting it to be
similar in build to the M4A1 or M4T. Classic
Army appear to have upped there R&D and
testing to produce a product of a very high
standard. However, there are a couple of niggly
annoying things about the replica, which are
(thankfully) easily remedied:


Magazine loading – I think this would be my primary
complaint. I will have a look at the inside of the
magazine and figure out what is wrong in there.
I am sure this is an easily fixed problem.

Edit:
Since writing this, I have worked it out, you
just have to give the magazine a little more
persuasion than we are used to, i.e. a slap
on the bottom of the magazine.


The wobble of the working parts release catch
is of minor annoyance
– The white paint markings on the metal body are
quite unsightly, and I hope they come off easily.
It’s a shame that CA couldn’t negotiate with Colt
to allow the proper markings to be put on their
metal bodies.
– The texture of the fore grip is rough, which
is annoying. They feel quite plastic, but then
so do the TM ones. I may or may not replace them.

If
the gear box does go down, I am honestly not
that worried. The cost saving I have made by
going for a CA M16A3 compared with the alternative
is so big, repairing and replacing CA gear box
parts [with TM ones or Systema] is a complete
non-issue. At the end of the day, if it blows
up after 12,000 rounds, who cares??! It’s a
full metal, upgraded M16 for £224 GBP
of comparable quality to a TM replica.

Is
this a good AEG for a newbie? I would have to
say no. The chances of something going wrong
with any upgraded AEG are higher than with a
standard Mauri. As stated above, I am not worried
if it blows up, it can be fixed cheaply. However,
if you are sufficiently informed and enter into
a purchase of a CA M16A3 with your eyes open
(and you know a decent Airsoft gunsmith!), I
see no reason why people should not consider
a Classic Army rifle at all.

I
have just come to a shocking realisation:

I don’t own a TM AEG any more. The M4A1 is being
sold to pay for the A3, my SD2 is Classic Army
(and an absolute dream) and my SA80 is a custom,
although it does contain a FAMAS gear box. Liberation
perhaps? Time can only tell….

Update
13/05/03:
Since writing the review, I have
skirmished the A3 5 or 6 times now. I stated
in the review that the accuracy wasn’t great,
so have had a Systema metal hop unit (with a
KM hop rubber) and a TN barrel installed. This
did mean cutting the metal body up with a good
bit of Dremelling and I am told it was a real
pain to do as the quality of the metal is actually
very good. With the metal hop installed, the
odd feed problem I was having disappeared and
the TN barrel made a dramatic increase in accuracy,
which was surprising as they don’t always do
a great deal of good.

A
couple of other minor things I have done include
getting rid of the shiny flash hider spacer
and replacing it with the more realistic dull
TM one. I also got some proper TM M16A2 foregrip’s
and modified them to fit the A3 (you have to
file them down a little by the main barrel collar)
and they look much better J. The last thing
I did was to modify the stock slightly to take
a 9.6 battery, as most of my batt’s are of that
voltage. This wasn’t hard and involved a hot
knife to remove the back stop as written about
in the main review.

One
annoying problem that did occur is the loss
of the retaining knobs on the removable carry
handle. Unlike the TM ones, the CA knobs have
a habit of unwinding themselves and disappearing.
Having bought a couple more, I ensured that
they would never fall off again by the wonderful
stuff known as Loctite. I am still getting used
to the length of the AEG, I am used to the much
shorter M4, but I am definitely enjoying the
A3. Its heavy as hell and you know you have
been carrying it by the end of a skirmish!

James
Elliott (aka Walking Target)
The
Wickham Airsoft Special Squad
(W.A.S.P.S)

Upgrade
Potential

10
– anything you can do to a CA M16A2, you can do to

this one – RIS kits rar rar rar

Build
Quality

7/8
– still the odd problem, but very easily fixed.

Value
for Money

12
;) Like I said, its a full metal M16A3 for £225!

Overall
Potential

9
For anyone after an Armalite for either general use
or
as a project gun, this is an excellent platform for
both.

Comment
on this review in the forums


Last
modified:
Thursday, May 15, 2003 5:12 PM
Copyright 2003 ArniesAirsoft




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