This article was written in cooperation with Milgear Finland.
If you follow my social media outlets, you might have noticed that I have been running a more modern AR platform recently. Due to the games we are going to this year with the group, I have been prompted to better some other kit that I have to make those games more enjoyable. That and the fact that we are focusing towards LARP as well, we all need to look the part.
Originally the E&L M4 was purchased for the purpose of getting a full-steel outer barrel for my RO727 build. I could have ordered one separately, but the costs would have been about the same as buying a new replica. The barrels were not available locally and only option was to order them from overseas. Nevertheless, I also wanted something a bit more modern for some other sets and I love the plain look of the M4 series and the features on the E&L replica seemed good, so I went with it.
Below I will go through the replica and share my thoughts about it so far. I have had it for about 4 to 5 months at the time of this writing and I have done some small external modifications to it. I am not an airsoft tech guru, so I cannot comment on the internals that much. I use replicas mostly out-of-the-box for as long as they work and only then begin tinkering with them. Small things like hop rubber changes and such might get done, if needed. In this case, nothing was needed as the replica performed good straight out of the box.
The mid-1990s aesthetics with cool features
Emei and Landarms (or E&L for short) are originally known for their AK-line of airsoft replicas. The airsoft community asked if they could produce replicas of the M4 series as well, and they answered with the M4A1 range. Their AK range was known for the outer finishing as well as their good internals. In the hands of more experienced players and tuners, these replicas were made even better performers out in the airsoft fields. Still it is safe to say, that the E&L replicas perform well out-of-the-box as well.
There are different models with different accessories available. Mine is the barebone version, which had polymer handguards and no special accessories. In addition to the different models, they have an Elite and Platinum series of their M4 replicas. Differences between the two ranges are in finishing and internal parts. The table below will demonstrate the differences between these two.
|Ball bearings||7mm ball bearings||9mm ball bearings|
|Ball bearing spring guide||x||x|
|Quick spring change system||x||x|
|Precision barrel (6.04mm)||x||x|
|Rotary hop-up unit||x||x|
|Gears||Steel gears||18:1 CNC machined steel gears|
|CNC-machined 1-piece cylinder||x|
|O-ring sealed nozzle||x|
|Reinforced POM-piston with 3 steel teeth||x|
|High-torque M170 motor with neodymium magnets||x|
|Silver low-resistance wires||x|
As you can see, the Elite version differs internally from the Platinum version in many ways. On the outside, the differences are not so profound, except for the outer barrel, which is steel in the Platinum version and aluminum on the Elite. There are other differences in finishing and materials as well, from what I have heard. Unfortunately, I do not have the Elite version at my disposal so I cannot do a full comparison between the two.
The steel outer barrel on the Platinum version gives the replica an excellent weight, making it stand at about 3kgs. For those seeking realism and misery (like myself), this will be an excellent addition. It is not often you see M4 replicas with full steel front-sets now-a-days. The internal parts on both versions are said to be V2 or Tokyo Marui compatible, which makes tuning and replacing parts easy. The gearbox is also reinforced.
Further information about the internals of the gearbox will not be discussed here, as I am not a “tech guru”. There are many more knowledgeable players out there who know much more about the inner workings of an airsoft gun. Sure, I can tune mine and replace parts, but that is not the thing for me. I use my replicas out-of-the-box until they break and then start replacing internal parts. Just about the only thing I do, if needed, is hop rubber replacement. This was not needed on the E&L though, as the hop performed within acceptable ranges. The rotary hop-up on the E&L M4 was good and the complete combo was adequate to my taste. Good range and ok accuracy, but you can always make it even better if you need.
As an airsofter, I usually concern myself more with the gear and how my set functions with the replica I am using. For this reason, I usually spend more time on the outside things than on the insides of an Airsoft replica. The E&L M4 replica performed well internally, but it lacked on the outer parts. For this reason, I installed a G&P made RIS rail system on mine, the crane stock and the Knight’s Armament grip. The RIS was a bit of a pain to install and required me to remove the front sights and with a proper amount of force, I was able to make the RIS sit. It is solid, however. No wobble at all.
The outside of the replica in general is void of any markings on the receiver and is made of aircraft aluminum, from what I have learned. The outer barrel is made of steel (as well as the sights, buffer, shell port…) and the parts that are not aluminum or steel, are made of polymer reinforced plastic. This gives these parts and excellent feel and texture. The threading on the outer barrel is negative, as is the case with most Airsoft replicas.
As the receiver has no markings (which is good), you can get it custom engraved at a shop of your choosing, if you so feel. My replica had some wobble between the upper and lower receiver, but some users have not reported any wobble in theirs. You can fix the wobble by either getting a G&P Magic Pin for the front or by using Teflon tape on the front part where the pin is to secure it. You will need to separate the receivers and add the tape to the part on the upper receiver. I initially used the teflon tape, but eventually got a Magic Pin as a more permanent fix.
The quick spring system works by un-screwing the buffer tube from the receiver. This procedure does not require extra tools, other than the buffer wrench supplied with the replica. Even that is not necessarily needed, but is recommended. While replacing the spring, do pay close attention to the threading, especially when screwing the buffer tube back on to the receiver. If the threads do not meet correctly, you will end up breaking them and this can lead to problems. Use caution. Another small detail worth knowing is the back plate between the receiver and the buffer tube. It is not the same as in usual airsoft replicas, but a real steel counterpart. This means that when looking for one, for example if you want to swap the original out for one with sling attachment options, be sure it will fit.
Single metal mid-cap magazine comes with the replica, which has about 120 round capacity. The mid-cap is excellent and I ended up getting more of these mid-caps to replace my aging metal mid-cap magazines. As there are no hi-caps, a beginning player might need to get more magazines when purchasing this replica. Other mid-cap magazines from various manufacturers also work with this replica (I have tested G&P, DBoys and Cyma metal mid-caps), so you have plenty of options there.
Changing the upper receiver on mine proved to be quite problematic. I attempted to replace the upper with a G&P A2 style upper with a fixed carry handle, but the lower and upper did not meet and I was unable to attach them together. Further testing on this is needed, but it seems that the E&L upper is at least somewhat proprietary. I will return to this topic on another post once I have been able to do some more testing.
As mentioned before, I did do some small changes externally to the replica. The replica has a G&P RIS front end with a Knight’s Armament grip, and a crane style stock. The replica initially came with a more modern M4 style stock. For sights, I am using a Vector Optics red dot sight. Initially this replica was meant to be a loaner for friends, but now it has grown onto me so much that I will be using this as my primary. The overall feel is excellent, especially with the steel barrel. Though I replaced the original steel barrel for my RO727 build and added an aluminum barrel to the E&L replica, I bought another E&L steel outer barrel second hand and put it on. Just could not pass on a cheap offer and this replica really deserves that steel barrel.
In-game, this replica is a performer. Some will inevitably argue that it will need tuning, but for me it has performed within standards. Good range and accuracy can be achieved with it due to the hop-up combo, using BLS .3g BBs. The hop keeps its adjustment well.
The magazines, as I talked before, are something worth mentioning again. I replaced all my metal mid-cap magazines with the ones from E&L once I got this replica. The finishing on them is just magnificent compared to the ones I have used in the past. The color (yes, this is important to me as well) is rather accurate and seem to “age” well in use. The magazines are a bit more expensive, but if you are looking for some good metal USGI style mags, these get my vote. I have also tested them on my G&P replicas and they feed and sit very well. They might be a bit tight at first, but that will fix itself in-time. My G&P replicas have Prowin and Element Rotary hop-ups and the magazines work well with them.
Without giving any star ratings or other final marks, I will only say, recommended. If you are looking for a solid performer, consider these replicas. You cannot go wrong with them. Sure, they have their own issues, like the receiver wobble, but that can be the case with other replicas as well. E&L is a good manufacturer that has proven to be able to make some excellent AK replicas and their M4 line is no different. All replicas will need fixing in the end and I think that the E&L will serve well for many games to come. Plus comes from the quick spring change system and rotary hop-up, as well as the other features that are available on the Platinum series. Will I need to do anything with the replica in the future? Most likely, but if you are looking for a 100% perfect replica, you will be searching for a while. If the features and looks please you, go with it.
The replica is available from Milgear: E&L M4A1 (ELAR-MA1) Platinum