If you’ve served in the military, or are just interested in military history, then you’ve likely heard of the M4. The M4 is the most popular rifle in the U.S. military. This popularity has crossed over into the world of airsoft weaponry as well.
Looking to find the best M4 airsoft gun but don’t know where to start? This complete guide to M4 airsoft guns includes all the features you should look for, as well as full reviews for five M4 airsoft guns. We even picked out the M4 airsoft gun we think is the overall best value.
The five M4 airsoft rifles we reviewed are:
- Soft Air COLT M4 CQB Full Metal AEG
- BBTac M4 RIS Fully Automatic Electric AEG Rifle
- Heckler & Koch 2279042 H and K 416
- G&G CM16 Combat Machine Raider RIS M4 CQB AEG Airsoft Gunlan
- Lancer Tactical Full Metal Gear
Let’s take an in-depth look at everything you need to know about the M4 airsoft gun:
The History of the M4 Airsoft Gun
The M4 is a shorter, lighter version of the M16 assault rifle. Used throughout all branches of the United States Armed Forces, the M4 is an air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed carbine. The barrel is 14.5 inches and the rifle has a telescoping stock.
Many airsoft enthusiasts prefer an airsoft M4. After all, most military personnel are already familiar with the M4. So they’re comfortable operating the airsoft version of the weapon.
Plus, the M4 is a great “all around” rifle. You can find rifles which shoot greater distances. You can find rifles which have larger magazines. You can find rifles which are more lightweight. But the M4 blends distance, magazine size, portability and a host of other features.
The M4 isn’t necessarily the best at any one thing, but the blending of many useful features creates a rifle where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The M4 airsoft rifle is the same way. The rifle is popular precisely because it performs well in a huge variety of different situations and conditions.
Types of M4 Airsoft Rifles
Not all airsoft rifles are the same. There are three different classifications. The distinctions are based on how the rifle is powered.
Spring-powered airsoft rifles require a manual pump before each shot can be fired. These rifles generally have relatively low velocity. Plus, you won’t be able to get a particularly high rate of fire because the rifle needs to be cocked before each shot.
Gas powered rifles are powered by a cartridge inserted into the rifle, often somewhere in the handle. Gas-powered rifles can use either propane, C02 or Green Gas (which is a combination of propane and silicone).
Gas-powered rifles are usually stronger than a spring-powered rifle. But there are drawbacks. Gas cartridges can be expensive. You’ll likely go through two or three in a full day of shooting. Plus, gas cartridges, especially for high-end rifles, are usually only found at airsoft specialty stores.
Electric guns are often the strongest guns. They also usually have the highest rate of fire. These airsoft guns are powered by batteries. These batteries can be either regular ones like you’d find in all sorts of stores or special battery packs.
Spring-powered guns are usually the cheapest and least powerful. They also have a relatively slow rate of fire. You can find spring-loaded airsoft guns in many sporting goods and toy stores. This type of gun is often a good choice for younger shooters and people who don’t have much experience with guns.
Gas and electric guns are more powerful. In many cases, these guns will have a high rate of fire. Some guns are either semi or fully automatic. Electric guns in particular are often the choice by those who play competitive airsoft games.
The Most Common Uses of an M4 Airsoft Rifle
So, what do people use these guns for? There are three common categories:
- Recreational competition
- Wildlife control
Let’s take a deeper look at each one:
People get together to play games with their M4 airsoft rifles. This is similar to paintball. The main difference is that airsoft guns shoot round, plastic ball-bearings. These plastic BB’s will certainly sting. But as long as you’re wearing proper safety gear there’s a very minimal risk for injury.
Airsoft competitions are team-based. The most common game is a Team Deathmatch. This is just a name, of course. Nobody’s life is actually on the line. In TDM, players have a set number of hits they can take. The winning team is the one with the last person left “alive.”
Besides these “last man standing” team games, other games include Capture the Flag, Free-for-all (no teams) and Dominion (where teams have to hold a certain point). There are a variety of airsoft games out there to choose from.
While the matches can certainly be competitive, overall airsoft enthusiasts are a fun bunch. You’ll likely make some new friends. Plus, these matches are great exercise and also a great excuse to spend some time outdoors.
Unlike paintball, where shots leave a visible mark, airsoft battles depend heavily on the honor system. Even with protective gear, getting shot with an airsoft BB will still sting. Having a non-reaction to being shot is pretty much impossible, which also helps keep players honest on the field.
Airsoft battles can take place indoors and out. Outdoors is probably the most popular setting. People play in woodlands, swamps, snow-covered areas and basically anywhere else.
Team members usually each have a specialized role. You could be a sniper, scout, etc. Each person will usually carry a primary weapon (such as an M4), a sidearm and a walkie-talkie. Additionally, you’ll be covered head-to-toe in protective gear including:
- Lightweight body armor
- Elbow and knee pads
- A mask or face cloth
- Military-style boots
- Goggles or safety glasses
Protect your eyes! Eye injuries are the number one type of airsoft-related injury. While the phrase “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” has become a bit of a joke, these injuries are actually a very real possibility. So wear safety glasses every time you use an airsoft rifle.
Whether you live in the inner city or way out in the middle of nowhere, you’ll likely have to deal with unwanted wildlife at some point. These could be rats or raccoons rummaging through your garbage cans or coyotes and mountain lions threatening your livestock.
Depending on the caliber of the gun and the type of animal you’re shooting at, airsoft BBs can be either lethal or non-lethal. A non-lethal solution is obviously more humane, plus you don’t have to worry about body disposal. Plus, you can fire an airsoft gun in a city or suburb without attracting much attention from your neighbors.
Other times, you might want a stronger gun for hunting small game. You’ll want to check your local laws to make sure this allowed. Of course, you never want to shoot at any neighborhood pets.
Airsoft rifles can only be purchased by those over the age of 18. But they can legally be used by anyone. This is because they’re not legally classified as firearms.
Many people use airsoft guns as a way to help teens and pre-teens learn about gun safety. An airsoft rifle can have a realistic look and feel. At the same time, an accident involving an airsoft rifle is unlikely to turn into a catastrophe.
As with a regular rifle, maintenance is important to ensure correct function. Students can learn the basics of how a gun works.
What Features Should You Consider
Not all M4 airsoft guns are alike. When shopping, here’s what you want to consider:
Velocity – How fast is the BB propelled through the barrel? A high velocity gives you greater accuracy. Note that higher velocities are also more powerful. Most high-velocity guns are going to be either gas or electric powered.
Optimization – Some rifles have rails which you can use to attach scopes, flashlights, laser sights and other accessories. If you’re really serious about airsoft competition, you’ll likely want the ability to add features.
Power type – If you’re going to play competitively, you’ll likely want an electric powered rifle. This will give you the highest rate of fire. If you’re just going to shoot at targets in your backyard, a spring-powered rifle will be your best bet.
Realism – Many people want an M4 rifle which is a near-perfect replica of the real thing. This includes not only the look of the rifle but also the feel when firing. C02 powered rifles will usually provide the most realistic kick when shooting.
Reviews of Top 5 M4 Airsoft Guns
- Officially licensed Colt M4 CQB AEG replica
- Metal outer barrel, upper receiver and lower receiver
- Steel gears and metal gear box
- Removable metal rear sight
- Includes battery and charger
- Six position adjustable crane stock
- Durable and well-suited for outdoor use
- Unavailable for New York residents
- Many users will want to purchase additional magazines
- Shot velocity of 330 to 340 feet per second with .12g BBs
- Flip-up front and rear sights
- Semi and fully automatic options
- Quad Weaver/Picatinny rail and monolithic top rail
- Barrel is not threaded
- Max distance with .20 gram BB’s is around 75 yards
- Polymer material is not as strong as metal
- Many users will want to buy a fore grip and larger magazine
- Three operation modes: Automatic firing, semi-auto and safety
- 1:1 scale replica
- Powerful velocity of 220 to 240 feet per second
- ABS plastic gearbox with adjustable hop up
- No assembly required
- Includes rechargeable battery with wall chargers
- Includes flashlight and red dot scope
- Designed to be a complete “all in one” package for airsoft newbies
- Plastic body isn’t as durable as metal
- Front sight lacks grooves for barrel attachments
- 16000rpm high torque motor
- Durable and long-lasting polymer construction reinforced with nylon
- Crane stock has six positions
- Version two gearbox with full-metal reinforced construction
- Switch fire mechanism is on right side, which is inconvenient for lefties
- While polymer construction isn’t as strong as metal
- Float keymod rail allows for easily mounted accessories
- Flip up sight system
- Metal outer barrel
- Front and rear flip sights
- Ball bearing spring guide reduces tension on the spring cycles
- Includes 8.4volt Nunchuck battery, wall charger and cleaning rod
- Semi-auto fire can cause gearbox seizing
- Battery wires can come loose from motor
Our top choice is the Soft Air COLT M4 CQB Full Metal AEG.
When shopping for an airsoft M4, you want a rifle which is comparable in quality to the real thing. This replica colt matches the M4 in look, weight, accuracy and power. Made primarily with metal and steel, this rifle will hold up even after repeated use in harsh outdoor conditions.
The G&G CM16 is a solid, powerful airsoft rifle but the ABS plastic isn’t as strong as the Colt’s construction.
However, if you’re looking for a powerful, accurate replica rifle which will last for a long time even with heavy use, the Colt M4 is what we recommend.