In the eternal quest to find a replica that satisfies my desire to have something relatively realistic whilst remaining a functional Airsoft weapon I’ve ploughed thousands into various models, manufacturers and indeed systems of operation. Discounting the obvious Tokyo Marui Recoil Shock series, of which I’ve owned a few of (And still use to this day), there’s a number of makes and platforms I’ve trialled to find an acceptable balance of form, function and the little details that help bridge the ever present gap between Airsoft and Firearms.
From the reliable, yet ultimately unsatisfying AEG to the Satisfying yet Unreliable WE GBBR series (Before you guys kick off, let’s be honest… In a line up of 10 WE GBBR Rifles there’s gonna be a lemon, possibly 2. Thats not acceptable when it comes to the not insignificant outlay for a GBBR, I expect consistency when I spend my hard earned money and so should you).
The other systems I’ve dabbled in are the GHK/G&G V2 drop in gas conversion kit, The WE Katana series and the Celcius DTW. There’s a number of systems I’ve not used for a variety of reasons… If we look at the two big elephants in the room, Professional Training Weapons and High Pressure Air, both are fantastic when working and have their unique selling points, but PTWs are inherently expensive, and out the box need tinkering to perform to an acceptable level and HPA generally means running around with a hose attached to your replica… not something I’m a fan of (its growing on me for certain applications though)
When Marui revealed the MWS a couple of years ago I’ll admit I was preoccupied with my recoil collection, however I did want a chance to have a play with one. The opportunity to do that only presented itself about a year ago at a local site in the Devonshire hills, An acquaintance who happens to be a bit of a kindred spirit in our shared appreciation for particular replicas and gear had an MWS “SOPMOD” with a couple of mags… An inspired choice given that this is very much your typical Skirmish site, with it not being unusual for a fair few players to load up with half a dozen high caps and run out of ammunition in the first game. The idea of going against this lot with a 30 round mag seemed ill prepared. I asked for a quick go with it and traded Recoil for MWS, we were both impressed with me planting the seed for him to buy a Recoil and for me to grab a ZET System GBBR.
Time goes by and priorities shift, I’m a bit spontaneous when it comes to buying guns and gear, and it just so happened I’d have a fair bit of money spare from my Christmas bonus and the sale of a TM NGRS 416D I couldn’t justify keeping.
After much deliberation between the MWS, the M4A1 and the CQBR I decided on the shorter option, the idea being I can easily add an extension but a new barrel is far more expensive.
Within a day it two it arrived, followed closely by a delivery of magazines and assorted goodies. I was very impressed, amongst other replicas this stands out as a very special Airsoft gun. From the cerakote finish to the weight, this feels like an actual firearm. The action is smooth but has a level of resistance you’d expect to find in a real weapon, the controls are positive, click firmly into place and do not have that toy feel you’d associate with most Airsoft replicas.
The stock ZET System CQBR comes with the following accessories, although for most people these will soon be swapped out:
- Crane style stock
- KAC style RAS Rail
- Cut down carry handle type rear sight
- KAC “Broomhandle” style foregrip
- A2 type pistol grip
- Rail guard (more about this below)
Starting at the back, the buffer tube is dimensionally identical to a Recoil Shock, as is the castle nut. The supplied crane stock appears to be a re-purposed Recoil stock complete with space for the contact bars to be fed into, Ive even donated my stock to my buddy “Cheese” as his CQBR recoil came with a VLTOR type stock which wouldn’t have suited the build he wanted. The benefit of this being the same as a Recoil is that the NGRS wrench by Laylax and indeed any other stock will fit as well as it would on a Recoil. I’ve opted to put on a Magpul MOE stock as it’s a stock I’ve always liked and it’s relatively cheap. Another Magpul item is the RVG at the front of the replica, lightweight and the perfect size it’s a hard one to beat when looking at pure function.
The next part of the replica is the receiver, very similar is some ways to the NGRS but a few key differences, firstly the Cerakote… this offers a thin yet tough as nails coating to the weapon and prevents minor wear and tear from prematurely making your M4 look like it’s been abused.
Compared to the NGRS its close, but the GBBR looks a touch better.
The trades are all on there, Including the gunsmith forge markings no one, save the truly geeky can decipher.
Also the whole weapon is skinny… AEGs require a certain amount of additional room on the inside, firearms and GBBRs do not… another benefit to those who require a 1/1 replica. A very nice touch and one I’m shocked isn’t as standard on all TM replicas is the retained Lower Receiver/Trigger Mechanism Housing (TMH) Pins, These make losing pins nigh on impossible… plus they appear to be made out of a hardened steel, As far as I’m aware there are no spares for this part despite the rapidly growing MWS community, so that in itself shows they are probably better than the Next Gen ones.
Onto the controls themselves, the fire selector is positive to the touch and true to the genuine article will not allow the weapon to be put in safe without the action primed, the selector itself only going 45 degrees towards safe. It takes a bit of getting used to as an Airsofter, but I’m sure there are many people out there who might see this as one of many little reasons to consider buying this replica.
The other massive difference is that the selector goes all the way through the receiver, the Fire selector mode being indicated on the right hand side of the M4. It would have been nice to see an ambidextrous selector supplied but there are a few aftermarket options available.
The bolt release is a standard affair, give it a slap and the working parts go forward, it takes a little more effort than the recoil version but having been lucky enough to play with a couple of AR15 type firearms before, I can attest that the real one takes a firm slap/press to work.
The forward assist… usually just a plunger in a cylinder with a roll pin and spring to keep it in place, serving zero purpose on pretty much every airsoft replica… Not here! Although your never likely to need it (unless you allow crap to creep in the receiver between the mock bolt and the upper) a thump on the button will force the whole bolt forwards incrementally, using the ridges designed for this very purpose on the right side of the bolt… It’s a nice little touch (and another of those little things people might put on their “for and against” list)
The trigger… some have complained about its lack of feel… I have no issues with it, although for Precision long range shooting a two stage trigger is preferable, a simple pull is all I really want from an Airsoft rifle. There are “upgrade” units available but unless it’s broken I’d suggest you leave it alone.
The magazine release is by far the best I’ve used, and again… It’s not ambidextrous but there are options available (I’ll be buying one soon, I’ve lived with an ambi release on the Mk18 for too long to not have one again!) the magazine inserts with a positive snap, and ejects freely from the well once the button is pushed firmly. Whilst in the receiver there is no undue wobble (which could cause poor performance with the gas seal) and the magazine doesn’t ever feel at risk of falling out.
The front assembly is where things start to differ in construction from the recoil series, although it would have been easy enough that cheat and simply port over the whole front end, Tokyo Marui have resolved what is to many an old and frustrating issue.
The D-Ring assembly is now sprung using a much better compound spring, along with a bigger bolt holding the collar on, which seems to be less prone to stripping its threads than the recoil version (a common issue for the uninitiated and aspiring techs).
The same gas tube attachment to the rail provides additional security, especially as the gas tube is secured into a recess in the front of the upper. The Gas block/Fore sight fits onto two retaining pins and an additional grub screw in the bottom. The barrel itself is fitted to the upper by way of a brass collar which does unfortunately allow for a degree of movement should the barrel be installed incorrectly, however it’s rock solid (like, too solid) once in place and ago don’t ever cause issues once your desired barrel/rail/hop combination is installed.
The package is finished off with the aforementioned KAC type RAS and a replica KAC M4QD Flash hider (not the same as on the recoil, the lack of grub screw means you must correctly “time” the flash hider or it’ll look odd. The RAS is similar (If not identical) to the recoil version, this in itself is good as the recoil RAS is well made and rock solid with the new barrel and gas tube fitment.
The A2 type grip is slim and comfortable, it’s one of the early indicators that your holding onto a gas replica, the trigger guard doesn’t move either which can be a pain in the arse. I’m possibly moving to a BCM gunfighter Mod 0/1 with a Magpul trigger guard soon although that’s purely due to the angle on the grip and the look of the Magpul guard, not because I see a flaw in the stock component.
The rear sight isn’t something I’m fond of, I prefer full carry-handles or small flip up sights, although if your looking to build an early Mk18 Mod 0 then it wouldn’t look out of place, for an “American Sniper” loadout. I’ve opted to switch to a Holosun HS403C optic with TM repro KAC 300m BUIS (this in my opinion is what should have been on there from the factory… low profile, wide aperture, definitely legit), the reasons for the switch are that a red dot, especially a good red dot will aid in quick shots on target. Most Chinese clones are garbage and can barely be used outside of near perfect conditions, a good bit of glass will work in any condition. A BUIS shouldn’t ever need to be used and I’ve been told by a guy based at Ft. Bragg that it’s no longer the norm due to the increases in optic reliability. I’ll be keeping this on though as with nothing rear of the sight it looks a little bare. I’d love to stick an Eotech on there, even something old school like a 552 but budget limitations mean that’s on hold for a while.
The only other addition is an FMA CQD type sling mount, chosen because it matches up to the rear sling plate and it’s a direct representation of my Recoil based Mk18, therefore making it easy to transfer across my H&K clip equipped sling.
I’ve kept the little plastic tab which stops the mag well hitting the rail upon releasing the rear TMH pin, its not tacticool but it does serve a purpose.
I’ve had it in the guise of a Mk18 Mod 1 with the intention of having 2 identically laid out rifles, one for night ops and another for day. From the outside its a silly idea but it does work, however I didn’t like the colour of the madbull rail and decided that returning it to its traditional KAC format would be the way forwards. I’ve also dabbled with an old school loadout for long games in the woods with a carry handle and nylon hand guard, but the near stock configuration is where I feel the best route lies.
Performance is crisp, on a warm day it’s positively ferocious… With the sum total of 150 shots it still never feels like your outgunned, Sure… AEGs and HPA gats might have a seemingly unlimited amount of shots, but the accountability of each pull of the trigger makes you pick your fights, from deciding on where to head into the game all the way to that moment you decide to pull the trigger or wait another second for a better shot.
Heading inside the replica, theres a full size mock bolt. I wont go into details on how the ZET System works… I don’t know the details of whats different about the ZET system, I just know the sound it makes when I pew a man.
The truth is that I’ve not stripped it, have no plans to and if I should ever need to then somethings broken already. I’m pretty good about keeping the essential bits cleaned and oiled, I’m certainly no stranger to the regimen of cleaning a gas weapon (Although the weapon was filthy when these photos were taken post game).
With this replica, its a straight forward process to strip… tap out the rear pin to the first click, break the rifle and then pull the charging handle and bolt through the rear just like a real M4. cleaning the barrel is then straight forward and easy to inspect. Putting it back together is a mirror image, save for the buffer weight needing a slight push rearwards with a spare finger to allow the upper to snap home.
The hop unit itself is in the top of the upper receiver, adjusted either by stripping down this far or nimbly with a gentle motion with a flat object once the working parts are held to the rear.
Now i’m not foolish enough to start a debate between the warring clans of WE, GHK and TM but I will say this… If your looking for a skirmish-able GBBR, put this system on your shortlist. Its performance is akin to that of the MP7 but with more gas in the tank, the parts support is great and with retailers such as Eagle6 and Fire-Support offering a wide range of spares and accessories your safe in the knowledge that there is the ability to change out to a different look and be a special snowflake. I’ve seen M16A4s (Check out Badabings review) and Mk12s built from this platform and it lends itself well to both CQB and long range builds.
So, Is the juice worth the squeeze? Well, Its now become my primary weapon… the recoil Mk18 has been consigned to the back up pile and the painful truth is that it might not be used regularly ever again.