Replica Review – Tokyo Marui M4A1 SOPMOD (Next Generation Recoil Shock)

Sometimes it’s so obvious that you forget it’s right in front of you.. Thats certainly true of the one item I’ve had for many years but haven’t reviewed… It took Rich (Of The Reptile House Blog) to point out to me that there was a glaring omission from my ever growing list of reviewed kit… One so central to many of my other reviews that I’m almost duty bound to give you a rambling account of how it’s served me and shape into something resembling a review!

The Tokyo Marui M4A1 SOPMOD, Not the older version made of plastic but the redesigned Next Generation Recoil Shock (NGRS) replica which has now become so commonplace that it sometimes feels that you see nothing but TM Recoils on the UK playing fields. I’ve owned a few and actually had three Recoils at one point… I’ve since scaled back the collection and the one that stayed was the first one I bought… Not because it performed better, Indeed the 416D and AK102 both shot just as well, But you can’t turn either into anything else… An M4 base offers much more in terms of customisation.

I originally bought mine in the run up to Christmas 2014, Up until that point I’d been using a VFC 416D and a G&P M16A4 for a number of years.

A retailer was selling up all their stock and given the choice between practically all of the models on offer, I decided on the SOPMOD for a number of reasons… The main one being that I like the bog standard M4A1 look and after a couple of years with a 416 I craved a design I could adapt to a number of roles… And boy, I sure did change it up.

So, upon opening the box I had my first look at this handsome looking replica. There’s something immensely gratifying about how Marui package their replicas… Certainly their Next-Gen replicas are well presented and look great in the box. Retained by velcro straps I eagerly took out the M4 and had a proper look. However, one key thing had to be done before I could use it… Marui developed the SOPMOD to use a proprietary battery system contained within the stock, without the ability to use the buffer tube for battery storage you either have to front wire your replica or get very damn creative with how you store your battery. The most common adjustment is to take out the contact bars that run power from the stock onto the buffer tube and solder a pair of wires onto them with a Deans connection. this allows you to instantly use any battery pack that’ll fit inside a crane stock… Great upgrade and one of the few “essential” mods to any SOPMOD/416 Recoil… However, There are other ways of installing a battery in a replica.

As far as upgrades go, The recoil series of replicas don’t actually need anything to be extremely competitive out the box. People might focus on its relatively low FPS out of the box, But that’d be a mistake. Tokyo Marui have a reputation for only caring about their domestic market, And up to a point that’d be true… Their lack of direct interaction with any business or distributor outside of Japan is one most likely borne out of necessity than convenience… The biggest market outside of Japan is the US which is a notoriously tough market to crack and without considerable spend it’s likely to be out-marketed by its established, US represented competitors. “But Tokyo Marui have been around for 30 years!!! Why didn’t they do it years ago… Before there was even competition?”. Well, Same answer… A big expenditure and a high chance of failure. Add this to the fact that Tokyo Marui place unlicensed trademarks on all their replicas and it leads to solid reasoning that they wouldn’t want to take on any liability. The Japanese are rather insular, As far as non domestic copyright is concerned it’s seen more as guidelines than actual rules…

So performance… Well it’s been a long time since my Recoil has been what you could call “out the box” but having said that, I’ve made surprisingly few changes. Out the box you can expect an FPS just shy of the 300 mark, Range is good at around 50m and consistency is above average… you’ll accurately place shots time after time in the same location (conditions permitting) and it’s certainly accurate enough to warrant a decent optic that you can zero in.

The main feature of the recoil shock series is the haptic feedback you get from firing each shot. The piston being connected to a sprung weight in the buffer tube causes a noticeable jolt each time the weapon cycles, a nice touch and one that’s lacking in the majority of replicas on the market. I wouldn’t go as far to say that the jolt feels in any way like recoil… The movement is far too soft and biased towards a forward moving impulse.

The second, arguably more desirable feature is that once the final shot has been fired from a loaded magazine, The replica will cease to cycle until the “bolt release” has been activated.

The way in which this is done is via a lever on the rear of the magazine which once empty will travel upwards and engage with a mechanism which engages with the cutoff lever inside the gearbox. It’s certainly a refreshing feature to have, certainly if your not used to it. As it stands, Only a handful of electrically powered replicas have this feature… ASG’s Scorpion EVO 3 line, KWA’s ERG Platform, Systema’s PTW range and a scarce few others have offered.

However, The key benefit of buying a Tokyo Marui replica is that unlike so many others, they are built to a high standard… Sometimes from questionable materials, but cast and machined to such a degree that when put together with care and ability (as the TM factory consistently does) you get a replica so consistent alongside its peers that you could unbox and shoot 100 replicas with no issues and no real difference in performance… Something I’d challenge any other manufacturer to be able of doing.

So compatibility wise, The NGRS line uses a combination of AEG and proprietary NGRS parts… the gearbox itself and everything inside it is specific to the recoil line. There are “upgrades” available but in all honesty half of these are unnecessary for most builds, I’ll go into this a little further but before I do, Here’s a breakdown of the main components and their compatibility.

AEG Compatible:

  • Inner Barrel
  • Hop up rubber
  • Pistol grip (some fitment issues with certain grips)
  • Motor (AEG Long shaft type)
  • Receiver front rail/D-ring thread
  • Muzzle (14mm CCW)
  • NGRS Specific
    • Outer barrel
      Buffer tube thread and castle nut
      Upper and Lower receiver
      Magazine release
      Bolt release
      Gearbox (Including all internals)
      Hop unit
      Main spring
  • So, Upgrades… A subject of much contention. I’ll start by saying that there’s a lot of justification put forward for many of the upgrades offered by the likes of SHS, Prometheus, Magic Box, Seigetek and more recently… Nuprol (Or as it’s more commonly called… Nurpol, haha). However, Most of the justification is either from those who are selling and those who have bought said products… It’s rare to find someone who’s broken a recoil and then shouted about it… The reason being it’s pretty hard to break a recoil running at sub 350 muzzle velocities.
  • Based upon my personal experience, the majority of “upgrades” are bought based upon the assumptions that a stock TM is lacking in either ability or durability… Well in my experience, A stock TM is more than able to handle itself in both areas, Even once a spring has been swapped out to something a little more powerful. I’ve personally been running an Eagle 6 M100 for the last 4 years on stock gears, piston and a stock set of nylon bushings that show zero wear even after many thousands of rounds.
  • So what have I actually changed in mine? Well not too much internally… A Black Talon Concepts Spectre ECU (Electrical Control Unit) helps shorten an already good response time on the trigger… The pre-cocking in particular provides an incredible difference in feel. Both versions of the BTC Spectre will give you the same end results, The newer version offering Bluetooth control and programming alongside an updated board and a few more fire selector options, The most useful being that now the burst modes can be set as interruptible (If you’ve ever double tapped 6 rounds into someone by mistake, go ahead and hit that subscribe button…).
  • Versions aside, The BTC Spectre is a recommended purchase… Not essential but certainly worth having of your able to score one at a reasonable price.
  • Another upgrade, One made virtually on day one is the aforementioned inclusion of an Eagle 6 M100 spring. The length of an NGRS spring is shorter than that of a standard AEG, Meaning that by putting in a standard AEG spring you risk damaging the replica, Even if you clip it shorter there is a chance of failure. For the cost that Eagle 6 charge, it’s worth buying one that’s made specifically for the platform.
  • I’d just like to clarify that whilst I’d certainly choose the same additions to a future recoil build, they are by no means an essential purchase. I’ve seen many a NGRS soldier on for years and remain effective against its opponents. So what else did TM change? Well, A lot… Quite frankly they looked at their V2 system and made it a lot easier to work on. Practically all the springs are now able to be de-tensioned and the whole box can be put together far easier than a conventional V2 box.
  • In addition to the gearbox, A rotary type hop unit now allows for a consistent and easily adjustable hop (The TM hop fairies got a hell of an upgrade) the feed tube for the hop is now significantly shorter which allows a realistic length on the magazine, in addition to its near correct sizing it’ll now feed to the last round… Even a tactical reload will only result in a single or at most 2 bbs dropping, not the usual 4!
  • The main reason for choosing the M4 SOPMOD was that with practically little work, It can be changed externally to become anything from a Mk12 or M16 to a Mk18 or L119, It’s much more of a blank canvas than say a 416 or G36… In the 4 years I’ve owned the SOPMOD it’s undergone many facelifts… L119, M4 Block 1/1.5/2, Mk18 Mod 0/1, SPR Mk12 Mod 1… The ability of this platform to become whatever you want is amazing. I’ve even seen builds where the entire upper is re-crafted into an A2 upper with an integral carry handle, all whilst keeping the fundamental benefits of the NGRS system.
  • So is it a justifiable purchase? Does it live up to the hype? Well that’s a personal question and one that’s only answerable by the individuals who buy them… I’ll say this much though, You don’t see many people migrating away from the NGRS platform. You might get a Recoil owner buy a non recoil gun, But generally it’s in addition to, not in replacement of the Marui.
  • Do I think Marui’s are exceptional? Well, No. I think the level of quality is what should be a standard across the board, certainly when you’re looking at the more expensive end of the market. I also think that Marui are only regarded as exceptional due to the shortcomings of other manufacturers who don’t take the same level of care in their products but still charge premium prices. I’d like to see other manufacturers challenge Marui for the crown… VFC manufacture some incredibly good looking externals but their GBBRs are pretty poor in performance and AEG wise you don’t get exceptional performance. GBLS have pushed innovation in Airsoft far further than others in recent years but still haven’t worked out the final few tweaks needed to become a market leader. ASG has also taken a step forward with their Scorpion EVO III line, However the lack of developing further replicas with the same technology feels like they’re content with a single step forward… Not a two footed jump. A massive shame as if the CZ 805 BREN was made to the same spec as the EVO I’d have bought one by now.
  • So should you buy one? Not because I’m telling you to, There’s nothing worse than a TM Fanboy or a sheep for that matter… Anything that costs £500 should make you pause, Spend a little time on research and make an informed choice. Far too many people buy things for the wrong reasons and there’s plenty of second hand Recoils out there that prove my point.
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