Replica Review: Tokyo Marui AKM GBBR

The Avtomat Kalashnikova Modernizirovannyj, AKA The Kalashnikov, AKA the AK. Quite simply, the most prolific firearm in history.


There’s an estimated 40 to 150 million AKs in existence, and that’s not even taking into account it’s relations; the Norinco Type 56, the AMD-65 and the Zastava M70 to name but a few…

Often confused with it’s slightly older brother the AK-47, It’s pretty much the first rifle that people think of when you say “Machine Gun” or “Assault Rifle”. The AK series is so prevalent and associated with conflict, that it’s become a symbol for insurrection, revolution and even occupation for more than a few countries.

Some countries (this flag being Mozambique’s) even feature it on their flag, which is a little bit disturbing.

The Marui AKM shouldn’t have been a massive shock when it was announced, but it still somehow managed to take most of us by surprise. Common sense suggests that an AK model is the logical counterpart to a range of AR GBBR replicas, and was the obvious choice for Marui’s next GBBR model.

So without further ado, let’s look at the GBBR AKM by Tokyo Marui.


The cardboard box that contains the Marui AKM gives the appearance of being much older than it is, intentionally making it look like it’s been left in some forgotten about store room for the last 50 years.

The appreciation of boxes is something that unites nerds with cats, and whilst I’d consider myself more than a little nerdy, I’ll spare you most of the details when it comes to how the AKM is packaged.

The basics are that you get the replica, a 35 round gas magazine, a loading tool (I’ll cover loading a little later in the review), an unjamming/cleaning rod, a muzzle cap, front sight adjustment tool, a small bag of ammo and some documentation (including a rather good instruction manual and parts list/breakdown).

A fabric wrap is also included to cover the rifle, it’s a bit of a gimmick but better than nothing if you want to protect the rifle from scratches and lack a suitable bag or case.

Overall, the box along with several foam backed stickers covering key points of wear do a great job of keeping it safe, mine arrived from Japan (Via Eagle6) without so much as a mark on the furniture or wood.


Externals

The muzzle, outer barrel and front sight are all zinc alloy castings, pretty standard stuff for Marui. The slanted muzzle device can be removed to reveal a 14mm Counter-Clockwise thread, another Marui standard and ideal for mounting most tracer units or suppressors.

The steel cleaning rod is retained under the barrel, sliding into a keeper and then into the handguard. I wouldn’t recommend you actually use this for your airsoft AKM, the plastic unjamming/cleaning rod supplied does a much better job and is far less likely to cause damage.

The foregrip is made from a polymer “resin” material, printed with the appearance of a wood grain to closely replicate the stained birch ply used on the real AKM. It’s not great, but it’s acceptable. Upon a casual glance it looks very much like a pristine, very well varnished dark red birch laminate. Ultimately though, it’s far too clean looking and I honestly doubt that real AKMs leave the factory in such a flawless condition.

The hand guard is affixed to the barrel in a similar manner to the real AKM, although they have included a spring on the rear of the lower hand guard to ensure it remains rattle free. I’ve been informed that real furniture can be made to fit, but be aware that due to the nature of this design, theres always likely to be more than just “plug and play” involved when straying from Marui parts.

Behind the front hand guard, sits the AKM’s breech block. This also happens to be the base for the rear sight and also houses the hop and barrel assembly whilst also providing an anchorpoint for the hand-guard trunnion assembly.

Onto the sights, The front sight is simply a pin, flanked by a pair of protective wings. On the real AKM this can be adjusted for both windage and elevation, but on this replica only elevation can be adjusted.

The rear sight is adjustable for range, with increments from “П” (battle zero) to an ambitious 1000m. Battle zero is absolutely fine for airsoft, you should be able to adjust the hop for a flat flight path that coincides with the sight allignment. Like with most airsoft AK models you can also find the sight being caught on load bearing gear and potentially broken… So be warned.

The receiver is a zinc alloy casting, which is a little disappointing given that CYMA can somehow retail an AK with wooden furniture and a stamped steel receiver set for about £100, but c’est la vie… We Marui customers are used to pot metal and plastic. I’m almost certain that aftermarket suppliers will meet the demand soon enough, but at what cost?

Faux rivets are reproduced into the sides and a fixed bracket is situated on the rear for the fitment of a full “wooden” stock. There are various markings and “stamps”, the markings on this particular model denote that it replicates a Russian AKM built in the Izhevsk factory.

The steel selector/safety stops the AKM from firing or even being cocked when in the uppermost position, it also acts as a dust cover preventing the ingress of dirt into the receiver. One click down is Automatic fire ‘АВ’ and the lowest setting is Semi-Automatic fire “AO”, with each position being distinct and held firmly in place with an audible click.

As with the selector, the top cover/dust cover is manufactured from stamped steel. The top cover slots into place behind the rear sight block, a sprung button attached to the recoil rod assembly keeps the rear of the cover locked into place. The AKM can also be fired without the cover attached, allowing you to show off your AKM’s superiority over other airsoft brand GBBRs to fellow nerds.

The trigger is one of the key improvements over the MWS M4 platform, a nice crisp single stage trigger with a predicable and rather smooth release from it’s sear, with an audible clunk as it hits the end of it’s travel. Having to spoken to a couple of owners who also have extensive time with other GBBR AK models, they all appear to agree that the Marui surpasses the WE and GHK in it’s trigger pull.

The trigger guard is also made from steel, but disappointingly the magazine release catch is a zinc alloy casting. However it should be noted that the magazine release is almost perfect in operation, it gives a reassuring click when a magazine is seated and the magazines do not wobble or rattle around, providing a nice consistent seal.

The pistol grip replicates the Bakelite type material used on the real AKM, made from plastic that is then printed, unlike the real one which is made from a glass reinforced phenolic resin. Being a GBBR, this is removable and can apparently be swapped out for a number of real steel aftermarket options such as Hogue, Magpul or Zenitco with minimal fuss, or for the traditionalists you could fix a real wood or Bakelite grip in place of Marui’s. It’s rather shiny, far more so than the real Bakelite grips I’ve seen. It looks more like tortoiseshell than Bakelite really… Very Gucci.

The stock is made from the same printed polymer material as used on the faux wooden handguard, and it’s this plastic furniture that’s the key point that people keep coming back to when deciding on whether to buy one or not. Whilst a genuine wooden stock and handguard might have been a more realistic option, Marui were hesitant to step outside their comfort zone and decided to stick with a material they know very well… Plastic.

The plastic they’ve used does an admirable job of replicating real wood, and indeed it fooled a couple of people at it’s debut game at Spartan Airsoft. Despite this, I can’t help but feel that a wooden furniture set would have been the icing on the cake.

The magazine is made from a single cast block of aluminium alloy, giving a noticeable heft to the replica and also minimising the potential for leaks. It’s well finished, lacking the sharp edges that AEG AK 7.62 x 39 magazines often have. I’ve grabbed three additional magazines which fit rather snug within a Haley or Spiritus Chest rig, although I am considering a dedicated chest rig for the AKM.

The magazine boasts a rather large gas reservoir, this is hobbled though by a long gas inlet tube. The length of this tube will limit the mount of “liquid” gas that you can transfer across from a bottle, and thus limit the overall capacity of the magazine. Some brave souls have cut their gas tubes in half, but for the purpose of review, mine has had to stay stock until the write up is complete (although this will be one of the first things I mess about with).

Internals

The bolt (and attached faux piston) is probably the most surprising aspect of the internals, a full length piston reaches all the way up to just short of where the gas port would sit on a real AKM. The bolt weighs an impressive 318g, giving the AKM a pronounced thump into your shoulder when firing.

The cylinder has a diameter of 19mm, providing the massive volume of gas required to cycle the massive lump of a bolt. This energy being so much of a concern to the design team, that a dampening buffer is installed onto the recoil rod assembly to help mitigate the recoil and prolong the life of the bolt assembly. Aftermarket parts are already finding their way onto the market, so I’m sure we’ll soon have a host of options for tweaking our AKMs however we wish.

A full length recoil spring is held by a split guide rod and bracket assembly, this same bracket links into the receiver and holds the dampening buffer, it also keeps the top cover in place by means of a latch that fits into a corresponding hole in the rear of the cover.

A visible hammer can be seen actuating the firing mechanism under the recoil rod and spring, a nice touch and something that really comes into it’s own when you’ve fired that last round.

The AKM uses a magazine actuated disconnector, preventing it from firing unless a round is chambered. But it’s far more special than a simple interruptor device, it actually allows the trigger to be pulled and the hammer to drop, producing a “dead mans click”.

To reload the AKM from a dropped hammer and empty chamber, you’ll need to insert a fresh magazine and charge the rifle again. It’s little things like this that make the Marui AKM so much fun to shoot, something that makes it that little different from my M4 and gives the replica it’s own character.

For those who want to dry fire the replica, a “dry fire mode” switch is accessed within the chamber. Simply pull the tab rear wards against it’s retaining spring and engage in either the normal or dry fire position, this engages the disconnector on the magazine when in normal, and is moved out of the way when in dry fire mode.

Loading the magazine is one of the things that gets easier with practice, but that isn’t to say that there are easier (and harder) ways to load a GBBR magazine. I’m personally a fan of the humble “pistol magazine” speed loader, with practice you’ll have those mags loaded faster with a GBB speed loader than with any other method. Loading with gas requires you to look at the valve and make sure you’re putting the can on it at the right angle, otherwise you risk damaging the valve.

The barrel is the standard VSR type GBBR/GBBP cut barrel used in virtually all of Marui’s gas powered replicas, and as such it also borrows the same hop rubber design. This gives owners a myriad of choices for hop and barrel combinations, way beyond the scope of the 200mm barrel included as stock.

Summary

The AKM is a whole lot of fun to shoot, from the action of cocking it, to shooting and reloading, it feels drastically different to most other airsoft guns on the market. Marui have spent serious time on this design, and it shows. There’s a level of polish and refinement on the design that quite simply blows the competition out of the water.

Cocking the AKM can feel a little sluggish on the return, this is more pronounced when the muzzle is pointed upwards. And I’d like the AKM to have a little bit more noise when the action is moved around, but these are minor niggles, when you’re actually shooting it, there’s plenty of noise and the seemingly weak recoil return spring keeps the rate of fire at a characteristic 600 or so rounds per minute.

So what about the downsides? Well, I’m genuinely struggling to find any issues with the performance. I can only comment on my own experiences which have been mostly positive, using the wind-free zeroing range at Rifleman’s Firearms I was able to consistently hit an A4 sheet of paper at 55yards.

I also ran the AKM at a recent game, my only issue actually being that I was on the very edge of running over my local site’s FPS limit due to the late summer heatwave that weekend. Range was certainly not an issue, I didn’t find myself at the mercy of anyone that day anyhow.

I won’t go into an in-depth breakdown of what FPS you should expect from your AKM as it can vary depending on the weather, the ammo, the gas and a multitude of other variables. I was hitting 312fps on average over a ten shot string (using ASG Ultrair Green Gas and .25 Green Devil ammo).

I would be hesitant to make any changes that I couldn’t measure the effects of before a game, certainly anything that could possibly put me up above the site limit. The best advice I can give any GBBR owner is; Buy yourself a GOOD chronograph. Certainly you’ll want to try out that new 410mm tight-bore before taking it anywhere, because you might find yourself being asked kindly (or not kindly at some sites) to leave it in the car.

The biggest question you have to ask when buying the Marui AKM is; Do I care more about how it looks or how it shoots? Because the sad truth is, you can either have a very rugged looking GBBR AKM that is an average at best performer such as the WE or GHK, or you can have an AKM that shoots incredibly well, as is the case with the Marui AKM.

The reliability and performance of the Marui comes at the unfortunate trade off of having to deal with faux wood furniture and zinc alloy parts that WILL mark, wear and degrade in a different way to genuine wood or steel. The steel and wood of a GHK or VFC/CYMA comes at the expense of well, being a little bit shit to use in a game or being an AEG without a soul.

To sum up the overall look and feel of this replica, I’d say that it’s closer to an AKM owned by a sentimental Russian oligarch rather than the personal weapon of your typical Mujahideen. I’ve already dinged mine on the muzzle, front sight and stock and although it doesn’t look horrendous (yet), it will probably look a fair amount more battered in 12 months time.

Whereas the GHK, WE and even CYMA are well served by a bit of abuse, the Tokyo Marui AKM simply doesn’t have that ruggedness of it’s competitors. The plastic will start to show through wherever you’ve worn down the faux wood effect, you might even be unfortunate enough to crack the stock or chip a bit of the hand-guard off… But ultimately, you’ll be fighting from day one if you’re adamant about maintaining that pristine finish thats it comes with.

My advice is, don’t bother… Use it, treat it as a toy rather than a collectible. Have fun with it and ultimately, go out and use it in front of the peasants with their AEG AKs and the capitalist pigs with their MWS M4s, show the lowly WE and GHK AK users how a GBBR AK should perform and save up your pennies for a real wood kit, because trust me… it’s coming.

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