Tokyo Marui SOCOM M4a1 Recoil Shock – First Look and Internals Review

Pretty, no?

Pretty, no?

“Really, Dizzy, another M4? Why!?

That’s what my wallet would say if it could talk. Good thing for me that it can’t, because when this package came up for sale on ASC for a more than reasonable price, I jumped on it, wallet be damned. It was too good of a deal to pass up.

“But what makes this M4 different from every other M4 out there?”

Well you see, dear wallet, this is a Tokyo Marui next-gen recoil shock AEG.

First impressions of the important features of my new toy, as well as pics of the internals after the first breakdown, after the break.

For those not in the know, the Next Generation line of Tokyo Marui AEGs is TM’s latest attempt to revamp the AEG as we know it. The two major new features of this next gen design are a working bolt catch and combination blowback/recoil system. Obviously, the first thing I did when the package got to me was test out those two features. Some observations:

  1. The bolt catch system works as advertised – when the last round is fired from the (proprietary) magazine, a small lever attached to the follower on the back of the mag pushes up on a lever inside the magwell (in a similar fashion to the Systema PTW). This lever pushes on another lever which engages the cut-off lever in the gearbox. Thus, an empty mag keeps the gun from firing until a fresh mag is inserted or the bolt release is pushed down, releasing the cut-off lever. It’s actually quite ingenious, and is done completely mechanically (as opposed to electronically, like the PTW).
    Pictured: the TM's bolt catch/cutoff mechanism. The empty mag pushes on two levers which activate the cut-off lever inside the gearbox, keeping it from shooting.

    Pictured: the TM’s bolt catch/cutoff mechanism. The empty mag pushes on two levers which activate the cut-off lever inside the gearbox, keeping it from shooting.

    The working bolt catch/cutoff, as with the PTW, makes reloads a lot more fun as the gun stops shooting on an empty mag and you fumble around for a reload before jamming it in and pressing the bolt catch. As a PTW owner I’m already well used to this feature, but it’s nice to see it replicated in AEG form with a significantly simpler mechanism.

  2. The blowback and recoil systems are both activated by movement of the piston. The back of the gearbox contains an opening which actuates the blowback unit on top of the gearbox, while the piston’s rearward movement actuates a long pusher rod connected to the recoil weight housed in the buffer tube, resulting in movement of the recoil weight and the AEG’s felt recoil.
    The blowback unit rests above the gearbox and is connected to the charging handle. In the background is the recoil unit/spring guide.

    The blowback unit rests above the gearbox and is connected to the charging handle. In the background is the recoil unit/spring guide.

    Recoil is nowhere near a GBBR, but is significantly heavier (and way more satisfying to shoot) than the standard AEG blowback systems where the “recoil” is limited to the bolt cover moving back and forth. The movement is significant enough to force a firm grip on the gun if you don’t want your shots to be flying everywhere. I would hesitate to call it true “recoil”; it’s really more of a strong back-and-forth vibration with every shot that is strong enough to let you know that the gun is being fired.

    The gun is particularly fun to shoot in full auto, and doing so brings a smile to my face.

  3. The gun is very easy to work on – once you actually get to the gearbox. Breakdown is similar to most M4 AEGs – pop the front receiver pin, slide the upper receiver off. However, there are a lot of small parts to keep track of, particularly in the bolt release and blowback mechanisms, and you would do well to remember how these parts go back together to save yourself some time and frustration later on.

    The gearbox, once opened, is very much an updated V2 design. Observe:

    Like a V2, but better!

    Like a V2, but better!

    Note the generally similar layout to the traditional V2 box. Note also the elongated tappet plate, cut-off lever, and air nozzle. Aside from the cylinder, everything else is proprietary to the TM next-gen design.

    The gearbox should be very easy to work on for someone who’s done any work with V2 boxes. It’s is also extremely easy to put together, since the back is open-ended and thus you don’t have to squeeze the spring into the cylinder when closing the box (we all know how frustrating that is). This same feature also means the gun essentially has a quick spring change feature, since screwing the buffer tube off gives you full access to the back of the gearbox. Swapping springs should take about five minutes or less – note, however, that the springs used in the Next-Gen models are smaller than normal AEG springs (from what I hear, you can cut down normal AEG springs to fit, but it’s an inexact science).

    There is also a cutout for the anti-reversal latch, so no more fiddling with it to ensure it stays in place when closing the box (and no frustrated cursing when it goes flying before you close it).

  4. I stripped the piston during the first game. Yippee.
    Classic Dizzy.

    Classic Dizzy.

    You’ll notice that the piston stripped the middle part of its teeth, not the forward part as with traditional V2 boxes. Research indicates that this is due to a mistiming between the recoil weight and the piston due to a faster than usual ROF (there’s a Lonex A2 in there now – a beast of a motor, IMO), resulting in the gears chewing up the middle of the piston while it’s mid-stroke. That’s what I gather from the internets, anyway.

    Thankfully, the previous owner included a spare gearbox for parts and a NIB Prometheus piston, which is apparently the end-all be-all of pistons for the Next-Gen AEGs. I’ve since installed it – we’ll see how long it lasts. Thankfully, there are a couple of local retailers that stock Next-Gen AEG parts, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to source replacements should any of this stuff fail. Most of the major online retailers are also beginning to stock parts, which is nice to see.

Overall, I’d have to say I’m pleased with the gun – the great price for the package (gun, Magpul bits, spare gearbox/parts, Magic Box upgrades, 7 mags) helped quite a bit. Obviously I’ll have to game it a couple more times before I can come to a complete conclusion, but at this point I’d have to say that the bolt catch/recoil gimmicks combine to make a very fun gun to game. The legendary Tokyo Marui hop up system is present and performs well, and that was with a stock barrel and hop rubber that I’ve since replaced with a Prometheus purple. A Prommy 6.03 tighbore will be my next upgrade.

On a side note, the Noveske rail system that’s on there now came from one of my other AEG builds that I’ve since discarded. It was meant as a placeholder for a URX 3.1, but after installing the Noveske rail I think I’ll end up keeping it on there. It’s extremely lightweight (thanks to the numerous cutouts) and the full rails mean I can move stuff around as I wish – my one gripe with the more modern tubular, modular handguards is that moving stuff around means having to disconnect/reconnect rail panels, which gets annoying since I’m one of those guys that likes to tinker with the location of stuff like grips, flashlights, and lasers.

In unrelated news, I will be broke for the next month.

 

 

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