I have generally given up hope of keeping my WE M4 in good condition anymore. This usually results in it running dirty yet (usually) functional, if I go shoot with it. Perhaps not the best practice, but I’ve been shooting (and pouring money into) mine for many years past its prime – I probably should have given up on this one a few generations before WE “open bolt”/open chamber GBBR and conversion kits even hit the market. But what the heck, I might as well keep it running.
I recently have been encountering issues with most of my 9 working magazines refusing to lock back (I have somewhere in the range of 14, but the old gen internals just leak too often to be worth maintaining). Years ago, I did most of the common mods you’ll find on the internet and then some, in regards to getting the finicky WE M4 “open bolt” bolt stop to actually, well, stop the bolt when the mag runs out of ammo. A combination of many of those seems to have fixed my issue, but it has since returned… all things considered, I’m a little surprised that I’m just experiencing this now (much later than expected).
After inspecting the usual suspects and confirming those to still be in functional condition, I still couldn’t get it to work right with all my mags. A few ideas popped into mind – mag part that pushes up on bolt stop, magazine outer shells, or lower receiver.
Note that I am running retrofitted WE gen 2 mag innards in my old shells. Gen 2 design is vastly superior over the first generation of magazine design from WE in the sense that leaks out of the housing itself are rare and easily fixed. That being said, valves, mechanical parts and other seals do require periodic maintenance and sometimes replacement – no big deal though, as these parts are small (cheap to ship), easy to come by, and cheap.
“CYC” told me that his Taiwan tech buddies highly recommended to disable the bolt stop function altogether – but if I must keep it, I should use the factory WE part as a replacement, since the RA-Tech steel parts tend to eat into the softer material on the WE bolt stop. Of course, replacing the WE bolt stop with RA-Tech steel would cause the WE bolt carrier to get eaten away, and replacing the WE bolt carrier with the RA-Tech steel bolt carrier has its own slew of well-documented issues related to a variety of other WE parts (it is a vicious cycle, these RA-Tech steel upgrades, nowadays). Seeing as how I’ve used these in the past with passable results, I ended up picking up a few sets of TSC part TS-2, replacement for WE M4 magazine part 157.
Most retailers cite that these are steel – but let me tell you that if they are actually steel (I have reason to doubt that statement alone), they are made from some really crappy soft stuff. As it turns out though, that does mean they are perfect for the job at hand – not any harder than the WE part material, but with a much wider and rounded-off geometry that seems to allow for slower wear. I may not actually like TSC material, fit & finish in general, but some of them are actually pretty good – and these are no exception.
As of this moment, the most recent stage of my magazine revival process was to purchase Angry Gun Tangodown Magazine Shells (thanks to a hook up from a friend directly to Angry Gun). A simple, moulded plastic shell with included extended-length bolt is easy to install – this also offers reduced wear to my mag catch, and a crisp, new surface for said mag catch to grab a hold of.
In my opinion, the actual quality of the mag shells is only barely better than the WE MSK mags (PMAG look alikes – no full markings versions exist, unfortunately), but for the sweet price I got them for they offer great bang for buck. Fitment between inner and shell is quite good. Actual plastic mould flashing here and there (including in some of the two ports on the bottom of the mag shell), but nothing that can’t be cleaned up with a small hobby knife.
The bad aside, it was a treat to see that the mag shells actually look and feel pretty good on their own. Full Tangodown markings look great. Texturing on the mag shell as per the real deal’s design is really nice. I actually had to double check to see if the mag shell came apart in two pieces in the middle like the real thing – as it turns out it just looks really convincing despite being a single piece of plastic.
I found minimal weight savings by going plastic, as most of the weight in a WE gen 2 magazine is found in the inner portion. From what I can see, the Angry Gun shells are as thick or even thicker as in many places than the original WE metal shells, which themselves are relatively thin and light for metal. I didn’t have a scale around to weigh them, but I suspect the difference to be negligible. Fitment of the freshly installed mag shells on my ratty old WE inners resulted in a snug fit in my M4 – I suspect this may have just solved my issue in which I suspected that my old metal mags were riding a little low, despite being locked in securely by the mag catch.
And yes, with these two parts (TSC #157 and Angry Gun Tangodown Mag Shells), my problem now appears to be fixed.
On a final note about the mag shells, (I haven’t had a chance to game these yet to test this theory) research and many hours of theoretical discussion on this topic with my most highly regarded local techs on the topic suggest that a plastic mag shell helps to insulate the magazine inner. Thus should help the mag fight the effects of colder weather and possibly even the effects of cool down (at the expense of staying very cold for a longer period of time due to that same insulation).
My full (Colt) markings lower receiver from 3-4+ years ago is showing some fairly serious signs of its age, but since the issues seem to have more or less been fixed by now, I will put that one off for a little while longer. Hopefully the deep wear on the front and rear of the magwell shouldn’t have too much affect on the height that the mag rides at with these new shells. I’ll be keeping my eyes out for any WE lower receiver that has markings, in Canada – but with RA-Tech not being on my list of trusted parts manufacturers anymore, pickings are slim. Maybe I can find someone to get me one of those harder-to-find Prime receiver set into Canada… eventually.