CLASSIC ARMY: M15A4 Carbine Sportline Series

Some people will undoubtedly have trouble recognizing the fact that Classic Army is -at the moment- the biggest and most important manufacturer in Hong Kong – Taiwan region. Their catalogue of replicas, accessories and parts is thick and they constantly improve their products. Their leading position in the market is therefore not a coincidence. All is not rosy, though.

Recently, the influx of cheaper, yet serviceable Chinese clones seriously hurt sales of the manufacturers. It is time for counter attack. It is time for introduction of the replicas with recognisable name, but without bells and whistles. And accordingly lower price, of course.

And Classic Army did follow this recipe to the letter: Classic Army M15A4 Armalite is rugged and proven product, which comes with trademarked Armalite trades; metal body is replaced by ABS body; features are simplified, to lower the costs- and price for the end user, of course. Thus enter CA M15A4 Carbine Sportline Series.

First simplified feature is the box replica comes in. It is entirely constructed out of cardboard, with cardboard insert, which one of the staff here commented on as “egg carton.” Despite that, it protects replica during transport and build in handle makes carrying the otherwise unwieldy box a bit easier.

It comes with HiCap magazine, leaflet and cleaning rod. This is surprising (and maybe disappointing to some), but truthfully, Chinese batteries are not very good and chargers are only temporary solution at best. You are better off if you simply purchase quality battery pack and charger for yourself.

Importance of first impression phenomenon is well documented in psychology and replicas are no different. Replica gives a solid feeling, no wobbliness is to be found. Plastic body seems very dense- on par, if not better than plastic receiver of Tokyo Marui M4A1.

Replica comes with full set of Armalite trades.

Metal content is similar to older replicas and aforementioned Marui M4A1: outer barrel, front sight, front sling swivel, rear sight with rotary dials, charging handle, removable handle screws (handle itself is plastic), trigger, fire selector, buffer tube and assorted nuts and bolts.

As M15A4 Sportline is a direct copy of Tokyo Marui M4A1 we can’t help ourselves but to compare both replicas. Weak point of Marui’s product were always receiver tabs, which were very prone to breaking. Stripping of CA M15A4 Sportline is much the same as Classic Army’s metal (“Professional”) series: you have to remove front takedown pin only and slide upper receiver off. As said, there is no receiver tabs, as upper receiver is secured with three interlocking teeth on the back of the lower receiver.

This is much more durable and withstands wear and tear better than (more realistic, but more fragile) approach where you first remove rear takedown pin, and replica opens much like a shotgun. As we said, receiver tabs are very stressed and prone to breaking, even more so on plastic bodies.

Plastic looks like high density ABS plastic, but it is much more pleasant to the touch than, say, Marui. Hand guards are identical to those, found on CA M15 Armalite series. Retractable stock also looks identical to its brethren, found on metal replicas. Buffer tube is metal and appears identical to buffer tubes, found on metal replicas. HiCap also is identical to HiCaps from “Professional” series.

I’m much less impressed with barrel solution. It is basically and old three piece barrel assembly, found on first generation M16/M4 from Tokyo Marui.

While I have little doubt that one piece barrel is considerably more expensive, it also causes a lot of potential problems. Barrel is constructed from three pieces: front portion, with flash hider and front sight, middle -thinned- portion and rear portion, where barrel meets the upper receiver. All three parts are held together with screws. Majority of stress is transformed to screws, which require constant re-tightening. Over time, screws strip, which leads to a barrel wobble. This test was not long enough to conclusively prove that CA Sportline also develops barrel wobble, but if we draw conclusion from the Marui’s models that eventually they do. Barrel wobble has adverse effect on precision; also, installation of sling is not suggested.

Another annoying feature is that small battery rattles in the fore grip, as there is ample space to move around. Minor point of criticism is also omission of the fake gas tube.

Sights are no different than sights on any standard M16/M4. Rear sight is fully adjustable and has two apertures.

A2 version has flat-top receiver, which means that carrying handle can be removed. Picatinny compatible rail allows installation of optical sights. Noo need to go overboard, cheap red-dot will do.

HopUp is naturally adjusted in trough ejection port. Functional charge handle releases port cover and reveals HopUp. Port cover is a bit flimsy and it is possible it will open by itself. It is easily correctable problem.

There is no review without a field test. And we thoroughly tested this replica in most unpleasant conditions imaginable (first snow of the year). Next couple of weekends weather was colder, but bit nicer. It works like any other stock replica. Fire selector is pleasantly stiff and positively clicks into position.

After 5000 rounds (approximately 1500 rounds were fired in quick succession, without stop, to reveal possible problems with the gearbox) replica worked as expected. HopUp works more than well. Relative lightness (empty, without magazine 2.150g /4.73 pounds) means much better manoeuvrability and speed of movement. Average exit speed (10 shots, .20g BBs) is 87,7 m/s (289 fps).

Plastic body and three piece barrel require careful owner- as all plastic replicas do. And now – mechanics.

HopUp chamber is a copy of the one piece metal chamber, but in plastic. Two piece Marui HopUps were another weakness of otherwise great Marui design. This one works flawlessly.

Gearbox is apparently made on one of the Chinese foundries. How can be so certain? For one, there is the matter of the missing screw. Chinese V2 gearboxes have only one screw on the bottom of the gearbox (where the motor meets the gearbox), while regular Classic Army gearboxes have two.

Moving on. Most parts are visually no different than regular CA parts, but closer scrutiny reveals that they are marked with letters CA- SL. I dare to say that this is nice feature, which prevents confusion. Thankfully, plastic parts are not terribly nylon white, but black, as they should be.

Parts, marked CA- SL, are:

– sector gear
– tappet plate
– fire selector plate
– plastic spring guide
– motor.

Gearbox uses black plastic bushings, which can be expected from the “budget” replica.

Colour coding is another bright idea. Both cylinder and inner barrel are coloured blue. Another common feature is material- they are both aluminium. It is worth mentioning that inner barrel ends with nice crown. Piston is black with black plastic piston head.

Moving on- shells of the gearbox are nicely and precisely casted and as said, it is most probably Chinese OEM product. Quality of the work on the gearbox is best, seen in the category. Shimming is perfect and moving parts are lubed precisely as they should be.

This is -I’m guessing- just one of the Classic Army’s responses to Chinese clones. It is cheap but not cheaply made. Chinese manufacturers are not exactly too good in after purchase support; this is where Classic Army (and their European distributor Action Sport Games) truly come trough. With the purchase of CA M15A4 you are not left alone. This is worth a lot for all the newcomers in sport.

Again, I’m not too thrilled about three piece barrel design. Despite that I recommend M15A4 Sportline without hesitation. Price is set very competitively. Budget oriented players (newcomers to the sport and salty players alike) have a choice of cheap and reliable M4A1clone. Insert generic joke about clone wars…

Test item provided by Action Sport Games

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