We recommend reading our best airsoft gun guide first, to learn more about basics of airsoft guns.
The M4/M16/AR 15 platform in the airsoft community is one of the most popular options because it is adaptable, ergonomic, and very easy to learn and master.
Before we start getting too deep into the platform, we need to talk about why I have two slashes and three different names for one platform.
These three names mean both the same thing, but also something different:
AR-15 – AR 15 as a title is the base name for the M16 and M4 platform. An AR 15 can be any Stoner style design and does not have a set designation for barrel length, stock style, rail system, or any other accessory. A few companies use the title AR 15 with their airsoft guns, but typically only when the rifle is modeled after a company’s own custom AR 15 platform.
In the real steel world AR 15 is the designation for semi-automatic AR type rifles. Companies like Salient Arms build custom AR 15s and license their designs to Airsoft companies. These guns modeled after actual AR 15s will keep the AR 15 title over M4 or M16.
M16 – The M16 was the military’s first AR 15 designation. The M16 is a specific configuration of the AR 15 platform. It’s considered a full-size rifle and sports a 20-inch barrel and full, fixed stock. The M16 has several iterations, but the base gun’s stock and barrel length are the main considerations.
The airsoft M16’s can and often does feature a rail system, iron sights, a scope rail, and a flash suppressor.
M4 – M4 Airsoft guns are the most common airsoft guns on this platform. The M4 is a specific military designation. The M4 is a carbine, and a carbine is a shorter, lighter version of a standard rifle. The M4 will typically sport a 14.5-inch barrel and a collapsing stock.
M4’s also commonly wear rail systems, as well as a fixed front sight. The M4 is the US Army’s standard rifle, and serves with every branch of the military.
These platforms are a double-edged sword when it comes to airsoft guns. It’s great because you have lots of options to choose from, but it’s also bad because some of those options are complete crap.
So we’ve put together a simple and efficient buying guide to help you select wisely.
Due to the difference between gas and electric guns, we are going to focus on AEGs in the AR 15/M4/M16 world.
We’ve gathered a few features that are exclusive to the M16/M4/AR-15 platform and developed some essential aspects to look for when shopping for an AEG.
The 8 Top Airsoft M4/M16 and AR-15’s of 2018: Outdoor Empire Reviews
These are our recommendations for airsoft AEGs of 2018:
M4 airsoft guns:
- Best overall: Get the Valken Battle Machine M4 SD
- Best budget: Get the G&G Combat Machine M4 Raider
- Best for beginners: Get the Krytac Trident MKII CRB
M16 airsoft guns:
- EMG Seekins Precision AR 15
- EMG SAI GRY AR15
*Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:
|Muzzle Velocity||350~380 FPS||380-400 FPS||380-400 FPS|
|Weight||8.5 lbs||7 lbs||5.5 lbs|
|Magazine Capacity||300 rounds Hi-Cap||450 rounds Hi-Cap||300 rounds Hi-Cap|
|Firing Modes||Semi/Full-Auto, Safety||Semi-automatic, Full-automatic||Semi/Full-Auto, Safety|
|Battery Type||9.6v 1600 mAh Small Butterfly Type||8.4 V Nunchuck||9.6v 1600 mAh Butterfly Type|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Best Overall Airsoft M4: Valken Battle Machine M4 SD
The Valken Battle Machine M4 SD has a high-tech, ultra-modern M4 design.
- Fake suppressor that is dimpled and resembles the Knights Armament suppressor. It is part of the barrel and you shouldn’t attempt to remove it
- Carbine length quad rail with plenty of space for extra accessories
- Crane stock that is easy to use with an airsoft mask
- Can be utilized with both NIMH and the superior LiPo batteries
- Flip up iron sights and a full-length scope rail
- Adjustable hop-up and a standard long type battery
- Three position safety — safe, semi and fully automatic modes
Downside is its overall weight. It weighs 8.5 pounds which is almost the same weight as a full sized M16 rifle.
The Valken Battle Machine M4 has a unique and cool design that appears unique. It is also versatile.
2. Best Budget M4: G&G Combat Machine M4 Raider
The G&G Combat Machine M4 Raider is an excellent beginner’s rifle that is priced superbly low. It is a platform for the airsofter on a budget.
- Metal body
- Slimline M4 type with a round handguard
- Detachable carry handle
- Can mount a red dot or variable optic, or you can rock the old school iron sights built into the carry handle
- Stock is a standard M4 design with six different positions and an adjustable length of pull
- Comes with iron sights and is ready to play out of the box
- All metal internals and is compatible with G&G and Tokyo Marui internals, so upgrades are available
- Hi-cap 450 round mag, compatible with all M4 and M16 series magazines
- Muzzle velocity is up to 400 feet per second so it’s legal on any field of play
- Adjustable hop-up is simple to utilize
The biggest downside is the lack of a rail system for additional accessories. You can always add your own but be prepared for a stock M4 style rifle.
It is a very good stock rifle that is easily upgraded. The price makes it an excellent option for the budget airsofters.
3. Best M4 For Beginners: Krytac Trident MKII CRB
Krytac is a well-known brand that makes incredibly strong and durable rifles that excel for long term use. It is for a beginner with a decent budget.
- Modern M4 style rifle
- Barrel is covered with a 10-inch free floating handguard. The handguard is nice and light because it utilizes a KeyMod layout. This allows you to mount sections of rail where and only where you need it.
- Adjustable iron sights and hop-up
- Built to last and utilizes incredibly strong and powerful internals. It isn’t likely to break or wear out until it’s put through years of abuse.
- Quick change spring system, an integrated MOFSET, and aluminum alloy receivers.
- Compatible with almost all M4 style airsoft magazines including Tokyo Marui, Matrix, and G&P. This makes it easy and affordable to find magazines.
The Krytac Trident MKII CRB is an excellent rifle for new players and it lasts for years. It is excellent for close quarters combat at 5.5 pounds. It’s light but durable and easy to use.
4. Best Overall Airsoft M16s: G&P M16A3 “Scarface”
A classic M16 design that sports an M203 style airsoft launcher. This full-size rifle is a force of nature and perfect for any grenadier or gangster. It’s a well-made gun, that’s easy to upgrade, but runs right out of the box too.
- M203 Grenade Launcher with shroud and grenade sights
- Full metal barrel
- Full size sized M16 stock for larger batteries,
- Optics ready flat top receiver
- Integrated Sling Mounts
- Complete with Iron Sights
- Compatible with Marui M4/M16 magazines
- Compatible with G&P rubber cap grenades
This is a big and heavy beast. A full-size M16 topped with a grenade launcher is not a light weapon and weighs in at 11 pounds.
This bunker busting rifle will surely turn heads when you hit the field. The combination of rifle and grenade launcher gives you a big edge in open field games. It certainly won’t be referred to as “My little Friend” though.
5. A&K Full Metal M16A4
If you are chasing the design used by the Armed forces, specifically the Marines, then A&K has the gun for you. This full-sized M16A4 is almost a direct replica of the old Marine Corps warhorse. Good enough for Fallujah, good enough for you.
- Full metal receiver and barrel assembly
- Includes sling swivels
- Full replica Knight Armory Rail system
- Vertical Foregrip included.
- Iron sights included
- Optics Ready for a DMR role
- Three position FCU for safe, semi, and full auto
- Compatible with Matrix, G&G, Tokyo Marui and other similar AR 15 magazines.
- Quick Spring Change Gearbox
- Lightweight at Only 7.2 pounds.
This gun has two odd, but distinct flaws. First, the gearbox is a bit loud, which is more of an annoyance than a flaw. The second is the rails are sharp, so make use of the included covers, foregrip, or wear gloves.
Overall this is an accurate representation of the most modern M16 being used today. It captures all the strengths of the platform and is even light enough to knock out its weaknesses. It’s perfect in a DMR role, or for your favorite Marine force.
6. Best Budget M16: JG Enhanced M16A3
The JG Enhanced M16A3 is the ultimate option for those on a budget. The M16A3 design is taken from the United States Navy and is both simple and modern.
- Full metal barrel, and ABS polymer receiver
- Detachable carry handle/ Iron Sight
- Optics Ready
- Equipped with Traditional sling swivels and a QD mount
- Compatible with Matrix, G&P, Tokyo Marui M4/M16 magazines
- Adjustable hop up
- Full Metal Gearbox
The downside of this gun is its simplicity. It does not have a rail system, but a smooth polymer handguard. You are limited essentially to just optics when it comes to accessories.
The JG Enhanced M16A3 is a simple gun that gives players a great M16. For the price its hard to beat, but you do lose out on some external upgrades.
7. Best Airsoft AR-15s: EMG Seekins Precision AR 15
Designed to mimic the Seekins Precision SP223 in every way this Airsoft AR 15 is incredibly modern. It goes as far as to use actual Seekins Precision parts in the build, including the safety selector, the magazine release, and charging handle.
- G&G flip up sights included
- Aluminum Seekins licensed keymod handguard
- Seeking Precision rollmarks
- Ambi selector switch
- Compatible with Matrix, G&G, Tokyo Marui, and other M4/M16 magazines
This is a pricey gun, but you pay for quality. It’s also a heavy gun, at 9.04 pounds its no lightweight.
Seekins Precision makes high quality, custom, duty grade guns and the EMG licenses and takes that quality and reproduce it as a high-end airsoft gun.
8. EMG SAI GRY AR15
Salient Arms International is a custom shop known for producing functional, and striking guns. Their AR 15 lines are popular for their intuitive features and custom design. This translates over almost flawlessly to the airsoft world.
- Billet aluminum receiver
- Jailbrake railed handguard
- Strike industries selector switch
- Adjustable 5 position stock
- Only 6.11 pounds
- Compatible with Matrix, G&G, Tokyo Marui, and other M4/M16 magazines
- QD sling mounts
- M-LOK rail system
A high-end custom gun isn’t cheap, and neither is the airsoft replica of it. The quick change rail system is nice but may come loose if not attached properly.
This is a great combination of style and function. The GRY is the AR 15 enthusiasts dream about. This compact, lightweight gun is perfect for winning matches and turning heads.
Important Choosing Factors
With so many different variants of this platform, you are likely to find builds in every option you can imagine. The outer designs of airsoft guns are just as important as the internals.
Let’s be real. Airsoft can be a rough sport. Even unintentionally you can run into walls, take a hard dive behind cover or bump into a tree. In any of these situations, you can easily damage a weak external body.
This is why I always advise against a plastic body. Going for a metal body results in a stronger and more authentic airsoft gun.
Metal externals are less likely to break in the event of a bad bump. The main issue with metal bodies is rust and general corrosion. You need to pay special attention to ensure rust doesn’t occur, especially in the smaller, harder to see areas.
The insides of the gun are pretty dang important. Any quality model has a metal gearbox and metal gears. This ensures it doesn’t easily fall apart when it hits a high rate of fire.
Metal gearboxes are easier to work on and replace the parts as they wear. ABS and plastic gearboxes, on the other hand, are much easier to break.
Poor quality metal boxes also break. We could have an entire guide of just quality control on airsoft guns. It is ideal to stick with high-quality models from reputable brands. This ensures quality and warranty in case something goes wrong.
Metal gearboxes and metal bodies add a certain amount of weight and increase the price of the individual airsoft gun.
Lastly, an AEG’s hop-up should be adjustable. It allows you to adjust the backspin on a BB. Certain guns perform differently with different BBs.
Sometimes, there is too much or too little backspin. This can cause the round to hit the ground too early or cause the round to have an upswept firing path. An adjustable hop-up is a must have so you can get every round shooting straight.
The power behind your gun is necessary and many people think that a higher muzzle velocity is better, right? In some ways yes, but not for playing airsoft with other people.
Most ranges for airsoft competitions have velocity requirements. Too high FPS can:
- cause serious injuries
- break the skin
- implants airsoft BBs in uncomfortable ways
The velocity always depends on range conditions, as CQB is a lot different than open field play. The settings are usually between 350 and 500 feet per second depending on the weapon. The full auto nature of AR 15, M4 and M16 platforms ensures that it’s going to be closer to 350 FPS.
Guns can be tuned to different FPS but the closest you can get to 350 FPS, the better. This gives you a safe FPS to play at, and lets you shoot at the appropriate range.
How your AEG handles is another important consideration:
- How does the weapon handle?
- Is it light enough to be carried comfortably for extended periods?
- Or is it too heavy that it can get old pretty quick, especially after a full day of playing?
Because there are just so many guns in the M4, M16, and AR 15 family you’ll have to shop smart. M16s are bigger guns, they are harder to use indoors, and often a little heavier.
In the airsoft world AR 15s are often highly customized guns built off of real world guns. This means they’ll like incoporate lightweight keymod or M-Lok rail systems for lighter weight, as well as customized PDW stocks.
M4s were designed for easier use in close quarters environments. They are a little lighter, a little more compact, but offer less rail space for accessory placement.
Ergonomics is a broad category, so we’re going to break it down based on specific needs:
Length is commonly determined by the barrel. A longer barrel allows more room to mount a rail system while a shorter weapon is lighter and more maneuverable in close quarters combat.
If you want to rock a CQC M4 or AR 15, you’re likely to have a lighter, easier to maneuver rifle. The longer M16 models are big guns.
Accessories like a collapsible or PDW stock also makes your weapon more ergonomic. If you wear a complete tactical vest or plate carrier, you want to have a collapsible stock on your M4.
The reason behind is that a tactical vest makes you thicker, the ability to adjust your length of pull allows you to compensate for this extra bulk.
The longer length of pull stock on the M16 can be challenging for smaller players, especially when you toss in tactical gear.
Another factor that makes the weapon easier to handle is the presence of a foregrip. A foregrip requires a rail system but allows easier maneuverability and increased control over the weapon.
This is especially true in close quarters with a vertical foregrip and it really helps you take corners with low elbows.
Purchasing an AEG is a bit of a compromise between weight and accessories. Since both are important factors to consider, you need to find the perfect compromise for you.
One of the biggest factors is being able to find and purchase parts in case of repair. Small one-off companies who produce decent M4, M16, and AR15 AEGs may disappear, making it impossible to find replacement parts.
It’s great to find models that feature interchangeable parts with famous airsoft companies — guns that are compatible with parts and pieces from manufacturers like Tokyo Marui and Krytac.
This is especially true when it comes to magazines! You always need more magazines. Guns that are compatible with Tokyo Marui, Matrix, and G&P magazines give you a full selection of compatible magazines.
Magazines, and most parts will be compatible between AR 15s, M4s, and M16s.
Ability to Upgrade
Upgraded internals can increase accuracy and the life of the gun.
Capacity to upgrade your AEG is also a consideration. Sometimes, you can purchase a quality but budget rifle and then upgrade the internals down the road.
Matching proper internals with high powered batteries can increase the full auto rate of fire and allow higher FPS for certain games and roles.
Ability to Mount Accessories
One of the biggest draws to these platforms is the amount of customization you can do to the guns. The barrel system is very friendly for installing various accessories.
Depending on your play style or if you are trying to replicate a certain gun, the attachment system can be invaluable.
The presence of well made, preferably metal Picatinny rails is a sure fire way to accessorize your gun. Polymer rails are a no go especially if you are rocking a KeyMod or MLOK handguard.
The thing about polymer is ensuring that they are built to the actual spec and compatibility with Picatinny accessories.
I’ve never come across metal rails that weren’t in spec. This is due to the fact that a weapon rail requires time and effort to build, and making one out of spec isn’t going to sell if a builder is trying to turn a real profit.
A good rail system will allow you to mount:
- grenade launcher
The longer M16 design can feature a longer rail system. This makes it compatible with a wider variety of accessories, and gives you the ability to mount accessories in different positions.
Battery Size and Type
Generally, the more mAH a battery has, the longer it lasts.
If you already own some AEGs, it’s a good idea to match the battery to your guns. This allows easier logistics between guns.
If the gun is only compatible with low mAH batteries, you may find it inconvenient when your weapon runs out of battery halfway through the match. Some guns may come with smaller batteries and that’s fine, just ensure they can accept larger batteries.
The M4, M16, and AR 15 platform is modular and adaptable to use for any airsoft player. It’s the perfect platform for new players due to the availability of parts, magazines, and accessories.
As long as you know a thing or two about these platforms, and AEGs, you’ll find one that fits your needs and play style.