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Star M4A1 review

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Old January 25th, 2009, 15:03   #1
The Saint
 
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Cool Star M4A1 review

(Work in progress)

I received a new Star M4A1 this week and I thought I'd add my experience with it to the limited information available on this particular little gem.

Definitely one of the less common makes one comes across at Canadian games, the Star is a generally good execution of sound design. Many features introduced by Star in their M4/16 series did not surface in other brands until years later. For example, a locking faux bolt, quick swap spring (as opposed to complete upper cylinder swap) and microswitch trigger assembly.

Externals

Externally, the Star is quite well made. It has a flat dark grey finish, deeply engraved trades, with black plastic furnitures. Receiver is aluminum (very good finish and no visible artifacts), pins are steel, controls are surprisingly not (likely aluminum).

Magazine catch is not real steel configuration, it uses a small screw. Forward assist fit is good, almost no wobble. Safety clicks into place, but is on the soft side. Front sight is dead solid down to the pin (incidentally, no front sight adjustment tool included). Rear sight is pretty solid, minor wobble from the sight block but far less when compared to say, G&G. All dials are crisp, and the sight aperture locks down when flipped. Trigger has a distinct point where electrical contact is completed, since it uses a microswitch. The trigger is also proprietary.

Bolt catch feature sticked the first few times, but has since then worked itself in and proven reliable. Charging handle to upper fit is very good, there is no wobble both when locked or being operated. I'd characterize the handle's draw length as being on the short side.

Delta ring is not as tight as a G&G, but tight enough to make sure the handguard stays put. Then again, G&G was somewhat excessively tight.

The body pins are not finished well. While they do not have any machining artifacts, they do show various surface blemishes. The front and rear body pins are captive, though rather weakly so. I had a G&G whose pins always needed tools to remove, whereas the Star pins could be removed by hand. That is not to say they are loose, but I'll be keeping an eye on them.

Mechbox pin (the small pin above the trigger) is tapped in extraordinarily tight. Nothing short of a real hammer will get it out. Fortunately, the finish on the receiver is quite resistant to the occasional blunt trauma. Sharp metal objects will scrape them off, though.

Furnitures are decent, both flat black and nothing to write home about. Handguards will accept 8 cell nunchuck minis. However, the heat shields in the handguards are held in by melted plastic stubs, so attaching rails to them will require some minor mods. Shoulder stock is a bit loose on the stock pipe.

The pistol grip appears to be not-quite-standard, as the KA G27 grip will not fit as well as the stock Star grip. Not sure whether that's caused by the lower receiver or mechbox.

It is important to point out that the stock pipe is not the same dimension as most airsoft stock pipes, it is larger and shaped somewhat differently. Star stock pipe follows real steel design, screwing into the rear of the receiver rather than slotting over a tube extending from the lower receiver. As such, Star will not be able to use most airsoft stock accessories, except when they are for WE M4 GBB or Systema PTW (they also use real steel stock pipe).

Disassembly

Disassembling the Star is very challenging and should not be attempted by someone without experience. Mostly, it's removing the mechbox from the lower receiver.

It is necessary to move the stock pipe in order to remove the mechbox. The quick swap spring feature has a knob that locks the removable spring guide straight. Unless that knob is removed, it is impossible to remove the mechbox. Removing the stock pipe requires a specific pipe tool, the tool is not included with a gun and must be purchased separately. It is exceeding hard to remove the stock pipe without the proper tool.

The wiring of the gun leaves much to be desired. The quality of the wire is good, but the way things are wired together is somewhat frustrating. The M4A1 variant is front wired to a Tamiya mini. There is no fuse. There are no disconnects for the battery wires, so they must be cut to disassemble the gun. Also, the motor wires are soldered directly to the motor tabs. Snipping any of the wires to remove the motor result in the need to splice in more wire to reach the motor tabs using motor connectors. Even desoldering the existing wires off the motor tabs might not give on enough length to add motor connectors without splicing.

After severing the wiring, removing the motor and pistol grip (held in by 4 screws), the Star disassembles into two halves much the same way as other airsoft M4/16s, remove all body pins and leave them aside. However, the Star's hopup unit is locked into the mechbox, meaning that the inner barrel and hopup unit will not follow the upper receiver out.

To remove the mechbox from the lower receiver requires some determination. The mechbox pin will require some hard tapping to remove, remember to observe which way it went in so you're tapping in the correct direction. No, I didn't make that mistake with the Star. The magazine catch and bolt catch will also have to be removed, take note of the wiring arrangement near the bolt catch. If the wires are not replaced the same way when reassembled, they'll interfere with the bolt catch.

The next part is somewhat amazing, as I've got no idea how Star managed to get the mechbox into the gun in the first place. With the selector set to safe, tug on the mechbox (forward and up) until enough of it clears the rear of the receiver. Then use a mallet to tap out mechbox from the lower receiver by striking the motor area. Be mindful of striking the wires. Seriously, I couldn't get it out an other way, and I actually filed a bit, too.

Internals

The internals of the Star range from good to shabby. It doesn't seem like Star made a lot of effort here, which is unfortunate.

The mechbox finish is closer to a Chinese clone's. Very marred, not very clean looking at all. Tolerances are good, though, the two halves mate together cleanly and no wobbly bushing/bearing holes.

The mechbox uses 7mm bearings and has no problem accepting aftermarket bushings from Modify.

The gears are generic Chinese brand, XYTi or something. They look fairly well made, no visible defects, no shoddy worksmanship.

The piston is a clear polycarb, not of the best construction. Material seems solid enough, but it's got some surprisingly thin areas surrounding the screw hole for the piston head. Last tooth has no extra reinforcing material angling outwards, because that extra bit of piston will not fit the Star mechbox. When using pistons from brands like Modify, it'll be necessary to remove that reinforcement on the last tooth, or else the piston will seize. Inner diameter of the piston appears non-standard, since I had problems getting a Modify spring to fit into the Star piston. Star's stock spring is linear and will work with Modify piston.

Piston head is unported and of the same clear polycarb as the piston. It screws into a weight rather than bearings.

The spring guide also has no bearings, just a small washer. It is a plastic tube with a metal base, threaded for a knob mentioned earlier. Design is unique to Star, and replacement spring guides with bearings are available.

Cylinder is chromed and non-ported, nothing special. Cylinder head is generic black plastic, single o-ring. Air nozzle has no o-ring and no tapering; its exhaust is 3 teeth in a Y arrangement as opposed to a smooth bore. Tappet is non-descript. All are standard v2 type parts.

Hopup chamber has a portion that extends into the cylinder head area. It is impossible to remove the hopup chamber without opening the mechbox. This provides much better engagement between the hopup chamber and the air nozzle, at the price of convenience. Otherwise, it's a typical one-piece metal hopup chamber for the version 2 mechbox. Hopup sleeve appears to be a semi-translucent red.
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Last edited by The Saint; January 25th, 2009 at 16:39..
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Old January 25th, 2009, 16:42   #2
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I didn't give the tappet a bend. Sorry, it skipped my mind completely.

As for the piston head, I did include it in my review but accidentally wrote "cylinder head". Fixed that, sorry about the confusion.

Price is roughly mid $500s.
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Old February 8th, 2009, 08:27   #3
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A lot of good infos, thank you.
Do you know why the Mechbox is still stuck after removing all pins and other parts?
How did you get it back in place, also with "brute force"?
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Old February 8th, 2009, 12:52   #4
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The mechbox is a very tight fit on the way in or out, especially at the back. The lower receiver's rear "upper lip" rubs against the rear of the mechbox. Carefully mallet out, carefully mallet back in.
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Old February 8th, 2009, 14:08   #5
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Ha, got it! No need of force. Instead of pulling, just push down the forward part with the hop up unit a little bit, then the rear comes out.

Do you know if there is any shop who offers the selectorplate?
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Old February 8th, 2009, 14:40   #6
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Haven't seen any, but I might know someone who can help. Are you in Canada?
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Old February 8th, 2009, 14:59   #7
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Nope, I'm from Germany
Paypal?

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Old February 8th, 2009, 15:04   #8
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If you can, I'd recommend contacting HK retailers that carry STAR or ARES and see if they can help you.
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Old March 12th, 2009, 14:55   #9
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I'm scared to disassemble my rifle...
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Old March 12th, 2009, 15:12   #10
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Ok.... Are you asking for help, or are you just letting us know that you're scared?
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Old March 12th, 2009, 15:21   #11
Daiviet
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I contacted star the other day, just sent them an email inquiring if getting individual parts would be possible. its been 3 weeks, no reply. Thanks Star.

Actually, does anyone know where their factory is located? Hoepfully Japan so Tirador could get me some specifics... just in case.
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Old March 12th, 2009, 15:23   #12
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Talk to Velocity Arms, he might be able to get you some ARES parts.
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Old March 14th, 2009, 23:12   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Saint View Post
Ok.... Are you asking for help, or are you just letting us know that you're scared?
Bit of both, actually. I've never disassembled an AEG (The STAR M4A1 is my first AEG...) and I've heard people complain about STAR products that are incompatible with other brands' parts... is it true? Sorry if I missed a point, BTW.

So I'm really uncomfortable right now, thinking that my rifle is gonna break any minute now for absolutely no reason, and that I wont have any parts to replace the broken parts with... Not to mention the fact that I'm a complete newb when it comes to disassembling AEGs...
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Old March 15th, 2009, 14:39   #14
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It all depends what you're looking to change. Most of the typical TM-compatible parts associated with internal upgrades will fit, with a few caveats as I pointed out in the review.

There's nothing you can do about first time jitters besides working through it, maybe have a friend with mechbox experience present.
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Old March 16th, 2009, 01:00   #15
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I heard that the STAR M4 can only use STAR Mags, have you had any problems with that.
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