Many airsoft replicas are replications of weapons used today by militarized forces, regardless how old the design may be. In this series of articles, we\'ll be having a gander at a few modern weapons.
In this article, we\'ll be taking a quick look at assault rifles being used today that hold a strong presence on the airsoft field.
First, we\'ll cover one of the most popular models in airsoft, the M4 Carbine. In real steel, the M4 was introduced as the XM4 in 1988 by Colt, based off of their M16A2. It was adopted by the United States military in 1994 to replace the M3 Grease gun. It was utilized mainly by Army infantry, Naval infantry and Marine Corps officers. Despite being an original design by Colt, the US Army took complete ownership of the M4 design, which allowed other companies to make them. Real steel, the M4 is made by Colt, US Ordnance, SME Ordnance, Remington, and even FN Herstal. In airsoft, the M4 Carbine is made by practically all companies. Coming in many varieties, you\'ll have to do a little research to find the right one for you.
Next, a weapon known for its rugged capabilities, the AK-47 was developed in 1947 by Mikhail Kalashnikov in Russia. Initially, Kalashnikov submitted a design in 1944 that was defeated by what would be adopted as the SKS, but after a few revisions and needs by the Red Army, Kalashnikov and his team produced the AK-47 to the army for tests in 1948, and in 1949, it was adopted by the Soviets as the \"7.62 Kalashnikov assault rifle\", also known as \'Avtomat Kalashnikov\', or AK. Known mainly for the vast number of rifles produced (approximately 75 Million) and its reliability in harsh conditions, this rifle can be found nearly everywhere, being owned by gun enthusiasts, pirates, terrorists, security forces, and just about anyone who knows how to operate one. In airsoft, the AK series is very prominent, seeing AK-47 variants, AKM variants, AK-74 variants, and more. Like the M4, most airsoft companies produce an AK variant, and you\'ll just need to find one to suit your needs.
Next, the Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle, or SCAR for short, is becoming more and more visible on the airsoft field as it becomes more and more visible in media and US Forces. With two variants, the SCAR Light, or SCAR L, and the SCAR Heavy, or SCAR H, the SCAR came to fruition when well-known firearms maker Fabrique Nationale Herstal produced and tested the SCAR platforms in 2007, in an attempt to compete in the Individual Carbine competition looking for a replacement for the M4 Carbine. The SCAR was first deployed in 2009 with the Army\'s 75th Ranger Regiment unit being issued 600 rifles. The US Special Operations Command has since decided not to purchase the Mk 16 (SCAR Ls) and remove them from the inventory, but instead purchased the Mk 17 (SCAR H) and 5.56 conversion kits for them. In airsoft, there were a few more SCAR models than there are now since FN filed suit against a few manufacturers who reproduced SCARs without permission. Now, you can find SCARs made by G&G, VFC, and some other manufacturers.
Up to bat now is the current primary weapon of the German Bundeswher, the Gewher 36 or G36 for short. The G3, the heavier battle rifle used previously by the Bundeswher, was becoming outdated, leading Germany to seek a replacement for it. Trials began in the late 1970\'s, leading to innovative design of the Heckler & Koch G11, but the unification of East and West Germany prompted budget cuts, halting the G11\'s production. In 1991, British company BAE Systems purchased H&K, charging the company to create a 5.56 NATO rifle. Project 50, or HK50, was born. The HK50 was trialed where it defeated the rival Austrian AUG system, which destined the Bundeswher to adopt the the HK50 under the moniker Gewher 36. The G36 sports many models, including a G36c (carbine), a G36k (Kurz, or short), G36e (Export), the MG36 (Maschinengewehr, or Machine gun), and the SL8 and SL9 (Both civilian models). In airsoft, there are many companies that produce a G36 model, including, but not limited to: ARES/Star, Jing Gong, Classic Army, Tokyo Marui, Echo 1 and Guay & Guay. Like the AK and M4, many variants are produced, leaving the user to find one suiting their needs.
Next, we\'ll look at the Steyr AUG. The AUG (Armee Universal Gewher, or Universal Army Rifle) was in development since the 1960s and first entered adoption into the Austrian army in 1977. The AUG sports the same accuracy as an M16 thanks to its same barrel length, and it achieves this standard in a smaller and more ergonomic design. The AUG features many variants, including the A1 (features integrated scope), the A2 (features top rail and iron sights), the A3 (a fully railed version lacking the integrated foregrip standard for other models), and the HBAR (Heavy-barreled Automatic Rifle, including a heavier barrel and bipod). The Australian army utilizes it own model of the AUG, known as the F88 Austeyr, with a few changes to the original Steyr design. The rifle and its variants have also been adopted by the armed forces of Argentina, Malaysia, New Zealand, Bolivia, Ecuador, Ireland, Luxembourg, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Pakistan, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. It can also be seen in feature films such as RoboCop and The Running Man thanks to its futuristic design. A rarer gun to be seen in airsoft, it still is not uncommon. Manufacturers include JG, CA, TM, BE and ASG.
Next in the series, the Masada or ACR, ACR standing for Adaptive Combat Rifle. Originally made by Magpul, where it was known mainly as the Masada, Magpul later sold creative and sales rights to Bushmaster, who renamed it to ACR. The original Magpul Masada design represented a combination of several recent rifle designs, incorporating what was considered by its designers to be the best features of each in a single, lightweight, modular rifle platform. Design features from the Armalite AR-18 (short-stroke gas system), the FN SCAR (upper receiver, charging handle location), the Heckler & Koch G36/XM8 (liberal use of polymer components), and the M16/AR-15 (trigger pack, barrel, fire control group) were present. The rifle also included several features developed by Magpul, such as a quick-change barrel/trunnion system, adjustable gas regulator, non-reciprocating charging handle, and storage compartments located in the stock and grip. Just prior to the deal with Bushmaster, Magpul made additional changes to their design-the most obvious of these was the relocation of the ambidextrous operating handle to a forward position, like what you would see on an H&K G3 or MP5. Only being made in airsoft by A&K and Magpul PTS, the Masada/ACR is a rarer sight in airsoft, but still maintains popularity among players.
Moving on to the Tavor 21 or TAR-21. TAR-21 stands for Tavor Assault Rifle for the 21st century. Developed in 1995, the Tavor was Israel\'s answer to long, unwieldy weapons. Replacing the M16, the Galil SAR and some M4A1s, the Tavor had its work cut out for it. Israel knew that most of its combat situations were in urban spaces and settings, and that its armed forces were mostly mechanized. Israeli Military Industries, or IMI (now IWI, or Israeli Weapons Industries) rose to the challenge of developing a compact weapon that could be used in an urban battlefield while also being easily transported in tanks and aircraft. In 2003, the Israel Defense Forces adopted the Tavor, making it their standard weapon. Recently, the IDF declared another variant of the Tavor, the Micro Tavor or MTAR as its new standard weapon, with its larger variant being replaced by some infantry divisions. In airsoft, there\'s only three companies that produce the Tavor: ARES, S&T, and Elite Force. ARES offered models that came with the Tavor\'s signature MARS sight, but these have since been discontinued.
There are many more assault rifles seeing use in airsoft not stated here, including but not limited to the:
FAMAS, a French weapon.
F2000, a bullpup rifle by FN Herstal.
M14, a weapon used by US Forces into the Vietnam war, still used today.
G3, a German battle rifle still seeing uses today as well.
SA80 platform (L85s), England\'s primary firearm.
and even the Beretta ARX-160, an assault rifle new to real steel and to airsoft, seeing production by Elite Force.
With all these mid-range offensive replicas to choose from, how does one decide which is right for them? This part is up to you. With all these replicas being used against them, how does one protect themselves? This one is simple, ALWAYS wear eye protection when handling any airsoft replicas, and never treat one like it\'s a simple toy. Airsoft replicas can and will hurt people, so be courteous, be careful, and be safe with them all.
Please join me next time, when we dive into a more defensive role using shorter weapons. And, as always, stay frosty.