I can not recommend this AEG to any player unless they are willing to downgrade it because it shoots .2 BB's at over 400 fps.
Many airsofters, including myself, are big fans of the various Heckler & Koch guns and are also big fans of all the M4 style carbines made by various manufactures. Wouldn't it be great if there was an HK M4? Well, HK have made their own version of the M4 and its called the HK416. The US Army held a competition for a replacement for the M4 and included the HK XM8, the FN SCAR, and the HK416 and tested them against the current M4. Although the 416 wasn't selected, various groups have decided to use it within the military, including SOF, Delta, and DEVGRU.
Wouldn't it be great if us airsofters could get an AEG version of it?
Well we can, sort of. VFC makes a version, but its cost more than $400 and many have reported the gear box isn't so great. JG also makes a version, called the 614. However, some of the details aren't very accurate (although they do have a new model that is better). You can also get a really expensive kit from Hurricane to convert a regular M4 into a HK416. The model I chose to get is the Echo 1's version, also called the 614. None of them include HK trademarks.
Although I'm a big fan of Tokyo Mauri brand AEGs, I've heard some decent things about the Echo 1 AEGs and was willing to try one out this time. Besides, Mauri doesn't make an AEG of the model, so I didn't have that option.
I decided to purchase my 614 from Airsoft GI in California. I've order from them a number of times, and shipping was free. I ordered a couple of other items with the AEG, and Airsoft GI stuffed the extra items inside. No harm so no foul I guess. They were nice enough to include a cool poster of one of their custom AEGs wrapped around my box.
What's In The Box
The Echo 1 614 comes with a couple of extra features that most AEG's don't include, like an extra 300 round hicap magazine (for a total of two in the box), a wind-up key for the hicap mags (I'll explain that in a bit), and an Echo 1 product line DVD. Beyond the extras, the 614 includes a medium battery (I'll explain that in a bit too), a PEQ2 battery box, a manual with some of the worst Engrish I've even seen, cleaning rod, orange muzzle cap, battery trickle charger, and an outer barrel extension to turn the 10.5” barrel into a 14.5” inch barrel. Packing foam was spare and overlaid with printed cardboard for a nice clean look and plenty of protection during shipping. It seems like I should have gotten an allen wrench of the battery box (which is indicated in the manual), but there wasn't one to be found inside my box.
Although this is my first Echo 1 AEG, I have reviewed an inexpensive Chinese brand (the BOYI BIM4 CQB-R). Although the BOYI performed well during a day-long game recently (except for the terrible accuracy and the selector switch coming loose), it didn't look very good out of the box. There was no mistaking with the BOYI that you were getting what you were paying for it. Definitely not a Mauri or a CA for that matter.
This Echo 1 AEG, on the other hand, actually looks pretty decent. The plastic body has a great color and finish, reminiscent of the finish on the CA M4's. There was no evidence of crappy, pot-metal parts anywhere on the exterior of this model, like I saw on the BOYI. Around the selector switch (which is located on the left side only and is identical to any other M4) has the fire modes printed with single bullet with a line through it for Safe, a singe bullet in red for single fire, and the number 30 with a single bullet in red for full-auto. The modes are also printed on the right side, despite the fact there is now way to adjust modes on that side.
The body also features writing in a light grayish color on the left and right side and also in front of the mag well. Unfortunately its not real trademarks that some collectors and airsofters value so much. The left side says ‘Echo' and below that ‘ECHO614 Cal. 5.56mmX45’ and further back features what looks like a serial number. The right side features ‘ECHO 1USA MADE IN P.R.C. ECHO 1USA.COM’. The mag well front reads ‘Warning: Read operators manual before use’. Thankfully they spared the Engrish and kept that confined to the manual.
The body also features something very unique from other M4 bodies: the mag well has a much shallower angle along the bottom. If you were to follow the line from the trigger guard, its almost flat across the mag well. This is copied from the real HK version and I think it gives it a very unique look compared to other M4's. It doesn't seem to effect seating the regular steel M16 mags, but it looks like it might cause a problem with thermold style mags (which I did not test because I do not have any). In fact, I was would say this AEG fits mags very nicely - great catch, almost no wobble, and no resistance going in.
The top portion of the body, like most other M4's, has a rail along the top. However, the rails sits almost a quarter inch higher than a regular M4. Also, it looks like you could remove the top rail - there is a star-hex bolt near the front - but I did not try to remove it yet. The ‘teeth’ in the rails look very well cut and I was able to tightly mount two different red dot sites. Mounted towards the rear of the rail is an HK style drum site. If you've every seen the rear site of an MP5 you know exactly what it looks like. You can turn the drum to 4 different indexed positions to change the size of the hole you look through and it works really well. There is a hex screw on the left-side that will allow you to remove it if you prefer.
The hand grip is also noticeably different. Its shaped similarly to an MP5 grip, lacking the detent between the middle and ring finger. Its a bit wider and feature a smoothish texture, lacking vertical grooves. The front is wider and flatter and is very comfortable in the hand and is easy to shift your grip around.
The charging handle is metal and identical to other M4 models. Pulling back on it opens the fake bolt on the right side of the body, revealing the hop-up adjustment wheel. The manual indicates that the bolt is suppose to stay open until you push the bolt release on the left side, but this didn't seem to work for me. The gears and parts of the hop-up adjustment are entirely black, instead of using the normal white parts seen in many other AEG's.
The rear stock tube looks pretty good - nice finish and color. The actual stock is an LE style, with an angled back. However the plastic used for the stock is kinda cheap feeling compared to the one that came on my Mauri M4-S and sliding it back and forth isn't very smooth.
Going Forward To The RIS
The RIS on this model is probably the most unique feature of this model. Unlike some other RIS's, this one is made out off aluminum and is not pot metal cast and is therefore its very light weight. The ‘teeth’ are very well shaped and along the top rail are numbers printed in white. Its also longer than a standard M4 RIS. The RIS is also attached to the AEG in a very unique way; a single hex bolt attaches a block on either side of the RIS along the bottom near the body and snugs itself against a large round block on the barrel. The block looks very much like a barrel reinforcer found in other M4's and has a groove cut around the circumference that the blot fits through. Also attached to the barrel are two steel plates that are shaped exactly like the inside of the RIS that hold off the RIS from the barrel. One is at one end of the barrel right next to the body. The other is about 7/8's of the way down the barrel near the other end. The RIS does wobble a tiny bit, but no more than the standard M4 fore grip. You do have to take care with the bolt that holds the RIS to the AEG - if you don't put proper pressure on it (push the RIS towards the body and the bolt towards the front) to make sure the RIS stays on tight while attaching it. One other thing, the paint on RIS looks easy to chip. That could be a problem after a few years.
The outer barrel is nicely finished and has a large diameter - larger than most other M4's.
The wiring harness for the battery runs out of the body through the large block mentioned above and features a flat blade style fuse instead of the usual glass cylinder kind. I think the reason for this is the fact that there is very little room between the RIS and the barrel. In fact, removing the RIS from the barrel is really easy after removing the retaining bolt and flipping the front site down except for the fact that the steel plates holding the RIS in place allows for very little room for the wires. You have to be very careful removing and putting on the RIS or else you can slice the wires and cause a possible electrical short.
The wiring harness runs out through a whole near the front of the RIS towards the bottom and is shrink wrapped in a dull black material, keeping the positive and negative wires neatly together and affords it some protection from the sharp metal edges of the RIS.
You can attach the included PEQ2 battery box on any of the four rails - top, bottom, left or right. The wiring harness includes enough of a lead to give you some flexibility. However this flexibility does cause you to have a the wire sticking on in a very obvious way. I imagine this could bother some collectors and airsofters for various reasons. Personally, its not really in the way of anything and I'm not too concerned about it getting stuck on anything a ripping away from the battery.
And speaking of the battery, this model features a very unique battery I've never seen on anther AEG model nor have I seen for sale on any website before. The best way to describe it as a medium battery. It's an 8.4 volt 1500 mah NiCd battery. So far so normal. The numbers are very similar to a standard large NiCd battery. However its as wide as a large, but not nearly as long. During testing, the battery worked great, but I'm concerned that it would be very difficult to find a replacement. The Echo 1 USA site does not sell them and neither did any of the airsoft retail sites I checked.
The PEQ2 style box is nicely made. Not nearly has cheap looking as the one from Mauri and some other manufactures, its made out of durable plastic and attaches snugly to the rails with a single hex bolt. Strangely, I did not receive an allen wrench in the box (which nearly every product that uses one gives you one in the box) and the bolt screws into a nut that could possibly slip off if for some reason you were being careless and not screwing everything together during storage or transportation, or worst out on the field. However I don't feel this will be a big problem. The supplied medium battery fits really well inside the PEQ2 box after your slide off the rear cap, which has a nice hole cut through to run the battery wires out of. Inserting and removing the battery is one of the easiest I've ever seen on an AEG - no problems with binding the wiring harness or forcing the battery around. Other than the fact that it might be impossible to find a replacement for the battery.
The front sight is different from other M4 models too. It sits on a block attached around the barrel and can be flipped forward to either remove the RIS or when you are using an optical system instead. There is a small slide catch on either side of the sight that allows you to unlock the site to move it either up or down. When in the up position, the sight does wobble a bit back and forth, but shouldn't affect accuracy for airsoft. The block the sight is attached to features an integrated metal loop on the right and left side to attach a sling.
The muzzle flash hider is painted blaze orange and is very similar to the standard one found on other M4's. This particular model features an outer barrel extension that you can put on after you unscrew the flash hider. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to remove the flash hider yet. After removing the set screw from the bottom, I could not get it to budge despite using pliers (yes I know it goes counter-clockwise). I think if I twisted any harder I could have broken something on the AEG. Doing some Googling found a number of reports of other people reporting this problem. Looks like they used too much loctite. Someone told me heating it up might loosen it up and I'll definately try that in the future. However I like the 10.5” barrel so I really don't care that much. Otherwise the included barrel extension looks great - much better than the unusable one included in the with my BOYI.
This AEG came with two 300 round hicap mags. I found that the mags fed BB's perfectly and are well made. One thing I did find strange was a small hole located near the bottom on the left side. Included in the box was a wind-up key just like you would find on an old fashion wind-up toy. You can insert the key into the hole in the side of the mag and wind it up instead of using the usual wheel located on the bottom of the mag. While strange, its actually an effective way to ensure a full wind on the spring, although I question the wisdom of bringing the key out to a game much less trying to use one on the field. From what I understand, VFC also makes hicaps with this feature.
Also included in the box was a DVD supplied by Echo1 featuring two short features: one shows a bunch of guys running around playing with airsofts doing simulated room clearings and other such situations and the other feature shows Echo's product line. Hardly worth anything, but it added a nice touch to the overall package.
Enough Already, How Does It Shoot?
Now we come to perhaps the most important and controversial feature of this AEG: it comes out of the box shooting .2 BB's at 420 fps. Let me say that again - this thing shoots a .2 BB at 420 fps. This is no joke and is the one feature that keeps me from recommending this AEG to anyone who is NOT comfortable with AEG upgrades (or downgrades in this case).
I chrono'd my 614 for using a the small Guarder chrono. I got numbers ranging from 408 to 422 fps with .2 BB's, with most of the readings being about 416 fps. Test firing a full auto produced a loud ‘brap’ sound and you could feel the piston working.
To some people 420 fps sounds like a great feature. In my experience, this is simply too hot to play airsoft safely. Most outdoor fields have limits of 400 fps for good reason. I've been shot by 400+ AEG's before and have walked off the field with my FRS radio's display shattered and have picked BB's out of the back of my hand (which I still have the scars for after 4 years). I know some groups don't have a problem with 400+ field fps limits, but for the kinds of games we regularly have here in central Florida with 100's of people attending with mixtures of hard cover and lots and lots of jungle like underbrush, its just plain stupid. Some people think they need a high fps AEG to get the range they are expecting, but what they make up for in range they lose in accuracy. Besides, any veteran airsofter knows you need to maneuver into a better position if you can't get range.
When I ordered my 614 from Airsoft GI, I also got an Echo brand M100 spring. Before I take this thing to a game, I'm going to down grade it and re-chrono it to makes sure I get below 350 fps, which I think is more than adequate for any AEG.
I also plan on moving the wiring harness out the back of the gear box and running it through the stock tube and out the back. I'm going to use either a Crane stock and battery (possibly the one off my BOYI CQB-R) or a stock mag pouch with a large battery in it. Although I don't really have any problems with the included battery and PEQ2 box, I've done this conversion with other M4's I've owned and have had great results with it. I also plan to install a sling point between the stock and body for my single point harness.
With the exception of the 420 fps, I think this is a great AEG. The overall feel of it is very nice and would work nicely for field or CQB games. The RIS gives you a lot of options in terms of red dot sights and flash lights or vertical grips. The RIS on this model is much longer than on a standard M4 RIS, giving you better flexibility with where you can position your gear.