Airsoft M4 vs AK Comparison (In Depth)
While there are dozens and dozens of different airsoft guns that are patterned after modern firearms, two of the most popular AEG rifles have to be the airsoft clones of the M4 and the AK.
This should come as absolutely zero surprise to anyone even vaguely familiar with firearms, any fans of action movies, or anyone that loves to play video games like Call of Duty, for example.
Both the M4 and the AK-47 are incredibly popular firearms in their own right, some of the most influential firearms found all over the world, and some of the most iconic firearm designs ever created.
It’s really easy to understand why these airsoft platforms are as popular as they are when you consider that the “real deal” versions of these airsoft weapons are two of the most popular rifles ever made, too.
The trick here, of course, is trying to figure out whether or not you should purchase an M4 airsoft gun or an AK-47 (or AK pattern) airsoft rifle.
Both bring a lot of different things to the table, both have different pros and cons to one another, and while both can be tricked out to be incredibly effective airsoft battle rifles you want to know which one is best suited to your play style, your interests, and (of course) your budget.
And that’s why we have put together this detailed guide.
Below we dig into (almost) everything you need to know about airsoft M4 rifles and AK pattern rifles, shining a light on what these airsoft guns do best, where they fall a little short, and how they stack up against one another.
By the time you are done the inside information below, you’ll have a much better idea of which one of these airsoft rifles are worth spending your hard-earned money on – so let’s jump right in!
Quick Overview of Airsoft M4 vs AK Weapons
Before we get into the actual meat and potatoes of the comparison of M4 versus AK airsoft weapons it’s important to highlight some of the good (some of the bad) things that these weapon platforms have to offer.
Overview of the M4
Primarily based on the M4 design from the real firearms world, the Colt Arms manufacturing company is the originator of the legitimate M4 – a carbine variant of the M-16 and AR 15 platforms.
Used by militaries all over the world, including all branches of the US military, the M4 is particularly beloved and appreciated by special forces units and operators. Pretty much every major firearms manufacturer on the planet has its own AR-style pattern available for sale, many of them completely interchangeable with one another when broken down into lower and upper receivers.
Super customizable, infinitely adaptable, and one of the most reliable firearms ever made, this weapon is as iconic as they come.
Overview of the AK
The AK design is quite a bit older than the M4, having been around almost since the end of World War II and manufactured by arms companies all over the world on a pretty much 24/7 basis from the moment that it first rolled off of the assembly line.
A lot of people in the firearms community consider the AK to be one of the most reliable firearms ever produced, which is amazing considering the fact that it is so cheap and so easy to slap together. Made by the millions in Russia, and China, and in other parts of the world, this firearm has become synonymous with some of the most hotly contested modern conflicts of our time.
Insurgents throughout Afghanistan and Iraq regularly use AK pattern rifles, and while the design hasn’t changed very much in nearly 80 years it is highly adaptable, highly flexible, and had seen action on pretty much every corner of the globe.
It’s another one of those super iconic firearms that you recognize straight away even if you’ve never shot a firearm before.
Highlighting the Main Differences Between Airsoft M4 vs AK Weapons
Now that we’ve covered the bones and basics of the real deal versions of the M4 and the AK pattern rifles it’s time to get into the major differences between the airsoft versions.
Looks and Aesthetics
The M4 looks like the ultimate combat rifle, a futuristic piece of technology that just exudes confidence and makes you feel like it’s the best thing to wade into a war zone with – especially when it has been tricked out with all kinds of accessories attached to modern rail systems.
The airsoft version of the M4 (especially high-end versions) at the exact same look, the exact same level of detail, and many similar components even though it fires plastic BBs as opposed to 5.56 rifle rounds.
It looks like a serious weapon you feel super confident waging an airsoft war with, that’s for sure.
On the flip side of things, there’s something rugged, something almost rustic, and something a little bit “throwback” about the look of the AK.
It doesn’t look very modern (though it can be modernized with cutting-edge components for sure), it’s base version is made with steel and wood, and if it looks like it’s the kind of rifle used by nontraditional armed forces in combat that’s because it is!
The airsoft version of the AK has that same look, that big banana clip that separates the silhouette of the AK apart from everything else, and many have either a plastic version of the wooden stock and hand guard or a legitimate wooden version just like the real deal.
If you’re looking for something sleek and modern, the M4 is right up your alley. If you want something a bit more rugged and a bit more “retro” the AK is where you’ll want to spend your money on an airsoft AEG.
The airsoft AK is more reliable than the M4 (just like the real one)
As far as the reliability of these airsoft rifles is concerned, the nod definitely has to go to AK style AEG rifles.
The overwhelming majority of AK options on the market today (including those made by budget airsoft gun manufacturers and high-end manufacturers alike) have a unique gearbox shell design that provides a much better layer of protection than most M4 options will.
This guarantees that some of the most essential components on your AEG are going to be protected from things like dirt and debris, dust, wind, and weather in a way that your M4 may not be.
Combine all of that with the fact that a lot of M4 airsoft rifles have a reputation for cracking around the gearbox shell (usually because less expensive pot metal materials are used) and it’s easy to see why AK design airsoft rifles almost universally considered to be more durable and more reliable.
The airsoft M4 has more Customization options
If customization is important to you, and you want the ability to easily attach all kinds of accessories to your airsoft rifle, then you just won’t be the flexibility of the M4.
Almost every M4 ships direct from the manufacturer with a number of universal rail mounting systems (all across the handguard and usually on the top of the upper receiver to accommodate different optics), giving you nearly infinite options to pick and choose from when you want to trick out your airsoft gun.
You’ll be able to add lights and lasers, foregrips and new stocks, all different kinds of sites and optics, and pretty much anything else you can imagine with the help of these universal rail mounting systems that work with many of the same firearm accessories designed for the real M4.
You can get upgrades for AK AEG rifles that allow you to use rail systems, but most people that go down the AK route are looking to keep things simple, looking to keep things understated, and aren’t all that interested in the bells and whistles you can slap on an M4.
The M4 dominates in the customization department.
Iron Sight Effectiveness
You’ll probably want to be able to use your new AEG airsoft rifle straight out of the box, and unless you have ordered optics for that rifle that has already arrived you’re going to need to rely on the iron sights.
The iron sights on M4 and AK AEG airsoft rifles can be all over the place, with different versions and with different varieties offer depending on the specific type of rifle that is being cloned for airsoft purposes.
As a general rule, though, the iron sights on the M4 are going to be super easy to use. Modeled after the same iron sights issued by the US military, these sites are easy to adjust, easy to modify, and easy to leverage with a front post and a rear aperture or peep sight that you can take advantage of.
Unsurprisingly, AK iron sights on airsoft guns are also really simple and straightforward to use. This is, after all, a very simple and straightforward sort of rifle in real life – and airsoft manufacturers maintain that same front and rear post and notch style iron sights on most designs.
Truth be told, if you’re going to be using your new airsoft gun on a regular basis and want to improve your accuracy significantly it’s a good idea to look for optics you can slap on either of platforms.
You don’t need anything crazy magnification or anything that has a sky-high price tag attached (mostly because plastic airsoft BBs won’t shoot that far), but you will see a big uptick in your effectiveness, your consistency, and your ability to quickly acquire targets on the airsoft and deliver plastic BBs downrange that hit more often than not.
Magazines on both the M4 and AK airsoft versions are nearly identical to their real-world versions, with a couple of different capacity options just like you’d expect with the legitimate firearms, too.
Straight out of the box, most M4 options are going to come with a STANAG style magazine that looks a lot like the 30 round 5.56 magazine that legitimate M4 rifles use.
Standard capacity on these airsoft magazines sits anywhere between 150 BBs and 180 BBs. The high-capacity magazine for the M4 usually cranks things up to 300 to 350 BBs, though you can get a drum-style magazine or other “nonstandard” magazines that crank your capacity even higher than that.
The AK airsoft rifles have the iconic banana clip magazine that makes AK rifles so distinct in the real world, and because of that extra-large form factor you can expect to get nearly 300 BBs into most standard AK magazines.
Get a hold of a high-capacity AK magazine, though, and you can take that capacity up to 600 BBs or higher – with drum magazine available for most AK pattern AEG rifles, too.
Loading the magazines of these AEG airsoft rifles is pretty simple and straightforward, but it is definitely much easier to pull off when you’re dealing with M4 style magazines compared to AK style magazines.
There’s just something about the shape set up of even the highest quality aftermarket AK airsoft magazines that are a pain in the backside to fill, and even if you are able to finesse the situation so that they accept all of the BBs you are trying to pour in the odds of a jam are exponentially higher when you’re dealing with AK style banana mags.
Magazine Release Differences
The AK AEG rifle pattern as a nearly identical magazine release mechanism to the traditional AK, a lever that sits forward of the trigger guard that immediately disconnects the magazine from the magazine well and allows for relatively simple and straightforward reloading.
The beauty of the banana style magazine and this particular locking and unlocking mechanism is that the magazines can be “rocked” into position to guarantee an effective seating into the receiver pretty much every single time.
You won’t have to slap the magazine around, you don’t have to wiggle it around, and before you know it you’ll be confidently rolling magazines into the well without any thought whatsoever – even under plastic BBs fire!
The M4 magazine is ambidextrous on most airsoft rifles (just like it is on most legitimate M4s), and it’s a little but that you depress with your index finger that sits just slightly above the magazine well itself.
Disengaging these magazines is pretty easy with a little bit of practice (though not as easy as with the AK), but reloading magazines – particularly under stress when you are in a real fever-pitched airsoft battle – can be a little challenging.
The trouble starts when you aren’t able to a good seal on getting your magazine into the magazine well and connected with the receiver, but sometimes it’s tough just to get the magazines into the mag well itself to begin with!
The AK definitely has a couple of advantages in the magazine release department as well as in the reload department, though with regular and consistent training you should be pretty proficient with either one of these AEG rifles in no time at all.
Other Differences to Consider
There are other things you are going to want to consider when choosing between the M4 or the AK for your next airsoft rifle (or your first airsoft rifle), including but not limited to:
- The weight of these rifles (the M4 is usually lighter, especially if the AK has a real wood stock and handguard attached)
- The ease of switching between safe, semiauto, burst, and full-auto firing (usually easier with the M4, but not always)
- The battery placement options available (the AK can accept very large batteries inside of its stock or top receiver whereas the M4 usually can’t squeeze huge capacity batteries anywhere about the handguard upfront)
Obviously, these two airsoft guns are pretty different from one another even if the internals and the ammunition that they are firing are often identical.
At the end of the day, it’s impossible to recommend the M4 or the AK without knowing exactly what you are looking to get out of your new airsoft rifle.
If you want something sleek, modern, relatively compact, and infinitely customizable but with a smaller battery and usually not the greatest durability, the M4 is going to be ideal.
On the flip side of things, if you want something a little more rugged, little more durable, and maybe something a little less customizable and a little heavier than the AK is where you’ll want to focus your attention.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to use the inside information throughout this guide to help better inform your decision forward. You really can’t go wrong with either one of these airsoft AEG rifles, especially if you purchase them from a reputable manufacturer and make a couple of key upgrades that take them to the next level.