WE M4A1 Katana AEG Review by Booligan
Basic Gun Information
WE is obviously known for their gas powered airsoft replicas, however, they've dipped their toes in the AEG pool a few times, with great results every time that I've seen. Today, we're taking a look at their M4 Katana, an AEG designed to bridge the gap between a normal V2 gearbox and the Systema PTW. Picking some of the best features of both systems, while keeping primarily TM compatibility, the Katana promises to be both a player's and a customizer's dream gun. Will it live up to all this hype? Let's dive into this platform and see what WE has whipped up!
I was sent the Katana by Airsoft Megastore who has it available HERE priced at $358.36 at the time of this review. They also sent an upgraded power cylinder, which is available HERE, priced at $53.95. This quick swap upper cylinder setup is one of the things that makes this whole gun special. This is my second recent experience with Airsoft Megastore, and they did a great job on this order as well. The packaging was on point, filled with large inflatable bags to keep the inner box from moving too much during shipment.
Basic Gun Information:
The WE M4 Katana is a full metal AEG with a custom gearbox design featuring mainly V2 lower internals and a PTW inspired upper gearbox (but not an actual PTW upper). Externally, the gun uses standard TM type components, allowing you to easily swap out furniture, barrels, and magazines, unlike the PTW. It also comes in at a relatively reasonable price, $360ish at the time of this review, putting it on par with guns from VFC and G&G, but offering a larger feature list for the most part.
The Katana comes packaged in a cardboard box without any sort of liner to keep it from bouncing around in there too much. The gun is secured in place however, keeping it in one piece during shipment. It got to me without any damage. When I pulled it out of the box, I noticed how it looked pretty much identical to my previous WE M4 that I reviewed, the standard V2 gearbox equipped model. The finish is a nice matte black color which looks damn near identical to my real AR, making the thing look impressively realistic.
Click on the individual thumbnails to see the full size photos
Very basic packaging
Along with the gun itself, WE included, well, nothing! Aside from a manual and magazine, the package is quite bare bones. You'll need to purchase your own battery, and for my testing, I'm using my tried and true Tenergy 11.1v 20C 1000 mAh LiPo pack.
Weight: 7.1 lbs
Length: 31.5" - 34.75"
Sight Radius: 14.8"
Length of Pull: 11.5" - 14.75"
The externals of the Katana aren't exactly groundbreaking, but they certainly are high quality and make the gun look realistic. They're just, well, kind of boring. Standard M4 receiver, Crane style stock, normal pistol grip, KAC style split RIS, and a full length barrel. It's really nothing too noteworthy, just a normal SOPMOD type M4.
External overview, left side
Overview, right side
The stock is, as mentioned before, a Crane type unit fitted to an odd 4 position buffer tube. It's the full length of a 5 position unit, but is missing the 2nd hole. The buffer tube has a real style castle nut, but the tube itself is still attached to the receiver using a screw like a normal AEG. At the base of the receiver, you'll find an ambidextrous sling loop which allows easy transition from right to left while shooting.
Crane style stock
Stock fully extended
Butt pad opened up showing battery compartments
The receiver is a standard M4 unit with normal control placement. The pistol grip features a ventilated heat sink style base with a flat head adjustment screw. The selector switch is located on the left side with the bolt catch and the magazine release button is located on the right. The selector switch doubles as the spring decompression mechanism, removing tension on the spring when you flip it to safe. The pins are a captive design, and the rear actually can't be pushed out unless you flip it on safe first, preventing you from opening the gearbox without returning the piston to a resting position. This keeps it from stripping out when opening the gun up.
Receiver, left side
Heat sink motor base
Functional bolt catch
The handguard is a KAC style 2 piece RIS which is becoming incredibly common these days. It fits without any sort of wobble or free play and is a well made unit, and has correct T marks on all sides. The bottom panel has a metal heat shield riveted in place and the gun does feature a faux gas tube.
Lower panel removed
The outer barrel is a 14.5" unit that appears to be convertible down to 10" or so, however, the extension is glued pretty solidly in place. The extension is terminated in 14mm- threads and fitted with an orange plastic flashhider. I removed it shortly after arrival and installed the metal birdcage unit seen in the pics.
Outer barrel, note the split in front of the front sight where it can convert down to a shorter unit
The iron sights are all standard M4 units consisting of a detachable rear carry handle with hand adjustable sights and a front fixed triangle sight that requires a tool for adjustment. With the carry handle removed, you can easily mount optics, however, you may need to remove the front sight, depending on the optics you choose.
Carry handle iron sight
There are no trademarks whatsoever on the Katana. Not even an engraved "Made in Taiwan" mark to be found anywhere. There are a few small stickers showing things like that, but they're easily removed.
The included magazine is a 300 round metal hi-cap with a smooth curve to the design instead of the normal AR mag's kink. It's not quite as curvy as an HK mag, but it does have a bit of a curve to it. It locks very well into the gun with very little free play and drops free when you press the magazine release. The gun is compatible with pretty much any TM type AR mag, and I didn't find anything in my collection of mags that didn't fit and feed.
Included hi-cap magazine
The only identifying mark on the whole gun
Performance after a 500 round break-in, using Echo 1 .20g ammo is as follows:
High FPS: 354.2 FPS
Low FPS: 349.1 FPS
Average FPS: 350.6 FPS
Rate of fire with Tenergy 11.1v LiPo: 22 RPS
High FPS: 408.4 FPS
Low FPS: 401.9 FPS
Average FPS: 404.4 FPS
Rate of fire with Tenergy 11.1v LiPo: 19 RPS
Rate of fire seems to be quite good with my Tenergy LiPo regardless of the cylinder used. My understanding is that the PTW type cylinder has upper ROF caps due to the tappet plate-less system, so it won't be the best option if you're looking for super high rate of fire. I was impressed with the shot to shot consistency though, the thing was extremely consistent, only fluctuating a few FPS between shots.
Range and accuracy will vary depending on the cylinder and ammo used, but in my testing, using Echo 1 .25g BBs, the red cylinder gave me consistent torso accurate fire out to 155', and the grey cylinder stretched out to 180' easily. The hop-up seems to have more than enough power to spin heavy ammo up to .30g, but since the velocity caps out to 400 or so, you're going to be slightly limited in your final range.
One thing to note is that the gun sounds very strange while firing if you've only ever used standard AEGs. To be honest, the gun sounds jammed. You know that sound when the gun's not feeding right and there's an odd clicking noise when the air-nozzle hits the BB in the hop-up? It sounds like that all the time. It's a little disconcerting at first, but doesn't seem to be indicative of any problems.
As mentioned before, this gun uses a custom gearbox setup with a PTW inspired upper cylinder and a V2 compatible lower gearbox setup. The combination allows you to swap out upper cylinders on the fly to give you higher or lower FPS depending on your field rules, loadout, shooting style, etc.
Red cylinder comes installed, shown here pulled out
Detail on the red cylinder
Small window for the piston
Inside this cylinder, you'll find the small PTW type spring and piston, as well as the specialized cylinder head. The piston is a high quality design with a shaved first tooth for improved AOE and steel last tooth for durability. The piston head is made of aluminum as is the entire cylinder head assembly and air nozzle.
Cylinder head details
Compared to standard (albeit stripped) AEG piston
The lower gearbox houses steel V2 gears (but with a 13 tooth sector gear), 8mm solid bushings, and the anti-reversal latch system that connects to the selector switch. The trigger system appears to be a standard V2 unit so upgrades should be a piece of cake. The thing is absolutely repairable if something goes wrong, and upgrades to the gears will be simple, aside from needing to modify the sector gear.
Opened up, nothing too scary here
Steel high quality gears
The hop-up is a clear plastic unit equipped with a normal hop-up bucking and nub fitted to a 350mm inner barrel, a bit shorter than a standard M4 inner barrel. The barrel looks to be a high quality unit with deep muzzle crowning.
Deep muzzle crowning
One of the top things about the Katana platform is that it has many of the same features of the Systema PTW platform, but with much better parts compatibility for accessories and upgrades. Stocks, pistol grips, barrels, rails, etc can all easily be changed out for different units. The gun is rear wired, making front end conversions a simple operation. For me, I'm thinking of going even deeper down the PTW conversion hole by swapping in my Deep Fire PTW type outer/inner barrel setup, and possibly installing an ASCU Gen 3 firing computer. Coupled with one of those fancy pants "wire cutter" rails and a few other trick parts, it could make for a very cool custom gun.
PTW type functionality at a reasonable price
TM compatible externals
Lower gearbox uses V2 components for the most part
Upper cylinder swaps out quickly and easily
Spring decompresses when you put the gun on safe
Consistent, skirmishable performance out of the box
Idiot proof design (rear pin can't come out unless safety is on, stuff like that)
Paint finish on some parts is easily scratched
Spring decompression can cause the first shot to be a blank fire from time to time
Individual parts for the upper cylinder are harder to find
Sector gear will require modification for replacement
When I reviewed the original WE M4 AEG, I was very impressed with what I saw. Now that I've tested out the updated Katana version, I'm still extremely impressed with what WE's come up with. For a company that had little previous experience with AEGs, they managed to knock this thing out of the park. It blends some of the better ideas from the PTW platform with the compatibility of a V2 platform in a single gun that comes priced in the ballpark of a mid-high level standard AEG. It does suffer from "SOPMOD" syndrome, in which it looks like pretty much every other tacticool AR out there, but since it's easily modified, that shouldn't be a problem for too long.
Many thanks again to Airsoft Megastore, and of course, Airsoft Retreat!