Gun test: Lee Enfield M4 A1 Carbine Semi-Auto BB Rifle

Dave Barham shooting the Lee Enfield M4 A1 Carbine Semi-Auto BB Rifle

It's great fun to shoot, and relatively lightweight at just over 5lb - Credit: Archant

Dave Barham reviews the new CO2-powered BB repeater - enter, the Lee Enfield M4 A1 Carbine Semi-Auto BB rifle!

We’re going with something a little bit different this month for The Big Test. I don’t usually feature BB rifles in such a way, but I felt like this one from The Shooting Party deserved the attention. My initial thoughts were well and truly bolstered after the first three-hour shooting session in my back garden, when both of my girls refused to put the thing down – I lost count of how many CO2 cartridges we went through that morning!

Dave Barham adjusting the butt stock on the Lee Enfield M4 A1 Carbine Semi-Auto BB Rifle

Adjusting the butt stock is really easy - Credit: Archant

History on the Lee Enfield
The Lee Enfield Guns, M4 A1 Carbine was originally developed by Colt, the M4 was officially accepted into service by the US military in 1994 to replace the older Colt carbines. It first saw action in the hands of US troops deployed to Kosovo in 1999, in support of the NATO peacekeeping force. It would subsequently be used heavily by US forces during the Global War on Terrorism. In the US Army, the M4 largely replaced submachine guns and sidearms because of the M4’s superior stopping power and ability to penetrate modern body armour. In addition to Colt, the M4 has also been manufactured by Remington and latterly, F N Herstal. For many, the M4 is the very epitome of the modern military rifle.

The ejector port cover, flipped down, on a Lee Enfield M4 A1 Carbine Semi-Auto BB Rifle

The ejector port cover fips open - Credit: Archant

Action
Just like many CO2-powered BB pistols, this rifle features a semi-automatic action. You can send those 4.5mm steel BBs down the range as quickly as you can pull the trigger, and what fun it is too!

If I had one negative thing to say about this rifle, it’s the meagre 18 shots you get from each mag’. I know it’s all based on a pistol mag’ system, cleverly housed inside a dummy magazine, but this thing is so much fun to shoot, I’d love it if there was some way of producing say a 60-shot mag’ for it. That’s half the battle with BB guns, though, isn’t it? Having to keep reloading the mag’ after each 18-shot burst!

I was getting around 60 shots from a single CO2 cartridge, and the 3.36gr BBs were giving around 450fps, which equates to 2.4 ft.lbs.

The drop down magazine on a Lee Enfield M4 A1 Carbine Semi-Auto BB Rifle

The drop down mag' is released via this button - Credit: Archant

Magazine
I know, I know, I’m an impatient chap when it comes to loading fiddly BBs into a mag’. I think some of that stems from me using airsoft pistols back in the day, which had speed-loading facilities. 

You release the dummy mag’ from the rifle by pressing the button on the right-hand-side above the trigger. This releases the drop-down dummy mag’ from the rifle. It looks and feels just like a real M4 A1 mag’ though, but cleverly hidden inside is the real BB mag’ and CO2 port, rather like you’d find on most BB pistols. Simply depress the little button at the top of the dummy mag’ and pull the unit out.

Loading the CO2 is really easy, using the Allen key provided. Simply undo the large screw at the base, pop your 12g CO2 cylinder in and tighten it all down with the Allen key. 

Loading the BBs is as fiddly as ever, but it is reasonably easy to do. At least this mag’ has a retaining spring system to make life easier. You pull the spring-loaded BB feeder probe down using the little tab, then push the tab to the left to lock it in place. Now you have to drop each individual BB into the tiny hole until the mag’ is filled with 18 BBs. Now push the probe tab to the right to release the spring and you’re ready to pop the mag’ back into the larger dummy mag’, which does so with a satisfying ‘click’.

To insert the mag’ back into the rifle you just push it in and give it a slap upwards on the base of the mag’ – just like the real thing! It sounds very realistic as you ram it home!

Carry handle, removed to reveal Picatinny rail beneath, on the Lee Enfield M4 A1 Carbine Semi-Auto BB Rifle

The carry handle comes off to reveal a Picatinny rail underneath! - Credit: Archant

Additional features
What makes this rifle so appealing is the huge array of features. I’ll kick off with the ‘not so useful’ ones, because this replica actually hosts a load of ‘dummy’ features to make it as close to the real thing as possible.

These include the already mentioned dummy mag’, plus a dummy mag’ lock. There’s a forward assist assembly and the manual safety switch rotates to ‘full auto’, as well as ‘semi’ and ‘safe’ positions. Then there’s the dummy charger handle, which actually flips open the dummy ejector port cover. That’s those dummy features out of the way, now on to the real, interesting stuff.

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This rifle is fitted with metal sling swivels, so you can attach a strap to it, if needs be. The carry handle can be removed via the two thumb screws to reveal a 5.5-inch Picatinny rail, so you can add a red dot or even a laser sight. However, this rifle does feature fully adjustable combat sights, akin to the original rifle, and they’re pretty accurate too – as far as a CO2-powered BB rifle goes. I’m not talking tight groups by any means, but there’s enough accuracy there for blasting tin cans at 20 yards all day long. You can raise or lower the elevation via a knurled screw underneath the rear peep sight, and the windage is adjusted via another screw on the right-hand side of the rear peep assembly. Both have solid ‘clickers’ as you adjust them.

The rear peep sight is very realistic, featuring two different apertures to be used in conjunction with the forward fixed post. They flip up and down to switch between each one, just like the real thing.

The butt stock is adjustable, too, so you can obtain the perfect fit. I had it fully extended for my long, lanky arms, whilst my eldest daughter, Mia (aged 14) had it set about halfway and my youngest, Holly (aged 11) had it push as far in as it goes. Its simply a case of depressing the lever and pushing or pulling the butt in or out, then releasing the lever to lock it in place – exactly like you would with any of the ‘tactical’ stock air rifles on the market.

A young girl shooting a Lee Enfield M4 A1 Carbine Semi-Auto BB Rifle

Safety first! Always wear protective glasses when shooting steel BBs - Credit: Archant

Practical test
I’ve already mentioned at the start of this review that I had a real job prising the M4 A1 out of my daughters’ hands, even for me to have a go! Which is testament to just how much fun this rifle is to shoot. I’ve also mentioned my gripes, mainly the 18-shot mag’, which just takes the edge off it for me, but like I’ve said, I’m an impatient kinda guy. What would be handy is the ability to purchase additional magazines separately. That way you could load two or three up and have an even more realistic experience by dropping and changing mag’s throughout your shoot. You get around 60 shots per CO2 cartridge so that means filling each mag’ up three times before you need to change the CO2.

I’ve since spent quite a few 30-minute sessions in my garden, demolishing tin cans, packets of mints and cardboard boxes, and I’ve loved every second of it.

If you like your military replicas, then this one offers excellent value for money at just £159.99, and I’m sure you’ll love it just as much as my girls and I do. 

SPECS
Model:
M4 A1 Carbine
Manufacturer: Lee Enfield
Distributor: The Shooting Party
Type: CO2, multi-shot
Stock Material: Black synthetic
Stock type: Ambidextrous with adjustable length butt
Trigger: Single stage
Calibre: 4.5mm BB
Safety: Manual
Overall Length: 850m max
Barrel Length: 385mm
Magazine Capacity: 18 shots
Weight: 5.2lbs (2.4kg)
Shot Capacity: Around 60
Power:  450fps = 2.4 ft.lbs.
Website: www.shootingparty.uk 
RRP: £159.99