Does it live up to the buzz?
When it comes to AK replicas, the East Block community is probably one of the hardest to please. Why? Simply because we look at every small detail and we want our replicas to be as close to the real firearm as possible. We want correct markings, true dimensions, real coatings, russian wood and stuff. Hell, I even want it to smell like the real deal!
I’ve owned AKs of every major Airsoft manufacturer on the market: ranging from crappy ACM clones to top-notch Inokatsu kits and I’ve worked on a lot of different types and systems. I’ll try my best to keep this review as neutral as possible but sometimes I will slightly drift into a more personal perspective.
First of all, in this review I will mainly focus on the technical side of things and how the E&L AKM compares to the real AKM and similar Airsoft replicas.
There will be no “Oh, that’s the box where it comes in” or “Look, a 600rds Hi-Cap magazine” and stuff.
Another heads-up: be sure to check out the gallery at the end of the post since there are way more photos of the AKM that I don’t use in the write-up.
To be honest, I haven’t heard of E&L till the day we got the preview of SCDTV’s absolutely hilarious “E&L Strength Test” video. The moment I saw them trying to rip their AK into pieces, I started gathering more intel about this new manufacturer. I was crawling trough Google’s search results and then there was that moment when I saw their product line-up for the first time:
“COPYCATS! YOU SERIOUS?” I shouted towards my LCD screen – to me it looked like they were ripping off LCT replicas and man, I was pissed about that fact. I was expecting something new and innovative, something magical – covered in pixie dust. I mean, it’s ok to copy a system but not an entire company’s line-up. At least that’s what it looked like.
Intel was hard to find. E&L’s homepage had an empty “About” section and the only info I could find were some highly polished product descriptions from various retailers. E&L is a chinese manufacturer, wich claims to produce real firearm parts. They say they use “modified versions of their firearm parts to produce the Airsoft replicas”. The internals come from “a manufacturer, wich produces high quality internal parts for the japanese market”. That’s a hell of a statment.
E&L AKs created some huge kind of buzz, some calling them “THE AKs of AKs” and that’s how they are advertised (like “we use parts from the real firearm” etc.). But will the E&L AKM stand up to it? Will it be a serious cempetitor to already existing models and manufacturers? We’ll find out – let’s digg deeper into the rabbit hole.
a) First Impressions:
When you take that AKM out of it’s box, you’ll notice one thing at first: IT. IS. OILY.
This is the ugliest unboxing experience I’ve ever had. Not that I’m disgusted by gun oil – I just don’t like my new Airsoft guns to be sticky and oily. I mean, the steel is coated, there are no moving parts wich need to be propperly oiled to function (it’s no Glock knive).
I have no clue why it needs to be so oily but I think it helps creating a more realistic, more authentic feeling. Mo’ oil – Mo’ legit!
Second thing you will notice is, that is a solid, heavy and sexy looking replica. There is absolutely NO wobble or whatsoever. It feels just like a real AKM. Big suprise – the slots for the fire selector lever are correct! And yes, comrades are bitching about little things like this.
Steel is everywhere. There’s almost no aluminium, monkey metal (cast iron) or whatsoever. The reciever is solid and has a nice gray-ish finish to it. The surface looks a bit rough tough – you can see some irregularities here and there but it’s by far the best finish I’ve seen on a chinese replica. The plastic grip has a solid feel to it. The color is ok. It already had some dents and scratches to it.
The Wood looks good, a bit too dark and red for my taste. The varnish is very thin and fragile – I dare you scratching it! Don’t try to weather the wood, the varnish will simply fall off. The problem is, the varnish doesn’t merge with the fibres of the wood – it’s more like a top coat but this seems to be quite legit on real AKMs, You can see it on the photo underneath. It shows where the varnish has fallen off from beeing touched by the sling hook. This has happend during the first game with the gun. It’s not a bad thing considering that this will create a unique “used-look”.
Ok, so the first impressions were positive. Let’s see, what all the details will add to it.
b) Details, lots of em!
When it comes to AK replicas, many of them have problems fitting 3rd party magazines. You may have encountered that problem if you own a Dboys, LCT or CYMA replica. 90% of the time the mag catch is causing problems because it is too long. So it is on the E&L AK too.
The E&L High-Cap plugs in nicely, tough it’s a tight fit. So tight, that you’ll have problems getting the mag out of the gun. Check the photo below, the mag catch is too long and snags right into the back of the mag’s hook, wich is plastic.
In the next two photos I’ll compare the length of the mag catch with the help of a caliper rule. The first photo shows the E&L AKM, the second photo a VFC AIMS.
You can clearly see that the E&L’s mag catch is just a tad longer. I highly suggest to sanding down the mag catch and NOT modify your mags! This will help ensure, that your mags will fit into diffetent AK replicas and not just a single one (modifying the mags will/can cause different problems from not feeding to simply not beeing able to fit).
The pin, wich holds the mag catch in place was a very loose fit on my review model. At the first game using the E&L AKM it fell out and the whole mag catch including the spring dropped to the ground. I’m not sure if this is the case with other E&L models, just a heads-up to you guys to check the propper installation of it before you start using your replica.
The cleaning rod is 5mm in diameter and absolutely solid.
“UssrRussian93” asked me to measure the outer barrel’s diameter. Here you go, it’s 16mm.
Another good thing when it comes to realism: the rear sight has the correct 1000m markings on it. It is a very sturdy piece and I wasn’t able to detatch it from the rear sight block as the spring holding it in place is very strong.
Despite from the fire selector markings, these are the only other ones on the gun consisting of the “Tula” star, the year it was made in, 1976 (if it would be a real gun) and the serial number. I’m not sure if the serial number is unique.
OK, so this E&L AKM is supposed to be a replica of a 1976 Tula AKM. Do other parts of the AKM fit this year of production? The stock has the sling mount on the side, wich Tula started using in 1972.
The lower handguard is a late type Tula. The only thing that doesn’t fit a late type AKM is the gas block, wich is an early/mid type.
The welding spots don’t really match the real ones. This is more or less cosmetics, but as I said eralier, some people look at such details.
Photo of the real AKM belongs to Stottman / The AK Forum. Check out this link if you want to see different AKM versions from the 60s to the 70s.
The lower handguard is laminated just like the real thing. The hole let’s water drain out of the handguard.
The hole in the AKMs (outer)barrel might be there for legal reasons, so you can’t use the barrel on a real gun – like seen on the RealSword guns.
The upper handguard has also a big slot cut into. Maybe for the same legal reasons as on the barrel. The material feels very thin on this one. I wouldn’t want to shoot this gas tube on a real AKM tough.
The rear sight block is one solid piece of metal. It has a nice finish with a bit rougher surface than the reciever. The front sight and gas block to have the same kind of finish.
Again, something “UssrRussian93” requested and wich is very important when it comes to AK replicas: “What’s the inside diameter of the rear sight block and will my battery fit in?”
Since the E&L AKM has a real buttstock and can fit a cleaning kit inside, there’s no room for the battery and it must be placed under the top cover.
Back in the days there where no LiPo or LiFePo batteries (sure, they were there but just not usable for Airsoft) and the rear sight block was made to accommodate only NiCd or NiMh batteries wich were smaller in diameter.
There are manufacturers that already make the opening of the rear sight block bigger but 90% of the time you need to modify/sand it to fit modern batteries.
The E&L AKM has one of those tight rear sight blocks and I wasn’t able to fit my 9.9V LiFePo in it. It is 18.3mm wide and most LiPo batteries have at least 18mm, mostly 19mm in width. If you are reading this E&L, please, make them bigger. It’s a pain in the arse to sand down a steel rear sight block.
c) Disassembling the Gun:
When it comes to assembling/disassembling there are differences between each manufacturer. There are mainly 3 different systems wich are Inokatsu/LCT (new and old version), VFC and Marui.
The E&L AKM is a mixture of the LCT and the VFC system. It’s mainly LCT but uses the bolt / charging handle of the VFC wich is a big improvement in terms of battery placement.
Now I’ll disassemble the AKM. There’s no “right way” of doing it, you can start at different steps – I just like to start with the grip.
Step 1: unscrew the grip screw.
Step 2: remove the top cover.
Step 3: remove the charging handle and spring assembly.
Step4: The tricky part. You can remove the rear sight and the rear sight spring and use a Hex key to unscrew the barrel from above (vertically) or you can leave the rear sight on and use the Hey key horizontally.
Step 5: Remove the screw holding the Hop-Up unit onto the gearbox.
Step 6: Remove the fire selector screw.
Step 7: Push the barrel assembly a bit forward so that the nozzle is free.
Step 8: Remove the gearbox.
Optional steps if you want to remove the Hop-Up: Unscrew the Hop-Up using a Hex key. Push the Hop-Up out of the barrel a bit. Push the barrel assembly forward and tilt it up so the Hop-Up can be moved out of the reviever.
Optional Steps to remove the upper and lower handguard: open the lever holding the gas tube in place. Push the lever up.
Remove the gas tube. There’s a lever on the hand guard retainer. Open the lever.
Let the lever stay in the vertical position. Move the retainer forward and take off the lower handguard.
Lower handguard taken off. You can see the tension spring on the front end.
d) The Gearbox and it’s Organs:
The gearbox is the best I’ve ever seen coming from a chinese manufacturer. The shell is a very good fit and is well put together, there are now flaws whatsoever.
The motor cage has no wobble and fits perfectly. The motor is a “ELM 170 High Torque” model and has very strong magnets, thus a lot of power. The motor contacts are stuck onto the motor covered with shrink tube. The cables are on the thinner side and the fuse is a micro car fuse wich can be quite hard to find. The placement of the fuse is pefect tough.
Let’s take a closer look inside.
When you open the gearbox, there’s nothing special on first sight. It features a bearing spring guide, a polycarbonate piston with a “silent” style piston head (no bearing, wich isn’t necessary as long as the spring guide has one) with matching cylinder head, standard brass cylinder (full type), steel gear set by XYT, a delayer chip on the sector gear, a standard nozzle. The spring seems to be a short one wit a lot of power.
XYT markings on the anti-reversible latch (ARL).
The gearbox uses 8mm baerings und busings. Bushings are used on the sector gear where the most force/stress from the spring is applied to.
I’m a nerd when it comes to shimming and I appreciate a good shim job on a gear set. To be honest, the shimming on the E&L AKM is almost perfect. I haven’t seen such a good shim job right out of the factory for a long time.
The “silent” piston head and cylinder head.
The AOE (angle of engagement) isn’t perfect and needs some modification by either sanding the last tooth down to the right angle or by shimming the piston head to push the piston back further. You can also use Sorbo pads on the cylinder head. The AOE is important when it comes to the longevity of the piston. If the AEO is wrong, you might brick that piston in a short period of time.
e) Hop-Up and Inner Barrel:
The inner barrel is 6.04 in diameter, made out of brass and has a groove on the front end for holding an o-ring in place. The o-ring can help reduce vibration of the barrel while shooting if the outer barrel is a bit on the wider side.
The Hop-Up chamber is a Prowin clone wich can be screwd onto the gearbox. This helps with air tightness and consistency. The Hop-Up adjustment lever is made out of plastic and moves very easily.
Hop-Up chamber and inner barrel assembled.
The bucking has a grooved contact area wich helps centering the BB in the chamber / barrel. It helps with the accuracy.
The o-ring groove on the front end.
f) FPS Results and Shooting:
Measured with 0,2g BBs, Hopup set to max. open position.
This is quite an impressive chrono reading in case of consistency (consistancy is the key to a precise airsoft gun).
The E&L AKM shoots hard, far and is pretty accurate. I had no problem hitting a 30x30cm target 60m away. Groupings are tight if you hold steady. The rate of fire is pretty standard, considering the strong spring and the torque-up motor it’s quite good (especially with a 11,1V LiPo battery).
Does the E&L AKM live up to all the buzz it created? Certainly not. It’s a great piece of replica but it simply doesn’t live up to the term “THE AK of AKs”. The Competition is strong and the AKM has its flaws. If you are capable of or willing to modifying a few parts, you can make a very decent Airsoft gun out of it.
With some improvements, the E&L AK series of replicas could become a very serious competitor to the big names in business. You should definitly be keeping an eye on them!
This Review is brought to you by
I would like to thank our Friends from Gunfire for providing us with the E&L AKM.
Gunfire is the exclusive E&L Airsoft distributor for Central-Eastern Europe.
Check out their Website for more E&L replicas: http://gunfire.pl/firm-eng-1383559869-E-L-Airsoft.
And be sure to check out the E&L Airsoft website for more intel and news: www.emei-landarms.com
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