Ordered from this website: Dummy Supplies
Product: HEL 5.56MM HEL E4A Suppressor
Disclaimer: This review is a personal view of the said item. It was purchased in full by me, and I did not receive nor ask any compensation for it. The views presented here are my own.
If you are like me and are always looking for that one obscure item to complete the look of your replica build, this post is for you. The HEL E4A suppressor was one of those and when I found one listed on a website, I had to jump on it. Some friends of mine wanted one as well, so we made the order and the waiting began. The shop was located in Europe. Judging from the product description, we had some high expectations for the suppressor. It was said to fit well to a wide range of Airsoft rifles. Tokyo Marui, Classic Army and G&P were specifically mentioned in the product description. It was also specified that the product would also be supplied with screws to attach it securely to the barrel.
This post has my own personal thoughts on this dummy suppressor. While it has its drawbacks, it is also a very nice replica. I know of at least one other replica that has been made of the same real life suppressor. That one, to my knowledge, was made from metal and in small quantities. Comparison between these two is not done here as I do not own the metal one. I will instead look into this specific replication of the HEL E4A and offer some of my personal observations on it.
Short history on the HEL 5.56 Suppressors
Let us begin with a little bit of history. I am by no means an expert, and will only offer my limited knowledge that I acquired through research on this topic. Links for further reading will be provided at the end of this post.
During the Vietnam War when the AR-15 platform came into widespread use within the US forces, Special Operations personnel soon saw the value of having a suppressed weapon. From the early 1960s, the production and evaluation of suppressors for these rifles began and after many different variations, the HEL E4A came into existence.
HEL is short for the U.S. Army’s Human Engineering Laboratory, which was responsible for the production of the suppressors in question. They went through several variations of the suppressors, of which the HEL M4 variant was tested for use in the Vietnam War theater in the late 1960’s. After tests, the suppressor was said to have potential, but due to shortcomings, it was returned for further development. One of the most noticeable shortcomings was the need to change the bolt carrier, which was not ideal for Special Operations units. This made the suppressor a fixed part on the rifle, meaning changes in field conditions were not ideal.
After going back to the drawing board, the HEL E4A suppressor was developed and went through another test run with the U.S. Army. Going against other manufacturers (Sionics and Frankford Arsenal) models, the HEL E4A was recommended as suitable for field evaluation in Vietnam. While it was not as quiet as the earlier model, it fixed the more pressing issues regarding reliability and durability, and eliminated the need for a specific bolt carrier group. The HEL E4A was shipped for use in the Vietnam theater of was in late 1968 and early 1969. The earlier HEL M4 model also saw use in the summer of 1968, but those models were mostly replaced with the new E4A model once the units received them. The E4A model saw use in several units (SEALs, Rangers and Special Forces) for the duration of the Vietnam War.
I have to note, though I cannot confirm it, that there have been talks that the HEL E4A suppressors also saw use after the Vietnam War. We know that OPS Inc. suppressors were used by Special Operations later on, but non-confirmed sources (interwebz, essentially) have hinted towards these old suppressors seeing use as late as during Operation Gothic Serpent, by Delta Force. I have personally always been under the impression that they exclusively used OPS Inc. suppressors, but I am open for a discussion about this. The HEL E4A suppressors produced during the Vietnam War were cheap (around 50$ at that time per suppressor), and apparently the order was to just get a new one if they broke. Again, this is complete speculation on my part. But an interesting notion nevertheless.
The Dummy Supplies HEL E4A replica
Moving on to the main thing, the replica itself. The suppressor is 3D printed (to my knowledge at least) with a high-strength material. The finish on it is black, glossy and the suppressor has a “metallic look” to it. Once I got mine, I sanded it down and repainted it completely. A friend also added some “fading” to it, to make it look more used. With this I hoped to achieve a much better look, as it was a bit too glossy to my tastes.
As stated earlier, the suppressor is supposed to thread directly onto various different Airsoft rifles. I have tried this on my G&P M653, and to be honest, it does not thread securely onto it. One of my friends who bought one said he had the same issue on his G&P. I would guess that the material used wears out and does not have a good threading to securely attach onto the outer barrel. Mine worked rather well for a little while, but after some use, it does not secure well enough to be field secure, so to speak. I would not use it in events. Adding some tape around the end of the barrel might help, but I have not tried this.
There’s also some play where the “spacer” meets the front sight. The groove at the bottom of this piece is a little too large in comparison to the bayonet slug at the bottom. Again, something that can be fixed by adding material to either the bayonet slug or the groove. The supplied screws did not fit the holes made for them on the the suppressor and I had to enlarge them. The screws attach the main part of the suppressor fairly well to the smaller piece, but again, not secure enough for use in events.
This suppressor is nice, but for the price of about 50 euros (when I purchased it), it can be a bit steep for some. For simple photoshoots this works well. For actual Airsoft event use, I would not use it. If you can find a way to securely attach the suppressor to your barrel, then it is another matter. I know it can be done and it just requires some work on the users side. I was disappointed that it did not work straight out of the box, but this is a small business made replica. They have done a nice job replicating the HEL E4A. Since there are not many of these suppressors out on the market, if any, it is worth looking into if you need this for your kit/impression. Just be aware that you might need to do some custom work on it, depending on your use.
For me personally, the cool factor of this suppressor is great. This will at least see use in photoshoots and if I can secure it to the barrel, then it will also see event use. Suppressors do little in Airsoft (in my opinion), other than hide longer inner barrels and house tracer units, so you need to think if you really need it. As for build quality, it is good enough for me. Usage could be better, but I still have to tip my hat to the dudes making it. Always nice to see those niche bits of kit being produced by individuals who have a vision.