Category Archives: Evolution

Evolution 9: A&K M60VN

The crew had merely a taste of the awesomeness of a replica 7.62 LMG with the Mk43, and now it’s time to supersize it with the undistilled version in the A&K M60VN.  Bigger is better, as the saying goes, and they don’t come bigger than the biggest airsoft LMG of them all.

Technical Notes:

Internals and Externals

Bigger, longer and uncut certainly apply to A&K’s M60VN compared what was their first effort in the M60E4.  Just about all of the extra length goes to the distinctive, massive front set, heat shield and outer barrel. The barrel and body gets a darker coat than the E4, but otherwise the alloy used is the same lightweight material. Other signature M60VN features include the bipod with its perforated flanges, the gas regulator which is smaller in diameter, and the magazine bracket’s hinged instead of fixed mounting. The box magazine is exactly the same as on the E4, for better or worse, so it’s again necessary to cut a hole through the bag to access the autowinding mode switch.

Under the hood we thought there would be no surprises coming from the E4, but some detuning had to be expected after bench tests showed lower power and accuracy out of the box, and this despite the longer barrel. The M60VN has a 590mm inner barrel (video said 600mm, rounding error), roughly 25% longer than the more compact M60E4, yet bench tests showed the VN missed the mark by a wide margin, from 30mm groupings to 80 to as much as 200mm.  Added to the larger groupings there has been a significant reduction in  power from 2J to a milder 1.44J. The single internal difference to explain the change is a shorter spring, comparable to what is found in a stock A&K M4. The motor and gearbox are otherwise unchanged.

The same XYT gears and 8mm bushings are still present. The extra long air nozzle which has been difficult to replace is still there. Lubrication was good as usual. Even the crappy hop-up rubber is there. In fact, its a given that A&K products may not have a functioning hop-up as the nub and hop are very soft.

Reliability

The durability issues of the E4 were somewhat addressed, though unintentionally, by the design differences between the two models. Going to a hinged mag mount would intuitively seem to create a more unreliable setup, but we found that the degree of movement this gave the box bag actually helped keep pressure off the body screws. The amount of travel on the hinge was restricted enough to avoid flexing the feed tube which might otherwise have caused feeding issues.  The body screws holding the front set to the receiver are also improved as they are a few millimeters longer, but this isn’t enough to avoid some play eventually showing.

Otherwise, the M60VN has that proven internal reliability that allows for the kind of sustained rate of fire that a regular airsoft rifle cannot keep up with. As with the E4, the M60VN can unleash a sustained hail of fire, able to run tens of seconds with hardly any decrease in ROF. We used an 11.1V Li-Poly battery for this review and it handled like a champ.

Owning and Playing

The M60VN is in many ways a throwback to a less ergonomic design.  The considerable length makes this gun difficult to maneuver in heavy foliage and close quarters. All that extra length going to the front also makes it more tiring on the arms to carry for longer periods.  The same balance and handling problems can be said of the side-hanging boxmag, especially for right-handed users. Lack of other modern niceties such as a forward grip add to these woes. The same unfavorable comparisons still hold true when considering the M60 design against more modern LMGs such as the M249. Mastering its effective use in play is almost a challenge worthy of an over-the-top training video hosted by a pair of very animated instructors.

But master it, and you will be rewarded with the ability to employ a truly intimidating weapon, a mobile base of fire to indefinitely deny an assault or wear down a defense. Take some care with the parts and you will reap the rewards for a little longer. Some Loctite on the body screws and careful storage can prolong its life despite the inevitable wearing down of the alloy parts.

Verdict

Given a choice between the M60E4 and the M60VN, though, we would grab the VN first. Given a choice between this and a more modern LMG and the argument for the M60VN becomes less rational. Everything considered, we can only still recommend the M60VN with reservations. But admittedly, these are the kind of reservations that are easily forgotten when the impulse strikes to recreate a scene from Rambo or Tropic Thunder.


Transcript
Hello again and welcome to another episode of Evolution series. Tonight, we review A&K’s Vietnam version of the M60 which is iconic in films and popular culture. It is ironically a newer release than the modern Mk43.

Let’s get started. What’s in the box? Our kit came with the M60VN, a box magazine and a jumper cable to bypass the rheostat.
Absent were the battery, manual and token BBs.

Many retailers have had supply difficulties out of China due to seizures. This particular unit came disassembled from the manufacturer and was reconstituted by the forwarder before reaching the retailer. Not a huge problem if you have access to a gunsmith, but you’ll want to thoroughly inspect your unit for missing parts.

Lets get on with performance.

In accuracy the VN has a burst radius anywhere from 80 to 200mm. This is despite having an inner barrel of 600mm. Power at stock clocks about 1.44joules or 393fps on 0.2grams. Decent but we were expecting a bit more accuracy than the Mk43. The Mk43 we tested in 2009 rated 40mm groups using a 470mm barrel. It was a “hot” gun with 2 joules. Disassembling this M60 gives us a few more clues on the difference.

Start by unlocking the release lever to pull out the barrel. Mind the wiring for the rheostat as you could accidentally strip the plugs if you pull too hard. On either side of the body are three scews holding the front set. You’ll need hex keys to remove them. Pull gently to break the halves. Guide the fuse cable out from the front set. The gearbox should be visible now. Pull out the retaining clip from the buttstock. Then use another hex key to remove the retaining screw. Pull the stock and remove the buffer. Remove 3 screws from either side of the gearbox. Pull up from the nozzle to remove it.

The handgrip has two pins holding it. It’s not important to remove.

There is a removable cover plate for the cylinder. One of the things you’ll immediately notice is the strong magnet on the super torque up motor. This is part of the reason the gearbox takes some effort to separate from the metal body. Also be careful to leave distance between this and any screws you’ve just removed.

Push the release tab on top of the gearbox toward the rear. Then push the spring guide with a screwdriver to release.

We measured the spring that came with the unit and it was about 6.5 inches. It was a typical A&K spring you’ll find in their M4 models. This partly explains the low fps on this unit.

To access the internals you will need to remove 13 screws on the right side of the gearbox. Except for the spring, the internals are pretty much the same as the Mk43. Visit our website for more details.

We’ve owned this unit for about four months now. Within the first month we’ve seen some issues. First was the balance on this weapon. With the longer barrel and no front grip its a challenge to manuever 18 pounds of metal. The magazine placement isn’t optimal for right handed users. And the barrel release can be accidentally disengaged. Unique problems to this model include the tendency of the fake bolt to come unscrewed and some weak metal used on the bipod mount to break off. Not even epoxy would hold it together.

Mechanically it has good potential and just begs some tuning. The long barrel does give you about 6 feet more effective reach than the M249 Mk2. Unfortunately, power from springs stronger than SP130 are limited by air leaking from the nozzle.

If you want to own just one M.G. this isn’t it. The A&K M249 Mk2 is a better deal in usability and maintenance. But if you’re a collector or Vietnam re-enactor go right ahead. We can’t discount that this gun looks badass. If you’re willing to run around with 18 pounds of metal you’re pretty bad ass yourself. And if you’re caught in the open fending of hordes of invaders, well, it would still be a heroic death.

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Evolution 7: JG M4A1 Gas Blowback Rifle

What price for milsim-level realism? With the Jing Gong/Golden Eagle M4A1 GBBR, the price is very right, and very tempting.  The PinoyAirsoft/GoMilsim team couldn’t resist hopping on the Gas Blowback Rifle wagon.  Lucky they took some videocameras along for the ride!

Technical Notes:

Internals and Externals

Jing Gong/Golden Eagle has just about produced a direct clone of the Western Arms M4A1 GBBR system, give or take some tolerances here and there. The differences in the materials used and quality control does knock overall quality down a notch, but overall fit and finish still compare favorably to the original Western Arms unit and its clone contemporaries such as the AGM.

Deviations from the mold are on the whole for the better. The system is built to be run on green gas, so everything from recoil spring to hopup is geared for that, so much so that the JG GBBR can hardly cycle on 134A gas. The inner barrel installed is M4A1 length unlike on the WA, and the extra 4 inches or so of barrel length lend the JG more power out of the box, around 1.8J average versus the 1J of the WA, strictly tempered for Japan regulations. The quality of the barrel itself is nothing special and the fit of the hopup will not produce any surprising accuracy with 8cm groupings, so you are getting what you pay for in that regard.  The nozzle is made of brass so this part has not had any breakage typical of other M4 GBBRs. The bolt head is otherwise plastic while the carrier is itself metal.  JG chose to stick with the non-negative pressure design on this so inherits the harder blowback but less gas-saving characteristics as well. On the magazine, the screws and some details such as the pins and gas port rubber on the magazine are different, but on the whole the differences seem to have improved the strength of the unit.

The finish on the JG M4A1 plastic body won’t fool anyone up close.  The true-to-real proportions of all the components and the etched Colt trademarks are great, but ultimately the finish on the plastic is a dead giveaway.  Spraying over with a dash of camo paint could certainly help, but unless lightweight weapons are your priority, it’s only a matter of time before you’re craving a metal body upgrade. The plastic receivers themselves are strong enough to withstand most use, until you take a hammer to it and try to extract some pins, but to be fair these parts are plastic.

Inconsistencies come up in some small but frustrating ways.

Outside, the etching on the barrel is in the wrong place. The front collar and delta ring are different enough from AEG proportions to prevent drop-in replacement of the plastic M4A1 handguards with A&K RIS or RAS handguards. The plastic parts inside and out don’t have the same level of consistency from unit to unit; our own review unit had a stuck hopup, which on examination was caused by excess plastic on the hopup dial that wasn’t cut cleanly enough. Plastic also features on the bolt head. The metal parts are not all steel. Some alloy typical of clone airsoft guns was used for the external as well as important internal parts such as the trigger and hammer. The proportions of the bolt carrier assembly are said to be slightly smaller than on the other clone copies such as AGMs, so that an AGM bolt will not drop into the JG receiver.

All in all though it’s hard to be completely frustrated with everything wrong with it, as the overall fit of the parts plus the reliable magazine still produces a gun that runs well out of the box.

Reliability

The reliability of a GBBR system is determined not only by the quality of the gun, but also of the magazine.  So to start with, the JG M4 GBBR magazine is a solid unit on green gas.  We experienced no leaking with our unit and misfeeds were rare, only showing up when the magazine is near empty of gas. We only had one unit to test long term, as unfortunately the JG mags are difficult to come by locally.  In comparison to EbayBanned-sourced mags (2 out of 5 that we picked up worked, while the rest had leaks or outright broken-from-factory parts), the JG mag is just about perfect.

The gun’s long-term reliability is not so good if skirmished as-is.  At over 500 rounds, the bolt catch starts to malfunction so that the gun continues to shoot even when all BBs are emptied.  At over a few thousand rounds the auto fire mode starts malfunctioning as well, outright unable to cycle after the first stroke and dumping all gas out of the mag in the process.  By the time this long-term review was done, more than 4000 rounds through the gun, the bolt catch is no longer able to hold the bolt back even when manually pressed down. Examining the bolt catch after all of this action shows the failure point is on the soft plastic patch on the otherwise metal bolt catch, which will have worn down to nearly nothing after constant use. We believe the plastics aren’t totally up to task for regular use, but not only is this ultimately the price paid, but the combination of plastic hopup, bolt head and bolt catch is also a holdover from the original WA design that hasn’t quite worked well endurance wise.

As with many GBBs and not just with the JG M4A1 in particular, and  in contrast especially to an AEG, the GBBR systems in general take much more effort, regular care and inspection to prevent these sorts of failure.  A more deliberate preventive maintenance regimen besides the occasional spray of silicon oil and gun cleaner might have kept the review gun running longer, but we do not believe it would have run much longer on completely stock parts.

Owning and Playing

The price is a big factor in considering owning the JG M4A1 GBBR. At around $100 USD (5,000 PHP), it’s only twice the price of two M4 GBBR magazines from one of the bigger brands.  At the time it launched a year ago, JG had the most affordable M4 GBBR on the market, and it was worth getting for the magazine alone.  On to magazines, the JG works well with AGM and other clone mags, but surprisingly has trouble with one King Arms M4 GBBR mag that we tried.  Costs don’t get much lower than this in GBBR terms, until the inevitable breakdown of plastic parts used in the firing and recoil system of the gun itself.

Playing with the WA GBBR blowback system versus with an AEG is mostly about getting the recoil and having more realism in operating the gun.

One real performance benefit of the GBBR trigger mechanism is it gives the trigger pull a true lag-less mechanical response compared to an unoptimized AEG electrical trigger system. This should mean just slightly more immediate “effect on your target” and less time to target and “lead”, but it’s a welcome bit of improvement. Another side benefit, less money spent on BBs. We only slightly say that in jest.

Otherwise to run a GBBR is really to run with more handicaps:  power output goes down much more when running green gas in colder weather versus when running an AEG, ammunition is very limited not just because the gas magazines can carry only 50 rounds, but also because magazines are so expensive to purchase and maintain, and every mag you carry feels like a full magazine even empty.

Verdict

With all the minuses laid out with green gas powered systems, it’s hard to consider it a practical choice to run a JG M4A1 GBBR versus the AEG systems that were built exactly to address many of those minuses.  But ultimately going with any GBBR system is going to be an emotional choice overriding the obvious handicaps.  Once you have tried a Gas blowback gas-in-mag system such as the JG M4A1 GBBR, the milsim freak in you is going to crave the realism, the feel of the mechanical trigger, the recoil and the crack of the bolt as it fires, even the more complicated reload with the working bolt catch.  The JG M4A1 GBBR is a low-investment way to have a taste of playing with a more realistic airsoft rifle.  All in all good fun while it lasts!


Transcript:
Airsoft is a sport of movement and skill, sometimes it’s a military simulation where scenarios and equipment are replicated to detail.
For an AEG wielder there is one detail that is mostly missing … a piece to complete the picture … recoil.

Gas blowback systems have been around for pistols a long time but rifle style systems are starting to gain numbers. Tonight we examine JG’s entry with the M4A1 GBBR.

The package comes with the replica M4A1, one STANAG style 50 round magazine, a pistol-style BB loader with adapter for top loading, some token BBs and a rebranded Western Arms Magna GBBR manual.

FPS on green gas was between 419 and 440 adjusted for .2grams or about 1.8Joules. Unlike the earlier Western Arms design this unit uses a 363 millimeter inner barrel. Grouping at 15 yards is about 8 centimeters, decent for a field gun.

Takedown is very similar to the real steel version. Push down the rear receiver pin from the left side. Flip the gun and pull until the pin locks. The pin is held by an even smaller retaining pin to prevent loss. Break the gun open by pulling from the top. This exposes the trigger mechanism on the lower receiver. Sliding back the charging handle removes the bolt. The bolt is comprised of a metal body, plastic head and brass nozzle. Don’t worry, there’s no firing pin unlike the real thing.

The upper receiver is held by the front pin which can be pushed down for removal. This piece takes some effort. The stock tube houses the recoil buffer which connects to the bolt.
It’s very much like the real steel design. Press the retaining clamp on the lower receiver to release. Then pull out the buffer along with the recoil spring. The recoil buffer is a plastic part which can be replaced after market. This recoil spring feels softer than the PDW’s that we’re also reviewing, it might explain why kickback is softer on this unit. The sliding lever on the stock allows complete removal.
Pull on the delta ring to remove top and bottom hand guards. This area can be augmented with a RAS kit.

The triangle sight has two pins that can be undone like in an AEG. You need to remove this to get to the gas tube. An armorer’s wrench is needed to undo the delta collar and barrel nut.
To remove the carry handle, simply twist the two thumbscrews, this exposes rails where you can attach a scope.

To put it all back together, just follow these instructions in reverse maybe you’ll get so good at it you can field strip blindfolded.

So is this gun good? Is it milsim?
Well, the gun is made in China, so it’s not made to be perfect. You just need to know what to expect. The bolt catch wears down after a few hundred shots. Even faster when you use full auto.
After two months this unit would fail to lock the bolt when the magazine went empty. Automatic mode broke at about 9 months. Not that you’d want to use it in automatic a lot. At 50 rounds per magazine you’re better off using single fire anyway. Changing magazines gives it a milsim feel. And having multiple mags hanging on your chest helps simulate the weight, if you can find them.
Other magazine makes like King Arms don’t line up correctly. If you can find the JG mags, grab them. They’re there most reliable part of this gun.

There are compatibility issues aside from quality control when it comes to WA-clone magazines. After market parts have to be approached with caution. Though this is one of if not the cheapest GBBR you can find, you get what you pay for. Expect to lay down more cash as parts wear down.

For updates and additional notes please visit our website at pinoyairsoft.org

That’s it for this evolution. Until next time.

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Evolution 6: JG A47 Tactical

In Mother Russia, the guns shoot you, but in Mainland China, your guns are shot. Or they may as well be, as the crew find with another ACM clone of the AK47 design, the Jing Gong A47 Tactical. They don’t pull any punches as they give you the dirt on this AEG, even in the face of death.  This may end badly!

Transcript:

It matters not which part of the world you hail from, anyone with eyes can tell, THIS is an AK47.

Before you ladies get your panties in a bunch, take note, this gun is Tactical. How do we know its Tactical? It’s got a friggin Spetznas in the manual!

You could be a freedom fighter or a PMC. If the Spetznas like it it’s good enough for you.
Be happy gentlemen this kit comes with NEARLY everything you need out of the box. Just add ammunition then you can shoot 600 rounds to your heart’s content. And for you SPECIAL forces wannabees it does come with these luxuries. Doesn’t that make you feel good?

You pansies will love the buttstock on this … smooth as a babies behind.

Now I have heard some of you wannabe commandos whine that the JG A47 tends settle down to 313 FPS at 0.25g (348.67 FPS at 0.25g). I don’t want to hear you babies fault your equipment. If your issued A47 drops to 1.13 Joules over time, it’s down to your poor maintenance regimen, soldier. Such a situation, as any Spetsnaz will tell you, is easily made up for by spraying it on full auto, at 14.4 rounds per second.

Accuracy at 15 yards is–
Look, even if it shoots terrible 7cm groupings at 15 yards, it’s obviously your failing.
You’re not man enough to shoot this gun straignt.

Now, listen close, cause what I’m about to tell you can get a man killed. The major problem with the JG A47, its ugly secret, is its mismatched cylinder the hole is twice the size of a type 2! You might as well let all the air out, and it does.
Whatever genius left out the closed cylinder should win the Darwin award.

But don’t let me catch you blaming it for inconsistent grouping.

Nevermind that endurance tests show, a 2 out of 4 chance that the gun you’re holding
will fail in some catastrophic fashion. Survivors suffer rapid loss of power and are in need of an upgrade.
Consider yourself lucky if the Chinese factory put your unit together properly.

Dammit. Now you know too much. A Spetsnaz team is probably already inbound to take you down.
The world cannot know that JG A47 is not recommended for field use in any shape or form.

You better run now little man. And get a gun that works!

What do you think of the Jing Gong A47? Tactical or impractical? Let us know in the comments!

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Evolution 5: A&K M60E4 / MK43 MOD 0

A year on, and the PinoyAirsoft crew are back, just in time to ring in the new year with some appropriately heavy artillery: the modern-day Pig! The A&K M60E4/Mk43 Mod 0 gets its trial by fire in another long term test. This time it’s a test of both man and machine through dense tropical terrain.

Transcript:

Hello and welcome to PinoyAirsoft Evolution 5. Tonight, it’s all about heavy metal and plastic rain as we look at the A&K Mk 43 Mod 0 / M60E4.

World War 2 in Europe taught the Americans a hard lesson in dealing with machine gun squads. So they sought to replicate and improve on the lethal German designs they fought against with the T44 prototype. The prototype led to the M60, a general-purpose machine gun meant to be the ultimate squad-level weapon. From conflict to conflict, it has evolved to keep up with modern war, until we come to the ultimate version, the M60E4 or the Navy Mark 43 Mod 0.

This isn’t the first airsoft version, but A&K are the first to mass produce an affordable one that isn’t made of plastic. This one is a metal monster that looks to live up to the ferocity of the real thing. And you can have it for the price of an iPod.

Bench Tests

Out of the box, it shoots at 407 FPS on 0.25, or a staggering 470 FPS on 0.20g. Or 2 Joules. That’s the maximum legal limit in Hong Kong. And unlike your garden-variety upgraded M4, it delivers that power in an unbroken hail of plastic death. An unrelenting 10 to 12 Rounds Per Second, on the standard battery. The hail just goes on and on and on.

Contrast this with the M249, where ROF slows down after 3 or 4 seconds. The 249 is for a boxer with finesse, pouncing with quick jabs. Meanwhile, the M60 is for a drunken brawler. It just corners you and punches you. Repeatedly. In the face.

This isn’t to say it’s messy and inaccurate. The 470 mm inner barrel delivers respectable 30 millimeter groupings at 15 yards.

Handling

The M60E4 has a vertical grip, designed to be fired in offhand stance, like a rifle. The revised bipod puts the center of mass below its pivot to make a stable shooting platform. Barrel release and handle are faithfully replicated nice touches but serve no real purpose.But the ambidextrous safety works and will come in handy.

The gas regulator actually controls rate of fire electrically. It’s a nice touch not even the high end VFC version can claim to have.

The Mark 43 is shorter than the standard M60. At a little shy of 1 meter in length, it’s actually as short as an M249 PARA with stock extended. Fully loaded, it weighs in at a solid 16 pounds.

The sound activated autowinding boxmag is also made solid, unlike the paper box VFC throws in. But unlike the M249 and more like older SAW designs, the box magazine sticks out awkwardly out on the left.

In The Box

A&Ks kit comes with everything you need to rock and roll. No extra batteries needed as the boxmag plugs in to the gun for power. About the only thing that’s lacking in this package is a couple of kilos of ammunition to fill up the boxmag. It’s all there, and everything is usable. And yes, even the user manual is useful, having been photocopied from a good source.

Teardown

Popping the top cover gives you easy access to the barrel-style hopup, which is not unlike on the 249. Teardown is an easy task, with everything but the gearbox readily disassembled without tools. Popping the top cover gives you easy access to the barrel-style hopup, which is not unlike on the 249.

Under the metal, you’d expect there to be some very scary upgrades. Outside the massive gearbox certainly looks solid and is also cleanly constructed. All the wiring into the gearbox is routed through a connector that plugs into the receiver.

The spring is longer than normal. The motor is heavily magnetized. The gears are nothing special but reassuringly well lubricated. The tappet plate, cylinder and piston are longer than normal.

Amazingly, the compression can only be described as appalling. It’s baffling how it even manages to do 2J. Another mystery is the hopup. Turning it even all the way up seems to do nothing to the BB flight path.

Now then the chinks in the metal monster’s armor are showing. It gets worse.

Issues

Issue 1 – Boxmag Switch Location

The boxmag, a rare design innovation, is ruined by having the switch in the most awkward place it could possibly be. Even punching a hole through the ammo bag doesn’t remedy this issue, as the switch stays hidden behind the battery.

Issue 2 – Loose Front Set

More seriously, though, the front set, given time to bed in, has a tendency to wobble. With some stress, the screws can come off the body, which, being made of a weak alloy, tends to let the screws destroy the threading. In point of fact, we had to change out all the screws with common stove bolts to hold it together long enough to complete this review.

Issue 3 – Mag Mount Loses Thread

The problem extends further elsewhere. Putting stress on the magazine mount can cause one of the screws to shear off the receiver and later cause the entire mount to separate.

Conclusion:  Recommended With Reservations

In the end, we can only recommend the A&K Mk43 with some reservation. Out of the box it is quite a capable BB hose. But ultimately the A&K Mk43 is let down by all the shoddy materials used to keep it affordable. If it could only take as good as it dished out, this gun would actually be skirmishable.

Granted, it’s still the most powerful support gun you can get out of the box. That is, until the screws come loose.

Got an A&K Mk43 Mod 0? We’d like to hear your opinions in the comments!

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