Please note, none of the following is my own material. This has been copied in its entirety to assist more airsoft and milsim players in their quest to be an automatic weapon operator. I take absolutely no credit for its contents.
THE AIRSOFT AUTOMATIC WEAPON OPERATOR’S GUIDE
Original text and editing by ardrummer292
Contributions by navymp28, Panzergraf, Big D, AustinWolv
Pictures courtesy of Military Photos, Wikipedia, Appslapp, Panzergraf, Lord Sex, Kelly Watson, Military Morons, Arktis, Original SOE, Blackhawk, Tactical Tailor, Eagle Industries, CSM Gear, Military Photos, Konstipation, ardrummer292
Australian GPMG gunner on FEX, courtesy of Military Photos
Airsoft is a sport in many ways, not the least of which being the interaction of individual players in teams and the competition of teams to accomplish set objectives. Like other sports, airsoft has specialized roles within each team. Some choose to go the route of sniper; some others prefer the rush of Close Quarters Battle. The vast majority settles for the middle-of-the-road rifleman role. There are those who prefer their role to be more support intensive, with little emphasis on personal accomplishment and maximum concentration on team success; in plain English, those who place the mission before kill count. Those players tend to be Automatic Weapon operators, or AWs. An AW on his own against more maneuverable and versatile riflemen will find himself quickly outgunned. Placed within the context of a team, the AW now becomes a formidable opponent, supplying high volumes of fire allowing the riflemen to outflank and eliminate enemies behind cover. This is why we, the authors, enjoy being AWs and hope to shed some light on this underutilized role.
As a side note, the AW will occasionally be referred to by “he,” “his,” “himself,” and other masculine words. This is due to the vast majority of AWs being male. The use of this verbiage is not intended to discourage or offend women interested in the role.
Purpose of the Airsoft Automatic Weapon Operator
If you’ve read this far, it seems fair to assume you’re interested in picking up the AW role. Good on you! Keep in mind that this role is a thinking man’s game, with many factors to consider. While physical strength is needed, mental aptitude is just as important. You are the team’s greatest source of firepower, and are therefore a great asset. If inappropriately employed, you become a liability and a hindrance to mission accomplishment.
Understand that there are some major differences between using an assault rifle and properly utilizing a support weapon:
1. You are part of the support element, not the maneuver or assault element. You can’t walk around with a machinegun shouldered all the time, and hip firing is less than ideal. Hard point and provide cover fire for those with the magazine-fed “chick sticks.”
2. Your teammates are counting on you to suppress that target. Don’t get distracted and take a pot shot at some dude hanging out of cover. Keep the primary threat suppressed so that your riflemen don’t get smoke checked during their maneuver. Let your A-gunner drop the target of convenience so you can do your job.
The AW provides the squad-level force some excellent advantages to include:
1. Sustained fire capabilities for offensive or defensive operations.
2. Suppressive fire capabilities so that maneuver elements may flank and eliminate threats.
3. Creates a harder target profile for the squad, reducing the chance of attack by reconnaissance or other probing forces.
In airsoft, riflemen with hicap magazines have attempted to match these attributes with mixed results. While regular airsoft rifles are mechanically similar to their belt-fed counterparts, they lack the psychological impact that is associated with the real deal. M4s with boxmags are not intimidating. Knowing that your machinegun is purpose-built to lay waste, and could easily smoke check an entire squad if presented the opportunity, is a wakeup call for the other team. With a real support weapon, purpose-built for the job, you’ll be better equipped than any “regular guy” with a C-mag.
Requirements of the Airsoft Automatic Weapon Operator
Every role has requirements, and AWs are no different. Certain skills and character traits make some people more adept at the AW role than others. These include the following.
1. TEAM ORIENTED
“Lone wolf” players and glory hogs will not enjoy being an AW. Your role is essential to your team, even though you may not get the recognition or kill count of your teammates. You better believe that, without you, the riflemen would face a significantly different situation and possibly a different outcome. Thankless does not mean worthless.
2. MATURE AND RESPONSIBLE
Support weapons are large, powerful weapons with high magazine capacities and the highest effective ROF on the field. Remember this when you act as an AW, and play responsibly. Inflicting injuries is not a requirement of your role.
3. AGGRESSIVE FIGHTER
While no one says you can’t be a nice guy in the safezone, you must be an unstoppable force on the field. There is no such thing as a meek AW. Be an extension of your weapon, aggressive and intimidating.
4. SITUATIONAL AWARENESS
Whether through comms, your A-gunner, or your issued Mk1 Mod 0 eyeballs, you must stay abreast of any changes on the field and adapt to them quickly. That big gun is no good if it’s pointing in the wrong direction.
5. MECHANICALLY INCLINED
Support weapons break. This is a fact of life. Instead of depending on others to fix your weapon, it’s best to have the ability to repair your weapon on your own.
6. DEDICATION TO ROLE
As noted above, your weapon will eventually go down. This is an extremely frustrating experience. If you are to be an AW, you must accept this and move on. Don’t become discouraged because you stripped a piston. Replace it and get back on your gun. Your team needs you.
Airsoft Automatic Weapon Operator Equipment
M60E3 and PKM, courtesy of Trasher
Weapon selection is a very personal process with many different factors to weigh. Here are the most basic laid out for your consideration.
1. MODEL: M249 and variants, M60 and variants, MG34, MG42/MG3, M240 and variants, Shrike, M16 HBAR/LSW, LWRC IAR, AUG HBAR, L86 LSW, RPK, RPD, PKM, MG36, HK21, HK23, M2, M134, M1919, BAR, KAC LMG
The model you choose will depend largely on what characteristics you find necessary to perform your duties as AW. Many of these characteristics are described below and will help you decide what model will be the best for you. Your model of choice may change if you are going for a specific impression or are playing milsim. Keep in mind that not all the models listed above are accepted as support weapons at milsim events, such as the Shrike, M16 HBAR/LSW, LWRC IAR, AUG HBAR, L86 LSW, MG36, and HK21/23.
2. OPERATING SYSTEM: AEG, classic (BV), classic (GBB)
AEGs have greater sustained fire capabilities, more consistent year-round performance, and are overall more convenient to operate than their gas-powered brethren. Bullet-valve (BV) classic guns are more internally durable, possess greater range (with LRB installed), have lesser maintenance requirements, and are simpler in operation than AEGs and GBBs. Gas BlowBack (GBB) classic guns offer the AW the most realistic firing experience along with the ability to suppress enemies even without ammunition due to the level of noise generated by the mechanism, although the high levels of stress put on the system reduce reliability to about the same as an AEG.
3. BRAND: A&K, AirSharp, Airsoft Surgeon, Ares, Asahi, Classic Army, Cyma, Echo 1, GamePod Skunk Works, G&P, Guarder, Heavy Airsoft Gear, Hero Arms, Inokatsu, JAC, Nemoto Gun Works, Piper’s Precision Products, Shoei, Shoot ‘N Scoot, SRC, Star, TOP, Trigger Happy, TSD, Ultima, UK Arms, VFC, Viva Arms
A&K’s M60E4 is superior in overall quality to their M249. G&P’s Mk46 has outstanding externals and hopup, with a somewhat lacking V2-based internal setup. Inokatsu’s M60 series are solid performers with great externals, good hopup units, and solid V3 gearboxes. The VFC and Star M60s and M249s are known to be unreliable. The externals of the CA SAW and its clones (A&K, Echo 1, UK Arms) have several critical weak points, making them too rickety for rougher styles of play. Asahi’s M60 line, when equipped with an LRB, is widely considered the best classic support weapon made.
4. GEARBOX: V2, V3, PGC, VFC Mk43, TOP bellows, classic BV, classic GBB
The V3 is an excellent support platform, as is shown by the Inokatsu M60’s long-term performance. CA’s SAW and its clones have a great gearbox design, but are let down by one of the worst hopup designs in airsoft. As a note, there have been reports of CA SAWs experiencing failure at a wall near the antireversal latch, rendering the AR latch useless and trashing the internals. Conversely, the G&P SAW has an excellent hopup unit but a relatively weak V2 gearbox. The Shoei MG42 has a classic long-stroke GBB engine that can keep running for hundreds of thousands of rounds at high power levels. The DaytonaGun “GBB-gearbox” is a simple, stainless steel gas system with a mid-range ROF made for CA/clone M249s. The Asahi M60 has a highly durable BV system that will run with minimum maintenance for a very long time. TOP’s bellows gearbox is considered inferior to modern alternatives for support weapon applications.
5. MAGAZINE MOUNTING: side mount, bottom mount, feed tray
Side-mounted boxes are somewhat inconvenient, but provide one major advantage over bottom-mounted boxes. The AW can be reloaded by their A-gunner while staying on target and firing. This effectively means the AW can shoot until their battery/air source dies or something breaks. This simply isn’t possible with a bottom-mounted magazine, where you must cant the weapon to pour ammo and reload. This makes delivering accurate fire during the reload at any respectable range impossible and halves the advantage of an A-gunner. Feed tray ammo reservoirs (a la the Asahi M60 and TOP series) have been surpassed by modern box magazine technology, although they are the least bulky option of the three.
6. MAGAZINE CAPACITY
Box capacity ranges from a mere 250 (Asahi MG42 feed tray magazine) to a whopping 14,000 (Piper’s Precision Products M2HB ammo box). While a higher capacity box magazine is nice, sometimes establishing fire superiority can take more ammunition than any boxmag can hold (25,000 rounds or more!). Reliability of feeding and ease of reload should be paramount.
7. MAGAZINE WINDING METHOD: non-winding, manual, continuous, sound-activated, synched, pressure switch
– Non-winding magazines are reserved for classic guns. The magazine is basically a midcap, usually in a boxmag’s body.
– Manual feed means that the boxmag is essentially an oversized hicap, with a wheel which must be wound to feed ammo.
– Continuous feed is where, when powered on, the boxmag constantly feeds bbs into the gun.
– Sound activated boxmags work by a microphone hooked into a circuit board. When the microphone detects that the gun is firing, it sends a signal to make the boxmag feed. Unfortunately, this microphone can be “tricked” into feeding when there is a lot of loud background noise.
– Pressure switches use a tape switch hooked into a circuit. When the switch is pressed, the gun feeds.
– Inokatsu has a fascinating design where the boxmag feed is synchronized to the firing of the gun. This means the boxmag motor is run from a slave cable connected to the main battery. Not only does this simplify the feeding process (no extra buttons or microphones to worry about), but the boxmag feed rate is automatically matched to the gun’s rate of fire. It is possible to rig up other weapons in a similar fashion with a little electrical knowledge. Unfortunately, classic guns cannot synch feed, as they have no main battery for the boxmag to slave power from.
8. MAGAZINE CONSTRUCTION: hicap and motor, proprietary
The “hicap attached to a motor” setup is a favorite due to the simplicity of design and ease of obtaining parts. This was noted as a bad point in Scaar’s AATV review of the Inokatsu M240B. Why anyone would want hard-to-find proprietary parts in a high-maintenance (and sometimes high-failure) item like a boxmag is difficult to understand.
The Inokatsu M60 series has a wonderfully simple “screw to rubber” nub-less design. This yields great range and respectable groupings without any unnecessary parts. The CA-style SAW hopup units are not great, as annotated above. The same goes for the Star Mk46 and the A&K M60, at least in stock form for the latter. G&P’s Mk46 hopup, which is styled after the AUG’s unit, is excellent. Shoei’s MG42 hopup is another outstanding design. The fabled LRB system found in some classics (like modified Asahi M60s) has been known to yield 100 yards of effective range with a slight over-hop, which is perfect for machinegun applications. The DaytonaGun hopup unit that comes with their M249 “gas gearbox” is a solid performer, although not as good as the G&P M249. Remember that, whatever hopup it is, it must not be susceptible to “unwinding” as some hopups are prone to do over time.
10. QUICK DETACH BARREL
While nearly mandatory for real machineguns, QD barrels are mostly just a neat feature for airsoft replicas. With a properly tuned weapon, however, the part with the highest failure rate will be the hop rubber, making a spare inner/outer barrel and hop assembly a wise idea for the serious airsoft AW.
11. QUICK CHANGE SPRING
The main power spring for an AEG isn’t exactly a high failure part. Varying muzzle velocity limits between fields make this feature a good selling point for most weapons. Classic weapons can also be adjusted for varying fps, but this isn’t necessarily as simple as turning a pressure knob. Sometimes, recoil springs, air nozzle springs, and o-rings must be swapped out to yield consistent performance.
A solid bipod is truly indispensable. The CA SAW and clones suffer from a weak design, as does the Trigger Happy M240 and TOP series of weapons. The FAB Tactical Foregrip, offered by EBayBanned, has been used as a RIS-mounted replacement for the SAW bipod with success.
Iron sights should need zero modification out of the box. Optics aren’t necessarily a good idea unless it’s too dark to properly see the iron sights. Rear ladder sights, like those on the M60, are a big plus as they can be used to sight using the viewfinder method (discussed later in the article).
This is a deciding factor in most everyone’s process. Please do understand that support weapons, at least the ones worth owning, are not cheap. You really can’t skimp on a gun and expect it to perform well. The demands placed on the internals and externals alike are unparalleled in the airsoft world. Even the magazine goes through considerable trauma in a day’s play. What this boils down to is the old adage; you get what you pay for. Cheap guns or bodged-together wannabe “support weapons” just won’t cut it. Save your money for something of quality. Remember that maintaining support weapons isn’t cheap, either. A loose rule of thumb is that for every 40,000 rounds, one can expect to install replacement parts such as hop rubbers and pistons for routine maintenance. The price of maintenance skyrockets if the weapon experienced a catastrophic failure with the gears, motor, cylinder, or hopup unit. BV classic guns, while having a greater start-up price, require very little upkeep; most maintenance consists of replacing o-rings that cost mere pennies.
Mk48 Mod 0 in action, courtesy of Military Morons
Weapon tuning is largely personal preference. Note that all support guns will need to have work done on them sooner or later, no matter how expensive. Upgrading your machinegun with better aftermarket parts will extend rounds before weapon failure.
Look for a well-built motor made by a reputable company. You’ll be putting so many rounds through it, you owe it to yourself to get a motor that will last.
2. PISTON/PISTON HEAD: polycarbonate, aluminum
The combination of a poly piston and aluminum piston head has been used with great success. The piston will strip before your gears, as the piston is made of softer material. The piston head will provide a loud muzzle report, increasing the psychological effect of suppressive fire. Be sure to file the next-to-last tooth on your piston, as this will greatly increase the rounds between your piston changes.
3. POWER SPRING
The spring you use will largely depend on local muzzle velocity limits and what rate of fire you’d like to achieve. Remember, the stronger the spring, the lower the ROF, the louder the gun.
Whether they are helical or standard, be sure they are well made and perfectly shimmed. These two factors will keep your gearbox running smoothly for a long time. Machined gears (Prometheus, RSC) will have a longer lifespan than cast gears.
Bushings have no moving parts and therefore have just one part to fail. Bearings provide less resistance for a higher ROF, but are more failure-prone by design.
6. BARREL: standard, tightbore
Your bbs will get dirty through your unsealed boxmag. You’ll be spending a lot of time on the ground, which means a lot of time where your muzzle is close to dirt and other things tightbores don’t get along with. If you do get a tightbore, stay away from the 6.00-6.01mm crowd.
7. HOP RUBBER
Stick with something simple. Avoid fishbone/H/V pattern cuts, as they will get misshapen, rip, or otherwise go wrong. Simple, vanilla stuff will serve you well here.
8. BATTERY: high voltage, high capacity
What would you rather have, a bazillion RPM battery that lasts for half a firefight or a long-lasting battery with a more reasonable ROF? BB hoses are cool, but that doesn’t mean they’re a good idea for a support weapon.
9. HOP SETTING
A slight over-hop combined with a well-tuned sighting system means you’ve got an excellent range advantage over other players while still delivering accurate fire. Take the time to tweak your hop setting and sights before every game. It will pay off in spades.
AWs aren’t known to be the stealthiest players in the world. The enemy team usually keeps tabs on their whereabouts, assuming they don’t accidentally announce themselves by crashing through a thicket of trees. The point is that you’ve got a big, nasty gun, so make the most of it! Leave the suppressors and Dyna-Matted gearboxes to the ninjas; get as loud as you can to scare the hell out of the opposition. GBBs excel in this area, while BVs are usually very quiet.
11. RATE OF FIRE: high, mid, low
This is an often debated point within support gunner circles. Here are some points to consider:
– High ROF: quite nice for emplaced weapons behind good cover, makes up for the mobility disadvantage with increased ability to engage massed or fast-moving targets. A-gunner is usually nearby and relatively safe, making reloads a non-issue. This ROF is appropriate for emplaced weapons and Medium Machine Guns (MMGs, I.e. M240).
– Mid ROF: good middle of the road setting for mobile and semi-mobile gunners. An A-gunner for fast reloads is preferred, but not mandatory.
– Low ROF: great for Light Machine Guns (LMGs, I.e. M249) and LightWeight Machine Guns (LWMGs, I.e. Mk43, Mk48). While low ROFs are historically not good for engaging moving targets, the gunner is now mobile and can close the distance between himself and the target. This low ROF also reduces the frequency of reloads, allowing the A-gunner to remain in the fight instead of constantly reloading the AW.
12. AMMO SELECTION
Most AWs prefer 0.2g to the more expensive 0.25g, which is entirely understandable considering the amount of ammo consumed in a day’s play. Heavier ammo does have a couple significant advantages, which include greater accuracy at long range and increased brush penetration. Many find these traits to be absolutely essential in the fulfillment of their role. Thankfully, 0.25g Fidragon bbs are available at Globe Product Supply where they can be had for 6 or 7USD per 3500rd bag! For those with LRB-equipped classic weapons, heavier bbs are necessary to achieve the desired results. 0.28g or heavier rounds usually perform the best.
Weapon maintenance is absolutely critical. Of all the classes of airsoft weapons, machineguns see the most abuse. Here are some pointers to keep your support gun running strong.
Keeping your weapon clean is an excellent way to keep it operational for a long time. For AEGs, clean the inner barrel and inspect the gearbox for any abnormalities such as cracks, debris, or dirty grease coming out of the axle holes. BV classic guns are very easy to clean, as you need only lube the air system when changing tanks and clean the barrel after each skirmish. GBBs require more intensive cleaning due to their design, coming down to consistent lubing of the internals since they are metal components sliding over/past each other every cycle. O-rings in GBBs will wear out faster than BVs, but still should last tens of thousands of rounds. Changes in feeding and muzzle energy typically dictate when an o-ring change is needed. A gross part failure with a GBB is worrisome compared to an AEG because replacement parts are not available as easily. For all airsoft machineguns, lightweight (10-20W) silicone oil is the only acceptable lubrication.
2. HOP RUBBER REPLACEMENT
Assuming your piston was properly modified, your gears are shimmed well, your motor is of good quality, and your gearbox was reassembled correctly, your hop rubber will likely be the first part to fail. Keep an eye on it and be sure to inspect it before every game. Look for inconsistent bb flight paths, as this may be an indicator of imminent hop rubber failure.
3. CHRONO OFTEN
Using a reliable chronograph will allow you to monitor your gun’s status and will alert you to any telltale signs of air leakage or spring degradation.
4. SMOOTH LOG
Keeping a “smooth log” (a log of how many rounds were fired, of what type, in what weather, using what parts, on what date) on your weapon and monitoring the failure of your parts at said round counts will help you to see trends in part failures, potentially allowing you to fix a problem before it ever happens.
Navy SEAL greenside M60 gunner impression, courtesy of Lord Sex
Gear selection has a lot to do with what you want to carry, how you want to carry it, what role you want to fill, and if you want to portray any particular real-world unit. Here are some points to consider when choosing your kit.
An example of first line gear
1. FIRST LINE GEAR
This usually consists of the bare essentials needed to survive. Sidearms and basic medical kits go here.
2. SECOND LINE GEAR/”RIG”
Here is where you hold the bulk of your weight, including ammo, batteries, comms, water, pyro, and any other items you need to continue the fight. There are many different platforms available, but only the most common are detailed below:
TAG M60 gunner’s chestrig
– Chest rig: light, fast, and simple. Carries the bare essentials and nothing more, brilliant for short ops or hot weather. The main disadvantage is that they rarely carry water and tend to be quite front-heavy, placing strain on your back. Running some sort of pack is recommended.
Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. plate carrier
– Plate carrier: smaller than a full-size armor carrier, yet still provides adequate protection against bbs and has a fair bit of MOLLE “real estate” for pouches. PCs usually come with a back panel, which can be used to mount a hydration bladder. The only problem is that the weight of all your ammo is resting either on the front or back, with none of the load distributed to the sides. Not the most comfortable.
Eagle Industries MAR-CIRAS
– Armor carrier: provides the most coverage of any of the vests, but is the heaviest and least breathable of the lot. Armor carriers can carry both soft armor panels and hard plates, which means more MOLLE space but less exposed clothing for heat dissipation. Overheating in hot weather can become a serious issue.
Arktis Minimi battlevest
– Tac vest: the coverage and MOLLE space of an armor carrier without the bulk. Gunner-specific tac vests are made by companies such as Arktis. Keep in mind that, when using the carry handle through carabiner method of carry, the back of the vest will put pressure on your neck if you don’t have a full hydration bladder as a counterweight.
Blackhawk LRAK, gunner’s version
– LBE: come in both MOLLE and sewn-on (I.e. BHI ISSAK or LRAK) varieties. A long-time favorite of support gunners due to the wide, padded shoulder straps and tons of room for ammo. LBEs can be loaded so that the heaviest items are placed on the side, making them a good option for large loads. Skinny guys will have great difficulty fitting into one of these without modification or without wearing an armor carrier underneath.
Original SOE SAW LBV
– LBV: there are gunner-specific LBVs made by custom companies such as Original SOE and CSM Gear. Similar to an LBE, but more sleek with a more “old school” look. Very comfortable, but very difficult to source.
– ALICE rig: lightweight, very breathable, and comfortable are all pros. Cons include limited pouch selection for modern weapons and only truly at home for pre-modern milsim.
Tactical Tailor 7.62 ammo bag
– Shoulder bag: these vary from basic canvas Claymore bags to more expensive offerings by Tactical Tailor and LBT. These are typically carried by the A-gunner or ammo bearer in a dismounted medium machinegun (MMG) team. While not the most practical load-bearing solution, some AWs use these for their low profile and accuracy in certain loadouts (I.e. 2001 SBS in Afghanistan prison riot).Aside from the platform you choose, there are other considerations when selecting second line gear:
– MOLLE/ALICE vs. sewn-on: hard-sewn pouches don’t sag like MOLLE ones do when loaded down with ammo. The reduced amount of material used in sewn-on kits also serves to save weight. As a con, you better like the setup the way it is, because you can’t adjust it without a tailor.
Split-front and one-piece chestrigs, courtesy of CSM Gear
– Split-front vs. one-piece: split-front designs are generally preferred by AWs due to ease of donning and doffing, increased comfort in the prone position, option to open up and lay out the sides if prone for extended periods, and adjustability so that heavy pouches can be moved to sit under the arms, easing strain on the back. On the other hand, solid-front designs offer more “real estate” for pouches.
– A-gunner ammo: this is only a consideration for those of us with side-mounted boxmags. Call for a reload, your A-gunner reaches in the pouch and pulls out a bag of ammo, pops the boxmag open and dumps it in while you carry on firing. Be sure to label your A-gunner ammo pouch, as detailed below.
3. THIRD LINE GEAR
Third line kit is generally carried in some sort of backpack, usually a ruck or assault pack. Said backpack is traditionally not attached to one’s rig, making it easy to doff when increased mobility is needed. Most AWs don’t run a third line, as they have enough weight to deal with. If you desire some sort of pack, keep it minimal: ammo, water, spare parts, and maybe a little food.
4. CARRY METHOD
Here are the most common methods of carrying a support weapon:
– “Strong-arm”: the weapon is carried freehand with no way to rest the weight on one’s shoulders. Not recommended for the faint of heart.
– 2 point sling: the most common carry method for support weapons. Most machinegun slings are heavily padded. The main issue here is that, when patrolling, it is very difficult not to flag your teammates.
– 3-point sling: these slings are not recommended, as they interfere with accessing the boxmag.
Carry handle through carabiner method of carry, courtesy of ardrummer292
– Carry handle through carabiner: this is the “new hotness” for carrying machineguns. Hook a carabiner on either shoulder strap of your rig. Then, hook your carry handle through the carabiner so that the weight of the weapon is supported by the carry handle hanging on the carabiner. This method is one of the most efficient, since there is no sling to fight when going prone. The main downside is that it only works with machineguns that have thin carry handles (I.e. M249, Mk43).
ardrummer292 laying down fire at his local field, courtesy of Kelly Watson
5. COMMS AND HEADSET
Comms gear is vital to the AW. As the main source of firepower within the team, you must stay abreast of changing firefight conditions in real-time. Relying on someone else (I.e. RTO, A-gunner) to be your only link to the rest of the team introduces unnecessary, and possibly decisive, lag time between enemy action and your reaction. Being your own comms hub will pay off well, as no one knows when the RTO’s radios – or the RTO himself – will go down. Running separate squad level (through a headset) and force level (through a handset, as applicable) radios is advised.
6. HEADGEAR AND EYEPRO
AWs have varying taste in headgear, spanning the breadth of a full helmet with paintball mask to plain ballistic sunglasses with no face or head cover. Keep in mind that AWs are static for most firefights, removing any possibility of naturally-defogging airflow. While not the safest, ballistic sunglasses are far less likely to fog.
Gear tuning is the process of making tweaks to your gear to make it work more effectively for you. Here are a few pointers from veteran AWs.
1. AMMO IN ZIPLOC BAGS
When wearing gloves, getting a positive seal on that finicky little ammo bag zipper is unlikely, likely resulting in a pouch full of loose ammo. Find some Ziploc bags with little plastic zippers built in and re-bag your ammo. If you are unsure of the bag’s strength, tape the edges to insure they don’t split under stress. While not terribly “Gucci,” it is highly effective and quite inexpensive to boot. If noise discipline is not a concern, you can use Nalgene bottles instead.
2. A-GUNNER AMMO POUCH
This only applies to those of us with side-mounted boxmags. Stiff-walled box pouches, like the Eagle M60 pouch or Pantac replica, are easier to handle while removing and replacing ammo bags. Clearly labeling the A-gunner ammo pouch helps immensely, especially when your original A-gunner gets smoke checked and you’re stuck with some new kid as a replacement. You don’t have to take a Sharpie to your expensive gear, as wrapping a piece of tape around the lid will suffice. Stay away from red tape, as that is used for designating real med kits. As a side note, remember economy of motion when placing your A-gunner pouch; if your boxmag is on the left, why put the A-gunner ammo on the right?
3. METRIC ALLEN KEY SET AND MULTITOOL
Some form of Allen key set or small screwdriver set is a great idea. A multi-tool is recommended to supplement your drivers for more general-purpose use.
4. UNJAMMING ROD
Even if you go so far as to have a spare barrel (which is an outstanding idea), who’s to say you shouldn’t be able to un-jam your broken one? With the amount of time your weapon spends going cyclic, an average jam usually means a bunch of rounds stacked up in your barrel with no alternate way of getting them out. If you don’t have a spare barrel, an unjamming rod is hardly optional.
5. HOP RUBBER AND FUSE
These are the two highest-failure parts in most support weapons. The hop rubber due to the sheer number of rounds put through it, and then the fuse due to the incredible strain placed on the motor and electrical system. For those using a classic support weapon, keep in mind that many have proprietary hop rubbers (Daytonagun, Asahi, Escort) and are near impossible to source locally.
6. OTHER REPAIR PARTS
New gears and pistons are parts the AW should have back at the safezone, if not on hand. A pre-built spare gearbox is also wise. For classic users, this means having a backup gas rig as well as replacement o-rings. Weapon specific parts, like the airshaft nozzle spring for the Shoei MG42, should also be included in the repair kit. Remember, have these parts ready, as they will eventually fail.
7. SPARE BOX MAG
Box magazines, unlike other types of mags, are intricate and more prone to failure than a standard midcap or hicap. Remember, changing box mags usually isn’t the most expedient way to reload your weapon. Keep a spare on hand in case yours experiences a colossal failure or jam that isn’t fixable in the field.
Secondary weapon selection is an often debated subject with no clear answer. Keep in mind that no sidearm can ever replace your primary, so carrying a backup rifle is a bit excessive. Your best weapon is extensive knowledge of your machinegun so that, in the event it does go down, you can rapidly fix it and get it back in the fight. As detailed earlier in this guide, a small selection of parts and a spare barrel will serve you well in the long run. Sidearms should be enough to cover your retreat so you can get in your gun and fix it. Getting a sidearm for CQB is covered later in this article.
Shoei MG42 GBB engaging targets from a rooftop, courtesy of Panzergraf
Aggressive posturing, also known as looking intimidating, is wise. You’re the biggest, baddest guy on the field, so you should look the part too. Wearing kit is not only good for the increased storage space; it makes you look like a harder target and therefore makes the enemy think twice about attacking your squad. Who would you sooner attack, the AW running with a bag of bbs in his pocket or the AW with professionally laid out gear who looks like he’ll eat your team and ask for seconds?
Fundamentals of Machine Gun Employment
Establishing fire superiority is the AW’s first and primary mission in a firefight. If you don’t gain and maintain fire superiority, your team can’t move, which means you can’t effectively fight. Your actions on contact should be very simple:
1. Find a good firing position and drop, or vice versa as the situation dictates.
2. Get positive identification (PID) on your target(s).
3. Fire as much as you can on as many targets as possible. Don’t worry about short bursts, let the riflemen do that. If there are too many targets to cover by yourself, focus on the priority targets.
4. Continue firing until a decision is made by whoever is in charge.
AWs should be employed so they have a clean shot on any high threat areas nearby. Examples of these include highspeed avenues of approach like roads and paths. If this isn’t your first time at this field, keep an eye on any areas known to be commonly used by the local players. Natural and man-made hard cover like buildings, vehicles, berms, and brush piles are favorites.
Hard points, commonly referred to as “machinegun nests,” are mandatory for defensive operations. Look for a spot with a wide sector of fire covering high threat areas. The hard point should have good cover on at least two sides, and enough room to accommodate you plus your A-gunner. If you plan on resting your gun on a piece of cover, ensure that your weapon will be at the appropriate height for firing while standing or kneeling. Also check for wires, rope, vines, or anything else that might get tangled with your gun or bipod and slow down your egress. Last but not least, ensure that you have a good evacuation route in the event that you need to get out of Dodge.
CG image of M60 sight picture
There are three basic sighting methods that AWs use when engaging a target. The first is the most basic, which consists of placing your sights on target and firing. The second, walking rounds on target, is the most common and is fairly self-explanatory. The last, known as the viewfinder method, is a hybrid of the first two methods and is only possible with ladder-type rear sights (I.e. M60, M240 with sight flipped up). Instead of using the rear peep sight, you put your front sight somewhere inside the whole rear sight assembly and use that as an index to walk your rounds on target.
Firing methods can be boiled down to three main types, detailed here.
Illustration showing grazing fire
1. GRAZING FIRE
This is the most common type of fire, used when you have a direct line of sight to your target.
Illustration showing plunging fire
2. PLUNGING FIRE
Considered a lost art in the world of real machinegunners, this consists of “lobbing” rounds onto a target from long range. While sometimes frowned upon in airsoft, it is a legitimate technique and can be employed effectively as an area denial tool from far beyond the reach of a standard assault rifle or even a sniper rifle. Adjust your sights to your range to target, fire a burst, and walk your rounds on target. You can also do this over a hill, suppressing targets outside your line of sight. Having an A-gunner with some form of magnified optic helps immensely in this process. Don’t expect many kills, as this is not a precise firing method.
Rhodesian Light Infantry soldier demonstrating hip firing with the MAG 58, courtesy of Konstipation
3. HIP FIRE
This is not recommended due to the fact that it’s difficult to hit targets at any respectable range. When shouldered, whether prone or standing, you have a consistent firing platform and can make minor tweaks to hit your target. Hip firing takes away the consistency of the firing platform and reduces the effect of suppressive fire. On the other hand, this method of fire isn’t totally useless in airsoft. There’s no such thing as muzzle-climb and white BB’s are excellent tracers. Using a support weapon from the hip can be a good way for the AW to cover himself while moving. Firing from the hip for extended periods is not advised.
There are, of course, many other machine gun fundamentals. Not all of these apply to airsoft, but it would behoove you to keep them in mind.
1. POINT VS. AREA TARGETS
Point targets are usually a small area, like a single person, door, or window. Area targets cover larger areas, like a building, vehicle, or group of people. Plunging fire is only effective on area targets.
2. SUPPRESSIVE VS. KILLING FIRES
Suppressive fire suppresses the enemy, preventing them from moving. Killing fire kills the enemy. When suppressing a target in airsoft, shoot the piece of cover that makes the most noise when hit. This demoralizes the enemy and increases your psychological impact.
Illustration showing cone of fire and beaten zone
3. BEATEN ZONE
The beaten zone of a machinegun can be defined as the spread of its grouping at range. This is usually oblong, with the long axis the same as the direction of fire. The width of the beaten zone largely depends on equipment (I.e. weight of bbs, diameter of barrel, consistency of air seal) and environmental factors (I.e. crosswinds, brush in the line of fire).
Firing on a target from enfilade means that you maximize the effectiveness of your beaten zone. This can be accomplished by striking the enemy forces from their flank, attacking them in depth. This removes some of the problems associated with misjudging range, ultimately meaning you are more likely to score a hit.
This is also known as the “reverse slope defense,” which is highly effective given you have a clean egress route. This tactic is also excellent for attacking vehicles, if you are fortunate enough to have them at your field.
Target prioritization is a key point that many AWs do not understand. Remember that you are the greatest source of firepower within your team; therefore, you should be employed where the greatest threat exists. Cover the threat area that poses the most significant risk. Don’t be fooled into concentrating all your fire on the small distraction force off at your flank. If you think your riflemen are up to the task of suppressing or killing a target, let them do their job. Keep in mind that some enemies need your attention more than others. Enemy team leaders, RTOs, and gunners are all priority targets. Likewise, the enemy will see your machinegun and prioritize you in turn. Don’t be surprised if enemy leaders want you to be the first to go down, especially if you’re good at your job.
Utilizing Automatic Weapon Operators Effectively in a Squad or Fire Team
Canadian GPMG team on FEX, courtesy of Military Photos
The assistant gunner is a huge asset while performing the duties of an airsoft AW. Here is a list of the traits and basic duties of the effective A-gunner.
1. DEDICATED VS. TEMPORARY ASSISTANT GUNNER
These are the two basic types of A-gunner. Dedicated A-gunners have chosen this role as their position within a team and will permanently handle these duties. Temporary A-gunners are only in this position for the short-term, I.e. for the extent of a weekend or even just a skirmish. Temporary A-gunners have less stringent requirements than dedicated A-gunners, although they should have at least some of the traits described below.
2. ATTENTION SPAN
This is the single biggest killer of prospective A-gunners. During a firefight, there are a million different things to compromise one’s composure and distract from the mission at hand. If your A-gunner gets distracted, what could happen? You call for a reload and no one comes, your flanks are left exposed, or you get hit and no one is there to get your gun back in the fight. Bumrushers, paintsofters, and ADD kids need not apply.
3. SITUATION UPDATES
Sometimes the AW won’t be able to get on comms. This could be any of a myriad of reasons, from radio problems to being preoccupied with laying down a base of fire. This is where the A-gunner steps in. While the AW is busy suppressing, the A-gunner should be relaying pertinent situational information to the AW so that he can stay informed of any developments. Staying on comms also helps to keep track of targets outside the AW’s sector, which is immensely important if the gunner team has to move.
4. SPREAD LOADING
This is a common technique used to reduce the overall weight carried by the AW. While not as serious in airsoft due to reduced ammo weight, it’s a good idea to share some of your ammo load with a dedicated A-gunner. It’s usually not worth the hassle to spread load with a temporary A-gunner.
5. PREFERRED ROLES
If you don’t have enough personnel to have a teammate dedicated to the A-gunner role, someone may have to pull double duty. If this is the case, try to get a RTO or medic. The former will keep you abreast of any developments on the battlefield, while the latter can get you back up in a hurry if you get hit.
6. OPERATIONAL KNOWLEDGE OF AW’S PRIMARY WEAPON
This is one of the most overlooked facets of the A-gunner’s spectrum of duties. If the AW goes down, his machinegun should not be out of play. Similar to a sniper/spotter team who can perform both duties proficiently, a gunner team should be able to swap off roles and keep the fire on target. Have your A-gunner check your BZO at the beginning of the day so they know what to expect if they need to take over your role. Spread loading also factors into this equation, as you’ll want your A-gunner to have ammo on their person in case they can’t salvage ammo off your body with relative ease.
US Army Ranger armed with a FN Mk48 Mod 0 patrolling in Afghanistan, courtesy of Wikipedia
Patrolling is the infantryman’s bread and butter. As an AW, it is your responsibility to know your position within a formation. Your placement within the patrol is usually toward the middle or back, facing the most significant high threat area. If you’re in a wedge and you have more personnel on one side, take the side with less people to equal out the firepower. Most of all, practice good field craft including noise discipline and passwords. The beauty of grunt field work is in the most basic principles.
US Army Ranger providing overwatch with a FN Mk48 Mod 0, courtesy of Wikipedia
Actions on contact vary from team to team. Many teams simply go on-line and suppress the threat until the leader decides the appropriate course of action. These actions may include assault through, flank, or break contact via reverse leapfrog, peel, or IMT back. When breaking contact, AWs are usually the last man so they can keep the pressure on the contact while everyone else moves away.
ardrummer292 flanking an enemy position, courtesy of ardrummer292
Of course, all this preparation is moot without aggressive maneuver elements. You can be the best AW in the world and still not win the fight if your flanking elements won’t do their job. Skilled riflemen and solid leadership ensure that your suppressive fire doesn’t turn an overwhelming victory into a static stalemate.
Advanced Machine Gun Employment and Automatic Weapon Operator Techniques
Working with other gunners is an art form in itself. If there are multiple high threat areas, split them between yourselves. When suppressing targets within the same area, use talking guns to conserve your ammo. Talking guns means that you alternate firing bursts, one AW firing longer bursts while the other fires shorter bursts so you don’t run dry simultaneously. In defensive scenarios, interlock your fields of fire on high threat areas so that you may fully exploit any weaknesses in cover. Remember that you should stay in separate fire teams if at all possible, which means you will have your own A-gunners. To make the most of your other AW, get to know them. Learn their playing style and tendencies. Compensate for their weaknesses and capitalize on their strengths
Eliminating enemy gunners is a difficult task. If they are skilled, you will be getting a taste of your own medicine. Your best bet is to take away their only advantage, which is fire superiority. This is most easily accomplished by identifying the enemy AW, getting on line with multiple friendly gunners, and giving the enemy AW everything you’ve got. While your support element suppresses, your riflemen should move to a flank and eliminate the threat. If the enemy AW has already established fire superiority, slugging it out isn’t a wise idea. Breaking contact is advised, as you can set up an ambush later and fight on your own terms.
Mk43 Mod 1 mobile versus FN M240B deployed, courtesy of Appslapp and Military Morons (respectively)
The difference between a LMG and GPMG is largely academic, boiling down to the overall weight of the weapon and class of round fired. LMG versus GPMG employment is another case entirely. LMGs, like the M249 SAW and RPK, are much more mobile than GPMGs. LMGs can generally be used effectively from the standing position, making them a highly mobile option. GPMGs, on the other hand, are much more effective when fired prone or from a mount. This makes the GPMG less versatile overall, but does not forsake the fact that the GPMG is a hard-hitting weapon capable of delivering larger volumes of fire more effectively than its smaller brethren. Thus, airsoft LMGs are considered mobile while airsoft GPMGs are considered semi-mobile or static.
The AW’s job in CQB is an often debated point. Many say that machineguns have no place inside buildings, and site owners appear to agree judging by the abundance of semi-only rules in place. In this case, why carry around a belt-fed deadweight while using your sidearm? Stay outside if at all possible, suppressing windows and doors while your assault team approaches. If you must go in the building, don’t get in the stack. Stay outside the breach point and maintain control of whatever area you’re in. As long as you maintain the team’s rear security, they need not worry about any surprises when they finish clearing the target room. Once the building is secured, move to higher ground and provide overwatch for your team as they move to the next objective. Remember to stay low, as it makes you a much smaller target.
US Navy SeaBee manning a mounted Saco Defense M60E4, courtesy of Wikipedia
Machinegun employment from vehicles, in practice, is a lot of trial and error. Everyone’s vehicle, weaponry, and terrain dictate many discrepancies in so-called “SOP.” Select a mount that will hold your weapon securely and have space for your boxmag. Select a pintle that won’t fail under stress; replacing the square-head bolts commonly found on Army pintles with wing nuts will serve you well. Triple check that everything is mounted to your vehicle of choice securely. When attaching your weapon to the mount, zip tie the pins to the mount body so that they don’t work themselves loose. Speaking of retention, get some nylon-coated steel cable to attach to the vehicle. The free end will attach to a hard point on your weapon, acting as a lanyard. Attach some bungee to the underside of the buttstock so that, in the event you get hit or are thrown off the vehicle, your weapon is automatically pulled to high port.
Performing a mounted patrol isn’t much different from a dismounted/foot patrol. The AW covers the high threat area(s) while the other shooters cover the remaining sectors of fire. The main difference comes with actions on contact, which will vary from team to team.
In some situations, notionally destroying your machinegun is your only option. If your gun goes down hard and cannot be fixed in the field, there is no point in carrying around a giant deadweight. Your best bet is to remove the barrel and stow it on your person. If your weapon doesn’t have a quick change barrel, remove the box magazine instead. If you’re using something like an RPK or MG36, which both use common magazines and do not have quick change barrels, pull the fuse out of the wiring harness instead. From there, make your way back to wherever you stored your backup weapon. If you’re wondering why you’re further disabling an already disabled weapon, remember that airsoft guns are much more finicky than their real counterparts and may start working again once you leave the area. Taking a vital part of your weapon with you is also an excellent idea to discourage anyone who may want to nick your gun, although I wouldn’t recommend playing with those types of people in the first place.
Weapon-Specific Tips and Tricks
Inokatsu M60 series (AEG)
– The Inokatsu M60 doesn’t have a hopup nub. Don’t try to install one, as performance is excellent as-is.
– The stock Inokatsu piston may not be very good, depending on where you get it. If your piston is orange, remove it immediately and replace it with a better aftermarket part. If your piston is white, you can run it so long as you file off the next-to-last tooth (correcting angle of engagement, or AoE).
– Check the screw at the bottom of the pistol grip often. This screw threads directly into the motor cage, pulling down on the entire gearbox assembly and keeping it level. If this screw is lost, the gearbox is likely to be pushed out of alignment and cause muzzle velocity, misfeeding, piston stripping, and hop rubber-tearing problems. The gun will take on a telltale “phut” sound while firing versus the usual sharp report. Thankfully, you can replace this screw with one from a Cyma AK.
– The large hex bolt inside of the receiver, threaded through the serial plate, provides pressure to the upper rear of the gearbox. If this screw is too loose, the gearbox will wobble causing misfeeds and loss of compression. Too tight and the gun will not feed due to the air nozzle being too far forward, blocking bbs from entering the chamber.
– The nut on the hex bolt secures the microswitch and wiring harness inside the gun. Ensure this nut is tight, or you may encounter inconsistent firing or runaway gun problems.
– If you burn out your wiring harness, all you have to do is purchase the Inokatsu high voltage kit from RedWolf. This is the whole wiring harness, microswitch and all. No other parts are needed.
– When reinstalling the microswitch and wiring harness, ensure the motor leads are taped so they face forward (same direction as the microswitch). Otherwise, you may not have enough slack in the wire to hook the leads to your motor.
– Many parts on the ’60 are steel. If you encounter rust, especially on springs, use some Break Free/CLP and scrub the rust off. A solid coat of paint helps to delay the formation of rust.
– If you bend any part of the weapon, test it with a magnet to determine whether it’s steel or aluminum. If it’s steel, heat the part with a blowtorch and bend it back into shape.
– If you lose or break the trigger return springs and plungers, you can fashion new ones from Bic pen springs and carpentry nails cut to length.
– Be wary of installing the microswitch engaging block on the trigger backwards. This is a good way to create a runaway gun.
– If you have a runaway gun, quickly pull the trigger and put the gun on safe. If this doesn’t work, your only alternative is to either disconnect the battery or remove the barrel. The former will stop the weapon from firing entirely, while the latter will only stop the weapon from firing bbs.
– Ensure the hex screw on the side of the barrel is loose enough to allow free extension and retraction of the hop unit. If this screw is too tight or improperly aligned with the recess in the hop unit, the hop unit won’t budge and the gun won’t fire properly.
– If you lose or break your hopup C-clip, you can replace it with any TM-compatible AK hopup C-clip. SRC and Cyma clips work well.
– To prevent the pistol grip from splitting, wrap the grip area with either duct tape or gutted 550 cord. While not a perfect fix, it is enough for field use.
– Keep an eye on the screw that secures the buttstock to the receiver. It is located at the top-front of the buttstock, underneath the top cover. If you run a sling, cracks are likely to form in the plastic, causing you to lose your buttstock. If your buttstock has already ripped off, it isn’t too late. Run some gutted 550 through the rear sling point and wrap it around the rear T&E hole under the receiver. Crank it down, and you have your buttstock back.
– To expedite battery changes, remove the top screw of the buttplate. Place a 1’’ strip of male adhesive Velcro on either side of the buttstock, then attach a strip of female Velcro so it sits tight across the face of the buttplate. When you need to change a battery, flip up the shoulder rest (as applicable), pull away one side of the female Velcro strip, and rotate your buttplate out of the way to access the battery compartment.
– Some small batteries and almost all large batteries are too large to drop into the receiver from the top. Most will require you to remove the buttplate.
– Sealing off the gaps in the cardboard of your boxmag with duct tape is highly recommended. Otherwise, you may get bbs where they don’t belong.
– If your boxmag begins to have serious feeding problems, try running it in reverse for a few seconds. This is done by attaching it to a battery wired in reverse, which can be accomplished with 2 lengths of wire and electrical tape. These boxes feed almost anything: squashed bbs , gravel, chunks of wood, leaves, plastic bags, small bolts, and more. If your mag is too damaged, get a VN-style M4 hicap and remove the metal outer shell. Disable the anti-reversal spring (the one that makes the clicking noise when you wind) by bending it out of place or cutting it off. Tear down your boxmag by removing the innards through the bottom. From there, you can unbolt the motor and motor retaining bracket to replace your VN hicap, which is the base of the entire system.
– If your boxmag is feeding sluggishly, check to make sure the winding wheel on the hicap isn’t obstructed in any way. Ensure that you aren’t putting pressure on the wheel when you test-feed, like if the bottom of the box is resting on your knee.
– If you’re having a difficult time reinstalling your barrel, look into the chamber to see if there is a stray bb. Shake it out and try again. Sometimes, barrels need a little coaxing and jiggling to sit correctly.
– Failure to fire and runaway gun problems are due to the microswitch being improperly placed or poorly secured within the receiver. Remove your pistol grip, but keep your trigger in place. Pull the trigger and look into the receiver to observe where the problem lies. You can tell when the microswitch engages and disengages by hearing a click.
– If your fuse burns out and you don’t have a spare on hand, you can disconnect the entire fuse assembly from the wiring harness, leaving a mini Tamiya connector. Your ROF will increase, but you have a greater chance of burning out your motor. Replace the fuse and reconnect it to the weapon as soon as possible.
– 250V 30A fuses last the longest while still providing sufficient protection to the weapon.
– Reassembling the ’60 is very simple, except for one notable exception. Rerouting the feed tube from the left of the receiver, under the gearbox, into the front half of the weapon, and up into the chamber can be a nightmare. Tie a piece of 550 “guts” or fishing line a few coils down from the end of the feed tube. Thread the string through the feed hole in the bottom of the chamber. Take a long, thin screwdriver (like you’d use to adjust the hop with the barrel installed) and insert that through the top of the chamber. Don’t forget to reinstall the feed tube retaining/curving pin before pulling the string or line! While pulling on the string, angle the screwdriver from the top of the chamber into the feed hole to guide the feed tube back into place. As the feed tube gets closer to the feed hole, ease the two halves of the gun together until the screw holes line up. Once you think you have the feed tube locked in, have a buddy take another screwdriver and push the feed tube further into the feed hole using a flathead screwdriver inserted through the hole underneath the chamber. If you need more slack on the feed tube, rotate the slip collar on the left side of the receiver counter-clockwise (not too much, as it will detach from the feed tube entirely).
TOP M249 series (AEG, with PGC gearbox)
– There isn’t any practical reason to own these anymore, unless you enjoy tinkering.
– Many problems have to do with inconsistent widths in the TOP receivers, allowing the mechbox to be pulled too far to the left side of the receiver. This results in the nozzle center becoming misaligned with the hop chamber center, causing loss of seal, misfeeding, dragging, etc. The hop chamber position front-to-back in relation to the mechbox is also problematic. CA later fixed this in their CA249 by simply adding a spring in front of the hop chamber, pushing it back against the mechbox.
Guarder RPK kit (AEG)
– One of the few weak points of this kit is the stock’s attachment to the receiver. Depending on the version of the kit, either wood screws were used or metal inserts with machine screws were used. The wood screw version tended to loosen over time and the holes would strip out as they won’t stand up to repeated rebuilds. The metal insert version was better in that regard, but both versions suffered from the wood being thin and cracks could develop over time.
– If your battery isn’t well-insulated, the buttplate securing screws can penetrate the shrink wrap, touch off on the battery cell ends, or even nibble into battery wires.
Asahi M60 series (BV classic)
– Lube these weapons with a couple drops of 20W pure silicone oil into the gas source line every time a gas tank is changed.
– These weapons load BBs by cycling the charging handle. Depending on the version you have, 30 or 60 BBs can be loaded for a straight string of fire.
– If you load too many BBs, the charging handle will not seat all the way forward and the system will not fire. To clear the jam, point the muzzle up and cycle the charging handle again, as that will clear the BBs from the pre-load chamber and allow the charging handle to seat and seal correctly.
– When cycling the charging handle, don’t do it underhand. Instead, grasp the handle overhand as close to the receiver as you can. This avoids putting stress on the metal cycling bar that the handle is attached to, which can break over time if caution is not used.
– The walls of the ammo reservoir do not fully seal against the feed tray cover, causing BBs to spill out when in the field. Glue paracord to the top edges of these walls, or get window/door rubber trim and glue it inside the feed tray cover.
– Over time, the outer barrel/barrel lock junction can get loose. Simply drill and tap a M3 or M4 hole through the barrel lock from the side and install a set screw to engage the rear of the outer barrel. Don’t be surprised if your Asahi M60 already has this feature.
– If you remove the outer barrel assembly from the gun, be careful with the copper S-tube hanging underneath it. It is a feed tube into the shooting chamber from the gun. Replacements are very difficult to come by, although some have been fabricated by users.
Escort M60 series (GBB classic)
– This weapon needs consistent lube on the bolt , carrier, and airshaft, moreso than other GBB classics.
– Be observant of the trigger valve actuation bar. It can bend and not properly actuate the valve, as the vertical metal bracket off the trigger will slip underneath and not actually push the valve. You’ll need to bend the actuation bar back into its’ correct shape.
– Loctite the feed tube adapter on top of the BB chamber, as it will work loose.
– Try to ensure the BB coil spring feed tube from the box mag is unkinked and straight as possible, as the Escort engine needs strong, consistent feeding to shoot well. Otherwise, if the feeding is not consistent, it will chop BBs and likely jam up in the hop rubber.
– Users would be much better served to pursue the DG M249 offering instead of the Escort.
This article has covered all major aspects of the airsoft AW. The purpose of the AW in modern airsoft, as well as parallels between real and airsoft AWs, has been described to help you better understand what the AW does. Weapon selection and tuning, as well as gear selection and tweaking, has been detailed to help you get the most out of your kit. The basic machinegun employment and team-level machinegun employment sections will allow you to operate more effectively on both an individual operator and small unit level. The advanced AW techniques listed will help you in unconventional situations. Finally, weapon-specific pointers will allow you to get optimum performance out of your machinegun. The authors hope that you have gleaned enough information to get started in the AW role, or if you’re a gunner already, to refine and improve your equipment and tactics. Now,
Close this document.
Get your kit.
Go “Get Some!”
Navy SEAL firing a Saco Defense M60E3, courtesy of Wikipedia
About The Authors
ardrummer292 has been a US Navy Riverine Warfare Operator since November 2008. He is familiar with the ins and outs of all major US belt-fed weapon systems, including the M60/Mk43, M240, Mk44 minigun, M2HB, Mk19 Mod 3, and to a lesser extent the M249 SAW. He has used almost all of these weapons from the land (handheld, bipod and tripod, as applicable), off a truck, off a boat, and in blank-fire and live-fire tactical exercises including live-fire waterborne hot extraction training. He has also been informally trained in land-based AW applications by navymp28, considered “the” AW reference and the foremost expert on the Mk43 Mod 0 weapon system in his unit. The majority of his experience is with the M240 in a waterborne environment, mounted on the SOC/R. His airsoft experience is based primarily on using an Inokatsu Mk43 Mod 1, also known as the “Pig,” which he has used since the spring of 2009.
navymp28 was a US Navy Riverine Warfare Operator from May 2006 to May 2010. He performed the role of boat gunner, mounted on the SOC/R, but came into his own as the ground combat element AW. Armed with the Mk43 Mod 0, he proved himself a skilled operator and eventually became the foremost expert on the weapon within the Riverine community. He transferred to a new duty station in late spring 2010.
Panzergraf has actively played airsoft since 2004, and used an “MG36” during his early years. In early 2008, after a year in the army, he switched over to a more proper support weapon; an MG3 based on the Shoei MG42. Bitten by the classic bug, he’s also used the Daytonagun 249 a few times, and has an Asahi M60 he still needs to build a loadout for.
The MG3 is his all time favorite airsoftgun, and has proved itself very skirmishable.
AustinWolv has been playing airsoft since 2000. He started with AEG support weapons in their earliest stage. He then moved to the Asahi M60 series, which he believes is the most reliable airsoft machinegun platform. From there, he continued to employ classic and AEG support weapons. He has owned two TOP M249s equipped with PGC boxes, two Guarder RPKs he built, multiple Asahi M60s, an Inokatsu Mk43, an Escort M60E4, and has had experience with the Daytonagun M249 engines.