Introduction It was only recently that I came to own a ďproperĒ airsoft pistol, having previously used a cheap EBB as a sidearm. After buying a KWA G19, and being very happy with it, I decided it was time to get myself something a bit bigger. Much bigger, in fact.
The Tokyo Marui SOCOM is, of course, a non-blowback replica of the Heckler & Koch Mk23 pistol which was produced as a result of a contract from the US Government to produce an offensive sidearm.
The Airsoft pistol is sold bundled with a silencer and a replica laser aiming module (LAM) all presented in a rather nifty plastic carrying case.
Itís worth noting that the TM Mk23 is a strange mix of parts. The gun, itself, is a replica of the Phase 2 prototype whereas the LAM unit is a replica of H&Kís Phase 1 prototype which was abandoned in favour of items produced by Wilcox Industries and Insight Technology during production of the pistol.
First Impressions Sometimes, in airsoft, the presentation of a product can let it down even before you use the item. With the SOCOM this is definitely not the case. The hard plastic carrying case arrives wrapped in a cardboard sleeve showing the pistol on the front and with a stylised blueprint of the gun on the rear. You really get the impression you are in possession of something special. Upon opening the box you are presented with the pistol and its accessories which are worth examining separately.
The pistol, itself, is solidly constructed although it feels rather light for its large size, at least until you insert the magazine. It is finished in a matt texture which replicates the special rustproof finish applied to the real pistol. Although the pistol is mostly plastic, the outer barrel, trigger, take-down lever, safety catch, magí release and hammer (as well as the magazine) are metal and this helps impart a feeling of solidness to the piece. The only real let-down about the Mk23 is that the de-cocking lever is a non-functional dummy.
The silencer is similar to that produced by Tokyo Marui for other guns, however the Mk23 barrel has a non standard 16mm thread for attaching the silencer rather than the usual 14mm one. It is made of a lightweight alloy filled with foam and finished in a rather inappropriate high-gloss black and marked with some official looking text. If desired, the alloy muzzle adaptor can be unscrewed from the silencer and fitted to another TM silencer with a more appropriate paint scheme.
The LAM unit is the subject of much controversy. Its overall construction is of acceptable quality however the standard item is almost useless in operation. The light is poor and the ďlaserĒ is nothing more than a red LED situated behind a frosted Perspex window. Despite the poor performance of this item it is much sought after with even real-steel collectors using them to complete display pieces.
The LAM unit has a rotary power switch on the bottom and a toggle switch on the rear with which it is possible to either activate both lights continuously or momentarily.
Aside from the main items in the case there are also a cleaning rod, instructions for the gun and LAM and, finally, a small pack of BBs.
Shooting The first hurdle to overcome is loading BBs into the magazine. There is a tab at the front of the magazine which must be pulled down to compress the spring before BBs can be loaded. The tab does not latch so itís up to the user to hold the spring compressed while loading the BBs. The method by which BBs are loaded is slightly unusual. With the magazine inverted, the BBs are dropped into a wider portion of the slot at the front of the magazine. I found that it could be quite fiddly to load the magazines and a user with larger hands might struggle to complete the task easily.
With the BBs loaded the magazine can be charged with gas and inserted in the pistol, ready for shooting. The magazine inserts with a small click and remains in place securely although it does rattle very slightly.
I set up a target at 10m range and fired off the entire magazine in order to get a feel for the pistol.
The first thing I noticed was that the trigger pull is very long and you can hear the BB moving into the breech as the trigger pull operates the loading and cocking mechanisms. After the first few shots I began to get comfortable with the action and the accuracy of the shots improved as a result. Accuracy is, of course, aided by the fact that there is no recoil on this gun. By the time Iíd emptied the magazine of all 26 shots I was quite surprised to find that majority of the shots were falling within a 3Ē group at the centre of the target.
I refilled the magazine and fired it off while experimenting with different options such as cycling the slide and cocking the hammer in order to fire the gun in single-action mode as well as double-action. More on this later. I chronoed a few shots and found that they ranged between 295 and 305 ft/sec.
Another magazine was shot with the silencer attached and I was surprised on two counts. Firstly the already quiet report is significantly reduced to a dull ďpowfĒ and, secondly, that accuracy was not affected at all. Again, more about the silencer later.
There isnít really much to say about the standard LAM unit in regard to shooting. The LAM fits into place securely and tightens onto the pistol with a thumbwheel which screws into the front of the trigger guard. The activation switch for the LAM extends underneath the trigger guard and is easy to turn on with the middle finger of your shooting hand although itís trickier to turn off simply because itís harder to flick the switch off with the back of your finger. The light, itself is rather feeble although it might prove useful in a darkened room.
After shooting 3 or 4 magazines I noticed that the hole through the outer barrel was not quite concentric with the inner barrel. I decided to dismantle the gun in order to enlarge the hole through the outer barrel slightly to avoid having BBs catching against the outer barrel as the gun is fired.
To remove the slide you must pull it backwards by about 15mm until a small notch lines up with a lug on the take-down lever. You can now push the takedown lever out from the right hand side. Unlike most GBB pistols, you donít need to remove the magazine before field-stripping the gun, however, if there are any BBs in the magazine, a few of them will drop out as the slide is removed. You only need to push the slide about 10mm forward of its usual position before it can be removed by lifting it off from the back.
With the slide removed you can begin to see the complexity of the action of this pistol. Without going into too much detail, there are tiny levers, little springs and all manner of ingenious mechanisms in there. NBB guns have a reputation for being more reliable than GBBs however I suspect that if this pistol ever did malfunction then it would be a tough job to repair.
With the pistol stripped I removed the outer barrel from the slide and, out of curiosity, attached the silencer to it. I slid an accurately sized rod through the barrel and was surprised to see that the rod emerged from the silencer in almost the exact centre of the hole. The silencer is, obviously, very well constructed and fits very accurately.
I replaced the outer barrel in the slide and fitted the slide back onto the frame. It can be quite tricky re-fitting the slide. A couple of times, during this process, I have found that the linkage which operates the breech didnít fall back into the correct position. This can easily be checked by pulling the trigger. If the trigger is solid then youíve got it wrong. If the trigger begins to move then the linkage is positioned correctly.
The hop-up adjuster, by the way, is located on a tiny wheel underneath the breech. Itís not exactly convenient to adjust but it seems a fairly robust system.
With the slide and take-down lever replaced I began to experiment with the gun. I found that cocking the hammer loads a BB into the breech, as does racking the slide, as does pulling the trigger. The result of this, of course, is that itís quite easy to double-feed BBs into the breech. Related to this, it should be noted that, as well as the actual safety catch, the take-down lever can be moved up and down and works as a safety-catch. I imagine that this has been done since (as with the real-steel) the safety-catch cannot be applied with the hammer down. This means that, in theory, the trigger could accidentally be pulled and a BB fired, hence the need for a backup safety-catch.
Finally, the LAM unit was the subject of some alteration. I purchased a small laser pointer from Maplin along with a 3 position switch and an IR emitter. The LAM unit was dismantled by removing 3 hex-screws and I removed all the internal components. I fitted the emitter from the laser pointer and fitted it into the LAM along with the 3 position switch and a large IR emitter. The LAM unit was re-assembled with a halogen bulb from a bike light in place of the original LED bulb.
The result of these modifications is that the LAM is useable as a tactical light and as a laser-sight. The IR illuminator is untested (and probably of very little use) although it does look impressive.
Conclusion The TM SOCOM is great value for money and a high quality pistol. Itís almost as if the original purpose of the real-steel pistol, as an offensive weapons system, has been carried through to the airsoft version. This is not a pistol that should be restricted use as a back-up when your AEG is out of ammo. This is a gun which can be used by snipers to carry out covert attacks at long ranges.
Although the TM Mk23 is made almost entirely of plastic it is a very solid piece and looks very impressive. A detail junkie might be upset that the pistol is modelled after a prototype rather than the production model but nobody could find fault with the way it operates in the field. At first you might notice the lack of blowback but, for the job of sending opponents back to the safe area, it really is an exceptionally competent gun.
The silencer is well made and works very well although some people might not find the gloss finish terribly attractive and the LAM unit, as standard, is almost useless, however itís a straightforward task to convert it into something perfectly useable.
The only real disappointment is that there is very little in the way of upgrades or accessories for this gun. If a metal slide was available for this pistol then it would be, for me, the perfect pistol.