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Description: Indepth review of the A&K M249 PAra
Keywords: A&K M249
Staff Writer
 
Posts: 2
Registered: May 2005
Location: Yokohama Japan



FarEast

Staff Writer

Registered: May 2005
Location: Yokohama Japan
Posts: 2,907
Review Date: 20/1/08 Would you recommend the product? Yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Positive aspects of the product (pros): All metal construction. Excellent finish. 100% compatible with Classic Army Parts
Cons: ē Problems with hop-unit, nub isnít long enough resulting in no back spin. ē Box magazine jams or mis-feeds and requires slight modification to fix. ē Trigger switch too long. Requires cutting down and rebending.

The A&K M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (M249 SAW) Review


What with more and more replicas coming out of Chinese factories time has come for them to replicate something that many of us have been waiting for. Finally A&K has replicated the Classic Army M249 Mk.I, Mk.II and Para version of the famous Fabrique Nationale (FN) Minimi or Mini-Machine gun.


Now having been stung once before by an A&K replica I was a little wary of the M249, but what with this gun pretty much being in the Number 1 spot on my wish list for as long as I can remember I was both eager to open the package up to see what was inside and slightly apprehensive at the prospect of another lemon!


http://img141.imageshack.us/img141/3930/m249paracompletemediumgr0.jpg


But before we go into the review here is some more information on the real steel M249:


Quote:
The M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (M249 SAW) is the United States military designation for a sub-family of the FN Minimi squad automatic weapon (from Mini-mitrailleuse French: "mini-machine gun". Both are 5.56 x 45 mm NATO light machine guns manufactured by Fabrique Nationale (FN) and its subsidiaries.
The Minimi is manufactured by Fabrique Nationale in Belgium, while the M249 is made by FNH USA, the American subsidiary of FN. The M249 was the winner of a competition carried out by the U.S. military in the late 1970sĖearly 1980s for a new squad automatic weapon. The Minimi has been adopted by many other countries since that time, especially among NATO members.
The M249 was one of many firearms fielded in the late 1970s, 1980s and 1990s that was part of the NATO adoption of a new smaller round. The Belgian cartridge (SS109), developed for use with the Minimi, was the winner of the competition for the new, standardized 5.56 mm round. In the United States, the M16A2 was adopted following the M249 as part of the move to this compatible, although different, round ó firearms intended to fire the SS109 cartridge use a different rifling twist rate (1:7 inches) from the previous U.S. standard M193 5.56 mm cartridge.
The Minimi and the M249 are not exactly the same weapon ó they weigh different amounts and have slightly different configurations; M249 variants can differ significantly. Although officially adopted in the early 1980s, some early production problems delayed full deployment until the turn of the decade. One thousand Minimis were purchased directly from FN for the Gulf War in 1991, as there were not enough M249 yet in service at the time. The M249 has undergone a number of variant and improvement programs, though it is scheduled to be replaced by a new lightweight machine gun ó the AAI LMGA (2004 contract). In early 2005, U.S. Army ARDEC issued a solicitation for a new light machine gun; however, no selection was ever made.



What You Get!


The A&K M249 comes in a plain brown box with minimal trimmings and the standard polystyrene inserts to keep it safe from harm. If this is all you are ordering you might want to ask your retailer if they could pack it in a better box as mine took a real beating. Although everything inside was perfectly ok.


One thing I need to tell you before I go into the ins and outs of this review is that on request I asked if two things were deliberately not sent in the package, the first being the spring. Already I had heard that the stock A&K M249 fires well over the Japanese, UK and Arnieís Airsoft regulations. The second was the manual, for some odd reason a lot of airsoft related goods are held by customs because of the manual, this could have something to do with the trademarks inside. So at my request these were omitted from the parcel.


The A&K M249 Para


Now just handling the box you know that the contents is going to be heavy, and upon removing the gun from the box I was delighted to see the external finish of the M249 was excellent. Already I was breathing a sigh of relief as anything inside that might be faulty could be dealt with.


http://img517.imageshack.us/img517/508/akm249paramediumdd9.jpg


With all the furnishings the A&K M249 is a joy to behold, a few pieces like the front sight needed tightening but apart from that the outward finish of the weapon is excellent. With the Box magazine attached the over all look and feel of this replica is complete.


http://img141.imageshack.us/img141/9062/akm249parawithboxmagmedih1.jpg


The Barrel


The barrel is a 1 piece assembly for the M249 Para and at the push of a lever the whole barrel disengages from the main receiver of the weapon, allowing you access to the battery compartment and also the hop unit.


http://img141.imageshack.us/img141/6589/barrelreleasemediumhk4.jpg


The barrel cover is the only part of this weapon which is 100% plastic, the cover should be but the frame underneath isnít, not a problem for me but more discerning collectors might want to upgrade this.


http://img517.imageshack.us/img517/2159/heatcovermediumis4.jpg


The flash hider is steel, most probably pot metal but on closer inspection the threads seem very robust and able to take the abuse that skirmished replicas undertake. The detail of the flash hider is also very good with all the porting and also ridges on the front been replicated.


http://img141.imageshack.us/img141/8923/flashhidermediumwp1.jpg


The thread itís self is a 14mm clockwise thread so If you are looking to attach something else to the barrel you might need to double check its fitting first.


http://img141.imageshack.us/img141/3654/14mmthreadforflashhiderjb1.jpg


The gas block is slightly off colour according to those in the know, but for the laymen itís something that will get overlooked by most. This is again made from steel adding to the overall weight of the weapon.


http://img517.imageshack.us/img517/9761/gasblockmediumgs0.jpg


Attaching to this is the ďGas CollarĒ which is the imitation parts for the regulator, just like the real thing you are able to twist this to each of the set positions ďnormal and adverseĒ but remember this is just a dummy and has no effect on the weapon.


http://img141.imageshack.us/img141/9465/gascollarmediumga2.jpg


The Iron sights at the front of the weapon needed tightening as mentioned before, but once locked down they are very sturdy with no play. These again are made from steel and feature an adjustable pin that can be raised or lowered with the provided tool.


http://img99.imageshack.us/img99/2724/ironsightsmediumcu4.jpg


Removing the inner barrel and the hop-unit demonstrates the US Armies, 30 second barrel change feature and although the only use it has is for quick battery change over (Some prefer to remove the lower hand guard) it does make upgrading the inner barrel easier.


http://img99.imageshack.us/img99/2185/completebarrelassemblymdu3.jpg


For those of you unfamiliar with the M249ís barrel quick change feature here is a video:


http://img142.imageshack.us/img142/6669/exportframeqx6.jpg
click image to view the video


The fore grip is made from hardwearing ABS plastic and can take a torrent of abuse normally associated with airsofting.


http://img517.imageshack.us/img517/9954/handguardmediumgf8.jpg


The fore grip is removed by pulling back while also pulling down at the rear. The front engages the main assembly here:


http://img517.imageshack.us/img517/5499/frontclipmediumvt2.jpg


And then snaps in to place underneath the lower receiver of the weapon, I found I got a much better fit by closing the clips a little with a pair of needle nose pliers.


http://img517.imageshack.us/img517/8208/rearclipmediumot7.jpg



Due to the housing for the bipod you will not be able to fit a large capacity battery in there although I have been able to fit a 9.6v nunchaku style battery without problem.


http://img135.imageshack.us/img135/1347/nunchukabatterymediumrj1.jpg


http://img135.imageshack.us/img135/3893/nunchukabatteryinstallexs7.jpg


The bipod is of a very sturdy construction and while playing I left it in the extended position, not only did it collide with branches, the odd tree and a few squad members heads, but took repeated beating when I dove into the prone position to stat gunning at enemy positions.


http://img135.imageshack.us/img135/8189/bipodfrontmediumsn2.jpg


The bipod has three adjustment heights and a central lock, which will fix the legs of the bipod into the upright position, for players in urban or dense woodland/jungle environments the bipod can be collapsed and folded inwards into the bottom of the fore grip. Be warned though they do have a tendency to drop out, so either bend the notches in a little to tighten the fit, or apply a small piece of Velcro or double sided tape to hold the legs in place.


http://img135.imageshack.us/img135/655/undersideofbipodfoldedmbd7.jpg


http://img233.imageshack.us/img233/7239/bipodfoldedmediumtf2.jpg


The upper and lower receiver comes with no trades or serial numbers, which is a little disappointing but for the price you pay and also the fact that to date no Chinese made replica has been made with trades itís no surprise and the more enterprising players will no doubt be able to get trades etched in.


http://img91.imageshack.us/img91/6500/rightsideofreceivermedivu0.jpg


http://img135.imageshack.us/img135/8766/leftsideofreceivermediuor6.jpg
One nice feature is that as standard the top feeding tray is metal and also comes with a top rail allowing you the option of mounting an aiming device straight away. No need to purchase upgrade parts just to mount a scope.


http://img233.imageshack.us/img233/2424/feedtraycovermediumjc4.jpg


Also mounted on the feed cover is the rear iron sights, these operate just like the real M249 and can be fully adjusted in exactly the same way enabling those whom prefer them to adjust the elevation and the windage. A lot of players then use this to dial in their rod dots or magnified optical scopes, so I would zeroing the Iron sights before anything else.


http://img233.imageshack.us/img233/6615/rearsightsmediumrb4.jpg


I have procured a copy of the US technical diagram of all the parts and what they adjust, simply set your hop unit so the BBís maintain the longest straight flight before they drop out of the sky. If your BBís are arcing upwards then reduce the back spin, if they are arcing down slightly increase it. Once you have the best settings select a target that the BB will hit without arcing either upwards or down wards and then dial in the sights. Once you have done this for the iron sights do the same for your optical sights.


http://img141.imageshack.us/img141/192/dialimagezb2.gif


I was able to hit a standard Tokyo Marui paper target at 50 meters, but remember this is not a sniper weapon and I had to walk the shots in and over the target.


To open the feed cover, all you do is squeeze the two buttons situated at the back of the feed cover on either side of the receiver; this will cause the feed cover to spring up giving you access to the gear box and the hop unit.


http://img135.imageshack.us/img135/702/squeezemediumgu7.jpg


http://img233.imageshack.us/img233/2310/liftmediumkw4.jpg


This also allows you attach a string of belt ammunition (Sold Separately) from the box magazine to the gun. These are held in place by the fake feed port that has a small notch that you hang the one of the rounds over and is then trapped in place when you close the feed cover.


http://img135.imageshack.us/img135/3096/ammonotchmediumwx3.jpg


I would recommend that you purchase deactivated rounds rather than the Classic Army ones as itís a lot cheaper. But the overall effect is worth spending that little extra on.


http://img91.imageshack.us/img91/9278/fakeroundsmediumih8.jpg

The M249 in real life is also able to utilize standard M16/M4 magazines and just like its reel steel relative the A&K M249 is also able take these magazines.


http://img91.imageshack.us/img91/4992/standardmagazinemediumwo6.jpg


Having experienced problem in the past with Chinese replicas having problems with certain brands of M16/M4 magazines I decided to give my selection the test.


The following brands of High capacity and Mid capacity magazines work with the A&K M249:


ē Tokyo Marui
ē King Arms
ē G&G
ē Echo1 USA
ē STAR
ē G&P


http://img136.imageshack.us/img136/3244/magazinesmediumkg7.jpg
To be honest if all of these fit then I canít see players having an issue with other brands or manufacturers. But already some players are having issues with some of the brands fitting!


The trigger mechanism is replicated on the real thing also (externally that is!). Now believe it or not the whole trigger mechanism is removed in exactly the same way as the real thing. First you will need to remove the pin at the front of the mechanism here:


http://img91.imageshack.us/img91/8523/removefrontpinmedium2pv0.jpg


Be careful as the assembly will swing down, then you will need to remove the pin that connects the stock to the weapon, get ready to catch the assembly as it will now fall clear.


http://img233.imageshack.us/img233/6316/rearpinmediumly0.jpg


As you can see there is very little to the A&K M249 trigger mechanism and the way it engages the gear box and trigger switch. To be perfectly honest I think the design could be greatly improved on over the current design.


http://img233.imageshack.us/img233/282/triggerassemblymediumrc0.jpg


The actual grip of the A&K M249 Para is very ergonomic and fits the hand very well, the ribbed effect gives the operator a very positive grip especially in adverse conditions such mud, wet and snow.


http://img91.imageshack.us/img91/7355/gripmediumsx9.jpg


As the motor is part of the gear box the pistol grip of the A&K M249 is empty and has a compartment that is held in place by a small spring loop, this is very annoying as it will just detach with the slightest knock, the main purpose of the compartment on the real steel M249 is to store lubricant, as the airsoft version doesnít really need it I would suggest finding a better away to keep the base of the grip closed. Otherwise you might find that it gets ripped off.


http://img135.imageshack.us/img135/6784/storagemediumxy4.jpg
A few drops of supper glue in one corner will hold the door closed without permanently locking it.


Now we move to the rear of the weapon, the stock on the A&K M249 Para is collapsible and for players that are members of a squad will certainly understand the benefits that it gives, especially in either CQB or dense woodland scenarios.


http://img134.imageshack.us/img134/3323/collapsedmediumro7.jpg


To release the stock and extended it to its full length itís a simple procedure of pulling the stock so the arms are fully extended


http://img223.imageshack.us/img223/259/extendedmediumdf1.jpg


And then twisting and locking the arms into position. The stock itís self is again made of steel and is very sturdy with absolutely no wobble. When fully extended the whole weapon is very ridged and ideal for either a fixed place gunning position or prone. For crouched or standing itís better to collapse the stock and I would certainly look at getting the Ranger vertical grip for the front!


http://img153.imageshack.us/img153/9753/lockedmediumtb6.jpg


The over all look and feel of the weapon is solid, although the materials used arenít the best in the world, short of someone running over the A&K M249 in a car or physically jumping on it the weapon is going to last. The paint work is well done, there is no ďOrange peelĒ effect but I have noticed that the paint has scratched off where the heat cover connects to the outer barrel.


http://img223.imageshack.us/img223/4681/paintchippingmediumoh3.jpg


You will also need to be cautious not to over tighten any of the external fixing screws as you can easily strip the threads on the body work. I have found in the past JB weld or similar will reverse the effects, but I suggest you manually tighten them using ďLock TightĒ or similar.


The Box Magazine.


Now I covered early the fact that the A&K M249 is capable of utilizing standard M16/M4 magazines but we all know that this is a support weapon and to support your fellow man in the field you will need a little more than 300 BBís. Thatís where the A&K M249 Automatic box magazine comes in to its own.


http://img223.imageshack.us/img223/8557/boxmagmediumqz3.jpg


The box magazine is based on the 200 round pack and is made out of hard wearing ABS like the real thing and connects in two ways to the receiver. The first is through the standard M16 magazine well on the upper receiver.


http://img81.imageshack.us/img81/4175/feedportmediumjm8.jpg


The second is to the fixing bracket located underneath the receiver.


http://img81.imageshack.us/img81/3428/fixingbracketmediumrz4.jpg

Now this is where you encounter you first problem, it is incredibly fiddly to attach the box magazine and will require you to first slot the box magazine underneath the receiver, without locking it into place and then inserting the magazine loading port into the feed port on the weapon.


http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/6224/clipnotlockmediumgo5.jpg


Now there is a simple modification that only requires either a small modeling file or if you have it a rotary tool. By simply cutting away a notch a little bigger than the size of the clip found on the main box you will be able to attach the magazine into place and lock it into position and then attach the loading port. I started off by filing the starting location and the finishing location of the area to be removed.


http://img87.imageshack.us/img87/5383/areatofilemediumeu8.jpg


I then removed everything between and rounding off the sharp edges to reduce the risk of it catching on something or damaging other parts of my equipment.


http://img141.imageshack.us/img141/5177/roundtheedgesmediumce0.jpg


This simple modification now allows the magazine to be attached a lot quicker and without the need to juggle the weapon and the box magazine when installing it.


http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/6072/quickfitmodificationmedux9.jpg


To load the BBís is a very simple affair and only requires you to remove the side panel from the box magazine, this is very tight and you will need to use a little force to remove it, I wouldnít recommend using anything but your fingers as repeated opening and closing will wear away the catches.


http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/9856/bbloadingmediumhr0.jpg


Or, and I have to admit that I found this only recently! There is a little door situated beneath the feed tubes!


http://img148.imageshack.us/img148/8329/trapdoormediumgp9.jpg


The capacity of the box magazine is 2500 BBís and they are fed into the mechanical feeding mechanism by gravity, some people tend to use recycled BBís that have been caught in catch nets or off the floor of the range and I would recommend against anyone doing this as debris or misshapen BBís will result in Jams.


http://img136.imageshack.us/img136/1930/feedingmediumzd1.jpg


The box magazine has 3 settings for its automatic winding feature, off, Auto, and Sound activated. Automatic is used when initially loading the BBís and to push them all the way into the hop-chamber, also if you are using sustained fire for long periods of time. Sound activated is a cool little feature that utilizes a microphone located in the feeding port that activated the automatic winding mechanism when the weapon is fired.


http://img156.imageshack.us/img156/8798/mircophonemediumau0.jpg
The round object to the right of the spring release latch is the microphone


Finally there is the off function. Which the box magazine should be set to in the safe zone and also when placed in storage to prevent the batteries from going flat. The switch is located underneath the box magazine, so it can be easily adjusted as required in the field.


http://img208.imageshack.us/img208/3407/boxmagswitchmediumlq9.jpg


Now upon closer inspection of the A&K M249 box magazines internals I found that the two sides that form the feeding mechanism do not join correctly resulting in jams. Now although this sounds major itís actually a result of where the plastic is injected into the mould. The struts used to join both sides together were also where the plastic was injected and on assembly of the unit the struts were not cut back far enough resulting in a large enough gap for two BBís to jam up the gravity feed.


To resolve this problem all you need to do is unscrew the box magazine controls located underneath, this separates the switch from the box. Then all you need to do is open the cover and slide out the internals. Be careful not to damage the wiring around the switch and the motor as it is very thin and easily damaged.


http://img208.imageshack.us/img208/4446/internalsmediumxq5.jpg


Once you have the unit out of the box you will need to split the two halves, this is done by unscrew the screws on one side, be careful not to loose any of the winding mechanism from the feeding unit.


http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/5265/removescrewsmediumhh5.jpg


http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/4972/feedunithalfmediumlk7.jpg


Now this is where you need a good eye, realign the two halves and gauge which of the struts need to be cut back, I found that mine only required 3mm to be cut off from two of the struts circled in red. Once you are happy with the join you can test it by turning on the unit and letting the bbís fall into the feeding unit.


http://img136.imageshack.us/img136/3348/circledinredmediumlm3.jpg


http://img208.imageshack.us/img208/2328/cutitdownmediumnt4.jpg


Once you are completely happy itís time to put the unit back together and reassemble it. While I had the unit open I decided to put some grease on the gears to lessen the noise.


http://img208.imageshack.us/img208/8494/greasemediumyt6.jpg


Now that the Box magazine is working to 100% efficiency itís time to give her a whirl!


http://img81.imageshack.us/img81/1600/getsomesm3.jpg Click on the image to view; Distance from target 20 meters, 0.20g BB, 0.97 Joules



The Gear Box.


The A&K gear box is a very weighty piece of kit made out of steel pot metal and of the same quality as the Tokyo Marui metal. Removal of the gear box, as you have seen is incredibly easy and makes working on it a joy.


http://img144.imageshack.us/img144/2610/oldgearboxmediumot1.jpg


But itís not all roses!


There are some issues with the gear box that are easy to remedy but so easy they should have been addressed on the actual production line. Iím going to list exactly what faults I have found and then walk you through how to fix these, most of these are extremely easy to fix and one or two can actually be done without disassembling the gear box.


ē Trigger switch to long.
ē Non-lubricated gears.
ē Gap between the Cylinder and the gear box.
ē Motor plate adjustment not shallow enough.


Not really a lot but some of the fixes are in the moderate difficulty level and do require specialist tools.


Now donít get me wrong, there isnít anything drastically wrong with the gear box, but with over 10 years airsoft experience its hard not to spot the small things and tinker with a new toy.


Breaking it down.


The first step I took was the easiest and it was to remove the switch, the reason for this is as many have already said it is 3mm too long and the angle it is bent at interferes with the sector gear. This will result in the trigger being pulled by the teeth of the gear as it rotates, causing the gun to fire even when the trigger is not being pulled.


To do this I removed the two bolts from the gear box, these are indicated in the picture below. Donít worry; removing this will not open the gear box as there only purpose is to hold the switch in place.


http://img116.imageshack.us/img116/854/switchscrewssl1.jpg


Having looked at images of a replacement switch I was able to estimate that I needed to remove 3mm off the overall length of the switch contact plate that engages the switch when the trigger is pulled.


http://img144.imageshack.us/img144/6836/switchld4.jpg


After removing the excess metal from the switch I took a small modeling file to round off the edges and remove any burring that could get into the gears. Then using an image of a Classic Army M249 trigger switch;


http://img116.imageshack.us/img116/2425/caswitchfr5.jpg


I bent the metal plate to exactly the same shape, and then tested to see if the trigger worked, needless to say when I pull the trigger it longer gets pulled back with the sector gear as it rotates.


http://img120.imageshack.us/img120/9728/finishedswitchmediumxr9.jpg


Problem one solved!


Those of you not wanting to open up the gear box and are happy with the performance of the weapon can now move on to lubricating the gear box, which again doesnít require you strip the gear box down but for a complete job I would recommend it.


The first thing to do is remove the spring, anyone who has worked on Airsoft gear boxes before will know how annoying it is when the spring guide and spring fire out the back and either disappears or causes the whole gear box assembly to jump out. The spring and spring guide are a dream to remove and anyone trying to get as close to legal limits or in need of quick change outs for different styles of play will appreciate this.


Iím going to show you how to remove it with the gear box removed first seen as we have it out. First of all you will need to push the spring guide housing/bolt forward, this relieves a lot of the tension on the catch you are about to lift.


http://img144.imageshack.us/img144/8795/springreleasecatchmediujz3.jpg


Push the catch towards the back of the gear box and the spring guide and spring will eject out the back. Make sure you still apply a little pressure to the guide and ease it out otherwise youíll find that the spring and guide will fire out the back.


http://img144.imageshack.us/img144/8026/springejectedmediumgq3.jpg


http://img144.imageshack.us/img144/1418/springguideandspringmedcg4.jpg


Thatís it, easy! As you can see the assembly of the spring guide is in two pieces and for those of you looking to maintain optimum performance will be able to attach a spring guide of your choice to the pin.


http://img144.imageshack.us/img144/5153/springguideassemblymedixe2.jpg


I was able to attach several different brands of spring guide to the pin and decided on upgrading mine with the Systema bearing spring guide as I am looking to increase the rate of fire as well as increasing long levity of the internals.


http://img516.imageshack.us/img516/9973/systemaspringguidemediuqa5.jpg


The next thing to do is start removing the screws from the gear box, I always start with the inner screws leaving the ones in the corners till last, but with the spring already removed and no forces or pressure on the gearbox housing you are free to remove them in any order you chose.


http://img116.imageshack.us/img116/9451/boltremovalmediumpk3.jpg


You are now free to lift off one half of the gear box housing. As you can see the design of the innards is very simple, with no spring, spring guide and trigger mechanism it really is a wonder why a better trigger system wasnít designed!


http://img187.imageshack.us/img187/1892/gearboxhalfmediumro0.jpg


One of the first things that jumped out at me was the corrosion on the gears; already the spur gear was showing large amounts of oxidization which is easily cleaned off and treatable. Nothing that a good coating of grease wonít help!


http://img120.imageshack.us/img120/5995/dirtygearsmediumty0.jpg


Apart from that the gears seems to be of good quality and look like they can take the wear and tear that a support weapon induces on itís gear box, but only time will tell.


http://img132.imageshack.us/img132/791/gearsetmediummr2.jpg


The piston and cylinder set.


The piston and cylinder set seems to be a little on the cheap side, but for the price of this weapon itís not surprising and I would recommend any one looking to upgrade their internals to start here.


http://img187.imageshack.us/img187/1411/pistonandcylindersetmedsw2.jpg


Now there are a few things to take into consideration when choosing the parts, the first one is the cylinder head, On the A&K I found that the o-ring was too small and did not allow a good air seal between the cylinder and the cylinder head, this was easily resolved by pulling one off another cylinder head, funnily enough I got mine from another A&K gear box that had been relegated to the parts box.


http://img132.imageshack.us/img132/2170/cylinderheadmediumbl0.jpg
With original O-ring
http://img178.imageshack.us/img178/4124/neworingmediumqt8.jpg
Replaced with new O-ring


Also another thing to note is the fact that the cylinder headís nozzle is actually 2mm longer than a M4A1 nozzle, so if this makes any difference in the performance, I donít know. But if it does I will report back on it at a later date.


http://img187.imageshack.us/img187/5462/airnozzlemediumkl5.jpg


The Air nozzle itself is actually identical in length to that of a Systema M4A1 air nozzle, but as I am going to be leaving these parts standard for now I havenít installed a new one. You might notice the dirt inside the air nozzle; I washed this out with detergent and dried it out with a hair dryer. Not good, but easy to resolve!


Next we move on to the cylinder, this isnít remarkable in anyway and is standard in quality compared to a lot of other branded manufacturers on the market at present, one thing that I must say is that there is a 1mm gap between the cylinder and the gearbox, resulting in air loss, if you have replaced the o-ring on the cylinder head then you can move the cylinder as far forward so the gap is now to the rear of the gear box.


http://img120.imageshack.us/img120/2777/gappm1.jpg


Currently I am not aware of any cylinders that are longer so you really have no choices apart from putting up with this or getting some sealant and closing the gap.


The piston is also of low end quality, although you will be able to change out the piston head if you so choose, so far though the weapon seems very happy with the installed parts but I will definitely look into replacing both the piston and the piston head in the future.


http://img132.imageshack.us/img132/9605/pistonandheadmediumqw8.jpg


The tappet plate again seems very standard and wouldnít need replacing unless you decided to overhaul the entire gear box.


http://img120.imageshack.us/img120/7127/tappetplatemediumad8.jpg


The anti-reversal latch is again standard and wonít need replacing as it is very sturdy and the spring is actually very good quality in comparison to other ACM weapons and in comparison to Systema replacement parts.


The motor again is pretty good and straight out of the box I was getting around 9 to 10 rps out of her on a 9.6v b battery. The motor is non-branded and looks very similar to a standard Tokyo Marui short type motor but just a little slower.


http://img187.imageshack.us/img187/333/motormediumfx1.jpg


As you can see from the video itís not the fastest motor on the planet but it is enough to get the job done and puristís will know that the real M249 only fires 12 rps when using the box magazine.


http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/2751/akmotorqm3.jpg
Click on the image to view the video


The very last thing on the gear box I will look at is the housing, particularly the motor housing. I noticed when installing different brands of motors that the bay for the motor adjustment plate is doesnít have a sufficient depth and I found that with Systema, AimTop, Tokyo Marui and other custom motors that the motor is jammed right up against the bevel gear resulting in the gear box to jam.


Taking a rotary tool to the housing I removed about 4mm from the inner wall and then sanded flat removing any burs and sharp edges. I then re-installed the motor and was happy to see that straight way that the motor was now able to slide too and throw within the motor tray.


http://img150.imageshack.us/img150/3013/milledoutbodymediumii1.jpg


All in all unless you are a complete perfectionist I really doubt that you would actually need to change anything internally on the A&K M249 all she needs is a few tweaks, a bit of lubrication and itís good to go!


The Hop Unit.


Or lack of it, a lot of people have complained about the total uselessness of the hop unit in the A&K M249, this is probably due to several things and having looked at the design there are several things you can do to actually make the hop work.


http://img206.imageshack.us/img206/2593/hopunitmediumfh4.jpg


One of the worrying things and possibly a contributor to feeding issues is the quality of finish to the actual chamber where the BBís feed into the hop unit. The finish looks hand made and has a very poor finish. Some work with the rotary tool and a buffer is certainly needed here, just to remove the edges.


http://img134.imageshack.us/img134/8677/hopfinishmediumwd9.jpg


Now I canít speak for everyone on this but the actual hop bucking was extremely poor, fortunately these are 2 a penny here in Japan and I had a few spare. The A&K bucking was missing its lips and BBís would just pour through the barrel, not good when using the box magazine!


http://img134.imageshack.us/img134/5527/buckingmediumie0.jpg
Tokyo Marui bucking is on the left.


Like I said this was an easy one to fix and just required me changing over the old A&K bucking for a Tokyo Marui bucking.


Now the actual design of how the nub engages the bucking is very odd, rather than the nub lying horizontal along the bucking the A&K M249ís sits vertically in the unit. Now as you can see the nub is irregular and any pressure on the nub such as adjusting the hop for more back spin will obviously not put equal pressure across the bb, thus resulting in irregular back spin.


http://img205.imageshack.us/img205/5898/nubmediumwj8.jpg


One of the other issues with the A&K M249ís hop-unit is that the nub is too short and even when the hop-unit is adjusted to maximum it had very little effect on the BBís back spin.


http://img81.imageshack.us/img81/5638/standardatfullhopmediumdv5.jpg
the Hop setting is at full and as you can see there is little effect.


Now there are two fixes to this, the first is to cut a new nub. You can use electrical wire that has a thick plastic housing and then remove the strands which give you a pliable nub.


The other method, the one I used is to place something between the dial and the nub. Having purchased a new spring for the A&K M249 I decided to use a piece of the thin acrylic packaging that I cut to size, folded in half and then placed the dial over.


http://img141.imageshack.us/img141/1228/plasticnubmediumew2.jpg


This not only gave me a responsive hop-unit but also tightened the dial a little preventing the dial from slipping during firing or roughing the weapon around.


http://img141.imageshack.us/img141/3887/modmediumrq6.jpg


http://img205.imageshack.us/img205/7285/withmodificationmediumil6.jpg


Field Testing.


After correcting all the minor issues it was time to take this beast out in to the field. One of the first things you will notice is that people are unable to tell this apart from the Classic Army version of the weapon and donít be surprised if people donít believe you when you tell them how much you paid for it!


http://img81.imageshack.us/img81/2633/rockandrollpl6.jpg


Out on the skirmish field you learn to respect the healthy 7.5 Kg that this beast weighs in at and for that reason I decided to purchase a sling for it, yes I hear the collective gasp that it isnít in Multicam but the only ones I could find were not available to mere civilians like me!


Within about 4 minutes of the game starting the team I was paying with was ambushed and was under heavy fire from a well entrenched enemy position, just what I wanted to test the weapon. Now as many have pointed out support weapons are used very differently to that of their assault weapon cousins.


The M249 is used to suppress the enemy with superior fire power and the A&K M249 is perfectly capable of doing just that, with a ROF of 14 BBís per second and a FPS of just 0.96 Joule (Right on the money for Japanese law) I was able to unleash her full potential on the enemy.


Now a member on the forums shared his experiences with me on another thread and his main piece of advice was ďHit anything around the enemy that makes lots of noise! Oil drums, wooden barricades and corrugated roofing anything that makes a lot of noise when you let into it! Nothing keeps their heads down better.Ē


So thatís what I did! Not only did it keep their heads down it also worked to demoralize them and forced them from what was actually a secure position.


One of the things you need to remember about the M249 is that it will not only eat through the 2500 capacity magazine but it will also go through a 9.6v mini battery in no time as well, so make sure you carry a couple of spares if you are spending a few hours in the field.


Lastly I found that I was spending more time firing the A&K M249 from a squatting position rather than a prone position, so I really was thankful that I had the foresight to purchase a sling. A Sealís type vertical fore grip would also be a god send for players that are playing within a fluid game or part of a squad. If youíre sat back at a fixed location or base then the bipod is ideal.


At the end of the day, apart from the sore arms and the serious amount of BBís I had gone through I had no serious complaints about the A&K M249 Para, the collapsing stock and the short muzzle was perfect for a SAW/LSW role both in Urban and woodland scenarios, especially when I was on the move. The sling is a must unless youíre the Rambo type.


A&K M249 Para Score: 8/10[b]


For the price, quality and overall high cost of all the other brands on the market this weapon could have been a perfect 10/10 straight out of the box.


But the small niggles and modifications needed to fix the slight errors eats away at the final score, certain shops will probably address these issues before they even hit the shelves (Thus the mark up!) but if you are comfortable with the inner workings of a gear box and slightly technically minded these faults will seem very minor and as I stated in previous posts will only take about 1 hour to correct.


The weapon is 100% is skirmishable straight from the box in the US but its high FPS requires it to be down graded in the UK and Japan. Thankfully this is easily done and I found that with the air leaks in the cylinder a 130% Madbull spring got it to just below 0.96 Joules. (You can see just how badly that slight gap between the piston and gearbox is.)


[b]Pros:



ē All metal construction.
ē Excellent finish.
ē 100% compatible with Classic Army Parts.
ē Auto and sound activated 2500 round automatic box mag as standard.
ē Amazing price!
ē All three models available Mk.I, Mk.II and Para versions.
ē Gear Box is easy to work with.
ē Simple gear box design is perfect for players with midlevel modding experience.



Cons:


ē Problems with hop-unit, nub isnít long enough resulting in no back spin.
ē Needs down grading for the UK and Japan.
ē Box magazine jams or mis-feeds and requires slight modification to fix.
ē Trigger switch too long. Requires cutting down and rebending.
ē Certain shops will not export to the US so price will be higher, although certain issues might be addressed before sale.



Closing Comments.



In total I have to say that I am very impressed with the A&Kís M249 Para, my previous encounter with an M4 made by A&K left me with a bad taste in my mouth, but the A&K M249 has certainly redeemed them in my eyes.


It seems that certain flaws in production are main stream when it comes to Chinese built replicas, either no grease or too much is a common complaint. Shimming is also an issue, many will say, ďBut for the price it doesnít matter!Ē but does it? Youíre paying for a product that should work out of the box, in reality the weapon does, the FPS is outrageously high but it does do what itís supposed to do.


http://img507.imageshack.us/img507/8176/junglemediumhg9.jpg


In the whole Chinese built replicas have come a long way since I started playing and companies such as Echo1 USA who seem to be pushing for higher quality, Chinese built replicas are pushing the trends for better quality replicas.


Also having recently sourced a Classic Army M249 gear box, I can tell you now that there are certain issues that the two have in common. The gap between the cylinder and the gear box is an issue in both although it seems that the positioning of the cylinder head is a little further back on the Classic Army that negates the problem.


At the end of the day Iím very happy with the M249 Para, for the price you pay it really makes it a viable purchase and itís no longer only in the reach of the few, yes you will get the elitist reactions and backlash and for this product itís justified! There really is no reason to pay so much for a product that you can now get for just over $200 USD.


http://img81.imageshack.us/img81/8979/oldqt3.jpg


Already I have started internally upgrading the parts, why? You ask after informing everyone that itís good to go straight from the box. The answer is simple; the M249 has been on my wish list for as long as I can remember I can recall countless times I have fawned over other players M249ís and now having finally got one I want nothing but the best for it, Guarder Elcan scope, Systema Magnum motor, Systema gear sets, the list goes on.


So those out there who spent good money on the G&P, STAR, Classic Army, Thank you! As itís you who paved the way to allow those without the money to finally obtain one.


I would like to thank the kind team at www.jiadui.com, especially Ginny who sent us this sample for review.


You can purchase the A&K M249 at www.RSOV.com and www.gunnerairsoft.com

------------------------------
S.T.O.R.M: Bringing the Honor back to Airsoft


 
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