Project M21 - Building the Ultimate Airsoft DMR - Part #1: Planning
Updated: Mar 28
I've decided to write down my journey as I embark on this new project where I will seek to make an airsoft semi-automatic sniper rifle. I am loathe to call it a DMR as that is not how it will be used in games and I seek to make it so much more than just a longer, fairly accurate gun. I seek to make a rifle that can rival my VSR for range and accuracy. Not only this, I seek to build something fairly unique; something that is not seen often, if at all, at airsoft skirmishes. At the very least, I seek to make something that will turn heads at my local site, Worthing Airsoft. This means my project is twofold: on one hand, I am looking at mechanical performance, aiming to squeeze absolutely everything out of my RIF as possible; on the other hand, I look to change out the externals to give it a unique appearance that will truly give it that "wow" factor.
Why did I decide to do this project? Honestly, while I am enjoying my VSR a hell of a lot, I can see the limitations. It can shoot incredibly far, with an effective range of at least 60m, though more like 65m - 70m. It throws out .45g BBs with absolutely no issues, the R-hop patch doing what it is meant to do. It is incredibly silent, as it is a spring sniper rifle with very few moving internals and a sorbo pad on the inside of the cylinder head. However, this is still airsoft. We are still shooting out a 6mm ball of plastic that weighs 0.45g; while 0.45g is heavy for a BB, it is still only 0.45g! Shots rarely go exactly straight like a real rifle; wind and interfering foliage can cause havoc on your shots, and there are very few areas of the site where those extra metres of range will help. Furthermore, a minimum engagement distance, or MED, of 30m means often you have to rely on your pistol anyway. Therefore, I am dedicating this project to make the ultimate long range AEG sniper rifle. I believe the additional rate of fire afforded by the semi-automatic fire mode will help to offset some of the issues regarding accuracy of BBs. In addition, I don't think that I will lose much range, as range and accuracy is often dictated more by the hop up and barrel than the power of the spring, though I will concede that the weaker spring means it won't be slinging as heavy BBs.
For this project I have chosen the m14 rifle to be the base for this build. You may remember my article about when I last used my TM m14 and how, while it was nice, it did not live up to my expectations for a DMR. While stock Tokyo Marui guns are great shooters out of the box, they are not built for high power builds, coming in at around 280fps out of the box, or 0.75J if you are more sensible and measure in joules. It's a great stock AEG for general use, but I have a TM416 recoil for that. I am either going to just use my TM m14, pictured here, or shell out an extra £100 and get a cyma m14, as pretty much everything is getting replaced at the end of the day.
I've spent the week doing some research onto what parts I want to get for this project. The results are below:
Barrel and hop up - Prometheus 6.03mm (with r-hop patch) + Modify Baton Ryusoku hard flat hop bucking and nub
The first thing was looking into the barrel and hop up, as I see these as the foundation on which the rest of the rifle will be built. These parts are the most important, so I will be going for a Prometheus 6.03mm stainless steel barrel, with an umbrella armory R-hop patch pre-installed as I am no tech myself, paired with a Modify Baton Ryusoku hard flat hop up bucking and nub. This should give me the best hop up options for heavier BBs, which I will be wanting to use as lightweight BBs tend to lack the power and accuracy that I will want for this. Having seen an R-hop in my current VSR setup, I will always go for this option. They work so nicely!
Power / Gearbox - Guarder SP120 tune up kit (also a Guarder SP100 spring)
As I said earlier, I am not a tech. I have actually never upgraded the power of an AEG. This kit seems to have everything I need to get the power I want. However, I will be buying an additional Guarder SP100 spring as I will be experimenting with two power setups. One will be 1.6J with 0.4g BBs and one will be 1.1J with 0.32g BBs. Why, I hear you ask? It basically comes down to effective range vs MED. If both setups have similar effective ranges, I am more likely to go down the path that won't cause me to have an MED, as a 30m MED can be incredibly limiting in some situations.
Battery - Will require experimentation. As high as I can go.
At the moment I use 7.4V 1100 mAh lipo batteries with Deans connectors, but I will be aiming to use higher power batteries in this build. The stock has more than enough room and I am really looking for a crisp trigger response.
Those are the internals I am looking at getting, in order to maximise mechanical performance. Once I have done these, I will likely do a few DIY mods, like putting foam in the stock to reduce the noise. However, I also said this project was to make a RIF with some real "wow" factor. These are the externals I am looking at getting to truly personalise this gun and make it mine.
Scope - NUPROL 3-9x50 IR rifle scope + killflash
This is not a real steel rifle. As I said before, BBs do not have the same ballistics as a real rifle, so this rifle scope will be more than fine for this project. it doesn't require a screwdriver to adjust and the crosshair can be illuminated if lighting causes it to be difficult to see it. Also, it has the magnification I am looking for. 3x zoom at the low end will give a bit of a wider look for most of the time, however if I really need to zoom in, 9x at the high end is more than enough. Let's be honest, even for recon / spotting in airsoft you don't need a massive zoom. The killflash will help get rid of scope glint, which rarely is a problem, but it will also protect against incoming BBs. I'd rather not have my scope cracked!
Stock - m14 Real wood stock
Nothing says "wow" like a real wood stock. Not only will this give it some proper weight, maybe making it less front heavy in the process, but real wood furnishings on a rifle is just... stylish. Also, it'll let me play in vietnam airsoft games. Double win.
Handguard - Guarder m14 RAS
Funnily enough, I've never seen anyone at my local site running rails instead of the ordinary heat shield. I love the look of the rails and the Guarder ones looked nicer than the cyma ones. Hopefully this will also let me have my scope a bit lower than with the traditional scope mount, as I do not like it being too high up.
Magazines - MAG m14 short magazines
I've never seen anyone use these. I think this will be one part of my rifle that will be very unique, at least at my local site where few people use the m14. Not only do they give it that more "sniper" look than the full size ones, but they're also lower profile, meaning if need be I can get the rifle very close to the ground when firing. They're 70rd capacity and won't rattle, as they are not hi-cap magazines. I really like these. When I found out I could get them for my airsoft rifle, I was incredibly happy.
Bipod - Guarder m14 bipod swivel + ASG universal bipod
With a real wood stock, RAS handguard and the fact that that it's just heavy in the first place, I'm going to want a bipod. I spend a lot of time firing from the prone position, so this will definitely help when setting up a position to harass the enemy team from. Instead of getting incredibly tired keeping my rifle up with muscle power alone, I figure a bipod will help. Also it will probably help with my shooting, giving me a more stable firing position. Plus, it just looks really cool!
With all of these items, I hope to build a truly unique looking gun that can cause some real havoc out on the skirmish field. It's not going to be cheap, but once I have this I can't see myself buying anything else as I'll have a standard AEG, two sidearms, a DMR and a bolt action sniper. There aren't any CQB fields too close to me, but even if there were I can just use my TM416 or just go pistol only. This will possibly be the last big airsoft project / purchase before getting myself a mortgage, so let's make it a good one.
On the topic of pistols...
BONUS - I'm also updating my TM 1911. While the mk23 is a fantastic sidearm, it's NBB and not nearly as fun to shoot as a proper GBB. The items I am getting for the m1911 are far less, but I figure I'd include it within this project. Why? Because a sidearm is very important for a sniper / DMR in airsoft, especially if I go for the 1.6J route for the m14. I am getting the following parts for my 1911 to bring it closer to the mk23 in terms of performance.
Outer barrel - Nineball metal outer barrel SAS NEO (14mm CCW)
The fact that I cannot attach a suppressor to my 1911 is a big deal to me. Furthermore, I have a nice, short, lightweight suppressor (stuffed with foam) that would look just so fantastic on my 1911. This will solve this problem. I'm a sucker for a suppressor and I won't deny it.
Inner barrel - Nineball 6.03mm inner barrel (112.5mm)
I'm going to be honest. My mk23 build is all Maple Leaf, but I really like Laylax, as evident with my VSR build being mostly Laylax. Therefore I decided to try an all Laylax (Nineball) build for the 1911. A barrel is an easy install and with how much cheaper this barrel is compared to a full size AEG or sniper rifle barrel, I figured I'd throw this into the build.
Hop bucking - Nineball purple hop rubber
It's a simple install, it looked interesting and it's inexpensive. This especially caught my attention since my TM hop rubber seems to not like hopping even .25g BBs at near maximum hop up. This will allow me to tone down the hop up and hopefully increase the power with those .25g BBs, as I won't be using heavy in this pistol because it's not meant for long range. Unless I'm going pistol primary, then it will be nice to have the option to run either the mk23 or the m1911. Or both. I'm going to need a left leg dropleg platform...
Grips - Kimpoi hand-crafted real wood grips (springfield armory)
This is 100% just a flashy purchase. Everyone has a normal 1911, so when I get the parts that will let me put a suppressor on my favourite sidearm, I'm also going to make it as flashy as possible. This will likely make this into another head turner, which is definitely the objective!
I won't write much more, as this has already become a fairly lengthy read. The next step will be acquiring all of these parts and then installing them, though this may not happen immediately due to stock problems (a lot of these items just... aren't in stock). I will also write about my experiences with the next step, though as I said, that will not be immediate. I want to make sure this project goes 100% according to plan.
Let me know what you think. If you have any suggestions, let me know!