Evolution 9: A&K M60VN

On April 6, 2011, in Evolution, Featured, by Gerry

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

Technical Notes:

Internals and Externals

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

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

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

Reliability

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

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

Owning and Playing

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

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

Verdict

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


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

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

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

Lets get on with performance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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