I’m back motherfuckers.
Well, I was never really away, but after 4 months of not actually writing anything I decided it was time to sit down and get back behind the keyboard. The reason for this short-turned-long break was down to a few different factors, one of them being laziness, but the other being I felt I’d lost a little bit of what set the blog aside from others, in that I was no longer serving and therefore ran the risk of this becoming “just another airsoft blog”. Well after a few months I’ve come to the realisation that A) I don’t fucking care, and B) I miss writing funny swear words and hoping people laugh at them.
So anyway lockdown sob story out of the way, back to swearing about shit I don’t need.
In Depth // Primary Weapon System // Systema PTW
Ever since my first soiree into airsoft, the name “Systema” has been held in my mind in very high regard. In fact, the first time I heard the word was when I asked someone if his Mk18 was a “G&P Autobot”, the rifle I must have been coveting at the time. Understandably he looked at me as if I’d just given his cat a good seeing to and replied with the words “no pal, Systema” through gritted teeth. From then on and after looking into the system I came to understand that it stood a head above the sea of AEGs that are available and was something to be aspired to.
Like all good toys though PTWs aren’t cheap either to buy, or to maintain, and so for the 7 years that followed I put them to the back of my mind as something to think about in the future. In hindsight, I wish I’d been a lot less of a dickhead at 18 and had just gone ahead and bought my first PTW instead of pissing about buying snipers, SA80s and just about every TM pistol under the sun. Throughout this time there was one PTW that always kept the platform loosely in my mind belonging to DC, of Prototype Scarab fame. What I learned from watching and playing alongside him was that while it was a finicky little cunt, when it worked, it slayed.
Well fast forward to early 2020 and the collapse of my interest in L119A2s, and we landed in a place where I was trying my best to use a TM Recoil platform, front wired, with fancy shit all over it. Needless to say while it worked, it was starting to leave me feeling a little underwhelmed especially as the recoil system (which I have always felt should be a removable thing) was playing havoc with my plans for having batteries in a place where I could swap uppers and run whatever stock I wanted.
I started to look at other platforms that were out there, but had a few definite criteria to go off:
- Battery storage in the buffer tube
- RS spec mags – that is to say, not the chopped off AEG ones
- Available spare parts and accessories that don’t require buggery to work
- Actually be a good shooter
Unsurprisingly these criteria pointed at one platform and one platform only; PTW. Times were about to get expensive.
Finding the right PTW
I’d been on the lookout for a decent PTW package for months in advance, but when I finally made the decision to go over to the dark side I had to wait a few weeks for the right one to come up. Lo and behold one day in February a “fully tac’d” MK18 package came up, with all the bells and whistles of RS parts and gucci externals to make me drool out of either side of my mouth, and a price point that should have set alarm bells ringing from the get go.
However, the foolish and naive don’t have time for actually asking experts about things and so I bought my first PTW and hopped with excitement waiting on it’s arrival. When it turned up it did in fact have all the RS accessories that had excited me, and had the deceiving habit of working some of the time. It took a while to discover the faults, but on the advice of @the_reptile_house I sent it down to Tackleberry for a 5 month beauty spa and just waited for the hammer to fall in the form of the invoice.
When I eventually got the bill I was surprised to find that both my kidneys could remain inside my body, and that overall the cost of the PTW plus Tac’s bill actually only came to the rough 2nd hand price of such a setup. With a massive sigh of relief I was able to finally get started on building my PTW up to the spec I had spent half the year coming up with, and am now at a point where I can break that down for you.
The lower receiver and ancillaries
In the words of popular rap artist and man I know nothing else about Drake: “Started from the bottom now we’re here”. Basically meaning I’m starting from the bottom.
The lower receiver of my PTW is one of the less messed about with parts, but this is because of the fact that it arrived in an almost complete state, well, apart from the fact that the gearbox didn’t fucking work (cunt).
It is in fact almost exactly to my liking. The body of the receiver is a Systema challenge kit lower, meaning it has no trademarks or markings of any kind, which the cloners among you will cringe away from as if I’d suddenly realised I had no taste or sense of smell, and sneezed, but for me this is perfect. I like building my guns in the practical sense, and apart from my brief and half-hearted dive into the L119A2 world I’ve never been one for sticking to something “because it’s correct”. A blank lower for me means that there is no temptation to do a particular build, and no opportunity for virginal neckbeards to tell me that “mY gUn Is WrOnG”.
On the lower is one of my absolute favourite pieces of furniture, that I absolutely wouldn’t do without: the Magpul enhanced trigger guard. If you don’t have one of these, or an equivalent on your AR15 based gun then I’d highly advise you to sort it out. Not only do they allow more room for your trigger finger (something of a non-entity for me), they fill the gap between the trigger guard and pistol grip, and make for an exceptionally comfy finger rest no matter what pistol grip you have on there.
Moving backwards again we have an FCC clone of a Magpul MOE pistol grip. Originally I had planned to use a BCM pistol grip on my PTW, but after an eye-watering quote from Tac and the refusal of anyone else to convert one, I decided to cut my losses and go with the next best thing. The problem is grip angle. I personally favour as steep a grip angle as possible put with most airsoft guns this simply isn’t possible due to how the motors work, especially so with PTWs. This meant that I needed a way to push the rear of the grip backwards to compensate, enter the MOE grip. Its chonky frame and large beavertail push my hand back just far enough to be comfortable with the stock compressed, and is more than okay when I have it in position 3, which is my ideal length of pull.
Originally my PTW came with a Hogue pistol grip on, which is nice, but as I mentioned above just didn’t have the correct angle for my hands. I have since bought myself a Hogue beavertail grip to replace the MOE and bring a little bit of flair back to the build, but once again we must wait behind the wall of finding someone to convert it, and getting the invoice past the missus unseen.
On the stock tube I was glad to see that my gun came with a Magpul ASAP sling plate already installed and ready to go. On my previous guns I had fallen more than slightly in love with the GG&G agency sling mount, which I still recommend as the best rear sling mounting option available for TM recoil users, but part of wanting a PTW was having a gun that I didn’t have to find workarounds for. The ASAP plate is basically the standard plate that all others should be measured off. It’s simple, it works, and it’s fine by me.
Finally we get to the stock, which I am more than a little proud of. While there’s nothing truly special about it, I just love the way it looks, feels and works. On my build I use a B5 systems CAR15 reproduction stock, with a Warlord stock pad to cover the end of the buffer tube. The CAR15 stock aesthetic is one of the reasons I bought a second recoil way back when, and did a half-hearted C8 clone as a result. I wanted to continue this in my current blaster but decided to do the thing properly and get a stock built for a proper gun. In truth, it’s a bit of plastic, but I know it’s a cool bit of plastic and that’s good enough for me. The real feature of the B5 stock however is that it provides totally tooless entry to the buffer tube of my gun, allowing me to easily get batteries in and out without pissing about in the way you do with Magpul or BCM stocks.
I’m going to cover the “extras” for my PTW here in one place, and this is because like the lower receiver, it doesn’t change at all between setups. There is only so much you can do when it comes to mags and slings, and I’ve got it pretty well covered in one configuration.
Firstly, the sling. After pissing about with various Blue Force Gear slings over the years I finally jumped on the Ferro Slingster train some years ago and haven’t looked back since. I have adapted mine to be more universal by creating my own Proctor-ish paracord loops that allow me to double wrap the sling around just about any handguard and just about any stock. This flexibility means that while swapping uppers might take a little longer, it is easier than having to have 4 different mounting options spread across my different builds.
Then we come to the magazines. I have 8 in total, and of a few different varieties. I had been warned off the PTS Pmags as apparently they’re a bit shit, and so instead decided to have some of my existing steelies converted into Emags by the venerable @tacbelts_uk. These magazines work flawlessly across all of my uppers, and gave me the confidence to send another little project Andy’s way.
Following the peer pressure set by @mk1_tactical and his plethora of meme-mags, I decided to get a PTW M3 Pmag 20 made, which came off with great success. While it is not as flawlessly perfect as my Emags, it does in fact work with the upper I intended to use it with. Unfortunately in the process of making this magazine Andy lost the will to live and has since declared that he will not be doing any more, so hard luck all those who want one.
Custom Pmags aside I also have a couple of steelies left over, in 20 and 30rd varieties. As these magazines are not sprung I don’t have the same confidence in them as I do with my Pmags, but nonetheless they work well enough and are great backup mags to stow away in rear pouches. As an absolute trombone of a man recently reminded me: “Remember Blackhawk Down”, and so if someone ever yells “Randy I need a really specific and finicky PTW mag” in my vicinity I’ll have a steelie waiting good to go.
My upper receivers are where the variety really steps into my PTW project, as they all serve a different purpose either functionally or aesthetically. While I’ll go into each one individually, something to bear in mind is that they all house the same inner barrel and cylinder, so as far as range and power goes they are functionally identical.
1 – “Night Fighter”
My first upper is the one I have somewhat ironically dubbed the “night fighter”, despite it never having actually done any fighting at night. But this name speaks more to its setup than anything else. Based on a flat top upper, this is the setup I use for indoor/close up stuff where light isn’t much of an option.
Forming the basis of the upper is the excellent HAO Mk16 9.3” rail kindly on loan to me from Rich of the Reptile House. Originally I had my Angry Gun MCMR on board but it was absolutely eclipsed by the HAO. In its simplest terms it is just a metal pipe with MLOK slots in it, but when looking at the overall visual quality it’s hard to deny it’s a fucking good looking pipe. I’ve been really blown away by the feel of it though; edges rounded where they should be, locking screws that fit to perfection and a finish that is standing up to more than I can throw at it. While at some point this will have to go back to Rich, it’ll be getting swiftly replaced by a black counterpart.
Going front to back then, what makes this a NiGhT FiGhTeR upper? For starters, this is the one upper I have set up to take my suppressor/tracer combination. While tracers are normally committed to the realm of tracksuit and blowjob kneepad wearing slidey cuntflaps they are making waves in the night vision user community. Having only recently joined the NV gang privately, my only other experience was firing live through tubes, often with tracer rounds. The difference is that with live ammo you either see the effect of your round landing (as this is where your NV is actually focussed), or you see a tracer flying off into the distance to have a merry time ruining someone else’s day. With airsoft you don’t get this effect. Instead you fire somewhat aimlessly and hope that the zero on your chinese laser is also lined up with your oscillating hop-up ark and see where you end up.
Tracers eliminate this by giving you a glowing BB flying through the air that you can see much further out in its flight path than you normally would in the day. This allows you to correct your shots very quickly, and lowers the risk of plinking happily away into a wall 2 feet in front of you. It does come at a cost however, as those with or without NV on the opposing team can see where your shots are coming from, and may even see the flash of the tracer unit itself. For most this isn’t an issue though, as once the scrap is on most people bang white light on anyway making the tracers the least of your concerns (cries in non-gated tubes).
Coming back we have the accessory cluster that makes up the majority of my upper’s identity. Here we have the following:
- Fixed front sight post
- M600V Scout light on an Arisaka Defense inline mount
- Dual switch
- A shit load of self-amalgamating tape
I run a fixed front sight post on this upper for the simple fact that it is standing in for a Unity Tactical hot button, and looks good in the meantime. Practically it offers little use, although for times when I simply cannot be arsed putting batteries in my optic it does provide a useful reference point from which to aim off of. Behind it we have a cut down dual pressure switch, activating my laser and light. I’ve recently taken to running this pressure switch up top and as far forward as possible, pushing the other accessories to the side.
This is due to the ergonomics of CQBR length rails being absolute dogshit when it comes to mounting anything more than a grip to it. The current setup is however the best I’ve had so far, and is something I’m willing to make more of a permanent affair. On one side is my clone M600V riding as high as possible against the top rail. Its current position is really slick, and functionally it provides all the white and IR light I need, even considering it isn’t a genuine article. This setup can only be improved by the aforementioned hot button, which will provide the hybrid and ambidextrous momentary/constant on function that this rig sorely needs.
On the other side is the special needs donkey of the setup in my Element LA5, another hangover from the L119A2 days. While this brick has served me well as a prop and at some points a semi reliable red aiming laser, its days are numbered and will be soon replaced with an IR DBAL, or even the fabled PTS MAWL if that ever comes out of the woodwork. Even so, I must say that for the £27 it cost me, you really can’t complain at it. The IR beam is bright and can to some extent be moved around, but gives you the reassuring feeling that you won’t immediately take someone’s retinas out unlike the G&P DBAL on deathbeam mode.
The tape is there purely to make sure nothing goes walkabout at night, and that all the wires are held securely in place and free from snagging. At the back of the upper I run an XPS3-0 replica, with a BUIS purely to round off the image. The optic was sourced through @mk1_tactical and is an excellent clone. As a right handed, right eyed shooter, I wind a lot of people up by also using my NV on my right eye, which makes me incredibly reliant on it. For this reason I like having an optic that has a very large eyebox, and a large reticule to be picked up through NVGs comfortably. In its current setup the optic is just good enough, but I still find myself preferring to use a laser. To remedy this, a Unity Tactical FAST riser is on the cards, to make passively aiming even through monos a simple task.
2 – Block II FSP UGL
My second upper is more of a fun project than a practical piece, but if you’re not having fun then you’re not doing it right. This started out because I baked the short MK18 rail that arrived on my PTW, and I saw the conversion made by @samwrc01 turning a regular 13” DD RIS II rail into an FSP. After sourcing a rail and upper, I went to work creating the heaviest front end I could think of that I will surely regret.
So far I have not had the chance to use this upper in its current format, but I’m hoping to change that in the coming months. It is based around a Madbull DD RIS II that has been bastardised into allowing a front sight post to poke through into the daylight. The FSP has always been something I’ve loved, and so finally getting one of my own has been great fun.
After chopping holes in rare rails, I added the following:
- Surefire M600C
- M203 UGL
- Comp M4
Up front is riding my old faithful Surefire Scout, that has had more knocks than a prozzy’s front door but is still kicking out a respectable beam. I’ve opted to go for the “clicky” tailcap here as the overall weight of the upper means I’m not likely to be pissing about with momentary switches any time soon. There is also zero requirement for this upper to be ambidextrous and so prioritising my white light to my dominant stance is perfectly okay.
On the other side is the recurring nightmare of my Element LA5, which will be a permanent fixture here with no batteries in when it is finally allowed to retire from my shorter upper. As I’ve already said, this is an excellent prop, and adds an element of Block II / USSOF to the build which I quite like.
Underneath is the real elephant in the room. The M203 is a work in progress that I’ve recently realised I need. Now that I’m spending more of my time attending events with vehicles I’m realising more that they’re bullshit and need TAG grenades firing at them. To facilitate this I’ve acquired a UGL from a very good mate, and am in the process of adapting the upper for it. Currently the launcher is mounted on the ubiquitously “airsoft” RIS mount, something which is made doubly annoying by the fact my rail can free float it. In any case, for the time being I have a working launcher but in future it will be sitting in a much lower and much more secure profile.
Coming back to the optics I’ve chosen to run another clone from Mark, this time in the form of a Comp M4. There was no reason for this decision other than I’ve never had one before, and I think they look good. In truth, this might not have been the wisest choice as these optics are hardly renowned for being light and this is compounded by the rest of the shit slapped onto this upper. That being said, looking good is half the battle, and I’m very happy with how this one has turned out.
3 – Carry Handle 1
Now we’re getting into the areas I’m most proud of. Carry handles. I don’t care who you are, if you say carry handle uppers are shit then we have a problem and I guess we’ll just have to fight about it. Carry handle uppers are doubly cool with Systemas because they’re rare as shit.
Needless to say when this upper became available I snatched it up in an instant, and have zero regrets as a result. As far as the build goes, there is only one direction I want to take it in, and there is unfortunately quite a ways to go. As soon as I got this upper, I decided I wanted to grow my blonde hair long, buy a white suit and rob banks to pay off my gambling addiction.
As the cloners among you will undoubtedly tell me “the guns used in Heat were 733’s with A1 uppers” I know already, but the simple fact of the matter is unless you want a firearms charge against your name you ain’t getting a Systema A1 upper. What this means for this upper is that the only thing remaining to buy is the HAO XM 177 barrel, which will bring the length up to the accepted 11.5”.
The current setup however consists of a 10.5 barrel and a set of DSA skinny handguards, which I am very glad I kept hold of after selling my L119A1ish. These, combined with the CAR15 stock make for a true retro AR that induces a tightness of my trousers. As far as accessories go, I have a few bits which can equal a half-hearted Gary Gordon esque CAR15 but in truth I think it looks its best as plain as possible.
4 – Carry Handle 2
Remember when I said carry handle uppers were super rare? Well in light of that I grabbed the second one that popped up too. As it currently stands however it’s sitting empty and unused. That’s not to say I don’t have a plan.
Years and years ago when I first saw the Bourne Identity, I remember scrolling through IMFDB which was a hobby of the time. On the Bourne film’s page is a singular entry of a Colt “Dissipator”, which sparked an interest that has yet to go out. Since then I’ve learned about the Hollywood shootout, and seen more and more dissy builds as time goes on.
To finally recognise this interest, I’m planning to build my second carry handle into a Hollywood Shootout style dissy, with A1 handguards and the characteristic 16” barrel. In a practical sense it will be completely useless, but for the sake of sitting there and looking at it with a smile on my face, I think it will be well worth it.
And that’s all! If you made it this far then thanks for sticking through my first blog back since my little hiatus. If there’s anything you’d like to know more about, or want to request a review of something then fire it over to my Instagram account @thegeardocrow. All arbitrary abuse can be filed there too.