Springfield Armory M1A Underlever Pellet Rifle: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

M1A
Springfield Armory M1A.

This report covers:

  • What is the  M14?
  • M14 magazine 
  • M1A
  • The pellet rifle
  • Underlever
  • Cocking and the safety
  • Safety is manual
  • Loading
  • Summary

The Springfield Armory M1A Underlever Pellet Rifle is here! This is the air rifle many of you have been waiting for, and mine just arrived. Let’s take a look.

What is the  M14?

The M14 is a U.S. battle rifle that was the primary personal rifle from 1958 until 1968. It was the successor to the M1 Garand (U.S. Rifle caliber .30 M1) that was the U.S. battle rifle from 1936 until being replaced by the M14 in March of 1958. Where the Garand was semiautomatic only, the M14 was made to be a select-fire rifle, though not that many of them were ever set up that way. It took some training and skill to control the rifle in the full-auto mode, because the recoil of the 7.62X51 mm cartridge was substantial. Because of the rifle’s look many assumed it was another BAR, but at only half the weight, it wasn’t.

It just so happens that old B.B. Pelletier qualified expert on the M14, which gave him the opportunity to qualify (expert again, mostly due to luck) on the brand-new M16. Most M16s and their ammo were being sent to Vietnam in 1968 when I qualified in basic training at ROTC summer camp in Fort Lewis, Washington. They had limited rifles and ammo, so only those who qualified expert with the M14 got to qualify with the M16.

From that experience I can tell you this — the M14 was a real battle rifle. The M16 that I shot was an underdeveloped toy — at least at that time! Time and further development have turned the M16 platform into a proven battle rifle, BUT — the M14 lingers on in U.S. military service as a special rifle when certain things are required. Its 7.62X51 mm round (military version of the .308 Winchester) hits harder and more accurately at longer ranges than the 5.56 mm round of the M16.

M14 magazine 

The biggest difference between the Garand and the M14 was the M14’s 20-round magazine. The Garand has an 8-shot magazine that’s built into the rifle. It is very difficult to add cartridges to that mag while it’s still loaded. When the last round is ejected the en bloc clip — a steel spring that holds the eight .30-06 rounds together, also comes out of the rifle with a distinctive ping. There is a rumor that the enemy would wait to hear the ping and then attack, knowing that the soldier was reloading, but that was just a myth. Nobody could hear that ping in the noise of combat unless there were extraordinary circumstances.

The M14’s 20-round magazine can be removed at any time and topped off. Or leave it in the rifle and load it with stripper clips that connect to the top of the rifle’s receiver, similar to the way the K98 Mauser rifle is loaded. Either way it’s far easier to top off an M14 than reload the Garand. Oldtimers can tell the difference between the Garand and the M14 by the magazine of the latter that hangs down.

M1A

So why is there an M1A? It’s because American civilians cannot own fully automatic weapons without going through special legal procedures and I’m not certain that an M14 ever qualified for those. Since any M14 could potentially be converted to full auto, it was a special case that had to be dealt with individually. To satisfy the need for a civilian rifle to compete in military matches, the M1A was born. It’s almost identical to the M14, except it cannot receive the parts to make it full auto without modifications.

The M1A pellet rifle

And that background brings us to today’s topic, the Springfield Armory M1A Underlever Pellet Rifle. It is licensed by Springfield Armory, but it was developed under joint cooperation with the folks at Air Venturi. Springfield Armory is the company that brought the M1A to the world in 1974.

Springfield Armory offers the full-sized M1A firearm with a walnut stock. And that is the first difference knowledgeable shooters will notice about the pellet rifle. The stock on this underlever is made from some kind of Asian hardwood that resembles beech. The finish is a very matte dark brown. The upper handguard is a brown synthetic that resembles the fiberglass handguard on the firearm.

Underlever

This is an underlever air rifle, and no, it’s not a reskinned Diana 460 Magnum. You would never get it for a retail of $200 if it was. It’s similar to the Diana in several ways because both rifles are underlevers, but it’s also far from a direct copy.

M1A underlever
The underlever pulls down and back to cock the rifle and open the loading port. Note that the upper handguard slides forward to expose the loading port.

This rifle comes in both .177 and .22 calibers. I asked to test the .22 because of the power output (1,000 f.p.s. in .177 and 800 f.p.s. in .22), as well as for easier loading. More on that in a bit.

I sat in on a design discussion with Air Venturi at the SHOT Show this year. The rifle was almost complete, but I was asked for my input.  I have to admit I was blown away by the realism of the rifle! I was told they wanted to keep the retail price at $200, so the folding metal buttplate that is so characteristic of an M14 was not an option. It looks like the buttplate on this rifle folds, but it doesn’t. Shooters unfamiliar with the M14 won’t miss it, and there are more of them around than us old silverbacks. There is a rubber pad on the butt to keep the rifle firmly on your shoulder.

The underlever has an extension rod that pulls out to increase the leverage. And, what is so neat is you can leave it pulled out because the designers made the extension fit into the bottom of the muzzle brake/front sight assembly when the lever is stored.

M1A lever in
The cocking lever can be pushed in like this.

M1A lever out
… or it can be extended and still used and stored that way. Genius!

Cocking and the safety

The M1A cocks with 35 lbs. of effort, according to the description. You know I will check that for you. I do use the extended lever to cock the rifle.

But there is more to cocking. I test-fired the rifle the first time and it shot well. But it wouldn’t cock for me on the next try. I tried it many times. Each time I felt the sear slipping off as I relaxed pressure on the cocking lever. This was confusing until I looked at the safety. It works in the reverse direction of an M1A, M14 or M1 Garand safety. Pull it back into the triggerguard to make the rifle ready to fire and push it forward through the triggerguard to make the rifle safe. I had been working it backwards! And that was apparently what kept the rifle from cocking.

M1A safety
The M1A pellet rifle safety works in the reverse direction of the M1A firearm safety. Push the safety back into the triggerguard to make the rifle ready to fire and forward to make it safe.

Once I cycled the safety on and off again several times and then pulled it back towards  the trigger to make the rifle ready to fire, the cocking problem was gone. I tell you this in case anyone who is familiar with an M1A, Garand or M14 makes the same mistake.

Safety is manual

The safety is manual. It stays where it’s put until you move it. And that’s the way we like it! Let the shooter be responsible for his own safety. With the cocking effort it’s unlikely that a child will cock this rifle. So long as the shooter has been trained in proper gun handling techniques and practices them, everything should be fine.

Loading

When the rifle is cocked the upper handguard slides forward to expose the loading port. I have normal-sized hands for an adult and I find this rifle somewhat difficult to load. The trick is to balance it on your knee or on a table with the muzzle pointing straight up. The pellet can then be balanced on your thumb for loading. It isn’t perfect, but you soon grow accustomed to it. I suspect that loading will be more difficult for people with sausage fingers.

M1A loading port
The upper handguard slides forward as the rifle is cocked. This exposes the loading port.

Summary

I will end this report here but there is much more introduction to come in part 2. At that time I will discuss and show the sights, the scope mount that comes with the rifle, the trigger and more details about this fascinating new spring-piston air rifle. We will start testing velocity in part 3.

The Springfield Armory M1A pellet rifle is many things. It’s a lookalike airgun. It’s a spring-piston rifle that’s hopefully very accurate. It has good power so it can be used for some hunting. It has adjustable sights plus a scope mount. And all of this comes to you at a fantastic price! With the holidays coming I would watch this blog and perhaps put this one on my short list!


SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG airsoft gun: Part 6

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Virtus AGE right
SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG right side.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Sig Romeo5 XDR red dot sight
Part 4
Part 5

This report covers:

  • The test
  • Sig 0.20-gram BBs
  • Discharge sound
  • TSD Tactical black
  • TSD Tactical white
  • Summary

Today is the final test of the Sig ProForce MCX Virtus airsoft gun. So far we have tested the velocity and accuracy of 0.20-gram and heavier BBs with the 120 mainspring the gun came with. Then we swapped in the 110 mainspring that was also included and tested the gun all over again.

Today we test the accuracy of the gun with the 110 spring and 0.20-gram BBs. Let’s get right to it.

The test

I shot outdoors at 10 meters. The gun was rested on a sandbag. The Romeo5 XDR dot sight is still zeroed from Part 4.

Sig 0.20-gram BBs

I started the test with the 0.20-gram BBs Sig sent with the gun. They don’t have a BB of their own, and I don’t know whose BBs these are. Ten went into 2.151-inches at 10 meters. The group is centered on the bullseye very well, but it is a little high. So I adjusted the dot sight down several clicks before shooting the next BB.

Virtus group Sig BBs
Ten Sig 0.20-gram BBs went into 2.151-inches at 10 meters. The group is high, so the sight setting was lowered.

Discharge sound

Now that I have a sound meter I tested the discharged noise of the gun. I put my phone 4 feet to the left of the muzzle and pointed the microphone at the muzzle. I write that as a note to myself for standardizing future sound testing. A shot registered 89.1 on the meter. The only comparison I can offer is the .22 CB cap I recorded last week. The phone was farther away for that test and not pointed at the muzzle, and the discharge registered 88.2 decibels. No doubt it would have been a lot louder if tested under the same conditions as the Virtus.

sound meter
The Virtus registered 89.1 decibels Number on the lower right) on the sound meter.

TSD Tactical black

Next I fired 10 TSD Tactical black 0.20-gram BBs. They grouped in 2.565-inches at 10 meters. They are lower on the target and centered very well but still a little high. After this group was completed I adjusted the Romeo5 down 3 more clicks.

Ten TSD black 0.20-gram BBs went into 2.151-inches at 10 meters. The group is well-centered but still a little high, so the sight was adjusted lower again.

TSD Tactical group black BBs
Ten black TSD Tactical BBs were more centered on the target but were not as tight as the Sig BBs.

TSD Tactical white

Next up were TSD white tactical BBs. By this time in the test the sun was behind me and I could see each BB flying toward the target. They seemed to fly in an arc that peaked 3 to 5 inches above the bullseye. But when I collected the target I saw that the BBs had struck in the black or just above. One shot was off the target paper on the high side and the group measures 2.004-inches between centers at 10 meters. It’s the smallest group of the test.

TSD Tactical group white BBs
One BB hit 1/2-inch above the target paper, making this a 2.004-inch group of 10 at ten meters.

Summary

Well that is the complete test of the Sig ProForce MCX Virtus airsoft gun. Based on what we have seen the heavier BBs (0.28-gram and 0.30-gram) are the most accurate, but the 0.20-BBs are not bad, either. Maybe if I had adjusted the Hop-Up for each BB we would have seen something even better. The gun handles the 120 spring readily, though I like the 110 spring for the lower strain it puts on the gearbox. The trigger is great and there were no problems with feeding, once I learned how the magazine operated.

This is a serious gamer’s close quarter battle gun. It’s rugged, reliable, accurate and works exactly as it should. The battery has lasted for all testing on just a single charge.

The Romeo5 XDR dot sight was a real treat to use! It adjusts precisely and I like that 50,000-hour battery life for the ONE AAA battery this sight uses! I will be sad to see this one go home.


SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG airsoft gun: Part 5

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Virtus AGE right
SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG right side.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

This report covers:

  • 110 mainspring
  • BUT
  • Prediction
  • Changing the mainspring
  • Assembly
  • Performance
  • 0.20-gram BBs
  • Rock and roll
  • 0.25-gram BBs
  • Battery
  • Summary

Today we’re going to have a little fun. I know some of you would like to work on spring-piston airguns but you just don’t want to jump into the deep end of the pool — as in buying expensive tools like a mainspring compressor and parts that may or may not work as you expect. Today we are going to change the mainspring in the SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG airsoft gun, and we will do it with two Allen wrenches — nothing more! This is a job any of you can do. Then we’ll test the velocity of the gun and see what impact the new spring has made.

110 mainspring

You may recall that Sig bundles a 110 spring with the Virtus, while the 120 spring comes installed in the gun. First off — what do the numbers 110 and 120 mean? That rating relates to how fast that spring will propel a 0.20-gram BB in meters per second. So a 120 spring should propel a 0.20-gram BB at 120 meters per second, which is 394 f.p.s. That’s regardless of what airsoft gun it’s in.  A 110 spring should propel the same BB at 110 meters per second, which is 361 f.p.s.

BUT

Airsoft springs are also rated with an M or an S (which can also be an SP). The M spring is the one that’s rated to toss a 0.20-gram BB as described above. The S or SP spring is rated for a 0.25-gram BB. The velocity in meters per second remains the same, but since the 0.25-gram BB is heavier, the gun will naturally be even faster with a lighter BB. So the higher the number the stronger the spring and M versus S or SP also figures in.

The 110 replacement spring that comes with the Virtus is an M110 spring, and Sig recommends using 0.20-gram BBs in the gun. They don’t say anywhere that I can see whether the 120 spring that comes installed is an M or an S, but given the ammo recommendation, I believe it is also an M120 spring.

So, what sort of velocity did we see from the 0.20-gram BBs with the 120 spring installed? Sig said to expect a 370 f.p.s. velocity, but we saw an average 410 f.p.s. speed. What I just explained was what the manufacturers say to expect from a 120 spring — 394 f.p.s. That’s real close to 410 f.p.s., so again, I think the gun had an M spring. An S120 spring would have given 394 f.p.s. with 0.25-gram BBs and probably 430 f.p.s with 0.20-gram BBs. Of course, that’s just my guess.

Prediction

So, the Virtus that I’m testing shot on the fast side with its M120 spring — assuming I am correct about it being an M-rated spring. Therefore, I predict that it will also shoot on the fast side with the M110 spring. Instead of 361 f.p.s. I predict a 0.20-gram BB will average 380 f.p.s. I am writing this before shooting the first shot with the new spring.

Changing the mainspring

Changing the mainspring is very easy. First, extend the wire buttstock all the way and then remove the 3mm Allen screw on the right side, where the stock meets the receiver, and the entire stock slips up and off the receiver. By the way, the Virtus manual says the screw is 8mm, but it’s actually 3mm — no doubt a mistake in transcription. When the screw is out, a plastic keeper that it passes through also comes out and the stock slips up and off the rear of the receiver. When reinstalling the stock make sure the V-notches on both sides of the receiver line up with the two heavy wires in the stock.

Virtus AEG stock off
With the screw and keeper out of the stock the entire  assembly slips up and off the receiver.

Once the buttstock assembly is off the gun, the rear of the spring guide is exposed. The manual calls it a screw that you turn 180 degrees, but it’s actually a bayonet keeper. Turning 180 degrees aligns the flanges of the keeper with their raceways and the mainspring pushes the keeper out. Remember that the keeper is under spring pressure, so pressing in on the wrench helps loosen it for turning.

Virtus AEG receiver
With the stock off the rear of the spring guide (arrow) is exposed. Insert a 5mm Allen wrench and turn the guide counter-clockwise 180 degrees.

Virtus AEG  spring out
When the bayonet lugs align, the spring guide is free to come out. This is how far the 120 spring pushes the guide out. You can restrain it easily with your hand.

The two springs compare in this way. The 120 spring is made from heavier wire and the 110 spring is longer — though that may change after a few weeks in the gun. Both springs are wound with what the airsoft industry calls irregular pitch, which means some coils are closer than others. That allows the spring to start compressing easier and then increase in tension the more it’s compressed. It’s supposed to be easier on gearboxes, though you will find a lot of arguments on both side of that issue!

Virtus springs
The softer M110 spring is on top and the 120 is below. It’s not easy to see, but the 120 spring is made from heavier wire. Both springs are wound with an irregular pitch.

Assembly

The Virtus goes back together the reverse of the way it came apart. And it’s just as easy as it sounds. It’s taken me a long time to describe a process that took me 20 minutes to perform — again with just two Allen wrenches.

Performance

Now, let’s find out what installing this lighter spring has done for us.

0.20-gram BBs

First to be tested were 0.20-gram BBs. I believe I am out of the BBs Sig sent with the gun so I used 0.20-gram TSD competition BBs. The average velocity for 10 was 380 f.p.s. Sometimes old BB gets it right on the nose!

The spread went from a low of 370 to a high of 383 f.p.s., so a 13 f.p.s. difference. With the 120 spring the average was 410 f.p.s. with a 6 f.p.s. spread.

Rock and roll

I emptied the magazine on full auto and truthfully could not tell any difference in the cyclic rate this time versus with the 120 spring. There may be some but it’s pretty small.

0.25-gram BBs

Next I tried the same Open Blaster 0.25-gram BBs that I shot before with the heavier spring installed. The average this time was 343 f.p.s. with a 5 f.p.s. spread from 340 to 345 f.p.s. With the 120 spring the average was 365 f.p.s. with a 2 f.p.s. velocity spread. At the end I dumped the magazine on full-auto again, remembering to fire a couple shots on semi-auto afterwards to relax the spring.

I did not load heavier BBs for testing. I think the 0.25-gram BBs are as heavy as I would go with this spring, given the velocity we have seen.

So, the 110 spring varies in velocity slightly more than the 120. Of course this spring is brand new and may settle down a bit after a few thousand rounds have been fired.

Battery

I would like to point out that the battery has never been recharged since I started the test and it is still going strong. Not only has it fired many hundreds of rounds including lots of blank shots, it has also been stored charged for two months.

Summary

Next we test the gun for accuracy. If the accuracy is reasonably equivalent to the 120 spring I think I will leave the 110 spring installed. It is no doubt a little easier on the gearbox.

This Virtus AEG is a serious airsoft gun, as I have maintained all along. This is the kind of equipment a skirmisher wants to have for close-quarters battle!


SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG airsoft gun: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Virtus AGE right
SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG right side.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This report covers:

  • A discovery!
  • The test
  • ASG 0.25-gram Open Blasters
  • TSD Bio 180 0.26-gram BBs
  • TSD 0.28-gram Tactical BBs
  • ASG 0.30gram Blaster Devil BBs
  • Full-auto
  • Summary

Today I’m shooting the Sig ProForce MCX Virtus AEG  with heavier BBs than Sig recommends. You will be able to compare today’s groups with those from Part 3 to see which BB you think is best.

A discovery!

Before we begin I need to tell you about a discovery I made. In the last report the 0.20-gram BBs that Sig supplied with the gun were not feeding well from the magazine, nor were 0.25-gram Stealth BBs. In today’s first test I had the identical problem and discovered that it isn’t the BB; it’s the magazine. It does not like feeding the last four BBs when it’s in the semiautomatic mode. So, for all of today’s test I filled the mag with way more than the 10 shots I needed and after the target was finished I went full-auto outdoors in a safe direction with the BBs that remained. All four of the BBs I tested today fed perfectly that way.

The test

I shot all the targets from a rest at 10 meters. Until the last target, all shooting was one round at a time, which is the semiautomatic rate of fire. I did not adjust the Romeo5 XDR dot sight or the Hop Up at all today. I think you will see that things worked out well

ASG 0.25-gram Open Blasters

The first BB tested was the ASG Open Blaster that weighs 0.25-grams. Ten went into a group that measures 2.041-inches between centers.The group is very well-centered and I am happy with it.

Virtus 25 0.25-gram Blaster
Ten ASG 0.25-gram Open Blasters went into 2.041-inches at 10 meters.

TSD Bio 180 0.26-gram BBs

Next to be tested was the 0.26-gram TSD 180 Bio BB. Ten of them went into 4.34-inches at 10 meters. It’s a strange group because 6 of them are in 1.041-inches in nearly the center of the bull. But those four other shots are there and represent some inconsistency. So this isn’t a good group overall.

Virtus 0.26-gram TSD Bio 180
Ten TSD Bio 180 0.26-gram BBs went into 4.34-inches at 10 meters. Seven of them are in 1.041-inches.

TSD 0.28-gram Tactical BBs

Next up were 10 TSD Tactical 0.28-gram BBs. These surprised me when 10 went into 1.804-inches, with 8 in 1.512-inches. This looks like a very stable BB for the Virtus.

Virtus 0.28-gram TSD tactical
The 0.28-gram TSD Tactical BB looks good. Ten are in 1.804-inches with 8 in 1.152-inches.

ASG 0.30gram Blaster Devil BBs

The final BB I tested was the 0.30-gram Blaster Devil. Ten went into 1.661-inches. That’s the best group of ten for this test, but for some reason it didn’t seem like it at the time. When I went outside the dump the BBs remaining in the magazine full-auto, I could see them dropping fast after 10 meters. That is why I didn’t select them for the next test, which will be burst-fire in full-auto.

Virtus 0.30-graom ASG Blaster Devil
Ten 0.30-gram ASG Blaster Devils went into 1.661-inches at 10 meters. It’s the smallest 10-shot group of this test, but I didn’t like how they fell off after about 10 meters when fired longer distances full-auto. 

Full-auto

Like last time, I took what I thought was the best BB overall in this test, which was the 0.28-gram TSD Tactical and I fired a bunch of them at the last target full auto. “A bunch” turns out to be 17 BBs. I shot the Virtus off the rest and held the trigger back until no more BBs came out. As with all the BBs in this test and the previous one, the magazine empties completely in full-auto. You must remember to then place the selector in semi-auto and fire a couple blank shots to relax the mainspring again.

Seventeen BBs went into 3.496-inches at 10 meters when fired full-auto. Notice that they stayed mostly well-centered within the bullseye, with only two BBs straying outside. This would be a good close-range BB for skirmishing.

Virtus full-auto
On full-auto the Virtus put 17 0.28-gram BBs into 3.496-inches at 10 meters.

The Virtus was more accurate today with the heavier BBs than it was in Part 3 with the 0.20-gram BBs that Sig Recommends using. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should use the heavier ones, because distance is also a factor. But it is worth knowing that as the BB weight increases the groups get smaller.

Would the groups have continued to shrink if I had tested even heavier BBs than those I tested today? Perhaps, but after seeing how the heavier BBs dropped in flight after about 10 meters (on full-auto) I thought the gun had come to the upper edge of its BB-handing ability.

It’s now clear to me that the Virtus is designed for short bursts of full-auto fire. It does work in the semi-auto mode and it works quite well, but that’s not what it is designed for.

Summary

We have reached the end of our tests of the Sig Virtus AEG airsoft gun with the 120 spring installed. Next time I will replace this mainspring with the lighter 110 spring and conduct both velocity and accuracy tests again.


SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG airsoft gun: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Virtus AGE right
SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG right side.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • Accuracy
  • HOWEVER
  • Romeo5 XDR red dot sight
  • Sig BBs|
  • 0.20-gram TSD Tactical White BBs
  • 0.20-gram TSD Tactical Black BBs|
  • 0.20-gram Marui Black BBs
  • 0.25-gram Stealth BBs
  • Rock and Roll
  • Discussion
  • Summary

I said in Part 2 that there was a lot to test with this SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG airsoft guns, and today I discovered I was understating the case. You’ll see why as we progress.

Accuracy

This is the beginning of the accuracy test and it’s good to remind ourselves what this airsoft gun is meant for. It’s meant for skirmishing, which means shooting people, not targets. However, the best way to get it on target and properly adjusted is still the old-fashioned way of shooting at paper.

HOWEVER

The However today is all the variables. I will be shooting many different BBs, adjusting the Hop Up and adjusting the Romeo5 dot sight — each of which makes the equation more complex. I did not think about that until I was well into the test.

My plan had been to try several 0.20-gram BBs, and then some heavier ones, since we learned in Part 2 that the Virtus can handle BBs up to 0.30-grams. But I didn’t take into account adjusting the gun and the sight for each BB. Were I to try to do that I could write about just this one airgun for the next month and still not finish. Perhaps you don’t care about the outcome but there are readers who want to know, so I owe it to them to do a thorough job.

Romeo5 XDR red dot sight

I mounted the Sig Romeo5 XDR red dot sight on the Virtus for the test. I must observe that both this sight and the Virtus airgun are precision-made and the installation of the sight took some time. All parts have to mesh, and when they do that sight is on tight!

I adjusted the intensity of the dot as low as it would go and still be visible. That gives the most precision. 

Sig BBs

I mentioned in the earlier parts of this report that Sig sent some 0.20-gram BBs with the gun, so I started the test with them. I first fired a single shot from 12 feet, and when the BB hit the target at 6 o’clock I backed up to 10 meters for the test. 

The Sig BBs were not feeding reliably. After loading the magazine each time it took several shots before they began to feed, so I loaded 16 BBs into the mag for the first target. That’s 4 pumps of the speedloader button. 

The first target has 8 shots on it. There were more BBs left in the gun but they wouldn’t fire out. The 8 BBs are in 2.415-inches at 10 meters. They are high on the target, and in line with the center.

Sig Virtus Sig BB 1
On the first target 8 Sig BBs went into 2.415-inches at 10 meters. 

I adjusted the Romeo5 dot sight five clicks down after seeing this first target. I also adjusted the Hop Up five clicks up. I didn’t know if that was the right way to go, but the next target would probably tell me. There were 4 BBs remaining in the Virtus that were not fired. I loaded another 16 Sig BBs into the magazine.

The second target has 9 shots in the target in 2.341-inches between centers. Once again I had to shoot several BBs to get the gun to fire then and the last 4 BBs would not fire from the gun. They fell out when the magazine was removed.

Sig Virtus Sig BB 2
The second target shot with Sig BBs has 9 shots in it. The group measures 2.341-inches between centers.

By adjusting both the Hop Up and the sight setting I confused myself as to what was happening. But that did not deter me from making the same mistake again. This time I adjusted the Romeo5 dot sight down 6 more clicks and the Hop Up up 6 more clicks. Hopefully something would change. I loaded 20 more BBs into the magazine.

The third target shows 9 BBs in 2.095-inches at 10 meters. The group is a little smaller than the others, so I’m thinking the Hop Up is where it needs to be for now. It also dawned on me that I could be here forever if I tried to adjust both the Hop Up and the sight for each BB. So I decided to leave both things as they were for now.

Sig Virtus Sig BB 3
This third target with Sig BBs shows 9 in 2.095-inches at 10 meters.

Once again there were four BBs remaining inside the gun after the gun stopped shooting BBs out. They were outside the magazine but loose in the gun’s receiver. I had intended for each of these three targets to be 10-shot groups, but this BB feeding problem prevented that.

Sig Virtus BBs
After every round of shots there were always 4 Sig BBs left in the gun.

0.20-gram TSD Tactical White BBs

Next I tried shooting 0.20-gram TSD Tactical White BBs. They aren’t called that on the bag they come in, but on the next target I will shoot 0.20-gram TSD Tactical Black BBs, and the color of the BB is the only difference between the two. The wording on both packages is identical. I loaded 20 of them into the magazine.

This time I got 10 shots in a row! Feeding was perfect. Hurrah! These ten went into 1.747-inches at 10 meters, making them considerably more accurate than the Sig BBs. They hit in almost the same place on the target as the Sig BBs. To keep things simple I did not touch either the Hop Up or the dot sight for the remainder of the test.

Sig Virtus TSD White BBs
Now this is a nicer group. Ten TSD 0.20-gram white BBs in 1.747-inches at 10 meters.

To dump the remainder of the BBs (I had loaded 20 BBs because of the previous experience) I fired them into the backstop on Rock and Roll, once the target was taken down. All BBs were expended from the magazine this time!

0.20-gram TSD Tactical Black BBs

Now I loaded some 0.20-gram TSD Tactical Black BBs into the mag. The Hop Up and sight settings remained the same. Ten BBs went into 2.106-inches at 10 meters. Once again, all BBs fed as they should and I dumped the rest Rock and Roll into the backstop after securing the target.

Sig Virtus TSD Black BBs
Ten 0.20-gram TSD Tactical Black BBs went into this 2.106-inch group at 10 meters.

Once again, all BBs fired from the gun without fail. But the White TSD BBs still grouped tighter.

0.20-gram Marui Black BBs

Next up were ten 0.20-gram Marui Black BBs. They made a 2.377-inch group in almost the same place as the other BBs. They also fed perfectly.

Sig Virtus Marui Black BBs
Ten Marui Black BBs made a 2.377-inch group at 10 meters.

0.25-gram Stealth BBs

I had only planned to shoot 0.20-gram BBs today, since there were so many to test. But I had loaded the magazine with 0.25-gram Stealth BBs before realizing what they were. Since they were already loaded, I shot a final target with 10 of them. As expected they landed a little lower on the target than the 0.20-gram BBs. Ten of them landed in a group that measures 2.175-inches between centers. That’s about as good as the worst of the 0.20-gram BBs. I could play with the Hop Up to try to improve the group, but for today I will leave things where they are.

I want to add that this was the only other BB besides the Sig BB that had feeding problems. Several times during the shooting BBs failed to come out of the gun.

0.25-gram Stealth BBs
Ten 0.25-gram Stealth BBs made a 2.175-inch group at 10 meters.

Rock and Roll

As a final test I took the best BB of the test, which was the TSD White BB — and shot 16 into the target on full auto from 10 meters. I fired two bursts, with the last one being the longest. The gun was rested for this target just like it was for all the others and all the BBs fired as they should.

This group is perhaps the most enlightening one of the day, because it represents what the Virtus can do when it’s used in the way it was designed. 16 BBs went into 2.743-inches at 10 meters.

Rock N Roll
Shooting 16 shots full-auto gives a group that measures 2.743-inches between centers.

Discussion

This Virtus is a serious select-fire AEG. I consider the accuracy we have seen so far to be very respectable. And the gun hasn’t been fully tuned or tested. 

Up next will be the heavier BBs that range from just above 0.20-grams up to 0.30-grams. If I find any more 0.20-gram BBs I will also test them as well.

Following that test, I will exchange the 120 mainspring for the lighter 110 spring and completely test the gun again — both for velocity and accuracy.

Summary

Sig’s AEG Virtus is a serious airsoft airgun. They should be proud to carry it in their ProForce line.


SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG airsoft gun: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Virtus AGE right
SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG right side.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • My strategy
  • Sig BBs
  • Weight
  • Getting the gun ready to fire
  • Loading the magazine
  • Use the speedloader
  • The follower needs more BBs
  • Velocity 0.20-gram Sig BBs
  • Sound and feel of the shot
  • Rock and Roll
  • More about the speedloader
  • 0.25-gram BBs
  • Full auto accuracy
  • 0.30-gram BBs
  • Trigger pull
  • Summary

Today I start reporting on the velocity of the new SigAir ProForce MCX Virtus AEG airsoft gun. I say “start” because I can’t get the full report in a single day. You will recall that Sig enclosed a 110 mainspring for me to try, as well as the 120 that’s in the gun as it comes. The 110 spring is lighter, so two things should happen. The velocity should drop a little and the rounds per minute (RPM) should increase, because the electric motor is turning the gears against less force.

My strategy

I could either replace the spring and do the second velocity test next or I could go on to the accuracy test with this spring and then do the spring swap and test everything again. I think I will do the latter for a couple reasons. It’s easier, and I am into easier. And, even if I were to do anything wrong while making the spring swap, we will at least get one complete test.

My hope today is to get the velocity for some reasonable weight BBs, and also to sample the RPM. Let’s go!

Sig BBs

Sig provided me with a sample bag of 0.20-gram BBs with the gun. I have plenty of BBs in that weight, but I thought I would use theirs, since they were handy. They even loaded the speedloader — which made it more  convenient. 

Weight

I don’t know what brand BB Sig sent me. They don’t currently have an airsoft BB of their own, so I assume that these are a premium BB. But I weighed them to make certain. They weighed 0.20 grams on the nose except for one that weighed 0.19 grams. I am satisfied that these are premium BBs.

Getting the gun ready to fire

The Virtus AEG is a spring-piston airgun. It just uses an electric motor to rapidly cock and release the piston to simulate full-auto fire. That motor needs electricity to run, so the battery has to be installed in the forearm before the gun will fire. This step used to be extremely hard with the AR-15 airsoft guns I have owned, because the battery has to go inside the forearm that, on an AR-15, is not easy to remove or replace. But on the Virtus it is a snap!

 Virtus and battery
That battery has to go inside the forearm.

Knock out just one pin and the forearm slides off the receiver, exposing the connection plug for the battery. Remember, only the yellow plug on the battery’s longer cable is attached to the gun. The shorter battery cable is for charging, and doesn’t plug into anything while the battery is in the gun.

Virtus forearm off
The yellowish cable connector on the longer cable of the battery connects to the gun’s white plug. The shorter battery cable with the white plug is for connecting to the charger.

I must comment on how much room there is for the battery. On the AR-15s I have owned it was a real task to get the battery to fit inside the forearm and then get the forearm back on the gun. And on one gun the battery went into the A2 butt, which was a real nightmare. I hated it, which is the big reason I got rid of those AEGs. The Virtus is a walk in the park by comparison. I could easily fit two of these batteries in the forearm — one above and the other below the barrel.

Virtus forearm on
The forearm is back on the gun and pinned in place. The battery will fit either above the barrel like it is here, or below. There is plenty of room inside this forearm.

Now that the gun is ready to fire, it’s time to load it.

Loading the magazine

The Virtus comes with an AR-15 lookalike sheetmetal magazine, and from my past experience these mags hold several hundred BBs loosely in the bottom. They get scooped up to feed through the gun and sometimes you get misfeeds. Nobody complains, though, because AEG airsoft guns are fired full auto most of the time. However, B.B. Pelletier doesn’t do things like others do.

I wanted to load exactly 10 BBs into the mag. and shoot them through the chronograph for velocity, then change BBs to a different weight. And that was how I became familiarized with the Virtus mag.

The 120-round Virtus mag has a spring-loaded follower that pushes the BBs up and into the path of the bolt. There is no chamber full of loose BBs. To load this mag you have to hold a spring-loaded catch back for each BB while the follower tries to push the BBs that are already in the mag back out. After fiddling with it for a few minutes I had to change my loading strategy!

Use the speedloader

The speedloader is more than a convenience with the Virtus. It’s a necessary part of loading the mag. I have more to say about it, but for now that’s it.

Virtus speedloader
Stick the nozzle of the speedloader into the nozzle of the magazine and start pressing the loading button on the speedloader.

The first BB I tested was the one Sig sent with the gun. We already know that they are very consistent.

I loaded four 0.20-gram BBs (the speedloader pushes in 4 BBs each time the thumb button is pushed down) into the magazine and then attempted to see what the velocity was. I then fired the gun on semiauto and nothing came out! Oh, oh!

The follower needs more BBs

What I discovered was the Virtus is fresh off the assembly line and needed a little breaking in. I put the selector on Rock and Roll (full auto) and let the bolt cycle many times. It was fun just listening!

I then loaded about 20 BBs into the mag to fire. Once that many were in it fired perfectly every time. And later — after perhaps 50 more shots, it fired all the BBs, even when loaded with just a few. Now that she is running, let’s see what she does.

Velocity 0.20-gram Sig BBs

First up were the 0.20-gram BBs supplied by Sig. On the box the gun comes in Sig says to expect to get 370 f.p.s. from the Virtus, so I was surprised to see that average of the first string reach 410 f.p.s. The low was 407 f.p.s. and the high was 413 f.p.s., so a spread of 6 f.p.s. That’s pretty tight.

Sound and feel of the shot

I was shooting semiautomatically, so each pull of the trigger produced a single shot. There was almost no motor noise, though I could hear the pop of air from the piston. I could feel some gearbox vibration through the pistol grip, but the only real sound was the pop of compressed gas from the piston. I have shot many AEGs and this Virtus has the quietest gearbox and motor I have heard. It’s even quieter than an AR-15 whose gearbox I rebuilt with upgraded steel bearings and gears. That one still had an air-wrench sound to it.

Rock and Roll

Since I overloaded the magazine for the first test, I went outside and dumped the remainder of the BBs on full auto. That told me there is no way I will be able to give you an accurate RPM count. This Virtus sounds like the infamous German MG42 “devil’s zipper” machinegun that had a high cyclic rate. I can count AR-15 cyclic rate up to around 800 RPM. This gun is faster than that. I have read reports of 900 RPM. It’s every bit of that!

More about the speedloader

Now that I was comfortable loading the magazine with the speedloader I found it quite easy to empty the contents of the speedloader to change the BB weight for testing. Just load the mag, then open the speedloader hopper pour out all the BBs except one. Since all the BBs were white and looked identical, this was the best way to keep track of them for the test. That last BB would remain in the nose of the speedloader until I pressed it out after the next BBs were inside. You do have that kind of control over the thumb button. Then that lone BB was returned to its proper container and everything was ready for the next test.

0.25-gram BBs

Given the higher velocity of the 0.20-gram BBs, I tried 0.25-gram Open Blasters from ASG next. They averaged 365 f.p.s. with a 2 f.p.s. spread from 364 to 366 f.p.s. These are going almost as fast as the gun is rated  to shoot with 0.20-gram BBs, and it will be interesting to see how accurate they are.

Full auto accuracy

Since AEGs don’t recoil I indulged myself and went full auto during this velocity test. All the BBs stayed together in a tight group, though my target was only a few feet away. I need to find a way to test full auto in the accuracy test, too!

0.30-gram BBs

I then tried some 0.30-gram Blaster Devil BBs from ASG. They averaged 333 f.p.s. with a 1 f.p.s. spread from 333 to 334 f.p.s. This average is getting pretty slow, so I stopped testing here. Obviously a heavier BB will shoot even slower, but I think we have bounded the useful range of velocity in today’s test.

Trigger pull

An AEG operates with an electric motor, so pulling the trigger doesn’t release a sear like you might think. I will call this a single stage trigger, though the pull effort does increase after a lighter initial pull. The trigger “breaks” at 2 lbs. 2 oz. on the test gun and there is no hesitation of the trigger blade to alert you to the fact the gun is about to fire.

In the manual you are advised to shoot full auto in bursts to preserve the gearbox. You are told not to empty a 120-shot magazine on a single trigger pull. You are also instructed to return the gun to semiautomatic and fire it once blank after a run of full auto. That releases the mainspring in the gearbox. That is common for all full-auto AEGs.

Summary

This Virtus is stacking up very well at this point. It is outperforming another AEG that I custom tuned several years ago, so I am impressed. I hope it turns out to be accurate, though with a full-auto gun we aren’t looking for pinpoint accuracy. That’s not the way these guns are used.

Don’t forget there will be a second velocity test and a second accuracy test with the lighter mainspring after this test is concluded. So, there is a lot more to come.


Air Venturi Dust Devil Mk2 Frangible BB: Part 3

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Dust Devil
Dust Devil Mk2.

Part 1
Part 2

This report covers:

  • The first and best test
  • Test strategy
  • Crush test
  • Test 2 — close impact
  • What have we learned?
  • Hard target test
  • What does this tell us?
  • One last test
  • Summary

Today we look at the frangible properties of the new Dust Devil Mark 2 BBs. Remember — these are the only Dust Devils you can buy and the box does not say Mark 2. But the BB I am testing is what you can buy and all that you can buy!

The first and best test

What I show you today is the first time I have tested Dust Devils at all. I did shoot the Mark 1 Dust Devils against a concrete floor with nothing remaining and no bounce-back, and at the 2018 NRA Show where Pyramyd Air always runs the airgun range, Dust Devils were the only BBs fired and there was not one bounce-back in perhaps 10,000 shots. Today I will take it several steps further.

Test strategy

I reasoned that I am interested in the low threshold of the BB’s performance. If they work at slow speeds they will also work at higher speeds. So — what is the weakest BB gun I own? Well, overlooking catapult guns like the Daisy 179 and the Johnson Indoor Target gun, the weakest BB gun in my possession is my Daisy 499.

The new Dust Devil is slightly slower than the older version. A 499 that shoots a conventional Daisy BB at 232 f.p.s. shoots the new Dust Devil at 237 f.p.s. So it’s comparable.

So — how do I test them? I had initially thought of shooting them at my concrete garage floor, but then a more involved test plan formed in my mind. Let’s see what I did.

Crush test

In any test you should always try to practice-test the item if possible first. With some things like atomic bombs that proves impossible, so you test each of the components, subassemblies and assemblies, seeing how closely they adhere to your projections. But there were physicists in the Manhattan Project who predicted that the reaction of the first atomic bomb would not end with the destruction of the fissile material but go right on exploding every atom in its path and destroy the earth. Where do you stand to test that? It may seem funny now but before the first test it was nothing of the kind.

The Dust Devil is different. It’s possible to test them without shooting them, and that’s what I did first. I put one BB in the jaws of a pair of common household pliers and held it over a clean sheet of paper as I squeezed. It took less energy than I expected to make the BB burst apart, and when it did it sent dust flying everywhere. Some of it hit me. I also heard one larger fragment hit some thing in my office.

I guessed that one-quarter of the BB’s mass remained on the paper. A Dust Devil Mark2 weighs 4.6 grains and I weighed 1.2 grains of dust from the paper. That’s just over a quarter the weight of the whole BB.

Dust Devil plier test
You can see from the plier test that the BB turned into dust, with a couple larger pieces remaining. The whole BB is for scale.

Test 2 — close impact

Next I went into the garage to test the BB against a hard target. I didn’t use the floor this time because there was no way to control the remnants or to gather them after the impact. Instead I used a deep box with a white styrofoam sheet on the bottom. Anything that stayed in the box after impact should be visible on the white sheet.

Inside the box I put a plate of 10-gauge steel. I shot the 499 at that plate from 2 inches away. The BB shattered completely and became invisible.  I did hear one larger piece hit elsewhere in the room, so there was some bounce-back, though I’m sure it was very small from the sound it made.

Dust Devil box
The box is deep enough to contain some of the Dust Devil particles when it explodes from contact with the steel plate.

I figured some of the BB remnants would be on the white sheet, and they were, but when I removed the steel plate from the bottom of the box, I felt a small piece of the BB that had fused to it. I carefully removed it and photographed it for you to see.

Dust Devil fused piece
The small piece of a BB on the left was fused to the steel plate, when fired from a Daisy 499 from 2-inches distance. This photo has also caught the whole BB on the right perpendicular to its band that now looks like a shiny halo above it.

Dust Devil dust
This is a little over a one-inch square section of the white foam after shooting at the 10-gauge steel plate. The entire bottom of the box looks like this, except the larger pieces like the one near the center of the photo did not travel as far from the plate.

What have we learned?

I think these tests have revealed a couple things. First, that the Dust Devil tends to hold together until it doesn’t any longer. It doesn’t flake apart slowly — it explodes. Not from any force from within, but from holding together until it can no longer stand the strain. That makes it very safe when it comes apart. But you need to know that larger pieces do come off the BB and you need to wear eye protection the same as you would for regular BBs. You probably will never be hit by a particle that causes pain, but from time to time you or someone in the vicinity will feel some larger pieces come back.

The second thing we have learned is that it doesn’t take much force to break up a Dust Devil. That is in the advertising, of course, but my two tests demonstrate it quite well. However, that begs a question I have not yet asked. What is the definition of a hard target?

Hard target test

The last test I did for this report was to try to determine what constitutes a hard target. The steel plate obviously is hard, but what about a tree with thick bark? I would think that is not a hard target because the bark is softer and does give a little. How about a lightweight steel spinner? Where does the “hard” in a target begin?

For this test I used a small steel can of the type that green beans might come in. I placed it inside the box, standing it up so the bottom of the can was presented as a target.

Dust Devil can
A small can stood up so the bottom presents a target. I have shot through the sides of this can a couple times with other airguns.

This time I held the muzzle of the 499 about 12 inches from the bottom of the can. I had no idea of what to expect, except I knew that the can would give just a little to a regular steel BB.

The Dust Devil hit in the center of the can bottom, denting it slightly, and the BB bounced back out just a little. It came perhaps 2-3 inches above the top of the can, but landed inside the box. 

Dust Devil can hit
The Dust Devil hit the can bottom in its center.

I was surprised to see the Dust Devil apparently intact, except when I looked at it closely I saw a frosted area on one side, where the BB’s shine had turned dull.

I took the BB to my office to examine it under a 10X jeweler’s loupe. When I did I saw that the frosted area appeared to be the particles in the BB, just as they are coming apart.

Dust Devil frost
This is difficult to see and even harder to photograph. Look at the BB band at the top in this picture (arrow). See how it is frosted, not shiny like the spherical portion below? I believe this test has captured a Dust Devil just before it explodes into dust. 

Apparently the can that was slightly dented by the BB provided just enough slowdown for the low-velocity BB that we captured a very rare phenomenon. We have a frangible BB that has been brought to the brink of destruction but still remains whole.

On the opposite side of the BB there is a very small dent that I have never seen on a Dust Devil. Not only is it a dent, but around the side the material is raised, as if the material within has been displaced. I think this is the opposite side of the shock wave that passed through the BB on impact.

Dust Devil dent
Almost (but not quite) on the opposite side of the frosted area is this “dent” with raised edges.

What does this tell us?

This time the entire BB bounced back — BUT — the bounce-back wasn’t very fast. I believe the BB’s energy was absorbed by both the slight dent in the can as well as the near-destruction of the BB, itself. This was a chance happening and nothing to bank on, but it does answer that other tricky question about what makes a target hard. 

When you shoot Dust Devils, protect yourself and others in the area the same as you would for conventional steel BBs. But you can shoot at hard targets with BB guns, which is something I would never recommend doing with conventional BBs.

Targets will range in hardness all over the place from very hard to marginal. If you protect everyone in the vicinity, the Dust Devil gives you a safer way to shoot.

One last test

Since these little critters are so friendly and safe, do they work in a full-auto BB gun? Now I know that they do because Pyramyd Air was shooting thousands of them in Crosman DPMS guns at the NRA Show. But I said I wanted to test them this way too and since I own an Umarex MP-40, I thought, why not?

Well, I tried but my MP-40 wasn’t cooperating. I loaded two fresh CO2 cartridges into the magazine, and if I tap the valve stem the mag does fire. I was able to get the gun to shoot a couple shots full auto when I held the trigger down and released the cocking handle. Yes, the selector switch was set in full auto. It’s something I need to sort out. You see, BB has the same sort of problems as everyone. You just hear about it when they happen.

Summary

This is the first good hard target test I have given the Dust Devil, and it is the Mark2 version that was tested. The BB seems to perform as well as anyone could hope for. You still should take every precaution you always do when shooting any pellet or BB gun, but if you do we now we have a BB that won’t shoot your eye out.