Well, I finally did it – I went and hopped on the KWA ERG bandwagon thanks to a timely trade involving my LCT AK105 (which saw more use as a display piece at home than anything else). The ERG came with some professional internal upgrades pre-installed, but more on that in a separate entry.
I knew even before I got the ERG in my hands that the front end with the MOE handguard would have to go. I love Magpul, but have never been a fan of the look/feel of the MOE handguard. Moreover, I’m seeing more and more ERGs out there and I like my guns to look a little unique.
With the ERG being front-wired and with re-wiring to the rear out of the question due to the recoil mechanism taking up the buffer tube space, I had two options: 1) run a rail system and a lipo in a PEQ, or 2) find a rail system that I could cram a lipo into. Having had a poor experience running PEQ lipos when I owned my TM Recoil Shock, I decided to go with the latter.
Enter: a real steel Vltor CASV-M.
More pics and first impressions after the break.
I came across the Vltor CASV-M from a local airsoft/paintball retailer that happened to stock a limited selection of real steel Vltor parts. It came at a reasonable price, and it solved the battery storage issue whilst giving me the added versatility of a rail system – not to mention that it looks bad ass.
The CASV handguard system got its start with the US Navy’s EOD teams – above is a pretty awesome picture of it in the field. It’s been around for quite awhile, with its predecessor (the CASV-EL, which differs from the CASV-M in that it is a little shorter and sports a cutout for the M4 fixed front sight) being first deployed with the Navy EOD in 2004-2005 and earlier. This means this system has been around for more than a decade and is beginning to show its age when compared to the super slick/slim handguards that are all the rage these days – but there’s no denying that the CASV has a certain bulky, bad ass charm to it that is unique amongst the more popular rail systems of today.
I considered doing a step-by step visual guide on the installation of the CASV-M, but decided not to because it’s a super, super simple process; in fact, the entire installation manual that comes with the CASV-M is a single typewritten page, with no diagrams. The top part of the handguard clamps onto the barrel nut (there is a groove inside the handguard that the barrel nut “teeth” slide into), and the monolithic upper rail clamps onto the rails on your upper receiver. Screw the retaining bracket onto the side of the upper rail to secure kit to the receiver, slap the lower part of the handguard on, and you’re done – the entire installation took about 15 minutes overall, and that was with me taking my time torquing the two rail screws.
The result is an extremely rock solid front end that, combined with excellent build quality of the the KWA ERG receivers, makes for a very, very solid weapon from stock to flash hider. Installed correctly, there is absolutely no wobble to be found anywhere. This thing feels like a rock.
The build quality is excellent, as is to be expected from Vltor, a widely respected name in the real steel firearms industry. The joins/welds/cuts are precise and solid and look like they can take a beating. I harbored some concern that the two front tabs that hold the lower handguard to cutouts in the upper handguard would degrade and eventually break/snap over time and heavy usage… but the solid construction of these tabs convinced me that it wasn’t much of a concern. That being said, it’s something to look out for, particularly since you’ll be removing/replacing the lower handguard at least a couple of times a day to switch out your batteries. I wouldn’t be nearly as comfortable with this if it were an ACM clone made out of pot metal – those two tabs will see a lot of use/abuse and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were a common failure point with clones of this handguard.
That brings us to the most important requirement of the CASV-M – its ability to store your batteries. Unfortunately there isn’t as much room as I had expected for storage, so you won’t be tossing large lipo mini bricks in there any time soon. The combination of the heavy-profiled outer barrel and the mounting holes for the rail panel screws cuts down heavily on the available space, limiting you to stick type lipos of various types. I unfortunately didn’t think to try out the one butterfly/nunchuck tri-panel lipo I have, but I imagine it would fit just fine in the available space so long as you distribute the lipo panels on either side of the barrel.
All this being said, I’m quite comfortable with running various 11.1v sticks, as I’ve being doing for years with my PTW, AK, and other assorted AEGs – I suppose I was hoping for an excuse to use a giant 11.1v brick and limit the number of times I’d have to switch batteries over the course of a day, but oh well.
Note – try to install the CASV-M such that the fuse is tucked away behind the outer barrel. This should save you some battery space and make use of the “dead space” above the outer barrel (I decided not to run a gas tube, as the one low-profile gas tube I had didn’t quite fit). I actually had to uninstall the entire rail system and then reinstall just to tuck away the fuse, since you can’t really tuck it away behind the barrel after the rail system has been installed.
Of note is the fact that the CASV-M doesn’t come with a front sight, which is instead sold separately on the Vltor website and screws onto the space just in front of the monolithic upper rail. This is important because your rear iron sight, which you’ll probably be placing on the part of your upper receiver left exposed by the monolithic upper rail, will be about a half inch lower than any optics you put on that rail. This means that if you were to toss a front sight onto the end of your upper rail, it will be about a half inch too high.
It’s a little disappointing that the front sight wasn’t included in the package, but given the fact that real steel front sights are pretty pricey (the Vltor one for the CASV-M clocks in at ~$70 USD) I suppose not including it cut down the initial cost of the rail system. You could of course toss both your front and rear sights on to the upper monolithic rail, but I tried it and it just looks goofy.
The added height also tosses a wrench in the mounting of your optics, which now sit a whole half inch higher than they would if they were mounted directly on your receiver. This means you’ll have to rethink your mounting choices and perhaps go for lower profile mounts/rings if you want to retain your co-witnessing preferences. Iron sights and co-witnessing was never a big concern for me, so I can live without buying the front sight.. but the rear sight looks goofy on there without one so I think I’ll pick it up eventually.
I’m extremely happy with the CASV-M, just as I am with the KWA ERG – a more in-depth review of the system (along with pics of the gun as a whole, once I get key DSLR from a teammate who borrowed it – Jetlag!!!) will come once I’ve had a chance to game it. I’m happy with the unique look the CASV-M gives the rifle, whilst at the same time rendering the front-wiring a non-issue thanks to its battery storage capability.
The CASV system is a little long in the tooth, but what’s not to love about kicking it old school?