Longer is better: a Umarex/VFC M27 IAR Review

Longer is indeed better.

Longer is indeed better.

I haven’t been playing as much airsoft as I used to; ironically, this has only served to reignite my interest in the game and I decided recently (after getting my finances in order) that the best way to take advantage of this newfound interest was with a new AEG. A trip to a local airsoft store later (and thanks to a great deal via Overhoppers editor-in-chief, Juicy, who works at said store – thanks bud!) and I am now the proud owner of a Umarex/VFC M27 IAR. I’ve wanted to get my hands on one for awhile, but was debating the wisdom of such a decision now that I wasn’t playing as much as I used to.

Turns out I made a pretty good call, because I love this thing. More deets after the break.

What's with the giant block of TLDR text, Umarex?

What’s with the giant block of TLDR text, Umarex?

(Note: the IAR obviously did not come with the ACOG/Doctor optic, PEQ, foregrip, bipod, or Vickers Combat Application sling. I wanted to have as accurate a representation of the issued rifle as I could, and added these things on my own.)

For those not in the know, the M27 IAR is the US Marine Corps’ semi-replacement for the venerable M249 SAW. Yes, they are replacing an iconic LMG with what is essentially a longer barrelled 416; the decision has obviously been a controversial one, but far be it from me to tell the US Marine Corps what to do. Instead I’ll say: this gun looks cool. I’ve always been a fan of the 416, but there’s something about the longer rail and barrel that increases the bad-ass level substantially. Longer is indeed better, folks. This is a gun that says: my 16.5 inches is longer than your 10.5 inches.

First off – the externals. They’re typical VFC quality, which is to say that they’re well made and solid. The IAR includes the HK-accurate stock (more on that later) and the HK 416 pistol grip that you can see above. I have mixed feelings about the HK 416 pistol grip; on one hand the modified angle allows for a more vertical grip that is in line with modern weapons manipulation. On the other hand, the lack of any sort of beavertail, combined with the unfortunately placed finger shelf, means that getting a solid high-tang grip is difficult at best and uncomfortable at worst. Maybe it’s just my hand. Either way, I like the grip – I just don’t like it as much as I thought I would.

Sadly, the Umarex/VFC IAR does not have the ambidextrous controls of the real steel equivalent. VFC obviously has ambi-capable gearboxes (my old VFC Mk18 Mod 0 had an ambi-enabled gearbox even though there was no selector on the right side – only a swivelling plate), so why they didn’t include one here is a bit of a puzzle and a little disappointing given the great level of detail elsewhere on the AEG. Perhaps it’s a cost-cutting measure.

It goes without saying that I’m not a fan of the giant block of TLDR text on the side of the receiver, which in my opinion almost ruins the look of the gun. They couldn’t have found another place for that stuff? Alas. It was on the VFC 416, and it’s on here now. Sigh. Also, why put “Cal 6.mm BB” by the pistol grip but then have legit “Cal 5.56mm x 45” on the other side? Why not just put 5.56 on both sides? Sigh again.

DSCF1082

The left side of the AEG has nice M27 trades along with the modified charging handle present on the real steel M27, which is a nice detail (although I wonder again, given these details, why they didn’t go with an ambi gearbox and have 5.56 markings on both sides…).

Stock MOSFET? Huzzah!

Stock MOSFET? Huzzah!

The HK 416 stock contained a nice surprise – an Xcortech branded MOSFET, wired in line to the tamiya connectors. Juicy told me that Umarex had announced this stock upgrade at SHOT Show 2015, but we were both surprised to see that this was already in the gun given the recent date of the announcement. Apparently the AEG came into the store just last last week; I suppose I got one of the early shipments that contained the upgrade. Either way, it’s a nice little surprise I wasn’t expecting. Lipo usage is becoming more and more mainstream and it’s nice to see companies recognizing this and equipping their AEGs accordingly. Kudos, Umarex. [Editor’s note: correction – I saw this announcement in a video of one of Elite Force’s reps at Shot 2015 talking about their Umarex imports.]

Unfortunately, the MOSFET included isn’t the smallest one out there, and renders the 11.1v buffer tube lipos I rely on in my other M4 AEGs unusable. On top of this, not only are the small battery tubes on either side of the stock too small for the buffer tube lipos – they’re also too small for tiny 7.4v lipo sticks. Sad face. Your only options are butterfly 11.1v batteries or, oddly enough, 11.1v AK stick batteries, which are just slim enough to squeeze into the buffer tube next to the MOSFET given that your stock isn’t compressed to the shortest length. This isn’t a huge problem as I was able to use batteries I already owned; I guess I was just a little disappointed that a roomy-looking stock externally isn’t really all that roomy internally.

On another note, the easy-open buttstock cap (twist and pull and it comes off) is convenient and a nice touch. I believe the real steel stock does the same, although the real steel stock houses small tools and not lipos.

I haven’t cracked open the gearbox yet, but I did notice a red polycarb piston in there, which was another nice surprise given the crappy clear plastic pistons that VFC used to use that were honestly the worst pistons I’d ever seen in my entire airsoft career. I remember stripping those pistons during the first game on two of my previous VFC guns. Time will tell how durable this red piston is, but I suppose anything is an upgrade on the crappy clear ones they used to have.

Also present is an older (but still new to me) drum-style V2 hop up unit. More on this later.

DSCF1079

Nice externals are great, but how does it perform? I’m happy to say that out of the box, this is a very solid performing AEG.

For reference, I own a highly tuned Systema PTW as well as an highly upgraded TM SCAR-H and moderately upgraded KWA ERG. I know what a well-tuned AEG can do. I’m happy to say that the Umarex/VFC M27, whilst obviously not at the level of a highly upgraded AEG, nonetheless performs solidly out of the box. The drum-style hop is accurate and holds its adjustments well. The stock inner barrel is obviously not on the level of a $80 Prometheus inner barrel, but it holds its own. Accurate shots up to 150 feet are easy peasy, lemon squeezy. Anything beyond that is a bit of a crap shoot, but for a stock gun, 150 feet is more than adequate enough to get some kills. Shot to shot consistency was high, although there were some noticeable fliers every 20 or so rounds. I’m willing to chalk this up to the 0.25 Tamashi brand bio BBs I was using (which were generally good) or the aging Magpul PTS E Mags I fed them from.

I’m a pretty big trigger response guy; I hate mushy triggers and sluggish response. Thankfully an 11.1v lipo, combined with the stock MOSFET, made for a solid if not impressive trigger. This is obviously not on the level of a Systema PTW, but it’s also unfair to compare a $600 AEG to a $2000 AEG. Again – solid, not impressive.

On a side note this was my first time using an ACOG/Doctor sight combo; I had used ACOGs in the past but wasn’t very impressed with their poor eye relief. The one Doctor sight replica I purchased in the past wouldn’t adjust for windage or elevation, and when it did it magically lost its zero at random intervals. I guess I lucked out, because this particular replica (purchased from the same local store I got the M27 from) is a pretty good replica of the popular sight. Both of the sights were zeroed in under five minutes and held their zero throughout the day. The 4x ACOG magnification allowed me to use the range/accuracy of the platform to put accurate rounds down range from cover, while having the red dot backup allowed me to snap fire shots up close when advancing. Great combo, and I can see why the Marines have a similar setup for the real steel equivalent.

How awesome are those hardwood floors?

How awesome are those hardwood floors?

Altogether I’m pretty happy with the newest addition to my collection. I purchased it because I liked the look of the thing. I expected it to be an upgrade platform, but I was happily surprised by the solid performance out of the box. So impressed, in fact, that aside from R-hopping the barrel I think I’m going to leave the rest of it stock. Once the piston (or something else) goes, that’s when I’ll open up the gearbox and do some tinkering.

For now: longer is better. That is all.

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3 responses to “Longer is better: a Umarex/VFC M27 IAR Review

  • Haythem

    hooray! a post! I’ve been checking back thrice a week to see if there’s been an update on the site! Now there is! =D

  • juicy

    Nice floors, Diz. I’ve added a correction – was an Elite Force announcement at Shot 2015 with the Umarex imports, though I’m not sure if it is Elite Force, Umarex or VFC doing the upgrades though.

    Something I forgot to mention while we were talking about it is that I definitely think you should upgrade your bucking first. Everything I’ve ever seen out of VFC stock guns use a relatively harder hop up bucking that might not be so friendly in our winter weather here, especially with a lighter weight BB. 150ft with a M120 and 0.25g isn’t bad, though – maybe size does matter after all.

  • Stephen Chau

    Please post pictures when you do tear down the mechbox. Curious to see the improved VFC gearbox. Also curious about the components of the MOSFET and robustness.

    Cheers guys – keep up the good work.

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