Blast from the past! No this is not a new entry into the gas blowback arena and nor is there anything new about the M11 from WA to report. But a truly fun pistol to shoot, we felt it was worth taking a look back at this great market offering which is probably nearing the end of its production life. First featured on the cover of Combat Magazine in March 1997, WA's M11 was a long awaited release that was met by lots of fanfare in those days. Expected to carry refined finishing and dependable WA operation, the debut of the Western Arms Ingram 11 represented new competition to the Maruzen M11 which at the time was the only gas blowback M11 offering on the market. (Not counting the Taito offering which required an external gas supply)
While the Maruzen M11 offered strong blowback and above average finishing, it was not all that accurate, and was plagued by minor problems that most had hoped WA's version would be immune from. Couple that with a screw-on silencer, 50 round magazine, and a front grip strap, you can probably imagine that WA's entry was an instant hit. I myself couldn't resist, and got one of the first ones during the week of release in Tokyo!
Following a brief discontinuation of WA's M11 in 1999, the pistol is now back in production and has been strengthened to take HFC22 right out of the box. This is a big plus from the earlier versions that were incapable of this and basically had its O-rings burst on the first try of HFC22, which I know all too well!
First, let me talk about the M11's overall finishing and details before getting into how it shoots and feels.
Finishing of the M11 is top-notch and the gun is actually quite nice and heavy to hold. The gun feels very solid too with no clinks or clanks as you shake it around. Without the silencer attached, the M11 feels very balanced with an overall length equivalent to KSC's 93R. Attaching the silencer though doesn't throw the balance off much thanks to the silencer's light weight. The body is constructed of durable ABS plastic and the textured grip attachment on the back of the magazine well allows you to grip it very firmly.
The pistol's compact size coupled with the location of the grip in the center of the gun's body actually makes it more versatile than most gas blowback pistols. I would equate its versatility to the much smaller Sig P228. Balance of the gun is also dead center, with the center of gravity located directly above the grip. Metal parts include the barrel, swiveling front strap harness, disassembly pin, selector switch, trigger, magazine, complete rear stock assembly, cocking handle, magazine release lever and safety switch. As you look down the barrel, you'll also notice that the aluminum inner barrel is tapered. Complete Ingram M11 markings with 9mm caliber specifications round out our very authentic replica.
The rear sight comes in the form of a small pinhole and you peer through this to align the front sights to take your aim. Observant readers will notice that the cocking handle seems to get in the way of this but actually a semi-circular cut made in the cocking "knob" allows lining up of your sight.
The stock is also extendable by way of a button on the bottom rearward portion of the body just behind the pistol grip. To extend the stock, you first squeeze the shoulder stock to fold it out and back. Then you push the button to pull the stock out to its full length. If you keep holding down the stock release button, you can actually pull the stock out entirely away from the gun (for those who don't want a stock).
The stock's length is actually quite good and planting the stock into your armpit allows you to lower your head and peer right into the pinhole sight. However we found that by wearing a mask, there is not quite enough room to do this and our mask lens bumps right up on the sight. No worries as owners of the M11 will rarely aim since spraying this pistol is so much fun (which we'll get to).
To remove the magazine, you simply push the magazine release button located on the bottom of the pistol grip. The amazingly long magazine slides out with ease to reveal a modified version of WA's patented Magna Blowback valve design. A loading tool comes with the M11 to allow easy loading of all 50 rounds in one action. With that done, simply charge up with either HFC134a or HFC22. Inserting the magazine back in with a nice click, you simply pull back on the cocking handle and you're in business. There is no need to "chamber" the first round as the design of the M11 chambers each round as it fires. Once loaded, you select whether you want semi-auto or full-auto via the selector switch on the side of the gun.
We found HFC134a to be adequate in warm weather but cold weather tests showed disappointing cool-down effects that caused the BB's to drop rather quickly. With a full charge of HFC22, the M11 really ripped with minimal cool-down effects. The rate of fire is extremely high and all 50 rounds can be emptied in a matter of 3 and some seconds! The bolt latch and cocking lever cycles back and forth so quickly you can hardly see it and best of all, the M11 is LOUD and shoots in a "rat-tat-tat" manner. The trigger pull is also very tactile and deliberate. Holding it sideways and ripping shot off feels simply awesome as you watch the bolt cycle with HFC22 gas clouding slightly in front of the muzzle as well as escaping from the bolt. Cycle time is much faster than a stock KSC93R using HFC22. And to top this all off, the screw on silencer actually has a huge silencing effect on the gun. The "rat-tat-tat" turns into a muffled "phut-phut-phut". Attaching the silencer also makes the M11 feel much more tactical too and is great gripping place for those people who don't know what to do with their left hand while shooting. The hole on the end of the silencer is quite large as well to really give it an intimidating look!
Accuracy is acceptable with 3 inch groupings from 15 feet. Accuracy drops after the first 20 shots of so but who cares? The high rate of fire compensates for this and you can riddle your opponents with holes before they can even cry "hit". Range is a modest 60-70 feet so this is not the gun for long range battles but rather suited for CQB. Adjustable hop-up on the inside of the gun allows tuning this but 70 feet was about as much as we got with decent accuracy using 0.2g Excel BBs. Power was chrono'd at 0.65 joules using HFC22 and 0.2g BBs. Emptying the magazine catches the bolt so you know when you're out.
Alright, so enough of the rants and raves. How about problems and gripes? Well, for one thing, we wish that the silencer was more metallic as the finishing is a little too plasticky for my taste. The mechanism to catch the bolt on the last shot also tends to wear out (since it's made of plastic) and after about 5 skirmishes, we found that this mechanism started to fail and allowed the M11 to continue cycling even when no BB's were being ejected. The reason was a worn down plastic bit on the magazine bumper rod. By gluing a carefully crafted metal insert using superglue soon fixed this problem.
Additionally, sometimes after extended battles with repeated gas charging, the components within the M11 become so cold that the pistol may go full-auto for a second or so after you release the trigger. And to keep this great pistol working dependably requires religious maintenance in keeping the bolt area clean of BB chips and dust, with generous sprays of silicone lubrication to keep things cycling smoothly.So is the M11 worth it? Absolutely so. Take a look at the above photo and you'll see that WA's M11 is a very authentic replica of the real thing. Creative folks can even go as far as creating a custom case for the M11 for that really tactical and custom look (as shown in the March 1997 issue of Combat Magazine). Upgrade potential for the M11 is also not as high as, say the KSC 93R but current power is reasonably adequate. I wouldn't recommend the M11 for outdoors skirmish situations but close quarters skirmishing or simply ripping holes through trash and cardboard boxes at home is pure pleasure! The M11 even fits RedWolf's custom KSC holster originally designed for the MK23! A great collectors item too! But most importantly: It's FUN!
Written by RedWolf
Photos by RedWolf & Wildgoose (some photos from Combat, March 1997)
February 15, 2000