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Bite The Bullet

Heavy Metal (2010-06-24)

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As purveyors of Airsoft, we have garnered quite the plethora of related questions over the years, from the mundane to the bizarre. While we certainly can never hope to ever get on top of absolutely all questions equally, some of the repeat offenders can get irritating to the point of getting under our skin. In this article we will be addressing one such question; it may not be asked by many but it gets asked often enough (in some totally oblivious tone) to warrant a published reply.

What is the point of Airsoft heavy machine guns?

First let us clarify the question for those not well versed in this age old debate. We don?t mean heavy MGs with respect to military designation, we mean literally the full auto AEGs which not only take the form of a support weapon but physically way and occupy space far in excess of their smaller assault agile cousins.

The main debate arises from the fact that the difference between, say, an M4A1 and an M249 is actually rather subtle, some would argue even negligible. As they are both AEGs firing the same pellets down the same barrel with the same spring wound by the same motor then effectively they shoot the same, furthermore the M4 can take a 330 round high capacity magazine or even an electric 2-3000 round drum or box magazine allowing it to match ammo capacity as well.

That's not a machine gun!
Nope, not a machine gun!
Getting Closer but still not a machine gun!

So if they shoot the same and carry the same then what is the point of getting the heavier, larger version considering that it also costs more?
Well, this coming from an avid MG user, there are a number of points but 3 key issues that the larger weapon option comes in to its own.

First of, the ammunition *feed*. Please take a moment to consider not just the numbers on the paper but they?re translation into field action. Sure a rifle with a hicap can lay down cover fire and with a drum it can even serve as a support weapon however MGs offer one tier further in most cases. A hicap user has to stop to wind every 50 rnds, then every 330-400 he will need to change mags. A drum user has to press a button on occasion to maintain the feed and often the feed will be outstripped by the shooting so it?s a conscious process to stop shooting to catch up; this requires thought, timing, concentration pulled away from your actual shooting.
Many heavy MG magazines are not just capacious and automated but they are also automatic; their feeds are automatically synchronized with the shooting such that the user needs not think about the feed at all as the gun automatically feeds itself. With the ability to access 2500-4000 rnds of continuous feed anytime, the machine gunner has a superior ability to lay down fire at a moments notice.

Secondly, the penalty factor. In many games, no mater how casual, there is always a sense of realism inherent in our replica-gun-format AEGs so even the most casual of gamers will make at least some effort to maintain a degree of realism. To a certain extent, the use of drum on regular AEGs is not terribly acceptable; its possible, people allow it but it?s a bit cheesy to say the least. For games which insist on more realism to a standard of actual loadout restrictions, limiting power and capacity to weapon types makes perfect sense. Pistol shoot low, SMGs higher, carbines even higher, assault rifles higher still and sniper weapons getting the highest power allowance. Furthermore, restricting magazine capacity is reasonable; whether true real cap or simply just keeping it calm (i.e. no highcaps or limited number of highcaps), its not a bad policy. With this in mind then, allowing MGs the highest capacities on the field makes sense as in exchange for their ammo supply they penalize themselves with their own drawbacks of size and weight; perfect.

Lastly, cool factor. Naturally, Airsoft is first and foremost about having fun; its about dressing the part and playing the role. Ultimately, all AEGs are the same and yet we sport many different kinds and while there are performance factors a key point of course is the simple phenomenon of personal taste for aesthetics.
M4 vs AK?
Sure there are technical differences but they both really do the same thing, the real difference is that one is a symbol of American expeditionary forces and the other is a classic icon of Soviet power and freedom fighters alike. Having a heavy MG makes you that guy with the heavy MG; no mater the type or performance, its hard not to afford some level of basic respect to the guy rocking the metal beast.

Now that's a machine gun!

The M249 is also a light machine gun!
The 1919, mother of all machine guns!

Building up a collection, typically your going to end up with a lot of middle-type weapons (assault rifles, carbines, sidearms) then maybe one or more of the peripheries (launchers, shotguns, sniper rifles) so why not add a big ol? machine gun to the list too?
Whether for reason of tactics, milsim or coolness there is simply no replacement for the sheer awesome presence of an honest to God machine gun.

Machine guns are themselves a genre of romanticized combat in their own right; a world where quantity is quality, where heavy is reliable and answers come in the form of bullets and you?re the man with all the answers.

Written by Arclight