This question gets asked often in the airsoft world. Should I put a longer barrel in my airsoft gun? Should I get the bigger stock and larger batteries? Should I get the bigger grenade launcher that takes the better grenades?
It is ingrained in our ethos as humans to seek out the bigger and better parts of life. This carries over to our silly little toy gun hobby.
It is curious then, that with the N-23, PTS opted to go for a smaller profile, and several other features many players actively avoid when on the field. Is this bold take on the AR15 a success or a massive bust?
We can't give PTS all of the credit for the N-23.
It was actually created by Dave Merrill and the mad lads at Recoil magazine, as a design excercise in building the type of PDW weapon that would have been around during the Vietnam war era, but as short as feasibly possible.
This explains a lot about the weirder design choices of PTS' recreation of the N-23 pdw. It wasn't designed to be the next great airsoft tool for the modern airsofter. This gun was a "what if" scenario limited by the design aesthetic of a time long past.
The PTS N-23 is OEM'd by G&P. This gave us some expectations to be met when it came to external construction. G&P is one of the older manufacturers still in operation and has a reputation for building quality external construction.
Thankfully, the N-23 delivers. It's quality is right in line with other products from PTS manufactured by high end brands like KWA and Madbull. This gun is rock solid in your hands and light weight too.
This is thanks mostly to it's diminutive size. This tiny gun is every bit an ar15, if you drug it into MS Paint and then shrunk it horizontally. It's short, it's stubby, and it doesn't hide this fact from you.
Tiny plastic hand guards adorn the barrel. This gives you the absolute minimum amount of space to attach your hands to the rifle. It holds up the fixed-carry handle equipped receiver, that terminates in a standard AR15 buffer tube with an LE stock. This brings a unique issue to bear in the form of battery storage. You can't front wire the gun because of the size of the hand guard, and you cannot utilize a crane stock because it ruins the aesthetic charm. PTS opted to spec the gun out for a buffer tube battery, and utilized a cap on the rear to keep everything contained.
I'll be frank. This option sucks. the battery cap is frustrating and difficult to operate with in the field. This severely hinders the usability of this gun in it's stock configuration for long-form milsim games that rely on multiple batteries and in-field changes. While it's probably the best option given the size of the gun, it's not ideal.
Every other part of the rifle is phenomenal though. Construction is sturdy, and the size lends itself well to CQB style play. It's one of those rare occasions where the design choices that make the gun special also cause it some issues, but it's not for lack of trying on the manufacturers part.
PTS elected to have G&P outfit this rifle with their newest i5 gearbox. This is where I derive almost all of my displeasure with this rifle. Every time G&P does something cool with the design concept, either the execution falters or I traipse over some other part of this gearbox that I absolutely hated.
In typical G&P fashion, parts compatibility in this gun is horrific. the i5 gearbox is plagued with proprietary parts from the trigger to the tappet plate. The quick change spring is clever. The idea that you should be able to change your spring without removing your gearbox is something more companies should consider, but G&P botched the execution. Having to get into the buffer tube to remove the screw kind of defeats the elegance of it all.
Performance was average at best. We were clocking our N23 at 320 FPS on average, and saw ranges out to 175 feet at most. Given the Elite Force MP7 was outshooting a gun of this size, to call us dissapointed would be an understatement. There was a chance here for PTS to have a unique "sleeper" of a gun, but the hop up left us wanting. You could always upgrade this part, but in a gun of this price, we expect it to compete with it's similarly priced peers in companies like VFC and Classic Army.
Let's break down the price of the N-23 from PTS.
It costs $330 on Airsoft GI right now.
It's got a proprietary gearbox with average performance, but it's inside of a unique visually striking body, that is built well.
It's not very customizable, but the gun stands out on it's own as a unique variant of the M4.
This was a hard one for us to decide on. It took running it through some drills to come to a kind of split decision on the gun.
If you play indoors, the performance issues aren't really issues any more, and this gun is worth it for the compact stature. Shorter play time means most of our complaints are invalidated by how you'll be using the rifle. You should snag one.
If you play outdoors, this rifle just doesn't keep up with the heavy hitters of the outdoor field. This becomes a hard pass very quickly. There are just too many things to update to make this a worthwhile field blaster.
Whichever way you lean, if you want to check it out for yourself, click HERE.