Military naming conventions can get kind of crazy. Many of you hear Mk16 and have a very specific type of firearm in your brain, the FN SCAR. This Mk16 gets it's name from another place though: The handguard.
The Classic Army Mk16 Skirmish is their newest release in the skirmish series line. Now we've looked at similar guns before, but when we had the opportunity to check one of these Classic Army blasters on our last visit to D14 Airsoft, we couldn't say no.
Shouldn't This Be a Mk18?
That's the question many of you will be asking. This rifle bears a lot in common with the classic Mk18 rifle we all know and love. In fact, it's being tested as a replacement for the Mk18 with some units already in the US Military. The Mk16 gets it's name from the real firearm's Mk16 URGI rail, that the Classic Army Skirmish is heavily inspired by. While it's not exactly the same (and We'll cover those differences later) it is very similar to it's namesake.
The idea behind this type of rail is to provide the same footprint you'd get with a Mk18, but replace the aging ancient picatinny rail system with modern sleek MLOK accoutrements to please shooters with a more refined tactical palette. This means you still get all of the mobility and versatility the MK18 provided, but with an even lighter platform than you had before. It's essentially the MK18, but better.
The Clothes Don't Make a Man, But The Rail Makes The Rifle
This is where the rifle makes it's biggest departure from the other guns in the Skirmish line from Classic Army. The rail is obviously the biggest differentiating factor, but the receiver sees some minor changes as well.
The new logo hits you in the face immediately. This is very reminiscent of the logo of the Green Berets. It even bears their motto "De Oppresso Liber" or "To Liberate The Oppressed" which is certainly a very cool nod to the units using the real rifle that inspired this replica. If I had one complaint about this, I'd say the logo is definitely a fair bit brighter than I would like, but it's not an expensive gun, so we can forgive printing the logo on, instead of molding it into the receiver. The logo itself is also not really toward my taste personally, but that's a decision you are going to have to make on your own. It was definitely a conversation starter with other players at D14 while I was photographing the rifle, and many of them thought it was just different enough to be cool, without dipping into "stolen valor" or "super cheesy" territory.
The rail is the star of the show here. This Mk16 inspired handguard features a very similar design aesthetic, in fact, there or only a handful of minor differences, and one major difference I wish Classic Army would have fixed.
You'll find a monolithic top picatinny rail section, giving you a full length rail to mount optics or top mounted accessories that blends perfectly into the receiver. The rest of the handguard is covered in what looks like MLOK slots, however, only the 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions are actually usable. The rest is simply for lightening the weight. This was a mistake in my opinion, as more versatility only served to add value, and it would have been worth the extra time in the R&D process for this handguard to make that work. The mounting system is different to the real MK16 rail as well, and while this is easier to remove ( why would you though?) it's certainly not as stable. This was likely a legal challenge though, as components like those are often proprietary to the manufacturer, so we'll give it a pass.
The handguard does have one issue that I honestly can't wrap my head around though, and that's the included "sling point". I put that in quotations because it's a purely cosmetic feature. The QD cups on the rail aren't actually real, and will not seat a QD sling. For the way I prefer to run my two point slings, this doesn't matter to me, as I typically hang some kind of clip mount off the top rail, as I find those side mounted options cause the rifle to roll too much against my body, but if you're gonna cut the hole in, make it worthwhile, otherwise, I believe it would have been a smarter choice structurally not to remove the material. Again, this is going to be a personal deal breaker for each of you, as it's not a sling position everyone uses, but it felt like only half the effort was made.
Overall however, the rail feels great. While it is constructed of Polymer, like the rest of the gun, since it's a skirmish series, Classic Army rivals other companies for best polymer builds in the business and the gun is very sturdy. There is no flex to the rifle, which is exactly what I want to feel when I pick up a polymer airsoft gun. Cheaper ABS rifles have a tendency to bend and flex, and you can almost feel them collapse under a firm grip, but these Skirmish series guns from Classic Army are honestly a master-class in what a Poly build should be. G&G does a great plastic gun, but often times the non-receiver parts can feel overly chunky, or attach to the rifle in strange ways. Classic Army doesn't have any of those flaws, and it's one of my favorite things about these rifles, besides how great they shoot.
If The Insides Ain't Broke, Don't Fix Em
The Classic Army Skirmish Series has been around for a while. So long in fact, that we haven't really felt the need to cover one here on the Airsoft Rifle blog, because they were an established quantity in the airsoft hobby. Here's the brief run down on what you need to know about these guns internally: They kick serious ass.
The inside of the gearbox features Classic Army's patented Nemesis ECS system. This system replaces the traditional mechanical trigger of a normal gearbox with a fancy chip set that provides a multitude of benefits to the rifle. These benefits include programmable fire control options ( including burst fire or semi only ) faster trigger response and more reliable cycles of the mechanisms resulting in less locked gearboxes and more game time.
Classic army uses quality components on the internals, with a sturdy piston and gearset that has already proven itself plenty reliable in their other models. Nothing has really changed from the gearbox in the other ECS Skirmish lines, and that's a good thing. These rifles shoot phenomenally without issue.
The Mk16 we tested chronographed just under 350 FPS. If you'd like to change that, the gun has a quick change spring option, but we didn't miss the extra power. D14 has a rule that allows rifles below 350 FPS to fire with no minimum engagement distance, and that FPS reading the MK16 gave meant I didn't need to rely on my sidearm, and could stay on my rifle for faster engagements as I moved building to building. Shots were snappy with an 11.1v battery, which there was plenty of room for in the crane stock.
The hopup and barrel assembly are likewise identical to previous skirmish rifles, with a tightbore barrel and rotary hopup. I loaded up a magazine of .28g BBs and started to fuss with hopup adjustments. The hop up on this rifle is also the same as Classic Army's more expensive Nemesis rifles, so I had high expectations and I wasn't disappointed. I was able to range shots well out past our standard of 200 feet, and since I had the benefit of the D14 range, which provides measurements to help sight your guns in, I could see that I was throwing .28s out to around 250 feet, though past 200 accuracy was very dependent on the wind. It's definitely enough of a threat to put heads down though, and allow you to advance up the field for the kill.
Do You Need This Gun?
So who is this rifle for? I was blow away by the performance for the value, and the gun is very well built. However, it does not out shoot the higher end guns in my personal collection. It does hang pretty well with the LCT's and VFC's I've tested, and it is a fair bit lighter, though equally as robust.
This rifle was clearly designed for new players, but I think it has a place as an inexpensive back up rifle for experienced players, or players looking for a lighter weight option in the summer.
It runs for $212 in Black, or $220 in Tan (our preference) on Airsoft GI, so it's not a very expensive airsoft gun, especially for what you get. You'll get your money's worth out of this rifle without question.
Unless you're the long term high end player with a closet full of premium blasters, (in which case look at the Classic Army Nemesis guns) then this rifle can definitely find a home in your collection. It may yet find a home in mine.