The summer of 2005 came as quite a boon to airsoft players looking to break from the pack. Tokyo Marui debuted the AEP line with the Glock 18C and released the M14. G&G came out with the long anticipated UMG, and Classic Army gave us a playable and upgradable M249. Coincidently I finished the CO2 conversion on my Maruzen 870. I found myself in the market for a new airsoft and in search of a new project. I have seen the space marine pulse rifle kits from the Aliens movie series but they seem a little too involved for me. I figured if I were to invest that much time modding I might as well build an OICW M29 (www.hkpro.com/oicw.htm). Then I stumbled across the GWS XM8 kit. Behold!An answer to both my needs: new AEG and new project! I did a quick check of pricing and availability and placed an order with UN Company the next day.
A New Problem
Two weeks later I get one of those little yellow cards in my mailbox telling me I have a package. Did my mom send me a Hickory Farms cheese log for my birthday this year too? Why does customs want me to sign for a cheese log? Why is this cheese log coming from Hong Kong? My XM8 is here! I raced home and tore open the package. Wow! Then I pulled out the scotch tape and started taping the pieces together, just to give me some idea how the finished project will look. Later that evening I showed the kit to one of my airsoft teammates and he had to play with the tape as well. But the thrill of a taped-up gun could only last me so long. I needed a G36.
The instructions included in the kit specified that the assembler use only a Tokyo Marui G36C. Having just spent over $250 on the kit I was a little loathe to spend the same amount again, or more, on a new AEG I was just going to rip apart. I found a couple of CA 36's for sale but I wasn't sure if they would work. Finally I convinced a friend he needed to buy a UMG. Why? So in order to help finance his purchase, I would buy his TM G36C. After building the kit I would not recommend using any other brand of AEG. Several of the pieces fit rather tightly, and some of the screw holes took a minor bit of coaxing to align. If Classic Army changed any dimensions or clearances from the Marui version this kit will not work.
Building Is A Snap
Literally. The instructions are very clear and in English. If anything the instructions are a bit too detailed and break simple tasks down into many steps. I don't need a picture of a screwdriver followed by a picture for each of the four screws. One picture of the foregrip with arrows pointing to the screws would be just fine. The only mistake I found in the process involved removing the fuse from the outer barrel assembly. This is not necessary. In fact, after I finished installing the kit, I went back and wired the fuse back in to its original location. The bulk of the instructions pertained to disassembly of the G36. The XM8 kit just snapped into place over the stripped aeg. Okay, I did some clearance work with my Dremel tool to make battery changes smoother. I also drilled and tapped a hole in the barrel extension for a tiny set screw to keep the flash suppressor perfectly aligned, but I'm rather detail oriented.
Sturdy, Yet Light
This thing looks real, right down to the full trademarks. But I didn't build it to hang on my wall. The best part of any airsoft project or even just getting a new gun is playing with it. The first time out is mainly an excuse for showing it off and my XM8 was no exception. I toted my new toy up to the next Gator game with that in mind. The one comment everyone had was on just how light the XM8 is. The sling attachments are a little odd so I've yet to find one that works. No matter: this is definitely a gun I could carry around all day. The second obvious feature is the black rubberized coating on the foregrip, cheekwell, and stock. Anyplace you would hold the gun for a normal firing position is covered with this thin yet surprisingly resilient coating. I don't know what it is nor how they attached it to the ABS, but I like it.
The kit uses standard G36 magazines yet the magwell is a bit tighter than the G36. Hitting the catch won't just drop the magazine, it has to be pulled out. I found this easy to get used to but it does make you think ahead about ammo usage and mag changes. The integral scope is intended more for show than as practical aiming mechanism. However, the advanced airsofter ought to be able to install a small red-dot in its place. It also appears as if the whole sight tube superstructure could be removed and a rail system installed in its place. The stock extends out much like the telescoping stock common on most M4's. Contrary to rumors, the stock is fairly sturdy and does not collapse back into storage position at the slightest pressure. I jammed it into my shoulder a couple of times during gameplay and I only got it to recede one click.
Bringing your XM8 to a game will draw plenty of appreciative ooh's and ahh's from your fellow players. You'll be sure to stand out from the crowd of M4 variants that dominate airsoft in Florida. That said, the kit is rather pricey, especially considering that it is just a kit and requires an AEG to complete it. If you don't already have a TM G36C, expect to pay in excess of $600 to have something you can game with. Kit, aeg, magazines, and a couple of mini batteries: it all adds up. If you're just getting into airsoft, wait a while before you look this way. However, if you're bored with gearbox upgrades and covering your M4 in RIS, yet shy away from the price and weight of a M249, then the XM8 is for you.