ARES Airsoft Knights M110 SASS AEG
03 Aug 2015
The time has come for me to try out the DMR, or the designated marksman rifle role. And just why did I choose this role over perhaps the sniper role? Basically because the DMR role sits somewhere between having an assault rifle and having a sniper rifle, only with a few very nice perks!
In practice this means you can have almost the range of a sniper rifle using a semi-automatic rifle. It also means you can engage your target with a lot more rounds per second than a bolt sniper rifle. At the same time you can be quick and dynamic just as if you were using a regular rifle. Or at least in theory that’s what I wanted.
So now let’s see if in practice the ARES Airsoft M110 SASS, will allow me to have a real edge over my opponents and how it does perform in the field.
The story behind this gun is very important when it comes to this replica, as it’s the only licensed Airsoft version of the M110 SASS by the manufacturer Knights Armament.
The M110 was requested by the US Army in order to replace the M24 sniper rifle with Knights Armament winning the bid against big players such as Remington and DPMS Panther Arms.
In 2008 on its first ever deployment in Afghanistan, the feedback that came from the operators couldn’t have been better, and included praises to the quality of construction and semi-automatic capabilities, which are a huge plus over the M24 which was a bolt action.
Shortly after that, the USMC (US Marine Corps) also adopted the M110 in order to replace the MK11. This then went on to be an iconic gun used throughout most recent conflicts and also depicted in some video games.
The M110 is based on the well-known Stoner rifle designed by Eugene Stoner, but highly evolved with KAC’s technology and know-how as well as the feedback from military sources.
Following this success, ARES Airsoft have been able to secure the license to produce an Airsoft version that has been developed in close cooperation with Knights Armament so much that inside the package you get a certificate of authenticity signed by C. Reed Knight II himself!
The certificate also attests that you will be purchasing an airsoft gun that replicates to the highest extent possible the M110 in form and function. So in fact you’ll be getting the most faithful replica of the real steel M110 by KAC.
Along the certificate you’ll also get a serial number which matches the serial number markings on your gun making it a unique piece.
Being unique and faithful comes, however, at a price. And the price is around £440 at Firesupport or €499 at Begadishop. This means you do pay for the licensing, but do you also pay for a good quality replica with good performance?
QUALITY, DESIGN AND BUILD MATERIALS – THE EXTERNALS
This is usually a key factor when purchasing a new Airsoft gun, but on the M110 the pressure is even higher for ARES Airsoft as this AEG has a very high price point, plus the fact that this is a licensed replica which should mimic to the last detail the real steel gun, set the bar quite high in terms of expectations.
When it comes to the looks and externals, I can say is that this gun is a dream: no wobble at all, very finely machined metal parts, a beautiful to look at receiver and a long barrel with an awesome free floating URX 12.5” inch rail, a very cool adjustable fixed stock, and I wasn’t much of a fan of fixed stocks.
The whole gun is made out of aluminium, except for the stock and the pistol grip, which are made of nylon fibre.
All seems to come together, as the quality of the Aluminium alloy is very high end, and together with a very solid matte black matte layer of paint, the trademarks and logos which follow the real steel version, it’s a unique and perfect replica on the outside.
Some of the key features are the ambidextrous controls for the fire selector and the mag release and bolt catch, which are very easy to use and have a very positive feedback. The fire selector in particular is very crisp and a pleasure to use.
The bolt does lock back to allow the user to adjust the wide and easy to use hop up adjustment wheel. So easy that I can just adjust it in game whilst wearing my gloves.
Looking closely at end of the 12.5 inch URX handguard you’ll notice two things: first the built-in flip up sight that’s cleverly stowed away on the top rail and once you need you just press a button on the left side of the rail and it flips up. Simple and effective.
The other noticeable thing is the gas block that’s sitting outside the rail and has two small rails for any additional attachments, as if the long 12.5” rail wouldn’t suffice! But most likely these two very tiny rails have a purpose on the real steel version.
The flash hider is just ginormous when compared to a regular M4 one, but it’s quite lightweight, and it is clockwise which makes it a bit more difficult to use most AEG suppressors. So, you’ll be a bit more conditioned by what’s out there and this is CW instead of CCW. Anyway, this gun is supposed to run the original suppressor that ARES Airsoft also produce and sell separately and this is really the only one you should use as it’s just like the real steel version, it looks devilish good!
On the other end, the stock is very solid and the nylon polymer that was used to build it is incredibly tough. So much they only have a long bolt holding the stock to the gun. The bolt then threads to the short buffer tube like an adapter that is attached to the receiver. Also on the stock, you will find the quick detach mounts on both sides that provide a very positive and solid feedback when you use it along with the included sling mounts.
The stock also has other interesting features that are of course in accordance with its real steel counterpart, such as the telescopic butt pad that extends up to 2cm in order to provide the best support for the operator.
The way it extends is by unscrewing the large knob on the right hand of the stock and then firmly pulling the butt pad until it reaches the desired position. Once you’re satisfied, just screw it tightly so it stays in place. I found out however, that even if I screwed it quite tight it would still give in provided it is under a lot of pressure. I’m not sure this happens on all models.
The receiver is by far my favourite part of this gun, since it shows futuristic lines when compared to the traditional M4 platform. The straight angles and absence or curves kind of reminds me of the F117 Stealth fighter and I really love this receiver design which is elongated in order to receive the 7.62 higher powered ammunition.
All the trademarks and logos on the receiver are the culmination of a beautifully put together AEG that is the closest to an airsoft gun will ever be with the real steel world.
I really like the Stoner Rifle logo and the KAC trademarks on the right hand side of the receiver along with the unique serial number and the calibre marks.
And then there’s the nicely done ambidextrous controls that work as they should.
This is probably the first AEG where the left and right fire selectors move exactly at the same time, without any lag of weird wobbliness, being that is very, very solid and give a very nice feedback. The mag gets released with ease and there’s almost no wobble inside the mag well.
On the accessories part, the M110 is also quite well furnished as it comes out of the box with a couple of rail protectors, a couple of QD sling mounts --- one for the stock and the other one for the handguard, since it comes with a Picatinny adaptor.
The rear backup sight, which is fully adjustable both in windage and elevation, is very solid too. A part I mostly appreciate is the included one piece scope mount which is a really nice addition since it's very tough and really easy to mount and unmount.
Finally you have an unjamming rod and a 140 mid cap magazine which is very well-built and feeds most of the BBs, although I’ve been able to buy another mid cap mag which actually is able to feed all the BBs thanks to its design where the feeder will go out of the mag.
One important note when it comes to the mags is that these are not very easy to come by since they’re proprietary. In practice, this means that because of the gearbox design the feeding port is actually less of centre as compared to other replicas, which means you have to use only ARES airsoft mags.
But for me, the pièce de résistance is really the included scope mount that is the exact same replica as the real steel one and it’s a one piece scope mount which is really easy to mount on the gun and extremely lightweight.
Finally, one the coolest accessories is in fact the certificate from Knights Armament, which will look great when framed!
PERFORMANCE, FEATURES AND INTERNALS
Outside, the M110 is as closest to perfection as you can get on an AEG when it comes to replicating the real steel version. So now let’s check how it performs and if it can also claim other laurels in airsoft when it comes to shooting performance.
Out of the box this gun was outputting not much more than a very shy 340 FPS, which is quite low for a DMR. The reason behind this is a very weak spring, which I replaced immediately with an M100 spring. Then I was lot happier!
However, the motor was also rather weak, as it wasn’t pulling very well my M100 spring that does around 390-400 FPS. This is only possible thanks to the very good compression of the gearbox and the nice air seal most components have out of the box, and also the long inner barrel.
I have also enjoyed using the easy to adjust hop-up unit that ARES Airsoft included which is now my favourite since it has the big wheel.
Here is where I think ARES Airsoft could have included a good high torque motor and an M100 spring out of the box, or even more than one spring. Since without these upgrades it performs just like any other high end AEG in the market.
However, I think I know why they went this way, and it has to do with the fact that this gun has a third position on the fire selector which does full-auto.
Although it’s not marked, and the fire selector does make some resistance, when you go to the full auto setting, it will do full auto. And that’s the way it comes out of the box.
So ARES Airsoft probably wanted to make the gun fun for everyone and not just the people that are looking to have the hard-core DMR experience with absolutely no full-auto setting. Which is good for those who like the looks of the gun but want to use it in full auto, and also here in the UK where some sites that don’t allow DMRs you can always reprogram it to do full-auto and quickly lower the FPS by swapping the spring.
Of course, I prefer not to have the full auto at all, since most sites here in the UK will only allow me to have the gun near the 400fps mark if it’s locked to semi-auto. So, since I believe this is the way this gun should be used, I asked a friend of mine with an EFCS Programmer to program the last “hidden” position of the fire selector to semi-auto.
And this is one of the coolest features of this gun: you can use the EFCS programmer to program the fire selector to do single, 3-round burst and full auto! Just amazing!
This does open a lot of possibilities and when combined with the quick spring change system that the M110 has, then this gun is very complete and flexible.
Of course, in my opinion, I think that this gun really excels when it’s being used in single shot mode, with a high torque motor, a precision barre, 0.3 gram BBs, and with an M100 or M110 spring!
Also the stock inner barrel is a steel 6.03mm diameter barrel that is 500mm in length. The inner barrel performs okay, but I will be looking into upgrading this later.
What’s good is that it’s an easily upgradeable gun and the parts will only set you back another £60-£90. But it would have been nice to see this in the stock gun.
Nevertheless when I first tried the gun, I got around 14 rounds per second and 340 FPS, with a good trigger response thanks to the EFCS (Electronic Fire Control System) which ARES Airsoft have in most of their newer AEGs, such as the Amoeba AM-013 “Honey Badger” which I reviewed here.
This means you get a very crisp and snappy trigger response, with a mouse like system that clicks when you press it. So it’s very smooth and easy to use, and this has an impact on the rate of fire, whether you are using full auto or semi auto.
As you can see from the above video, this AEG is a high performer and the trigger response is hellish, especially once the AEG is upgraded. The action bit of the video was partially filmed at RIFT Airsoft, and Airsoft Billericay, both great places to play.
At that time I had already upgraded the motor and the spring it would output 390-400fps. This works out really well as I get a very nice range.
I’m already using 0.3 gram BBs and probably will consider another spring upgrade to an M110 and use 0.35 gram BBs.
The gearbox is the exact same one as the ARES Airsoft Amoeba AM-013, and because of this, the feeding port on the mags is different from most SR25/M110/M16 replicas out there. You’ll only be using ARES Airsoft proprietary mags on this bad boy.
When it comes to the internals, once the gearbox was cracked open it is easy to see all the parts and their quality.
The gearbox shell is reinforced on the top, and inside the 8mm bearings work flawlessly, and all the gears are perfectly machined and put together.
Also, it comes with bearings on the bevel gear and solid bushings on the sector and spur gears. It also comes with silver wiring, so it’s definitely Lipo and Life ready, up to 11.1v.
And of course you can clearly see the new blue MOSFET which can be programmed and according to ARES Airsoft is more resistant to Amperage Voltage fluctuations and spikes
So internally it isn’t perfect yet, but it’s quite close. ARES Airsoft only need to change a few things for this to be as close to perfection as it can get!
This has been my dream gun since last year, and I was anticipating this gun quite a lot.
Finally, once I received it, I wasn’t disappointed and I felt, although not perfect, it is worth the money that it costs as it’s packed with accessories, features and it’s fully licensed.
The flaws I found are easy to correct, but ARES Airsoft should have this in mind the next time they create a high end AEG, since the money we put into these guns should be reflected in every little detail.
All in all, it’s a beautiful gun, amazing to play with and provides me with loads of hours of great gameplay as you can see on the video above.
The fact that it’s so scalable and flexible when it comes to its performance, thanks to the quick spring change and programmable gearbox really set this AEG on the bleeding edge of Airsoft technology, and right at your hands for you to play with.
To me this is so far the best DMR in the market, period.
And here you can check some gameplay footage:
- Build quality
- Level of detail and trademarks
- Quick spring change
- Programmable gearbox
- Snappy trigger response
- Accessories included
- Weak motor and spring for a DMR