In the real world, the question comes up more than it probably should, but it's one we ask our selves more frequently that we probably like. Does size matter? Be it the size of your TV, new wheels on your car, the BB's you use.... or something... more personal... we find ourselves having to justify and determine if bigger (or smaller) is better all the time. Here's a classic example...
The MK23 and it's upgrades put us in the same predicament, having us choose whether to use a specific barrel length or bucking hardness; and this time, it's something we haven't had to give much thought to before because we simply haven't been offered the choice until now. We're talking about the outer barrel threading, specifically, dropping down from the stock 16mm+1 CCW threading the MK23 is known for using to the very common 14mm CCW threading seen on almost every AEG on the market.
You might say "This has been possible through an aftermarket thread adapter for ages!", well you would be right, aftermarket thread adapters have been on the market for many years now, allowing users to convert their MK23's from a 16mm to a 14mm threading so that they can use more commonly found suppressors and flash-hiders. But this is where the the "issue" lies, and we say "issue" lightly, because it is very much a aesthetic issue with no functional flaw.
Thread adapters are unsightly. They add unnecessary length to the muzzle of the MK23 and create a visible gap between the slide and the suppressor that "just doesn't feel or look right". Sourcing a thread adapter that provides the correct 16mm+1 CCW thread pitch required for the TM version of the MK23 can also be difficult, as cheaper manufacturers only provide 16mm CCW threaded adapters which will simply not fit on a TM MK23's muzzle (although clone MK23s should be fine here); this results in wasted cash on an upgrade that fails to serve its purpose, requiring you to spend more on gambling with another product that will hopefully do the job.
So, if thread adapters are out, what's new that proposes a better solution? Enter: Lee's Precision Engineering CNC 14mm CCW Outer Barrel replacement.
Yep, you read it right, this is a full, drop-in, outer barrel replacement kit that offers a 14mm CCW thread. LPE, who are keen MK23 users themselves, recognized the same issues that we highlighted above, and set about creating this one-piece CNC machined outer-barrel to come to the aesthetic needs of the MK23 community's most demanding users. It is without a doubt, a niche item, no questions asked, but is it something we have personally wanted for a long time?
(You'll have to excuse the bias here) Hell yes.
Let's take a look why we had to get our hands on it.
Inside, you'll have the outer barrel itself and a small packet containing a selection of rubber o-rings. The o-rings are not spares and serve a specific purpose as you'll see later.
As you can see from a first glance, the CNC machined black anodized aluminium looks exceptionally high quality and perfectly finished, and most importantly, bares that wonderfully functional 14mm CCW thread. We can inspect the outer barrel further in the images below.
Reiterating the point above, the measurements are exact and the quality is high, with no visible tooling marks on show. An o-ring comes pre-installed on the thread, this serves as a buffer and friction lock when installing a suppressor later on and prevents the thread locking when screwed on too tightly.
One observation with our sample outer barrel was that the inside edge, whilst perfectly precise, was very sharp, and this is something you should be aware of when installing it to avoid accidents. We feel that a little sanding and QC of these edges might have helped prevent this during production.
The horizontal hex screw comes pre-fastened on the outer barrel and fits through the hop assembly without issue.
Going back to our size theme, the LPE outer barrel is noticeably smaller than both the TM and the Clone outer barrels. LPE have reduced the amount of excess material making up the outer barrel, without compromising the strength of fitment of the outer barrel. It is also much lighter than either of the stock outer barrels being made out of aircraft grade aluminium. Below you can see how they size up together and installed on the hop up assembly.
The LPE outer barrel slides on without issue, no effort is required to put it on and there is zero wobble or movement once installed, the measurements are "exact". However, this is where we need to comment on the measurements, namely, that the outer barrel is so precisely designed specifically for the Tokyo Marui model that it is simply not compatible with the clone versions. This is because, as you can see, the length of the outer barrel is just far too short to be installed on the Clone hop up assembly, which is shorter in length than the TM hop up assembly. If installed on a Clone hop up unit, it simply would not come out the end of the slide.
Clone, but no cigar
Having spoken to LPE about the possibility of a Clone supported version coming out in the future, it's unfortunately very unlikely to happen due to limitations of their machine lathe sizes.
So now that you've seen the outer barrel mounted to the hop up assembly, you're probably wondering where he barrel stops, and whether it supports longer inner barrels without modification? It certainly does, it also brings us back to those rubber o-rings we mentioned earlier.
Supplied with the kit are 3 barrel spacer o-rings, and 2 thread locking o-rings. The locking o-rings should be considered as spares, however the 3 barrel spacer o-rings should always be used.
You can install the spacer o-rings by sliding them over the inner barrel, spaced evenly along the length of the inner barrel. This will ensure the inner barrel stays central and stable in the outer barrel and will prevent any shots bouncing off the inside of your suppressor due to poor alignment should it occur.
In the below example, we are using the ever popular Maple Leaf Crazy Jet 150mm inner barrel, which we also know to be one of the larger diameter outer barrels on the market, so you can be sure that longer lengths will be compatible with the outer barrel.
On this note, it would be unfair not to mention the market competitor at this time, the 14mm CCW outer barrel produced by DCI Guns. Whilst the DCI Guns outer barrel accomplishes the same goal of providing a direct 14mm thread, it does fail to allow longer than stock inner barrels through the muzzle without modification, which, in our current MK23 climate, does seem like a bit of an oversight considering both the LPE and DCI Guns outer barrels were in development at the same time, with only weeks between their release date.
Every millimeter counts
With your inner barrel spaced out, you should have no problem putting everything back together, and in prime position to try out of your favorite suppressor and your newly eliminated suppressor to slide dead space. Take a look at these images comparing the use of a 16mm to 14mm adapter versus the 14mm outer barrel.
From here, the possibilities are almost endless, as your customization is now open to all of the aftermarket 14mm CCW compatible components, such as flash hiders, compensators and suppressor - all with the added aesthetic legitimacy of the real steel version (just don't tell anyone you're using a 14mm thread!).
If you plan on building a carbine kit, you now need not source a correctly fitting 16mm to 14mm adapter either, and can simply attach a 14mm CCW barrel extension directly on to the 14mm thread.
It's how you use it
So to sum up, does size matter? When it comes down to spending more of your hard earned on another MK23 upgrade part - no, it does not - but it certainly helps when justifying the purchase if you are a completionist MK23 owner. This is a vanity upgrade, and its usage is very much going to be down to the individual and how they will use it to achieve a certain visual look and style. The upside, is that you won't be sacrificing any functionality to so, as the LPE 14mm outer barrel accommodates everything you need to continue using your custom barrel upgrades securely. From our personal experience using aftermarket adapters, the fitment issues, rust locked threads and self loosening suppressors were cause enough to want a fixed 14mm threaded outer barrel, but the removal of the adapter dead space was the real driving force behind our desire for one. The shortened length, albeit hardly noticeable, will also assist with drawing from a holster.
Although not an essential piece of kit, it's certainly a personal must have in our opinion and we can't wait to get hold of more suppressors to try out with it. If you can justify the £40 (at the time of this writing) price tag (considering 16mm to 14mm adapters range from £10-20), then give it a go. You can find stock direct at: Lee's Precision (link)
Or via the following retailer(s):
Skirmshop UK (link)
Skirmshop NL (link)
Thanks for reading!