Air. When it's flowing it moves almost the same way as water does and anything in it's path will disrupt the flow and usually cause resistance. There's a whole load of scientific mumbo jumbo about this general topic, known as Fluid Dynamics (and it's sub-discipline for air, Aerodynamics), and whilst we mostly don't need to care about the majority of it, it's important we understand the super basics for this article (actual scientists please spare us for the inaccuracies).
In the image above, we see a fine example of Aerodynamics in effect. The red parts showing where airflow meets heavy resistance, with the blue parts showing where there is less. Generally, the smoother the surface and rounder the edges, the better air will travel over the object and the less drag it will leave behind it (you can find out why here). Much like a cow, and our precious BB's with their microscopic bumps and craters that all do a great job to disrupt the air traveling over them, there are other parts of our pistol that are greatly dependent on how airflow interacts with them.
The part we are most interested in lies concealed within our magazine and plays the critical role of delivering our propellant; the magazine gas router (part SC-58).
The gas router is generally not considered a part most people would look to upgrade, and for good reason; there isn't a MK23 specific aftermarket gas router available on the market right now - so there is very little discussion in the community about upgrading the stock one. However, we are a thorough community, we like to test parts from other guns in our MK23 just to see if they'll fit, and like some of the M92F feed lips which we have used to replace our fragile clone feed lips with, the M92F gas router happens to be a perfect fit in our MK23 magazines.
So without hesitation we got our hands on the most popular M92F gas router on the market, the "Laylax NINE BALL Magazine Gas Route Seal Aero Packing".
Let's take a look at it.
Our test sample came in the 2 Pack variant with an included router shim, although it's possible to obtain just a single gas router without shim also.
From the image on the right, we can see that externally, the gas router has extra slots for the feed lip pins to fit in and a slightly different head to it, we're not sure why Layax used this image, but it's incorrect for the M9. Here's how it really looks in the packet (pictured in purple vs original TM stock gasket in black):
As you can see, the shape is pretty similar, but the external quality on the Nine Ball is clearly better than the TM. This is evident to the touch too, the rubber is considerably harder on the Nine Ball which should also improve it's durability over time and help resist friction from the nozzle travel.
The bottom of the gasket is flat square, just like the original TM gasket, however newer versions of the TM stock rubber will have a tapered edge to the bottom lip for slightly easier fitment. It's nothing to worry about as a lacking feature on the Nine Ball, but they were molded before the TM update.
Thankfully, the blocky exterior is not where we want to be looking to improve our aerodynamics.
Judging a science book by its cover
Here's where we get back to the science, the internal design of the gasket and where the "Aero" name Laylax have given it comes to form. Take a look at the image below.
The cross-section above shows a red outline on each gasket, highlighting the internal changes to the gasket channel in the Areo gasket where the angles have been eliminated to provide smoother directional flow of gas as it leaves the magazine through the gasket. The most prominent of these smoothened areas is at the mouth of the gasket just below the lips, here we can see that the 90 degree angles in each corner of the channel have been corrected and gradually channeled in to a much tighter and smoother exit port. Going further down toward the base of the gasket, we can see that the 45 degree slant on the right of the gasket has also been leveled out to correct the flow and if we refer to our cow model with it's red/blue areas, we can assume that this will reduce resistance and turbulence within the gasket before it ejects out of the port.
Now that we know the thought process behind Laylax's design, lets verify that the actual gasket internals line up with the cross-section angles we saw through a practical inspection of the gasket itself.
From our inspection, we can confirm that the blunt angles have been smoothened up or rounded off, the channel looks uninterrupted all the way to the port, which should mean that we will see a better travel of air through the gasket.
Naturally, we couldn't only assume that these visible improvements were in fact improvements at all; we needed to test the gasket it in real use!
Warming up the butter
To measure the performance of the gasket's streamlined inner surface, we would take two sets of chronograph recordings with and without the gasket installed versus the stock TM gasket. Both sets would use propane gas stored at room temperature and 0.48g BB's. 24 shots would be fired from each magazine. Lastly, we would test for an average FPS across 24 shots with the addition of the shim added to the Nine Ball gasket. Unfortunately, we did not test the gasket in a Clone magazine as the the manufacturer specified it as only being compatible with the Tokyo Marui. Here's how the results came out:
Although there are some clear peaks in FPS coming from the Nine Ball, the general difference between the TM and the Nine Ball isn't all that much, with an average FPS for the Nine Ball being at 237 FPS vs the TM at 234 across 24 shots each. What we can see though is that the Nine Ball was more consistently higher across the 24 shots than the TM, bottoming out to a lower FPS much later in the shot cycle.
The real gain came from when we decided to add the included shim to the Nine Ball gasket. As expected, the increased gasket height brought the gasket closer to the nozzle and as such reduced the loss of gas transfer between the two of them due to a better seal. We saw a starting high of 275 FPS on the first shot, eventually leveling out to a consistent 262 FPS average.
Unfortunately, by raising the gasket height with the shim, we did start to encounter some sticky trigger symptoms as the nozzle travel met resistance on its way back over the gasket lips, which for some users would ward off the use of the shim at all, negating its FPS benefits.
The cold knife
So Laylax's science was on the mark, their internal improvements to the aerodynamics of the Areo gasket did result in a less restricted airflow just as they claimed it would, as seen by the the FPS results we recorded. Despite not getting a higher FPS output than we may have liked, the Areo gasket arguably provided us with a more stable and consistent FPS output across the 24 test shots we fired - and in truth, this is probably what the Japanese manufacturer was aiming for, since their parts are manufactured primarily for the Japanese market and their strict FPS limits.
In summary, it's fair to say that Laylax have delivered on their end, and provided the TM community with a compatible gasket upgrade part in the form of the Nine Ball Aero gasket. However, as always, we need to consider whether the cost for this small pleasure is worth the result.
At an average of £10 for a single gasket and £15 for a pair, it's not unreasonable, nor is it exactly a cheap upgrade, especially when you need to consider replacing the gasket on all your existing magazines to ensure consistency across each mag. It's certainly a part for the MK23 completionist or perfectionist and by no means a "must have". Whilst there are gains to be had, they will most likely go unnoticed by the common MK23 user and will only truly be effective in a finely tuned setup where the increased FPS stability or use of the included shim can be put to best use.
If you are looking for perfection, the NINE BALL Magazine Gas Route Seal Aero Packing needs to be in your magazines.
We would like to thank Skirmshop NL for providing us with the chance to test the gasket. You can find it available in their store via the following link or by going to their store directly, here: NINE BALL Gasket: Link
Thanks for reading!