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Airsoft mount systems


Airsoft gun mounts

Hardly anyone plays with an airsoft gun completely devoid of any accessories. Most designs available in stores have at least rail-mounted sights on the spine of the receiver. This is an easy and convenient solution that allows you to increase the functionality of our toy. Sights are the first thing that usually comes to mind when we consider the need to install an additional device on the airsoft gun. This also makes sense because the need for repeatable and reliable mount of telescopes or other sighting devices was the impetus for the creation of mounting systems.

mounting rail on an airsoft gun

Airsoft optic mounts

When we find some old photographs of sharpshooters or, if you prefer, snipers, we can notice some interesting regularities. It was completely normal practice to carry rifle scopes in special protective cases. They were mounted on rifles only when the shooter needed them. This was due to the fact that they were very delicate and moving them permanently could expose them to mechanical damage.

Since telescopes were removed and reinstalled relatively frequently, several further needs arose. The most important of them is the issue of zeroing the sight. Often, the scope and even its cover had the same serial number as the rifle. Additionally, their mount had to be solid and repeatable. It also had to be quick to use. Hence, they were often tightened with thick screws using only their hands, without the need to carry additional tools. The first mounting rails took the form of a metal beam onto which the optics mount was slid and screwed. Traces of such a system can still be found on standard side rails in structures based on the AK platform. But that wasn't enough.

RIS, Picatinny, MIL-STD-1913

All systems based on the above-mentioned concept had their glory days until around the 1980s. It was at this time that various armies, especially NATO countries, began timid attempts to equip most infantry units with targeting systems based on telescopes or collimators. Of course, this is an arbitrary date, because we are talking about many different implementations of this approach. We have the Austrian AUG on our website, which was supplied with a telescope as standard. Of course, the scope is there permanently, but my point is that more and more soldiers were given some sort of sights. Another example is the British SA80 system, which assumed that most units would receive the SUSAT prismatic sight. And lest I show only bullpup rifles, a little later the German G36 also assumed the use of an optical aiming system.

What does this have to do with mounting rails? It turned out that equipping soldiers with sights was becoming, firstly, easier and easier due to the development of their production technology, and secondly, it was becoming quite effective. Therefore, we can say that we have been dealing with the development of this technology since around the 1990s. We will speed things up a bit, because everyone is probably looking for the answer to the question which system is the best for airsoft. However, it is important to remember where they came from.

Picatinny rail diagram

1 source: wikipedia

An important moment was the adoption by NATO of the Picatinny rail mount standard, which received the STANAG 2324 designation. At first glance, it looks very familiar to most airsoft players. But what's the deal with these Weaver and RIS rails? These are similar systems, but they differ in dimensions and compatibility. Probably the most common one is the Picatinny rail. Other systems may have, for example, slightly wider recesses, which causes compatibility problems. However, this is a marginal problem. Especially in the case of optics, which are usually manufactured to fit the top rail of our airsoft guns.

This is my favourite mounting system. It is solid, reliable and universal. Unfortunately, it is not without flaws. If you think about it, it is a piece of metal with cutouts. For this reason, it is relatively heavy. Especially when we compare it with other solutions. It's good for optics or lasers, things that need to stay zeroed.

Airsoft gun barrel

KeyMod and M-Lok system

Anyone who has ever assembled a universal shop shelf or one for the basement can immediately notice the similarities between these systems and the holes that are often found on airsoft guns. M-lok and KeyMod are systems that were developed around the same time, as they are only a few years apart. They are somewhat similar in concept, differing only in a few minor issues. For this reason, let me discuss them together.

Comparison of M-Lok and KeyMod rails

2 source: Reddit

The principle of operation of these systems is that we place screws with special nuts in appropriately profiled holes, which, after being placed in place and screwed, wedge into these holes, preventing movement of the mounted accessories. KeyMod was developed by VLTOR and M-lok is a product of the Magpul group. However, both of these systems can be used by other manufacturers, which positively affects their adoption. It seemed that a few years ago the hottest possible system was KeyMod. Everyone wanted a front rail with those distinctive keyhole holes. However, over time its popularity declined. Nowadays, it is even said that it is a dead system and you can often come across a slightly vulgar interpretation of the shape of these characteristic mounting holes. M-lok, which was actually developed a little earlier after remaining in the shadow for several years, now seems to be much more popular.

airsoft gun on brown fabric

Which mount system to choose?

As is often the case with such questions, the most honest answer here is "it depends." Advantages, disadvantages, and personal preferences and needs are the factors we must take into account when selecting our rails and accessories. Because yes, this choice affects not only the shape of holes or grooves found on the airsoft gun, but also, importantly, what accessories we buy for it.

M-Lok rail on an airsoft gun

It's simple with a Picatinny rail. We are forced to use it whenever we want to mount a sight, a laser or other devices that require reliable and strong mounting. It will also be used, for example, to mount grenade launchers or stocks.

Other additional parts, such as grips or flashlights, give us more freedom. Here, there is basically nothing wrong with choosing the standard described above. Finally, there are a lot of adapters and short sections of Picatinny rail mounted in KeyMod or M-lok slots. However, we don't buy an airsoft gun with a handguard in a different system just to avoid using it, right? Of course! And here comes the nagging question. What to bet on? Choose what you like!

Or otherwise. I wouldn't use the mount system as an argument for or against any airsoft gun. You can live equally well with both KeyMod and M-lok. Both have a large number of accessories and offer similar performance. At least in an airsoft context. However, there is no doubt that M-lok is more popular. It is difficult to find, for example, a firearm on the primary market that does not have a stock in this system.


Author: Boreq

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