It's finally that time. The M17 CQC revolutionized MagFed and has become what is likely the best-selling MagFed marker in history. This will always be a debate that many will argue over but in the three and a half years since it has launched, and the hundreds of thousands of markers in floating around the planet, we can't ignore what we've seen, and that is more M17's per game than any other MagFed marker. It's fine, I know you're already feverishly hammering into the comments section to tell me while I'm wrong.
When the M17 CQC first launched in late January of 2014, even we couldn't have expected the literal onslaught that pursued it. Within hours, entire reserves of hundreds of markers had sold out, and a months-long backorder was born. At the time, there really wasn't much to compare with it when it comes to MagFed Rifles. You had the Scarab Arms TGR2, with no velocity adjuster, and magazines that just couldn't handle the First Strike rounds the way they should. You had the aging Tiberius T8/9 series markers that while robust and functional, carried a heavy, expensive, and low capacity magazine. Rap4 did have the 468, which sat at a much higher price point, so it adds another step to value. When the M17CQC launched at $299 USD (was about $330 Canadian back when the dollar was awesome). There was nothing that had even close to a 3fps standard deviation, absolutely no production markers with mechanical full auto, let alone the First Strike compatibility out of the box (I'll rant more about first strike rounds later).
If you were around for this launch, it was phenomenal to see. I'm not sure any product in paintball has ever had such a successful launch. Even at Paintball Extravaganza, all of the corporate paintball talking heads were scrambling for their best insults as they stared at their feet wondering what the hell they're going to do about this. This moment, this was where MagFed hit the mainstream. All of a sudden the whole world was looking at MagFed trying to figure out if it was a fad, a phase, or something that would be here to stay. The reality is that MagFed is just a tiny speck of sand in the beach we'd call paintball.
It wasn't all that long out of the gate that, well, things happened. Right out of the box, about 5% of users reported issues like the grip handle broken off. How could this be? In testing, we had been hitting it with hammers, throwing it on the floor, jumping on it.... We used a nice rigid polymer composite, so what was happening? Well, the one thing we didn't account for was the temperatures in air cargo shipping. Leading up to the M17, MILSIG had never had to ship in such huge volumes, so we usually relied on shipping methods that just tagged along in compressed jets while they rode comfortably to their destination. Air Cargo, not so much. Let alone the tossing and bashing that a box goes through on more bulk shipping services, air cargo is uncompressed. Meaning it can reach temperatures as low as -80* Celsius (-120* Fahrenheit). This cold was so powerful it was actually enough to take the nice strong polymer and alter it to a state where it became so rigid, that a shock could cause a fracture in it.
So begins what was by many referred to as "grip gate". The problem was common, it effected about 10-15% of users out of the gate. It's not a number we're even remotely happy with, but it's also something that won't be covered up. It did allow a wonderful opportunity, however, though, at a great cost, all parts were replaced with parts created from an entirely new composition that included freeze resistant flex agents. Lesson learned for the strangest of reasons this time. At the same time, we rolled out an updated grip layout mechanism. This was included with the grip frames sent out It included a new sear with a pawl on the bottom and a selector switch cam with a matching raised cam. There was a simple purpose to this, and that was a complete mechanical lockout in the safety mechanism. While standards only require a cross bolt to block the trigger, we decided that due to the absolutely massive growth we were experiencing, that it was best to have a more foolproof safety system. Within this updated system. a selector switch in the safe position physically locks both the trigger and the bolt in place, rendering the marker entirely incapable of discharging.
From here, we did note that the bodies on about 5% of M17 markers developed cracks, similar to the cold effects I was just speaking of. With the steel substructure in the M17, it meant that these parts were less susceptible to damage from being jostled around while freezing cold. Nonetheless, we handed out a whole lot of marker bodies too, but not before we added several new steel reinforcement points, and even revised the way the internal steel frame interfaces with the polymer outer layer to better handle the vibrations and stress of the HeatCore™ inside the marker. In this time the steel latching point for the BRH was also added, ensuring that the happy handle would lock securely in place for the life of the marker, assuming you didn't ham hands it or smash it against concrete (I've seen a lot of strange damage in my time).
Once those main out of the gate issues subsided, we were able to watch for longterm maintenance issues, and attempt to make the system more robust as time passed. There's no magic equation to the lifespan of any paintball marker. Two markers made on the same day, with the same parts by the same person will still often see a much different lifespan dependant on the user. Just last week I had someone bring me M17 number 181, original body, original grip, all of the parts that everyone said were horrible were still running strong, the marker had been quite heavily used.
Back to my point. One of the first things we noted was the lifespan of bolt alignment. The term alignment is often misused when it comes to a MILSIG marker, perhaps we just did a terrible job explaining it. For the sake of today's conversation, we're talking about the alignment of the firing pin inside of the bolt. It's the solid round bit that is on the inside of your bolt. The centering of this piece determines things like the lifespan of your valve stem o-ring, air efficiency, and internal wear. Poor alignment will cause all of the aforementioned to be worse. The internal system worked great, but what we didn't realize was how many damn shots you guys were going to fire, as this is something that will wear with time, and eventually come out of alignment. We made it last a bit longer by switching from a plastic based, to a brass-based shim. It actually made a significant difference. All of the shim kits were eventually cycled out to include brass shims, same as new markers. As this wasn't a core performance issue, just a revision to make something better, it really wasn't needed to be more of a thing than just a revisional update. You'll see a lot of those as I move along here.
This wasn't enough though. Why not work to find a way to make it even better. From 6 months in until the marker was over 2 years old, the development of what is now known as the Trident Bolt began. The Trident bolt focussed to be bit more of a major upgrade than just a few little pieces, and resulted in a multi-year project, that even required the production of several tools in order to complete its production. Unlike the previous bolt models, the trident is machined in three pieces, as opposed to the ten used in an original bolt. The front bolt is machined with a firing pin in place, removing the screw, 4 shim pieces, and the firing pin. The pin was machine balanced on the trident, then rolled into a single piece base (as opposed to previous two piece bases) that was made from a treated and hardened steel to avoid sear contact wear (one of the main reasons for double firing). This was where the special tools were needed. In this move, all bolt maintenance was removed, and the lifespan of the bolt was significantly improved making a great upgrade for people with markers a few years old. We then included it in all new markers, because why would we use something inferior, then sell an upgrade for it. That's just not the way the paintball industry works anymore.
While bored, and having little else to do as what was nearing on tens of thousands of people were out enjoying their M17's we decided that we might as well add a steel reinforcement to the base of the grip frame. Though cases of the updated grip frames could be counted on one hand, it just seemed like a good idea to completely eliminate any future potential for an issue. It didn't require re-tooling, so why not?
We're going to get into little tiny bits now, so they won't get as much attention as above, but other changes in this time included reducing the stock barrel bore to .686 from .689 due to an ever-shrinking supply of paint. I guess this played out pretty well when Carmatech recently paired our markers up against others, and the M17 performed at the level of markers worth at least double the price, if not higher. We also changed the mainspring out for a new black one, that is treated differently and will retain its.... springiness ... for longer. We also swapped to an ambidextrous selector switch when the supply of non-ambi parts dried up.
Sure, you're probably bored out of your tree if you're still reading this, but it stands to prove a point. In now three and a half years, MILSIG has watched, listened, learned, and adjusted to meet an ever-growing player demand. None of this would have happened without the players that adopted the platform along the way. The player has always been the drive to do more and be more, and as a result, after all of this time, there is still nothing that can match an M17 in Consistency, accuracy, function, and features at $350USD.