In this article, I will be reviewing the KWA Gas Blow Back M9 & M9 Tactical Professional Training Pistols. I will try to go as in-depth as possible, but considering I am neither a trained engineer nor am being paid to do this you’ll have to bear with me and any technical errors I make. I will draw upon my few years of field experience and my military training with the M9 for basing my conclusions but, as with anything, your mileage may vary.
My own acquaintance with the real steel is primarily through training I received while enlisted in the USAF. I have trained two separate times with the M9 platform; through I have never carried it into combat. Of course, I have never even been in any real combat, so any opinion I were to express in this regard would be on par with my opinions on the effectiveness of a big stick in combat. I have handled the Beretta 92FS (the civilian version of the M9) on a few occasions outside of the military, owned by a friend.
Please be aware that I have not purchased either pistol from a retailer, but second hand. Aside from one very minor issue on the previous owner’s part, both were in like-new condition by my appraisal. Also, the seven (at the time of this writing) magazines are likewise previously used before I obtained them.
As a third note, I will attempt to borrow a friend’s Beretta 92FS to do a real steel comparison sometime in the future, but I make no promises.
I hope readers don’t find this too overwhelming or wordy. My goal is to bring you as much pertinent information as I can from my experiences and observations. I appreciate constructive criticism and comments, as well as a nice cookie
If there is anything I did not cover that you would like to know more of, or would like photos of certain parts or anything else, please post or PM me! I will do my best to accommodate you.
So, with all that said, let’s begin…
II. Real Steel History
I don’t know why anyone includes this in their reviews. If you don’t know the history, Google it. Lazy ******s…
III. Concerning the PTP label
To quote directly from the KWA website:
“KWA PROFESSIONAL TRAINING PRODUCTS (PTP)
Airsoft technology in tactical training applications has gained momentum and acceptance over recent years. Law enforcement agencies and military units have integrated airsoft training weapons into their force-on-force training programs because of their realism and relatively low cost of operation. KWA Professional Training Products were developed in consultation with top tactical trainers from around the world. Every model in the series is designed to be 1:1 in scale with their real firearm counterparts, allowing full compatibility with gear and accessories. Recoil action, fire controls, and safety features are also recreated for a more dynamic training experience.”
This line of pistols has been primarily marketed as an inexpensive, safe, and realistic tool for government agencies to use for training purposes. Fortunately for us, the average airsofter, they are available for gaming use as well. Realism is one of the primary aspects of airsoft that draw in so many of us. Having something that is not only realistic, but has good performance and reliability, is hard to come by in this niche.
KWA has listed on their website testimonials from official users ranging from city police to Homeland Security. Obviously, take anything on the Internet with a grain of salt, but they do have customers in the government circles.
Additionally, KWA are not resting on their laurels. Recently (at the time of this writing) they have released another addition to their PTP line, the ATP. While largely unrelated to this article outside of the PTP context, this is a good indication that the manufacturer is not content with just a limited line of common military/law enforcement styled arms. I am in no doubt we can look forward to more diversity in the PTP line in the near future.
My remarks on the realism of these pistols can be found in Section V.
IV. Packaging and Contents
The PTP comes in a very nice box lined with cut Styrofoam to protect it during shipment. It does its job, but the small bits of Styrofoam do tend to accumulate themselves on the pistol. Included are the pistol, magazine, small bottle of silicone oil, small token bag of .2g BBs, and hop-up adjustment tool. The box itself is fairly decorated, but I don’t really care about boxes.
V. Feel and Form
One of the first things I noticed when picking up is the heft. Out of the various GBB pistols I have handled, this would rank among the heftiest. Obviously it’s not going to outweigh a Desert Eagle, but it is considerably heavier than the KJW P8/USP and KSC G19 (w/metal slide) I have on hand to compare. The magazine alone comprises much of the weight, although the full metal frame and slide do much to add to this.
After testing each component of both pistols, I have found very few metallic parts to be reactive to a magnet. Primarily the retaining pins in the magazines and other parts, grip fasteners, and the magazine spring were of ferrous material. I won't say they are 100% steel as I am no metallurgist, but it would be a safe bet. All other metal components such as the slide, lower frame, trigger, hammer, and other part seem to be made of a very sturdy metal. It has resisted major scratches and deformations and shows minimal signs of wear. The inner barrel seems to be a type of aluminum but, again, I can't say that with any certainty.
On the topic of materials used, I would like to note the outer barrel is not metallic at all, but made of a polymer (plastic). KWA have stated this was chosen for durability and reliability, as the polymer has self-lubricating properties that reduce the chance of jamming and other malfunctions. I have not had any issues, in the field or otherwise, with the plastic barrel. Some might find this to be a turn off due to the limitation this poses on attaching suppressors and the like.
The safety controls are just the same as those on the real steel M9. Safety/de-cocker is located on the slide. The de-cocker is functional but apparently there have been quite a few issues with this part breaking and becoming nonfunctional. This has happened with both my pistols. I am researching a fix for this with KWA on their technical forums (more on this later). After this part has broken the safety still functions, but only with the hammer down (de-cocked). This means you can’t carry “cocked and locked” (hammer set, safety on) as pulling the trigger will still send the hammer down fast enough to pop a chambered round out.
The magazine has a good amount of heft to it. I do not have a scale on hand to measure the weight, but I can say it is, again, considerably more than the KSC G19 and KJW P8/USP magazines. The feed lips seem to be robust. On the few occasions I have dropped the magazine onto the floor/ground (mostly carpeted wood, some on concrete, field/dirt) there appears to be no damage. The magazine tends to fall base-first as it is. I have a few notes on the base plate/magazine later in the article.
I note that there are no obvious markings or trademarks on either pistol, contrasting with the photos advertised on sites like AirsoftGI.com. I do not know if these were removed by the previous owners or if they were purchased that way.
The sights are fixed, with one white dot on the front sight post and two on the rear. These dots are recessed and have accumulated dirt and debris, but I don’t use the dots for my sight picture anyway.
The trigger is just as the real M9, double/single action. With the hammer down, you can still pull the trigger but it is much heavier than with the hammer cocked. I do not have any data on pull weights yet. Travel distance will be added soon.
Overall, the PTP is a very faithful rendition of the real steel M9 translated for perfectly acceptable airsoft and training use. In my opinion, this is a perfect platform to train both novice and expert on the handling characteristics of the M9 on a safe and inexpensive medium.
a. Loading, Gassing, Hop-up Adjustment
Loading is fairly similar to other GBB pistols. KWA, to my knowledge, are the only maker to include a handy “hold” feature to the feeder. Sliding the feeder to the very bottom of the track will cause a small tab to pop out and lock the feeder in place. You can now load your ammunition without fighting against spring tension. You then press a small button on the front of the feeder to release it. I do not recommend you let it slam upwards as this may damage components, though I have not experienced anything adverse. Also, allowing the feeder to slam with only a few BBs loaded can cause damage to the top-most BB and further damage your PTP. Press the button with your thumb and “ride” it until it stops. Also, don’t forget to unlock the feeder even after fully loading it, as this will cause the BBs to not feed and you will not be shooting anything! Yes, I have done this on many an occasion.
Gassing is also a common GBB process. Flip the magazine upside down. Press your gas can nozzle into the fill port located on the bottom of the magazine and fill. It is recommended to use 2 to 3 second “bursts” or “jabs”. Fill until you can no longer hear the “hiss” of gas flowing between the can and magazine. I recommend you let the magazine sit for a few minutes to require room temperature (or otherwise wear off the cooling effect the flowing gas has) and top off. You can perform this before or after loading BBs, it makes no discernable difference.
Load the PTP as you would a real handgun. You can have the slide at “battery” (forward) or locked back, your preference. Insert the magazine into the well in the grip and push in with assertiveness. You should hear an audible “click” as the magazine release catches the magazine and locks it in. You can now charge the weapon by racking or releasing the slide. If you want to do an administrative check, I recommend you release the magazine then pull the slide back enough for you to observe the chamber. A BB should be clearly visible. Be aware that if you release the slide from here, the nozzle can push the BB out of the chamber and down the barrel, and you will be without a round in the chamber. Reinsert the magazine with the slide forward to prevent double-feed.
Hop-up is adjusted using the included tool. Before you adjust the hop-up, remove the magazine and clear the chamber. Looking at the opened chamber of the PTP you will note the “toothed” edge circling the inner barrel. You will notice a corresponding pattern on the tool. I think you can see where this is going. Insert the tool so the patterns mesh and turn to adjust the hop up. Anti-clockwise for more hop, clockwise for less. This is a little more involved than the standard AEG wheel affair and makes on-the-fly adjustment almost impossible, but it does its job well. I have not experienced any self-changes to the hop in the field.
b. Controlled Setting
FPS readings taken with an Xcortech X3200 chronograph. BBs used are Tokyo Marui Special Grade 0.2g. Gas used is UHC Power Green G-1000 green gas. Hop-up is turned off. The magazine was filled to maximum capacity with both gas and ammo. Everything was done indoors at about 70 degrees F. Time between shots was about 2 to 5 seconds, or about how long it took to set the pistol down, write the result down, and pick the pistol back up.
1. 360.1 11. 336.1 21. 324.4
2. TOUT 12. 335.2 22. 317.8
3. 349.9 13. 330.3 23. 312.4
4. 349.7 14. 338.3 24. 295.6
5. 346.8 15. 328.5
6. 345 16. 326.8
7. 341.1 17. 334.4
8. 340.5 18. 321.9
9. 338.9 19. 324.7
10. 337.3 20. 324.7
Blow back was strong throughout the whole process and the slide locked back firmly on the last (24th) shot. TOUT means the BB struck the wall of the chrono tunnel and a reading was not taken.
c. Field Setting
Something I’ve always found lacking in most reviews was good field/skirmish reports. I hope to break that cycle with this section.
This pistol has proven to be more reliable than the majority of primaries that I’ve carried over the years. One particular instance that stands out would be Operation: Bulldog 4, an OLCMSS event at Fort Hood, Texas. I went through three AEGs and two extra gearboxes within two days. The only thing keeping me in the game was my PTP.
Again, similar instance at a local skirmish, my primary stopped functioning. Out came the PTP. To cut a long combat story short, I popped around 5 to 6 targets within a one minute period, the furthest of which was roughtly 150 feet away (this took about three shots)
I would rate accuracy on par with that of a good AEG. While using a different hop-up system, it has performed well for me. Accuracy is harder to achieve than a shouldered non-blow back weapon, but this is a reflection of the real world. The inner and outer barrels do not move as part of the blowback action, unlike other platforms like the Glock, lending itself to comparatively enhancing accuracy. It’s primarily personal preference, but I find the isosceles stance to work best for me. Both in airsoft and real steel.
I’ve had a few issues with magazine feeds in game. On rare occasions, the follower would jam inside the track, causing “dry-fires” meaning the pistol shoots gas and cycles, but no round is shot. I have concluded this is due to a mixture of dirt and debris gunking up the feed track. Regular maintenance should alleviate this problem. It is important to unload all rounds when the magazine is not in use, to prolong the life of the spring. Also, user error can pop up any time, especially when you forget to release the follower from its lock (noted later in the article).
Even though it leans towards the hefty side, I have not found the pistol to be an encumbrance, even when mounted on my high-leg modified holster (see Accessories). I usually carry four magazines on my first-line belt set up, and the weight is negligible.
I have gotten the gun and magazines quite soiled, but have not incurred any malfunctions. In between games or spawns, I try to dust off the worst of the accumulation.
The magazines hold 24 BBs. You might be able to squeeze in 25, but I would not suggest it. There is enough gas to get off a whole magazine's worth of BBs, with enough left for maybe another dozen or so.
As with most gas airsoft guns, cold weather is its main weakness. The coldest I've tried to use it, roughly below 40F, the pistol would not function at all. In the 50F range, the pistol was not as efficient as it is under better temperatures.
After owning the M9 PTP for a few years and use as a primary side arm in as long a time, I have found little in the way of wear and tear aside from the usual external cosmetic damage that comes with use.
If I encounter any age-related problems, I will annotate them here. At least, I’ll try to remember to do so.
VII. Aftermarket/Postconsumer Support
One of the things that originally attracted me to this line of pistols was the compatibility with real steel accessories. My M9 fits perfectly in a Blackhawk Industries SERPA holster for the M9/Beretta 92FS that I purchased at a local gun store. I have had no issues with this holster. I have used a BHI SERPA holster with my KSC G19 before, and experienced significant wear or “polishing” of the metal slide. This has not shown with the M9. I can’t say if it’s the particular pistol model or something else, though both have been used in the same Oklahoma sand/clay dirt environment. Using a STRIKE adaptor, I mounted the holster on a MOLLE belt to carry on my hip. This is most comfortable for me, but I do get into the dirt quite a bit. I have caked both holster and pistol in mud and dirt with no adverse effects, though there are issues with the SERPA that are mentioned elsewhere. Please take the time to research.
I have recently moved to using a Safariland 6004 drop-leg holster. I have a personal dislike for drop-leg platforms, as I feel they needlessly encumber my legs. I have modified my 6004 after viewing photos of “in-country” troops. It is a simple modification (which I will detail in another article some time) which has the holster riding higher on the thigh, almost practically on my hip. I do prefer this set up for a few reasons. I prefer how the 6004 covers the pistol more than the SERPA does, offering better overall protection. The locking mechanism is completely different, in my opinion, offering better retention and safety. I have had zero issues with “quick-draw” as, with anything, practice mitigates these issues.
I would say with confidence, any holster designed for the real M9 will fit the PTP.
A prominent member of the Oklahoma Airsoft community and administrator of the OKAirsoft.net website and forum, JP, found that his KWA M9 PTP would not fit in his real Safariland 6004 holster. I have not yet observed this myself, but it is worth mentioning. I cannot say what the issue is, as mine works perfectly fine.
I picked up the M9 Tactical PTP after desiring something to attach a light onto for use inside dark areas, mostly buildings and such. Rifle lights are fine, but most of the dark areas I’ve encountered were within the minimum-engagement distance. As a bargain hunter, I found an Insight M3X weapon light for well under retail on eBay. This light attached without issue to the M9 Tactical. To compliment this marriage, I also purchased a Safariland 6004 holster for the M9/M3X combination. As with the standard M9, this holster fits the M9/M3X without issue. This is now my primary side arm kit.
Any light and/or laser accessory advertised to fit the M9/Beretta 92 rail should work without issue. Be aware that this rail is NOT the M1913/Picatinny rail and will not accept accessories designed for such.
Any standard M9/double-stack magazine pouch should work. I have personally used Tactical Tailor and Eagle Industries pouches. I use the EI FB M9 pouches. These have both flaps and a stiff internal friction and molded Kydex to hold the magazines. I have fielded these pouches with the flaps strapped down and only the friction holding the magazines and found them to be very effective, although protection from dirt and debris is reduced.
I have not used any alternate grips, though I would speculate that they are compatible with most aftermarket grips available. I believe I have seen this done before on different forums, but I can’t recall any specifics. A decent search should help you out. I want to note here that there are two different fastener types for the grip panels. The standard M9 is flat-head while the Tactical is hex (size will be updated soon). What I've read from the KWA staff, these have changed with the minor updates, giving an indication as to the generational version of the individual pistols.
b. OEM Parts
The KWA website (www.kwausa.com) has a “Pro Shop” section that you can purchase OEM parts for almost all of their products. They include “exploded” diagrams of most of their guns to help you identify a specific part. If they don’t have a part listed that you need, let them know on the forum (see below).
Shipping is cheap and quick, and the parts aren’t expensive at all. They’re based in City of Industry, California and they pack and ships almost immediately after you place your order. I ordered a part on Friday, 5:30 pm (CST) and the parts arrived the following Monday afternoon. Again, they are setting a fantastic example for customer service in the industry.
Some parts are available at other airsoft retailers. I’ve only seen any at AirsoftGI.com, but I haven’t actively looked outside of the Pro Shop. I did not compare prices or shipping, I’ll leave that for others. I’d assume that if they have a part you need and you’re already placing an order that qualifies/will qualify for free shipping, you’d probably be better of that route.
c. Technical Support
The best place for technical support would, again, be the KWA website (see above). They host a Technical Forum where you can sign up and post your question/problem and receive fairly prompt response. The KWA staff, from marketing to development, is active on this board and is very good about communicating with the consumer. I highly recommend you check this forum out, even just to peruse and read the articles posted. There is a lot of useful information so, just like any other forum, SEARCH!
KWA offers an 45-day warranty service. If you have any problems within this time period, you can submit a ticket through their Help Desk service.
Be aware that the use of propane will void this warranty. They do have methods of detection; any attempt to deceive them is not suggested. Be sure to read the entirety of the warranty conditions and fine print.
Disassembly is accomplished very much like the real steel version. As always, first remove the magazine and ensure there is no round in the chamber. Next, there is a lever located on the left side of the frame. Push in the button on the opposite side then rotate the lever 90 degrees clockwise. Then, you pull the slide forward, taking care to hold the recoil guide rod as you do. Otherwise this can fly off and you can lose both rod and spring. Carefully remove the guide rod and spring, separate and set side. Now you pull out the barrel by moving it slightly forward to clear the nozzle, tilt and pull out of the bottom of the slide. Now you have field stripped the M9.
I will have guides for further disassembly and maintenance at a later point in time.
b. Periodic Maintenance
Any owner of an airsoft GBB pistol should know the common periodic maintenance steps. The most imperative action is to keep all seals and o-rings in top condition. Use nonpetroleum-based silicon oil to maintain suppleness with all rubber seals and rings. Petroleum-based products can eat into the rubber, as well as the plastic parts. Airsoft specific silicone oil is the best, especially the small bottle that is included with the KWA package. I can’t say with confidence, but I have heard that air tool oil works too. I would like to hear of confirmation of this. Guinea pig, anyone?
If you find that a magazine isn’t holding gas, find the leak. The simplest way to do this is to fill the magazine with gas and hold it submerged in water. Watch for bubbles escaping at a certain point of the magazine. Rotate the magazine so you can observe all angles until you are 100% confident you have located the source of the leak. The most straightforward way to fix the leak is to disassemble the magazine and isolate the seal in question. Soak this seal in a bath of silicone oil overnight. Wipe off excess oil and reassemble. Test. If you are having further problems you can either replace the seal with an OEM or aftermarket part (depending on the specific part) or use blue RTV to fix the leak.
Make sure all moving parts are lubricated. The plastic nozzle assembly can use generous amounts of silicone oil to ensure smooth operation. Clean up any excess oil. The tracks on the frame that the slide… er, slides… along should be greased. I use automotive white lithium grease. It is temperature-change and debris resistant. Every few games/fielding I clean out the grease and reapply.
Inspect all springs for wear and decrease in flexibility. Check all parts for cracks or breaks, especially the high-stress areas around the hammer and chamber.
As always, you should clean any visible signs of dirt and debris from the PTP. Dry off any moisture to prevent rust and corrosion. It’s a good idea to oil the metal parts, especially before long-term storage. Just be sure to heed my earlier warning about petroleum-based products.
Reassembly from field-strip is basically the reverse. Holding the slide upside down, insert the barrel muzzle-first into the frame, slide in at an angle, then lay flat and pull back to abut with the chamber/nozzle assembly. Insert the recoil guide rod with spring already attached. This is where it’s a bit tricky. I prefer to push the rod all the way in, with the extra part sticking out of the front of the slide. I grasp this part of the rod and hold. I ensure the barrel is perfectly lined up in its spot then slowly let the rod back to rest in its position underneath.
Next, take the assembled upper and slide it into place on the receiver. Pull it all the way to the back and locked position, as though it had just fired the last round in the magazine. It’s ok to use the slide lock to hold it. If you encounter any problems sliding it on, make sure the recoil rod is in the correct place. If it juts slightly forward a few millimeters, it will self-correct later. Now, rotate the take-down lever back into its locked position BEFORE you release the slide. Otherwise, it’ll all go flying off (happened to me the first time I went through training). Ensure the action works properly and smoothly. Test fire a few rounds. It’s a good idea to test the slide lock works on an empty magazine. Now your PTP should be fully assembled and good to go.
IX. Additional Notes
a. Known/Encountered Issues
There are some known issues with the M9 PTP, a few of which have been addressed already.
I have previously alluded to the de-cocker breaking. A bit of research has shown me that there are more than a few other users with this problem. Allizard of KWA stated that there is no known issue here, but I disagree as both of my M9s have this issue. I have not taken the time to look at what exactly is broken and therefore do not know what part needs to be replaced. I will in the near future, though. Again, this is not a significant issue for me, but it is an issue nonetheless.
The biggest issue with the magazine is the base plate is attached by two very thin tabs. Due to the weak metal, these are very easily broken off, leading to the base plate coming off. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal outside of aesthetics. However, I experienced a by-product of this issue when reloading in the heat of combat; I slammed the magazine in too hard, causing it to jut into the chamber and snapping off the feed ramp. This would have been prevented by the base plate stopping the magazine from extending the few extra millimeters. KWA is aware of this issue and will fix your magazines if you submit a ticket with the help desk on their website. Be aware that you will have to pay to ship the magazine(s) to them, but not for the fix.
Also, I have snapped the small nub on the opposite end of the spring from the feeder. One step in the magazine disassembly is to depress this nub and slide the base plate off. One day, while messing around, I dropped a magazine from the pistol and let it land on the floor of my apartment (carpeted wood). It may have been the particular angle, but the force of the hefty magazine forced the plate to effectively “guillotine” the nub and send the plate flying off. Ironically, the thin metal tabs are still fine, but the plate will no longer stay on. Although part of the feeder, it is not affected otherwise. This part is made of plastic, so be ware that dropping your magazine to the floor could cause this damage. I believe a stronger metal could prevent this. I don’t consider this a major issue as it is generally not recommended letting your GBB magazine drop to the floor, regardless of make.
b. Personal Observations
It is recommended that you use high-quality .25g BBs with these pistols, and the PTP/NS2 platform in general.
I have found no noteworthy differentiation between the standard M9 and the Tactical version, outside of the accessory rail. I have even gone as far as exchanging the slide and barrel assembly between the two frames with no differences found.
While KWA stands firm on their disapproval of propane, I have used it almost exclusively, with regular addition of silicone oil, to no detrimental effect. I would not recommend this for someone whose pistol is still within the warranty period.
A KWA staff member on their forum mentioned that there have been active updates, implemented subtly over time. This could explain various discrepancies amongst the M9 consumers. I do not know what, exactly, has been changed or when. Supposedly there is no measureable difference in performance between these changes.
Overall, I am very pleased with this pistol. The field performance has been outstanding. I think this easily contends with the venerable Tokyo Marui GBB pistol line. It has its issues, but I cannot name any airsoft product that doesn’t. Postconsumer support from the manufacturer is superb and, in my eyes, sets the standard for the entire industry. I would recommend this pistol, or any other KWA or PTP product, to anyone.
It is my plan to obtain an ATP, KWA’s PTP version of the Glock 17, sometime soon. I hope that they will eventually release a version of the Glock 19 as well. I traded away my old one and they no longer make straight copies of the Glock series, which is a whole story in itself.
Thank you for reading my review! Please leave a comment, positive or constructive.
Note: Photos and additional information will be added in the near future.
Edited by Kraut, 29 February 2012 - 03:14 PM.