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TM P90 review

by Arnie

FN P-90 Review

Length: 504mm 
Weight: 2200g 


/ 300-hicap

Sorry blame the traffic – took a little too long getting
to the party, but better late than never. By now you have probably
read every P-90 review on the net (all 5 of them) and have read
the overwhelmingly positive statements made about this AEG.
Yet the P90 appear to be relatively unpopular judging by the
numbers at my local skirmish sites, and their common appearance
on the 2nd hand D’Boards.

got mine last year direct from Hong Kong, complete with 3 Hicap
magazine, 2 9.6V batteries, Systema FTK (Full Tune-up Kit) and
a KM TN barrel. Upon receiving it and subsequent testing I decided
to put pen to paper and write up my initial experiences with
the standard and upgraded weapon – without the hype of the initial
launch which I feel may have impaired the impartiality of some
of the early reviewers.

Reviewing the Airsoft P-90 would be impossible without
mentioning the history of the real steel version – well nearly.
Suffice it to say I am not going to cover it in detail except
to say the FN P-90 was designed and manufactured around a research
contract issued by NATO in response to their growing concerns
about the proliferation of body armour on the battlefield. The
resulting weapon, the P-90, was initially intended as a compact
weapon for crews, chefs etc… But its compact design, high accuracy
and high armour penetration have endeared it to the Special
Operations communities in the Western Hemisphere. If you want
to read more about the real steel FN-P90 do a web search, or
look to the other reviews – they go into more detail.

TM FN P-90 was initially announced just over 1 year ago, possibly
in response to its increased popularity following the real steels
appearance in James Bond: The World is Not Enough. Promising
a new gearbox design it was eagerly awaited, and uncommon for
the TM design and manufacture cycles took little over a year
to see the light of day (usual cycle is 1-2 years). This rapid
release was presumably due to TM wanting an unusual AEG for
their 10th Anniversary. Well they got it.

all about personal taste
That statement is highly applicable
to the P-90, and can probably explain its relatively limited
popularity. Comparisons can be immediately made with the ubiquitous
Steyr AUG. Both bullpup weapons, both with clear magazines,
both manufactured predominantly from polymers, and neither conforms
to ‘usually’ weapon designs.

the P90 looks like few other weapons. An SMG, the P90 is not
a classic bull pup weapon, with the trigger very much forward
on the weapon. The clear magazine is unusually placed on top
of the weapon. The flowing lines and organic curves on the AEG
will put off some people. The front grip and pistol grip are
a series of molded curves that fit very comfortably into the
hand. The selector switch is located horizontally just in front
of the trigger, with 3 positions (yes you guessed it; Safe,
Semi and Full auto). The moulded pistol grip is heavily intergraded
into the lower receiver and provides a very comfortable means
by which to carry the AEG. This flows back to the rear section
on the lower receiver, which houses all the working components.
The upper receiver comprises of an A type frame which houses
the barrel, red-dot sight, and weaver rail. With an overall
length of 504mm this highly compact weapon has very few points
on which to catch or hang up on foliage.

The weapon weighs 1900 grams empty, very light but
comparable to the real steel weapon. The weapon is made almost
entirely from plastic, with few metal components – except the
muzzle, red-dot sight and cocking handles.

upper receiver is constructed of ABS plastic (unlike the real
weapon), with usual TM attention to detail. There is a relative
lack of trademarks – possibly due to TM’s recent bust up with
Colt over the M16 series of AEGs. There is a 20mm weaver rail
mounted on the right side of the receiver – very useful for
fitting lasers, Surefires etc… Further to the optical sight
there are 2 sets of iron sights (catering for righties and lefties).

upper receiver houses the barrel and hop assembly – which are
spring loaded for easy access and cleaning. The cocking levers
are recreated accurately and are functional to the extent that
the spring back when pulled. The upper receiver is fully detachable
from the lower receiver care of the accurately reproduced take
down system. This is achieved by removing the magazine, and
pushing the take down button on the upper receiver – then pulling

lower receiver houses all the vital mechanical components: gearbox,
battery and trigger mechanism. All moulded ABS plastic, the
lower receiver is a clamshell design with both halved glued

gearbox is supposed to be a new design, labelled ‘Version 6.1’.
It is not a new design; rather it is an evolution of the Thompson
gearbox sharing most of the internal components with the only
difference being the position of the motor. One disappointment
is that the lower receiver is full of voids, this means it sounds
very hollow, and detracts somewhat from the realism.

With the cosmetic overview out the way, time look
at the operational details of this beauty. The battery essential
in operating the gun, is an 8.4V 600mah battery pack housed
in the butt of the P90 above the gearbox. Access to this compartment
is achieved by pressing a button on the bottom of the butt plate
then sliding it down wards and off. Simple insert and connect
the battery then replace the butt plate. Next you need a magazine
which is locked in by guiding it between the upper receivers
support struts, then locking it in place by pressing down on
the butt end of it.

bonus item on the P90 is the red dot sight, powered by 2 AAA
batteries that are housed within the sight itself. Secured in
their bay by a locking door. With 2 brightness settings, (one
for indoor and darker conditions and one for daylight conditions),
it is very versatile. However the sight optics have been tinted,
which reduces the light gathering capabilities of the scope
and its small bore limit its effectiveness. The power switch
is located on the underside of the upper receiver. This location
makes changing the brightness setting difficult with a magazine
locked in, since the gap is abut 11mm – a bit too small for
my fingers.

With the weapon primed it ready to test my new toy.
Setting the selector to ‘1’ selected semi, and a pull of the
trigger ushered forth a loud crack and sent a BB flying into
the ground – forgot to adjust the HOP. The HOP is accessed via
a small door located on the lower receiver above the pistol
grip. Sliding back the door and twisting the knob adjust the
HOP accordingly. Good news is that the HOP unit is very ridge
and after putting 2 magazines through the AEG the HOP was still
dead on.

setting the HOP the AEG was accurate out to 45 metres with maximum
range of about 55 metres. With the semi tests out the way, full
auto trials followed. As with semi everything worked well, however
accuracy did suffer possibly due to the floating barrel in the
upper receiver. One thing of concern was the occasional double
feeding, which could be exacerbated with dodgy ammo or a dirty
barrel resulting in gearbox damage.

of Fire (RoF) was high, which with the 300 round hicaps and
EG1000 could lead to ammo shortages at inopportune moment in
the middle of a firefight. However like the AUG this weapon
has clear magazines that allow you to monitor the amounts of
ammo you have left. This feature has been hyped again and again
by AUG fans, although on the AUG it is of little use since the
magazine is buried in your armpit so to check your ammo you
need to remove the rifle from your shoulder – making you vulnerable.
No such problem on the P90 as the magazine is right in front
of you eyes!!

P90 is not the quietest AEG in the world, since the gearbox
is located right next to the ear when the weapon is shouldered.
The hollow clamshell body also allows sound to resonate inside
it, invariably leading to an increase in noise.

So the
first test run was a success and the P90 proved to be accurate,
lightweight, highly maneuverable and with a high rate of fire
– a very desirable weapon it seems. But I have concerns about
this weapons viability as a woodland weapon and about its long-term

in paradise
Comparisons to the AUG have been made
previously and I will do so again. The AUGs despite being
having long barrels, high RoF’s and being well built,
have several inherent problems. These develop over a period
of time and in most cases render the AUG totally unreliable.
They are related to the HOP mechanism, and caused by repeated
damage inflicted upon the Hop unit by stripping the AUG
using its quick take down mechanism. This damage culminates
in the HOP unit breaking in 2 at worst. These problems
could be repeated on the P90 as it shares a similar quick
takedown design with the AUG. However, only operating
the mechanism when absolutely necessary will reduce wear
and ensure durability.

magazine design is a further possible saviour, since the
magazines on the P90 will never be knocked, pushed or
slammed into the HOP unit accidentally during combat.
Unlike the AUG where the magazines are open to all kinds
of abuse, since they are located on the underside of the
AEG. On top of the previously mentioned double feeding,
the red-dot sight does not appear to be exceedingly well
built and may break over time.

of the petty mechanical issues the P90 has a couple of
operational and practical issues. First off combat magazine
changes are rather awkward due the size of the magazines,
and their location on the gun under the sight. The magazines
are actually the main problem with the AEG, 250 mm long
and 50 mm wide they are simply too big for 99% of the
vests, pouches and tactical rigs on the market.

standard battery size in the gun is also problematic,
an 8.4V 600mah battery lasts about one third of a day
– hardly ideal for woodland combat. These issues are less
applicable to CQB scenarios where less ammunition is required
per game and time intervals between games are spent in
a safe zone with battery charging facilities.

As with most TM AEGs there are an expanding number
of aftermarket accessories available for the P90. Stock TM accessories
are limited to the Tracer unit, Pro Silencer, standard and Hicap
magazines. Great, really imaginative. But the design of the
P90 limits aftermarket accessories, since there are few modular
parts that can be replaced like the M4’s. One immediate accessory
CQB users should invest in is the Surefire tactical light, go
with the 6P series and invest in the pressure pad. Then mount
it to the weaver rail with a 20mm scope mount – it adds a whole
new dimension to the tactical look.

more imaginative manufacturers like Systema and DTP have slowly
been releasing several further parts and accessories like silencers
(AS and Systema), Triple Sided Scope mounts (DTP), Metal Upper
receivers (DTP), Full Tune Up kits (M100 & M120S – Systema),
Tight bore barrels (KM), Battery holders, Sling swivels (First)
and Butt extenders. Not bad, and expect more to come.

are catered for by Blackhawk (see BlackHawk
P90 sling
article), Airsoft
, Guarder
and Chalker.

Well overall this AEG has lived up to the reputation
set by its real steel counterpart. Truly versatile, at home
in both woodland and CQB environments, with its relatively long
barrel and compact size making it more than a match for the
current range of AEGs and would suit newbies and experienced
players alike. However this review can only outline the technical
position of the P90 and my reasons for buying it. Since
it is a rather unusual AEG personal taste will count as much
in technical competency when it comes to buying the P90.

HK$1500 (£130) the P90 is cheaper than the M4 series of
weapons, and some of the MP5 series. This is truly outstanding
considering its amongst TM’s latest releases, a bargain buy
that should not be missed – oh wait that’s HK street prices,
the P90 retails in the UK for a average price of £225.
Still cheaper than most other, older AEGs.

As an
above average stock AEG, it’s usable but not overly suited for
long range engagement in woodland combat. Hence I bought a set
of upgrades to improve upon the power and range of the AEG.
So installing the Systema Full Tune up Kit (FTK), KM High accuracy
barrel and trying to get the 9.6V batteries to fit was my next
series of jobs.

upgrade sequence.
So starting off the upgrade party involves
stripping down the weapon. But first examining the upgrades;
the FTK includes Standard Helical gears, M100 spring, Metal
bushings, High speed cylinder set, polycarbonate piston etc…

involves taking the lower receiver and removing the butt plate.
This exposes the gearbox retaining plate, which is held in place
by 2 screws. Remove these and push the plate up and pull it
out. Then gently knock the receiver (over your lap) and whole
gearbox should fall out. Simple. The gearbox itself is highly
modular, split into 3 sections: Trigger unit, Motor unit and
Cylinder unit (houses the gears, spring cylinder, piston etc…).
Follow the instructions enclosed in the FTK to separate the
3 modules, and then upgrading is easy – provided you have done
it before. The 6.1 gearbox is the easiest gearbox I have had
the pleasure of upgrading, the modular design makes things exceptionally
easy and painless. My FTK uses the M100 spring, which I retained
due to the short barrel and the clarified rules governing muzzle

replacing the gearbox in the AEG, I test fired it with a 8.4V
600maH battery. RoF was noticeably lower than before the upgrade
– due to the M100 spring. But muzzle velocity increased to 335
fps, with a noticeable increase in range – up to 10 metres or
so. Knowing there would be some drop off in RoF I ordered 2
custom 9.6V batteries. Both are an J-shape, held together with
a metal reinforcing rod running through them. Now I have already
mentioned the limited battery space, and to get these beauties
to fit requires some serious modification work that is not for
the faint hearted.

you have 2 options here, keep the fuse or loose it. Usual risks
apply for the removing the fuse (like damaging the gearbox),
I chose to keep the fuse but had to loose the fuse box. I made
an improvised fuse box out of some heatshrink tubing. Modifications
have to be made to the gearbox retaining plate, battery bay
and butt plate to fit the new batteries. Ideally you will want
a Dremel tool, otherwise a saw and file will do. First off remove
the gearbox retaining plate and cut it in half – removing the
lower portion of the plate. Then cut a small portion of the
remaining retaining plate at a 45 degree angle of the right
side and remove the small plastic clip the keeps the wires tidy.
Next up I had to stuff the wires and improvised fuse holder
down the right side of the gearbox well behind the retaining
plate – this is very time consuming but is doable, try removing
the gearbox and guiding it in with the wires taped to the side.

up I had to file the ribs on the back of the butt plate down
so they were flush with the backing. The difficult bit follows
now – you have to remove a ridge that runs down the sides and
across the end of the battery bay. If you fail to remove this
the 9.6V battery won’t fit at all. Now I removed it using a
heated screwdriver burining it off – dangerous not only because
of the possibility of burns but also from the fumes I inhailed!!
Actually I don’t know of another way to get rid of the ridge
– a long file, the Dremel tool extender, a chisel?? I don’t
know, all I know is my mad method worked. Now all that was left
was to insert the battery – still not that easy since the battery
comes with wires that are over 100 mm’s long!! I tucked the
wires round the side of the gearbox and the connector behind
the retaining plate.

noticeably increased the RoF, beyond standard levels, a pleasing
result. Now it was time to address the accuracy of the P90.
I installed a KM tight bore barrel and muzzle velocity increased
to 342 fps range was extended by about 5 metres, with groupings
tightening up considerably.

modifications have made the AEG much more versatile and very
potent skirmishing weapon. It has also made it a very attractive
choice for woodland warriors. The usual practical issues with
magazines apply, and a further problem surfaced concerning the
durability of the battery leads.

I was servicing my P90 after a skirmish I took the battery out
of the AEG and noticed the insulation around one of the wires
was cut right down to the copper flex. So I have now strengthened
the cabling by repairing the damage with electrical tape then
covering both with heatshrink tubing to provide added protection.
I presume the damage was caused by a small block on the gearbox
in the lower chamber. The upgrade too just over 90 minutes,
and was a learning process since I have more or less exclusively
worked on Version 3 gearbox.

I initially loathed the P90, thinking it was over hyped,
and unsuitable for woodland combat (my preferred playing area).
When I first saw one in the flesh at Combat
I was not overly impressed. Its receivers sounded
hollow, and the P90 I saw had an external battery bag (yuk!!).
However it grew on me, and I decided to order one from Hong
Kong to decide for myself – a decision I have not regretted.
I recognized almost immediately that it could be an effective
woodland weapon that would be suited to my playing style.

entire design of the weapon, its clean lines and few protrusions
makes it ideal for people, like me, that have a tendency to
take the stealthy option and crawl through brambles and bushes
to avoid detection. Plus the very fact it’s a bull pup makes
it more attractive for that method of movement, since all the
weight of the AEG is behind your wrist and on your arm making
movement easier and much less of a hassle. That’s the woodland
opinion, for CQB its design is also good news as the distance
between the muzzle and the trigger is very short (60 mm). This
opposed to an M4 where the distance is about 300mm. This difference
in distance is important, because of the amount of weapon you
have to get round a corner to bear on a target. So with the
P90 its minimised hence reducing target designation time and
chances of detection meaning you are less likely to get killed!!

this AEG is a killer – light, accurate, very manoeuvrable and
with good range. In standard form though the P90 is best left
to CQB sites where the small battery will not be a problem.
If you can get over the design of the weapon then this AEG should
be your next buy – if not then look to either the PDW or MP5
series, but nether weapons can compare technically to the P90
or with the P90’s fantastic ergonomics and weight distribution.

Having used the P90 for 7 skirmishes now I can
confirm it accuracy and usability. It’s a tough and robust weapon
that is highly usable in both woodland and CQB environments,
outranging my longer barrelled M4 Commando.

issues have arisen with the P90 though, primarily an ammo feed
problem that affects all my magazines. The magazine will feed
half or a third of a mag then stop. I have to physically hit
the magazines to get the ammo running again. Also during a day
at Sopley
the rear portion of the right iron sight broke off – presumably
after I knocked the gun against a wall. Not great.

I also
managed to crawl 50 meters through a small stream with the P90,
immersing the battery and gearbox several times, along with
all the magazines in my thigh pouches. It still worked, although
the Hop was way off. The magazines however required a complete
strip down, clean and rebuild before they started working again.
But thankfully it was a straightforward process.

overall it’s a 9/10 weapon, ideal as a primary weapon providing
you have the necessary pouches to hold the magazines. Possible
additions in future might be the AS P90 silencer and a slightly
longer barrel. But in its current format I am very happy with
the AEG.

on this review in the forums

Sunday, March 9, 2003 3:16 PM
Copyright 2003 ArniesAirsoft

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