This is a guest post written by my buddy, CASES4CASES:
It had been on my list to pick up another air rifle. So when the SIG MCX Semi-automatic air rifle in .177 caliber became available for pre-order at a discounted price I put down the cash, crossed it off the list, and stuck it in the back of my mind due to the estimated several months wait. Well, today I was surprised by the arrival of the air rifle – nearly a month early. Apparently it caught SIG off-guard, as well. . .
After a fruitless search of their site for extra magazines — I had only the one it shipped with — and any other air gun accouterments, I called them for assistance. The gentleman I spoke with was quite surprised that I had received the rifle already and expressed that he believed customers were not supposed to receive them until next month. Regardless, extra mags and other accessories are not currently available, which is annoying but not unbearable, given it’s an air gun. SIG does plan to add a new area to their website to host all air gun-related items.
Fortunately, the correct CO2 cartridges are easy to find and the MCX does come with a mag, so out came the box cutter, off went the shipping box, and I was left with a very fancy, shiny, graphics-heavy air rifle box.
While the design on the outside of the box does a great job of conveying that this is not a real firearm, but more of a “dangerous toy,” the inside is an impressive display of tight-fitting Styrofoam that fully protects the rifle. Is this over-engineered packaging a result of the product being made in Japan? Maybe. And if so, I’m okay with that. Heck, it’s nicer than the packaging for most “real” rifles.
Picking up the air rifle, my initial reaction was, “Wow! This thing has some weight! My AR-15s don’t weigh this much, do they?…I hope.” The MCX comes in at around 8 pounds with the CO2 cylinder, which is heavy for air rifles, but decent for tactical training.
The rifle feels good when shouldered. Due to the ergonomics and balance it feels a bit like a SCAR to me, which I find strange. However, it is very comfortable and easy to manipulate.
The aluminum upper and lower receivers are combined, then split vertically into a left receiver and a right receiver, then re-assembled. The finish of the aluminum feels nice and the weight helps with balance of the rifle. The combination of metals and plastics throughout the MCX is just about right.
However, one thing that already bothers me is the faux-ambi setup. The selector and charging handle are ambidextrous but the magazine release is right-handed with a fake button on the left side. This reduces its effectiveness as a good training rifle and especially if you run a truly ambidextrous AR.
All of the controls (selector, mag release, charging handle, trigger) are sloppy. They have lots of play in them. They rattle. I think SIG could have done a better job here. The selector has a good, resounding feedback click. The charging handle has a particularly short throw — another aspect that diminishes the air rifle’s ability as a training rifle. The two-stage trigger gets the job done, but is has a lot of take-up and creep and is, frankly, just plain loose and wobbly. Okay…honestly, the trigger sucks. It’s probably the second worst part of the rifle. I do like that SIG incorporated an over-sized trigger guard, but with the sloppy trigger I’d prefer a straight trigger guard that is closer to the bottom of the trigger. The forward assist, shell deflector, takedown pins, and dust cover are all part of the mold and are not functional.
The magazine well is a bit rough and houses four ribs (two on each side) that correspond with groves on the magazine. To my surprise, the magazine inserts quite well and locks audibly and with little slop. However, the magazine won’t drop free. I have to yank on it to get it out and the rib/groove alignment seems to be the point of lock-up. I’m hoping another magazine might perform better.
Speaking of the magazine; I’m going to cut to the chase. It’s the worst part of this air rifle system. I was drawn to it initially because of the 30-round, semi-automatic pellet capability. I was skeptical of the rotary-style system within the magazine. Holding one in my hands confirmed my suspicions. The magazine feels like a very cheap McDonald’s toy…from the 50’s. I guarantee this is the first part that fails in the rifle.
To load the magazine, the 30-round internal belt is removed and pellets are inserted into the belt. The air rifle comes with a pellet seating tool that helps to ensure the pellets are correctly and securely within the belt. I like the tool, but it’s one more thing to keep track of.
Once loaded, the belt must be inserted back into the magazine in a very specific way, and is only to be moved in a clockwise direction. Moving the belt in a counter-clockwise direction can cause, “serious damage to the magazine.” The frustrating part of this directive is that there is no distinction of what position the magazine needs to be in when determining clockwise and counter-clockwise. Essentially I have a 50/50 chance of causing “serious damage” to my magazine, right out of the box. And I think it’s fair to say that loading a magazine is no quick matter.
Forward of the receiver and cloaked in a suit of keymod attachment holes sits the polymer handguard. It’s basic, secured well, and feels good. I appreciate that it is not over-engineered. A basic fore-grip sits on the bottom of the handguard and can be moved or removed as desired.
The faux suppressor very prominently extends about 7.5” past the handguard and has some mass to it. It also has those “pokey things” on the end cap, if you’re into that. SIG decided to use a different finish on the can, but not the cap, which has a similar finish to the receiver. I think it would look a bit more cohesive if all the metal parts had the same or very similar finishes, especially since the vast majority of the plastic components match nicely.
A 1913 rail extends down the full length of the handguard and receiver. The forward half is plastic; the aft half aluminum. I’m not confident that the fore and aft sections line up. If that’s the case, the included iron sights may end up being throw-a-ways.
Flip-up iron sights come installed on the rifle and are fairly decent. They are made of both plastic and metal parts and are relatively heavy, with a small and large aperture. Included is a front and rear sight adjustment tool.
The pistol grip is narrow and mostly smooth with two patches of texture on the palm swells. SIG made a good decision when they designed this air rifle to accept most aftermarket AR platform grips. I believe that the one included is sufficient and I won’t be swapping it out for another.
At the rear of the receiver begins the stock/CO2 cartridge housing. Depress a button on the side of the stock near the receiver and the entire stock slides backwards and off the air rifle. Simply screw in a 90 gram (or 88 gram, depending on which part of the manual you’re reading) CO2 cylinder into the back of the receiver, slide the stock back over the cylinder and into the locked position and you’re in business. The stock is minimalist and lacks some basic features. The stock is fixed — no adjustments allowed. And there are two faux QD holes. A QD will fit into them nicely, but they lack the locking recesses so they pop right out. Why not make them functional? One feature I do enjoy is the rubber butt pad. It’s a nice touch and is thin, given that the air rifle has negligible recoil.
The overall weight distribution and balance in this air rifle is excellent. This was achieved by the placement of the faux suppressor at the front, the aluminum receiver in the middle, and finally the 90 gram CO2 cylinder at the end.
I had a few minutes to put some shots down range with this air rifle. It performed adequately and responded well. The shots are very audible and there is a nice, small recoil bump. The faux suppressor creates quite a large shot signature in the form of expelled condensation that appears white. Accuracy rating TBD, but 5-shot groups at 20 yards with the iron sights, shooting from unsupported standing position look something like this.
The SIG MCX air rifle has the SIG stamp on it so my expectations were automatically above-average. However, I have to keep reminding myself this is only an air rifle. A $200 air rifle, at that. And for the money, I think it’s a great plinking or even training air rifle.
I look forward to more time on the range with the MCX air rifle. Expect a full shooting review of some of SIG’s new air guns and accessories by Jeremy S. in the coming months.