When TAG Innovations released their initial promotional video a few years ago, the Airsoft world immediately took notice of what could rightfully be called a game changer. It’s a term that’s almost constantly used but rarely true, however with TAG rounds… It’s changed the face of the MilSim community.
TAG rounds are not without their controversial moments though, stories of TM SCAR stocks being blown apart at Blue Fox II (I was right there man… it didn’t go down quite like that!) to certain situations involving a notorious duo and a van with apparently a built in cinema entertainment system!
Putting aside the inevitable stories of TAGs blowing people away, let’s get onto the reality of it… TAGs can be unpleasant to be on the receiving end of but certainly not dangerous.
They weigh bugger all and if used at the ranges and in the way they’re designed for, virtually harmless. I’d been using TAGs for a few years previously before getting back into the game, but due to my financial situation I couldn’t justify lobbing £6 grenades at people… recently that has changed and it appears I’ve caught the right moment to step back into the world of high end pyrotechnics.
TAG recently expanded their lineup with a couple of newly designed shells and a revamped filling station…. the FiST 2. Along side the new The Evo-Pro, the HPA and the Multi-Range Shell, this provides a completely revamped and improved launching system for TAG rounds.
Not being into HPA, the HPA shell was discounted from my thoughts… I have none of the required kit to load and shoot HPA so it’s a non-starter…
The multi-range shell did pique my interest enough to briefly consider it, but I’m more than happy banging out shells at max velocity, using the M203 leaf sight and different delay shells to best attack a given target. Variable power shells would mean another factor to consider when choosing how to aim the launcher and given that the rounds retail for £60 for ten plus postage, I didn’t want too many variables.
That left only one choice, without wanting to buy one of the older shells second hand i opted to pre-order the new Evo-Pro shell from Airsoft World. Doing this kinda meant that I had to invest in a filling station as well, although I’d had success with using Guarder power-up gas in normal first gen shells a couple of years ago… CO2 was always the more consistent option from what I’d seen. Also it would fit my G&P M203 without modifications as were needed with the old shells.
Now as much as it’s not the end of the world having to modify something, certainly if the pay off is worth it… After a while of having to chop things apart and sand them down to fit you do kind of crave a bit of “plug and play” simplicity.
Soon after fitting the G&P M203 onto my Marui MWS I attended one of Stirling Airsoft’s Roleplay events at Caerwent, pretty much the best testing ground for TAG rounds due to its large size and open ground between objectives. Engaging an enemy without TAG support at Caerwent can soon leave you outgunned, generally this force multiplier can double your effective range and gives you a way of engaging certain in-game vehicles at the same time.
So how do you go about launching TAGs at people and blowing off arms, stocks and doors? Well, the TAG launching solution is made from three key parts that work with your weapon of choice.
This is a shell comprised of a rifled barrel that the round sits inside, this in turn being in front of a gas reservoir that has both an inlet valve and outlet for the gas you are using to propel your shell. The majority of the shells resemble an oversized shotgun shell/40mm flare round and are relatively simple to load and maintain. There are other all in one launching systems but they’re less common due to their overall price and slightly non-realistic aesthetics.
This is the actual power behind the shell, I used to use a high powered gas such as Guarder Power Up however the overly bulky can and cost/availability made me look at the CO2 option this time round which is provided by TAG’s FiST 2 filling station. The FiST 2 uses 12 gram CO2 capsules to provide a high powered propulsion to your launcher.
The fun part, also the part that will end up costing you the most money. TAG offer four main pyrotechnic projectiles, each with their own features.
- Reaper – timed/airburst detonation with a 3.5 or 4.5 second fuse, flash-powder and frag charge.
- Archangel – impact only detonation with a flash-powder and frag charge.
- Hybrid 25-DP – Hybrid Impact/Timed round which will explode on impact with a hard surface such as a wall or vehicle or detonate after a 6 second delay.
- Vellum – Smoke round that will put out a surprisingly large volume of white smoke from a small round. Identified by it’s all black
There are also a few other rounds designed for the TAG system, the “Pecker” which is an inert training round… Certainly useful for getting a feel for how the launcher fires and also another training type round, the “Paladin” chalk powder marking round which contains a non-toxic dyed marking powder.
The final one which is the most interesting to me, the “Masterkey”… A canister type round that holds 75 BBs within a foam slug, designed to deform and jettison it’s load in a similar way to a giant shotgun. I’m not sure how people would feel about being hit in the face from one of these but I’d love to see how they perform in game.
So starting with the core element, the launcher shell… I’d opted for the Evo-Pro based upon its ability to use CO2… this being the most convenient power source due to CO2 capsules being small in size and easy to carry. The additional benefit being that CO2 can be incredibly powerful, TAGs needing a significant kinetic “kick” to arm the projectile and get it to explode… There’s nothing more annoying than a misfired TAG (Thanks BTW to the guy who soft loaded a hybrid… It worked flawlessly when I shot it back at you 😂).
The shell as mentioned is made from two distinct parts… a metal base which contains the CO2 reservoir and a plastic rifled section that houses your projectile. The reservoir is filled using the FiST filling station and once full, is ready for a TAG round to be loaded into the barrel.
Loading a round into the shell is easy… simply push a round into the front, allowing the rifling to engage with the shell. Once loaded it’s ready to be stored securely either in your launcher or a suitable pouch.
I’d recommend having the safety engaged on your launcher at all times, with TAGs it’s important that you treat them with a degree of caution… Having one ND inside a vehicle or into your foot at point blank isn’t an experience I’d recommend to anyone.
A firm pull on the trigger should result in sending your round down range with a tell-tale whisper of smoke to let you know it’s armed and ready to blow.
The Evo-Pro shell has worked flawlessly so far, having fired 26 live shots and a dozen empty tubes through it I’d say that it’s durability of the O-rings is far above its older brother. With anything that’s designed for such a tough job, it’s worth keeping an eye on things… O-rings will inevitably need replacing but keep it lubricated and checked if you don’t want any mid-game surprises.
The barrels are replaceable but having launched close to 300 tags based upon my previous orders (fuck… that’s a lot of money!) I’ve yet to see a barrel that needs replacing, the launcher itself should help contain the pressure… much like a shell casing in a firearm’s breech.
The shell’s firing system needs to be manually reset using a thin tool in the middle of the “percussion cap” looking release valve, I personally keep a small Allen-key specifically for this job.
There’s not much else I can say about the shell, it works as expected and is made to a high quality. My original shells served me well for a few years and I can’t see this one being any different.
The FiST filling station is filled using a single 12g CO2 capsule, each one will give you around 4/5 shots on full power and another 2/3 risky short shots. I’d advocate purging the capsules after 4 shots to ensure that you get a consistent trajectory and no misfires from your launcher.
The FiST has a purge safety valve, however it’s important that you aim this away from yourself as I know at least one dickhead (definitely not me 😂) who managed to vent a whole capsule into their eyeballs whilst checking it’s function.
He capsules also have a tendency to “stick” within the FiST, make sure that you’ve got a completely empty capsule before emptying it out or you might end up with a small metal object going through your window/ceiling/face.
I have noticed a deformation in the FiST’s capsule O-ring but this happened early on and I’ve yet to notice any issues. Worth keeping an eye on though and spares are available if needed.
The FiST is well presented and certainly well made. It’s a simple enough object for the money but it’s built like a brick, rated to hold up to 850psi… Exactly why you want from something holding 6 litres of compressed gas into something the size of a battery.
With practice you should be able to rattle off a steady “3 rounds a minute in any weather” using the FiST and Evo-Pro shell, a rate of fire that’d make even Sharpe proud.
Moving onto the Reapers, the most commonly used TAG projectiles (certainly in the UK). I ordered a few boxes of both 3.5 and 4.5 second delay rounds. The idea being that after a few shots I’d be able to use a bit of DOPE (Data On Previous Engagements to you non-nerds) to work out what round to use.
I found that by using the 100m mark on my leaf sight and 3.5 second delays I was able to get a shot accurately on target at 95/100m away, the 4.5 second delay fuse pushed out to around 120/130m but with a little more elevation needed (around 150m on the Leaf Sight worked well).
That was about the limit for the normal reapers, luckily I’d managed to find an unarmed hybrid round and also had a couple of Vellum smokes that I’d held onto for a couple of years. The launcher itself is more than capable of putting the rounds out to 160m+ but the short delay on the reapers will cause air-bursts if you try to push out much further than 120m.
The hybrids or Archangel impacts would be the logical option as the hybrids have a 6 second fuse… my next ammo restock will almost certainly be hybrids due to their ability to be punched out to a longer range or detonated against hard cover at closer ranges.
As for how the Reapers work? Well that’s the subject of a coming article. I’ve had one apart before and they’re surprisingly simple but if launched with enough force are pretty damn reliable.
Speaking of reliability, it was a bugbear of mine with the older reapers and shells… I had maybe a 10/15% misfire rate with a lot of hang-fires where the round would be stuck in a fully loaded shell and the release valve stuck precariously halfway with no safe option but to keep it pointed in a safe direction until it fired.
Now this could have been down to the shells themselves (in the case of misfires) or the older design of shell, it could have also been due to the gas used. I can however report that the new set up has had ZERO misfires so far, A record that I’m sure won’t last for ever but it’s certainly an improvement.
Accuracy? Well the TAG system is spin stabilised so it’s inherently accurate, that being said it’s such a relatively low mass projectile that you’d assume that the wind would soon knock it off course. I’ve seen TAGs aimed and successfully shot at small targets a long long way away, finding yourself up against someone with a bit of skill on their 40mm can often result in being completely outgunned. As an example, at Caerwent I took 3 shots in gusty wind (there was a yellow weather warning in effect that weekend) at a range of about 90m and got all three shots within roughly a 2 metre box… now that’s probably not far off the ability of the real 40mm launchers in service.
The main negative is the cost itself, they’re an expensive investment and keeping it fed with fresh rounds can end up with a bill in the hundreds by the end of a weekend game. Also there’s the lack of actual games you’re allowed TAGs, it wouldn’t be too bad if you were able to use them during your average game day (and some sites are pretty chill with TAG rounds) for the most part these end up being used at weekend games or being left in a box for 6 months.
Overall though, there isn’t much else that competes with firing off a grenade at long range and scoring a couple of kills, if only more people knew what a 5 metre kill radius looked like…