Always one for an oddball RIF, Steve T tries out Krytac’s AEG version of the Vector to find out if it makes him KRISS kross or KRISS happy.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve only ever seen two KRISS Vectors in the field. The first was on my team and got fecked off every time I greeted him with, “KRISS! Hello!” – and who could blame him in retrospect – while the second had a complete systems malfunction from brand new. I love oddball options and thanks to our friends at Fire Support, now I can find out more about Krytac’s flagship model and share my thoughts with you.
There are precious few airsoft RIFs that are manufactured by their real steel counterpart but the KRISS Vector is one of them. Krytac is a subsidiary of California’s KRISS USA – formerly Transformational Defense Industries (TDI) – and the resultant RIF is every bit as accurate as you’d hope. Established in 2013, the firm describes itself as, “A cutting-edge product development team of the firearms manufacturer”. And on this evidence, who are we to argue?
Americans might love to buy into a homegrown success story but the KRISS Group actually started life in the neutral country of Switzerland, albeit that the Vector for which the company has become known was developed by KRISS USA.
In airsoft terms, Krytac has enjoyed massive success in its domestic market thanks to a reputation for out of the box performance, solid build and reliability that puts most marques to shame. The result is a reputation for rewarding customers willing to make a slightly bigger initial investment with no need for follow-up funding just to be everyday functional.
But while the Kytac brand has become almost ubiquitous on the other side of the pond, it’s still a relatively rare sight in the UK. That’s hard to understand based on the strength of the Vector on test here. Having been impressed with both their workhorse Trident M4s and this SMG, it’s a name that we think deserves more love this side of the Atlantic.
THE REAL DEAL
KRISS first announced the Vector in 2007, with a more compact version to follow in 2011 featuring a lower receiver that made it easier to change calibres between 9x19mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.
The Vector redirects blowback energy down and away from the shooter, reducing felt recoil and muzzle climb through counter-balancing mass. This is created by the gun’s bolt and slider mechanism that, rather than moving rearward into a buffer tube, rides in a channel in the slider, pushing rearward then downward in an arc and driving the recoil down toward the ground.
The Gen II – upon which this AEG Krytac is based – came in 2015, featuring a redesigned pistol grip, trigger and safety lever. Factory Cerakote coatings included Olive Drab, FDE and Combat Grey, as well as Alpine White – recently released as a limited edition RIF by Krytac.
While the SMG is only available to military and law enforcement – as adopted by both the Royal Thai army and police – American citizens can purchase semi-automatic versions that utilise magazines from the Glock 22 or 31, with Italy getting compatibility with the ever popular G17.
ALL THE SMALL THINGS
I’m the first to enjoy an unconventional weapon and the KRISS Vector definitely fits that bill. I’ve been told it looks like a nail gun, which I found easy to rise above. But I found it harder to ignore when a good friend pointed out that it basically resembles a pistol carbine kit. You got me there. Put the Vector alongside a Glock carbine and… yeah. They’re kissing cousins.
The Vector is about the same size as many other SMGs, but it manages to feel smaller than most. That’s either a pro or con, depending on what you want to get out of it. For instance, it excels in close quarters and could even make a brilliant sniper sidearm, but it feels tiny – not just small – compared to most assault rifles. And while it might be just a couple of centimetres shorter than other SMGs, it feels much smaller in real terms.
Where rivals might offer a broader range of easy adjustments to the stock, the Vector demands that you reposition four hex bolts for a total of less than 3cm gain. It makes next to no difference whilst also being a pain to carry out, but at least it’s one-and-done.
Even though it shoots straight and true in operation, I felt like I had to hunch over the stock, with the cramped posture reducing my natural line of sight down the barrel. But while the Vector’s diminutive stature disappoints 6-foot tall me, if you’re a player of smaller stature, then the KRISS should be right at the top of your shortlist (groan!) If your budget will stretch to it, the Vector really is a phenomenal piece of kit.
THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE
Once you get beyond the form factor and diminutive frame, how does the KRISS Vector feel in the hand? Absolutely beautiful! These are the production values for which Krytac has deservedly become renowned in the airsoft market – and we’d suggest even more so on this flagship model. Every interface feels wonderfully KRISSp – pun completely intended. From the safety at the top of the rail to the forward fire select and mag release, everything just feels so precise.
Admittedly, there’s no getting around the fact that you’ll have to retrain your mechanical processes to operate the Vector on instinct, but my goodness the controls feel so good when you do! I’ve never finger-blasted the real thing, but I can’t imagine it would feel any better than this. The Vector makes a lot of AEGs feel like toys by comparison.
The Vector’s interface is unlike anything that’s come before, but that’s kinda the point – KRISS’ revolutionary approach to an SMG was borne out of a desire to take everything back to first principles to create a platform that it believes is demonstrably better than anything that came before.
CONVENIENT, NOT CONVENTIONAL
The mag release to the left of the well divides opinion, but it falls perfectly under my supporting thumb so that my hand can easily pull the polymer mag out. Its location has drawn criticism from many users though – and I’d guess that’s because smaller hands may struggle to span the space between the release button and the mag itself. It might seem ironic for such a diminutive weapon, but Krytac is merely producing an accurate replica of the parent company’s original.
On this airsoft version, we’re enamoured with the rotary hop adjustment through the mock ejection port to the right of the rail. You can access it using the forward charging handle – that otherwise does nothing – or just move the flap up out of the way. Krytac also offers a similarly user-friendly system on its Trident range of M4s and hop adjustment is such a convenient affair on either Krytac that it makes many more conventional manufacturers look just plain dumb.
But the Vector’s obstinate demands for battery sizes isn’t nearly as accommodating. Fitting the battery is in itself a simple procedure whereby you remove the base of the grip, insert the battery and replace – it couldn’t be much easier. The problem is that only holds true if your battery fits in the claustrophobic space provided. Sadly, neither standard 7.4 or 11.1 LiPo stick batteries will fit, so you’re most likely looking at purchasing a specific pack – and a back-up – just for this application.
SLINGS AND RAILS
While the shorter, lighter shape is easier to carry one-handed as you adjust your kit or reach for equipment, that honking long mag can get in the way if you go prone in a hurry. And for a modern system, the Vector is strangely devoid of QD sling mounts, with a single conventional sling point under the stock. Centrally mounted, it works for both left and right carry, but it means that the sling needs to pass to one side or the other either way. That adds an amount of friction to using a sling, while your hook or clasp is certain to mark the stock’s finish.
The full length top rail means there’s ample space for optics, with a three-inch counterpart under the body for miniature launchers or a foregrip, but the front of the magwell is so well contoured with linear textures to match the grip that we wouldn’t bother. It’s not exactly front-heavy either.
There’s also provision for optional rail sections to either side of the barrel for you to add a torch, laser or a front sling mount if you wanted to run a two-point set-up.
STOP LOOKING AND START SHOOTING
On the chrono, the Vector averaged 334 FPS with a low of 328 and a high of 340 using .20 BBs. In other words, it’s spot on for most UK site limits with a bit of leeway for good measure. And the hop is happy to chuck .30s at the bad guys all day long, too.
Once you stop looking at the Vector and start using it in anger, you’ll be treated to a RIF that shoots as well as the construction would lead you to believe. Single fire is fine and it undeniably rips along in full auto, but the two-round burst mode is the star of the show for me. Not only does it sound brisk and efficient – giving the opposition the impression that I actually know what I’m doing – but it feeds two BBs every time without fail. Not one, not three or more, but it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. That’s certainly more than some rivals can claim.
Of course, a massive benefit of the smaller form factor is that room clearance or navigating obstacles in woodland is much easier, because it’s more manoeuvreable, but you might expect that an SMG will easily be outranged by rifles on open ground. From the evidence of our game time with the Vector, Krytac’s king can stand tall.
Although the 6.05 inner barrel may be a mere 155mm long – that’s almost pistol territory – the Vector holds its own surprisingly well at medium to long distances. I’m not going to claim anything crazy like it’s the equal of a sniper, but it will happily exchange fire with more affordable M4 AEGs, despite their longer barrels. The compromise is not as costly as you might imagine.
As the world of firearms continues to march forwards into the 21st Century, you can either get onboard with progress or not – and that extends to airsoft replicas too. Some of the AA team are died-in-the-wool aficionados of either AK or M4, but I buy into the new ideal.
Is that Krytac’s KRISS Vector? If you like the way it looks, want a smaller, more wieldable weapon coupled with top tier manufacture, then on this evidence, I’d have to say yes, it is.