There has recently been an influx of FN303 “less lethal” launchers to the market which I saw as the ideal opportunity to go full retard and buy a bunch of them. If you aren’t familiar it’s basically a militarized high powered paintball gun that shoots a variety of proprietary crowd control projectiles. Most important is that FN won’t sell the FN303 to us lowly civilians which makes them an even greater object of desire. They can be used as a standalone or as an under barrel mount on an AR-15.
The first FN303 ($649) I ordered was from KeepShooting.com which is a place I find good deals at occasionally. They were advertised as having the “unique distinction of having been issued to soldiers serving in foreign combat zones” and, although appearing complete “we do not have the facilities to test these as the HPA tanks were shipped empty per DOT regulations”. So they forewarn you it’s a bit of a crapshoot and I can confirm that. When the launcher arrived I was more than a little disappointed as it, in my opinion, looked like shit. The case and launcher were beat up and full of a reddish sand that seemed like it would be detrimental to functioning. Sure enough the seals were gaped out worse than a porn star after a world record gang bang and the first time I powered it up the thing blew through half a tank worth of air out of various orifices before I could turn the valve off.
Just because I’m a special kind of idiot I ended up doing a bunch of searching online and found that UncleSamsSurplus.com was also selling these launchers, but for $425, so I bought the rest that they had in stock. Dollar cost average right? When the FN303s arrived from Uncle Sams Surplus they looked suspiciously like the KeepShooting launcher, full of the same red sand and also bearing the same silver Sharpie marking “MDOC.” A little googling later and it appears a lot more likely that these are some kinda trade ins from the Michigan Department of Corrections rather than from some mysterious deployed military unit. Whatever their history might be it is indisputable that these have lived a rough life with rusted hardware, missing parts and a generally beat up look. Out of these only one turned out to be functional, the seals in the rest were as nonfunctional as the FN303 from Keep Shooting. If you are lazy like I am the easiest way to clean up all the various large components is to toss them in the dishwasher, just turn off the heated drying as the FN303 is probably not dishwasher safe.
Now the most immediate question which comes to mind for a new FN303 buyer is likely along the lines of how do I get the tank filled so I can test shoot this thing? Keep Shooting suggests taking it to your local Dicks Sporting Goods which is, in my experience, entirely useless advice as Dicks only fills CO2 paintball tanks. Same with Academy and other major sporting goods stores so save yourself a trip. The FN303 utilizes High Pressure Air (HPA) which is a different beast. As it turns out there aren’t a whole lot of businesses that can fill a tank to 3000 PSI, the only place I could find in my area was a dive shop. I’m not going to get into the minutia of tank inspection dates in this post however be advised that some places may balk at filling the tanks. Additionally the tank seals are in as shitty a condition as the launchers so don’t be surprised if they won’t hold pressure. If you want to try it by hand a company called Tausa has high pressure hand pumps for $113 on Amazon. The reviews seemed good and in my limited experience thus far it works as advertised however it takes somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 pumps to get the tank to 3,000 PSI. For testing purposes you only need around 1,000 PSI which is a lot easier to pump up to manually.
The next rathole to go down was how to get a few thousand bucks worth of broke ass FN303 launchers into something resembling operating condition. As mentioned before part of their desirability stems from the restrictions FN imposed on sales which in turn means parts are tough to get. The major source of FN parts, Midwest Gun Works (MGW), has most of the FN303 parts listed as restricted. The seal rebuild kit is available to normal buyers ($40) but, in my experience, may not provide everything you need to get a launcher back to working order. In my various late night drunken googling sessions I discovered the FN303 is some kind of holy grail for paintball nerds and it turns to be a variant of a paintball gun called an Automag. More drunken googling and it looks that Automags may not be made anymore but there is a site Airgundesigns.com where some of the former Automag people still sell parts. Since I’m into this FN303 stuff a few $K already what does it hurt to blow $20 for an Automag seal rebuild kit right? Well staple my head to the carpet if most of the Automag parts aren’t a direct fit to get the FN303 running again. And not only is it half the price of the FN kit but it has ALL the seals you need and a few extras. There will be a post in a few weeks going over how to rebuild it all. It also turns out that the lubricating oil is exactly the same but cheaper and unrestricted from Airgun Designs.
Having said all that the FN303, when functional, packs a serious punch for what it is. I tested a variety of rounds including washable pink paint, indelible yellow paint and one loaded with nasty crown control stuff called PAVA. They all make a skull denting whack on the fence and trees I used as a targets thanks to the powdered bismuth tip that gives it some heft. The paint rounds will leave a spray in their respective colors and PAVA releases small cloud that will cause you to cough like an asthmatic on a date with the Marlboro man. The rounds for these will be the subject of some later post but the short story is that they are very expensive at $2-3 a projectile and harder to get than the FN303s. I lucked into a small supply but have no good leads on where to get more. One avenue I haven’t explored yet are a special variety of paintball called “First Strike” which have similar plastic shell and fins and may provide a readily available and economical projectile.
In conclusion these used FN303s are a total crap shoot from a functional perspective and, if my experience is any guide, it is unlikely you will receive a servicable launcher. They all appear to be coming from the same source so I would doubt there would be any significant variance in performance. It looks like a few have hit auction sites like Gunbroker and eBay, beware if they are missing major components like tanks or magazines as they are extremely difficult to find. There will be more posts in coming weeks about how to fix the problems as I get around to fixing the rest of mine.
Links for those inclined to find out more….
Where to buy
Who is called MDOC and uses the FN303?
Only buy this if you are an FN retard…..
This is half the price and has everything you need…..
Don’t have a source of high pressure air in your area? This will get you 3,000 PSI air with about 300 pumps
If you need a new air line do yourself a few favors and get a slightly longer one for $10 off Amazon