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Shadow Ops Sniper Rifle


Review date: May 11, 2008
Model: UTG AccuShot Competition Shadow Ops Sniper Rifle
Manufacture: UTG



















History

I have always enjoyed target shooting as a hobby/sport activity. Neither my AEGs nor any of the Airsoft pistols I had was an ideal choice for target shooting, plus I wanted more power, range and accuracy than any of these possessed. That started me searching for a bolt action or gas rifle as an additional purchase. I finally decided that for simplicity and cost that I would go with a bolt action, spring rifle. I wanted to keep the cost low, so in spite of the many negative comments about less expensive brands, I began to consider and investigate the UTG AccuShot Competition Shadow Ops Sniper Rifle. It was advertised as already being at the level of an upgraded sniper rifle of higher end manufacturers and could supposedly be upgraded with readily available parts. Since I had no qualms about taking one apart to do repairs or upgrades, I decided to buy that as at least a starting platform. I found one online with a UTG/Leapers 4x32 scope and rings for approximately $150.00 with free shipping.

First Impressions

The outer box it arrived in was impressive in size, being 4 feet in length and over a foot wide. When I opened it, there was a nice looking inner box for the rifle and a separate one for the scope and rings. Inside the inner box for the rifle was your typical molded Styrofoam shell holding the components in individual compartments. The rifle consisted of two major components; the stock and the receiver/barrel assembly. The accessories included several Allen wrenches, the bipod, two 23 round magazines, a brief manual, a plastic rod for clearing the inner barrel and a sling. CAUTION – I don't recommend that you use the sling provided with the rifle. The clips are cheap and come loose very easily and could cause you to drop and damage your rifle. The clearing rod is flat on both ends with no slot for a cleaning patch, so it is not a cleaning rod. When I took the rifle out of the box, it was a matter of just moments to assemble the two major components and have a functioning rifle. The finish was a nice uniform semi-flat black except for the cheek rest which is a more shiny black plastic.>

Because it is designed to be used with a scope and includes a preinstalled Weaver rail, there are no built-in sights. I opened the second box and removed the scope and accessories consisting of a 2 inch, stackable sunshade, rubber flip up covers for both ends and a set of low profile rings. In actual field use, I would expect that in order to easily see through the scope with a mask or goggles on that you might want to install some higher profile rings for additional clearance. It took only a few minutes to install the rings and mount the scope, which is of good sturdy quality, has a nice clear view, mil-dot reticle and is easily adjusted for distance and focus.

Once everything was assembled, I started testing the rifle. I had none of the initial problems mentioned by some of the postings that I had read. The magazines went in with no problems, the bolt action was smooth and fairly easy and I didn't feel that the movement in the bipod was excessive, although I did tighten it up a little with a hex wrench. I first loaded it with some 0.20g BBs to test the muzzle velocity. I didn't have access to my chronograph at that time, but it seemed to be able to put a hole through any part of a coke can. The only negative that I noticed at this initial stage was that the trigger pull was a little heavy for my taste, but I hoped that would ease up after some use. I then proceeded to check the accuracy, again with having done nothing to the rifle, except to put together the two pieces and install the scope. When I started to test it for scope alignment, the BBs wandered around so much that I couldn't tell what adjustments to make. I decided that I needed to move to something heavier than the 0.20g BBs, so I loaded it with some 0.25g BBs.

Initial Testing

Now that the BBs were flying straighter, I was able to get the scope adjusted. Initial testing was performed inside so that wind would not be a factor. I started the testing with some one inch circles at 25 feet. The gun was accurate enough at 25 feet that the target centers rapidly disappeared. It proved to be no challenge to repeatedly put my shots into a 1 inch circle. I decided that it was time to extend the target distance which meant moving to the next phase of testing - outdoors.

Outdoor Testing

Fortunately, I have an ideal testing area right in my backyard looking to the North and NNW where I have a clear range of over 250 feet. I can sit in the shade in a patio chair sipping a beverage of my choice while taking my test shots. I reset the scope to zero it at 50 feet. At that distance, wind proved to be a small factor, but it was easily compensated for and BB drop was relatively insignificant. I then set coke cans at 50 and 75 feet and a rectangular target (disposable aluminum sheet 10 inches by 12 inches) at 100 feet. I chose this as a target because it closely approximates the size of the size of the center of mass of a human torso and I can easily confirm a hit by the sound. In windless conditions, I could hit all of the targets fairly consistently. With continued practice, I got fairly good in judging how to compensate for the wind and could hit the larger target at 100 feet more than 50% of the time even in fairly breezy conditions.

Rifle Disassembly & Reassembly

I now proceeded to disassemble the rifle to inspect the working components. As I did so, I checked out a feature I had read about on one of the forums. There is a thumb catch on the guide (bolt latch) that is accessible from the front of the trigger guard. When this is pressed down, it disengages the guide from the bolt to allow easy removal of the bolt assembly. After removing the cheek rest, the entire bolt assembly easily slides out the rear with no further disassembly of the rifle required. This is a nice feature that would make it easy to do a quick bolt exchange to comply with different field velocity restrictions. After I removed the bolt assembly, I took off the nozzle/cylinder head and removed the piston and spring. The cylinder appears to be stainless steel and the cylinder head brass. The piston and spring guide appear to be nylon or a similar plastic. I wiped off some extra grease and reassembled the bolt mechanism. I then moved to the trigger assembly and removed it. As had been reported, the trigger casing was made of plastic. However, once opened, all the internal parts are of metal. While the casing was opened, I added some Teflon lubricant to the moving and contact points of the trigger components. Note - the application of the Teflon lubricant eased the trigger pull force significantly.

The next step was to remove the outer barrel assembly. If you do this, DON'T forget to first loosen the small set screw in the bottom of the receiver that locks the outer barrel in place. Failure to do so would damage the threads on the outer barrel, perhaps so much so that it would require replacing. After the barrel assembly was removed, it then became a matter of getting the inner barrel removed from the outer barrel. This requires the magazine latch be unscrewed from the assembly. I then used a large wooden dowel to push the inner barrel out. Once out, I found that the barrel support spacers were nothing more than 3 foam discs about 0.25 inch thick. Whether they were evenly spaced before disassembly I couldn't tell, but on mine they were clustered near the muzzle end of the inner barrel. I spaced them out and used that universal fix-all, duct tape to secure them in place.

Inner Barrel Measurements

While I had the inner barrel removed, it was an appropriate time to check the dimensions. The length is about 19.5 inches or 495 mm. With my caliper, I measured the inner and outer diameters of the inner barrel. The outer diameter measured 0.331 inches or 8.40 mm. I made several measurements of the inner diameter and averaged them. My caliper is analog and only accurate to .001 inches or .0254 mm. The average of the measurements was 0.237 or 6.02 mm.

Hop-Up Adjustment

This is more difficult than that on most AEGs. First, it requires you to have a tool, a small Allen wrench (supplied). The Allen wrench must be inserted into the space just in front of the magazine latch into a set screw to do the adjusting. It is a small, 2 inch deep space and difficult to see into, so you have to fit the Allen wrench in mostly by feel. Fortunately, once properly adjusted, it should infrequently be necessary to readjust it. This would primarily be necessary if you changed to a different type or weight of BB.

Effective Range Testing

Out to 100 feet I could hit my target almost every shot with no wind to compensate for. I was still using the 0.25g BBs, and after some practice, I could fairly consistently hit any of my targets. I then moved the aluminum pan target to 150 feet, and could still hit it with most of my shots with no wind. My next step was to purchase some 0.30g KSC Perfect BBs to use to see if I could push the effective range out to 200 feet or more.

Initial Fps Tests With Chronograph

By now, I had my chronograph back and could test the speed of the various weight BBs. For these tests, in order to give a full range of speeds, I have included both 0.12g and 0.20g, even though I don't recommend using anything lighter than 0.25g with this rifle and don't feel that anything over 0.36g would give much advantage. The FPS testing was done indoors to eliminate any deviation caused by wind. The testing consisted of firing four shots with each weight BB and taking the average speed of the four shots. As you can see from the chart, maximum energy was obtained with the 0.30g BBs.

The energy in Joules and range figures are from an article on Arnie's Airsoft site: http://www.arniesairsoft.co.uk/?filnavn=/articles/fps_limits/fps_calc.htm

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Additionally, there is a great deal of information available at this site: http://cybersloth.org/airsoft/trajectory/04-A-01.htm#VI-B.

BB Weight 0.12g 0.20g 0.25g 0.30g 0.36g
High speed 430.7 366.0 347.7 321.8 292.4
Low speed 425.9 363.1 344.9 318.3 279.0
Average 428.4 364.3 246.4 320.3 285.8
Joules 1.02 1.23 1.39 1.42 1.36
Range (ft) 191.1 164.3 156.2 144.1 128.7
Table 1 – initial velocity tests of different weight BBs

Problems With Rifle

By now, I had discovered two problems with the performance of my rifle. The hop-up didn't seem to be working properly regardless of how I had it set, and the rifle wasn't producing the FPS it was supposed to be capable of in its advertised specifications. I contacted Leapers, the distributor of both the rifle and the scopes I was using. They were great to work with from a customer service point of view. They sent me a new hop-up unit which fixed the hop-up problem and they pulled a bolt out of a rifle that was tested as producing 460+ FPS with 0.20 g BBs and sent it to me. When it arrived, I installed the new bolt and retested the speed of the rifle with the various weight BBs.

BB Weight 0.12g 0.20g 0.25g 0.30g 0.36g
High speed 560.1 482.0 453.4 421.6 376.7
Low speed 552.6 475.8 450.0 412.8 366.1
Average 557.2 479.2 451.9 417.5 371.5
Joules 1.72 2.12 2.36 2.42 2.30
Range (ft) 250.8 215.6 203.5 188.1 167.4
Table 2 – velocity tests with replacement bolt

Replacing the Hop-Up

After removing the hop-up unit, installation of the new one was simple even in the absence of any directions. The hop-up chamber is already assembled with the adjusting ring holding the pressure lever, spring and the piece that pushes down on the hop-up bucking. There is no separate nub in this setup. The end of the hop-up lever has two rounded protrusions in a half H shape. These are designed to directly press on the bucking. The hop-up bucking slides onto the inner barrel, which is then inserted into the hop-up chamber. A threaded brass locking collar then screws into the front of the hop-up chamber to hold it on the inner barrel. It is then ready to be installed back into the outer barrel and aligned and locked in place with the reinstallation of the magazine latch. One thing I found troubling is that there appeared to be no key or anything to positively align the hop-up unit with the hop-up cutout in the barrel. There appears to be a slot on the barrel for such a key, but neither of the two hop-up units I worked with had anything to fit the slot. It has to be aligned by sight and is possible to get it off center causing the BBs to fly left or right. I later learned that there was supposed to be a small, thin, delicate plastic ring that is supposed to fit on the barrel in front of the hop-up bucking that serves as the alignment piece, but that appeared to be one of the problems with my original hop-up and the replacement hop-up supplied by Leapers was also missing this piece.

I wanted to make sure the rifle and the scope were adjusted properly for maximum accuracy before the next phase of testing. After checking and making a few adjustments, I fired a 5 shot grouping at a distance of 25 feet. The target was 2 inches in diameter, and all five shots were within the center 1 inch area of the target. The actual grouping, center to center of the two widest shots was just over one half inch. I reset the zero point of my scope at 100 feet for the last phase of the testing. I stuck with the 10x12 inch aluminum sheet and placed it out at 200 feet. I then added a 1 gallon milk jug at the 100 foot distance to simulate a head shot target. I could hit it about 75% of the time with no wind. The 0.30g BB drop due to gravity and slowing speed became much more of a factor at the 100 to 200 foot range. I had to move the sight point on the target up and readjust the scope setting to allow for the drop, but could still hit my mark frequently with no wind. On one particularly calm day, I was consistently making hits equivalent to head shots at the 200 foot range. With more practice in estimating wind speeds and how much to compensate, I think that hits on a person could be made fairly consistently at this range, but my testing indicates that about 200 feet, or 60 meters would be the maximum effective range of this rifle as the least wind greatly affects the BB at this range. The maximum effective range from my testing is based on the distance at which I could fairly consistently hit a stationary, human torso sized target with variable, light breeze conditions.

Final Range (Distance) Tests

The rifle originally came with a UTG/Leapers 4x32 scope which I used for all of the testing up to this point. However, I also purchased a UTG/Leapers 3-9x50 scope with higher mounting rings and now replaced the original scope with the new scope. To properly test the rifle's capabilities, after retesting the speed and getting the new readings above, I wanted to retest the maximum effective range. I used the same setup as before, with the milk jug at 100 feet and aluminum sheet at 200 feet. I found that the higher powers of the scope were most useful for a small target, or trying to pick out a target through cover. My standard setting became the 7 power setting. From that point I could easily drop the power to 5 or even 3 to cover a wider field. It is also easy to increase to 9 to help zero in for that head shot as someone peaks up from behind a barricade of some type. The range from 7 to 9 is also good for searching through covering brush or foliage looking for a clear path to make a shot at an opponent as they move through that type of cover. Personally, I think that the 0.30g BBs are the best choice for all around use, although I still plan on buying and testing some Maruzen Super Grand Master 0.29g BBs as they are supposed to be the ultimate in accuracy. You could use your 0.30g BBs for practice and save your SGMs for when you need that extra little confidence that your long shots will be on target.

Summary of Specifications

Weight (with scope, bipod & magazine) – 10.6 pounds
Stock length – 762 mm (30 inches)
Receiver/barrel length – 825 mm (32.5 inches)
Assembled length – 1130 mm (44.5 inches)
Inner barrel length – 495 mm
Inner barrel thickness – 1.2 mm
Inner barrel bore – 6.02 mm
Spring length – 228 mm (9 inches)
FPS – See Table 2 above
Maximum effective range (calculated w/0.25g) – 203.5 ft
Maximum effective range (from tests w/0.25g) – 200.0 ft m

Conclusions

Although the muzzle velocity increased significantly with the installation of the new bolt, the maximum effective range was still only about 200 feet. It is possible to make shots beyond that, but other than by chance, only under conditions of no cover, no breeze, good light and good luck. I made shots in perfectly calm conditions in which I hit a Styrofoam cup at 200 feet, but other times missed by 3 feet or more.

For the price, I feel that this is a good buy as a starter sniper weapon, especially considering that most forums say it is expected that almost all sniper rifles will need to be upgraded to perform properly as a true sniper rifle. For the price, I would expect that most people would initially be well pleased with this rifle and its performance in the stock condition, as represented by the figures above and the FPS figures from table 2.

As for the often mentioned user upgrades that are expected to be necessary, I didn't feel that any were immediately needed for this rifle. I certainly saw no need to spend more for a zero trigger unit than I had spent on the rifle, and the stock trigger has held up fine through my rather extensive testing. My size measurements indicated that the inner barrel was already a very tight bore of 6.02 mm and didn't need replacing. If you don't need to upgrade the barrel for accuracy or the spring for higher FPS, there isn't a lot that needs to be done. Your major decision will be what type of scope and you prefer for use with this rifle, and if you want a sling, which one to pick.

One other positive note is that since I only used high grade BBs, I never experienced a single misfeed or a jam. I even purposely cycled the bolt several times without firing so that it would load more than one BB into the firing chamber and still never had a problem.

The questions still to be answered are how well the whole unit will hold up over time, and how well it will take to upgrades. As I continue to use it, I'm keeping notes as to how well it does hold up. When I first disassembled the rifle and trigger assembly, I saw no appreciable signs of wear and by then I had fired many hundreds of rounds through this rifle. By the end of the above testing, I had fired several thousand rounds and still saw no significant wear on the piston or trigger sear.

On the negative side, after receiving the replacement bolt, I continued to pump rounds through it on a daily basis. Granted that during my testing I used a lot of rounds for a single shot, bolt action weapon designed for sniping, but the spring life is definitely a weak point with this rifle. Below are the resulting FPS readings at several points during my use of the rifle, after installing the new bolt.

New = 417.5; 500 rounds = 408.5; 1000 rounds = 383.6; 1500 rounds = 357.7; 2000 rounds = 321.8 (a decrease of almost 25%).

My next step will be to purchase some different springs and test this rifle with them to see what can be done to increase the power beyond stock specifications and increase the effective life of the spring. The cylinder and cylinder head seem strong enough that I'm hoping that I can get the speed beyond 500 FPS even with the 0.30g BBs. Whether or not that may eventually require replacement of all or at least some of the bolt internals; spring, spring guide and piston, will be part of a follow up report.


Part Two – Shadow Ops Review

After my original testing, I continued to work with the rifle to explore some additional items and features. After taking the stock apart I found that there was approximately one pound of weights in the butt of the stock and the pad. It doesn't appear that they were put there to artificially make the rifle feel heavier due to lack of metal parts, but to balance the weight of the all metal inner and outer barrels that are so far forward of the trigger.

I also had read about two features in the Maruzen that were not advertised for this rifle; the “empty magazine indicator” and the “bolt cocked indicator”. It turns out that they are built into this rifle, but not functioning properly. There is a small spring that is part of the empty magazine indicator that was installed incorrectly at the factory, but it can be fixed so that the indicator works. It also appears that the screw that attaches the piston head to the piston is supposed to contact the spring guide rod when cocked. That is supposed to cause it to protrude through the hole in the bolt that holds the cocking handle and rear block to the cylinder. In the UTG this screw is a slightly shorter length than required to allow the cocking indicator to function properly. I'm sure that if this screw were replaced with a longer one, the indicator function would work.

At this point I now had two bolts that each had a stock spring that was significantly weakened from the original strength, and therefore had reduced FPS with either one. I decided to try some upgrades to see how compatible this rifle is with standard parts and how the stock cylinder, piston and spring guide would hold up to a different spring.

I first decided to see if I could find a replacement for just the stock spring, so I ordered Laylax PSS2 type 96 120SP & 150SP springs to see if they would fit the stock spring guide and piston. The diameter of the wire in the 150SP spring was greater than the stock spring making the outer diameter too large to fit in the stock piston. The 120SP fits fine in the stock piston, but gives a lower FPS than the new stock spring. The chrono readings below are with 0.28g BBs.

Spring Stock 120SP
Low 395.8 312.8
High 401.8 316.1
Ave. 399.7 314.4
Table 3 – Stock vs 120SP spring

Tests with upgraded spring, spring guide, piston & piston head

For the second upgrade test I replaced all the internal parts of one bolt except for the spring guide rod. I chose a Laylax PSS2 type 96 170SP spring, a First Factory stainless steel 7mm/9mm spring guide set, a First Factory 3 element piston and the Power Accuracy Cup piston head. The first time I cocked the bolt after installation of the new parts, it was obvious from the force required that this combination was going to be stronger than the stock configuration. It requires enough force that it is difficult to cock while leaving the rifle in shooting position. If you are on the ground prone, it can be braced against your shoulder and the bolt cocked. It feels like curling about 20 pounds.

I took the following readings for speed with various weight BBs.

BB Weight 0.12g 0.20g 0.25g 0.30g 0.36g
High speed 635.1 561.0 538.6 482.9 457.8
Low speed 627.3 540.2 529.0 479.4 440.5
Average 631.6 549.2 533.4 481.7 448.6
Joules 2.21 2.79 3.29 3.22 3.35
Table 4 – velocity tests with rebuilt bolt & 170SP spring

I kept tracking the speed of 0.30g BBs with the upgraded rifle using the 170SP spring from the time the upgrades were new and at intervals as I continued to use the rifle. To my surprise, as the parts were being broken in with the first few hundred rounds, the speeds actually increased until at one point after about 250 rounds, the speed peaked at over 500 FPS with 0.30g BBs. Of course, that was the peak and with continued use, it dropped back down to a little below 500 where it has remained fairly constant.

BBs Fired New 100 250 500 750 1000
High speed 486.3 482.9 521.4 524.1 497.8 492.2
Low speed 474.6 479.4 501.0 479.5 482.7 487.1
Average 479.2 481.7 507.1 492.5 488.3 490.5
Table 5 – 0.30g velocity tests vs rounds fired

After much tinkering and eventually rebuilding the hop-up with a different nub configuration, I got the hop-up adjusted as good as seems possible with the stock hop-up system. The hop-up is giving me a fairly level flight path from about 125 feet to 175 feet with the BBs being a bit low at 100 feet and 200 feet and a bit high in between. I switched to some 0.28g BBs because of the price difference between them and the 0.30g. I could tell a little difference in the performance under most conditions, but it was acceptable for testing purposes and cost savings. The rifle was now tuned to the point that with no wind, I could hit a head sized target at 100 feet over 50% of the time, and because of the extra power of the 170 spring, I had the extra range to sometimes hit a man sized target at 250 feet. The BB drop at that range is pretty drastic, although sometimes hits could be made at this greater distance by aiming high and dropping the BB onto the target.

With the new piston and spring guide, I switched and tried the 150SP spring and took the readings below to compare the FPS with the 150 & 170 springs using the 0.28g BBs that I had switched to using in place of the 0.30g.

BB0.28g 150SP 170SP
High speed 433.0 453.5
Low speed 426.1 441.3
Average 428.7 448.6
Table 6 – 150SP vs 170SP

Once the piston has been upgraded, it makes a spring replacement a matter of a few minutes, so several springs of different strengths could be carried along to easily change to meet different field FPS limits or other changing conditions.

This all confirms my original conclusion that this rifle is a good buy as a sniper rifle, as it performs well out of the box and can easily and fairly inexpensively be upgraded to outperform even its impressive stock performance.

However, by this time I had fired probably close to 10,000 rounds with this rifle and had two power springs that had each weakened by about 25% before reaching 5,000 rounds. I also began to notice that the trigger was very sensitive and that when cocking the bolt it sometimes didn't hold in the cocked position. I opened the trigger mechanism to find the source of the problem. I thought that maybe the piston and trigger sears were beginning to wear down from the force of the stronger spring. Instead I only found that the springs that are part of the trigger and piston sear mechanisms had also weakened. In addition, the very thin spring that is inside the trigger and makes the center trigger safety work had broken. It seems from this that this rifle has been assembled with lower quality springs. As a temporary fix, I was able to stretch the springs to make them seem a little stronger, but will need to replace them as a more permanent fix.

The hop-up bucking will eventually have to be replaced also and I haven't seen any that fits the stock hop-up unit. I will eventually replace the hop-up unit which will mean that I will probably have to also replace the barrel in order for the hop-up unit to fit. But those are problems for another time. I will write up a part 3 of this review after I have done the hop-up and barrel upgrade.


Part Three – Shadow Ops Review

By the time I reached about 12,000 rounds, the trigger mechanism was again not holding the bolt all of the time. I again opened it and this time found that the trigger sear was slightly bent allowing the bolt to release unexpectedly, and the plastic casing had developed a few stress cracks. I decided to replace the trigger assembly. After researching the options, I chose the TGS 2 bearing trigger system. I chose it because it appeared to be one of the most solidly made units (all machined metal), allowed the trigger to be adjusted for a light trigger pull or a short stroke pull and it was the only one I found that allowed the safety to still function. When I received it, it wouldn't fit easily into the chamber in the receiver. That was corrected by grinding about .015 inches off of each end of the two mounting flanges. After that, the new trigger installed properly and works perfectly.

The next upgrade I chose to try was to replace the hop-up unit to see if I could improve the consistency of my shots. I chose to replace the hop-up unit with a PDI hop-up designed for the type 96 rifles. After I received the unit, I was able to confirm that the PDI hop-up will fit the original barrel, so it could be done as a separate upgrade without also replacing the original inner barrel, which most of the forums suggest will be necessary when the hop-up is changed. It was a little difficult to assemble the hop-up unit because of the need to fit two small o-rings into the inside of the hop-up unit, but with that done, it is easy enough to install the hop-up unit onto the inner barrel and fit it back into the rifle. However, if I thought that adjusting the hop-up setting was difficult before, it was much more so now. The PDI hop-up unit has two levers so that you can balance the pressure on each side separately for more precision setting of the hop-up. Each one has to be adjusted by using a small Allen key (0.050 in) to move a set screw and in order to easily reach those with the key supplied, you must cock the bolt, remove the magazine, remove the receiver from the stock, pull the bolt back to move the air nozzle out of the way and then make any adjustments. Then the receiver must be fitted back into the stock and the magazine inserted in order to test fire to see if the settings need to be adjusted more. The initial setting using this method would be very tedious and time consuming. Fortunately, I have a set of interchangeable miniature tools with a tool handle that holds each of the tools. This set has the required size hex key which allowed me to reach the set screws without removing the receiver from the stock each time. As a plus, the hop-up unit seems to hold the setting well once properly set, so resetting it shouldn't be a frequent problem.

As part of this final upgrade I changed out the inner barrel to see if the accuracy could be improved with a tighter bore barrel. I found that DB Custom makes a 6.01 mm barrel for the UTG type 96, and it was supposed to fit the original factory hop-up unit so I chose that one as my replacement barrel. When it arrived, I compared it to the original factory barrel for length and the cuts on the barrel for the hop-up unit. The DB custom barrel had a couple of extra cuts in it, but after comparison with the original it was apparent that it would indeed fit the original hop-up unit. I had also ordered a hop-up bucking for the Maruzen and it appeared to be compatible with the original hop-up unit, but I haven't had a chance to test that yet. I then compared the inner diameter measurements of the two barrels and the measurements were very close, indicating that the stock barrel might be slightly under the 6.02 mm I had measured it at. I would think that the DB Custom barrel would be made with more precise machining than the stock barrel, giving it a small advantage even if both were the same size bore.

After the barrel and hop-up upgrades I then went back to firing tests to see how much the accuracy had improved and to see how the PDI hop-up had affected the consistency of the shots. I used the 150SP spring rather than the 170SP because it more closely approximates the strength of a new factory stock spring. The accuracy hadn't improved a lot (factory 6.02 mm & upgrade 6.01 mm), but the combined performance of the hop-up plus the new inner barrel was better, giving overall consistency a boost. At this time I was out of KSC 0.30g BBs and they weren't available anywhere. When they are available again, the extra accuracy and stability of these should improve the performance, at least slightly.

After all of the upgrades were complete, by now the upgraded spring had been used for about 5000 rounds. I tested its strength and the resulting FPS against what it produced when first installed and then after the break-in period. Remember that the stock spring was down about 25% in FPS after less than 5000 rounds.

BB Weight 0.12g 0.20g 0.25g 0.30g 0.36g
High speed 635.1 561.0 538.6 482.9 457.8
Low speed 627.3 540.2 529.0 479.4 440.5
Average 631.6 549.2 533.4 481.7 448.6
Joules 2.21 2.79 3.29 3.22 3.35
Table 4 (copy from part 1) – velocity with 170SP spring
<td491.9
BB Weight 0.20g 0.28g 0.30g 0.36g
Low speed 561.0 490.7 434.6
High speed 566.7 495.8 497.0 447.9
Average 563.2 493.0 494.1 438.6
Joules 2.93 3.14 3.38 3.35
Table 7 – final velocity tests - 170SP
BB Weight 0.20g 0.28g 0.30g 0.36g
Low speed 520.9 459.2 456.8 407.3
High speed 522.5 436.9 461.7 417.5
Average 521.9 462.6 458.6 411.5
Joules 2.52 2.77 2.92 2.82
Table 8 – final velocity tests - 150SP

From the tables you can see that the upgrade spring hasn't declined in the FPS it produced, in fact it actually went up with all of the BB weights except the 0.36g BBs, probably due to the new hop-up unit and the new inner barrel. The energy in Joules in the final tests showed little difference with 0.30g & 0.36g BBs so the increase to 0.36g BBs mainly helps with the stability in windy conditions or in cutting through light underbrush. I personally don't feel that the performance change justifies the much greater cost of BBs over 0.30g.

Final Cost Analysis & Effectiveness of Rifle Upgrades

Now let us look at the cost savings by starting with this rifle rather than a Maruzen. Original cost of the rifle only (no scope) was $105.00. Compare that to a Maruzen with no scope and no upgrades. The cheapest cost without shipping that I found was $354.00. This is $250 or more additional for the base rifle, which according to most of the forums is going to require most of the same upgrades to get the performance to the same level. In addition, many of the postings recommend upgrading the cylinder and cylinder head. The UTG has a nice strong stainless steel cylinder and brass cylinder head which during my extensive testing has shown no sign of failure that would suggest that it needed to be upgraded unless you wanted to go for one of the Teflon or Palsonite cylinders.

Most buyers of this model could use the stock configuration for quite some time before needing any upgrades. The first upgrade that most would need would be a new spring, new piston and piston head in order to restore the power and FPS lost by the stock spring. That would give a very well performing sniper rifle that many people would be satisfied with for quite some time. The next upgrade any one would likely want would be a new hop-up unit for increased consistency of shots. Some might also choose to put in the 6.01 mm inner barrel although the stock barrel is already a very tight bore at 6.02 mm. And finally, one thing that some may wish is a new trigger assembly. Any of these upgrades could be done separately or they can all be done all at once or in any combination.

All of the upgrades to my rifle are detailed below in the order in which they were done.

  1. Leapers 3-9x50 scope with red/green illuminated reticle and high rise rings
  2. Laylax/First Factory PSS2 type 96 springs (150SP, 170SP)
  3. Laylax/First Factory three element piston, new power accuracy cup piston head and 7mm/9mm spring guide set
  4. TGS 2 Bearing steel trigger assembly
  5. PDI hop-up for type 96
  6. DB Custom 6.01mm inner barrel

Total final cost (any shipping is included in pricing), completely upgraded is about $575.00. I have added in no additional charges for labor, because the upgrades are all relatively simple to do and easily done by most owners.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Knowing what I know after all of this testing, I would advise most owners to initially make no changes to the rifle except to check and adjust the inner barrel spacers and after choosing what brand and weight BBs you are going to use, get the hop-up set to your liking with those BBs. If it isn't used very heavily, it will perform well for quite some time. The speed with 0.20g BBs should be in the 460 to 480 FPS range. Initial cost depends on the scope you get, but should be from $150 to $175.

After you get a few thousand shots on the rifle, then you may choose to change the spring, spring guide, piston and piston head. That will give you a rifle with very good performance & continued long term stability of performance. With the 170SP spring, you should be just about 550 FPS with 0.20g BBs. Swapping for a 150SP should get you down to about 520 FPS, while a 190SP should take the speed over 580 FPS, which is higher than the field limits for most games here in Florida, and probably most other places. The additional cost of these upgrades is under $150. For about $25 more, you could have an additional spring of a different strength, such as a 150SP & 170SP to allow some flexibility in FPS of the combination. Total cost about $300 to $350.

The stock trigger, hop-up & bucking performed well for over 10,000 shots, which will probably represent several years use for the average user. If you choose to upgrade the hop-up unit to the PDI hop-up, it's cost with bucking & shipping is under $100. Total cost $400 to $450.

A replacement trigger assembly will run $125 to $150. Total cost $525 to $600.

A replacement barrel will run about $75. Total cost $600 to $675.

My costs were less because in many cases I ordered enough items that I got reduced shipping for the upgrade items, which is how I got the total price for my rifle with all of the upgrades down to $575.

 

Review by: InjunJoe

 


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