Echo 1 ASR (Advanced Sniper Rifle) and Upgrade Kit Review by Booligan
Discuss this review HERE
Echo 1 has, for the last several years, focused entirely on AEGs, never dipping into the bolt action fray. That is, until now. The ASR (Advanced Sniper Rifle) is Echo 1's first foray into the bolt action market, and it is a formidable competitor at that. Offering a unique look, solid performance, and upgrade potential, it's a great starter rifle for the aspiring sniper. I will be covering all of the various aspects of the ASR in this review!
I first saw the ASR in Echo 1's 2010 catalog, and was very interested in seeing what E1 would bring to the bolt action table. The ASR is based on the design of the Maruzen SR2 sniper rifle, but with a few improvements to the overall function. Being that I write for Airsoft Retreat (ASR), I knew that we had to have a review of this unique gun! The gun is practically made for us! It is currently available at most large airsoft retailers, priced at about $110, including three magazines and a bipod, which is a great price for the gun. They also have an upgrade kit available, with reinforced internal components, priced at about $30. Like all Echo 1 products, the ASR comes with a warranty against manufacturer defects.
The ASR comes packaged in a foam based box with a cardboard lid, and a simple and tasteful sticker bearing the name of the gun. The muzzle end of the foam bottom could be a little bit thicker, as my barrel popped a hole in it, but the cardboard top keeps everything inside safe and sound. It's pretty basic packaging, but it gets the job done, and that is the whole point!
Echo 1 throws in three magazines and a QD bipod with the ASR, along with the standard cleaning rod, loading tool, warranty card, and a few allen wrenches that are needed to strip the gun as well as adjust the hop-up. My gun did not include a manual, but Echo 1 has it posted online in PDF format, located HERE.
Weight: 7 lbs
Width: Â 2.7" (at cocking handle)
Sight Radius: NA (no included iron sights)
The Echo 1 ASR is based on the design of the Maruzen SR2, which is a predominantly plastic gun. Following this, the ASR is also made mainly of various polymers, with a metal upper receiver and barrel. This combination of materials makes for a strong, but lightweight gun.
Starting at the stock, if you are normally a user of an M4, you will feel right at home here. The stock is designed after an LE retractable stock, with the addition of a sling loop at the very top rear of the cheek rest, right above the butt plate. The stock is made entirely of plastic, and is the only major flaw that I had with my gun. It appears that the locking rod on the stock is too short to lock into the molded holes in the buffer tube, meaning that it occasionally would retract when shouldering the gun. This became a problem when cocking the gun, especially after installing the upgrade kit. If you come across this, a possible solution is to sand the locking post slightly to make it smaller, or just do what I did and replace the stock. EDIT: After tinkering with the stock a bit, I was able to adjust the locking rod to sit deeper in the stock tube holes, negating this issue! Just loosen the grub screw, extend the locking rod a bit, and tighten the screw back up. The fit on the buffer tube is just ok, with some wobbling that probably would be eliminated with a properly adjusted locking rod. As far as aftermarket stocks, the inconsistency in airsoft products is really shown here. I was able to fit stocks made by DBoys, Element (including the CTR style stock currently installed), and an A&K stock that I have lying around, but not a JG, G&G, or SRC. It's a damn tight fit regardless of the aftermarket brand, so some sanding may be necessary for it to fit. As far as attaching fixed stocks, it's not a standard AR style buffer tube mount, so changing out the stock tube will take some creativity on your part.
From this point, click all photos to enlarge
The lower receiver is made out of an interestingly textured polymer, which has a lot of strength and rigidity. It is quite bare, without any decorative bits. This gun is really about function over form, and each part seems just to serve strictly in its intended purpose, without any fluff or fanciness. The grip is attached to the lower receiver, which also has a built in outer trigger housing with interchangeable trigger guard. The grip is modeled after a real M4 grip, making it quite a bit narrower than AEG M4 grips, however, it is NOT directly compatible with real or AEG AR grips. You must buy a Freedom Arts AEG grip adaptor in order to swap it out, or chop off the little alignment nub which blocks the installation of real grips. After chopping it off, you would need to find a way to lock in the grip, as the nut is in that nub. Again, it'll take some creativity. With regards to the trigger, it has a pretty heavy pull, but it is fully manageable with some practice.
Grip and trigger
Grip attachment screw
The upper receiver is made of metal, and it houses the piston assembly, as well as offering you a 20mm rail mount. As mentioned earlier, there are no iron sights on this gun, and a scope is not included, so you will need to provide your own optic to make the gun really useable. The cocking handle is located on the right side, and a left sided bolt will be available soon. The bolt only needs to rotate a few degrees to clear the locking lug, and the bolt pull is a firm, but even 3.5". The safety switch is located right behind the cocking handle, with forwards being safe, and rearwards being fire.
Handle pulled back
Moving forward, you will hit the wide, flat bottomed handguard. This is a great design if you have medium-large hands, but I can see it potentially causing problems for users with small hands. The side panels of the handguard can be unscrewed and replaced with SR-2 colored panels, if you can find them in stock. An easier option is just to paint them. The bottom of the handguard houses the magazine well. The magazines are inserted in a similar way to L96 mags, but they are not compatible, due to the side release buttons. In front of the magwell, you will find a hole, which allows you to adjust the hop-up using the included tool.
In front of the handguard, you'll find an odd rod sticking out of the front of the gun. This is where you mount up the QD bipod. The bipod is made of metal, and is a pretty sturdy design. The legs can pivot to be forwards, backwards, or down, all without any real locking mechanism. The positions are secured by a spring and ball detent setup, which works ok, except the gun can be positioned on the legs, and pushed forwards or backwards, allowing it to fall. I thought this would cause me issues during skirmishes, but it really didn't. Releasing the bipod is accomplished by pushing the locking lever down, and sliding it off the rod.
The outer barrel is a healthy 23.25" long, and is made of metal, with a plastic orange muzzle. The outer barrel is held securely in the receiver, as well as in a support at the front of the handguard. The muzzle is threaded, and can be removed, but some users are reporting that it is not compatible with the existing APS2 14mm- adapters. The outer diameter is about 1", making homebrew muzzle devices a snap to design and install.
As mentioned previously, there are no sights on this gun, as they are no use to most airsoft snipers anyways. The upper receiver has a metal 20mm rail, which allows you to install your preferred optic. I didn't find any compatibility issues with any of my scopes during my testing.
Overall, the externals of the gun are really quite nice, especially for the price. Yes, it's made almost entirely out of various plastics, but it has a great matte black finish to it, and it is quite sturdy from what I can tell. I don't think that breaking the body of this gun will ever be an issue.
There is a single ASR trademark located on the left side of the upper receiver, as well as a serial number which is not unique to each gun.
The included magazines are made of plastic, with a spring loaded top and extended feed lips, just like most L96 mags. As mentioned earlier, they are NOT L96 mags, so you will need to buy specific SR2 mags for it, if the three included magazines aren't enough for you. They feed flawlessly, and are easy to install and remove, even while wearing gloves. I was able to fit 22-25 rounds in each of my mags, giving you about 75 rounds out of the box.
Baseline performance after a 200 round break in period is as follows:
FPS (Recorded using TSD.20g BBs shot through a Madbull V1 chrono):
Average over 10 shots: 457.5
Average FPS w/ .28g Airsplat Bio ammo: 401.1
An interesting point about the above test is that the gun was incredibly inconsistent with all of the .20g ammo I fed it. I was getting really wide FPS spreads with lightweight ammo, but when feeding it heavier ammo (.28g+), the FPS fluctuations went down drastically, only about +-5 FPS or so.
Accuracy and range are what bolt action sniper rifles are all about, and this gun is quite potent at extended ranges. At my shooting range, which is measured using a 100' tape in 50' increments, I had my trusty assistant stand out at 200', and I took shots at him using Airsplat .28g Bio ammo, without even zeroing in the scope or tweaking the hop-up. The shots were rising almost to the top of the scope picture, then crossing back down across the hairs at about 180'. This is how I like my guns set up, so I decided to see how consistently I could hit a person. Even at 200', I was able to put 75% of my rounds onto my target's torso. The spread at that range appeared to be 2' max, with my "missed" shots just barely missing from side to side. The distance consistency was quite solid, but side to side consistency was the reason for misses.
In skirmish use, I was seeing 180' kills fairly consistently, with a few lucky shots at further ranges. This thing is 100% skirmish ready out of the box, and can easily be upgraded using easily available parts. I have since upgraded my gun using the Echo 1 kit and a Madbull barrel, and the results are listed in the Modifications section.
The ASR is, internally, a clone of the SR2, which in turn, uses APS2 parts predominantly. Some parts are SR2 specific, such as the trigger assembly, cylinder, etc, but parts like the spring, spring guide, barrel, hop-up, etc are all APS2 compatible.
Disassembling the gun is a piece of cake. Start by making sure the gun is unloaded and there are no rounds in the chamber. Turn the gun upside down and unscrew the two hex screws in front of the trigger guard, as well as the one just behind the bipod rod. You can now lift the upper receiver and barrel out of the gun. The outer barrel has a novel way of mounting up to the gun, just unscrew the two clamp screws at the front of the receiver, and pull the thing straight of the front of the receiver. After you do this, you can unscrew the hop-up retaining screw, and slide the hop-up and inner barrel out of the gun. The inner barrel is listed as having a 6.06mm ID, so upgrading it is a good idea. APS2 cut inner barrels, including the Madbull model that I threw in my gun fit the hop-up perfectly, but are a bit too long, and will stick out of the muzzle. The stock inner barrel is about 454 mm long, while most upgrades are 500mm+.
Outer barrel and hop-up, note the foam spacers
Excess Madbull barrel
The upper receiver houses the firing guts of this thing, and it does a good job keeping everything aligned and secure. The trigger assembly is attached to the bottom, and is made of a plastic body with metal sears. Not the best material choice here, but it seems to do the job just fine.
Upper receiver and trigger assembly
Trigger unit installed
Trigger unit removed
The cylinder is obviously made of metal, with a smooth chrome finish. The gun is pretty well lubed, only needing a little bit of internal lubing to keep it running smooth. You can easily unscrew the cylinder head, in order to perform maintenance or upgrade the guts of this thing. The cylinder head itself is made of brass, and has a decent air seal, which can be improved with a few wraps of teflon tape.
Some tapering, mine will be getting a homebrew lathe job
Inside the cylinder, you will find the plastic piston, spring guide, and chrome spring. These parts work ok at the stock power levels, but at higher levels, you may have issues with the durability of the parts. I will cover the upgrade kit in the next section.
Overall, the internals are decent, especially for the price of the gun. However, as everyone knows, sniper rifles aren't meant to remain stock, and Echo 1 has already came out with an upgrade kit, which I will cover in the next section.
The Echo 1 upgrade kit is a great first stop for modifying this gun. It includes an aluminum piston, stiffer and slightly longer spring, and an aluminum spring guide with a ball bearing base. The parts are very high quality, with no machining burrs or other defects that I could find. I gave the piston O-ring a quick soak in heavy silicone lubricant before installation, and re-lubed the cylinder as well, which made installation a breeze.
Spring guide comparison
I also installed a Madbull APS2 6.03mm inner barrel, which as mentioned before, was slightly too long for the outer barrel. Instead of cutting it down, or adding a "can" to an already fairly long gun, I decided to throw on a PVC muzzle brake, which fits the overall look quite well I think. I also threw on an Element CTR style stock, both to fix my earlier stock issues, and add a comfortable, unique look to the gun.
Poor man's muzzle brake
So, how did these upgrades fare? I've only been able to test the velocity since installation, but I saw a decent bump after installation, before tweaking the airseal, lathing the cylinder head, or anything else. Currently, with .28g Airsplat Bio ammo, I average 431.2 FPS, an increase of over 30 FPS. My consistency has gone up as well, with my deviation only falling between 428.2 and 433.8 using the same ammo. I believe that higher weight ammo would likely benefit the gun, especially after optimizing the hop-up settings and tweaking a few little things in the cylinder.
Very unique design
Affordable - $110 or so
Upgradeable using APS2 style parts
Not too difficult to wield based on the size and weight
Left handed bolt available soon
3 mags included
No included scope or sights
Stock issue on my gun SEE FIX IN THE EXTERNAL SECTION
Non standard grip
Non-locking bipod can cause some instability
I was eager to see Echo 1's treatment on the bolt action market, and I'm very happy to report that they did a good job with the ASR! The build quality is solid, the performance is admirable, and the look is definitely unique. If you're looking for a good base gun to start a sniper rifle project, the ASR is a great place to start, especially with E1's affordable upgrade kit being available as well.
Many thanks again to Echo 1 and of course, Airsoft Retreat!