Echo 1 Red Star LMG (RPK) AEG review by Booligan
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On most airsoft fields, the role of support gunner is normally filled by M249 toting players, but comrades, there is now another great option! The Echo 1 LMG is a replica of the RPK, the preferred squad support weapon of the Warsaw Pact nations, and it is a model that has been woefully neglected by most manufacturers. The LMG has a few features that really make it stand out from other RPKs, which I will discuss in this review!
I obtained this support gun directly through Echo 1, who recently released it only a few weeks ago. It is starting to pop up at most major airsoft retailers, such as Evike, Airsoft GI, Stryke Airsoft, etc. It is currently priced at about $340.00, which is less than the previous main RPK options, the TSD/SRC model, and the Classic Army. Like all Echo 1 products, it includes their warranty against manufacturer defects, which in this case, is good for 30 days.
The LMG comes packaged in a cardboard box with a foam lower section designed to hold everything securely. The box is decorated with a picture of the gun, and the normal Echo 1 product advisories adorn the sides. Upon opening the box and first gazing at the gun held within, I was really pleased with the laminated wood furniture, and the steel receiver, which is actually of the correct RPK design.
Along with the gun itself, Echo 1 has included a single hi-cap magazine, a 9.6v 1200 mAh custom designed battery pack, trickle charger, manual, warranty card, and front sight adjustment tool. The battery is specially designed to fit inside the stock, however, some LiPo batteries can also fit inside the battery compartment. Also, like pretty much all airsoft guns, a cleaning/unjamming rod can be found hiding at the bottom of the box.
Weight: 9.4 lbs
Height: 13" (sight to mag)
Sight Radius: 22"
The LMG is a full metal AEG, with the majority of the parts being made out of steel. Complementing the metal body is laminated wooden furniture, and a polymer pistol grip. The gun is incredibly sturdy, with no creaks or wobbles, and feels good in your hands, aside from being a bit front heavy.
From this point, click all photos to enlarge
External overview, right side
Starting at the rear, you will notice that this doesn't have a standard AK47 style stock, instead having a boxier RPK stock, which is optimized for use while prone. The left side of the stock has a metal sling mount, which is fairly tight, to prevent it from flopping back and forth. The butt plate is also metal, and is removed by undoing the phillips head screws to facilitate insertion of the battery. There is no wobble where the stock meets the receiver, and the overall finish of the stock is very smooth and comfortable.
Laminated wood layers
The receiver, at first glance, appears to be a standard AK47 receiver, however, it is not. First off, it is made of stamped steel, with the appropriate parts riveted or screwed on. The front of the receiver has two rectangular reinforcement bulges, just like the real gun, adding to this AEGs realism. On the let side, you will find a mount that is used to install a scope mount, or scope with built in scope mount. On the right side, you'll find the selector switch, which has three positions; safe, full auto, and semi-auto. The pistol grip is polymer, and is comfortable to hold while firing.
Receiver, left side
Receiver, right side
Above the receiver, can see the bolt cover, which is made of steel as well. Unlike most AK AEGs, the bolt on this gun pulls all the way back, exposing the hop-up. If you remove the bolt cover, you can see the realistic mock bolt carrier, which can be removed to show that it has an incredibly realistic faux gas piston assembly.
Bolt pulled back
In front of the receiver, you will find the handguard, which is a fair bit beefier than a standard AK handguard. Like the stock, it is made of laminated wood, and overall, has a great feel and finish. On the right side, mine took a slight ding, which caused a small chip in the lamination, but it just adds to the weathering that this gun will be receiving. The handguard is quite comfortable to hold, due to the slightly wider and fatter design.
The outer barrel is made of non-ferrous metal, however, the gas block assembly is steel. The barrel is the proper RPK profile, and is damn long, improving the ability to tuck long inner barrels inside. Underneath the barrel, you will find the faux cleaning rod, however, with the right tip attached, you can actually use it to clean the barrel. The outer barrel is terminated in a 14mm- threaded muzzle, which has the appropriate RPK-74 flashhider attached.
Underneath the barrel, you will find the bipod, which is made of stamped steel. It does not adjust for length, but it does have a few degrees of rotation to allow for uneven terrain. I didn't like how the bipod didn't really clamp onto the cleaning rod, so I wrapped a few layers of electrical tape around it to allow it to clamp securely and quietly.
Tape to aid in secure bipod locking when folded
Echo 1 had the proper RPK sights installed, which are designed to aid in long range shooting. The rear is adjustable for elevation, and in a departure from standard AK sights, windage as well, using an easily adjusted knob. The front sight is adjustable for windage and elevation, with elevation using the included tool. Both sights are made of metal, and are quite stable.
Overall, the externals of this gun are pretty outstanding. The gun is one of the first accurate RPK AEG models on the market, and it does it for a lower price than pretty much all of the other models.
Echo 1 has placed a Red Star logo on the left side of the gun, along with a serial number, which I believe is unique to each gun. The trades look like they were screen printed on the gun, so removing them shouldn't be an issue if you don't like them. Some users will inevitably complain about the 7.62 markings, even though it comes with a 5.45 magazine, but I think that it is just a small issue.
The included magazine is a replica of the early AK74 40 round polymer magazine, which for this model, is a hi-cap that holds about 800 rounds. This thing is practically a drum mag as is, however, it does use TM compatible mags, so you can fit a drum mag if you so desire.
CA drum mag
Baseline performance after a 500 round break in period is as follows:
FPS (Recorded using Airsplat .20g BBs shot through a Madbull V1 chrono):
Average over 10 shots: 419.2
Rate of fire with the stock 9.6v battery was 14 RPS, and when considering the relatively high FPS, it's quite reasonable. A high speed motor, or lowering the FPS would obviously yield a higher ROF, as would using a higher discharge rate battery.
Range and accuracy were quite good, due to the long inner barrel and Madbull bucking. I am able to easily hit torso sized targets at 160' from a prone position using .25g Echo 1 ammo. Burst fire is the best way to use this gun, as it throws a few rounds downrange at good distances in order to keep people's heads down.
Internally, this gun is pretty much a stock AK, with the exception of the long inner barrel. A V3 gearbox is equipped, and has been filled with very decent parts to give the gun some solid durability. Disassembly is a little different than most other AKs, as you must first remove the large pin under the rear sight, which will allow you to slide the outer barrel forward, giving you room to pull out the gearbox.
The gearbox is equipped with 7mm ball bearings, which allow the gears to spin freely. The shim job is great, and the greasing is only slightly heavy, but certainly usable.
7mm ball bearings
Gearbox shell detail
Not too greasy
The gears are steel, and according to Echo 1's literature, are high torque units. A metal ball bearing spring guide is fitted to keep the spring from binding up during firing.
Compression is quite good with the polycarbonate piston and ported piston head, and a light coating of grease is applied to the inside of the cylinder. A polycarbonate cylinder head, and clear plastic air nozzle round out the compression parts.
The motor is a grey colored, short unit with QD wire connectors instead of soldered connections, which is what I prefer. Echo 1 lists it as being a high torque motor, and it is fairly difficult to turn by hand. The hop-up is metal, and the gun comes equipped with a Madbull blue bucking. The inner barrel is 500 mm long, and you have plenty of extra room for more barrel length!
I personally think the gun is pretty much perfect as is, externally at least, however, to better suit it for a support role, I've mounted up a CA drum mag, to give me a ton of firepower potential. Other than that, I will likely be downgrading the spring a bit, to put it right at 400 FPS, and give it a better ROF. I have installed a Madbull 650mm tightbore inner barrel, which goes right up to the middle of the flashhider, making that pretty much your max length with the stock muzzle device.
Lots of ammo
Full metal, mostly steel, and laminated wood
Great range and accuracy
Realistic body, bolt, sights, etc
Includes battery, bipod, and huge capacity magazine
Not too heavy, especially in its support class
Clanky bipod (easily fixed with some tape)
Requires screwdriver to change battery
Small issue, but has 7.62 markings with a 5.45 mag
Ever since I got rid of my A&K M249, I needed to get a new support weapon, and the Echo 1 LMG fills that role quite well. It is lighter and much easier to carry than the SAW, plus it shares magazines with other AKs, making mag sharing with teammates a piece of cake. The Echo 1 LMG combines a sturdy build, great performance, and a realistic body, all served with a side order of value, as it is less expensive than the other RPKs on the market.
Many thanks again to Echo 1 and of course, Airsoft Retreat!