Updates are explained at end of review.
I will be reviewing the Advanced Tactical Systems AT-4, aka ATS Tactical 4. This review can also be loosely applied to their AT-10, AT-16, and AT-85 markers as all utilize the same body and mechanics, generally only the cosmetics and accessories differ between the models. I have used this marker since March of 2008, playing woodsball, recball, and even speedball with it. I've dropped it, hit it, fell on it, and the like with very few problems so far. The only issues I've had at all that weren't related to my own lack of reading the instructions was the hopper adapter broke (maybe all that dropping, hitting, and falling?) and the bolt seal randomly came off. Northern Command Paintball (www.northerncommandpaintball.com), where I bought the marker, sent me out a new one for free, along with instructions for attaching it. I have found this company to be very easy to work with, and their customer service thus far has been outstanding. I highly recommend them to anyone looking to purchase an ATS product. (Hint: I've had the best luck working with them over the phone versus using their website, though email usually works well, too.)
My current marker setup:
ATS AT-4 marker (comes with M4 carry handle, hand guard, and front sight)
CAR adjustable stock with ASA adapter for remote line
Carry handle sight rail
BSA Red Dot sight
Crossfire 88ci/4500psi high-output (850psi) HPA tank
Coiled remote line
1 hopper adapter magazine
Ricochet AK motorized hopper
Noxx Boxx Loudener
M203 grenade launcher w/ grenades
This is what comes in the "Tactical 4" kit, plus a magazine. Note that it does not come with a stock. A manual and parts/tool kit is also included, as well as a velocity adjuster rod.
The Tactical 4 (AT-4) is part of a small line of markers manufactured by Advanced Tactical Systems (ATS, www.getrealpaintball.com). Other markers in the line include the AT-85, and the discontinued AT-16 and AT-10. ATS (formerly Tagline Inc.) works to create some of the most realistic paintball markers for use in military and law enforcement force-on-force training, as well as providing an awesome product for the regular paintball player. Their main claim-to-fame is that their markers are magazine fed from below, not gravity fed from above like almost every other paintball marker out there. It is also the standard .68 caliber, so any paint your local store or field sells will work! All this allows for one of the most realistic and fun (and expensive! ) mil-sim/woodsball/scenario marker being manufactured today.
-Magazine fed, 20-25 rounds per magazine. (hopper adapter available)
-Realistic styling/cosmetics/accessories, looks as near to the real M4 as any marker I've seen.
-Utilizes real M4 hardware where possible (carry handle, sights, hand guard, etc.)
-HPA only (though it's possible to use CO2 with no problem, manufacturer and dealers do not recommend it due to issues caused by CO2's temperature/pressure fluctuations)
-All mechanical (no batteries), with semi and full-auto capabilities (selector switch above trigger, switch between modes with a flick of your thumb! Or pointer finger if your a lefty shooter like me...)
-Unisizer allows for any size .68 caliber paint to be used without worrying about paint to barrel match, and provides increased accuracy with mixed-size paint. In fact it would probably fire rocks if you wanted it to. (Highly unrecomended, possibly illegal )
-Size and weight kept as close to real M4 as possible
-Expensive, you will pay for all of these features! Well worth the money however.
-Few "upgrades" available, it's a unique marker and it really doesn't need any upgrades.
-Can use many real M4 or equivalent accessories (rail hardware, sights, even has a bayonet mount, though actually mounting a bayonet is probably illegal. And barrel tags would suck.)
-Uses an indexed "cog and pull" system to prevent chops. Factory tests had a 0/6000 chop rate on every marker.
Opening the box…(look and feel)
When first beholding the awesomeness that is the AT-4, many people have to ask "Is that thing real?" It was made to look like the M4 and it does. The body is made from a ceramic-polymer and the interior is stainless steel. It will take a beating. The AT-4 comes with a simulated cocking handle/tactical rail, mounted on top of the standard ATS marker body, on which you can mount the carry handle (if going for the M4 look) or just about any sight, flashlight, laser, etc. There is a tube protruding from the front that may be mistaken for the barrel, it's not. It's a sleeve for the barrel to go into, and is what the hand guard assembly mounts to, so you won't see it on the assembled marker. The front sight is mounted in front of the hang guard at the very end of this barrel sleeve. The barrel itself has the unisizer threaded onto it and is then threaded into the marker.
This is the unisizer. It threads onto the back of the barrel before the barrel is threaded into the marker. Might want to remember to take this off before using a squeegy.
The marker has a standard ASA on the back end, and you can purchase the marker with the ASA either straight (horizontal, best for using CAR stock) or angled (ASA pointed slightly downward, good for on-marker air). I have mine straight, as I bought a CAR stock. The stock (if bought from ATS or their dealers) comes with an adapter that threads between the ASA and stock, allowing the use of a remote air line and pressure gauge. It also comes with a plug to thread into the gauge hole if you choose not to use it (like me). The CAR stock is adjustable, so shorties' and giants like me can both use it comfortably.
This is the ASA adapter that is threaded into the marker ASA, and then the stock is threaded into the adapter. It has a remote nipple and a hole on top (not shown) for a pressure gauge if you so wish to use one.
The carry handle is real M4 hardware, and as such includes adjustable iron rear sights. I bought a carry handle sight rail from my local gun shop that mounts on top so that I could have the carry handle and a place to mount my newly-purchased BSA red dot sight. The front sight is just that, again real M4 hardware and adjustable. You can use either iron sights or any sight you mount on the carry handle without changing a thing.
From a distance, it's virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. This is both awesome and problematic. While fearsome on the field, it can get you in trouble off the field. I recommend buying a case for it first thing, and not carrying it out in the open when transporting it. Someone could easily mistake it for a real gun and might be so inclined as to notify law enforcement….
When you pick the beast up, you will note that it is heavier than most paintball markers you have held. It's bigger, too. It feels right at home against your shoulder (if you have remembered to purchase your CAR stock) just like a real rifle, and aiming comes just as naturally. Again, it was built to emulate the real thing and it does that well. It weighs in at 5.2 pounds, without stock, magazine, or extra accessories (other than what came with the marker). It is 24 inches long (again, without stock) and 2.2 inches wide (can't be the same size as the M4 everywhere, it is firing .68 caliber paintballs, not 5.56 millimeter NATO ammunition). The barrel is 16.2 inches long and made of aluminum. All put together, it's big, heavy, and awesome. With a "combat load" of a stock, magazine with hopper adapter, hopper full of paint, and a sight, your looking at a marker that is almost 3 feet long (with stock extended) and heading towards 10 pounds. Hence the sling.
One negative point to mention, there is no instructions included on assembling extra accessories such as the CAR stock. Although it wasn't terribly difficult to figure out, it did take a few minutes to work out how the stock, ASA adapter, and ASA all fit together properly. Instructions would have been a definite plus.
On the firing range…..(performance)
The loading, gassing, firing, and shut-down of this marker is more complex than most paintball markers. Though it takes some reading of the instructions and practice, it will soon be down to a habit and isn't a problem. Most people say this marker was made for the advanced user, and they are correct for the most part. That being said, I believe even a young gun could easily learn how to use and care for this marker. All you have to do is read the manual, and actually do what it says! I think many small parts simply intimidates some people. It's not so bad. Honest.
This diagram is from the ATS website (www.getrealpaintball.com) and gives you an idea on how the magazine system works and prevents chops.
To start, let's load a magazine. Simply pop paintballs through the tab at the front of the mag. The tab prevents paintballs from falling out once loaded. No springs or anything to shoot all your paintballs all over the place if your finger slips like on so many pistol mags. Once you have about 10 balls loaded, turn the indexer to start to move paintballs up the chain and to the top of the magazine. Then load about 10 more. The mag has a line marked on the clear half (if you bought clear halved mags, they sell all black "tactical" mags too) that you should fill to. This usually takes about 20 balls. I have had no problems loading 25 balls, just don't force them! There needs to be some room for the balls to move inside so they don't jam up the mechanics of the mag. Index the mag, and now we need to air up the marker. I use a remote line, but you can screw in any standard HPA tank right into the ASA. Don't air up the marker with a mag inserted as when first aired up the marker self-indexes the cog pull (that's what drives the magazine system) and if a mag is in the way it causes problems. Once aired up, push the little button on the right side above the trigger to cycle the action and make sure it's ready to receive a mag. Then simply slide a mag into the well. Fire the marker once to cycle a ball into the chamber, and you're ready to rock. When switching mags, just push the mag release, slide the empty mag out and slide a full one in. To shut down, empty your mag or put in an empty mag and then turn off your air and fire the marker until the air in the marker is gone. There is no way to cycle the action without the marker gassed up.
This is a mag that has been taken apart. The black side houses the chain conveyor system that moves paintballs up and into the marker. The clear side is interchangeable, you can have this clear side (so you can see how much ammo is left), a black side ("tactical"), or a hopper adapter side.
Some people think this process is long and a pain in the behind. Maybe, but it's not bad once you do it a few times, and it's also much more realistic. And let's face it, if you're spending this kind of money on this marker, realism is what you're going for.
As for firing, the first thing you (and everyone else on the entire field, staging area, and beyond) will notice is this marker is ever so slightly louder than many others. And by that I mean don't be surprised if the opposition and any team mates in front of you hit the dirt fast. It's loud, and in this case I say that's a good thing. It's not a cheap loud like a Stingray or older Spyder, this thing is loud like an assault rifle. People notice. I've had refs at woodsball tourneys tell me they never have any problem knowing right where I am, even if they are on the other side of the field. It doesn't sound like anything else out there. Next, you will notice that if you are sighted in correctly, you actually hit what you were aiming at! This marker has above average accuracy, even in full auto mode. Once I had my red dot sighted in, a friend of mine asked to try the marker. He had never fired it before, put the red dot on the small warning label of an inflatable bunker some 50 feet away, and proceeded to put ball after ball right on that little sticker. Couple that with the sound and looks, you will soon be well known (for better or worse) at your field.
Chronographing this marker can be a bit of a hassle. It is adjusted with an included tool that goes down the barrel, and you use it to screw the bolt in or out to adjust the velocity, similar to a Phantom pump. This means there can be no paint in the marker to do it. So, you have to load a mag with 2 or 3 balls, index it, put it in the marker, fire the 2 or 3 balls over the chrony, pull the mag out, adjust the bolt, and repeat until you're at the correct FPS. Their website says the velocity range is 260-350 fps. Obviously we don't want to go above 300 fps, but the 260 low limit could be a problem indoors. Not to worry, I have been able to chrono mine down below 250 for indoor play. Score.
You will notice that you run out of ammo fast. When you're used to playing with a 200 round hopper with 4 pods on your back, 25 rounds disappear in a hurry. You have to change your playing style with this marker, or get the hopper adapter. This adapter, tactfully called the "SAW Adapter" by ATS, is simply the left side of a magazine with a small neck protruding that you can attach an elbow, and then a hopper onto. The balls drop from the hopper into the mag, and the usual cog pull and chain mechanism takes over from there. You can use any hopper you want, I chose a Ricochet AK motorized hopper. Not the fastest, but fast enough to keep up with the AT-4 on full auto, plus it just looks cool. The hopper sits on the left side of the marker, and it sits nice and low on the side. Even lower than Tippmans' Cyclone hopper. It won't get in the way of your sights, even without the carry handle. It can make it a little lopsided weight-wise, but I haven't found it to be much of an issue. I did run into a problem though, after a while with a nice heavy hopper sitting on top and running around in the woods for hours, the feed tube on the hopper adapter eventually separated from the mag. I tried 2 ton epoxy, and even that couldn't hold. Apparently a full hopper is very, very heavy.
A side note on the hopper adapter: though I haven't heard either way, it seems to me that using a force loader such as an Empire Magna or a Q-Loader might cause issues as the paintballs going into the magazine need to be free to move around a bit. The pressure on the paintballs from the force feed systems might jam up the magazine and damage the marker. I don't know this for sure, and I encourage anyone looking to try it to contact ATS and see what they say. Let me know if you do!
Chops. A problem that has plagued the world of paintball since the semi-auto marker. You wont have to worry about it anymore. With the mechanically linked chain conveyor in the mag and the cog pull in the marker, the "cog and pull" system as it's called keeps the mag indexed and the balls aligned properly. The faster the mag fires, the faster the mechanism moves, and everything stays aligned. No chops.
As far as air goes, HPA is your very best bet. CO2 will work, but temperature/pressure fluctuations will lessen your accuracy and consistency. Also, the air system in this marker actually has two parts. A low pressure side fires the paintball, and a high pressure side is used to cycle the magazine. Due to this, pressure fluctuations could be a problem. If the air pressure falls below a certain pressure ( I believe it's less than 750psi, I could be wrong) the loading mechanisms will not work correctly and possibly damage the marker. Do yourself a favor and get HPA. This marker is an air hog do to the reasons just stated. The website says you will get about 150 shots (not even a hopper full!) from a 13ci tank (though they don't state what pressure, I'm assuming 3k). I have a Crossfire 88/45 and still find myself filling up several times a day. Keep in mind CO2 tank pressure is about 1200psi, though it's kinda comparing apples to oranges since CO2 is stored as a liquid and HPA as a gas, I still think a good size HPA tank will get you more shots. As long as we are on the subject of air, don't mess around with the markers regulator. It is factory set, and there are only a few situations where you may want to mess around with it. Usually, it's a bad idea. If your screw up the pressure, and hence the timing on the mag system, you could damage the marker.
Here's the regulator, factory set and no-touchy. For the most part anyway.
In the shop….(maintenance and repair)
This is a complex piece of art, and reading the manual several times will serve you well. When you disassemble the marker you may be surprised at the inner workings. They are tiny and fairly complex. Be careful not to lose parts (especially that darn washer holding that darn spring on that darn long thin part like I did) or you may find yourself on your hands and knees searching through the carpet without success. I speak from experience. Lots of small parts. There is good news however; you will very rarely ever have to mess around with the small parts! The bolt and hammer are about the only things that need regular inspection and lubing on the interior, and they're nice a big. You should periodically check the guide plate on the side of the marker as well, making sure it's greased and still in one piece. Overall the maintenance isn't very demanding, maybe working out to about 10 minutes per day of play.
The air system is compact, but certainly not simple. Watch the small parts!
The magazine rarely needs maintenance, but it's a good idea to periodically check (by periodically I mean before each day of play) that the lugs are straight and the chain is in good order. That's about it here. You don't even have to take it apart to do so. I did just to show you what the inside looks like.
Inside the mag, we can see the chain link system that moves the paintballs up into the marker.
Overall, simply remembering to follow the maintenance schedule will keep you shooting well. There are a few other minor things, but like I said, read the manual.
Here's the "pull," part of the mechanism that advances the chain in the magazine, loading paintballs into the breech.
Here's a view into the magazine well, you can see the bolt and cog pull (advances the magazine chain system to bring a paintball into the action.)
The bank…(knew it was too good to be true, there must have been a catch)
I'll come right out and say it. Prepare to drop some cash . This marker and its respective accessories aren't cheap. That being said, I believe it's been worth the money I paid for it. I paid $625 for the Tactical 4 kit, $95 for the CAR stock and ASA adapter, $10 for the hopper adapter plate, and $65 per magazine. Plus my $200+ for my HPA tank and remote line. Add another $20-30 for the red dot sight, $20 for the carry handle sight rail, and you get the picture. I've easily got over $1200 sunk into this marker, but I'm happy with it. You pay for quality in build, looks, and performance. What more can I say?
I have seen an occasional ATS marker on sites such as Ebay, and if you can find a good deal here, way to go! Play it on the safe side however, there's a lot that can go wrong with these markers if they're not well taken care of, and who knows what your really getting....
In conclusion…(the end, almost)
Overall this marker is one of the coolest pieces of paintball armament I have ever seen. It's in a league of its own really, and there isn't much out there to compare it too. Having used it in many games, even speedball, and a couple tournaments with both magazines and the hopper adapter, I have to say that it is a lot of fun. That's what we are all going for in the end, is fun, and I found it. The looks on people's faces when you bring it out will put a smile on your face. (Actually, I've had a couple people refuse to play against my team after I pulled it out. Sigh.) Those people ducking for cover when you put the first burst of full auto downrange might even get an evil maniac laugh out of you. Then you can be Mr. Important when they all come up after the game wanting to know what "that thing" is, can I fire it? How much did it cost? Where'd you get it? Holy crap! OMG! I want one! Is it a Tippman (NO!!!)? The questions will get old after a while, but at the same time knowing you have something truly different and awesome will keep you from minding too much. You might only have 25 rounds a pop, but with practice you could probably take out 25 people. Besides, if you can't wrap your style around the magazines grab the hopper adapter, flick the switch to auto, and have some fun. Nothing beats this thing, and if I lost this one I'd by another one no question (though it'd take me a while to save up for another one ). What more can I say? Try one and see for yourselves!
When playing at our winter haunt, Jello Factory Paintball in LeRoy, NY, I measured the BPS on full auto. The chrony said I was shooting 9 balls per second on full auto. While this may seem slow to most of you speedballers, and maybe a lot of you woodsballers with electros and R-triggers, it's fast enough to sound incredibly cool. And fast enough to keep heads down . When it gets warmer out I will get some video made and post it.
I have purchased my bi-pod and will be installing it tonight. Will post a photo or two. I have also ordered the Noxx Boxx, should be delivered in 4-6 weeks.
Last night at the Jello Factory I was cleaned out my regulator as I was having some leak issues and I guess either the cleaning effected the marker or I mis-adjusted the reg, but either way it now fires full auto at 13 bps.
Note: I re-read this after I posted and found many typos. I fixed them, then re-read it and found more. I fixed them, and re-read, and you get the picture. I will be constantly updating and editing this review to make it as readable and relavent as possible. I plan to eventually add more photos (actions shots!) and maybe some video so you can see it in action. Check back occasionally since just editing wont put this on the "New Topics" page.
If you have questions or comments you don't want to leave in a post, feel free to PM me.
I should give credit to the ATS website, www.getrealpaintball.com, for some of the technical info and the animated internal diagram.
This post has been edited by The Bear: 08 February 2009 - 02:53 PM