05-10-2008, 06:36 AM
Star L85A2 review
I have waited patiently for a good factory AEG version of the L85/SA-80 to come out ever since seeing movies like 28 Days Later and Dog Soldiers, having been intrigued by the weapon system that many somewhat unfairly deride in the real steel version. A good bit of reading on the real steel version can be found at http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/SA80.htm
When Star introduced the L85 series, I knew I had to have one. I waited only long enough to read the initial reports, which for the most part were positive, before ordering the A2 assault rifle version, along with the STAR-manufactured SUSAT. It was the longest wait of my life.
I received the L85A2 March 2nd, 2006. The initial impression of the kit was “Holy cow, this is nice!” Having seen the pictures and read the sparse reviews, I had some expectation of what it was and was not, but it wasn’t until I held one that I truly appreciated the work of art that STAR has created with this replica.
The L85 is very solid. No squeaks, rattles, or flex is present. The cheek weld and the butt pad are made from some kind of rubber, and the forward hand guard, trigger, dust cover and pistol grip are made of plastic.
The rest of the gun is either stamped steel or, in the case of the outer barrel, some kind of aluminum alloy.
The stamped steel is as thick as a dime and does not flex when pressure is applied. The magazine is likewise made of the same stamped steel and is fairly stout. The gun is about the same size as an AUG or as a M4A1 with the stock fully retracted, but is much, much heavier than any stock AEG I have ever owned. I believe the data sheet said it was on the order of 8.5 pounds, and I believe it could go more than that.
When I showed the SUSAT to a teammate, he thought I had purchased a real one. It is full metal and has markings that add to its realism. If it had the tritium insert of the real SUSAT, it would be difficult to tell them apart.
It is entirely worth the money, although if you are thinking of buying one for an AEG that isn't an L85 series- don't. The mount is proprietary and will not fit on a standard mil-spec picatinny rail.
05-10-2008, 06:42 AM
The rifle and scope came in their own cases. While they are really nice and close intended copies, they are not at the level of Pelican-brand cases.
The scope comes with a nylon cover to protect it when not in use. The rifle came with an orange tip installed on the barrel that unscrewed (with the help of a pair of pliers) so the replica flash hider that was in the case could be installed. The outer barrel forward of the gas block is threaded at both ends, so removing it from the gun to remove the orange tip was very easy. The rifle also comes with a multi-tool that is stored in the hollow pistol grip. It looks close to the real L85 maintenance tool, but the individual tools are obviously intended for the airsoft gun as to make them useful. Other items in the rifle's case included a bb loader (same length and push-rod design as a TM M16A2 loader) and a manual (although pamphlet is probably a better description of it).
I didn't have the battery described in the manual or on the web site (found here- http://www.starairsoft.com/Large/SAA_L85A2_3_L.jpg) so I tried installing the V-shaped battery from my M4 which fit nicely (part number SYO-96-1100V on WGC's site http://www.wgcshop.com/pcart/shopper.php?cat=9.6V%20Batteries).
As I find more time, I plan to tear down a dead 9.6V 3000mAh battery (sub-C cells) and experiment with the space in the handguards as it actually has a good bit of room in it for a larger battery. Because it was dark outside, all I could do was dry-fire it. The gun cycled really fast, probably on the order of 800 rpm, on full-auto and was similarly snappy on semi. Obviously it was designed for the 8.4V battery so a 9.6V is overkill.
05-10-2008, 06:47 AM
The following morning I decided to try it out and picked a target about 25 yards away to evaluate velocity, range, and accuracy. The hop was turned to maximum by default from STAR so I have no idea where the first couple rounds went. The hopup uses a dial much like the TM M16 family, but that's where the similarities end. The dial itself is stiff to turn, but not excessively so. Once set, it doesn't move or back out like my M16A2 does. Looking at the exploded diagram, (http://www.starairsoft.com/S_AEG_05_3C.htm) you can see that it is a completely different internal setup than the gears and lever of the TM hopup.
Range is excellent, as is accuracy. (Add comment here about reasons you think why…..whether it be long inner barrel, well-lubed mechbox….) It appears to put the BBs out very close to the same velocity of my M16A2 (380 fps), so I can believe it should be somewhere around the 400fps mark. The BBs hit with authority as I could hear the distinct slap of the BBs against my target some 25 yards away. The BBs actually traveled fairly flat for that distance, and they could be heard hitting the fence beyond my makeshift target another 25 yards beyond that, so range is good. I did notice the BBs would curve to the left if you didn't hold the rifle so the hopup was parallel with the ground. Once I figured that out, it was interesting to see the BBs track up the centerline of the SUSAT to the point on top.
The SUSAT isn't terrible for eye relief, but it isn't great either. The user’s eye needs to be as close as possible to get the full FOV (which isn’t much), but backing off enough to simulate thick paintball goggles or non-profile ESS Turbocams gives plenty of FOV to still be useful. A teammate already asked when I would be putting an Aimpoint on it. With the rail that STAR will be selling soon, that becomes a possibility. (http://www.starairsoft.com/Large/SAA_L85_Top_Rail_1_L.jpg)
I like the magnification of the SUSAT (4x) for the longer distance shots, but for close-in work it is absolutely useless. Luckily, the backup iron sights on top of it are useful and only require a slight repositioning of the head to see. For actual skirmish use, a red dot is probably more useful for the assault variants while the SUSAT would really come into its own on the L86 for the longer range shots (and suppression duty).
I have been able to take the L85A2 out to two skirmishes since its’ arrival, and it has been utterly reliable. I was able to play almost a whole day on a single 1100mAh battery, although I have a second 1100mAh battery close at hand just in case. The STAR 130 round midcaps are really nice, feeding flawlessly in my M16, M4, and the L85A2. Likewise, all of my TM magazines feed well in the L85A2. I have run both hi-capacity and low-capacity TM magazines in it without failure, but have yet to try other manufacturers’ offerings. If it works in a TM, it should work fine in the L85 too. The L85, out of the box, chronographed at 410fps with .2g BBs. I can’t say enough about how nice it is to buy a gun that needs absolutely nothing but a battery and BBs out of the box to be skirmish ready. I suspect the chrono readings will drop somewhat as the spring settles in but it certainly is in the 400fps window I was hoping for and should stay there for some time.
The SUSAT’s magnification and limited FOV weren’t too much of a problem for me. I used the iron sights on top of the scope for snap shots and close-in work. I only really used the magnification of the scope when I switched to semi-auto for long-range, accurate fire (and believe me, this gun has range to do just that).
After my first weekend out with it, I installed a M16A2-length TN inner barrel from Systema. It was very close in length but 1/8” longer than the stock barrel. If you loosen the set screw on the flash hider, and back it out a couple turns, the inner barrel is flush with the flash hider. There is plenty of thread on the end of the outer barrel so this isn’t much of a problem and the set screw is what keeps it tight anyway.
The L85A2 reminded me very much of the TM MP5 family when I started to disassemble the replica. Several spots use very small screws that will take a #2 Phillips screwdriver only. Believe me when I say that before working on it that you better have brand new #1 and #2 drivers with clean, sharp blades. It is very easy to strip these small screws if you use the wrong size driver. One of my older drivers was beat up enough it wouldn’t engage the screw very well, and the screws appear to be made of a very soft metal that is easily damaged. Be careful and take your time if you have to get inside this replica.
When I started taking it apart, I relied heavily on the manual’s exploded diagram to see the logical sequence of what needed to come off next. First thing that needed to come off was the rubber butt cap.
There are two screws that hold it on and those come off easily enough. There is a set screw at the top of the plate the butt cap screws into that keeps the rear take-down pin from coming out so that needs to be removed too, as well as the two screws at the bottom of the plate.
Next are the four screws at the front of the receiver (two on each side) and the take down pin in front of the magazine well.
Once you get those out of the way, you can push out the rear receiver pin and the top should separate from the bottom receiver. I had to use a rubber mallet to tap out the pins as they were in very tight.
To get the rest of it apart, I had to remove two screws at the front of the receiver just above the trigger guard, followed by two screws that help secure the plastic cover just forward of the hopup, and then three screws that you need to stick something in the side of the screw head to turn (I used a 1.5mm hex wrench). Those screws are the ones that look like pins behind the magazine well. When you remove one of them, you will see the screw that holds the selector. This was one of those difficult screws so be very careful not to strip it. Once you removed the selector, the mechbox, outer barrel, and inner barrel should come free.
The hopup assembly is attached somehow to the mechbox, and since this was as far as I needed to go to swap the inner barrel I stopped here. The mechbox appears to be made out of Lexan or similar plastic. I do not believe it is acrylic so it should be sturdy enough for our purposes. It does have the quick-change spring guide so you don’t have to take it down this far to swap springs, which is a very thoughtful feature.
I didn’t get inside the mechbox to get a good look at the internals, but the piston looked very much like the black polycarbonate Systema piston. The cylinder looked to be plastic or black painted metal that feels like plastic. The gears look more robust than stock TM gears, but only time will tell. Overall the mechbox is very compact and laid out well.
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