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Review: Ares SL8

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Old December 4th, 2011, 20:32   #1
kalnaren
 
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Location: Oakville, Ontario
Review: Ares SL8

The last couple of years I've been playing less and less airsoft... decided it was time I started getting back into it. This review will be in several parts and information will be added and updated as necessary.

To start off I decided to convert my SL9 back into the G36 it started life as. Had some feeding issues with the SL9 and I missed the G36. This got me thinking about an SL8.. a proper one that was, from the outset, an SL8. As far as I know the only two that exist (that are worth more than a turd) are the Classic Army and Ares SL8.

So, like any responsible airsofter, I decided to read some reviews of the Ares SL8. To my complete horror I discovered that there was no Ares SL8 review on ASC! “Oh Noes!!” Says I, “What can I do to amend this travesty?” After some careful thought and consideration that lasted at least a few seconds I decided to take one for the team, buy a new airsoft gun, and write a review of it. No need to thank me -we all make sacrifices for the good of all.

Real Steel History

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sl8 and http://world.guns.ru/civil/de/heckle...-hk-sl--e.html

The SL8 is closely related to the G36 and is part of the G36 family of weapons made by the German weapons masters at Heckler & Koch.

“SL” stands for 'Selbst-Lade', or Self-Loading. The '8' designates the 8th rifle in H&K's civilian rifle lineup. The SL8 was designed for several markets, including civilian sport shooting, reservists, and other military or para-military groups to provide experience with a military grade rifle similar to the G36 without the requisite costs for military assault rifles. Like the rest of the G36 family the SL8 is constructed primarily from composite compounds.

The SL-8 rifle is a 5.56mm gas operated, semi-automatic weapon. It uses patented short-stroke gas piston system, located above the barrel, which is very reliable and requires minimal maintenance. Barrel locking is achieved by rotary bolt with seven radial lugs, which engages barrel extension and thus relieves polymer receiver from most of the firing stress. Cocking handle design is copied from G36 assault rifle, and when not in use, folding cocking handle lies in line with the gun at the top of receiver. For cocking, it can be swung to either side, and once released, it will straighten itself back automatically. Feed system has bolt hold-open device. Polymer stock is of modular design, and forearm and magazine housing can be easily replaced; basic disassembly requires no special tools

The SL8 differs from the G36 in the following ways:
-The pistol grip and folding stock of the G36 have been replaced by a fixed stock with a thumbhole -The receiver has been modified to prevent attachment of the G36 folding stock.
-To comply with the Gun Control Act of 1968 (as presently construed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms or ATF) SL8 rifles exported to the United States have been modified so that they will not accept staggered, normal-capacity 20 and 30 round G36 magazines. U.S. SL8 rifles accept only a single-column, 10-round magazine. 'Normal' SL8s will still accept 30-round G36 box magazines.
-Other modifications have been made to the SL8 including a lightened trigger pull, adjustable cheekpiece and buttplate to customize the fit to the user, and a heavier, more accurate barrel.

SL8 vs. SL9SD.. what's the difference?

The SL9SD is under development by H&K. It operates on a similar principle to the SL8 and is chambered for 7.62x37mm “whisper” subsonic ammunition.

Now that that is out of the way, on with the review...

Ordering and Shipping

I eventually found the girl I wanted in the mail-order-brides online catalogue by the good folks at Airsoft Gear. And what a bonus! Christmas sale! Awesome, my wallet would not end up being as lightened by this as I thought.

On their website Airsoft Gear says they require either a picture of your ID that reflects your shipping address or a copy of your PAL before they'll ship a gun to you. Reasonable, unfortunately I don't have either. I PM'd Optix and asked if my ASC AV status would suffice. He got back to me very quickly and said that would be fine. In the 'order notes' for the SL8 I put my ASC username in and asked them to PM me for verification, which they did. Later that day I got notice that the gun had be shipped along with a tracking number. This was all on a Sunday. Very fast service, very fast communication. Overall very happy with the service from Airsoft Gear. The gun was shipped requiring ID and signature which is great.. I've had airsoft guns drop delivered before because a sig wasn't required.

The gun arrived in Oakville from BC by Friday but CP being the asspirates they are wouldn't let me pick it up until the weekend. In total I paid just over $400. Pretty awesome for a gun that, just over 2 years ago, I was quoted $1,200 on.

In short.. Airsoft Gear: Awesome! Canada Post: Fail.

Airsoft Gear wrapped the parcel incredibly well. It would have made the Sheriff of Rottingham quit in frustration trying to get into it. It took me a knife, scissors, and light explosives to get the chastity belt off this lovely virgin.



Again, extremely happy with the way AG shipped.

Basic Overview

BATTERY: 8.4V 1700mAH
MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 20rds (6mm BB)
MODE: Full Auto / Semi / Safe
MATERIAL: Nylon Fiber + Zinc Alloy
MOTOR: High Torque Flat Motor
HOP-UP: Adjustable
LENGTH: 980/1030mm (6 Positions)
WEIGHT: 3600g
VELOCITY: 430+ FPS
MECHBOX: Real, proper Version 3 mechbox. No Ares proprietary stuff!



What's in the box

The gun, a 20-round short magazine, charging rod, and English manual. No unjaming rod unfortunately. There was also a little baggy of additional hardware, screws mostly. Not 100% sure what they're all for.

Ares packs the SL8 very well overall.



First Impressions

The first thing that caught my eye was that the grey body is actually darker than it looks in every single picture on the net. It's more “grey” than “white”. Construction is overall very solid. The balance is excellent. Normal airsoft G36's tend to be front heavy, with the mechbox over the handgrip and the battery in the front end. The SL8 has removable spacers, the last of which is a hunk of metal, in the stock which add a good chunk of weight. With the battery installed the balance is excellent. The real metal spacer acts as a nice counter-weight.



Weight

I haven't (and won't) weigh it, but it feels similar to my SL9. My SL9 was a CA G36 with a STAR conversion kit, not a full SL9. Several sources put the weight in around 3600g, spread out over the entire 1030mm length. It's heavier than my CA36 and slightly heavier than my CA15 in my scrawny arms.
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Last edited by kalnaren; December 6th, 2011 at 19:25..
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Old December 4th, 2011, 20:33   #2
kalnaren
 
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Build Quality

Overall, fairly impressed. The material is similar to the Classic Army G36 nylon fibre. It's textured, feels good to the touch, and is quite solid. Other than the foregrip (see below) there was no noticeable body flex anywhere. Even the magwell is very, very solid. It doesn't shine like ABS plastic bodies.

Most of the gun is made out of nylon fibre. Metal parts include:
-The outer barrel (machined aluminium, very nice)
-Cocking lever assembly (the swivel lever itself is still plastic. It feels stronger than the stock one on my CA that broke rather quickly. User beware though).
-All body pins and screws
-Threads for the rail holes in the foregrip
-trigger, selector
-Rear sling mount, rear stock spacer


Aluminum outer barrel

The fake gas tube assembly and supporting mount (the one that supports the inner barrel) is plastic. As the one on my CA is metal and very solid this is slightly disappointing. It's plastic on my KWA as well and while I haven't had any real issues with the plastic one I expected a bit more from Ares. Having said that the inner barrel is completely solid. No wobble or movement whatsoever.

The only real disappointing part of the build is that the rear of the foregrip is slightly wider than the upper receiver. This leaves some ugly body gaps of about 1.5mm on either side of the receiver and allows the foregrip an ever so slight play to the left and right. The seams in the grip stand out a little bit more than on my G36, but I suspect that's because of the grey instead of black body. They're very subtle and only barely detectable running your finger across them.


SL8 foregrip gap


Non-existent G36 foregrip gap

One thing that REALLY annoyed me is that there is no ball-bearing in the selector switch. This means there is absolutely NO locking of the selector in any position. When I took the selector off the spring to hold the bearing in place is there as are the locking holes, so I suspect the bearing was either mistakenly left out or fell out somewhere along the gun's journey (both selectors were loose when I received the gun). Either way this needs to be rectified before it can be gamed. After talking to AG I learned this gun was their shelf model for about a month and pawed a bit, so I suppose it could have fallen out at some point while being handled. IMO this still doesn't speak well to how secure the selectors are from the factory.

Also, this gun is suppose to have a functioning bolt catch. Mine doesn't work. Looking at the diagram in the manual I can't see quite how it would work anyway. I'll have to wait until I take the gun apart to look into this further. If it does indeed have a functioning bolt catch and I can fix it this will be a pretty awesome feature.

Nifty things I like about the construction

Three things here.

First, the foregrip having holes to mount an underslung rail with metal threads. Not something I'm likely to use, but a bonus nonetheless.



Second, the magwell pin is SPRUNG like a foregrip pin. It doesn't use a retarded nut that strips and gets lost to hold it in. This is an UBER WIN as I've stripped those pins and they have a tendency to work themselves loose (I've lost the nut on one of my G36's).

Third, and I'm kind of neutral on this one. The outer barrel has to be unscrewed to get the foregrip off. This is advantageous because if you either lose the forgrip pin or forget to put it back in the foregrip will be held securely by the outer barrel. The piece the outer barrel holds against is pretty solid and even under moderate abuse I suspect it would hold. The disadvantage is that the outer barrel has to be unscrewed to get the foregrip off and install the battery.


Foregrip threads into a fixture on the other side of that little bulkhead

Other thoughts on the construction

There are a few scuffs that look like they were from packing and shipping. I personally don't care to much about minor marks on my guns but some people do.

Comparing the construction to my Classic Army G36 I'd have to say I'd be hard pressed to pick my favourite. I think I prefer the texture and overall feel of the CA one more, but that's mostly preference and probably no small amount of familiar bias.

The Sights

Not much to say about the sights. The SL8 comes with the “standard” SL8 long rail with open sights. The sights don't have a small aperture so precision shooting my be tough. I'm planning on scoping it anyway so it doesn't matter to me. The rail is a standard picatinny rail. The rail is either plastic or nylon (I honestly can't tell) and is quite sturdy. You could carry the gun by it if you had to. Like all G36 models, the rail is removable.
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"Someone in a Prius tried to race me at a stop sign the other day. I couldn't believe it. I had him for the first 100 feet or so but I can only walk so fast."

Last edited by kalnaren; December 6th, 2011 at 19:37..
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Old December 4th, 2011, 20:33   #3
kalnaren
 
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Trademarks

I wasn't able to get a good picture of the trades as they blend in and are almost invisible. They're located in the normal G36 spot -a square on the left side of the receiver right in front of the selector. The trades are mostly authentic and read
'H&K SL8-1
Kal. .223 Rem
Heackler & Kach GmhH'

Yes, you read that right. It says Heackler and Kach. I'm not really sure what to think of this. Again, trades are not something that bother me too much, and I'd rather something there than nothing, but for a company to license the trades and then screw them up seems a little careless. From what I've read this was a problem on the STAR SL8s as well.



The gun also features a metal serial number plate on both sides of the receiver. Not sure if it's unique or not. There is no bright orange 'H&K' on the stock, which I personally prefer. It looks good on the black SL9 body but I think it would be out of place on the grey.

Magazine

The Ares SL8 comes with a 20-round shorty G36 mag. It clicks into the receiver well and feeds without issue. I have to say I'm rather impressed with the build quality of the magazine. It's very solid and has a matte finish -no shiny-ness of other black G36 magazines.

The only disadvantage to the magazine is that you still lose the standard 3 BB's, meaning you'll get 17 rounds out of this mag. Even in semi you blow through that pretty quick.

I tried a standard Classic Army 50-round G36 magazine as well. It clicks into place with no issue and feeds flawlessly (and honestly looks pretty bad-ass).


Ares mag vs. CA mag

Performance, Firing, and Internals

It was time to head down to the sex dungeon and test fire my new acquisition.

Ares recommends an 8.4v battery for this gun, and under normal circumstances I'm inclined to believe that would be sufficient. However.. Ares guns imported into Canada ship with a more powerful spring. According to the little Ares test tag on the trigger guard this SL8 is shooting above 430 FPS. I don't have a chronie handy unfortunately. My roommate offered to do the “squeal test” instead. Upon receipt of my confused look he said that's when he shoots me at close range and tells the velocity based on the volume of my girlish squeal. I said that was a great idea but I'd first have to judge the accuracy of his readings by seeing how close he was to estimating the velocity of my foot hoofing him in the ballsack. He didn't like that idea for some reason and we were unable to reach a compromise. Oh well. As such, I'm going to stick with the ~430 estimate, and the information on Canadian retailer websites seem to support this.

Frankly the spring is too damned powerful for this gun. Even on a 9.6v battery the gun cycled with a mechanical 'whir SNAP whir SNAP' instead of the 'pop pop pop' of a normal stock gun or a 'zip zip zip' of a well tuned one. Trigger response is slow enough that its use as a semi-only marksman platform is degraded with this spring. It will be one of the first things I change. The vibration was actually so bad the selector switch kept moving and jamming the mechbox (since it's missing the bearing to lock it).

The SL8 requires a straight stick battery made of 2/3A cells. Sub-C cells will not fit, neither will a standard double-stick mini. I only had an 8.4v stick to test with, and while I suspect a 9.6v one will fit one would do well to remove some of the excess wire available. If you're familiar at all with getting a battery in the normal CA36 foregrip there will be no surprises here. Side note: The threads the outer barrel screw into are counter-clockwise, so righty-loosy lefty-tighty... like most suppressors.

I put up a fresh target at one end of my dunge, er, basement about 35' away from my firing point. Loaded the included mag, click it into place, and fired off 5 rounds. None of them even hit the BB catch.

50-some-odd rounds and 3 targets later I discover the gun shooting VERY low for the sights and finally get it adjusted better. I adjusted the sights as much as possible and it's still shooting about 2” low at 35'. With hop-up dialed in I suspect this would be acceptable for field use as the arc of the BB would pass above the sightline. If you put a scope on it it doesn't matter anyway.

Below is a picture of 5 braced shots in fairly quick succession (the two lower uncircled ones were for sighting). I haven't cleaned the barrel yet either -this is straight out of the box. BBs are Guarder 0.28g (which I think are crap). Overall I think that's a fair grouping for a stock gun.



Performance Update -10 December 2011

Swapped in a Modify S120 spring, and a much better Elite 9.6v, 1600 Mah stick battery.

Performance is MUCH improved. Trigger response is much faster and more in line with what I'd expect out of a stock gun running a 9.6v. Full auto is likewise improved. I'd have no issues gaming this gun now.

Performance Update -28 January 2012

Chronied the gun on a Xcortech x3200 Chronograph using 0.28 BB and a Modify S120 spring:

358.7
357.9
362.6
358.4
358.4

Average 359.2, Variance 4.7.

This works out to 425 FPS on 0.2g BBs according to Arnie's BB calculator (energy of 1.67 Joules). Hopefully the spring settles down a bit because that's a little hot for an AEG.

On a 9.6v battery ROF was (in rounds-per-second):

15
14.87
14.89
14.84

Given the real G36 has an ROF of 12 RPS, and given that this is more of a DMR than an assault rifle, I think this is more than adequate.

I may swap the stock spring back in and update this with stock spring readings, though I've already thrown in a T/N barrel. Either way this is with an MS120 and the stock spring is harder than that.

Mechbox Internals

I placed an order with Jugglez earlier this week for some parts to swap into the SL8. The SL8 is disassembled much like the G36, with the only difference being the removal of the bolt (using a hex key) above and behind the fire selector. Remove outer barrel and foregrip -> Remove magwell -> Remove stock bolt -> rotate stock out of upper receiver -> Remove screw in bottom of pistol grip -> set the fire selector to 'semi' and carefully work the mechbox out.

Here's a picture of the mechbox. There's a little window behind the bevel gear that lets you trip the AV latch before opening the mechbox. Cool feature, I wish more mechboxes had them. The motor is also shrink wrapped which helps keep the wires out of the way when reseating the mechbox in the grip.



Getting the mechbox open was a bit of a chore. The rail across the top DID NOT want to come off. It took a moderate amount of percussive persuasion to remove it. Not the way I like to do things but pliers weren't working -they were just warping the metal. The screws were firm but not over torqued.

The interior is pretty standard fare. 'XYT' gears that were not overly greased, a clear piston (with metal first tooth) with red single O-ring piston head. Shimming is acceptable -not 100% perfect, but not terrible either.



Note the trigger switch at the lower front of the mechbox. This mechbox features another sprung piece right between the trigger and the tappet plate that complicates getting the mechbox back together a bit.

I forget to get a bearing spring guide for it.. oh well, next time. I do not like the way the spring guide sits. Instead of having dedicated holes in the side of the mechbox it rests against the back of the mechbox (which is open). This allows an amount of vertical play of the spring guide when the mechbox is closed.

You do not actually have to open the mechbox to change springs. The spring guide can be removed from the back of the mechbox by inserting an appropriately sized hex key, pressing inward, and rotating the spring guide 90 degrees so it fits through the cutouts in the back of the mechbox.

Compression was likewise very, very good. Actually I was rather impressed in this regard.

Also discovered there is, in fact, no operating bolt catch on this gun.


Modifications

The SL8 is based on the G36, so anything you can stick on the forward part of a G36 should go on here. As I said the rail is a standard G36 rail so you can swap it out with your choice of G36 rails and optics, or mount your own optics to it with little difficulty. Since the foregrip is pre-threaded installing a rail under it would be a simple matter (I suspect that's what some of the spare hardware it came with is for).

Two notes I'd like to make for those who don't know as these questions are asked a lot about the SL8/9. First, the SL8 receiver and stock is different than the G36 receiver. You can NOT swap the stock on the SL8 for any other G36 stock, and the SL8 stock will NOT fit on a normal G36 receiver. Second, there is NOT room in the stock to install a battery. While the rear spacers are hollow, the back of the stock passes through them and is held into place by the hex-bolts in front of the spacers. You'd also be hard pressed to get anything in there ahead of them. Even if you could removing the battery would become a colossal pain in the ass.

Overall Pros and Cons

Pros:

-Good, solid construction
-Fairly light
-Decent stock groupings
-Now cheap enough to actually bother buying in Canada
-Magwell pin is spring, not threaded (if you've never owned a G36 you can't understand how awesome this is).
-Unique. Don't see a lot of SL8's on the field. Looks bad-ass with a G36 mag.
-With minor upgrades this will be a wicked DMR/counter-sniper platform
-Feeds fine with CA magazines
-Stock mechbox isn't perfect, but definitely good enough to game with just a spring swap.

Cons:

-Spring is WAY too powerful
-At least on the one I have the selectors were loose and missing the bearing. Needs to be replaced in order to game (unless I tape the selector).
-Ares managed to fuckup the trades.
-Bolt catch doesn't function -Gun in fact has no operating bolt catch.
-No room for a battery larger than a 9.6v mini stick.. limits upgrade potential.

Conclusion

Initially I'm very happy with this gun. Especially for the price. These used to be expensive as hell in Canada. I'd recommend this gun to anyone looking for a unique long gun using a standard v3 mechbox.

Using Kokanee's rating method, I rate this gun eight bullets out of ten

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"Someone in a Prius tried to race me at a stop sign the other day. I couldn't believe it. I had him for the first 100 feet or so but I can only walk so fast."

Last edited by kalnaren; January 28th, 2012 at 23:16..
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Old December 4th, 2011, 20:39   #4
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Gun Pr0n


Looks more bad-ass with a G36 mag



Size comparison:







Thanks for reading!
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Last edited by kalnaren; January 25th, 2012 at 23:15..
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Old December 4th, 2011, 22:44   #5
jomor
 
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Good review! I have been thinking about getting either the SL8 or 9. I think you pushed me over the edge! Ah its only money right!
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Old December 4th, 2011, 22:48   #6
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Thanks!

I don't think anyone currently makes an SL9 unfortunately. There may be a few STAR ones still kicking around and the conversion kit is available, but pricey.
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Old December 5th, 2011, 11:15   #7
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Good review!
I have seen a few Ares SL9s for sale in the last little while but I don't believe any of them were in Canada unfortunately.
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Old December 6th, 2011, 19:34   #8
kalnaren
 
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Updated to fix some ambiguities.
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Old December 8th, 2011, 10:39   #9
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Great review! From what I understand, the bolt catch is supposed to be non-functional anyway.
Also, is the outer barrel threaded to allow for suppressor?
If not, can a g36 outer and inner barrel be swapped in?
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Old December 8th, 2011, 10:45   #10
kalnaren
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by suzenonest View Post
Great review! From what I understand, the bolt catch is supposed to be non-functional anyway.
Also, is the outer barrel threaded to allow for suppressor?
If not, can a g36 outer and inner barrel be swapped in?
Outer barrel is not threaded. Not sure about the G36 outer, I'll try it when I get home.

EDIT

Yes, the G36 outer will thread on. The flash hider does not fit through the hole in the front of the foregrip though.

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Last edited by kalnaren; December 8th, 2011 at 21:11..
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Old December 8th, 2011, 23:53   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kalnaren View Post
Outer barrel is not threaded. Not sure about the G36 outer, I'll try it when I get home.

EDIT

Yes, the G36 outer will thread on. The flash hider does not fit through the hole in the front of the foregrip though.

Couldn't the flash hider be removed before reattaching the front end? lol

This is a possibility for my next gun. Was thinking about swapping outer barrel for longer g36 outer, adding a suppressor and a longer inner barrel.
Love the look of this gun!

Got a measurement for the length of inner barrel?

Last edited by suzenonest; December 8th, 2011 at 23:55..
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Old December 10th, 2011, 14:38   #12
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UPDATED WITH INTERNALS 10 DECEMBER 2011

Quote:
Originally Posted by suzenonest View Post
Couldn't the flash hider be removed before reattaching the front end? lol

This is a possibility for my next gun. Was thinking about swapping outer barrel for longer g36 outer, adding a suppressor and a longer inner barrel.
Love the look of this gun!

Got a measurement for the length of inner barrel?
Yup, you could remove the flash hider. The flash hider on my G36 is insanely tight so I didn't bother.

Inner barrel looks to be 509mm... no literature to confirm that though.
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Old December 19th, 2011, 05:11   #13
Chiba
 
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Great Review!

I have a Star SL8 and I had alot of issues with the hop up. A Prowin Hop up chamber fixed everything though.

But for your information, the SL8 uses a 534mm inner barrel. I found this out after buying a Prommy 509mm and finding it shorter than the stock barrel.

Also, make sure to turn the flash hider correctly (counter clockwise). The front part of the gas tube is very weak, and it broke off when I applied to much pressure turning it the wrong way T_T. Luckily I was able to superglue it back on without any alignment issues.
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Old December 19th, 2011, 16:14   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chiba View Post
But for your information, the SL8 uses a 534mm inner barrel. I found this out after buying a Prommy 509mm and finding it shorter than the stock barrel.
Weird b/c I emailed Ares to find out how long the SL8 inner barrel was and they told me it was 500mm.


On a side note does anyone have a problem with the 20rd mags? I've got one that works fine, but the other one, every time i give it a light tap all the bb's come flying out.
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Old January 6th, 2012, 12:38   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chiba View Post
Great Review!

I have a Star SL8 and I had alot of issues with the hop up. A Prowin Hop up chamber fixed everything though.

But for your information, the SL8 uses a 534mm inner barrel. I found this out after buying a Prommy 509mm and finding it shorter than the stock barrel.
Really? Side by size with my G36 I find that hard to believe.. a stock G36 barrel is 494mm, I have a 509mm one in mine and it protrudes into the flashider. I don't think the SL barrel is another 2cm longer.
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