When Planet Eclipse decided to halt the annual release of its flagship marker, the Ego, many people assumed that is was because Planet felt that there was little could be done to improve on the existing design; this simply wasn't the case. In 2011 Planet Eclipse decided that rather than spend time making small, incremental changes to its models - in order to conform to the industry annual release model – it would utilize time more productively by making more significant changes, less often.
It has been over two years since the launch of the Ego11 (renamed to the Ego-S in 2012) and that time has been used to dissect the Ego, and poppet-valve markers in general, in order to better understand every aspect of their function; to break down their operation into its component elements so that a new system could be designed, one that overcomes all of the shortfalls of the conventional poppet design while retaining all of its strengths. As a result, the Ego LV1 utilizes technology never before seen in a paintball marker in order to transform the way that it shoots and feels, yet still provide the robustness, hassle-free reliability and ease of maintenance that Egos are renowned for.
LV (LEVER VALVE)
Internally the Ego LV1 introduces a revolutionary new design that rewrites what can be achieved with this type of platform. The system incorporates a profiled (cam-shaped) lever between the rammer and the exhaust valve that is used to separate the action of the rammer and bolt from the action of the valve. This additional element in the mechanism has several major benefits over the conventional directly-linked knock-open system, particularly with respect to the force required to open the valve and the rate at which the valve is opened. This indirect operation of the exhaust valve means it can be opened slower, with considerably less force, yet retain excellent seal integrity, something that has blighted other low opening force or balanced valve systems.
While existing designs may require a low force to open the exhaust valve they are still bound by the need to overcome blowback using the speed and mass of the bolt which means that the valve has to be opened with a greater speed than is actually required. Often, these designs will also suffer from low closing forces that can drastically affect efficiency. The LV1 suffers none of these drawbacks: the valve can still utilize a large closing force to help create a robust seal and yet, through the mechanical advantage of the lever, it requires significantly less force from the rammer to open it. Also, because the lever has a shaped profile, similar to a cam, the rate at which the valve opens and closes is no longer in a fixed ratio with the movement of the rammer; this allows accurate and independent control of the power pulse of air behind the ball unlike anything previously seen on a marker of this kind.
AT (AIR TRANSFER) PIPE
Also new for the Ego LV1 is the AT (air transfer) Pipe system. The conventional fittings and macroline hose of previous Ego designs has been removed and the gas is now routed through the frame and across to the HPR via an adjustable pipe. This design keeps the marker body height to an absolute minimum and keeps the trigger hand as close to the barrel axis whilst negating the need for complex and tortured gas paths through the marker body. To ease technical support of the marker the SL4 HPR can either be completely replaced with a standard SL3 HPR or the SL4 swivel can be quickly and easily replaced with the optional hose-style swivel to allow the LV1 to be gassed up with the frame removed. A handy ‘Tech’ Kit is available that includes the SL4 swivel, hose and tank adaptor for those that feel they may need it.
So what are the benefits to shooting the LV1? Well, the smaller forces generated by the reciprocating components (the bolt and the rammer) due to lower LPR pressure and the smoother profile of the air which is released behind the ball combine to greatly reduced kick and significantly lower the sound signature. The change is so marked that in terms of feel and sound the Ego LV1 is no longer comparable to other poppet-based markers, but instead finds itself competing with the very best spool operated devices. The LV1 has to be seen and shot to fully appreciate the leap forward this system has made to poppet valve markers.
Of course, the lever operated valve is only one of the innovations in the Ego LV1, there are many more improvements throughout the entire marker; front to back; inside and out. For example the exhaust valve itself is a completely new design: from the profile of the "onion bulb" valve to the fully sheathed valve spring, the goal is to provide a path that is as smooth as possible, leading up to and through the valve, in order to reduce turbulence and allow the air to flow and work as efficiently as possible. The exhaust valve and valve guide also incorporate a very large post-release sensing surface area that is tuned to complement the lever mechanism and the forces generated by the reciprocating parts. This works to shut the valve off quickly after each shot so that the excellent efficiency that users expect from a poppet valve marker is retained. The vast increase in valve chamber volume that the LV1 offers over previous Egos further aids this feature and helps lower the overall operating pressure of this marker.
The rammer has also been further developed: gone is the institutionalised 1 inch bolt and rammer stroke found in all other poppet valve markers; this throwback from old off-the-shelf pneumatic components has no place in the modern paintball marker as it limits both intelligent bolt-head design, which can prevent stack clipping and bolt strike fractures, as well as the development of staged acceleration in systems that still have momentum requirements. The LV1 is fitted with a new Zick3 rammer that uses a longer stroke in order to help facilitate both of the above while allowing for the longer valving stroke required by the lever mechanism and, contrary to popular belief, this additional stroke length has negligible effect on cyclic rates, with the LV1 capable of rates of fire well into the 20+bps range. The Zick3 also has a far more pronounced dual force set-up designed to help reduce the initial force on the ball as it is pushed towards the barrel and to offer more cushioning on the return stroke. The LV1 also benefits from the fact that, as standard, it will come complete with two different weights of rammer. The Standard rammer offers the benefit of allowing the LV1 to run at the lowest possible operating pressures. It is perfect for shooting the most fragile paint or when looking for the quietest shot. The Lightweight rammer on the other hand offers exceptional efficiency. A small increase in operating pressure and the associated small increase in sound signature are the only penalties.
The rammer drives a new bolt with a fully rubberised, ramped tip and floating transfer port seals. Combined with the smoother gas release from the valve, the LV1 works to minimize all ball breakages in the marker. The bolt and rammer design minimize instances of stack clipping and ball cracking from the forward motion of the bolt and the profile of the gas power pulse reduces peak pressure behind the ball to help combat fragile paint being blown apart in the barrel. When trying to shoot super-fragile, tournament grade paint every little bit helps get that ball out of the barrel and straight on target.
One of the benefits of the new valve, bolt, lever and rammer design is that the operating pressures of the Ego LV1 are significantly lower than in previous Egos. The low pressure regulator (LPR) operates in the 65-80psi range and the SL4 high pressure regulator (HPR) supplies air to the valve chamber in the range of 120-135psi. Both the LPR and the HPR have been redesigned: the LPR in order to house it inside the body, leaving the area under the barrel clear of any obstructions that might impede grip; and the HPR in order to shorten its overall length such that it blends both aesthetically and ergonomically with the internally mounted LPR. Both regulators are designed to operate within limits that will prevent accidental damage to key components such as the solenoid and the exhaust valve. The SL4 regulator is also capable of operating with tank regulators ranging from SLP-level outputs right up to high pressure (800psi) outputs. It's an incredibly versatile regulator.
Ease of repair and maintenance has also been significantly improved in the LV1 by making the majority of the markers key components accessible without the need for tools. The rammer cap no longer requires a hex key to remove, meaning the rammer can be cleaned and lubed without tools. The inline regulator, LPR, valve plug, exhaust valve, and valve guide can all be removed without turning a screw. It really is one of the easiest markers available to strip down and service.
Of course in a game one of the most important aspects of any marker is how it feels in your hands. The Ego LV1 features a raft of changes aimed at making it as comfortable, ergonomic and stable as possible. The grip-frame itself has been strengthened to make it less susceptible to twisting under excessive impact and sports a new set of grips that blend seamlessly into a fully contoured console that gives a continuous rubber grip surface round the back of the frame. And it's not just the frame that has received a new grip; a contoured ergonomic rubber grip sleeves the HPR and runs up the front of the body, the grip surface designed to provide optimal control of the marker at all times. The distance between these two grips has also been increased to give a more stable shooting platform to work from. The trigger is, of course, opto sensor and micro-switch enabled and incorporates both magnetic and leaf spring return mechanisms and attached to the bottom of the frame is a sleek new AT POPS system which has all of the features of the existing POPS, without the macroline.
Inside the grip-frame the Ego LV1 has every electronic feature that you've come to expect from an Eclipse marker: super-fast processor; perfect eye logic; backlit, transflective LCD that's easy to read in even the brightest direct sunlight; E-Portal compatibility for personalised splash screen design, firmware updates and custom profile settings; and compatibility with the rules of all of the major leagues, worldwide.
SUPPORT & SERVICE
Of course, the Planet Eclipse experience doesn't stop the moment you take the gun out of the box. From the very beginning, over twenty years ago, the company has prided itself on training and supporting more technicians, in more countries and attending more events, both at the recreational and the tournament level, than probably any other manufacturer. Every Planet Eclipse marker is designed with durability, simplicity and ease of maintenance at the fore and Planet strives to ensure that its customers never require technical support. However, should the need arise then access to that support is available through virtually every form of communication: from email to social media to forums and telephone as well as through technical classes and qualified technicians in as many places as possible to make sure that Planet Eclipse customers always receive a timely response to their queries or problems.
Anyone who has had the opportunity to shoot an Ego LV1 will tell you that there has been no compromise in any way with the performance on offer from this marker. Every aspect of the Ego LV1 has been shaped to create the ultimate expression of Eclipse passion, performance and quality. There has never been such a complete and thorough overhaul of the Ego. No stone left unturned in the pursuit of perfection. It has to be felt to be believed.