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Heart of Darkness: the Dark Angel LCD

Warped Sportz’s new Dark Angel LCD

©Ravi Chopra, 2000

The Angel is dead. Long live the Angel LCD!

Yes, the much ballyhooed and hugely popular Angel electropneumatic paintgun is no more. Now replaced by the newer, shinier, improved, enhanced, and even more hugely popular Angel LCD.

When the LCD was announced, you can bet I wanted that review. I was hungering for it. Slavering over the idea. Drooling? Me? You bet. Anthony Jones, editor of this illustrious magazine promised it to me. He said it was mine for the taking! But then, why not? My longstanding dedication to this superior publication is well known, isn’t it? I’m listed in the front of this rag as Technical Editor, aren’t I? I certainly deserve first shot at it! Right?

The moment he heard I was getting a Dark Angel LCD to review, he yanked the long-promised standard LCD from me and gave it to Justin "every paintgun I review is the best paintgun in the world!" Owen.

I hate editors.

Dark LCDFortunately, Justin chose to give you just a taste of the new LCD rather than really going over it with a fine-toothed comb. This is fortunate because there really isn’t much different from a features and performance standpoint between the standard Angel LCD and its Darker, somewhat more evil cousin. Covering only the differences between these two paintguns would take barely a page, and I’d be stretching to cover even that.

As luck would have it, Justin left me plenty of material to cover. In fact, there’s almost too much. The LCD is so chock-full of crap I barely know where to start! That said, let’s start at the beginning; how the thing works…

HOW THE THING WORKS

How does the Angel LCD work? Simple. Just like the original Angel did. Which is to also to say, just like the Bushmaster 2000, Defiant, Tribal, Impulse, etc., etc., etc. work. There’s little surprise that the design has been knocked off by so many other manufacturers for their electropneumatic paintguns. It’s simple. It’s reliable. It can cycle ridiculously quickly. And probably most importantly, it appears NOT to be socked in with countless bullet-proof patents (though I understand that they may have a few in contention right now).

DaveIf you want a really detailed description of how the Angel LCD works, read my earlier article on the original Dark Angel. I go into the inner workings in some detail. The LCD is pretty much the same. The long and the short of it is, there’s a sort of ram, not entirely unlike that on the Autococker. The difference is that the ram works in the opposite direction. Rather than cycling back and forth, it starts back and cycles forward and backward when the Angel is fired. When it goes forward, it pushes the bolt forward, feeding a paintball into the barrel. At the same time, it drives a hammer into a valve, opening it and allowing air through the ’gun to fire the paintball. In the Autococker, a 4-way valve switches the air back and forth between the two ends of the ram. In the Angel, it’s a 14-way valve and it is controlled electronically rather than mechanically. Everyone in the world but WDP calls this electronic valve a "solenoid."

There are some differences from the original Angel in the LCD. The LCD has a new 14-way valve which is smaller, lighter, and off-the-shelf rather than custom made. The result is that the paintgun has a new slimmer profile and not-too-much higher price than the old Angel. Second, the electronics are all new for the LCD. There are a LOT of things included in this, and I promise I’ll get around to all of them in this article. As far as operation is concerned, the two things that the new electronics really affect are the dwell and rate of fire control. In the old Angel, the dwell (which determines how long the ram was held forward, and therefore the valve kept open) and the rate of fire (the delay between cycles) were set with a pair of potentiometers ("pots" for short) on the circuit board. These pots were basically a pair of small dials you set with a screwdriver and didn’t give much feedback as to what your precise settings were. You just guesstimated and hoped that your settings were what you wanted. With the LCD both the dwell time and ROF are set digitally and can be adjusted precisely to whatever values you like with just a few button presses, both values reading out numerically on the liquid crystal display on the side of the grip.

The final aspect of tuning the Angel, the LPR (low pressure regulator), is still set the same way - with thin foil shims inserted into the valve at the front-right side of the paintgun. WDP apparently had originally designed an externally adjustable LPR for the Angel LCD, but so many people putzed around with it and screwed the ’gun up that they decided to ditch the external adjuster to make it harder for people to mess the thing up.

Fortunately, if you decide to go with a Dark Angel LCD, tuning shouldn’t be much of a worry. After problems with a few ’guns as originally sent to them by WDP, Warped Sportz now pulls each new Dark LCD out of the box after receiving it from jolly old England and subjects it to full testing and tuning to ensure that each ’gun arrives in its owner’s hands in perfect working order.

FEATURES

The Angel LCD carries over all of the best of the original Angel and adds a cartload of improvements, cool new features, and a few decidedly useless add-ons. The Warped Dark Angel LCD gives you even more over and above even the similarly priced carved and colored Angel LCD.

Let’s start by looking at the features included in all LCD Angels.

From the original Angel, the LCD carries over the slick, standard center-feed that has become so popular on all high-end paintguns these days. Preventing this from double-feeding the open-bolt breech is a standard nylon ball-bearing style detent to the left of the feed tube, still bulbous and bulging from the side of the paintgun. One would think they’d have found a way to trim this down and hide it within the wall of the ’gun body by now.

When fired, the paintball will travel the still-excellent 0.687" Infinity barrel that has always come with the Angel. You may not recognize it, though. WDP has narrowed the Infinity down to a simple tube, presumably to reduce manufacturing costs. Feature-wise, it is identical to the old barrel, including a step (out to a larger diameter) about half-way down the barrel length and straight-porting from that point on. This is an excellent barrel and most will not find any genuine need to replace it.

The bolt still has a cupped, 8-hole venturi-face, but is now made longer than in the original Angel. I’ve heard that they lengthened the bolt to reduce bolt-stick and to reduce kick generated from the bolt’s motion. As I never once experienced bolt-stick in any original Angel, I can’t really say that I noticed any real difference in that aspect. On the other hand, the LCD is definitely quieter feels more stable when fired than the original Angel.

The bolt sits in the same patented rotor-breech you remember, now lengthened to fit the new bolt. For those of you who somehow have managed to miss seeing an Angel to this point, the rotor-breech is the whole section of the body that holds the bolt when retracted behind the vertical feed port. This whole section is a separate block on a pivot at the lower left. Pulling a knob at the back, right of the paintgun releases the rotor-breech, allowing you to swing it out to the left. This gives you quick and easy access to the bolt and breech and allows you to use a relatively small pull-through squeegee on the field if you need to. The longer breech allows a bit more room to fit a squeegee through now.

Vertical ASAAir still enters the paintgun through WDP’s own in-line pressure regulator mounted in a vertical ASA (the so called "flash-tank") in front of the grip frame. This pressure regulator is responsible for adjusting the paintgun’s velocity. Two nice additions benefit the Angel LCD in this area. First, the threads are now the standard thread pattern found on every other ASA and screw-in fitting in the world. This means that you should now be able to quickly and easily install your favorite regulator in place of the WDP reg just in case you feel the desire to needlessly spend the extra money. Unfortunately, this does not entirely play out true in practice. Quite a lot of the new vertical ASAs seem to be a bit tight in the threads. I and others I know have been having a great deal of difficulty getting some regulators to fit in some verticals. As an example, I could not get any Uni-Regs or a Stabilizer to fit the red Dark Angel LCD I tested, but the WGP Ergo-reg fit it just fine. I know of a couple shops that are tapping them out to ensure their customers can fit their reg of choice.

The new threads also mean that the WDP reg can now be installed on other paintguns if you like. It’s a fine reg that worked admirably on the Dark Angel LCD I tested and should work fine as the second reg in any dual-regulated system. The reg comes complete with a set of Macro-Line fittings and hose to hook up to your nitrogen system (yes, nitrogen/HPA is still a requirement with the LCD).

The second change comes in how the air gets from the vertical ASA into the paintgun. For some bizarre reason that escapes me to this day, WDP designed the original Angel such that air had to enter the body underneath the front of the grip frame. This meant that air had to be channeled through a tube from the ASA back into the front of the grip frame, and from there up into the ’gun body. This meant more O-rings to potentially go bad and more joints to potentially start leaking. It also meant that taking off the grip frame (for a trigger adjustment) or vertical was a wrestling job. No longer. Though the air still has to enter behind the vertical ASA, it is now in front of the grip frame. A small plate at the vertical-body interface redirects the air into the correct spot without involving tubes or the frame. Still a little bit weird but much better than before.

The grip frame is still comes in the extremely popular .45-style. The biggest difference is that the vast majority of Angels come with 2-finger triggers and a full-size guard to protect them. The stock Angel LCD is supposed to have an optional 1-finger trigger and guard, but Warped tells me that there isn’t enough demand for them to have single-finger-trigger Darks made up. Warped Sportz will be happy to retrofit a single-finger trigger to your Dark LCD if you like, but it will still have the 2-finger guard.

As before, the Angel LCD gets it’s power from a long Nickel-Cadmium battery that takes up a good 1/3 of the paintgun’s volume. The battery stays in the ’gun, is good for hundreds of thousands of cycles between charges, and is rechargeable using an adapter that comes with the paintgun. The charger is similar to the old on in that it allows you to charge your Angel LCD up from your car’s cigarette lighter jack, but now it plugs into a jack in the back of the grip frame just above the three colored buttons. I’ll get back to those buttons later.

The LCD-specific features are numerous. I’ve already mentioned the bolt, vertical ASA, and a couple trigger changes. Add to that a standard low pressure exhaust valve and guide. This is the low pressure valve that came installed in virtually all of the expensive aftermarket Angels. It is now standard in all LCDs down to the basic model. This valve allows the Angel to operate at pressures in the 300-350 psi range rather than the original valve's 500 psi requirement. Sure, low pressure is a virtually useless gimmick, but what the hell. It certainly adds to the LCD’s quietness and should make the ’gun a little more easy on fragile paint. Either way it’s stock equipment so love it or lump it, you’re stuck with it.

The LCD also comes with a new LPR that can also be retrofitted to the original Angel. WDP’s sale web page makes all sorts of nutty claims. Take this quote, for example:

" This kit is probably the most popular Angel Accessory, Pack contains a whole NEW modified LPR assembly (Standard in the LCD) which will drop the working pressure of your Angel down even lower than the previous version, providing better gas efficiency, less chance of ball bursts and a quieter operation. Low pressure gas also hits the ball more softly, which reduces ball wobble and increases the range of the gun. A must for Stock Angel users."

I suspect that their web guy got this mixed up with the new exhaust valve because only the exhaust valve passes air to the paintball and has much of anything to do with efficiency. The only thing the LPR does is control a low pressure feed to the ram. More to the point, this pressure can be adjusted as high or low as you like with both the new and old LPR.

Back & grip

So what’s better about the new LPR? Heck if I know. I never had a problem with the old one. Improperly set LPR output pressures were often the cause of problems that people had with the original Angel, but any even moderately competent Angel airsmith should have been able to fix that easily. Rather than doing something as blatantly sensible as actually having the paintgun fixed, people more often than not added a screw-on low pressure chamber to the front of the ’gun to make up for the deficiency. As I’ve seen fewer LCDs with low P chambers, I suspect that the new LPRs are more consistent and flow more freely than the old regulator. In short, they’ve revised it, it should be better, but you’ll probably never notice the difference. Nuff said.

Sharp eyes will notice that the power-switch that used to adorn the right side of the grip frame is now gone. For some reason that completely escapes me, WDP has chosen to eliminate the on/off switch and instead install a kill-key in the back of the ’gun and an on/off button on the back of the grip frame. The kill-key is the yellow, plastic doohickey that you see jammed into the back of the ’gun body where the power/intellifeed plug was on the original Angel. Jamming this little plastic bit into its jack in the back of the paintgun is the only way short of disconnecting the battery to completely shut off the power to the paintgun. Once you pull it out, the Angel LCD switches into "SAFE" mode where the power is on, but it can’t yet be fired. Switching it to "LIVE" mode where it’s ready to rock requires pressing the topmost of the three recessed buttons on the back of the grip frame. Hold this red button down for 2 seconds and the Angel turns on and is ready to rock.

I have to agree with Justin wholeheartedly in his assessment of this new arrangement. It’s a pain-in-the-ass. While I like the idea of a way to completely kill the ’gun that is easy to see, this little yellow plug is entirely too easy to lose. What I found even more worrisome is how flimsy it is. What if it breaks in half leaving the key-end in the back of the ’gun? Now you’re really screwed because your Angel is dead until you dig that little bit of plastic out. And while the recessed buttons on the grip frame are just fine for adjusting your other settings, large-fingered people may find it difficult to jam their gloved finger-tip into the recess to turn the ’gun on at the beginning of the game. It’s a silly gimmick that doesn’t enhance the functioning of the paintgun or the user experience at all.

LIQUID CRYSTAL DISPLAY!

The single most obvious and hyped change to the Angel LCD is the new circuit board and LCD screen that hide inside the grip frame. The LCD screen hides behind a plastic oval window in the custom, rubber wrap-around grips on the left side of the trigger frame. This LCD screen is your window into the inner workings of this paintgun and can tell you just about anything you like to know about the ’gun, how it is set-up, and how it is firing. This screen even has a soft-blue backlight so you can even read it in the dark. Controlling and setting these new electronics is accomplished with three buttons (red, orange, and green) set into recesses on the back of the grip frame, two buttons on the circuit board that can only be accessed by taking off the left grip panel, and the trigger.

SafeThe new electronics allow you to precisely, digitally set a host of features that formerly either required a screwdriver or didn’t exist in the Angel. I’ve already mentioned that you can set both the dwell and maximum rate-of-fire, both of which reading out numerically on the LCD screen. You can also set your fire mode electronically rather than having to mess around with dip-switches as you had to with the old Turbo board. In fact, the number of fire modes has increased dramatically to 26, though Angel LCDs currently being sold only have19 usable modes. The other seven include five empty slots that can be filled with new or custom programmed fire modes, and two locked out modes: the mythical "Y-mode" (multiplier) and "Z-mode" (turbo) which are only available to WDP sponsored teams like Avalanche. The modes you can use include standard semi-automatic, full auto, burst, zip, and ramp. The burst and zip modes are almost identical, both basically being a pre-set number of shots fired with each trigger pull. You can set them for any number of shots up to eight. The difference between the two is that the burst-mode rate-of-fire is user adjustable up to a maximum of 13 shots/second. Zip mode is locked at the NPPL max 8.75 shots/second. The three ramp modes are all the same and are basically full-auto modes where the fire rate starts out slow and slowly increase (by reducing the delay between cycles by 10 ms with each shot) up to a maximum of 13 shots/second. The only mode which can be fired at a rate greater than 13 shots/second is plain old semi-auto which can be set as high as 20 shots/second. Frankly, I don’t see any advantage to the ramp mode at all except as an example of the kinds of things you can do when programming your own modes. The simple fact is, as impressive as this sounds, the vast majority of people are just going to leave the ’gun in semi-auto mode the whole time they own it.

Speaking of programming the Angel, it has a dataport which allows you to plug it into your computer to add new firing modes and update the software if WDP comes out with new modes or new programming. Plugging your Angel LCD into your computer requires the use of a separate unit from WDP called the "Datalink." As Datalinks cost a few hundred dollars, most people will not find it worth having. Shops with WDP certified technicians will likely have these to service their customers’ paintguns. Warped Sportz is naturally already has their own Datalink and will be able to update Dark Angels when new software becomes available.

LiveIf the multiple different modes are mostly useless, the two new electronic features are impressively useful. First is a digital PIN number that you can choose and program into your Angel LCD. Just like with an ATM card, you need to enter the correct PIN when the ’gun is turned on to use it. If an incorrect number is entered, the paintgun shuts off. As someone who has had a very expensive paintgun stolen at a tournament, I really appreciate the security that this gives you. What’s the point in stealing an LCD if you can only use it as a door-stop or boat-anchor after you have it? Kudos to WDP for this very nice feature.

Also useful, particularly to the tournament player is a built-in game timer with vibes feature. You can set the game timer for up to a thirty minute game. When the horn blows or the ref yells "go! go! go!" you just fire the paintgun once to start the timer. No more trying to set the timer 10 seconds early or hunting around for the start button while you sprint for your first bunker with this nifty feature. Never can remember to check your timer once in the middle of the game? No problem. The Angel LCD’s timer has a built-in pager-like vibrating feature that buzzes the grip frame in your hand with 1 minute left in the game and when time runs out.

Want more? Well the LCD can tell you gobs more stuff, both useful and utterly pointless. As mentioned above, the LCD will read out the "safe" or "live" status of the paintgun, your dwell and ROF settings, your game time remaining, your current fire mode, and your PIN number as you enter it. Every Angel now has a unique digital ID number (a sort of electronic serial number) that can be displayed on-screen. A four-segment battery charge indicator takes the guesswork out of deciding when to charge it back up. A total shot counter tells you exactly how many times your Angel LCD has been cycled from the day it was built. A resetable trip counter can tell you how much you’ve shot that day or over the last game. Curious about how fast you shoot you Angel? The LCD will also display your last game’s average and maximum rate of fire. The bloody thing will even tell you the temperature in degrees Centigrade or Fahrenheit, though it won’t give you particularly useful information if it’s been sitting out in the sun (it told me it was 105°F at one point).

Some of you may remember the Intellifeed system with the old Angel. It was a modification for any motorized Viewloader hopper that plugged into the power jack in the back of the Angel. This mod did two things. First, it ran the hopper off your Angel’s battery. Granted, this drained your Angel battery much faster, but it completely eliminated the need for 9V batteries. More importantly, the Intellifeed system controlled the hopper’s motor from the Angel’s circuit board. When you were firing slowly, the IR sensor operated the VL as normal. When you rapid fired, it would spin the hopper continuously to ensure good feeding throughout. The problem was that the connection at the back of the ’gun was tenuous at best. It was entirely too easy to bump the wire and disconnect your hopper partway through a game. Well, the power jack has been changed and moved to the grip frame in the LCD. What’s an Intellifeed aficionado to do? WDP has implemented a new system that actually originally appeared on some custom versions of the original Angel. You can now get an aftermarket sight rail that bolts on in place of the stock one and has an Intellifeed plug set in it pointing up. This allows you to use a shorter cord to the hopper and keeps it away from the back of the ’gun where it is too easily bumped.

One quick final note regarding the standard Angel LCD. It comes with what very well may be the single greatest manual ever put together for a piece of paintball equipment, ever. It’s big, it’s thick, it’s printed on heavy-stock glossy paper, it has plenty of color, tons of diagrams, countless flow-sheets, and gobs of useful information. And thank goodness for all of that because you’ll need it. The Angel LCD is simply too feature-rich and complex to just pull out and start using. Without a little direction you’ll have a hard time figuring out how to get the damn thing to fire much less deciphering the intricacies of setting and starting the game timer.

HEART OF DARKNESS

As you can see, even the base LCD offers an awful lot of paintgun. What does Warped Sportz add to the mix to improve this already impressive paintgun? The easiest and probably most accurate answer is that you get cosmetic improvements and peace of mind.

DaveWarped Sportz has an arrangement with WDP wherein WDP builds Dark Angels for Warped Sportz to Warped’s specifications. As a result, the Dark Angel’s feature set is pretty much identical to what you’d find in a stock Angel LCD or WDP’s own custom milled and anodized Carved-and-Colored LCD. Not surprisingly, the price for a Dark LCD is about the same as for a Carved-and-Colored.

Warped Sportz offers you a bit more for you money, though. Start with two additions; the Dark Angel LCD includes both a high-rise feed neck with integrated VL adapter and a low pressure chamber, both anodized to match the ’gun. If you prefer a lower hopper height, Warped Sportz can set you up with a lowrider feed neck instead of the high-rise. For a few more clams you can have an Armson Pro-Dot sight and DYE Boomstick barrel anodized to match your Dark Angel.

Another benefit of going Dark is the fact that Warped Sportz takes out and tests every Dark Angel that comes into their hands. Every Dark Angel comes with the comfort of knowing that your ’gun will be properly set-up, tuned, and ready to mow the moment you pull it out of the box.

Interested in having your Dark Angel trigger set up a particular way? The standard Angel’s trigger is very soft and fairly short in pull length (like the original Angel, it’s 4-5 mm at the bottom of the trigger). But some people like it set up a lot shorter. The trigger in all LCDs now come with both forward and backward trigger stops so the trigger can be set up however you like. Just specify how long and how heavy you like your trigger to be and Warped Sportz will custom tune your trigger just the way you like - no extra charge.

Warped Sportz also has the nutty professor of Angel techs, Rocky Cagnoni. This frizzy-haired super-freak is one of the nicest, most accessible, reputable, and well-known Angel techs in the world. Add to that the fact that he has huge game AND genuinely appears to be rather humble about the whole thing and you’ve got a guy you just can’t dislike. He’s the guy who handles Angel repairs for Warped Sportz, and this brings us to one of the Dark Angel’s best features: the warranty. If you buy a stock or Cut-and-Carved LCD and end up needing servicing, you’ll either be paying for shipping to the UK (obviously not much of a problem for British readers but for us in the USA, it sucks) or you’ll be paying the labor charges to have it fixed at one of the US-based, WDP authorized shops. Every Dark Angel, on the other hand, comes with the standard WDP one-year parts warranty, plus a lifetime warranty on labor from Warped Sportz. Not only that, but in my experience, Warped Sportz is pretty good at taking care of their own. They’re typically very accommodating and have a quick turnover so you can rest assured that your expensive piece of sporting equipment will be back in your hot little hands lickety-split rather than rotting on a shelf in the back of a pro-shop somewhere.

Now to the cosmetics, and let’s face it, with any paintgun that commands this much of a premium over the stock ’gun a lot of your money is going this way. As always, what looks good to a person is so exceedingly subjective that I couldn’t possibly hope to guess as to whether any given person is going to like what he’s seeing here or not. What I can say is that the work is very well done. The milling is as clean and polished as if it came from the factory this way. No surprise there; it did come from the factory that way. The anodizing seems to have been improved quite a lot from the original Dark Angel. It doesn’t look any better, but it certainly seems to be more scratch-resistant than the original tough-as-wax coating.

That said, I really like how this ’gun came out. As good as the teardrop cuts looked on the original Angel, they look that much better when extended down the entire paintgun’s length on the LCD. They add some real character to the stock LCD’s rather dull, blocky appearance. Narrowing at the rotor breech looks cool, though I think it would look even better if it were even more wasp-waisted.

Anodizing is available in silver (clear coat over polished aluminum), green, red, blue, pewter (blue-gray), purple, black, and the poetically named "doo-doo-brown" which is actually more of a brass color. Fades and splash can be special-ordered, but at a dramatic increase in price. The ’gun sent to me to review was done out in red and the thing really did look hot.

UNLEASHING THE BEAST

So, time finally came for me to gas the Dark Angel LCD up and put some paint through it. The first place I did this was at RAGE Sports, the same place where I did much of the work for last month’s blowback blowout. We slapped on an Armageddon nitrogen system, jammed in a new Revolution, poured in a handful of fresh Diablo Blaze and started ripping away.

I always say that the first thing you notice is the trigger. This time things were a little different. Mark and I are both intimately familiar with the original Angel’s trigger, and this one really isn’t appreciably different. As a result, the first thing that really struck us was how quiet the LCD is. The old "whack!" that used to accompany every pull of the Angel’s trigger has been replaced with a low "chuff." The difference between this and original Angels, even those with low pressure valving is not subtle. I’m talking about a very nearly Shocker-like level of quiet. I don’t know if it’s the new longer bolt, low pressure exhaust valve, LPR, or some undocumented change to the ram that makes the LCD so much quieter than it’s predecessor, and frankly, I don’t care. Point players who like to sneak from bunker to bunker will appreciate how this may allow you to keep firing unnoticed by nearby opponents for a bit longer than before.

The next thing we noticed is that the Dark Angel LCD seems to have a bit less kick than before. The difference here is a bit more subtle than the reduction in noise level, but I feel quite confident that it is real. Again, I am at loss to explain the difference. And again, who cares? The ’gun is a little more stable now.

Balance is about the same as with the old Angel. With a nitrogen system hooked on bottom-line it tends to be rather tail-heavy. Even a drop-forward bottom-line mount doesn’t do much to help bring the balance point forward. Most of the Angel’s weight is over and behind the trigger frame so unless you run your ’gun remote or wrap your barrel in lead tape you’re kind of stuck.

The trigger is pretty much the same as before except for the fact that you’re stuck with a two-finger trigger. I know some people just love the two-finger trigger, and I’m really not opposed to it myself. For rapid-fire, two-finger is just fine. But when I’m trying to sneak a paintball through a small hole in a bunker or aiming at a small target, I find I have much more success with one finger on the trigger and the rest wrapped firmly around the grip. This is just not possible with this kind of two-finger trigger and frame. In fact, the only ’guns I know of that really get this right are the Bushmaster 2000 and Defiant, both of which leave room for a finger behind the lower trigger segment. On the plus side, there is a full size trigger guard to ensure insurance legality for the forseeable future, while leaving room for even the biggest, fattest, gloved fingers.

The trigger pull itself is, particularly with the Dark Angel LCD, as short or as long as you choose to have it set. As both forward and back trigger stops come in the LCD’s trigger, you can have it set up with as much or as little slack before and after the firing point of the trigger pull as you like. Set to the absolute minimum length puts it actually shorter than your average computer’s mouse click. The only danger in specifying that you want it as short as possible in a new Dark Angel is that there is a break in period. There is a short, moderately flexible lever arm on the switch that contacts the trigger. Over the first few hundred shots, this small metal plate flexes a bit before it achieves its final shape. If you set the trigger as short as possible before the switch breaks in to its final position, when it does break in, the switch point may actually no longer be within the trigger’s stopped out range of motion. To put it more simply, if you stop the trigger out to the shortest possible pull in a brand new Angel, it may stop working after a few hundred shots and require you to adjust the trigger stops before it will work again. My advice: leave a little slack until you put a case or two through the Dark Angel before going for the most radical trigger possible.

I recently filled in an open spot on Twilight Zone (Rick Martin’s team) in a local 5-man tournament. I loaned this hot red Dark Angel to an old ex-teammate of mine, Benny Viola. Benny was just getting back into the sport after finally recovering from the emotional trauma of having been tossed off my old team oh so many years ago. (He’s still bitter about it, so make sure to tease him mercilessly if you ever meet him.) Anyhow, Benny was a chronic ball chopper largely due to the fact that he always tries to shoot his paintgun as fast as humanly possible, no matter what the circumstance. After over two cases of paint over a full day of tournament paintball, Benny had not broken a single paintball in the Dark Angel LCD. His peak rate of fire: 17 shots per second. That’s with my old Viewloader Revolution and no Intellifeed mod. Benny has since bought an electric blue Dark Angel for himself.

Think that might be an isolated incident? After winning a local 3-man tourney shooting this same red Dark Angel LCD, Mark pulled a forest green Dark Angel off the wall at RAGE Sports to shoot at the Pittsburgh NPPL. Through the 3-man, Pittsburgh, and the practices since Mark has yet to break a single paintball in a Dark LCD.

I myself had no problems shooting the Dark Angel LCD either. It is every bit as fast and fun to shoot as the original Angel, but now a bit quieter and a bit better looking. The only problem I really ran into was self-control. Like most electropneumatics, the Dark Angel is ridiculously easy to shoot fast, and this kind of rate-of-fire can be addictive. Not only can your paint consumption double in a hurry, but you can backslide into bad playing habits and miss out on easy eliminations that otherwise would have been there if you’d just taken an extra second to aim. Remember, a high rate-of-fire is only really useful in cutting down people on the move. A well-aimed shot is the better choice in virtually all other situations. Keep that in mind and the Dark Angel LCD can enhance your game. Forget it and you’ll find your game going stagnant or getting worse.

CONCLUSIONS

DaveThe Dark Angel LCD is really not all that hard to analyze because the way it shoots is really not all that different from the original Dark Angel. It’s small, it’s light, it shoots rediculously fast. It looks good enough to have drawn admiring glances everywhere I took it and it was the recipient of high praise from everyone who shot it. What more needs to be said?

Well, the price for one. Dark Angel LCDs go out the door at $1650, right in the same range as the Carved-and-Colored LCDs from WDP. Considering how they’re made, the Dark Angel is really almost better seen as the US-specific version of the Carved-and-Colored LCD with value added by Warped Sportz. Given the extra features, retuning, and superior warranty, the Dark LCD really comes out ahead, both in value and performance.

Compared to other electros on the market though, this is a whole crapload of money to spend on a paintgun. How in the world do WDP and Warped Sportz move so many of these paintguns at such high prices? There are a few reasons. Part of it is almost certainly momentum. The Angel has dominated this market for a long time and name recognition alone goes a long way towards moving product. Part of it is also the rich, unparalleled feature set that is now built into every LCD. Granted, a lot of it is gimmicky and not terribly useful, but just as much is genuine improvement.

Perhaps the biggest reason though, is that the Angel sets the standard for high-quality construction in a paintgun. You’d be hard pressed to find anything to criticize about its manufacture. Virtually the entire ’gun is made of thick-walled aluminum, giving it a solid and tough look and feel. There are no cheap plastic parts, no loose hoses, no gaps where parts meet, no loose bits that wiggle or rattle, and the whole thing is packed into a slick, tight, and stylish package. For a perfect example of this, just open the rotor breech. It swings out to the side without flopping loosely or binding. It doesn’t scrape or grind against the body, yet you can barely fit a sheet of paper between the breech and body when it is swung back in place. And even with the lowrider hopper adapter you always have room to open the breech. None of this will make your paintballs fly further or make you a better player, but for some it is worth having none the less.

A question that will almost certainly be asked is if the LCD offers enough improvement over the original Angel to warrant selling off your old Angel to buy the latest and greatest. The answer, for most people, is no. Nice as the new additions are, the LCD really isn’t all that different from the original Angel. If the new electronic features and display are a priority for you, it’s worth considering. If you’re expecting a paintgun that will shoot faster, further, or more accurately, you’ll be disappointed.

So is it the best paintgun in the world? Spare me. There is no such thing. Anyone who claims any different is either ignorant or trying to sell you something. What I can say though, is that the Dark Angel LCD has every reason in the world to be popular. It looks hot, it shoots well, and it has more features than Windows 98. If you liked the old Angel, you’ll love this ’gun.

All material at this site is © Ravi Chopra, 1999