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A Preview of the Now Available
Sterling Sovereign

© Ravi Chopra, 1996

I have had the pleasure to take a look at, and run some paint through, a functioning prototype of Sterling's Semi-Auto, the Sovereign.

It was sent to me for a preliminary look by Bad Boyz Toyz (the Sovereign's sole US distributor). It was made very clear to me that the 'gun being sent was a prototype only, not ready for evaluation or performance testing.

Like that's going to stop me.

It looks kind of like a cross between a Sterling pump and an Autococker. It has the same cross-sectional shape as the Sterling, but it has a block and cocking pin at the back like an Autococker. It also has a vertical ASA mounted at the front and a Rock Regulator mounted horizontally in front of that under the barrel. A 3-way valve is mounted on the left side of the 'gun above and slightly behind the trigger which is mounted in a 45-style grip frame.

Notice anything missing? There's no ram or pump-rod! The most brilliant innovation of this 'gun is that the bolt IS the ram! There's a fixed center sleeve around a narrowed part of the bolt. The bolt can slide back and forth inside this sleeve. When gas is fed behind the sleeve, it enters the narrowed space and blows the bolt back. When it's fed in front of the sleeve, it blows the bolt forward. The result - no need for a ram and a reduction of weight.

So how does it shoot? Well, I first have to say a few things about the genesis of this prototype. The 'gun itself was designed by David Gallsworthy, and built by Millsey over at Sterling. For some time, prototype semis have been coming over to Bad Boyz Toyz for Danny Love to play around with. Danny tinkers around with the prototype, noting strengths and weaknesses, and tries to fix the problems he finds. He then passes his observations back over the pond to Sterling where they go back to work improving the 'gun. The changes Danny Love made to this prototype before it found it's way into my hands include the replacement of the stock regulator with Palmer's Rock, replacement of the stock 3-way, smoothing of the trigger, and retiming. Danny claims that the work he did was very conservative since this is the only Sovereign he had to work with, and no extra parts were available. When the production model is complete, he expects that the stock 'gun will be quite functional without these mods. Furthermore, when extra parts are available, he promises even better performance from his own mods.

My impressions:

  • This 'gun is damn light. Even the most milled out 'cocker comes nowhere near the low mass of this thing. Aftermarket add-ons (plastic blocks, lighter vertical mount front blocks, etc) will likely reduce the weight even further. In the configuration sent to me, this thing is lighter than a stock Automag.

  • Shoots like a 'cocker. The straight-back pull of this particular prototype is very Autococker-like. If you've shot a Danny Love-built 'cocker, you have a pretty good idea of how this 'gun's trigger feels. It actually may even be a bit smoother. I am a notorious tinkerer and rarely like the feel of a trigger unless I've had a hand in its tuning. Not here. I pulled this thing out of the box, gassed it up, and ripped on it as fast, if not faster, than I've ever shot my own 'cocker. I LOVE the trigger on this thing.

  • Reliable. Since the technology is the well-tested Autococker-type configuration, it is a well known, robust system. I would expect this thing to be as reliable as a well timed and tuned Autococker (for example, my own tuned-to-the-edge Autococker has worked problem-free for over a year without my having to retime or tune it). I feel VERY comfortable with the reliability of the Sovereign if the production model is as robustly built as the prototype.

  • Dislikes. The stock barrel is pretty lousy, but it should be as accurate as any closed-bolt 'gun when set-up with a good aftermarket barrel. Also, there's currently no way to pull the bolt to use a pull-through squeegie. To remove the bolt, you have to degas the 'gun and remove a screw in the top which holds the sleeve in place. The barrel comes out with 4 turns so it can be removed and squeegied if you get a really bad break and you have a little time.
This prototype is very clearly a Danny Love creation. The trigger is too sweet and the timing is too perfect (impossible to pinch a ball - no joke) for it to be anything else. It's too soon to say how the final stock production model will turn out, but this first look is definately promising. Also encouraging is the fact that they haven't rushed the thing to market before working out all the bugs. When it does hit the store shelves, it should be a pretty damn nice piece.

If you have the good Doctor Danny Love work on it, he promises that it will be even better than the prototype since he'll go nuts when he actually has extra parts to play with without worrying about messing up the only parts of the only 'gun available.

Word on the street is that the Sovereign will retail at $440 - not bad when you look at the complete package. The basic design of the 'gun leads me to believe that, out of the box, this should outperform a stock Auto or Minicocker because it has fewer parts (no ram to go bad, etc), lighter parts, and an overall much lighter weight.

Frankly, I wish they'd let me keep it a little longer. I've got a speedball tournament this weekend which I'd love to use it in. This 'gun is sweet.

Since I originally wrote this preview article up, there have been a lot of changes. Bad Boyz Toyz no longer distributes this ´gun in the US. It is now handled by PMI. Bad Boyz Toyz does still build a limited number of highly customized Sovereigns, mostly to order.

Additionally, I have not had the chance to use a final production Sovereign, and I have no new information about them. If you are looking for more information about the Sovereign, a really nice Sovereign Infosheet has gone up at another site with good information and really nice photos. I highly recommend checking it out. All material at this site is © Ravi Chopra, 1999