Would an Angel by any other name
Shoot as sweet?
Indian Creeks new Bushmaster 2000 Electropneumatic Semi-Auto
© Ravi Chopra, 1999
For paintball old-timers, "Bushmaster" is a hallowed name from the early days of the sport. It was the name of one of the most popular tournament pump-guns of all time. In a sport filled with hopped-up Nel-Spots, it was one of the first paintguns designed and built from the ground up with all the performance mods that were being tacked onto the basic pump pistols. Particularly on the West Coast of the United States, the Bushmaster became the tournament pumper of choice for several years before being usurped by the semi-auto revolution.
Indian Creek is a company best known for its sturdy blowback semi-automatic paintguns. Though theyve achieved significant success in some places and are typically considered to be of relatively high quality, theyve never achieved the brand-name recognition and popularity of Tippman or Kingmans blowbacks. Neither have they achieved the tournament-performance reputation of the Automag, Autococker, or the several electropneumatics that have come to market in recent years.
This year, Indian Creek has moved to change all that by resurrecting the legendary "Bushmaster" name to badge their own new electropneumatic semi-automatic paintgun, the Bushmaster 2000. Whats more, they arent looking to establish a new demographic. Theyre striking right out after the big boys, promising an electropneumatic that can shoot with the Angels, but at about half the price.
How successful have they been? Ill tell you.
How it works
The short answer to the question of how the Bushmaster 2000 works is: read my article on the Dark Angel in the June 1999 issue of PGI. Functionally, the Bushmaster works almost exactly like an Angel. I wouldnt exactly call it a knock-off, but the way it works is so close that any claims that it wasnt inspired by the Angel are simply not plausible.
The Bushmaster fires from an open bolt. When you pull the trigger, it activates a microswitch in the grip frame. This signals the initiation of a sequence of events programmed into the circuit board in the grip frame.
First, a solenoid-driven valve, essentially an electrically operated valve that does essentially the same thing as the Autocockers 3-way, is switched. This valve is fed by a low-pressure regulator (LPR) at the front of the gun putting out 85-95 psi. The valve itself feeds a pneumatic cylinder (a "ram") at the back of the gun. At rest, low-pressure air is fed to the front of the ram, holding it back in the retracted, rearward position. When the solenoid is switched, the low pressure feed is redirected to the back of the ram to drive it forward. The front of the rams piston has a hammer, which is itself coupled to the bolt by a pull-pin. When the ram is driven forward, the bolt is carried forward as well, pushing a paintball into the barrel. The hammer strikes the exhaust valve, allowing a burst of high-pressure air (not from the LPR) through the bolt, firing the paintball down the barrel. At the end of the cycle, the solenoid is switched back to retract the hammer and bolt to allow another paintball to feed and set the gun up to fire again.
Simple enough? Just like an Angel.
And like the Angel, proper operation and acceptable efficiency depend on both correct LPR output pressure and the dwell setting. For non-initiates, the dwell is the period of time the hammer is held forward against the valve, keeping it open. The LPR pressure determines how hard the hammer hits the valve. Having these two variables properly set is the equivalent of having an Autococker properly timed. As with any paintgun, you should be able to expect it to be properly set up from the factory.
How its built
Despite the similarities in operation, no sane person would ever mistake a Bushmaster 2000 (hence "BM2K") for an Angel. They have dramatically different forms. This results from the Bushmaster using some slightly different parts and locating them differently.
Essentially, theyve taken the Angels pyramid shape and straightened it out into a vertical layout. The top section of the Bushmaster has just the bolt, feed, and barrel. Below that are the LPR, valve, and ram/hammer assembly. Where the Angel places its solenoid valve (the "14 way") behind the bolt, the Bushmaster locates it below the ram at the back of the gun. They also use a notably smaller valve, allowing them to tuck it into a smaller space. In contrast to the Angels long, rechargeable battery, the Bushmaster runs off of a simple 9-volt battery that hides in the body just above the trigger, forward of the solenoid.
There are some notable aspects to this feature set and layout.
The LPR is externally adjustable. For 99% of players, this is a transparent part that most people wont pay a moments attention to. For airsmiths who have to service the gun and for tinkerers who like to tweak out every aspect of their gun, this is an absolute God-send no more disassembly and shim-shuffling to get the desired drive pressure.
The dwell and rate-of-fire settings on the circuit board take the other tack. Where the Angel has easy to adjust potentiometer dials for both; the BM2K has a bank of dip switches that can be configured for different dwell times and rates-of fire. Fortunately the manual has a list of the different settings, but its nowhere near as easy and convenient as simply turning a dial. Usable and precise, but less friendly for fast, over-the-chrono adjustments. Dip switches are also used to switch between the guns four firing modes semi-auto, 3-shot burst, 6-shot burst, and full-auto.
The entire ram/hammer assembly is a single piece that can be easily unscrewed from the back of the gun without tools once the gun is degassed. Thus its very easy to strip and clean if youre one of those players who tends to get a lot of dirt deep into his paintgun. A quick note; the ram was changed slightly in the middle of this review. In the early runs of Bushmaster 2000s, the ram was almost exactly the same as that found in the Angel: entirely pneumatically driven and with a snap-ring to hold it back until sufficient pressure had built to ensure that the hammer would be driven forward fast and hard. In the revised version, the ram is actually spring-loaded forward. Indian Creek told me that the gun was more consistent, ran smoother, and gave better efficiency this way. I played with it both ways and didnt find any noticeable difference.
The Solenoid is a small, but fast unit. Though I had no problems with the BM2K sent to me for review, quite a few early adopters of the gun have complained that early runs of BM2Ks had some problems with these leaking out of the box. This problem seems to have been corrected since and is covered under warranty. I dont expect this to be much of an issue now.
The power switch for the BM2K is mounted on the left side of the gun just above the trigger, with a power/cycle indicator light mounted just behind it. As the Bushmasters trigger pull is really too absurdly short to allow an effective mechanical safety, the power switch should be used as the safety. I strongly encourage its liberal use when you arent playing. Ill get to the details of the trigger shortly, but suffice it to say for now, this gun is extremely easy to accidentally discharge.
Lets start with the trigger. All BM2Ks come with a standard 2-finger trigger that activates a microswitch in the frame. As with most electropneumatics, this trigger is extremely lightly sprung, but set a bit long in the stock configuration. Indian Creek offers optional set screws that allow you to set the fire point and stop out the pull length. I highly recommend getting these set screws. You can really do some impressive things with this trigger once theyre in and adjusted. The trigger plate does fit rather loosely in the grip frame due to a retaining pin that is smaller than the hole in the plate, allowing the trigger quite a bit of lateral and vertical slack.
Since it became the frame of choice, just about every new paintgun to come out these days includes a standard .45 frame. The BM2K is no different. Indian Creek ups the ante by including a 2-finger guard to ensure tournament and insurance legality over the long term. One thing I really like about the two-finger trigger and guard setup is that it leaves space behind the lower trigger to allow you to fire with a single-finger without leaving a loose finger with nowhere to go. As I generally prefer to shoot with a single finger when Im not rapid firing, this is much more comfortable than most 2-finger trigger setups with guards.
Also walking in step with current fashion is the standard low-rise center feed, flared at the top to accept a hopper without needing a separate adapter. Some people will probably be concerned about chopping paint during rapid-fire due to the short stack of paintballs between hopper and breech with the low-rise tube. I never had a problem with it, but several companies make extenders that can be fit in between for those who need the extra height. Just below and in front of the feed is a standard ball-bearing style ball detent to prevent double-feeds.
As with the Angel, the velocity is determined primarily by input pressure. Like the Angel, the BM2K includes a pressure regulator for this purpose. In a final, irritating act of mimicry, the BM2K also includes a non-standard mount for the reg, making it impossible to use aftermarket pressure regulators until someone comes up with an aftermarket adapter to fit in its place. I dont really think that you need to use an aftermarket reg, but I still prefer to have the option. The included regulator is mounted vertically in front of the trigger guard and acts as a fore-grip. Adjusting is easy achieved by unscrewing the hollow bottom half to reveal a screw inside which you use to adjust pressure. This screw is slotted so you can adjust it just as well with a screwdriver, coin, or key no more scrambling to find the right-size allen wrench for velocity adjustments. Another nice touch is the included gauge that indicates the output pressure. The gauge really doesnt tell you much that you really need to know to operate the gun, but I suppose it will come in handy for those of you who must know at what exact pressure your paintgun is operating at all times. Personally, I felt that the gauge got in the way of where I like to hold the grip. Some may prefer to remove the gauge and replace it with a plug for a more streamlined look.
Speaking of pressures, this paintgun doesnt need much to get good velocity. In fact, the BM2K shoots 300 fps in the 225-275 psi range depending on your paint and barrel match. There are very few paintguns that run at lower pressures than that. Just how big a difference that makes is debatable. Ive shot a lot of low and high pressure paintguns and have never found much of a difference in barrel breaks, range, or accuracy. None the less, if youre all about low pressure, this wont disappoint.
While Im on the topic of pressure and air, it should be noted that Indian Creek strongly recommends the use of nitrogen/HPA with the BM2K. Reading between the lines, that means, "dont use CO2." The solenoids used in electropneumatic paintguns are notoriously intolerant to the rigors of CO2s temperature swings and liquid condensation. If you take sufficient measures to ensure that no liquid enters the gun, you might be able to get away with CO2 but youre probably shortening the life span of your valve. There are plenty of decent, inexpensive nitrogen systems out there that will work just fine with the BM2K. Use nitro/HPA; both you and your paintgun will be happier.
The BM2Ks bolt takes up the entire upper chamber of the paintgun and has a standard open-face design (aftermarket venturi-bolt makers take note!). It is coupled to the hammer immediately below by an Evolution-style pull-pin so it can be stripped sans-tools to allow quick use of a pull-through squeegee for thorough on-field cleanings in case of a break.
The Bushmasters barrel is a 12" aluminum piece with Smart Parts-style spiral porting and a large muzzle brake at the end. As with most paintguns, the barrel screws right into the front of the gun just ahead of the bolt. Threads are Indian Creek standard, so if you are upgrading from one of ICDs blowback or blow-forward paintguns and already have some aftermarket barrels you like, youll be able to use them with the Bushmaster 2000 as well. Indian Creeks web site describes the barrel as being "mirror honed." The barrel that came on the BM2K sent to me for review was anything but. The internal finish was not just lacking in a mirror-like shine; it had several nasty-looking gouges weaving down the barrels inner surface. People seeing this for the first time will likely be tempted to immediately start hurling fist-fulls of cash at the nearest aftermarket barrel manufacturer.
As always, I like to touch on the manual. Paintball is one industry where the manuals are often not included with equipment, and when present are often absolutely terrible and virtually useless. There are a few notable exceptions; Airgun Designs Automag and Smart Parts Max-Flow manuals come to mind as examples of how manuals should be done. Indian Creek did a fair job with their BM2K manual. It provides all the information that the average player will need to operate and maintain the Bushmaster. It also provides some decent troubleshooting and advanced information like the dwell and delay times for the various dip switch combinations. I dont think it went quite far enough in that direction, though. While it does give a delay time for each combination of dip switch settings, it doesnt really tell much about how that affects the operation of the paintgun. Neither does it convert the delay times for ROF adjustment into actual number of shots per second. The LPR isnt even mentioned in the manual, despite it being a crucial setting for proper operation. Granted, the BM2K should be properly set-up from the factory, so this should not be much of an issue for most players. For those looking for more information, the Indian Creek web page http://www.icdpaintball.com provides more complete information than the manual on these topics.
The fashion-set should prepare to be disappointed. Immediate reactions to the Bushmaster 2000s appearance range from an indifferent "eh
" to "not quite immediately nauseating, but close." I do have to give Indian Creek credit. They really tried to make something of the thin, tall, boxy shape by milling away just about as much extra metal as they could. Lord knows, they did a better job than Smart Parts did with the impressively unattractive shoe-box shaped Shocker, but its still not going to be winning any beauty contests.
The BM2K sent to me was raw aluminum, polished to a relatively smooth, shiny gray. From what Ive heard, the black-anodized models dont look much better. The basic millwork adds some character, but for the life of me I cant figure out why they milled the top of the gun into a wedge shape rather than rounding it out. Where the body could have flowed smoothly into the barrel, now there is a strange transition from the rounded barrel to the smaller angled body top.
I do like the treatment of the .45 frame and 2-finger trigger guard good looks combined with perfect function. I also like how they cut the regulator for comfortable use as a forgrip, though their reasoning for cutting it with six finger grooves is beyond my understanding. A shorter forgrip would also fit better with some nitro systems on angled drop-forwards.
This paintguns plain looks would likely benefit greatly from a cool splash or fade anodizing job. Hopefully Indian Creek (or someone) will start offering that.
Ive gone on about how it works, how its put together, and how it looks. Most of you could care less about all that. You want to know how it performs on the field. Just how well do all those neat features work on the field?
Electropneumatics are all the rage these days. Small wonder; theyre absurdly easy to shoot fast. More importantly, their triggers are so short and light that firing them is a nearly effortless task, making it much easier to stay on target from shot to shot, and allowing you to shoot from much more awkward positions. The BM2K absolutely shines in this area.
Out of the box, the trigger pull is two- or three-mm long, but very lightly sprung and so is impressively easy to shoot fast. Bring in the two set screws and you can make things absolutely crazy. Using the fire point set screw, you can set the trigger to activate the microswitch with barely a touch of the trigger. With the stop screw, you can limit the triggers travel to just beyond that point. Since the trigger is so loose due to the too-small retaining pin, you can get the trigger to the point where just wiggling it from side to side will set the thing off. Set like this, you can fire the thing at an absurdly high rate by just drumming three fingers along the side of the trigger. On the other hand, this also means that the gun can sometimes discharge if you drop it or accidentally brush the side of the trigger (this happened to me twice in the staging area the refs were not happy). Just because you can do something doesnt mean you should. I strongly recommend people keep the trigger set a bit longer than this for safetys sake.
There is a trade off for this twitchy trigger. It is very very loose, with slack to wiggle around noticeably in all directions. This adds a cheap feel to an otherwise solidly built paintgun.
No matter how you choose to set the trigger, cheap feel not withstanding, you wont be disappointed with how this paintgun shoots. Basically, it shoots just like an Angel. It cycles absurdly fast, almost seeming to anticipate your decision to pull the trigger. The moving components are very light so it tears off shots with very little drama, staying very stable while shooting rather than jumping around like a blowback.
The less than impressively finished barrel, which I described earlier, actually shoots reasonably well. Its range and accuracy didnt overwhelm me, but it put paint where I pointed it without hooks, curves, or dives that I couldnt attribute to the cheap paint I was shooting. Though current fashion demands an aftermarket launch tube, financially strapped players should be able to make due with the stock equipment without significant frustration.
The BM2Ks gas efficiency is about on par with other stock electropneumatics. I found I was getting 800-900 shots from a 68 ci, 3000 psi Max-Flow nitrogen system. Not great, but enough to get you through a game or two depending on your style. Back guys who have to carry most of a case on-field will likely need a large-bottle 4500 psi system to get them through those long 10-man games.
Remember the Evolution-style quick-pull pin that allows you to quick-strip the bolt on field? Not so fast. Its situated right below the battery-compartment of your VL moto-loader. That low-rise feed makes for a low profile but brings the hopper so far down, you cant pull the pin out to strip the bolt without twisting your hopper out of the way first. Nice thought, poor implementation.
In one final note, though I like the use of a small 9-volt battery to run the gun (everyone carries them to run their motorized loaders), it is not conveniently located for replacement. In fact, you need to take out four long allen screws to pull off the whole grip frame to access the battery. Whats worse, the wires used to attach the battery, as well as those running between the circuit board in the grip and the solenoid under the paintguns body are frighteningly thin. Battery replacement is a delicate task, requiring patience and a gentle touch to avoid breaking one of the wires loose. I would feel much more comfortable with beefier wires or an easily pulled plug so the grip frame and body could be separated completely.
I have to admit it; the Bushmaster 2000 impressed me. It aint pretty and has a sloppy trigger, but apart from that there isnt too much to complain about. Its solidly built, easy to maintain and use, and can easily be shot outrageously fast.
In fact, Ill go so far as to say that its a good thing for WDP that theyve just come out with the Angel LCD with a host of new features and improvements. Though it doesnt have the stylish look or immaculate fit and finish of the original stock Angel, the Bushmaster 2000 performs almost identically, and at $659 thats a more than fair trade-off. Thats right $659 retail. Youll be able to find BM2Ks for even less than that from discount mail-order shops. No matter how you cut it, this paintgun is an exceptional value.
With cutting edge competition-oriented performance and a near-budget price that doesnt require a second mortgage, this paintgun will have strong appeal to players on both sides of the great tournament divide.
All material at this site is © Ravi Chopra, 1999