Here's a quick review of the FT-12 from a gun tech's point of view, crossposted from my Paintball Blog. I've been maintaining a rental fleet for about 6 years and have a Tippmann tech certification from 2008. I'll be reviewing it in the context of rental use, so emphasis will be on the durability and ease of maintenance rather than a player's perspective.
The FT-12 delivers on its promise of ease of maintenance. It can be stripped to critical components in a matter of seconds, without tools. When the barrel and barrel nut are removed, the top hinges open, allowing access to the hammer, valve, bolt and linkage arm. The detent can be removed without opening the top, by sliding the foregrip forward after the barrel nut has been unscrewed.
The trigger components are grouped into a single removable trigger group in a plastic housing. This eliminates the need to deal with small trigger components unless the sear needs to be replaced.
The valve is a huge improvement. To access it, simply lift it off the stainless air line, and unscrew the air connector thumbscrew. The valve can then be easily pulled from the powertube, as they have extended it backwards and flared it outward. This also means there is no chance of powertube cracking affecting firing, since all the blowback gases are contained in the billet aluminum cup that extends back from the valve. One of my favorite improvements to the valve is the addition of a C-clip, much like BT-4s have been using for years. This means the user can easily access internal valve components, and replace low-cost o-rings and cupseals to fix valve leaks, instead of shelling out for a $20+ valve.
I am slightly concerned about the materials used to build the new fleet of Tippmanns. I've noticed a decline in the strength of Tippmann 98c clamshells in the past few years, with many Platinum Series 98s cracking when dropped or "crashed." Fortunately the FT-12 does not use a clamshell design, and it doesn't require the hollowed out gripframe to accomodate RT pistons or E-grip noids, so it may show more strength than the 98c it replaces.
The plastics used seem to of a lesser quality compared to the composites in older guns. They are closer to the plastics you'd find used in office supplies (a pen or exacto knife) than what you'd find used in a firearm, like the older Tippmanns. This is obvious when you compare the bolts from this new generation of guns to the old.
I'd prefer to see the trigger group use a metal housing, as mushrooming trigger and sear pin holes have been a headache in clamshell guns, but the hole tolerances on the FTs are fairly tight so this may not be an issue.
I really don't like the decision to use a cast metal ASA. All 98 customs come with a billet machined, anodized aluminum ASA, which is about as durable as you can get in paintball without moving up to steel. (I wish) Anodizing not only hardens the surface of a metal part, it decreases friction and prevents oxidation. I am concerned that the cast metal used in the FT-12 ASA will crossthread and strip out more easily than the billet ASAs. When have noodle-armed 15 year old referees screwing your tanks on and off every day, this can become an epidemic of damaged ASAs. We've had to deal with this on billet anodized ASAs, so I don't have high hopes for these new ones. Please prove me wrong, FT-12!
It shoots like any other inline blowback Tippmann. The trigger is a little goofy looking, but has a nice snappy pull. The fact that there is no open cocking slot is a welcome change. It will prevent dirt and debris from entering the gun. The gun itself is a huge improvement on the 98 Custom, and my only concerns are with the choice of materials which were obviously made to bring costs down. Whether they hold up with use will be shown in time, as plenty of fields are picking these up.
Ordering for the summer run of Avratech Retro 7s is open! Made in Canada and anodized to order by the TonSixers.
Great review thank you~
I spoke with a tippmann rep who recommended waiting a few more months before considering the fliptop for a rental fleet, in his words they are still working out a few kinks since it is a new design.
I have 40 of these for my field and love them. they have a oring problem but tipman sent me all new ones. to clean or repair theses things is a piece of cake. i will be buying 40 more by next year to complete my rentals