Saturday, July 13, 2013

F2A Review: JT Splatmaster z300

JT Splatmaster z300 Sniper
You know the drill.

First, a little more about what JT Splatmaster is about, what the JT First Shot Challenge is, and where Splatmaster is going next, thanks to Rich Telford (XSV Paintball), commissioner of the JT First Shot Challenge, Pro Paintball player (for 20 years now), and overall cool guy:



And that being said,  here's the demo video and some shots I traded with Thomas Taylor after PSP Chicago.  Dude is a beast at normal paintball, and it was an honor to trade paint with him.



STATISTICS:
  • Price: approx. $49.99
  • Available:  Now, varies by location 
  • Range: approx. 100' (flat, not angled)
  • Priming Mech: Side-lever arm, mimics a bolt-action feel of sorts
  • Capacity: 15 Splatmaster .50 paintball rounds
  • Loading: Breech-loaded, through an opening on the top of the marker.
  • FPS: Approx. 140, but may shoot higher.
  • Attachments:  Tac rails on top and bottom (perfect fit for picatinny mounts, I have used a GoPro mount), removable and adjustable stock.  Stock has a spot to attach a sling/bandolier.
    Barrel plug is included.
  • EDIT 07/16/13 Sorry for overlooking this - if it wasn't obvious the priming arm is on the LEFT side of the blaster, effectively making this only for right-handed people.  The z200 is still a decent enough primary for both lefties and righties, but lefties are going to have a bit of a different mechanic from righties if they use the z300.
JT Splatmaster z300 (barrel plug is in)

Tactical rails along the top and bottom of the barrel; picatinny mounts work just fine :)

Safety button

Down the sight, and this aims pretty well.!

The lever arm priming mech; kinda felt like a bolt-action rifle after a bit.



.50 paintballs are loaded throught the breech here (the blue part is a door you push open to load)

Your ammo stores here; see how many shots you have left
 I first checked out Splatmaster with the z100 pistol and z200 shotgun, and the z300 is way different from either. 

The z100 and z200 were tested with a chronograph to around 120 fps; the z300 will usually hit around 140 fps but I have seen videos where the fps hit around 180 fps at max.  So, definitely a beefier, stronger shot.  However, the priming arm mechanic feels a lot slower than the z200's pump-action motion so there's definitely going to fall on the player whether they want the power of a z300 or a faster run and gun style the z200 lends itself to.  Additionally, the z300 adds a little backspin to keep the shot aloft (hop up?), so I sometimes sailed a little high from my target.  It took some adjustment at first, but eventually I got comfortable.  Still, the power and accuracy in the z300 are pretty righteous.  It's a nice trade if you have a more deliberate and surgical play style.  Overall, the range and accuracy are pretty impressive.  I'll definitely do a follow up with higher standing targets and revisit this in the future.

The EXPERIENCE:
  
 Let's talk about how the z300 handles and feels.  As far as holding it, the adjustable stock really helps.  It's comfortable, and after holding other toy blasters it feels skinnier and a bit easier to aim, carry, hold, and run with by comparison.  The styling lends itself really well to a proper rifle, making moving and aiming pretty intuitive.  If I had to critique anything, I'd say it needs a bipod, as this is the Sniper type of marker in the lineup.  The priming action is smooth, the trigger pull doesn't fight, and the arm sits against the body in line with the rest of the marker, so if I strap it to my back it doesn't jab at me.  There is only one sling point though, and that's on the back of the removable stock.
Removable stock with 5 different settings.  The sling point is that loop on the back of the stock.
Furthermore on the handling.  The z300 loads through a door in the top of the marker that holds the paintballs (illustrated in the pics above.)  With every move of the priming handle, a ball loads into the barrel (via gravity and a follower that pushes the balls along, it might take some practice or jiggling if you experience any misfires) and the trigger pull launches the ball.  I didn't experience any chopped/broken balls so far and misfires are rare (and I'll attribute those to human error), so between the paint and the marker itself, everything is pretty reliable.  You can reload the chamber either one at a time with paintballs but there are also speedload tubes (pods) that JT makes (see the pic below) to expedite the reload process.  It took a little practice to get the right motion/angle to get the tube to push the door down and feed the balls, but as you can see in the video above I got it.

In a way, this simulates refilling your hopper with a full pod (and it's very possible to miss reloading a proper paintball hopper too, so that's just part of the game.)  Either way you choose to do it, you have options.  In fact, of the existing ammo containers, the grenade shaped ammo packs work pretty well too, just they're bulkier than the speedload tubes (and during the Splatmaster First Shot challenge you only have 30 rounds per player, so starting ammo & 1 tube.)

Bottom line, while the priming motion and rate of fire is a tad slower than the z200, the z300 is definitely worth the $49.99 for it's power, range, accuracy, portability, aesthetics, and just overall feel.  For kids and adults looking to start in paintball this is a great offering.  It is definitely one of the coolest looking things I've used, and handles so nicely.  That the rails accommodate picatinny accessories (like my GoPro mount) is a huge plus (and might address the bipod gripe I have) and only adds to how much I like this marker and is a must-try for anyone thinking about this line.  So far Splatmaster has the z90 (not reviewed yet, debuted at JT Splatmaster Chicago), the z100, z200, and now the z300.  Each offers a little something different in the play experience so see which suits you!  Just please remember to obey the local laws regarding paintball products, please. 

In closing, big thanks to Rich, Thomas, and everyone at Empire/JT for their time and efforts.  Hope to see you all again!  As a majority of my time with them was spent at THE FIRST JT First Shot Challenge in Chicago, of course I have pics :)  Splatmaster is a brand worth watching with what their goal is (building paintball by making it more accessible to people) and what they're making for people.  They've got some great ideas, and I hope to see them come to fruition.



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