EGO / Aquilia M203 Grenade Shell

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After one bad outing after another with King Arms (Version 1) grenade shells, I was determined to find a decent grenade shell that didn’t fail in  your darkest hour.  People have suggested to me time and time again, “Just get a Madbull shell, they always work!”  While that is mostly true, I knew there must be yet another manufacture out there who could make a quality shell that worked on a regular basis without needing to be pampered and coddled.  After a visit to Kapowwe’s website I found the EGO M203 Gas Shell, which they claim to be the “most powerful M203 shell”.  I’m thinking that’s a big claim.  I recently acquired (through a trade), a Madbull Stinger 24 rounder that works flawlessly (but 24 rounds just doesn’t cut it for me).  I found that Madbull shell to be very reliable, as have other people.  Could this shell be as reliable and strong as a Madbull?  Well let’s look at Kapowwe’s claims:

These 63 round m203 gas grenades are direct from Japan. The Japanese brand name is Ego, and these shells live up to their name! They are easily 3 times more powerful than any other gas grenade on the market, this includes any of the Madbulls, ICS, or Classic Army. Even using .25g bb’s these shells shoot as far as an Classic Army AEG! If you want to put some distance in your M203 launcher, this is how you do it.

Shell does not require reseating between shots.

Well, let us take a look at each of these claims: Power, range, and ease of use.

First Impressions

First thing I notice is that the box says “MADE IN TAIWAN”.  Hum… Kapowwe says these “…are direct from Japan”.  For that to be true, they must be buying them from a supplier in Japan, the package is mislabeled, or Japan — under a covert imperialistic urge — conquered and captured Taiwan the day before Kapowwe posted this and has yet to let the world know.  Or, it could just be that Kapowwe is wrong, didn’t read the package, or doesn’t understand that Taiwan is not part of Japan.  The only reason I bring this up, is because many people (typically the “Marui is teh bestest gnu” crowd), feel that Japanese airsoft products are superior to the Chinese and Taiwan counterparts.  Well, testing will tell.  Another oddity about the packaging, is the absence of the brand name EGO… which is the brand name Kapowwe gives for this product.  Instead we are greeted with the name Aquila.  Go figure.

The shell sent to me is gold / yellow in color.  Personally, as long as it doesn’t blend in with the dirt around me, I’m cool with whatever color they come to me in.  The machine work looks good, and it feels really solid but I noticed what sounds like a bearing rolling around inside of it.  I wonder if that is a problem, or part of the design?

Included with the shell is a loading tool for pushing the bbs into the barrels.  Personally, I like this.  I know you can just use a speed loader to cram the bbs down into place and then dump out the extras, but you’ll inevitably lose bbs and I hate that.  It seems the push rod for loading is made of some crudely crafted aluminum, but then again, there’s no need for precision for it to do it’s job.

Materials and Construction

The overall construction can be summed up in one word.  Sturdy.  These are hefty and weigh 39g more than a 120 round King Arms shell.  The finish appears anodized and long lasting.  The fill valve is smaller than the ones seen on the Madbull shells, but is more robust than the ones on the King Arms (version 1) shells.  The valve is also screwed directly to the body of the shell unlike some other brands.  This makes for fewer parts and gaskets that can fail over time.  The valve also has an o-ring around the fill side to reduce leaked gas during filling.  I did notice that some of the edges around the openings for the bb’s seem to be a bit  uneven, maybe even a touch rough.  We’ll see how well they load and how cleanly they fire when we get to the performance testing.

The reset button on the bottom is solid, and has very little range of motion (maybe 4mm).  Even if this does require resetting (and we haven’t proven if it does or does not), it would be easy to do with the short travel length of the firing button.  I also noted that there is no external o-ring that acts as a retainer / hop for the bbs in the barrel.  This is a nice touch as having it internally makes it less likely to be damaged and makes for a nicer looking shell (if you’re into the aesthetics).

The package lists the weight at 215g.  Mine measures out to 210g …. close enough for me.  It does worry me that either my scale is off, or that there are some loose tolerances at play here.  Looking at the shell from the outside though, the tolerances seem just fine to my eye.  One odd thing, the diameter listed on the outside is 41mm.  I can’t find a single part of this shell that measures 41mm.  If you know anything about what section is supposed to be 40mm (or 41mm for that matter), please let me know.  Capacity is listed as being 63 rounds (9 barrels with 7 rounds each).

Performance

First I want to look at the ease of use.  Kapowwe says that these shells do not need to be reset.  Every shell, even Madbull’s, need to be reset either every time or at least every once in a while.  This usually means either partially unscrewing the base, or using something to press the bottom valve closed after use.  Let’s take this outside and load it up a bunch of times and fire it off.  (Note: All firing of the shell is being done by hand without an M203 launcher or tube of any type)

Following the instructions on the package, I first load the bbs in.  I prefer doing this by hand.  I just pour some bbs in the palm of my hand, and roll the shell around as to allow the bbs to drop in.  I found that if I filled each chamber till there was one bb just poking out of each chamber, that pressing them in with the loading tool would result in a perfectly full 63 rounds.  Easy.  Each bb slid in smoothly with no problems, and after loading them into the shell, even shaking them like the the paint shakers at the hardware store resulted in not a single bb lost and a stronger forearm.  With the shell loaded, I proceeded to fill it with propane.  Yes I said propane!  Yeah I’m calling you out back there in the back!  Yeah you with the Green Gas can in your pocket and a light wallet that’s been brutalized by the Green Gas Marketing Monster.  It filled easily and without excessive spillage (big plus in my book).  Now for the fun stuff.  Let’s shoot things with it.  I fired off the shell 15 times.  Not one time did I have to reset the valve!  That, in my opinionated opinion, is truly remarkable!  Nothing irritates me more than having to reset my shells between games in addition to loading them.  So far, so good.  Let’s take a look at range now.

I filled up the shell yet again, but this time with .25g bbs.  Kapowwe claims that the EGO shell can launch these just as far as Classic Army AEG can.  Well, I’ve owned Classic Army AEG’s, so let’s test that out on my range.  I know that I can get about 140 feet out of the average Classic Army AEG (M4 or MP5), with .25g bbs as measured out on my test range (data from previouly measured results).  With the shell filled and gassed up @ 80°F, I stepped outside to the range and fired one off.  Then another, then another.  Then another with .2g bbs instead.  With the shell as close to parallel with the ground as I could manage, and aiming at the end of the range.  The farthest bb landed at 110 feet.  Nice, but not up to their claim equaling the range of an AEG.  Now granted, this was done at 80°F.  As the temperature of the gas in the shell increases, so does the pressure, and therefore the velocity of the projectile.  It could be possible for these shells to hit 140 feet, given 90°F weather.

People get drunk off it.  Some say it corrupts, other say it corrupts absolutely.  What is “it”?  Well POWER of course!  According to Kapowwe’s claims, this shell is 3x more powerful than “any other gas grenade shell on the market”.  Well, let us see.  For the first test, I loaded up the grenade shell and filled it with propane at an ambient air temperature of 80°F.  I setup a cardboard target at 15 feet away and fired at it.  At 15 feet, 19 of the 63 rounds impacted the target.  I noted the impression that was made, and set up a fresh target.  I then took a shell of another brand (we’ll call it the control shell) and loaded it up with 63 rounds, and gassed it fully.  It occurred to me at this point that the EGO shell, took much less time to fill with gas than the control shell.  This could be possible for any of three reasons.  One, the EGO shell might have a larger valve opening allowing gas in quicker. Two, the EGO shell might have a smaller gas capacity.  Three, the control shell has a valve that leads to a different dimension where our knowledge of physics no longer holds true.  I’m guessing it’s number two.  Having loaded up the second shell, I walked a measured 15 feet from the new target and fired.  This time only 16 of the bbs hit the target.  What I did notice is that the depth of the bbs appear to be almost 2x deeper from this shell.  That reinforces my guess that this second shell held more gas and therefore possibly could have forced the bbs out faster.  I must settle this once and for all though.  For this… “I need my largest scales”.  She’s a witch!  Wait…. I’m measuring the wrong thing.  For this, I’ll need a smaller scale.

Okay enough of the Python-esque comedy before someone sacks me.  I measured each shell by weight.  The EGO measuring in at 210g and the control shell weighing in at 174g.  Then I filled each shell and let them rest at room temperature for 10 minutes (really just because I had other things to do).  Weighing them I found that full of propane, the EGO shell weighed in at 213g and the control shell weighed in at 184g.  That means that the propane only added 3g to the weight of the EGO shell, but added more than 3x that amount to the control shell!  That would mean that the control shell did indeed hold more propane.  Given the fact that both shells shot the same amount of mass, and the control did more damage to the target, I would venture to guess that the control shell is more powerful.  Now there is one caveat here.  The control shell features 12 barrels as opposed to the 9 barrels of the EGO shell.  The EGO shell has to fit 7 bbs per barrel and force them out, whereas the control shell fits 5 bbs per barrel plus 3 more bbs equally spaced to reach the same mass.  Does this alter the equation?  I don’t believe so as it is still pushing the same amount of mass the same distance and the mass is evenly distributed.

Conclusion

Let’s look at the claims made by Kapowwe and how they stack up to the performance of this shell.

The EGO shell did not exhibit the same amount of power as the control shell used in testing.  The amount of force felt by the user and damage to the target was lower with the EGO shell than the control shell.  Given the fact that the EGO shell held less than 1/3rd the gas that the control shell held, I think it’s decided that the EGO shell is not 3x more powerful.

In regards to range, we must compare the EGO shell to that of a stock Classic Army AEG (as that is the comparison that Kapowwe made).   Testing the shell at 80°F made for inconclusive results.  The shell exhibited range that was short of an AEG, but I believe that given a higher temperature (thus a higher level of pressure in the gas chamber), more force would be imparted to the bbs and they would travel further, and might equal the length of an AEG.  Do I know this for certain?  Nope.  But I think it’s plausible.

Now we’re down to ease of use.  Hands down the EGO shell is the easiest I’ve ever used.  With the short distance the firing button has to depress, to the lack of needing to reset it, to the ease of loading; this thing is a winner in this category without a doubt.

The numbers:

Construction: 9/10 The only ding here is the lack of uniformity of the openings for the barrels.

Performance: 8/10 I would like to see a bit more “punch” on the bbs than they provide, and to do so you’d need a larger gas chamber.  The ease of use really picks up the slack that the performance leaves off.  Now granted the shell did perform well, but I believe that as far as power goes, there are better choices out there.  The lack of needing to reset the shell is AWESOME in my book.

Value: 8/10 Given that these cost less than a comparably sized Madbull shell with what appears to be equal quality construction, they are a great value.

Price: $39.99

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