Received my UK-spec Masada last week, with 1 free Pmag kindly thrown in from Dingodogs.
I'm extremely impressed with the material and build quality. The polymer is gorgeous stuff, seemingly better quality than the Pmags with a slightly more shiny or 'waxy' appearance, and a more complex, deeper texture. The polymer seems very tough and has a nice, dense feel to it. Yes there are mold lines visible, but they're not excessive or ugly and don't detract from the quality at all. They certainly can't be felt when shouldering the gun with bare hands.
The CNC upper is one very solid piece of metal. It's clearly been made to tight tolarances. I think the fact that it's been painted slightly reduces the precise appearance of the upper, but only when you look very closely. It's a very nice part of the gun and gives the whole thing a beautifully solid structure. The outer barrel is a beautiful part too. Very solid, very high quality work. Not sure what process has been used to colour the outer barrel and gas tube, but it has a gorgeous satin finish.
Some people have said the gun is light, but personally I think the weight is perfect. It's light enough that I'm be able to skirmish it all day, but heavy enough to make it feel solid and sturdy. Certainly lighter than some other guns, but this is also due to the way the weight is petfectly balanced. It's very ergonomic and feels completely natural to shoulder. Lucky for me the fixed stock is the perfect length, and feels very solid. Mine came with a sling point already attached, although the design is different to the separately sold Mapgul PTS sling point (which is a bizarre and hugely overpriced accessory).
As a showpiece it's stunning, but I bought this gun as an upgrade platform so the crucial test for me is whether it can be elevated to high performance. There's room for an internal tracer unit, as well as the extra electronics I've installed. I found that the barrel lever is removable, so there's actually plenty of room in the handguard for electronics etc.
Upon disassembly, it becomes clear that a lot of work is needed to gain serious performance from this gun.
I have no interest in running a stock gun, and wanted to take out the motor brushes to put into my own motor, so I never fired it in it's stock form. Even though I can't comment on the performance out of the box, visually inspecting the internals is very revealing.
The soldering was ok, but not great. Tamiya connector is disappointing but not surprising. The gearbox has been designed so that the wires run through the gearbox shell itself. This makes the installation of a mosfet quite tricky, as there isn't much room for extra wires. The major obstacle that the wires must avoid is the magazine release. I ended up making some plastic blocks to glue onto each side of the gearbox to keep the wires out of the way, allowing the mag release to function normally.
Another obstacle to overcome when installing extra wires is the fact that the gearbox can be pushed out of alignment by the wires themselves. So unless you're careful when re-assembling the gun, the gearbox might sit in the wrong position, causing the bolt release to bind on top of the gearbox.
The microswitch says it's rated for only 15A which is quite low, so it wouldn't last long if used with a high performance battery and motor combination without a mosfet. So while the microswitch is a nice idea, it's a half-baked one and something of a liability when upgrading the gun. It doesn't provide much physical resistance, so you can't feel a nice, crisp click (although you can hear it). In fact, the design of the trigger is such that a trigger pull actually releases the switch, so installing a stronger microswitch wouldn't improve it. The trigger itself is let down hugely by the fire selector design becasue when reassembling the gun, it's very difficult to correctly align the selector gears with the lower receiver. This is a part which actually requires some 'tuning' to get right, which could have been so easily avoided with a better design. The trigger does seem to be very sensitive to slight fire-selector movement, bizzarely requiring a stronger trigger pull in certain positions. Definitely needs some learning to get right.
The motor doesn't use the strong neodymium magnets found in high performance motors, so this would be one of the first things to replace. The best motors can be bought cheap, so it's a disappointment that the gun doesn't include one.
I had problems with the stock ARL. I'm not sure exactly what was wrong with it, as it didn't appear to be binding on anything, but there was audible backspin until I replaced it.
I reaplaced the stock gears immediately, so I can't comment on their performance or durability. It was disappointing to see that the bevel gear only has 4 ARL teeth.
The gun did not feed at first. Not at all. When manually inserting a BB into the barrel, the power was awful. It turned out to be a malformed tappet plate not allowing the nozzle to make contact with the bucking. I had to shave off a little material from the tappet plate. Feeding improved slightly, but I had to install a sector clip to allow the gun to feed reliably.
The air nozzle has no o-ring, meaning it does not form a proper air seal with the cylinder head nozzle. This affects power and consistency, which is disappointing for such an expensive gun. It wouldn't be a problem if the nozzle itself was a standard part, but as far as I know it's a unique length. At 25.4cm long it's enormous.
I haven't tested it, but there's an air bubble visible inside the pickup tooth so I wouldn't want to put any strain on the piston. The piston came with a huge metal weight inside it (which is of course the opposite of what we want), and of course the angle of engagement hadn't been corrected. The O-ring was too big, causing excess friction on the back stroke so it had to be replaced.
The cylinder isn't ported, but power is good enough so I haven't spent time/money on perfecting the barrel/cylinder volume. The cylinder itself seems great, and forms a perfect air seal. The cylinder head is proprietary due to the longer nozzle, but can be made good with teflon tape and sorbo.
This part is another major disappointment along with the air nozzle. It has no bearing, just a simple metal washer. Again this would be fine if it weren't a unique design. And again, if anyone knows of an aftermarket bearing spring guide which will fit please let me know. The quick spring change feature itself is very nice. Quickly changing springs isn't something I plan on doing, but it makes assembly and disassembly much easier, as you never have to fight against the main spring tension. For this reason, installing a high power spring would be trivial.
Everything in the gearbox was severley overlubed with some sort of very thick gunge, as with most stock AEGs. I forgot to check the shimming so I can't comment on it. I immediately replaced the bushings/bearings so I can't comment on them either. I haven't done extensive range testing so I can't yet tell if the hopup design or stock barrel are good enough, but the integrated nub does concern me.
Self-retaining body pins
A small detail, but the little clips holding in the body pins makes working on this gun an absolute pleasure. They snap into position with a really satisfying click, and having 4 less things to keep track of is awesome. Although the clips can come loose so be careful!
The integrated front sight is strange, as it eats into the paintwork if allowed to spring into position. Otherwise it's a nice, solid sight which is adjustable. The rear sight is really beautiful.
The multitude of sling mount points is a very nice feature. The gun comes with 3 quick detach mount points, which can all be mounted on one side of the gun if you choose.
Proprietary parts: Gearbox shell, motor cage, cut-off lever, spring guide, cylinder head, nozzle, hopup arm/nub/mechanism, trigger assembly, selector plate, selector gears.
As an upgrade platform this guns is fine, but the proprietary spring guide and air nozzle are the 2 major problems. The ability to use most other standard parts makes it good enough, and if a decent air nozzle and spring guide are made available then nothing inside the gearbox could hold it back.
There's a lot to be desired from the gearbox in it's stock form, and there are a couple of irritating design choices, but I'm really happy with it. I haven't been able to put it down since I got it, it just handles so well.
If anyone wants more info, feel free to get in touch.
I bought some Modify 8mm Ceramic Bearings, having been impressed with them on another build (Airsoft World is a good place to buy them). It seems that the Masada gearbox is slightly thinner than the standard V2/3, because a disturbingly small number of shims are needed. None at all on the sector gear! I'm using Siegetek gears which are slightly elevated around the axles, so there won't be any excess friction because of the lack of shims. But it's way better to have more space for shims. So for the Magpul Masada I'd avoid these particular bearings. I haven't tested any others, but I'll report back when I do!
I was able to commission a custom air seal nozzle from AirsoftPro.cz for my Masada. They used the original air nozzle I sent them, and made me an aluminium one with an O-ring inside to minimise air leakage. It's very nicely made, and they now sell them. So, as is normal in airsoft, a major design flaw has been overcome by the end user and a small scale manufacturer! I've just noticed that the air nozzle on that website is marked as an A&K Masada nozzle. I don't know if it would fit the A&K version, but I can assure you that 25.4mm is the correct length for the Magpul PTS Masada. I've just emailed them about it so hopefully they'll change it...
I've developed an internal tracer system which requires an extra microswitch to be fitted to the trigger. The idea is that a partial trigger pull illuminates the LEDs, so that the tracer BBs are exposed to light before the gun is actually fired. This is crucial if you want consistently bright BBs from an internal tracer. The thing is that the Masada really has no room for extra switches to be simply put in place, unlike the G36. But I have a MOSFET installed, so I was able to use a much, much smaller microswitch to actually fire the gun. This freed up enough room to put in a second microswitch to illuminate the tracer It took an awful lot of fine tuning, and it really doesn't look pretty, but now I have a trigger which activates two microswitches, one after the other.
I haven't finished this current upgrade project yet, so there'll be more to come before too long. Thanks for reading!