Many changes have occurred within the paintball industry in 2002, the most significant is the introduction of affordably priced electronic guns. Even two years ago it was unheard of to see an electronic gun priced at under $500. Thanks to the advent of electronic grip frames, players no longer have to shell out hundreds of dollars to gain the benefits of full-auto and burst-fire triggers. Right now it only takes $200 to purchase a gun, like the Spyder E-99, that is capable of reaching 13 balls per second using full-auto firing. Of course it isn’t safe to compare $1,200 WDP Angels to $200 E-99s... But it is fair to say that the E-99 has a definite firepower advantage over its predecessor, the Spyder Xtra. Take note, the E-99 is a Spyder Xtra on steroids. The E-99 has almost all the same features and components of the Xtra with the exception that the older semi-auto trigger frame on the Xtra has been replaced with Kingman’s fully automatic ESP Frame.
Included along with the E-99 is a one year warranty, owners manual, barrel plug, a couple spare o-rings, and three allen wrenches. The owners manual is fairly well illustrated. It covers the basics of safety, gun operation, maintenance, and how to use and adjust the E-Frame. What is not included with the E-99?… a 9 volt battery. If you purchase an E-99, and plan on trying it out after it gets to your door, you need to have a 9 volt battery on hand. You don’t need to purchase a rechargeable 9 volt, but it is an option. If you do buy a rechargeable battery, don’t forget to buy a charger along with it.
The E-99 doesn’t have every feature in the book, but it does come very nicely equipped for just under $200. Useful features equipped on the E-99 include the Spyder ESP Frame (full-auto, 3 shot , and 6 shot burst firing modes with adjustable rates of fire for each mode), mini-expansion chamber, enlarged low pressure chamber, vertical ball feed, double finger trigger, thumb velocity adjuster, quick field strip pin, drop forward, beavertail, and sight rail.
Feature - Spyder ESP Frame:
The ESP frame is what sets the E-99 apart from its predecessor, the Spyder Xtra. If you have used the Xtra before, the accuracy, consistency, and internals of the E-99 are essentially the same. The only difference is the ESP Frame. It converts this gun into a full-auto paint throwing machine! The ESP frame gives you 4 firing mode options; semi-auto, 3 shot burst, 6 shot burst, and full-auto. In semi-auto mode, the trigger on the E-99 feels almost identical to the Xtra, but when you kick the ESP frame into full-auto mode there is no comparison. The burst and full-auto modes can be adjusted to fire at a rate anywhere from 5 - 13 balls per second. The ESP frame worked excellently throughout our testing.
To change between firing modes on the E-99’s ESP frame you need a small allen wrench to throw the small dip switches located inside the frame. If you look closely at the bottom of the ESP frame in the picture to the right, you can see the small panel of 6 dip switches. Switches 1-4 adjust the rate of fire and switches 5-6 adjust the firing mode. By varying combinations of the switches (either off or on) you can adjust the firing mode and rate of fire. You can access the switches through a small opening in the plastic window so you do not need to take the frame off every time you want to change settings. Also, for tournament players who can‘t use non-semi firing modes, there is a separate window included with the gun that does not have the adjustment opening.
Two things I think need to be improved on the ESP frame 1) The plastic hand grips are far too wide and not very comfortable. The grips give the frame a very square feeling and make it far too large for average adult hands. The frame is large enough that I found myself having to twist my wrist forward a bit to find a semi-comfortable shooting position. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any aftermarket, soft rubber grips made to fit the ESP frame. 2) You need the instruction manual on you to figure out how to adjust the 6 dip switches to the desired firing mode and balls per second. Sure you can try throwing the switches every which way until you get the bps right, but an LCD display would be an option worth buying. Spyder does make an LCD display version of the ESP frame, but the E-99 is only available in the version that uses dip switches.
Feature - Mini Expansion Chamber:
The purpose of an expansion chamber is to prevent liquid CO2 from entering the internals of a paintball gun. Running liquid CO2 in most paintball guns can damage a gun’s o-rings. The mini expansion chamber is just like it says... miniature. The expansion chamber is only 2 inches long and is enclosed in the front gas-through grip. It may look like the entire front grip is an expansion chamber, but only about 2 inches of it is used for the chamber. Although the chamber is a little smaller than we expected, it was effective at preventing the gun from having liquid CO2 problems during our testing.
Feature - Vertical Feed:
The vertical feed allows balls to feed faster into the gun, making it harder to “chop” balls when rapid firing. This is a necessity on the E-99 due to the high ball feed rate required for using full-auto mode. The vertical feed gives you an unobstructed view only down the side of the barrel. This can make it a challenge to get your first shot directly on target, but after a little practice, most players find the vertical feed setup to be the preferred feed for their gun.
Field Stripping & Maintenance
The E-99, just like the Xtra and most other Spyder markers, is very easy to field strip and clean. You can literally take the E-99 apart and put it back together in about 2 minutes. Spyder guns in general are very... very easy to maintain. A few drops of oil after each use and your gun should continue to work properly. When you take the E-99 apart, the bolt and striker are interconnected by a connecting pin, so both the bolt and striker come out at one time. This makes it a little harder if you only need to clean the bolt, but at any rate.... cleaning out the E-99 is a breeze compared to many other guns out there. The engineers at Kingman have done a great job on making the E-99 easy to clean and maintain.
The ESP frame requires no maintenance except for exterior cleaning and periodically changing the 9 volt battery it runs off of. We fired around 3,500 shots through our E-99, never needing to replace the battery. Kingman roughly estimates the life of one 9 volt battery to be about 4000 - 7000 shots. Replacing the 9v battery is very simple and straightforward. Remember to never attempt to clean the interior of the ESP frame using a liquid solvent, this could ruin the circuit board.
Balance and Field Performance
We tested the E-99 using compressed air at a temperature of 60 degrees on an overcast day. For this test, we shot 2 groups of 10 rounds each across our chronograph. Group 1 was shot 10 minutes prior to group 2, both groups show about the same result. The graph to the right summarizes our results. Similar to the test results we obtained from the Spyder Xtra a year ago, the E-99’s velocity chart is a bit sporadic. The E-99 varied plus-minus about 7 balls per second from 285 feet per second, our “ideal” range is for speeds to stay within 4 fps from 285 at all times.
On the Field:
After our initial accuracy and consistency testing, we packed up the E-99 and brought it to the local paintball field for the day. We used the E-99 in semi-auto mode for the duration of our field test. During our accuracy testing, we noted that the E-99 generated a large amount of air blowback into the elbow. When we stacked one or two paintballs in the elbow and watched how they feed after each shot, we could see the ball on the top of the stack jump up about 1” after each shot. This was caused by air slipping out through the elbow rather than through the barrel. We wanted to see if the blowback would effect ball feed performance, so for the first couple of games we decided to go with a non-motorized ViewLoader hopper.
After initially shooting about 100 paintballs, we experienced our first ball break. The bolt chopped a ball and paint sprayed down the barrel, and also back into the elbow. We tried to quickly squeegee the barrel and clean out the feed neck so we could finish out the game, but it is difficult to continue after a bad ball chop. After the first game, we gave the E-99 a thorough cleaning and headed back out for game two. Game 2 was yet another problem as we chopped yet another paintball about half way into the game. We had proven our theory that the E-99 needed to have an agitated (motorized) hopper, so after game 2 we switched over to a 12 Volt ViewLoader Revolution hopper. After making the switch to an agitated loader, we didn’t have any more balls get chopped in the E-99. The faster feed rate of the agitated loader kept the feed tube stacked with balls, making it much more difficult for balls to jump up after each shot. Once we made the switch over to an agitated loader, the E-99’s performance was excellent for the remainder of the day. We used just under 1,000 paintballs over the course of the day with no further problems.