After many months of running my beloved CA SA58 as my dedicated high-cap-fueled full-auto-spam AEG, I finally decided to retire it in favour of a longer barrel and handguard that I had originally wanted.
May I introduce to you my not-so-brand-new Echo1 Enterprise Arms SOF 3! While it was brand new out of the box at the time these photographs were taken, it has been through a few months of bags and bags of BB’s per day… so I’m not sure if I can really call it “brand new” now.
Based on the Classic Army design of the DSA SA-58 (a modern FN FAL based platform in the real gun world), this gun actually features very limited compatibility with the original CA parts. CA 500rd and 1000rd high caps fit and feed in the Echo1 model just the same – and in the end, that’s all I really care about. Good news that the CA mags work (I was holding my breath about that), as the included Echo1 500rd mags don’t have enough spring tension to feed very well at all.
More notes on comparing the two after the break.
Note that I have chosen to go with a slightly longer model – both the handguard and outer barrel length are elongated as compared to my carbine length CA SA58. I’ve decided to go the route of bulkier full stock for the sake of being able to easily fit a high-capacity 11.1V LiPo in there to sustain high volumes of fire at higher ROF and FPS (and it helps that the gun is rear-wired in this configuration, which makes it easier to disassemble). Longer barrel not only looks cooler in my books, but helps with gaining a couple of FPS – lower spring rating will achieve similar FPS, hence easier on internal components and faster ROF. Full length barrel would have gotten even better results in terms of being able to push more FPS, but I’ve never really experimented with anything that long before as I don’t build my guns to be that long. Longer handguard was chosen mainly just for looks; more similar to the original FAL… though not entirely so – I actually found the carbine length to be slightly too short for the way I like to hold this platform, and hence this longer handguard allows me to C-clamp that sucker a little more forward (the handguard is very slim and lightweight, as compared to the railed options out there). What I’m trying to say is that while there were definitely aesthetic aspects that lead to this change in model, there were a number of performance-related conditions I had wanted to meet as well.
Externally, the materials and finish on the Echo1 don’t look quite as nice as a pristine CA would have looked. However, my CA is rather beat up and (thanks to the previous owner) now sports painted OD furniture which has slowly worn during my time of running the gun. Despite the lower quality of paint applied to the metal receivers on the Echo1, I do think that I prefer the black finish, as versus the gray finish of the CA. The plastic and metal materials on the Echo1, despite feeling slightly more cheap, have held up fine thus far in terms of not cracking or snapping off – should be good enough for gaming this as hard as I did my CA. The Echo1 SOF series include 2 high caps, though as mentioned above, they don’t have as much spring tension as the CA mags.
Fit is not quite as precise, but only on the smaller, non-essential bells and whistles that are mainly on the CA pattern to look and feel realistic, despite having little to no usage on the AEG (notably  the slack in the positions for the Echo1 knob for the adjustable gas piston, as compared to even the used and abused CA, and  the rear sight). No wobble or rattle in any of the big parts that serve a functional purpose on the Echo1 though – same solidity as the CA once was (my CA has developed some minor handguard creaks after being dropped or smacked into things a number of times). Heck, even the charging handle and bolt lock/release lever work the same as the CA design (and they do work).
Note that despite being a clone, the dimensions are not exact – depicted below is my failed attempt to swap complete receivers (with swap and without swap of hop up chambers as well – on that note, swapping hop up chambers didn’t go well either).
Internally, though it bears a strong physical resemblance to the original CA, many of the parts do not fit the same (including upper and lower receivers). Good news is that the manufacturer that Echo1 has chosen to rebrand this clone has decided to make a metal selector plate! The Classic Army selector plates apparently have an issue with snapping, as they are plastic (with the recent changes to CA factory production, replacement selector plates have become hard to find) – though it is worth noting that I have yet to break the CA factory replacement plate that the previous owner has installed.
After waiting for many, many weeks for a Toronto-based retailer to even ship out my package (they were in between moving locations and had delay after delay without any notification, before eventually resuming their operations), I finally got my new toy – I guess that’s the price I pay for sourcing the cheapest one in Canada. Honestly, I would not deal with them again after a myriad of communication hiccups (namely them not being even available to contact for weeks at a time), though I do have to say that in the end, they did provide me with a passable level of service and resulting customer satisfaction following a malfunction within my gun’s internals (more on that in the next paragraph). That being said, this gun was a purchase mainly for my collection and to be used as a just-for-fun gun anyway, so despite being rather annoyed, I’m not absolutely pissed off at that company. Like I said, I guess that lower price = lower service standard.
This AEG underwent disassembly and repair in a matter of days after receiving it; my SOF 3 didn’t even make it to the field in stock form as I had initially planned. Basically, I thought it would be a good idea to plug it into a big 11.1v 12c battery (Firefox 2300mAH) and see if it would break. Surprisingly, the components I had expected to break didn’t break even after thousands of cycles on full-auto (especially considering the beefy spring installed to compensate for air leak). As it turned out, the Echo1 motor has become unwound and locked itself up in the process. Toronto Airsoft was gracious enough to send me a replacement motor – surprisingly, it wasn’t an OEM or generic China-made motor that I received in the mail 3 days later, but rather a SHS Speed. No complaints here – actually, I was quite happy that the rep (the same sales rep whom I finally got a hold of quite late in the fulfilling of my order) offered to send me a replacement motor under warranty coverage, despite the fact that my powering up the gun on a 11.1V LiPo was a distinct breach of their warranty policy.
Following that, it underwent a gearbox overhaul (and a serious spring downgrade) since I had it apart anyway and was curious to see what internals were in there. At 28-29 RPS, the aftermarket China-brand 13:1 gear set I had in there did fail rather quick. As “Jetlag” was borrowing my SOF 3 for the past few weeks, I did make him install parts for me to repair it (but this time done a little differently for a more efficient higher speed set up). It’s once again up to about 27-28 RPS and going strong – this gun has now rained down 400 FPS (on 0.20g) of white plastic hate on many a newbie at the local field we usually go to. Barrel and bucking were upgraded at the request of “Jetlag” – his feedback on the stock Echo1 set was that although it had a useable effective range, it could be made to shoot better still.
In homage to my CA SA58, I ran it for one last time during an impromptu run-and-gun game day with a couple of guys “Jetlag” and I recognized at Panther… which ended after about 3 quick games (about 5x 500rd high caps) when I finally shattered my piston. There are a few clips in which you can hear him burning through a couple of mags, though these were prior to the final repair/upgrades done to this Echo 1 SOF 3.