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US Army Alpha Black Tactical
In terms of military imagery, the sport of paintball has come full circle. A game that involved camouflage and greasepaint in the 1980s had a politically motivated push through the 90s, to avoid all things military and gun-like, in order to seek acceptance as a true sport and dodge the clutches of anti-gun activists who attempted on more than one occasion to legislate it out of existance. In the new millennium, paintball is widely accepted as a sport played by millions of people around the world. It is definitely here to stay, and the pendulum has swung back, with military styles becoming more popular again.
The US armed forces have recognized that since their primary recruits are male teenagers, and the largest demographic of paintball players are male teenagers, that the sport of paintball is a target rich environment for them to locate contact young people looking for a future in the military. Both the Army and Marine Corps have jumped behind large paintball events as sponsors, and now the US Army name has even found its way into paintball products.
Produced by the first company to market an automatic paintball marker, Tippmann Sports, the US Army line of paintball products is officially licensed to bear the US Army name. It is designed to provide reliable paintball equipment at an entry level price, while increasing awareness of the Army lifestyle.
The Alpha Black paintball marker is based on the venerable Model 98 blowback powered semi-automatic valve system, and built in two forms – the Basic and the Tactical, with or without an electronic trigger system to allow multiple firing modes and a lighter trigger pull. The Basic model consists of the core Alpha Black receiver and barrel, while the Tactical model adds barrel shroud, front sight and collapsible stock. The Alpha Black Tactical was used for this review.
Although the Alpha Black bears a "Made In China" sticker, each marker undergoes final testing and packaging at Tippmann Sports in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
In general appearance, the Alpha Black Tactical is styled after the main infantry weapon of the US Army – the M-16, though it takes features from different variations of that rifle.
The tough polymer barrel shroud looks like a carbine version of the M16A2 barrel shroud, and the barrel features a similarly styled muzzle brake, though it is larger, to accommodate .68 caliber paintballs.
The barrel itself is 11 inches in length and anodized with a polished interior and matte black exterior finish. Unlike the 98, A5 and X7, the Alpha Black Tactical barrel has no ring of ports near its middle, only four slots at the muzzle, making up its muzzle brake. Second generation Model 98 barrel threads attach the barrel to the marker.
The M4 style collapsible stock in the rear of the Alpha Black Tactical is adjustable and is also molded of polymer, much like a real M4 stock, giving it durability and light weight. It is adjustable, and easily locks in 6 positions, giving the marker a total length of 28.5 to 32.5 inches.
Unlike the flat-topped, M4, the Alpha Black's die-cast aluminum alloy receiver has a top carry handle with an integrated, non-adjustable rear sight, more closely resembling the M16A1.
Like the Tippmann Model 98 and 98 Custom, the receiver is built in two clamshell halves, held together with steel screws that attach to steel nuts fitting into recesses in the opposite receiver half. Not only do the hard steel nuts eliminate the possibility of stripped threads ruining the receiver, but they are also easily replaced if they should become stripped or cross-threaded. The receiver halves are powder coated, giving them a durable matte black finish.
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