Gun Review: Electronic Arms 10/22 Bullpup with Electric Trigger

bullpup_right

I recently had the opportunity to “play” with a prototype weapon developed by a company Electronic Arms (which is the commercial products arm of Vadum). Vadum, founded in 2004, is a small business defense contractor that specializes in electronic warfare research and development for military and law-enforcement. They have provided a number of counter-IED tools for various EOD groups. They also develop specialized technologies for other organizations within the Department of Defense.

I got a call from my FFL as a rather large and heavy package had arrived. It was in a large pelican box secured with a couple of master locks. I filled out my transfer paperwork, and checked my email for the combination to the locks which had just been received.

When we first opened the box this is what we saw:

Rifle in case.

Rifle in case.

So my first problem was finding ammo. I went to 3 different shops (including the dreaded Walmart) trying to locate enough ammo to give a proper T&E. I wanted to push as many rounds as I could through it to give a solid test.  I was eventually able to find enough (along with my carefully hoarded stash) to front a thousand rounds for the T&E.  Yes, I love you all enough to burn 1000 rounds of .22LR for this review.

Background

Electric triggers have been around for a while. Paintball guns have had the option for years, and there have even been dabblers that have installed them on firearms.  One of the early discussions I found was over at Popular Mechanics (around ten years ago).  I’m sure there are earlier references, but PM is pretty mainstream.

The guys at Electronic arms prototyped a proof-of-concept with a drop-in replacement assembly. That assembly was one of the predecessors to the version that I was sent to test and evaluate (and on which we actually did a review back in June).

ProtoD

The direct predecessor in bulllup form was the “Copperhead“.

Another prototype

Another prototype

All of which brings us to the current iteration.

Construction

The weapon is divided into a “clean” side and a “dirty” side. Basically all of the electronics, aside from the solenoid, were situated in the forward “clean” area. This was done as a safety consideration. The rationale was that if the solenoid shorts out, the short would prevent firing as a closed loop in a solenoid results in a non-energized solenoid. If the trigger switch were to develop a short, a closed loop would cause it to continuously fire. Since the dirty side is the most likely to receive a short (and the probability of even than that is extremely low), the decision was made to place the solenoid in that area.

The circuitry is very simple. There are no communications components nor microprocessors, so there is no way to “hack” the system (which is a concern/feature of more complex trigger systems). It Is basically a switch, a power source, and a solenoid. The battery is located in a compartment on the right side of the gun in the forward handguard. It is accessed through a sliding panel. It takes a standard 9V battery (Electronic Arms prefers the Energizer brand). The compartment also has enough room to store the hex wrench needed for disassembly of the housing and manipulation of the collapsible stock.

IMG_0226

The Bullpup has a mechanical safety button on the butt stock in a recessed area. The trigger circuit also has a power switch located on the left side of the gun on the forward hand guard. There is a red LED in a recessed area that indicates if the trigger has power. This LED can only be seen from the rear of the weapon.

They constructed it using a 16.1 inch Beyer barrel. There was some discussion about lightening up the platform, and this is one place it could be done.

IMG_0236

While the Bullpup has much tighter clearances that a traditional 10/22, it uses a standard 10/22 action. You can also do a full take down which allows breach to crown cleaning. Because of how the optics are mounted, full takedown will not disturb scope-bore alignment. All of the other components are standard (i.e. hammer, main spring, disconnector, sear, magazine latch, charging handle), and are thus widely available.

A5_modular_parts

The trigger is adjustable using the included screwdriver. You can adjust it by loosing (or tightening) the set screws inside of the trigger guard. The trigger came set at somewhere around 15 g, and 1/10 millimeter travel.  Trigger pull weight can changed to less than 10 g (1/3 oz) and up to near 5 kg (10 lbs).  Adjustments are made by adding or removing up to 6 springs, which can be done with the gun fully assembled.  Travel can be adjusted by turning a single screw.

Trigger with set screws

Trigger with set screws

It takes a standard 10/22 magazine (of which Electronic Arms provided three 30 round magazines and one 10 round magazine). The magazine release lever is situated just behind the magazine (as is the bolt hold open lever).

IMG_0233

The bull pup possesses a collapsible stock. To expand or collapse the stock you need to use the included hex wrench. With the stock fully expanded the overall length measures 26.4 inches. With the stock collapse the overall length is 23 inches.

Following is a comparison infographic Electronic Arms made showing two configurations of the Bullpup compared to a standard 10/22 and a P90:

OAL_comparison

Observations

We noticed that the end of the barrel was threaded. Oh the possibilities… Walt, from BMC Tactical (my current FFL), opened his personal safe and pulled out a Silencerco Sparrow. It fit perfectly, so we took it to his private range for a quick shoot. We fired about 150 rounds with the suppressor in place. And I didn’t use ear protection. It was quiet enough that it wasn’t an issue at all.

 

Threaded barrel with cap removed.

Threaded barrel with cap removed.

 

During the first set of rounds we fired through it we were able to get ahead of the action by feathering the trigger. After talking with the engineers at Electronic Arms this may have been due to a low battery. After replacing the battery I experienced no more issues like that, despite trying my best to induce it. Based on the voltage and discharge rate of the battery they estimate you should be able to get around 10,000 shots from a quality battery.

Rifle in operation:

Here is a “rapid fire” video:

I found it was hard to tell that the slide had picked up a round. I also found that a 15 gram trigger allowed me to go through rounds much faster than was good for my ammo pile.

The EA Bullpup was heavy. Deceptively heavy. Despite being heavy (5lbs 10 oz without the magazine), it didn’t feel awkward, and, in fact, actually felt pretty stable.  Electronic Arms says the production version will be in the 5lb range.

After somewhere north of 700 rounds (really dirty nasty rounds) we started to experience some malfunctions. Honestly I was surprised that we were able to get that many rounds through it before it got gummed up. After taking it home and cleaning it, it again performed flawlessly.

It was very easy to disassemble and clean. Using the provided allen wrench you simply remove the three bolts holding the access panel closed. The machining is extraordinarily precise, and the panel was on very snugly. It finally popped free, exposing a chamber that contained the action. As I stated before it was a standard 10/22 action. Cleaning it was a simple matter of removing the action and getting to work with a toothbrush and some solvent. While you can perfom a full takedown, I didn’t find it necessary.

IMG_0219

The hand grip was a little awkward. It had a sharp angle on it, and was not very ergonomic. I addressed this with the engineers and they had already recognized the issue and we’re working on a solution for it.

The fore end was a bit short and could stand to be at a little bit longer. This would also allow for the inclusion of more accessories (if that’s your thing).

The power switch was very easy to engage and could potentially be turned on while in storage. The discrete LED is a nice touch to show you when the trigger has power. What would be really sexy would be a multi color LED that could indicate different statuses (such as safety button engaged, or chamber empty). I will leave it to the engineers to figure out how to make that work…

LED from shooter's view

LED from shooter’s view

LED from shootee's view

LED from shootee’s view

It would seem as if there’s enough space to house the battery in the butt stock (but that would add a bunch of wiring to keep the power switch in the same place, and it would put more components in the “dirty area”).

I also found it hard to tell whether or not the safety button was engaged (aside from just knowing which side it was on), so I think it could use a brighter coloring.

IMG_0232

Pros

We were consistently, and rapidly, pinging an eight-inch steel disc from just under 100 meters. “Driving tacks” so to speak.

Disassembly for cleaning was simple and easy. Obviously this is a prototype and subject to some design changes, but the basic configuration made it easy.

While this platform is based on the 10/22, I see no reason why it could not be adapted to other calibers.

This specific version uses standard 10/22 magazines, which are readily available (and even 10 round magazines drop free).

This would be an excellent gun to use for small-bore silhouette matches. It was also super fun to shoot.

The electrical components are not based on a microprocessor.

Cons

Innovation, quality and small manufacturing runs come with a price. A price tag that is. Electronic Arms is hoping to have the price of this weapon under $1500, which is pretty steep for a 10/22.

I had to send it back… 🙁

Technical Specifications

Not too much here since this is a prototype and subject to change.

Caliber: .22LR
Weight: 5lbs, 10oz (w/o magazine)
Length: 23.1″ (collapsed stock), 26.4″ (expanded stock)
MSRP: ~$1500

Conclusion

I think it is a great thing that manufacturers are taking risks and innovating. There have been few real innovations in this industry in the past few years. It is generally “more of the same” when it comes to the base mechanics. I look forward to seeing where Electronic Arms goes with this platform, and other innovations they bring to market.

You can like their page on Facebook to stay in the loop.



Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner “Warrior Hippie” and assaults 14er in his sandals and beard, or engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming craft beer. To fund these adventures, he writes medical software and builds websites and mobile apps. His latest venture is as one of the founders of IronSights.com; a search engine for all things gun related. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.


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  • Tassiebush

    Good to see this type of innovation and thankyou for burning through 1000 rounds for us!

  • Martin Grønsdal

    No use for the Professional Tactical Home-Defense Operator for this gun, since you can’t properly C-clamp this, nor does it come with a backup system for neither the trigger, nor sight, in case battery dies.

    Also, you can’t rack this rifle against your pants pretending you are wounded….

    • Doc Rader

      I’m not sure I’d put a 10/22 in the “tactical/home defense” category… 🙂

      • valorius

        A .22 semi rifle is a pretty solid home defense choice for smaller or weaker/older people.

        I bought a s&w m&p 15-22 for my gf for home defense.

        She can put three rounds into a quarter sized target at 7 yds in less than a second. I doubt all but the absolutely most determined attackers would have any fight left in them after that.

        • Doc Rader

          Valid point. And I suppose there are some groups that use .22 for “things” down range.

          In my mind, the 10/22 is the first gun my grandkids will learn to shoot. Great for plinking and rabbits and squirrels. I forget that the round is still quick moving and can do some damage…

          • valorius

            10/22 is a really good gun. I’ve had a couple of em over the years. Your grandkids are lucky.

    • valorius

      Lol, love the last line of your post.

  • CrassyKnoll

    The first hand held cell phones sold, in the early eighties, for about $5K.

    When the price of this technology drops accordingly then I’ll be interested. Otherwise a bull pup with a mechanical linkage would be just fine.

    Although that front grip is beyond silly on a .22 LR.

    • Andrew Hobby

      I would like to see the stock extended forward a couple of inches so that front grip was actually usable as well…

    • Doc Rader

      The “Copperhead” variant had a bipod. It is basically just a short run of picatinny rail. It actually was a little helpful to have something to grip after chugging through a bunch of rounds (which is why a longer fore end would be nice).

  • Andrew Hobby

    Dooooh… I was very on board until I saw the “under $1500” price tag.

    Shut up and take my money in small measured portions until this item is paid for.

    • andrey kireev

      Only easy 16 payments of 99.95 !!!!

  • thedonn007

    Is this considered a SBR since it can be fired as a rifle in a configuration that is shorter than 26 inches?

    • WasThere

      Nope, a rifle less than 26 inches OAL but with a rifled barrel length of 16 inches it is considered a firearm. No SBR/AOW.

    • Cymond

      Overall length is measured with the stock fully extended.
      You’ll note they made sure that it’s over 26″ with the stock extended. If they put a short fixed stock on the gun, then it would be an SBR.

      • Electronic Arms

        Correct. At the Federal (BATFE) level, the regulation states that OAL for a folder/telescoping stock is to be measured with the rifle in the longest configuration. Certain states, Michigan, California, and others, have other laws. Some state laws specify the shortest configuration (fire-able, unfireable), and some specify a longer minimum OAL (30″). For those states, you can use a longer barrel with this stock and be in compliance with state laws.

        • Rick

          yah, this isn’t legal in CA as it is. But EA has responded to questions Ive asked on their FB page about it, and that will be easily resolvable in production with either a thicker stock plate or longer barrel

          • Ethan

            Statists gonna state.. My buddy escaped from the Cali’ plantation last year and has never regretted the decision.

            Free America is waiting… Join us! 😛

      • Ethan

        You learn something new every day…. thanks!

  • Ethan

    This idea has a lot of potential..

    Tactical Potential: Eventually (after the tech is proven stable) you could combine a super-light electronic trigger with a mechanical assisted reset (ALA Tac-con system) for reliable, high RPM full auto that the ATF can’t say spit about because its still technically 1 bullet fired per trigger pull.

    Range toy potential for the zombie crowd: Electronic double trigger like they had on the old paintball guns (fired using alternating strokes of your index and middle fingers) for blasting.

    • SpazC

      Just wondering if the FEDs are going to claim that it is easily convertible due to how east it is to manipulate circuitry.

      I grew up playing paintball as electro pneumatic guns were in their rapid development. Full auto and select fire aftermarket circuit boards were out in months. You could even adjust your BPS up and down depending on how fast your hopper could feed.

      • Electronic Arms

        Just to clarify, electronic triggers on semi-automatic guns are federally legal. They have been commercially available on Olympic rapid fire pistols from several manufacturers for the past 15 years. Conversion of any gun (by an unlicensed person) is equally illegal, whether by electronic, mechanical, or other means. ATF has issued letters specifically stating that semiautomatic “fire by wire” systems are legal in semiautomatic AR-15 pattern rifles.

        • SpazC

          Sweetness. Now if you want to make real money, contact me on an awesome Idea I have 🙂

          The system looks awesome, cant wait till your MFG process gets to the point where we can all realistically afford one!

          • Rick

            as an electronic engineer by training and by hobby, I understand the illegality of modifying an etrigger. As well as many excellent ways to do it properly.

            I have a Russian Drozd BB gun. It has selectable rate-of-fire, as well as semi, 3 shot and 5 shot burst. very simple board.

            Not that I would ever, ever, ever even think of doing such a thing. that would be BAD, and there are laws against such a thing, so that means they simply cannot be done, amirite? 🙂

            wait. who makes a “fire by wire” kit for the AR? Googling in earnest right now!

  • sianmink

    It looks like it either takes standard AR handgrips, or could be easily adapted to do so. Just from appearance I see no reason why it needs such a weird, squared grip.

    • Doc Rader

      Early prototype and likely what was available. That is on their punch list, IIRC.

      • Electronic Arms

        Correct. It has the AR-15 standard geometry for the pistol grip, and uses 1/4-28TPI bolts like an AR. You can use almost any aftermarket grip, the one pictured is a Magpul that is on the small sided, and fairly steep angle. If you want one with a palm rest like silhouette guys sometimes use, that will eventually hit banana magazines (25 rnd) so you will need to use 10-rounders or other. Also, some of the pistol grips that have a contour up high for the thumb webbing won’t work unless you trim with a Dremel or knife, since the geometry here is different from an AR lower. Many bullpups (Tavor, Desert Tactical, Steyr AUG, etc) don’t accomodate aftermarket pistol grips, since they are injection molded into the stock. This allows an end user to pick what they like from a large group of options.

  • Michael R. Zupcak

    I think if they were to add some type of mechanical “backup” trigger just in case of electronics failure or a dead battery it would be even cooler. They could recess a curved mechanical trigger in that curved area in the receiver in front of the magazine with its own safety switch to keep it from being pressed. It would be a last resort so you could use it as a camping rifle or something.

  • wetcorps

    Neat. Also thanks for the 1000 rounds 🙂

  • iksnilol

    Another practical application for electric triggers is full auto fire. Being able to slow down the rate of fire would be really practical. Imagine firing your AK or AR at 300 or 180 RPM instead of the usual 600-750. Would be much more controllable and wouldn’t go through ammo as fast. Even machine pistols could benefit from something like that.

    Though you would still ned a mechanical trigger as a backup. Since we gun people are leery of electronics… especially on an important part like the trigger.

    • Electronic Arms

      FN Herstal commissioned a study on this topic among a consortium of Belgian universities in the late 1990s. I don’t know if they ever reached prototype stage, but the written report indicated that it was a major goal to slow down the natural rate of fire on the P90. They concluded that the main barriers to an electronic trigger at the time were lack of internal electronics engineering in the company, and the extreme “caution” in the small arms marketplace with regard to newfangled contrivances. Hard to argue with being conservative, but it does tend to stifle progress a bit. Basically, you nailed the result of a months-long academic study with your comment, maybe they should have hired the interwebz to perform the study 🙂

      Fast forward, and there are now so many electronics on small arms that serious efforts are being put forth to add integral power and data bus features to the rail, so as to allow a few central batteries to power all the accessories. The time has come for someone to make a fun, unique gun like this that a regular person can buy, not an NFA toy for manufacturers and dealers only.

      If you can double-click a mouse, you can easily shoot this gun at 180rpm semiauto. Even if you are a NFA manufacturer, full auto is pretty much pointless with a semi trigger like this (in my opinion). Ammo evaporates fast enough as-is 🙂

      • iksnilol

        Didn’t know that, though I am not surprised. Full auto is IMO the slower the better. And I understand why you go for the semi auto only trigger. You do it because of the much broader market, right? Do you plan on making one for the AK and AR? Would it be possible to make a trigger like that for pistols? Maybe have the battery mounted on the rail that all pistols nowadays have while hiding the electronics in the grip?

        I find it cool. Does it have a mechanical backup or something.? So that if the electronics don’t work you still have a trigger.

  • iksnilol

    Electronic triggers/accessories and remote control are completely different. One is quite “mechanical” in nature while the other requires it to be connected to some sort of network or something.

  • UCSPanther

    Not a bad idea, but I would feel more confident with the old mechanical linkages instead…

  • patrickiv

    That looks damn sexy.

  • valorius

    Neat, but I’d never rely on a electronic trigger or mechanism in combat or for self defense.

  • Innovation! So refreshingly delicious

  • Doc Rader

    True. Unhackable is probably the wrong term in the “maker” sense. You can certainly get in there and mod the actual base wiring and potentially add other components.

    I was more so referring to the “hacking” a la modifying a programmed microprocessor that had been rate limited (or some such).

  • Rick

    Ive been following this project for quite awhile now, I love bullpups (was one of those guys who waited two years to get a ZK-22 kit from Red Jacket-works real nice) and even owned a muzzleloader with an electronic firing mechanism. A mouse click trigger makes the gamer in me happy, and allows ridiculous customization.

  • Mehul Kamdar

    About thirty or so years ago, when I shot in 50m rimfire matches, I got to try a Feinwerkbau free rifle with an electronic trigger. it was vastly superior to any mechanical trigger rival at the time. The rifles did not sell well, though, because shooters tend to be a very traditional lot. A truly sad thing, because the design was exceptional for its purpose back then. Had it become more popular, the current version would have been exceptional.

    I’ll wish the designers of this new electronic trigger design the very best. Hope they achieve the success that they richly deserve for their hard work!