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:
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.
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).
The direct predecessor in bulllup form was the “Copperhead“.
All of which brings us to the current iteration.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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:
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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… 🙁
Not too much here since this is a prototype and subject to change.
Weight: 5lbs, 10oz (w/o magazine)
Length: 23.1″ (collapsed stock), 26.4″ (expanded stock)
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.
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