Hotshot Paintball's SITH Tactical Ion body

By Billy Goodman and Van Tenpenny

Within a short time of it's release, the Smart Parts Ion quickly gained a reputation of being a lot of gun for the price, being an under $300 multi-mode electro-pneumatic. While the original styling of the gun, with it's flashy molded, rubber-coated body is fine for a lot of applications in paintball, the folks at Hotshot Paintball have introduced an aftermarket body aimed directly at scenario players. The SITH Tactical body turns the Ion into something beyond an everyday paintball gun.

WHat It Is
The SITH is a drop-in body kit which replaces the plastic and rubberized Ion shell with an aluminum unit. No modifications are necessary, just a transfer of parts. The replacement bodies are currently available in Dust Black and Dust Olive, and retail for $149. Having known people who have criticized or avoided the Ion because of it's composite body, the aluminum construction of the new SITH body alone will probably be one of it's strongest selling points, but there are other features.

The most obvious features are the twin 5/8 inch picatinny rails. These rails, commonly found on real firearms, are milled into both sides and the top of the body and allow the easy attachment of a number of accessories. 3/8 inch dovetail sight rails, such as those used on air guns and rimfire rifles, have been common on paintball guns for years, but accessories made for 5/8 inch rails are much more common. Readily available items such as red dot scopes, flash light mounts, lasers, and even night vision scopes are easily attached to the rails. Because of the cross rail Weaver style mounting system, the SITH mounts are also much more secure than the slide-on 3/8 mounts found on other paintball guns

The body kit also comes with a new end cap, which allows easy access to the bolt, unlike the stock end cap which requires tools to remove. This convenient feature has obvious benefits, and would probably make cleaning a broken ball out of the gun a lot easier, if the thing actually broke balls (something we did not experience, despite several people shooting several thousand rounds through it). Hotshot also sells an end cap which allows the mounting of various stocks, from the collapsible M-4 styles, to the folding AK stock (shown above).

How It Works
Using a red dot sight attached to a side mounting rail system can take some getting used to. You have to make a little adjustment for windage, which can be awkward for traditional shooters, but really no big deal considering you are shooting at people-size targets at relatively short ranges. With a stock attached to the gun in the open position, and a face mask on, it's very difficult to use a side mounted sight, since you can't quite get your face close enough to the gun. A riser would probably work here, but would also move the sight picture off a little more. The easiest solution when planning on using a red dot sight on the gun is to forego the stock and use a typical bottom-line or drop forward set-up. This allows you to get you're face behind the gun and easily use the sight with both eyes open. The same theory applies to night vision scopes.

If you are not the type of person who likes to use a sight, the rails still offer some convenience for carrying other accessories. Most scenario players will not go out at night without a flashlight. The rails on the SITH body allow the attachment of a variety of off-the-shelf tactical flashlights, such as the style activated by touch pads, which can be placed conveniently on the regulator/foregrip of the gun. Having the flashlight securely attached to the gun is much easier than having to fumble around and pull one out of your pocket in the dark.

If you're a scenario player with an Ion and you're looking for an upgrade, the SITH Tactical body offers several nice features. It's obviously not for the budget minded, but considering you can buy the entire package - gun and body - for right at $400, it's not a bad deal when compared to other paintball guns with similar capabilities. For the player into such things, the body takes what otherwise resembles more of a toy, and turns it into something with a more serious looking edge, and a perceived increase in durability. With not only the sight rails, but the modular styling and flat color, the Ion with the SITH body becomes a lot less about flash, and a lot more about serious business.