Within the past 2 years several companies have introduced electronic grip frames for blow-back semi-automatic paintball guns. Depending on the model, the frames offer a variety of features, such multi-firing modes, built-in game timers and shot counters. The one thing they all have in common is a change in how the trigger feels. Instead of having the trigger mechanically lift the sear, the trigger merely activates a small switch, which in turn activates an electro-mechanical sear. The result is a trigger pull which resembles clicking the mouse on a computer.
The first models of electronic grip frames to appear on the market actually cost more than the guns for which they were designed, making upgrading somewhat of a luxury. Enter M3 Paintball, the company which also produces the Black Dragun, a Spyder clone which features an elctronic grip frame. M3 is apparently producing at least 2 models of their frame, one with and one without an LCD panel, both at a substantially lower price than the Center Flag or Mako (formerly Boo-yah) units. However, this M3 product also lacks the overall number of features of the higher priced products.
The M92 grip frame is an LCD model. It comes in a nice box and includes an extra battery clip, an extra sear, frame screws, hex wrench and instruction booklet. This particular model is designed to fit Kingman Spyders and direct clones. In other words, because the frame screw mounts won’t line up, the one I have will not fit a gun such as a PMI Piranha. I am not sure if this frame is yet available for other guns.
The grip frame itself is made of aluminum, with high-impact ABS plastic grip panels and an ABS trigger. The shape of the frame is similar to a Beretta Model 92, hence the name designation. The bottom of the frame is drilled and tapped with the same staggered-pattern metric screw system found on Kingman Spyders. While some aftermarket grip frames offer the more standard in-line 10/32 hole pattern as an alternative, the M92 frame does not.
The frame bolts up to the gun body with ease. An adjustment screw is included which allows for slight differences found in many Spyder bodies. The external screw can be accessed with the frame mounted on the gun, and without having to remove the grip panel. The screw moves the entire mechanics – sear and solenoid – back and forth in the frame. The adjustment process is detailed in the instruction booklet and fairly easy.
The frame is powered by a standard single 9-volt battery, with claims of 20,000 shots per battery. The battery compartment is accessed by removing 2 screws which hold the left grip panel on the frame.
The M92 grip frame does not include any mode of fire other than semi-automatic. While other frames offer such firing modes as multi-shot burst, full-auto, and turbo mode, the M92 frame only allows 1 shot per trigger pull. The frame can, however, limit the user’s rate of fire to anywhere from 4 to 20 shots per second. The Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) provides information on the rate-of-fire limit and also includes a shot counter, game timer, battery level indicator and “safety” indicator. Two buttons on the back of the frame let the user choose and set modes, and also provide access to the electronic safety. The frame also has an automatic shut-off timer to reserve battery power. The timer will cut the power off after the unit has remained dormant for 30 minutes.
Wihtout multiple firing modes, the main advantage of the M92 frame centers on trigger pull. The trigger pull is very short, very light. I try to make a habit of keeping my finger outside of the trigger guard until I am ready to fire the gun, and with the M92 frame it’s mandatory. On several occasions I accidentally fired the gun when I thought I was merely resting my finger on the trigger in preparation of firing. Accidentally bumping into the trigger (when the safety is off) can cause a discharge. While the sensitivity issue concerning accidental discharges takes some getting used to, actually pulling the trigger on purpose was different. After all of these years of using mechanical triggers (both single and double) I was surprised how easily I was able to adapt to the M92 frame and produce insanely fast firing rates. Getting a good rate going requires developing a simple tapping rhythm, while a twitchy finger can produce even higher speeds. With little practice, it’s entirely possible to “out-shoot” the loading speed of a non-agitated hopper, and even possible to out-shoot some agitated hoppers. In those instances, the rate-of-fire limiter can come in handy.
After playing one weekend with the grip frame attached to one of my guns, I am very happy with the purchase. While swapping off with several guns during the course of a scenario game, I probably put two-thirds of a case of paint through the gun with the M92 frame. (I know I saw the counter exceed the 500 mark at least twice – it resets when the power is turned off). I encountered no problems with the grip frame. As far as overall reliability, only time will tell, and I will update this page with any problems. However, right now I’m really pleased with it. The M92 grip frame was easy to install and adjust, easy to use from the very first shot, and just plain fun. While the frame may not offer full-auto and multi-shot burst modes, realistically, not one of the half of a dozen commercial fields I’ll play at this year allows the use of those modes anyway. Theoretically, the light trigger pull could make single shot accuracy an easier chore, but paintball guns are generally not consistently accurate enough to take advantage of such subtle nuances. The frames’s major advantage over a mechanical frame is easy access to a high rate of fire, and in that arena it works very well.
For someone wanting an electronic frame, the M92 product is a fairly cost effective no-frills alternative to the Center Flag and Mako frames. However, both Kingman and PMI have introduced electronic grip frames for their respective products, and they appear to be full-featured and competitively priced. How those products hold up for quality, and how M3 Paintball structures it’s pricing will probably be the determining factor for this grip frame’s success. One thing’s for sure at this point, the M92 frame works as advertised and works well.
02-24-02 Still trying to get used to the sensitive trigger. I accidentally fired the gun when picking it up off the table at the “Stalingrad” game, zinging the barrel plug and paint across the table. A tap on the side of the trigger causes it to discharge.
03-25-02 No problems to report with the frame. I loaned the gun to a player on my team whose Angel went down during the “Fast Walker” scenario game. It took him a while to get used to the sensitive trigger, accidentally firing the gun several times. Good thing for barrel plugs. I also neglected to tell him about the auto-shut-off timer, which caught him by suprise.
04-28-02 After several cases of paint and hundreds of dry-firing trigger pulls, the grip frame continues to function flawlessly. Three months after purchase it continues to operate on the same battery I put in it the day I bought it. A ref at the “Tanker Girl” game accused me of using “full auto” mode – which the gun doesn’t have. The short trigger pull combined with the natural vibration of the blow-back gun make it very easy to get a fast ROF.
06-08-02 I noticed the gun stuttering a little during the last game. A slight adjustment (about 1/8 of a turn) of the sear seems to have addressed the problem. Since the sear movement is locked down, it probably didn’t vibrate out of adjustment, however, it’s actual position could have changed the last time I removed the frame from the gun and re-attached it. The sear shows some wear, but nothing to worry about.