Lately the clone market has exploded. From names like Echo 1, Leapers (UTG), JLS, Well, and others, have come some remarkable products. While most of these companies are known for making products that (while trying their best to resemble the name brand) have fallen short in complete replication of durability, longevity, and performance. I have owned two UTG airsoft guns, and recently AirSplat sent me the new UTG Shadow Ops Sniper L96 to review. Thanks to AirSplat, I’m able to bring you this review.
My first impression upon receiving the rifle was, “wow this is big”. When you first open the box you are greeted by an unassembled rifle. Assembling it is simple requiring the use of a simple Hex wrench that is included. After sliding the barrel into the stock, it’s as simple as turning two screws to secure it. Being a clone in the same light of the Warrior L96, it shares many of the same construction qualities. The body and trigger assembly is ABS plastic, and the barrel, RIS, and bolt are metal. The magazines (2 are included) are mostly metal minus the spring loaded top half (to help eject the mag from the rifle) and the bb feeding tube which are plastic.
The gun weighs in at about 10 pounds and (unlike some other versions by other manufacturers) has a metal frame. The metal frame is a definite plus as it adds strength to the mounting points between the barrel and the stock, and should help prevent damage should you accidentally smack the barrel into a tree while high tailing it from an incoming barrage of bbs.
The gun comes with a nylon carrying strap that attaches to the front of the stock and either side of the rear of the stock using metal clips and rings. The nylon is decent quality given that it’s included with the gun, but it’s nothing to write home about. I did have one of the clips unhook while carrying the gun once, so be wary.
The butt plate is made of rubber and has a textured surface.
When it comes down to it, it’s a sniper rifle and it’s greatest feature is it’s ability to reach out and touch someone. 450+ fps is incredible out of a stock sniper rifle, but we’ll touch more on that in the performance part of the review.
The rifle has an RIS rail made for attaching a large scope. I’m using the AirSplat 3-x50 Illuminated scope which they recommended. The rail is well made, metal and the scope is able to firmly clamp on it with no wobble.
The stock features an adjustable cheek rest. A simple turn of two screws (using provided hex wrenches) loosens the cheek rest for adjustment.
The UTG L96 also features an adjustable bipod. This is what I was excited to check out, and one of my reasons for choosing this rifle. None of the other L96 clones come with a bipod so I thought this would be a great value. It slips straight into the front of the stock and locks in place. It is constructed of metal and features two additional RIS rails. Now quite sure what you’d need these for as a sniper, but they are there if you need them.
The butt stock is adjusted by simply removing the screws that hold the pads in place and removing any necessary pads.
The hop up is adjustable and accessed via the bottom of the stock forward of the mag well. Adjustments are made using the included hop up key (or hex wrench).
The rifle also features two safeties, one on the trigger and one near the bolt. The one near the bolt flicks off with moderate pressure from a finger. The trigger safety is a backup that ensure the rifle can only fire when the center safety on the trigger is depressed. Any pressure on the trigger that does not depress the trigger safety will not allow the gun to fire.
Okay, now this is what you’ve come here to see. When you do not have the ability to rapidly put down fire, accuracy is where it’s at. You need to be able to take out your target with a single quiet shot. I was eager to put this together and fire off some shots with it right away. With the hop up unadjusted I loaded up some .30 KSC Perfect bbs into it and took it out back to fire. I was not impressed. Shot after shot landed in random places. The range was lacking, and the accuracy was horrid. I grabbed the hop up key and turned it up a bit. After a bit of fidgeting I was able to obtain a usable range of about 200 feet and a max range of almost 230 feet. This was impressive. The problem now was that the bbs flew left or right or high or low at random. Accuracy was only decent at up to about 50 feet. Now my KWA USP .45 is accurate to almost 100 feet, this was a problem.
I turned to the forums at Arnies Airsoft for help. There you’ll find a wealth of information in this thread, given you have the time to sort through it all. I found the answer in two parts. First, in inside of the outer barrel has spacers that hold the inner barrel in the center of the outer barrel. These were not spaced out evenly at all allowing the barrel to flex as the bbs traveled down the barrel. I disassembled the rifle and removed the inner barrel assembly. Using a ruler I evenly spaced out the barrel spacers and then put a few wraps of duct tape around the barrel to keep the spacers from moving as I slide the assembly back into the gun. I also noticed that the gun had more oil / lube than a shade tree mechanics overalls. I wiped down the bolt and cleaned out the barrel. With that completed I put the rifle back together. There was definitely a marked improvement. I can now hit a man sized target easily at 160 feet. Unfortunately I do not have a clear line of sight in a safe direction to shoot beyond that for further testing. I still find it quite acceptable to be hitting a chest sized target at 160 feet.
Given I don’t have access to a chrono I tried out the poor man’s chrono using a coke can. Yes, I know it’s not terrible accurate, but I’d estimate the speed using .20 bbs to be about 480-500 fps. Pretty sweet given the price of this rifle. I attempted to have the rifle chrono’d but unfortunately I did not have the chance before the review, but I will update this as soon as I’m able to hop down to Airsoft Atlanta to have it chrono’d.
The mags are easy to load using the supplied speed loader, but I have found that they are quite a bear to insert into the mag well. I’m hoping that with some wear and tear they’ll fit better. I hope I never need to hurriedly load a mag into this rifle during a skirmish, as it just isn’t going to happen. I must say that the mags fed well and were reliable and I never had a problem with a misfeed.
The bipod was really soaked in oil when I received it. It needed an immediate wipe down with a towel. After cleaning it up a bit, leaving just a hint of a coat of oil, I attached it to the stock. Not impressive. It was very tight when trying to swivel the rifle, although that loosened after a while, it still wobbles inside the stock. I don’t know if the problem lies in the stock or the pin on the bipod, but the left to right rotational wobble is irritating. It does well at panning left to right once it’s loosened up, and it pivots up and down with no problems. The adjustable length legs are utterly useless. They are spring loaded so that when you turn the catch on each leg the end shoots down so you can gain some height with the end of the rifle. The problem is you really can only use them all the way in or all the way out. It’s difficult to set the height even between the two at any other height in between. I also wish the legs had one release to drop both of them, but again, since it’s included it’s really only starter quality stuff.
First I’d like to thank AirSplat for giving me the chance to review this rifle. The UTG Shadow Ops L96 is a good quality starter sniper rifle. The high fps helps stem the cost of upgrades needed on more expensive versions (like the Maruzen), to allow it to engage at sniper quality distances. Given the lower price point it is acceptable to reason that there will be shortcomings of this rifle (hard to insert mags, quality control on the barrel spacers, over greasing of parts, plastic trigger and sear), but I am also pleased to see the number of metal parts as well. When one buys this rifle one must understand that they are buying a clone or a duplicate made at a lower price point. It will not shoot as accurately as the Maruzen (given a similar spring to the UTG), but at such a low price point, the cost of a new hop up chamber and barrel still put it cheaper than the Maruzen. My plans for this include putting in a Madbull inner barrel and a PDI hop up chamber to gain the accuracy afforded by the Maruzen, with the power and range that the UTG comes with stock.
If you’re looking for an entry rifle and are willing to do some work to make it work for you, then this is a great choice. If you’re looking for something that will hit a target at 200 feet with no work required, then keep looking. To the guys at Leapers who distibute this, nail down that quality control, lighten up on the lube, and give us a better hop up unit and you’ll go a long way!
I will update this as soon as I have a chance to chrono the rifle and test it at longer distances.