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Review

ECHO1 M134 Minigun by CAW
  • Manufacturer 
     Craft Apple Works for Echo 1
  • Model 
     M134 Minigun
  • Capacity 
     1700 rds
  • Weight 
     16,000 g
  • Power 
     400+ fps
  • Motor 
     TD3378-120
  • Hop-up 
     Adjustable
  • Battery 
     12V 7Ah lead battery
  • Shooting Mode 
     Full auto
  • Construction 
     All metal

Pros

  • Blistering rate of fire above any other gun!
  • Realistic all-metal construction and functioning
  • Makes a great display piece as well
  •  

    Cons

  • Heavy weight
  • Slow loading process
  • Lack of aiming device
  •  

    Verdict

    A revived classic from the old airsoft age, with a well made exterior and brilliant internal quality for a performance to match the looks. Maybe not the most optimal gaming weapon, but sure to blow the socks off when it comes to psychological grip over your opponents.

     

    HISTORY REWOUND

    When looking at the modern externally powered Gatling guns with a blistering rate of fire of thousands of rounds per minute, it is easy to forget that in fact the very first machine guns used a similar feeding mechanism and a set of rotating barrels - only they were first cranked by hand instead of an electric or pneumatic motor. In the 1860's there were no self-loading machine guns, so the Gatling gun represented the highest amount of firepower in the field.

    When more mobile and cheaper self-loading machine guns were invented, the Gatling gun vanished from fighting fields for quite a few decades, until it was resurrected as a support weapon for aircraft in the mid-20th century. The weight and cost are not as much an issue in this application, and the benefit of being able to put tons of lead downrange in a short time without overheating is a significant one. In a weapon with six barrels, a theoretic maximum of 6000 rounds per minute only means a moderate 1000 rpm per barrel, not to mention that conventional machine guns can not reach these rates of fire to begin with. When shot at a reduced rate, the RoF per barrel becomes low enough to permit very long bursts without damaging the barrels.

    Miniguns also have a role in the movie history, being adapted into fictional hand-held support weapons as seen in the movies Predator and Terminator 2. As a curious occurence later on, both Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger went on to be governors of Minnesota and California respectively. So if you are looking for a career in politics, shooting a Minigun off-hand on the big screen isn't necessarily a bad move.

    Pop the hood to reveal the mechanism. It's a machine!
    Feeding area exposed. The large main gear actuates feeding.
    The motor disconnected from the main gear. Rather beefy gears compared to an AEG!

    THE BB-SPITTING VERSIONS

    Even though the M134 with handles to carry it without support is a semi-realistic model only, the successful display in movies made it such a sought-after item, that airsoft manufacturers decided to replicate it. It's not the only movie- or game-inspired airsoft gun on the market, but even if it was only diletants would care that it has no real counterpart. The two earliest models were made by Toy-Tec and Asahi, of which the former was fully electric while the latter used electrics to cycle the barrels and an external gas tank to propel the BBs. Since then a gas/electric hybrid has been manufactured by P3 in the US, and the Toy-Tec design was used a couple of years ago by Creation to launch their M134 model. The CAW/Echo1 M134 Minigun has a similar mechanism to the Toy-Tec M134.

    Contents of the wooden box exposed. Just add a battery and BBs.
    The receiver sits upright for further disassembly.
    Unscrewing the rear cap ring.

    PEELING THE ONION... SWEET!

    The Echo1 Minigun is shipped in a sturdy green wood box with painted black stencil markings stating the manufacturer and model. The box is convincing and so are the contents - be prepared to prove that this really is a toy gun when it hits the customs! The top of the box slides to one side, revealing some packing material, a partially disassembled M134, feeding device, relay box, instruction manual and a CD.

    To complete the M134, you just need to tighten two screws to finish the carrying rig, and then install it on the weapon with steel pins and retaining clips. All you need is a metric allen key, and the rest goes together without tools. The instructions tell you how to connect the cables, and after charging the 12 volt lead battery (sold separately), you are ready to rock 'n roll!

    The metal parts are painted black and have a nice look and cool feeling to them. The only plastic part is the grip, and it feels rock solid just like the rest of the gun. There is nothing that you can sniff or touch or look at that would give the impression of a toy.

    The operating principle is as realistic as they come: When the barrels are rotated by an electric motor, the main gear also actuates the feeding device. BBs are scooped into a helicoil feeding drum, and pushed into the main body in a single row. Within the main body there's a spiral-like disc that picks up one BB at a time and starts moving it into the chamber. By the time the BB reaches the chamber, the piston has been cocked by a cam surface on the inside of the main body, and is ready to release, firing the BB. Each barrel has its own cylinder and piston, so the loading and cocking process happens simultaneously in a different phase for each barrel.

    Unscrewing the rear cap from the main axle.
    Large bearings exposed. And you thought 8mm was large?!
    The cylinder units come out one by one. There is a dedicated cylinder assy for each barrel.

    "MY MISSION IS TO SHOOT."

    First of all there's a leaflet that explains in a comically dry fashion what kind of BBs to use. The graphics show a hammer hitting a BB, and a deformed BB means NO-GO while a shattered one is OK. Wait a second, was that right? Yes: A deformed BB means that it is a soft kind. Don't use those. You'll need a hard BB that would shatter when hit with a hammer, just so it remains nice and round in the feeding mechanism. In our tests we found EXCEL BBs to be hard and function flawlessly, and that's what the manufacturer seems to be using in their videos as well.

    Setting the Echo1 M134 Minigun ready to shoot involves a step that was new information to us, but certainly a good tip for all owners of ToyTec/Creation/Echo1 Miniguns. Apart from using hard enough BBs, the loading mechanism has other demands. When the Minigun is cycling, the BBs are fed into the gun at around 50-70 BBs per second, so a failure in this area could lead to catastrophical results.

    Point: BBs already inside the gun must be pushed further by other BBs behind them. So make sure the feeding mechanism is saturated with BBs manually, before going electric.

    To ensure that the BBs are going through the feeding mechanism without hickups, you should rotate the barrels manually after connecting the 1700 round feeding device and opening the trap door. Rotating the barrels 1/6th of a turn allows you to fire single shots even without the battery connected, and it does absolutely no harm to the mechanism. (This is also useful when you chrono the weapon.) Only after each barrel has shot at least two BBs, you should connect the battery and start shooting.

    The front end disassembly begins also by removing a cap ring.
    The main gear assembly and shaft. The cylinders are normally around this part, front facing down.
    Disassembly of the enclosed feeding spiral in progress.

    RELOADING

    Yes, you will need to reload the Minigun eventually. Although the feeding device holds approximately 1700 rounds, the hellish rate of fire eats up those BBs like there's no tomorrow. Even at the lower end of the rate of fire the beast spits out 100 BBs every two seconds, so the entire ammo capacity would be depleted in half a minute! (Do note that firing bursts of over 5 seconds could overheat the electrics, so the fuse will kick in unless you allow cooldown of a few seconds between bursts.)

    For the same reason why the barrels were rotated manually to get a steady flow of BBs through the feeding mechanism, the weapon should not be fired until it's empty. There's a clear marker line on the top of the feeding device, and when the follower reaches that point it's time to reload. It is quickest to pull back the follower, pour BBs into the reservoir through the hole and release the follower to continue.

    No, it's not a shuriken. It's the feeding spiral that picks up the BBs for the gun to shoot!
    The cylinders are disassembled from the rear to access the piston.
    All six cylinders in a row. Imagine the cost of replacing all of these with upgraded ones, if they were available...!

    ANY USE?

    The idea of having a manly character shoot a Minigun off-hand could not have been conceived in any other decade than the 80's. Just imagine Jason Bourne shooting one, and you'll get the point: It could only work with the self-proclaimed Sexual Tyrannosaurus -character such as Blaine who never had time to bleed, or a cyborg killer from the future. We airsofters have to deal with the fact that most of us don't have superhuman strength, so using a heavy weapon like this in a game can be exhausting. The people who 1) could afford and 2) be able to use the Minigun effectively are far an between, so it's certainly not a mainstream weapon. One potential use for the Minigun would be to mount it on a vehicle or other support, as they are employed in real life.

    We first tried to chrono it, but it proved difficult to align.
    A Coke can was easier to hold. Both sides clean through, and a ripped dent in the bottom!
    The helicoil feeder is also simple to disassemble.

    Shooting an airsoft Minigun is an experience even without BBs, but the internals made by CAW are even better than before. The M134 puts out BBs at 1.2-1.5 joules, which translates to around 350-400 fps. Aligning the barrel with a chrono and getting off several shots (to test each barrel group) proved to be difficult, as a BB hitting the front face of the chrono gives no reading at all, and if it hits the side or goes through the chrono at an angle the reading will be off. We then decided to break out the Coke can, even though the accuracy of this method is questionable as well. The Echo1 M134 Minigun was able to penetrate clean through both sides of the can, and made a deep dent with a clear rip to the bottom. The velocity is likely higher when the gun is shot with a battery, as rotating by hand eases the piston forward a bit before it's released. In our view the manufacturer stated 400 fps is a realistic approximate of the actual velocity. Together with an adjustable hop-up, the effective range is quite pleasing.

    This gear pics up the motion for feeding and turns the helicoil feeder.
    Coming apart...
    Split open to see what's inside.

    LAST WORDS

    As said, the Minigun is not a weapon for everyone. If you pick one up and others say "That's so You!", consider it. But if you said "OW MY BACK!" when you laid your hands on the M134, we would rather not recommend it. If you do get bitten by the Minigun-bug, the model manufactured by CAW for Echo1 is a really good option. Not only does it look great on display, but the performance is commendable as well, and it's relatively simple to use.

    Hasta la vista, baby!

    *****

    Please see this video by the manufacturer to see how the loading process works, and the M134 Minigun in action!