By Justin Mason, ProPaintball.com
Since the debut of the original Invert Mini in 2006, this unique operating platform has evolved into a multitude of gun styles—from the traditional entry-level speedball-styled “Mini”, to the intimidating, HK-reminiscent “TM” series of mil-sim paintball machine guns. Enjoying a massive success with over 20,000 units sold since the gun’s inception, the newest version landed at ProPaintball’s corporate office.
Out of the box, the new Empire AXE enjoys pleasing aesthetics, with our test model being a deep, rich dust black with matte dust silver accents. Equipped with a battery in the marker out-of-box, it came fully charged and ready to play. The marker came with a nicely organized kit with spares (including a few critical o-rings, detents, screws, relevant Allen keys, and an extra poppet valve face). It also included a 12” aluminum barrel, barrel cover, a CD laden with manuals, and a quick-start guide.
From initial quality inspections, the AXE delivers. The anodizing and bead-blasting on our marker was consistent throughout, harboring no visible defects or bleed on various parts—with consistent texture and attention to detail in all of the crevices and areas that are sometimes overlooked. Even with a more in-depth inspection, our team found no flaws—even where pieces are normally placed on anodizing racks. While “dust” finish is generally more forgiving of poor-machining or bad quality control, the AXE possessed a finish generally reserved for much higher priced markers.
The AXE was designed with many of the new features that Mini owners had previously requested—including an all-new combo regulator-ASA-On\Off (dubbed the “RELAY”), micro-switch-activated circuit board, tool-less bolt-removal, and larger form-factor. Building upon the universal success of the Invert Mini, the Empire AXE delivers many oft-requested features typically only found on markers at a much higher price point.
The largest (forgive the pun) deviation from the original Mini is the markers proportions—while noticeably larger, the new form-factor allows for a larger grip, better ergonomics for larger\longer armed players. The new AXE enjoys a larger space surrounding the trigger allowing for higher rates of fire and freedom of motion within the grip frame. The larger format of the AXE also provides larger volume air-chambers within the bolt system, making the gun operate at a lower pressure than the older Mini—resulting in a softer shot and less kick.
The new “RELAY” system is a blessing to the AXE–acting as a combination regulator, on\off, and ASA. One of the most interesting features of the Mini was its use of the bottomline ASA as a regulator, and its vertical grip housing the battery and circuit board. This allowed for the Mini’s ultra-compact form factor and macro-less design–however, one of biggest complaints of the original Mini was its lack of ability to turn off the air supply while leaving the bottle on the marker. The AXE solves this issue with ease—with a very simple, lever-actuated on-off. The “RELAY” achieves better consistency, simpler-operation, and has the addition of the on-off. This new accessory is also as a retroactive upgrade to previous Invert Mini owners—and a must-have in the eyes of Pro Paintball staff.
While certainly not as outwardly obvious as the proportions and new RELAY system, the Empire AXE also features a tool-less quick disconnect bolt system—a phenomenal addition for players that were puzzled by the old Mini’s bolt system. With the push of a pin and the twist of the bolt (to the right—opposite of how one would typically unscrew the cap), the entire engine of the marker slides out the rear of the marker. With a dab of grease on the poppet seal and on the dynamic seals in the marker, it’s ready to hit the field.
The AXE’s on-field performance was nothing short of impressive—boasting a +/- 5fps record over the chronograph using fresh paint and a tight paint\bore match. The AXE was smooth, accurate, and consistent across long, high-ROF streams in uncapped-semi. With surprising efficiency (nearly 11 pods and a hopper out of a cold-filled 68\45!), the AXE was easily one of the quickest guns on the field—the ball-bearing trigger and micro-switch activation (as opposed to the old Hall-Effect sensor) were welcome improvements to the new marker.
Whether you’re an experienced player looking for an inexpensive backup marker, or a new player looking for a versatile marker—the AXE answers any and all questions that the field can deliver. Delivering an absolutely impressive amount of features and performance at an impressively affordable price—the AXE is a winner from Empire.