Since the Axe has been on the market, it has been hands-down among the best mid-level guns. The Axe totally changed the way I look at paintball guns. Before I thought it was most important to get the best performing gun. Now, I look for the best value I can find. The Axe offers just that: great performance at an amazing price. Nothing to date has been able to offer the shot quality this gun does at a sub-$1,000 price. The original Axe costs under $500.
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I’ve always loved the original Axe. If you ask me, before the Pro came along, it’s been the best gun ever made. It’s reliable, air efficient, quiet, simple, easy on paint, and very affordable. So what’s to improve? Why did Empire make the Axe Pro? Simple. Empire is trying to nail down those users who couldn’t stand the ergonomics of the original Axe, and they fixed a few bugs along the way. In one fell swoop, Empire took care of all the problems and complaints people had with the original paintball gun.
The Axe Pro is a next-generation gun. It remains relatively the same on the inside while dramatically changing on the outside. The basic internal design is identical: the same in-line poppet bolt, the same solenoid and relay regulator internals. From the outside though, the Axe Pro is a whole different animal. The
The Axe Pro makes me think of the phrase death by a thousand cuts. It’s not one big change, but rather the many small refinements that make the Axe Pro such an upgrade. The Pro shoots almost the same as the original Axe, but the thing looks like a different tool, and it feels much better in the hand.
The Big Stuff
Far and away the biggest complaint about the original Axe has been the foregrip. People just don’t know how to hold onto the thing. There’s no spacing in between the trigger guard and the foregrip, and that makes it kind of awkward. By adding this space in the Pro model, Empire fixed everyone’s biggest problem with the original. Now you can hold it like any other paintball gun on the planet. Running and shooting is easier, snap shooting, shooting poles, and pretty much everything else involved with shooting.
Another feature on the new gun, that may be overlooked by some, is the new relay mounting design and the integrated air transfer tube. On the previous version on the Axe, the relay regulator was held in place with a mounting plate that needed to be aligned perfectly, or it could leak or shear off the lower air transfer tube. This is no longer an issue. Empire has integrated the air transfer tube into the frame, and the relay now slides on a rail right into place. There is no need to adjust the transfer tube length or adjust setscrews.
The addition of the Redline OLED board is the sort of thing that just had to be done. Empire had already included it in their Limited Edition Axes, and it came on guns like the Vicious Axe. The Redline OLED board makes switching modes, changing the rate of fire, and checking the battery level much quicker. There is no need to remember what the LED colors mean or break out a manual like you needed to with the original Axe. All the settings are displayed on an OLED screen on the back of the foregrip, just like the Vanquish or LE Axes.
The Small Stuff
Along with the obvious changes to the Axe Pro, there are a number of small tweaks, like a two-piece driver barrel, Vanquish style feedneck, hex-key trigger removal, quicker bolt removal, and externally serviceable eyes.
The most useful of the small changes are the eyes. Now all you have to do to clean the eyes is remove the eye cover on the side of the gun, rather than tearing the whole gun down. Having clean eyes on any electronic paintball gun is a must. Now cleaning them only takes a few minutes rather than fifteen.
The barrel on the original Axe has always been kind of weak. It was short (12 inches) and the bore size was too large (0.691). The Axe Pro comes with Empire’s new two-piece driver barrel. The Pro barrel is now 14 inches long with a smaller 0.688 bore size. The new bore size may still be a little large for most the paintballs out there, but it’s still a much better match. Additional barrel backs can be purchased for $40 in 0.678, 0.683 and 0.693 bore sizes.
The Axe Pro is an amazing gun; I love the thing. Empire took a gun that was already great and improved on it. It has all the features of guns that are $1,500, and does it for $700. After playing with it and looking for things I didn’t like, I honestly only found one: I’d like the foregrip to be a little slimmer. That small complaint, however, is me looking to find something that I didn’t like. It doesn’t affect how I play or hold the gun at all. In all, the 2015 Axe Pro is a great gun: reliable, air efficient, and simple to repair.
Should you buy one? Is at the high end of mid-level guns, there isn’t a better deal on the market today. With the features that are included and the price, the Axe Pro is a great deal. Still, though, an even better deal is the original Axe. Sure, you won’t get the Redline board, the driver barrel, or the improved ergonomics, but for the most part, you don’t need these things if you’re an amateur player. However, if you’re a tournament player on a budget who doesn’t want to spend $1,500 on a paintball gun, the choice you’ve been waiting for, for years, is finally here.