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Old 03-19-2011, 06:27 PM   #1 (permalink)
PistolRogue
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Making the SA17 A More User-Friendly Primary

Ok, as some of you may have noticed some of my offhanded comments regarding KEE's customer service, I promise I will do my best to keep this thread as simple and on-target as possible.

The Mission

The SA17, IMO, was a great concept, and is an ok final product, although evident that the accountants had their way with it to some degree. But I've adapted a number of improvements and mods I've seen in other pistols, as well as cooked up a few of my own in an effort to make the SA17 as "user friendly" as possible for any Joe-Schmoe who wants to pick up pistol play. This thread aims to showcase these so that anyone else with a modicum of mechanical ability can duplicate them and get more enjoyment out of their SA17.

The Shortcomings
Well, where do I start? The SA17 was designed as an entry-level blowback-style pistol and as such, suffers a few ills that pricier pistols don't.

1. Weight and Size. Unfortunately, there just isn't much to be done about this, thus, I focused my efforts elsewhere.

2. Feed system. Not only bulky, but awkward to use during play. Admittedly, when I say awkward I am comparing it to mag-feds and top-loaded Zeuses, so in all fairness if you compare apples-to-apples and stack it against other feed systems of standard blowback pistols, it's not too bad. In fact, probably better than most.

3. Lack of a clear sight line down the pistol/lack of usable sights. Due to the design of the quick-change feedblock (which does add a level of versatility to make up for its bulk), some users find it difficult to sight down the top of the gun the way they want.

4. Post-Recall CO2 changes. Sadly, KEE for some reason felt the need to completely nerf the leverchange system in the name of "safety" (more like "potential liability"), and with the recall parts installed, 12 gram powerlet changes are even slower and more awkward than reloading the springfeed.


Solutions

The Springfeed:
When modding I apply the same philosophy that I do to work and life in general; work SMART, not hard. So when it came to improving the springfeed I recognized immediately that there were several mods developed for earlier pistols that would translate to the SA17 with some tweaks. The first that came to mind, naturally, was AgentSmith's top-loading mod for the Zeus-type pistols.

This mod basically consists of drilling a hole in the feed directly in front of where the spring follower locks back for reloading, so that you can simply pull the follower back, lock it in place, dump your paint in through the hole, then release the spring. For this I used a 45/64" drill bit in the drill press, bored the hole through the spot I wanted it, and then deburred the hole and smoothed the areas around/inside it with a dremel and sandpaper.



The problem inherent with the top-load mod is that the hole allows the spring to jump out of it when the follower gets past the halfway point in the feed tube. So I borrowed from the brain of another MCB'er named Smiley to modify the follower to include a spring guide which would keep the spring from jumping out of the top-load port. If you visit his thread, which I've linked, there is a good vid to show what the spring guide does and how it works.







This mod is basically an aluminum rod rounded on one end, and press-fit into a hole drilled into the center of the spring follower. A slightly larger hole also needs to be drilled into the end cap of the feed tube to allow the guide to come out of it when the spring is fully retracted. Ideally, I would have liked to use delrin for the guide to minimize the weight the spring has to push but didn't have any on hand. When I order materials for another project I have in mind I will probably revisit this and make a new guide rod.


The Air Supply:

Now that I had the feed worked out I set to work dealing with the gas situation. Unfortunately, unless you favor an incredibly sneaky, very minimal paint-use style of play, 12g's are not going to cut it with the changes to the lever change system. It had its quirks to start with, and would have needed to be modded, but post-recall, I felt for my "run and gun" method of play it was better to just abandon 12 grams all together and go with a dummy 12 gram and through-grip remote line system instead. Which is a shame as the SA17 has EXCELLENT gas efficiency with 12 gram cartridges.







I simply used the dummy 12g supplied in the SA17 Rifle Kit, and changed out the braided line for a black macro fitting and line. Using a combination of mill, drill press, and dremel, I cut a nice channel into the grip frame so that the line could pass through beneath the modified Pachmayr American Legends grips (sooooo comfy) and out the bottom of the frame in front of the ASA screw holes. I'd have preferred to have the remote nipple come out in the middle of the bottom of the frame, slightly angled to the rear, but I wanted to maintain the ASA holes just in case I felt like running the gun with a pocket hopper and tank-on-gun as a sort of carbine rig. This keeps the remote relatively out of the way and for the most part, it goes completely unnoticed during play.

The Sights:

I just so happened to have a nice cheap day-glo sight for a Beretta Hi-Power laying around for my T8.1 that it didn't fit, so I decided to make use of it for this. The feedblock has a small pin sticking out when stock that can be used as a front sight, however it can be hard to see in dim conditions. Frankly, I don't actually use sights much, but I was bored and wanted to see what could be done with this. Essentially, all I did was mill a slot into the top of the feedblock, and then used a Loc-Tite brand cyanoacrylate glue to keep it in place. ROCK SOLID.







The problem that arose next was that the block doesn't really clamp to the gun; it wiggles around quite a bit to the point your sight will move around. I solved this by simply drilling and tapping two 1/4"-20 holes on either corner of the top of the clamp and installing set screws to provide positive tension against the rail. Now the feed stays put and so does the sight. Simply add the weaver based rear sight of your choice and you should have a fairly good iron-sight solution on your hands.

The Trigger:

This mod solves a problem that doesn't really exist. There's nothing all that wrong about the stock SA17 trigger, it's not any worse than most of the other blowback pistols out there. But I did notice a bit of pre-travel and I got curious if I could do anything to make it go away.





All I did for this was to drill a hole into the triggerguard, and drill and tap for a long setscrew to go all the way through the trigger and come out the top where it stops against the frame. This allowed me to take the pre-travel out for a hair-trigger motion. I appreciate the improvement it made but to be totally honest I wouldn't bother replicating this one as the amount of effort to do it wasn't really worth the return. Plus, if you bugger it up you've got to get a new trigger.


Reducing the Report:

One last mod I did was to actually make functional the "mock suppressor" included in the Rifle Kit. I won't tell you exactly how, but I will tell you that it comes apart and through some use of porting and adding of packing material, works quite well. The report at the front of the gun is nil, although like any blowback, the sound of the action itself is still louder than an electro.




And a few last bits of eye candy:










UPDATE/ADDITION 9/1/2012

Hey guys, been a while, just dropping by to add a quick update on some recent mods I did to the SA17, most of which were to the action itself.

Polished Hammer:

A generic enough mod for a semi-auto blowback marker, although the internals on these guns are notably more finished than say, a Tippmann 98. Started with some medium emery cloth with the hammer chucked up in the lathe, then worked at it by hand with 180, 220, 400, 600 grits, followed by a good hit with some Brasso. If you look closely you'll see that I not only polished the outside of the hammer but also the "step" that the tip of the sear catches. You have to be really careful with this, since if you round off the corner too much you're looking a runaway full-auto of the paint-blender sort, but it really improves the feel of the trigger pull.







Something I noticed while messing with this was that the INSIDE of the hammer, where the spring rides, was VERY rough/unfinished. It almost looked as if it had been drilled out with a chipped/dull bit, the walls of the bore were almost ridged. So I used a couple of small diameter flapper wheels on an extension and a cordless drill to get the bore as smooth as I could. You can still see vague marks on the bore where the ridges were but it's MUCH smoother now. Surprisingly enough, this made a noticeable difference in feel/tension when cocking the marker. I wouldn't be surprised if the spring coils were rubbing these ridges during the blowback part of the cycle and causing some drag/resistance. A worthwhile effort if you have the tools to get in there and do it.





Polishing the Sear:

This is something that a lot of people probably shy away from out of fear of screwing up the marker's operation, which is understandable. I happened to have a spare sear in a parts kit so I decided to go for it. The trick here is to put your sandpaper flat on a table or workbench and rub ONLY the surfaces of the sear that contact the hammer on it while keeping the sear flat and level so you don't round off the surface, ESPECIALLY the tip of the sear. Again, I used the medium emery, 180, 220, 400, 600, Brasso combination and was very happy with the results. The trigger pull was now buttery smooth. Please note from the pics the ONLY two surfaces you need to polish are the long top ramp and the short back face.





Softer Trigger Return Spring:

Well, I know I said earlier in this thread that there really isn't much wrong with the SA17 trigger pull... And to be honest, I was right. BUT, after a couple hundred rounds through the pipe at any given scenario, the stock return spring starts to feel stiff. I can't tell you where exactly the new spring came from, as it was prowling around loose on the bottom of my toolbox, just that it is notably softer than the stock one. You don't want to go TOO soft here either, as it will cause problems with the trigger not resetting on the sear.

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Last edited by PistolRogue; 09-01-2012 at 11:57 AM.
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