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The VSS Vintorez is a mysterious, suppressed full-automatic sniper rifle from Soviet, which is issued primarily to Spetsnaz units for undercover or clandestine operations. It is only recently discovered by the other nations through recent wars. Therefore, VSS has only now begun to show up in the entertainment industry, such as movies, video games, and airsoft.
VSS stands for Vintovka Snayperskaya Spetsialnaya or "Special Sniper Rifle".
That's right, there has never been an airsoft replica of the VSS Vintorez in the past--commercially, anyway. And Echo1 has now produced the first commercial airsoft replica. In this article, we will be experimenting with the Echo1 Red Star IGOR VSS Vintorez airsoft sniper rifle.
AY VSS Vintorez AEG has just been released in the United States. From the photos and the specs, the AY Vintorez is identical to the Echo1 Red Star IGOR. Both the AY VSS Vintorez and the Echo1 Red Star IGOR are re-branded S&T VSS AEG ST-AEG-21.
The Echo1 Red Star IGOR comes in a cardboard package. It has a nice faded designed of the Echo1 logo on an American flag (see photo below). Echo1 identifies the model number of the Red Star IGOR faux wood version on the box as JP-97. The black plastic shoulder stock version is model number JP-81MB. Other than that, there is nothing particularly special about the outside.
Inside, you'll find the content well padded. It's a box that you'll want to reuse to store your gun. If you plan to use the iron sight only, you can even use the padded box as a gun bag.
The box content includes the VSS Vintorez rifle, two high-capacity magazines, a 9.6v NiMH stick battery, a battery charger, and a warranty registration card. Strangely, the user manual is not included. Good thing that the user manual is available as a PDF on Echo1's web site.
The foam should really be reversed so that the Echo1 Red Star IGOR points to the right side, rather than the left side. That is because it's huge charging handle sticks out so awkwardly (details later in the article). When laid out in the manner shown in the photo above, the charging handle actually poke out the bottom of the box, scratching anything underneath (like the hood of a car). The problem is practically solved by flipping the foam around so that the charging handle is facing upward.
There is a yellow warning label: "Must USE High Grde BBs ONLY! Failure to do so WILL VOID WARRANTY. Ask Your authorized Echo Dealer."
If you've been a fan of the Russian SVD, you might consider taking a closer look at the VSS Vintorez. And if you are not a fan of the SVD, you might consider taking a look at the VSS Vintorez as well. For the SVD fans and haters, the VSS Vintorez is 300 millimeter shorter than the SVD, making it much more manageable for a sniper. It is about the same size as an assault rifle. And with its full automatic firing capability, you can use it as such.
The photo below shows the Echo1 Red Star IGOR, an airsoft VSS Vintorez replica. It looks very compact and very slick. If you are already a AK fan, then I'm sure you'll easily fall in love with the VSS. On the other hand, if you are not a AK fan, you might fall in love with its slickness and its innovation (as I have).
The version we got has a fake wood shoulder stock (see photo below). It is more authenticate than the black plastic shoulder stock. There is a sling mount at the end of the shoulder stock. It is too far rear for a single point sling, unless you make the sling really short. It's intent is for a two point sling so that you can shoulder the sniper rifle on long trips. A sturdy rubber pad provide comfort to your shoulder, while provide enough support for recoil.
The second sling point is in front of the receiver, just behind the barrel (see photo below). This sling point is too far forward and too small for a single point sling attachment. It looks like if you want to use this sniper rifle as an assault rifle, you'll have to customize the gun for a single point sling.
The left side of the receiver is very similar to a AK47 (see photo below). It has a side rail mount for you to attach a Picatinny weaver rail for accessories. "ECHO1 IGOR" is stamped onto the left side of the receiver.
The right side of the receiver is also similar to the AK47 (see photo below). And that differs from the real VSS Vintorez. Whereas the VSS Vintorez has the selector switch behind the trigger to enhance the sniper prone position, the Echo1 Red Star IGOR has the standard AK47 selector switch on the side of the receiver.
How does the Echo1 Red Star IGOR compare to the real VSS Vintorez? Take a look in our "VSS Vintorez Comparisons" article.
Very different from the western counterpart, but standard on the AK's, the Echo1 Red Star IGOR's selector switch is safe when in the upper most position, full-auto firing in the center position, and semi-auto in the bottom most position. The switch is also very tight. Extending the index finger to move it has very little effect. Luckily the firing selector switch loosens over time with use. After breaking the gun in on many operations, the selector switch can be moved easily with the index finger.
The VSS Vintorez is rather uniform and flat on both sides. However, the charging handle is big, sticking out perpendicularly to the gun (see photo below), making it a bit awkward to lay down on its right side (if you are left handed). But that's not a fault of the Echo1 Red Star IGOR, because the Echo1 version is a replica of the real VSS Vintorez.
There is a "OFFICIAL ECHO1 LICENSED PRODUCT" sticker on both side of the receiver. However, it is unclear which licensed product it is referring to. That is because of our unfamiliarity with Russia's brands and manufacturers. For example, what is "Red Star" referring to? Or "IGOR"? Why is "VSS" and "Vintorez" not in the official name of this product?
The front iron sight has elevation adjustment (similar to the M4 front iron sight). You need a special tool to change the settings. But you can substitute with a tweezer.
The rear iron sight has range marking (see photo below). It's not real clear how the range applies to airsoft. But if you can make it work for you, then you're ahead of the class.
The rear iron sight can also be adjusted for elevation. No special tool is required. You just push the button and move the cylinder forward to raise the rear iron sight (see photo below). Neither the front nor the rear iron sight allows for windage adjustment.
The package includes two high capacity magazines. Each magazine holds 150 rounds. They are made out of polymer and are quite light. The construction is quite study and robust. At first glance, I have thought it might be full metal. Even after picking it up, I have wondered if it is full metal or not. The texture is matte and has a metal feel. It's only after careful examination that I have concluded that it is plastic, much like the real steel VSS Vintorez magazine.
Typical of high-capacity magazines, there is a winding wheel at the bottom of the magazine (see photo above). It is, however, slightly indented. Because of this indention, it is not as easy to rotate the winding wheel as other high-capacity magazines (M4 and MP5) that I have tried. It's easier to rotate it with your finger tip.
The top of the magazine is typical of a high capacity magazine. Photo below demonstrates the hatch, for loading BB's, opened and closed position. There is a BB unloading switch, making it easy to unload left over BB's.
Inserting the magazine into the Echo1 Red Star IGOR is not the easiest thing in the world. If you are new to the mag and the gun, then you'll likely insert it wrong and it will pull out easily. The correct way is to inside the front end and hook it into the receiver. Then rotate the magazine back and upward until it clicks into place. Tuck on it to make sure it is locked in. If it pulls out, then you have not inserted it correctly. With some practice it will be no problem.
At this time, the Echo1 Red Star Igor has been released without any mid-cap or low-cap magazines. Echo1 claims that mid-cap mags are in the works.
Stay up-to-date on the mid-cap release for the Echo1 Red Star IGOR: "Mid-Cap Magazine for the Echo1 Red Star IGOR VSS Vintorez?".
In the mean time, the only way to practice real cap MilSim is to load multiple high capacity to real capacity and swap between the mags. I have tried winding up the high capacity magazines and have been able to fire off 46 rounds without winding. Therefore it is possible to figure out how many rounds to load, before hand, to simulate 10 rounds, 20 rounds, or 30 rounds. You can then load them that way and wind them up in the staging area before entering the field.
We figured out how to simulate real-cap magazine with the high-capacity version. Take a look at the article here: "Simulating Real Capacity Magazines With the Echo1 Red Star IGOR High Capacity Magazines".
Echo1 doesn't skimp on the battery, giving you a 9.6v NiMH stick battery right off the bat. Other manufacturers either provides a more sluggish 8.4v NiMH battery or doesn't provide one at all. The extra 1.2 volts of juice should give your Echo1 Red Star IGOR a slightly faster firing rate.
The charger, on the other hand, is a typical slow charger that is provide with basic airsoft electronic gun (AEG) packages. Since I have a SmartCharger, I haven't tried this wall charger at all.
The AC wall charger is made for the U.S. market accepting 110v AC at 60Hz. It outputs 9.6v at 450mA. The stick battery has 1200mAh capacity. Internally, it has eight 1.2v 2/3A NiMH battery cells that composes 9.6v.
The battery compartment is in the shoulder stock. In order to gain access, you have to use a Phillips screwdriver to unscrew two screws at the shoulder pad. After removing the shoulder pad, you insert the stick battery in the lower compartment. The upper compartment houses the fuse and wiring.
The hop-up unit is underneath the charging handle cover. Pull the charging handle back to reveal it. Echo1 provides a transparent version 3 hop-up unit (see photo below) with the gun. The transparency is so clear that its rather cool to see the bucking and nub work. There are tons of oil on the bucking and nub.
The hop-up unit works as a slider. Slide it all the way to the right for no hop-up. Slide it all the way to the left for full hop-up. The version 3 hop-up seems too easy to slide, with virtually no resistance. After using it for a while, I have noticed that the hop-up will actually stay in place with actual use.
Tips and tricks to take apart and put the Echo1 Red Star IGOR back together is in this article: "How To Disassemble the Echo1 Red Star IGOR".
At the back of the receiver, there is a dust cover release button (see photo below). Pressing the button unlocks the top dust cover from the receiver.
Photo below shows the top dust cover removed. You can see the hop-up unit in front of the gearbox. The gear box has a ported cylinder. Strangely, wiring seems to be going from the front of the gearbox to the rear shoulder stock. It is unclear why Echo1 doesn't wire it from the back of the gearbox.
Are you interested in the complete disassembly of the Echo1 Red Star IGOR parts? Take a look in our "Complete Tear Down of the Echo1 Red Star IGOR VSS Vintorez" article.
Echo1 upgraded the gun to a Mad Bull bucking. However, it came with a rubber tube nub (see photo below), which I found to be rather inconsistent compared to the APS plastic H-nubs in my APS airsoft guns. This was an area that definitely needed some upgrade.
Echo1 provides a brass tightbore 6.04mm inner barrel that is 428mm long. It actually doesn't reach the front of the mock silencer. Therefore, it is a candidate for upgrade. A stainless steel 6.01mm inner barrel that is 470mm long will bring the Echo1 Red Star IGOR up to sniper specs.
We have upgraded this gun extensively. Join our "Echo1 Red Star IGOR Upgrade Talk" to read about it.
The Echo1 Red Star IGOR uses a standard version 3 gearbox, motor, and hop-up unit. The air nozzle is the same as a AK short air nozzle. However, the following parts are proprietary to this gun: cylinder head and tappet plate.
Out of the box, the Echo1 Red Star IGOR VSS Vintorez shoot BB's all over the place. That's a bit shocking for a supposedly sniper rifle replica. After taking a look at the hop-up and bucking, we have found that the bucking is super-oiled. Also, the hop-up nub is just a tiny rubber tube. We have used rubbing alcohol to dry out the bucking inside. Then after breaking the gun in, it shoots consistently to one spot at 367 FPS with 0.2g BB. Velocity was a little too low for a sniper, so it's definitely worth upgrading.
With no hop, the gun seems to fire at a straight line out to at least 60 feet with 0.2g BB. However, at 100 feet, the BB starts to curve up. Since the hop is at the lowest setting, there is no way to adjust the hop up so that the BB won't curve upward.
Our only solution was to switch to a Angel Custom 6.01mm tightbore inner barrel that was 470mm mm long. That brought the 0.2g velocity up to 400 FPS. Next, we got rid of the stock MadBull bucking with its squishy tube nub. We installed the MadBull Shark Bucking. The MadBull Fishbone nub is too wide for the version 3 hop-up unit, so we used an APS plastic H-hop nub. To reduce the curve upward at 100 feet, we used 0.25g BB's. With a minor hop-up adjustment, the gun shoots extremely consistently to the exact same spot at 100 feet. To keep the version 3 hop-up setting in place, we folded some double-sided tape (see photo below) to use as a wedge.
We took this very consistent built Echo1 Red Star IGOR to SC Village night game to give it a run. We wrapped it in Mossy Oak Burlap Camouflage. It operated flawlessly all night. The highlight of the game was when kids on the enemy side finally spotted me and screamed, "Sniper!!!"
However, the rubber shoulder pad came off during the night and was lost. It was fastened down with the two included screws and washers. The screws were tight on the shoulder stock and did not come off with the shoulder pad. The entire shoulder pad was made out of rubber. So it was able to work itself out of its rubber screw holes.
Replacement rubber butt pad is available on Echo1's online shop. But I know it will come off and get lost again. Plus, the shoulder stock with the rubber pad is a little too long for me. So I replaced the stock rubber but pad with Airsoft3D's IGOR Short Profile Battery Pad (see "Related Links" below). The Airsoft3D's version is made out of plastic, so there is no way it can work itself loose. And it's also shorter by about an inch. That made the AEG more manageable in tight spaces.