Clearwater Airsoft Review │ PTS ZEV Core Elite Carbine 14.5"
I have used PTS products since their inception back in the old days of airsoft and I have continued to do so because they consistently bring out quality products and more often than not, licensed products based on real world kit.
Their latest foray into AEG’s is no exception and I was fortunate enough to receive one of their brand new ZEV Technologies Core Elite carbines just before SHOT show started this year. If you haven’t heard of ZEV Technologies then, erm, how? They are a real steel purveyor of fine conversion kits for Glocks as well as others; their own brand of pistols in the OZ9 range and of course, a full line up of AR carbines from short little SBR’s to full length 14.5” ones like the model I have.
The gun arrived in a beautiful ZEV branded box and had eco friendly cardboard supports internally to cradle the gun. Included with the gun was a cleaning rod, a PTS own brand EPM midcap magazine and – to my surprise a small bag of quality Clarence Lai BB’s.
The gun itself bears all the distinguishing features of it’s real world counterpart and a smattering of PTS polymer parts to finish it off. Starting at the muzzle there is a standard A2 birdcage style flash hider, this is my only criticism of the whole package and I am being really nit picky here. With the plethora of muzzle devices PTS produces it wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch to include one of these instead but as I say; nit picky! This threads on with the near standard CCW 14mm threads to the ubiquitous bronzy/orange outer barrel for which ZEV is famous for. It’s definitely a bold statement and it was loved by more people who saw it than not. The gun also has a dummy midlength gas block and gas tube, which is good as I cannot abide it if these details are not replicated faithfully. Shrouding the barrel is a beautifully done replica of the wedgelok MLOK rail – again, another feature unique to ZEV. It is machined aluminium and finished in a matt black with nice crisp edges and trademarks laser etched on. Whilst not rough, the surface does have some “grip” to it unlike the earlier incarnation of the wedgelok rail I have reviewed in the past, which was a gloss black. As with all MLOK rails finding accessories to fit is as easy as breathing and you have plenty of slots on which to mount whatever your heart desires. Along the top of the rail is a picatinny rail that runs seamlessly into the rail cut into the upper receiver so mounting optics anywhere along the top is a breeze.
The receivers themselves are a slightly darker shade of black and finished with ZEV trademarks engraved into the surface and a small chequered cut square on the front of the magwell for grip should you choose to hold your carbine thusly. Controls are standard AR so no ambidextrous features here bar the charging handle – based on the ZEV equivalent and done exceedingly well too. The pistol grip is a PTS EPG on the carbine length and the smaller more vertical EPC on the two shorter models that are available. There is a lovely extended PTS polymer trigger guard installed so accessing the trigger with chunky gloves is no problem. Now the trigger is not your standard AR fare. It is a well machined blade that feels just right under the finger and thanks to a small grub screw you can adjust the pull to suit your needs. I like mine to have some travel but if hair triggers are your thing then it can be done. Rounding out the gun is the minimalistic PTS EPSc with a decent rubber stock pad as standard. This is a more compact version of their popular polymer stock. Unlike that version the EPSc doesn’t have battery storage and instead the battery is housed under a screw off cap in the buffer tube. It is wired to a deans connector and I was able to happily fit a 1300mah 20C 7.4V lipo in there and screw the cap all the way back on.
Overall, I cannot fault the build or quality of the ZEV carbine. It is beautiful to look at and slick in its execution. Due to the parts used it is also pretty light even with a battery and full EPM installed. This makes it very point able and in no way did I feel that the gun was too long even coming from a staple diet of SBR’s in recent years. The fire selector moves crisply and positively engages in each detent and it has a nice response in semi auto. Full auto is around the 800rpm mark, which sits nicely in the proper range for me and during my testing with multiple BB weights and brands it didn’t miss a beat. Same can be said with the EPM, new EPM, EPM1 and a few generic metal mags that I used. One note is that the magwell can be quite tight with polymer mags so a good firm insertion with a tap on the baseplate to ensure it is seated is a wise move.
On my usual 0.28g open blaster BB’s it fired at around 284fps or roughly 1.03J so perfectly fine for most UK sites coming in as sub 350fps if using 0.2g BB’s. The range is more than adequate with it happily reaching out past 50m with a reasonable grouping at range as well. Hitting a man sized target more often than not at that range didn’t pose too much of an issue, with only the very rare flyer, which abated once the hop and bedded in. The hop unit is an easy to adjust rotary affair with plenty of adjustment for weights upto .028 but it was pretty much maxed out at that weight so if you prefer heavier BB’s you would have to factor in a hop rubber change at the very least. As is the way it is accessed through the ejection port and the faux bolt is held to the rear by the bolt catch making it even easier to tweak.
Overall, it is a more than competent replica of a real world civilian AR with all the backing of the company that produces it for real shooters and all the quality you’d expect from PTS. Some will find the orangey barrel off putting perhaps and it probably won’t appeal to those who only like using military or LE based AR platforms but it is something somewhat unique in a world of M4 clones and PTS should be applauded for going down this road and bringing more innovative licenced replicas to the market. I for one look forward to seeing what this partnership brings in the future and cannot wait to get hands on with the OZ9 pistol when it is launched.
Phil Bucknall │Clearwater Airsoft, 2023
Facebook: @Clearwater Airsoft
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