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Smart Parts released the Epiphany, an advancement of the Ion design in late 2006. While the company kept mostly quiet prior to the product launch, the Epiphany made its first public appearance in the form of a cell shaded Anime cartoon that aired on YouTube.com and in commercials during the Smart Parts Paintball World Championships on ESPN2. On various Internet message boards, players speculated whether the cartoon marker was an Ion, a new Shocker, a derivative of the Nerve, or a work of pure fiction.
Speculation was answered with reality as the first Epiphanies were shown to the public, about one month before their mid-December ship date. Price wise, the Epiphany, like several new markers unveiled around the same time, fits into a new middle-price category, not as expensive as most electropneumatic “high-end” markers, but more pricey than the typical beginner's paintgun.
First look response from people in the paintball industry and players alike ranged from “Wow that is going to kill the high-end gun market,” to “That's only an upgraded Ion.”
While the Epiphany was given an entirely new look, it is based on Ion technology and most of its major assemblies are Ion compatible. Performance wise players may not immediately notice the difference between an Ion and Epiphany, but testing with a recording chronograph, the changes are measurable.
The biggest noticeable difference between the Ion and Epiphany is in the body. The Ion's plastic and rubber body cover, combined with its low price tag has caused some players to disparage the marker as a “plastic gun” despite the fact that all of it's structural components are made of aluminum.
The Epiphany's structure is all metal, body cover included, with rubber overlays providing color contrasting its various metal finishes.
One would expect, with the Epiphany having a metal body cover, instead of plastic, that it would weigh quite a bit more than an Ion. At 2 pounds, 9.6 ounces (without barrel, with included on/off ASA) the weight of the two markers is pretty close. The slimmer contours of the Epiphany, and lighter alloy used, make up the difference.
Overall the Epiphany's look is more streamlined than the Ion, with smooth, sweeping lines carried through the grip frame and body, and echoed in the decorative sleeve on the vertical regulator.
The Epiphany is topped by its feedneck. As a more expensive marker than the Ion, it is more likely to be used with more expensive active feeding hoppers, so having a tall ball stack over the breech is less important for smooth operation. The Epiphany feedneck is low profile design, and includes a pair of internal friction o-rings to get a grip on a hopper's neck. In testing, Pulse, HALO and Vlocity loaders fit without sanding their necks. The upper of the two feedneck o-rings had to be removed for a proper fit with the HALO and Pulse, and the Apache o-rings needed to be removed from its feedneck.
Internally below the feedneck lie the same ball detents and break-beam Vision anti-chop system as are found on the Ion.
The front of the Epiphany body breech is visible through the body cover, as with the Ion. These parts are anodized with a matte finish. The body cover, grip frame and regulator cover are available in a variety of finishes from matte silver to a smoky gloss. Two rubber accent overlays decorate the body cover in the Epiphany's accent color with a white Smart Parts logo molded in the top.
The grip frame is not just smoother than that of the Ion, it carries a slightly different shape. The angle is more vertical with a curved back edge. According to Smart Parts, this grip shape, combined with the larger trigger guard, places the shooter's hand in an position to walk the trigger.
On the left side of the grip frame is the power button, in the same location as the Ion power button. The Ion features a semi-rigid plastic sticker with a bubble over the power button. When pressed, the bubble flexes inward and presses the power button on the marker's circuit board.
The small bubble button can be difficult to press, especially while wearing paintball gloves. The Epiphany design replaces that bubble sticker with a rigid plastic button that fits and locks into the power button hole of the grip frame. It is translucent enough to allow the light of the power LED through, and offers an easy to press, positive click response. This button can also be fitted into Ion grip frames.
The Epiphany trigger is made of metal as well, giving it greater durability than it's Ion counterpart. It is equipped with a pair of textured rubber overlays on its front. In the center of the trigger lies an adjuster screw which limits how far back the trigger can travel. The forward travel limit is set by a screw accessible from beneath the rear of the trigger guard, and like the Ion, the Epiphany features a trigger return magnet rather than a spring.
Unlike the Ion, the Epiphany trigger does not pivot on a steel pin. Instead, a compact ball bearing assembly lies in the trigger's pivot point, and this is held into the grip frame with a pair of conical ended set screws. Smart Parts calls this a conical bearing trigger mount, as the conical faces of the screws force the center of the bearing assembly to line up square with the trigger frame. This provides a free pivoting trigger with little to no side to side play.
The Epiphany wraparound grip is 45 style, and more contoured than that of the Ion – thinner at some points but thicker at others. It is molded of translucent material, along with the accent color and a raised white Smart Parts Logo. At its screw points, the Epiphany wraparound grip is thinner, so it uses shorter grip screws than the Ion. This is an important point, as the use of replacement screws that are too long could interfere with the Epiphany circuit board.
At the bottom of the grip frame is an integrated air system rail. In addition to a pair of standard 10-32 mount screws for an ASA or drop forward, the half-inch rail allows components to slide into place and be locked securely by a 10-32 screw accessed from inside the grip frame. Smart Parts includes their on/off ASA with the Epiphany.
Macroline connects the Epiphany's vertical regulator to its power source. At first glance, the regulator looks like an all new model, with contours and a color matched rubber overlay that blend it in to the rest of the marker. On closer inspection however, one can see that there is a cosmetic alloy sleeve which fits over a regulator that looks remarkably like the Ion regulator.
It is essentially the Ion regulator, with one exception, it has a different main spring allowing it to deliver pressure in a different range than the Ion regulator. This regulator design is also used on the SP-8, and in a sculpted body with a spacer to increase spring pressure, the Shocker NXT.
As with all of Smart Parts' current production markers, the operating pressure, and thus velocity are adjusted by turning an adjuster cap on the bottom of the vertical regulator. An open end wrench is included with the Epiphany for this purpose. Up in the front of the grip frame is the smoothly integrated ASA, into which the regulator connects. On the left side, a low pressure gauge marked from 0 to 300 psi indicates the operating pressure. This is important, as tuning of the Epiphany valve system involves making sure it is operating within a specific pressure range.
In the very front, the breech, the Epiphany has Smart Parts barrel threads. This thread pattern was first introduced on the Impulse, and as of the Shocker NXT release, has become the standard on all of the company's markers.
The stock Epiphany barrel is a Freak JR. style with a .693 inch diameter bore insert. The Epiphany's serial number is engraved in the bottom front of the body breech, and Smart Parts requires that it be intact for warranty support in an effort to reduce trafficking in stolen markers.
The bolt of the Epiphany is Smart Parts' Firebolt. This bolt weighs in at approximately half the weight of the stock Ion bolt
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