Sunday, September 11, 2011

Madbull X-Factor Piston Review

After several delays my reviews on Madbull's recent AEG upgrade parts are finally coming online.  We already looked at the Ultimate V2 Spring Guide which is a solid product that does what it's supposed to do.  Now I'll be showing you the X-Factor piston - Madbull's new lineup of nylon fiber pistons.  I have here the full tooth model.

First Look

I received this product directly from Madbull for this review.  It came packaged like so.

After opening the box, which includes some information on the product, we get this.  A nice looking reddish piston.  Hey, it almost matches that Ultimate V2 Spring Guide!  As you can see this piston features a fifteen (or sixteen, people count differently) full teeth with the first seven being made out of heat-treated steel.  What I like here is that the teeth are fully supported on both sides, contrary to the piston it is replacing.

The X-Factor piston includes three lubricant grooves on each side which is more efficient than the usual one per side.  It's made out of nylon and fiber, similar to Deep Fire pistons which I've used in the past.  This makes it lighter and softer than usual polycarbonate pistons, allowing it to absorb more impact rather than transmitting it.

Unfortunately this piston does not have the second and third teeth closest to the sector gear removed.  The downside to this is that the sector gear might first engage either the second, third or even fourth tooth instead of the first tooth.  This is known as premature engagement and it can cause a number of problems and failures.  Now I'm going to have to use a sharp blade to remove these two teeth after this review.  Other manufacturers have removed the second tooth already (such as VFC, G&G and SHS) so it would be nice to see everyone do it.  Removing the third tooth as well would be better.  

Finally here is the backside of the piston.  The usual seam line runs down it, and unfortunately there are no ports anywhere on the piston to reduce its weight (known as swiss cheesing to some).  Not many pistons come like this, in fact the only ones that come to mind are the Airsoft Elite skeletal piston and SHS 14 tooth piston.  The X-Factor piston is not terribly heavy however, it feels about the same as the stock ICS polycarbonate piston.

So my first impression of the X-Factor piston is what I expected.  I'm impressed by the decent teeth supporting.  I expected it to be heavier than it really is.  It seems sturdy - after mildly flexing it through a rag with pliers it can move a little but go back to its original shape.  Now lets move onto the installation.


For this section I'll briefly go over the installation process into the upper mechbox assembly of an ICS M4A1 R.A.S.  Installing pistons might not always go as planned - some may be too fat to fit properly.  We'll see how this one goes... cross your fingers!

First I must access the mechbox.  Since I have an ICS M4, I only have to remove the rear body pin and then I can slide the upper mechbox assembly out of the gun.  You can find more installation details on if you need them.

Ah, here's that potmetal mechbox.  Lets open that sucker up.  All I need is a Phillips screw driver and a hex key for the rear screw.  Here we have a bunch of stock ICS parts, with the exception of the Madbull Ultimate V2 spring guide I reviewed not so long ago.

We can see here that the Madbull piston looks considerably better than the stock ICS one.  No, I'm not referring to the color aspect.  I'm referring to the fact that only the first metal tooth on the ICS piston is supported, while all of them are supported on the Madbull.  The X-Factor piston also has three lubricant grooves instead of one as well as a more solid feel.

To remove the stock piston I had to twist off the piston head and then remove the spring assembly, which has a little metal end cap which is what the piston head attaches to.  After doing this, I install the spring and end cap into the Madbull X-Factor piston like so.

The next step is to twist on the piston head.  We'll be using a stock ICS polycarbonate piston head which has a nice o-ring seal, but no ports.

Now I install the cylinder assembly, followed by the piston assembly.  I did not bother polishing the piston tracks on the mechbox casing. 

After compressing the spring I then clamped the mechbox shell together and re-installed the screws.  Now we're finished with the mechbox assembly.

The Madbull X-Factor piston fit into the ICS mechbox with no issues, so now there's only one thing left to do... performance testing.


The test setup for the Madbull X-Factor piston is as follows.

  • ICS M4A1 R.A.S. AEG
  • High Current T-Plugs (knockoff Deans)
  • 25A automotive fuse assembly
  • Extreme-fire SW-S MOSFET
  • SHS high speed motor with gold plated connectors
  • SHS 16:1 gears
  • Stock alloy 6mm bushings
  • Element trigger switch assembly with silver plated wire (I believe 18AWG teflon wire)
  • Madbull Ultimate V2 Spring Guide
  • Stock spring (about M100 - M105)
  • Madbull X-Factor Piston
  • Stock ICS polycarbonate piston head
  • Stock ICS brass type-1 cylinder
  • Stock ICS polycarbonate cylinder head
  • Stock ICS polycarbonate air nozzle
  • Stock ICS hop-up bucking and inner barrel
This test weapon fires at approximately 350 FPS and 25-27 RPS with 0.20g BBs and an Intellect 9.6v 2000mah Ni-MH battery.  I will be firing approximately 10,000 BBs through it, making avid but not excessive use of fully automatic.  After doing this, I opened up the mechbox to inspect the piston.

Here is the piston after the testing.  After wiping off some of the gunk that it may have picked up from the mechbox's piston rails and cylinder, we can see that the teeth are in perfect condition.  Do keep in mind that this was only done at 350 FPS and 25-27 RPS.  I will be putting it through more tests over time as I continue to upgrade my gun, which I hope to have shooting at around 400 FPS and 35 RPS soon.  Compared to the stock ICS piston, there is no noticeable wear however I only use the ICS piston in stock configuration (350 FPS and 15-16 RPS).  So I must say here, job well done.


The Madbull X-Factor piston performed well and lived up to my expectations.  It has a moderate weight, similar to the stock piston, and came out after 10,000 rounds at 350 FPS and 25-27 RPS looking brand new.  It didn't damage any other mechbox either due to its moderate weight.  I'll be using this piston as I tweak my gun even more.

  • Build Quality: The Madbull X-Factor piston is strong, has moderate weight, features three lubricant grooves, and includes seven heat-treated steel teeth.  In addition to this, all of the teeth are fully supported on both sides.  However I'll take off a half point because of the fact that the 2nd and 3rd teeth closest to the sector gear are not removed, increasing probability of premature engagement.  4.5/5
  • Performance: The piston came out with no noticeable wear, and it didn't damage any other parts.  The test weapon's rate of fire was not affected since there isn't much of a weight difference between the stock piston and Madbull piston.  5/5
  • Value: Airsplat has both X-Factor pistons listed at $20, which is the same as the Ultimate V2 Spring Guide I just reviewed.  Just like with Madbull's spring guide, this price is higher than many other options out there although it isn't the most expensive piston either.  I think I'll go with a 3.5/5, considering the results shown by others with sub $10 SHS pistons in extremely demanding setups.  Decent but not great value here.
  • Overall: Averaging the above scores, we get a total of 4.33/5


  • Strong nylon fiber build quality
  • Not too heavy
  • Three lubricant grooves
  • Seven heat-treated steel teeth
  • All teeth are fully supported on both sides


  • Does not omit 2nd and 3rd teeth to reduce chances of premature engagement
  • Doesn't include ports anywhere to further reduce weight
  • Price is higher than other tried and true pistons

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