I want to let you know a little about me so you can see where the FT-12 review comes from as far as my experience. I spent my college years working as a paintball tech for The Dragon's Den in Poughkeepsie, NY.
While in college I bought my first Tippmann, a used Pro-Lite, and then went on to not only master the care and repair of it, but also the Carbine series, the Model 98 and its successors and most of the older Tippmanns including the Factory F/A and even a few SMGs. I also dealt with the full lines of Kingman, AGD, WGP, and WDP markers as well as some of the lesser known companies like Mokal, ICD, and the like. In short, if it shot paint and was powered by CO2 or HPA/N2, I sold it, used it, and fixed it. I played tournament ball in college as the captain of The Culinary Institute of America's NCPA paintball team and played NPPL sanctioned tournaments in the North East with my store's team. These days I just play recreational paintball, both woodsball and speedball, whenever I get the chance (which is about once a month.)
That said, here are my thoughts on the FT-12.
From the field/rental perspective:
The short of it is this; I wish I had this thing in my rental fleet back when I worked in the paintball industry. Until the advent of the FT-12, the easiest marker to deal with from a rental aspect was the Pro-Lite. While it probably isn't a Tippmann sanctioned method of cleaning a marker, most fields simply slid the fore-grip forward and hosed out the breech and barrel and then shot a little marker oil into the ASA and dry-fired it dry. With the receiver being a solid piece and inline, there really wasn't much to go wrong if water got worked rearward from the breach. This obviously isn't an option for the '98 which had far looser tolerances and tons of gaps inside the marker.
Now, I know that there isn't much that water can do to a CVX valve, but we had issues with springs rusting out, especially the front sight spring, with the 98. So when we had to open the clamshell up to thoroughly clean things, or replace worn out parts, it was a hassle.
The FT-12 definitely removes the chance of shooting springs across the workshop when opening the marker up. The cleanup is everything it is advertised to be, and quite honestly, after my day of play (with a motorized hopper) there wasn't much to clean up anyway. I don't know what the plans are with the trigger group as I haven't “putzed” around with it yet (but will try to this weekend) so I'm not sure how easy it would be to rebuild, but knowing that it's a drop-in system, it means as a theoretical field owner, I'd be able to keep a few spares ready to go to just drop right in should something go bad. That would mean less down time for my markers, and less down time = more markers on the field = more money in my pocket. I also like the durability you've kept with this marker. It feels rugged and stable. What's more, the looks of it really appealed to a lot of the rental players on the field when I had it out. There was quite a bit of "marker envy" going on, even with the walk-on Mil-Sim crowd. Finally, it's an easy one to break down in the field. As a theoretical ref, I'd be able to pull it apart right there in the dead-zone and make o-ring changes or other fairly simple repairs that I would have had to send the marker back to the armory to deal with if it was a model '98 or Pro-Lite. This is huge as the more time I can keep players on the field and in the game, the more paint they shoot, and again, the more money I have in my pocket at the end of the day. I also like that the velocity screw is now horizontal. This means less chance of it falling out in the field.
I had multiple velocity adjustment screws go missing from my pro-lite after a long day of playing, and the same would go for the rental fleet of 98's I maintained. It just feels more solidly in place and less prone to falling out from vibration.
As a player
First and foremost, you get points for style. It's got a great look to it without being over-the-top mil-sim. I like the compactness of the marker. It allows for better "tucking in" when hiding behind cover compared to a lot of the contemporary markers out there. I really like how sturdy the top-cocking lever is. ACI had attempted this years ago with the F4-Illustrator, but it was flimsy and never really worked well. The finish on the barrel is definitely better than the old '98 stock barrel, but I'd like to see a slightly smaller bore size for the retail version of the marker. While the stock accuracy is definitely better than previously, it still doesn't stand up to a lot of other stock barrel offerings out there (albeit in slightly higher-end marker classes). I also really like the new quick-release system for the feed neck. No more springs to worry about, and it is definitely secure with even the most vigorous activity. The blade trigger with its 1-1/2 finger length is fantastic as well. It prevented me from getting fatigued in my hand even in the heaviest of firefights. Overall, it's a very good, rugged marker that will definitely appeal to first-time buyers and the mil-sim crowd. It'll definitely remain in my lineup for my trips to the field!
Thoughts for the future:
I'd love to see this thing get an e-trigger. as compact and SMG-stylized as it is, it'd make a wonderful CQB marker for close encounters in house assaults, "castle" games, etc. I'd also like to see Tippmann offer some higher-end barrels for it, but keep the length short like it is for the stock barrel. A little smaller bore size with a mirror-like finish would definitely help in the overall accuracy while keeping it compact. Something an aftermarket barrel will lose with a 12",14", or greater length. I'd also like to see a folding stock developed for it. Keep that Uzi/MAC-10 feel with the wire-folder that tucks underneath or over-top. Perhaps you could incorporate it into the cut-out for the "barrel sock" cord at the back of the flip-top. Finally, I think that you could probably do well making other style uppers for this thing. It'd be a huge "pro" for milsim players to be able to swap out the flip-top on the fly to change up their marker for different scenarios. You could have the sub-machinegun style for CQB, you could have AR or Bullpup style flip-tops for in-the-field action, and even heavy machinegun flip-tops for those heavy-support players.
All in all, I think Tippmann has done a pretty good job on the FT-12. It's a great one for the field owners, and as a retail offering.