The ION was developed in almost total secrecy by Smart Parts and took the competition completely unawares when it was released in March 2005. Here was a low cost high performance spool valve marker at a price point no one thought possible.
The RRP of the ION was $275US when it was released and this price dropped even further later on. The secret to this low price was the combination of a cheap plastic exoskeleton, a newly designed low cost solenoid valve, few moving parts and the use of internal tubing instead of machined in air lines.
Not surprisingly, the ION sold like hot cakes with over 100,000 markers sold in one year. The only downside to this popular paintball marker was maintenance. The whole marker needed to be stripped to clean the bolt which wasn’t really ideal. Fortunately this issue was addressed in 2007 with the release of the ION XE. Now the bolt could be removed from the rear of the marker for maintenance.
One of the neat features of the ION XE was that the plastic parts could be bought as a kit. So one week your ION XE could be blue, the next hot pink!
But the ION story doesn’t stop there. Smart Parts also released two premium versions of the ION. First there was the Epiphany released in 2006. This featured a magnesium alloy exoskeleton instead of the ION’s plastic, a freak junior barrel with one insert, a proper ASA, an upgraded bolt (firebolt) and an adjustable volume fire chamber using sleeves.
After the ION XE was released, Smart Parts offered a new premium version of the ION called the EOS. This offered all the features of the Epiphany plus a few more. But the biggest improvement was the removable end cap from the XE which allowed for easy maintenance.