Automag (paintball marker)
The Automag is a
paintballmarker designed by Tom Kaye and produced by Airgun Designs, Inc. It bears the distinction of being the first semi-automatic marker ever to win a paintball tournament. Team Swarm used Automags in their victory at the 1991 International Masters. [ [http://www.paintmagazine.com/wpaint2/mag.shtml Paintmagazine.com] - "Behind The AutoMag", by Mike Wallis, May 1996]
The first Automag was invented in 1990, but was revised several times before its release in 1991. As one of the first generation of semi-automatic paintball markers, its blow forward design was unique. Made mostly from stainless steel, the valve system was the first to incorporate a pressure regulator directly into the marker. The design also allowed for disassembly in the field without tools. The marker also introduced other innovations including a quick release twist lock barrel and the Power Feed, which was an angled feed system that prevented balls from being blown back up into the hopper.
The Panther was the first prototype semi-automatic marker designed by Tom Kaye of Airgun Designs in 1988. Since it was only a prototype it was never offered to the public. The design was sold to Direct Connect, but was never manufactured. AGD bought the design rights back in 1989 through a non-performance clause in the original contract. The blow back design was deemed to be too primitive (because pump markers changed in 1988, they got removable barrels and quickstrip pins) so a second generation prototype "P2" (for Panther Prototype Two) was developed. This second design was also a blow back, and had many problems. It was decided to give up on blow back technology and reverse the whole system to blow forward, because in cold weather, with low pressure gas, you can't get a blow back to recock. This hearalded the beginning of the Automag design which went through two revisions; P3 and P4. The P4 design was released to the public in 1990.
The Automag had several problems when first introduced and the company fixed them through free updates called Level 6 through Level 7. This inspired a loyal customer base and the marker rose to become the most popular tournament marker in the mid-nineties. The Minimag and the Sydarm were introduced as variants with the Sydarm targeted specifically at police training. Later came the RT which incorporated an all new regulator that made shootdown impossible (it could recharge 25 times per second), and had reactive trigger technology. The Level 10 bolt was designed to eliminate ball-chop during high rates of fire. AGD now sells the X-valve, which is the RT Pro valve, made from aluminum, instead of stainless steel and is combined with the Level 10 bolt.
The paintball market has evolved into fully electronic markers and the Automag today retains its reputation as one of the most reliable mechanical markers ever made. Airgun Designs is known for its good tech support, and the Automag enjoys a small following of loyal customers who customize and maintain their markers.
Airgun Designs briefly produced the E-mag and the X-Mag, manufactured by Airgun Designs Europe, to compete in the electronic dominated tournaments, though they have since discontinued their production. Mechanical Automags have had a resurgence in popularity with woodsball and scenario players due to their reliability, compact design, and water resistant qualities.
The Automag uses a blow-forward operation. The idea behind it is to use a constant volume of air at constant pressure each shot, as to exert a constant amount of force each shot, resulting in great consistency. It is also relatively simple:
# The trigger is pulled, the sear closes the on/off valve and releases the bolt a split second later.
# Compressed air in the dump chamber overcomes the force of the bolt spring, pushing the bolt forward. As the bolt travels forward it seals off the feed port and 'uncorks' from the dump chamber. The compressed air from the dump chamber passes through the bolt and propels a paintball down the barrel.
# Once the dump chamber pressure is vented down the barrel, the bolt is returned by a spring.
# The trigger is released
# The on/off valve opens and re-pressurizes the dump chamber
# The dump chamber pushes the bolt forward, which is now held in place by the sear.
# The marker is ready to fire again
The design was the original blow forward paintball marker. The design is also used in many other markers. Currently available new markers that use the blow forward system are the Tiberius Arms line of markers, and the ICD Freestyles. The spool valve marker is also derived from the blow forward operation.
68 Automag Classic
Through the many years of its production there have been a few variants of the Automag, such as the "TKO Automag" or the Minimag. The TKO Automag was no different than any other Automag, except it came preconfigured with some non-stock accessories, such as a barrel, vertical ASA, and bottomline adapter.
The Minimag functionally is the same as an Automag. Cosmetically, it has a longer stainless steel powerfeed body with some venting on the front end. In addition, the stock barrel was a bit shorter, and a vertical ASA with a braided stainess steel line from the ASA to the A.I.R. (Advanced Integrated Regulator) valve. The Automag is ruggedly built, the mainbody and A.I.R. valve being manufactured out of stainless steel. The body rail is a black anodized aluminum extrusion and the grip frame manufactured of a carbon composite.
While the original Classic Automag isn't in production anymore, there is a new version called the Pro/Classic, which has an RT barrel, powerfeed, forgrip, black mainbody, vertical asa, and bottomline ASA.
The Automag RT
In 1996, Airgun Designs released the Automag RT (RT standing for Reactive Trigger). This revolutionary design required high pressure air (HPA) to operate; the rapid decompression involved in the valve would quickly cause CO2 to liquify and freeze the valve's components, thus making the more expensive gas a necessity. This valve uses air pressure to quickly reset the trigger after a shot, thus enabling a faster rate of fire. Shootdown became impossible, as these valves recharged faster than anyone could pull the trigger; in fact, due to their design, they heated up under rapid fire and actually experienced shootup instead. Unfortunately, the original design was fed its gas through the marker's rail, and thus was incompatible as an upgrade to older Automags. This did not fit Airgun Designs' vision of customer support, and it was soon superseded by another design.
The ReTro Valve
The ReTro Valve was a new version of the RT valve, designed to be compatible with older Automags. While initially sold as an upgrade, it soon became the standard for all new high-end Automags, and was used as the basis for the MicroMag, a collaborative project with PTP (Pro Team Products). It was also used as the initial valve for the E-Mag. This valve, like the Classic valve, was made out of stainless steel. It was capable of an estimated 26 BPS fire before shootdown.
The X-Valve and the advent of UltraLight Engineering (ULE)
The advent of 700 billet aluminum meant that components no longer had to be made of stainless steel in order to be both strong and light. This aluminum, while more expensive, allowed for a significant weight savings in most components of the marker. The X-Valve is functionally identical to the ReTro Valve, but is made of aluminum instead of stainless steel. This results in an approximately 50% weight savings for no loss in durability or performance. The same concept was applied to the mainbodies, and the result was UltraLight Engineering (ULE). In addition to the weight savings, aluminum could be anodized instead of painted, allowing for more impressive colors and designs. The end result is a much lighter marker than any in the previous generations; indeed, Automags are some of the lightest markers available today. The lighter components also yielded some minor performance increases; the X-Valve has been unofficially tested to perform in excess of 30 BPS with no shootdown.
The E-Mag is an electronic Automag. Like other Automags, it has gone through different versions corresponding to advances to the Automag platform like the ReTro Valve, the Level 10 anti-chop system and the X-valve. Unlike most electronic markers, the E-mag is capable of firing in both electronic and mechanical modes through means of a readily available selector switch, and the battery is rated for approximately 10 cases of paint. This is in stark contrast to other electronic markers that must be recharged frequently or risk going down in the middle of a game. The E-Mag uses an unusual Hall effect sensor trigger instead of the more common microswitch, and the sensitivity of this magnetic trigger system gives the E-Mag a reputation for having hair trigger. Indeed, there have been many instances where the marker has fired from a slight jar instead of an intentional trigger pull. As a result, the safety is a very reliable actuator interrupt, and the marker is physically incapable of firing with it engaged.
The X-Mag was basically the same marker as the E-Mag electronically, except it also included the ACE(Anti-Chop Eye). The components included the original introduction of the X-Valve, originally engraved with an XMag symbol, and now just an X. It wasn't always called the X-Mag. It originally was called the Extreme E-Emag which later became X-Mag for short. The body of the X-Mag was a single piece instead of the body-rail combo that all previous AGD mags used. The main feature of the X-Mag, besides the one-piece body, was the removable breeches, which allowed users to change the feed port from center feed to warpfeed left or warpfeed right. There were some rare colors produced just as in every previous run. Magma and Placenta were two of the colors that had runs of 3 or less. The original X-Mag was considered somewhat "blocky-looking," so AGD ran the body through a computer controlled CNC milling machine. The result was a lighter, more attractive marker named the C&C X-Mag.
The original Automag design has evolved into other products and is the heart of the
FN303Less Lethal Weapon System deployed by police and military all over the world.
* [http://www.automags.org AutoMags.org] - Official Automag support page, owned and operated by Airgun Designs.
* [http://www.automags.org/forums/showthread.php?t=161698 List Of Automag Levels] - A list of automag levels by AGD, and the changes made. Automags.org thread.
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