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Airgun Designs, Inc. (AGD) is a manufacturer of paintball markers and equipment formerly based in Wheeling, IL. The company is now based in Cary, IL. They are best known for manufacturing the Automag paintball marker. Tom Kaye founded AGD in 1987. As one of the oldest paintball companies in existence, AGD has been responsible for several innovations now common on the paintball scene.
Since its introduction in 1990, many variations of the original Automag have been put into production. They differ in valve type, stock accessories, and other features.
1990- 68 Automag 1991- Minimag 1992- Sydarm 1996- RT 2000- RT Pro 2000- Emag 2002- Xmag
The Automag was one of AGD's first products, and initially, its most successful. The Automag holds the distinction of being the first semi-automatic marker to win a paintball tournament (Team Swarm at the 1990 International Masters). As a result of this early notoriety, AGD rocketed to the top of the paintball scene in the early 1990s, garnering a reputation as one of the leading manufacturers of paintball markers. Indeed, the automag, along with autocockers, was a common sight at major paintball tournaments.
The Minimag's main feature was its longer, stylized mainbody. It also came stock with a vertical adapter and a shorter barrel. The valve is identical to the 68 Automag valve, but with different laser engraving.
The Sydarm was originally developed for police training, featuring a horizontal magazine and integrated 12g adapter. Within a year of its introduction to the public, AGD restricted its sales of the sydarm to police only. Sydarms are now a collector's item.
The RT was a great leap in the Automag line. It featured AGD's new valve system, which refilled the dump chamber at full input pressure instead of regulated pressure. This allowed the marker to be able to shoot more than 26 balls per second (some claim as high as 36 balls per second) at a consistent velocity. The RT also featured internal airlines, a stylized mainbody, and a reactive trigger. The reactive trigger enables the user to reach the RT's high BPS by resetting the trigger with air pressure after a shot has been fired. When a certain force is applied to the trigger, the marker will fire with a "full-auto" effect.
The RT Pro featured the same valve system as the RT, but with parts that are compatible with earlier models. Unlike the RT, the RT Pro's valve had the same Outer Diameter as the valves on the 68 Automag, Minimag, and Sydarm (the RT Pro valve is not compatible with the Sydarm). The RT Pro's airlines were routed externally, as in previous models. This allowed the use of a standard fieldstrip screw, which in the RT was air-thru.
AGD was slow to integrate electronics into its markers, however, and by the late 1990s, the rise of electropneumatic paintball markers caused the company to lose market share and slowly slip in prominence. In order to remain competitive, AGD introduced the E-mag and later, the X-mag line. AGD now focuses on manufacturing mechanical markers and equipment for scenario and woodsball players.
Other AGD innovations
AGD's Warp Feed is a force feed system used to feed paintballs into a marker. It is fed by a hopper set on the top of the actual warp feed system. The main purpose is to give a player a lower profile, while maintaining extremely high feed rates. This was the first commercially produced under-the-barrel force feed system on the market. The warp feed isn't really a loader but rather a ball accelerator. Paintballs are fed from a loader, and when the Warp Feed senses the vibration from the marker firing, the Warp Feed begins turning disks inside, and accelerates the paintballs into the elbow of the paintball marker.
Ultra Light Trigger (ULT)
The Ultra Light Trigger was designed by Tom Kaye in order to evolve the Automag. It reduced the trigger pull from nearly 6 lbf (27 N) to a mere 16 ozf (4.4 N) trigger pull. This allowed mechanical markers to have the light feel of an electronic marker giving players an alternative. This innovation of the ULT also allowed players to pull the trigger at a higher rate than what they could before. Realistically players can reach speeds of 1-14 balls per second depending on how fast they can pull the trigger.
Level Ten Bolt
The Level Ten, or Level X bolt is AGD's answer to the ball breakage issues that plague players. This drop-in upgrade eliminates the need for the powerfeed design on older body styles and was ushered in with the Ultra Light Engineered vertical feed body. Most modern electronic markers rely on electronic "eyes" to prevent chops, consisting of either an Infra-red sensor or an LED/Light Sensor combination. When a paintball enters the breech, the eyes complete the firing circuit and allow the firing cycle to continue. The Level X upgrade, however, does not rely on electronics, and is thus not susceptible to problems associated with dirty or uncalibrated eyes.
When installed correctly, the bolt accelerates with minimal force through the first part of the breech. Upon reaching a certain point, it goes to full speed to seal the breech and fire. If it comes upon an obstruction while accelerating, the bolt releases the blow-forward gas in a chuffing sound, allowing the ball to settle while resetting into a ready-to-fire position. Because of the gentle initial acceleration, if a ball is half-fed, it will never be broken by the bolt's impact.
Ultra Light Engineering
One of the products of the Ultra Light Engineering from Tom Kaye was the aluminum vertical feed bodies. These ULE vertical bodies gave players a tighter profile when playing paintball. These bodies use Autococker threaded barrels and Angel threaded feednecks and ball-detents. This made the powerfeed tube design obsolete since chopping was no longer a problem with the help of the level ten bolt and agitated/force feed loaders. The use of aluminum instead of stainless steel dropped the weight of the automag significantly, allowing players a tighter as well as lighter marker setup.
Six Pack +
One of the original products designed and introduced by AGD, the 6Pak+ was a lever and cam operated 12-gram changer capable of holding six 12-gram gas cartridges in a spring-operated magazine and another in the gun adapter (seven cartridges total and the reason for the '+' in the name). Offered as an effective alternative to pump gun players who were unwilling, or prevented by tournament rules, to make the switch to 'constant air' (large capacity air tanks), the SixPak+ sold out its initial run upon being introduced at the Lively Masters national event. Today, this system is very expensive to buy and can rarely be found new.