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AGD Level 10 Launch Party
by Bill Mills
On July 13, 2002 AirGun Designs Automag owners from across the Eastern United States gathered in New Jersey for the official launch of AGD’s eagerly awaited Level 10 modification.
One of the criticisms most commonly leveled at AirGun Designs’ paintguns are that they have a tendency to chop paint in the breech. Typically this stems from feed problems, when a ball has not fully entered the breech before the bolt closes to fire, and it is then broken by the force of the bolt. While AGD’s Warp Feed took care of this issue by forcing the balls into the breech more quickly, many players disliked the added weight and bulk, despite the decreased target silhouette it provided.
Through late 2001 and early 2002, AGD performed a substantial amount of research into ball breakage, and studying how and where paint could be broken in Automags. Following this, they produced the Level 10 upgrade kit.
Level 10 can be installed in any Automag, and replaces the stock bolt with a substantially lighter weight bolt. It also replaces the bolt spring, and the power tube tip and seals with a new arrangement. The new parts change the amount of force used to close the Automag’s bolt, making it user adjustable by changing out parts, much the way an Autococker owner would change valve and hammer springs to adjust hammer pressure. The result is a bolt that closes with a light pressure for the first half of it’s stroke, and then a harder pressure at the end of the stroke before firing a ball. If a ball is not properly fed, the bolt simply bounces off of it, and resets while the ball falls into place. The kit can literally be adjusted to the point that light pressure of the ball retention nubbins is enough to keep the bolt from closing. An early Level 10 demonstration consisted of rolling up a dollar bill, placing it in an Automag feed neck, and showing that it was enough to prevent firing, but that it would come out undamaged.
In late Spring 2002, a number of Level 10 kits were distributed to members of Automags.Org, AGD’s online user support community as a part of their beta testing program. After feedback from users in the field, the Level 10 Kit official product launch came on the 13th. To celebrate, an Automags.Org party was held at the not yet open Paintballistix field in New Jersey. The field is a partnership between Paintballistix store and product line owner Mel Maravilla and Steve Liss. Liss and Maravilla are planning to open the field officially in Fall 2002, but decided to host the party and give players a preview look at their field.
The activities of the day were sponsored by Airgun Designs, Paintballistix, Kick’n Paint, and Jacko packs from Planet/Eclipse. Team Black Cell also kicked in with charcoal grills going around lunch time to keep everyone fed, and help with event planning. The morning started as usual for a paintball field – with players arriving and signing in waivers. Field and air fees were a full $5 with entry to the 3 man tournament costing $20 per team. Multiple grades of Kick'n’paint were available at discounted pricing.
There were a few hiccups in the day’s plan. Power problems on site kept the scheduled band from being able to power their instruments, and left no power for a compressor, so compressed air was brought to the site in tanks, and a booster pump was used to get 4500 psi fills.
Despite the brief delays in morning set-up, players were out on the fields getting a sneak peak at what the Paintballistix field has to offer. They were enjoying the single wooded and two concept fields. According to Steve Liss, PBX should have another wooded field and possibly another concept field by the time it opens. The wooded field is long and narrow, with a ridge in the center and both natural and manmade bunkers. The center ridge led to a number of occasions where players got flanked, or even backshot, unaware that someone had advanced past them on the opposing tapeline.
AGD sales rep and service tech Jon Comprado figured it would be a good idea to test out some of the AGD Sydarm Automag pistols that were planned for use later in the day during the Top Gun competition. He and I each packed a pistol in a holster and took to the wooded field. With only eight shots in the spring fed magazine, and enough gas for twice that in the 12 gram CO2 power source, we figured our best bet was to take the opposition by surprise. We carefully moved down the tapeline, looking like casual observers, facing so that our armbands were downfield, and not too easily seen. Our hope was that the opposing team would advance past us, giving us the chance to take a couple by surprise. That was not to be, as a hail of paint came in on us after 3 or 4 minutes of standing out in the open.
We then headed to the concept fields. Both fields were netted, and the ground surface was a combination of grasses and clover. The PBX staff seeded the area in clover because it is fast growing (it is a weed) and fills in faster with less maintenance than grass. It worked very well, and gave a bit of cushioning to players diving into a spot. One of the two fields used Sup’Air bunkers in the familiar JT yellow and black color scheme. The other was made from corrugated sewer pipe. Jon and I once again jumped in a game with the Sydarms on the pipe field. I was gone with a hit to the shoulder while diving into the snake, so I tossed my Sydarm to Jon on the way out (Sure, it violated the rules of tournaments, but this was a game purely for fun). Comprado began popping up wielding a Sydarm in each hand, which soon got the attention of the players on the sidelines who started cheering and rooting for him. Player after player was taken out, while Jon stayed in the game, eventually going down in a one on one after a run and dive from his central bunker into the snake.
Moments later the captain’s meeting for the 3 man tournament was held. I found myself playing for team Hello Kitty with JJ Ontiveros, another of the sales reps from Airgun Designs, and Clare, Airgun’s new spokesmodel. Games ran into the mid-afternoon, with a lunch break halfway through the prelims. With 8 teams competing, the rankings were to be based on the prelim scores, except for the top two teams, which would have a head to head game to determine first place.
The mood at the field was entirely lighthearted. Since the vast majority of the attendees were a part of the Automags.Org online community, and knew each other already people felt comfortable leaving their gear unattended (unlike most events where paintguns have a way of walking off on their own). Certainly almost every player shooting an Automag is a sight not commonly seen anymore, as the market for tournament level paintguns has become so broad. Players regularly congratulated the team that just beat them, or the player who had just shot them. While they gave their all in the game, the focus was on fun and enjoyment far more than who was winning.
As he totaled the prelim scores, Mel Maravilla found that the scoreboard showed Hello Kitty tied with Who Cares for second place. In a fashion very different than a typical tournament, neither team argued about who would go on to the final game, but both told Maravilla that they would be happy with whatever his decision was. A re-check of the score totals found a math error, before any tie breakers had to be figured out.
Who Cares was the legitimate second place team, and they played in their final game against Team Pickup. Who Cares won, taking home first place – Level 10 conversion kits for their team.
Possibly the most entertaining game was the last of the prelims against Kaiser Bob’s Newbies and Team Pickup. AO member “Kaiser Bob” headed straight off the break to a stand-up cone bunker on the 30, unfolded a lawn chair and camped out, fanning the trigger on his E-Mag. After a few seconds in that position he shot the Team Pickup member who tried to flank him, and held his ground for a surprisingly long time before the two remaining Pickup players took out both him and his teammates.
The three man tournament was followed by the Top Gun competition. Rather than a typical one on one game, this was an old-school duel. The competitors holstered their Sydarms, paced off ten paces then spun and shot. Cheers from the sidelines erupted when some players managed to goggle an opponent on the first shot and other games ended in a tie with both players having emptied their 8 shot magazines without a hit. The Top Gun winner was Danny "Danz" Rivera, a player on team Stud Squad from Brooklyn, NY. Rivera received an AGD Warp Feed for winning.
As the day wound down, many players headed for home, while others gathered around Jon Comprado for some technical discussions about Level 10. Beta testers shared their feedback and experience about which spring and o-ring carrier combinations were working best for them, and any problems they had encountered, and Comprado shared what AGD had been learning from other users.
Not only was the party a fun day of paintball, but it also showed what an online community can be – both on and offline.
Author’s notes: Dawn and I had a great time at the AO Level 10 launch party. It’s rare that I am able to actually play in a tournament (generally PigTV and WARPIG keep my hands very full) so I’m most appreciative that Dawn shouldered the photography burdon, and that JJ and Clare asked me to join their team. It was a blast. It was great to meet a lot of the AO members that I’ve only known online previously. I’d like to especially thank Mel and Suanne Maravilla who acted as our hosts not only at the field, but to see some of the sights, culture and food around Manhattan. Our visit began riding in JJ’s car to dinner with several AO’ers in Manhattan’s China Town. We rolled past the NYPD first precinct building with Tony Bennet singing “New York State of Mind” on the CD player, and that kind of set the tone for the weekend.
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