This story starts out in the late 1980s with Marcus Neely. Marcus played for the infamous semi-pro Line-SI sponsored team "Gang Green" in New England. He was a brilliant inventor who loved paintball. His fabrication skills, however, were not as brilliant so he contacted Jim Masse, a local machinist. Jim was a well known in paintball for helping design some of the pump guns made by TASO. A partnership was formed where Marcus would come up with the ideas, and Jim did the fabrication work.
After some serious review of the market, Marcus realized the money was in Bushmaster clones. Guns like the Rebline, Bloodsucker, and Phantom were all top sellers. His paintball team was sponsored by LINE SI, so he was very familiar with the Bushmaster gun. 16 prototypes were made, named "J-Marc". The name is a combination of "Jim" and "Marcus". Here is a pic of the original Bushmaster next to the "J-Marc":
The J-Marc is very interesting because it had many features that would later be found in the later Z-1 guns. Most notably the J-Marc used the unique Bushmaster "Slip-Fit" barrel system, and trigger guard. Marcus enhanced the design with the "squared" body, angled site-rail, longer grip-frame and bolt-on feed. All those features were later carried over to the Z-1 line.
The J-Marc pump project was cancelled when they noticed the trend of DOUBLE-ACTIONS flooding the market. This new technology seemed to be the future of paintball, with guns like the NSG Rapide/Gator, and Brass Eagle Barracuda/Jag. So in 1999, they produced a double-action prototype called the J-Marc II.
The design was similar to the ICD Advantage and worked well. Unfortunately they were unable to secure distributors since the Tippmann 68-Special just hit the market, and the double-action market vanished. There was some discussion about trying to sell to players in the UNITED KINGDOM because the UK had a ban on semi-autos, but allowed double-actions. However, there was some tension between Jim and Marcus. Apparently, Marcus found Jim terribly difficult to work with, and felt that Jim was taken credit for Marcus's ideas. Likewise, So they parted ways. One this is for sure: The distinct look of the early guns was all the idea of Marcus. He really pushed for the "Square body" look that later became the trademark of all Montneel guns.
Enter Moe Dumont
Moe graduated from ITT-Tech in 1988 with a degree in "Industrial Technology". To celebrate, the graduating class played a game of paintball at a local field in Massachusetts. At that field Moe met Marcus, and they instantly became friends.
Marcus was called the "Mad Scientist" because he had all sorts of brilliant ideas for paintball, but did not have the technical skill to get his ideas from his head to reality. Moe was a college educated fabrication engineer, who did not know much about paintball. They made a good team.
Marcus again looked at the market, and saw the Tippmann 68-Special was out selling all other guns on the market by a huge margin. Instead of producing another failed gun, they decided to focus on the 68-Special, and produce aftermarket accessories.
To sell these products, Moe and Marcus formed "ICON DESIGNS Inc". According to Moe, he picked the name out of a dictionary, and thought it sounded cool. After a few adds were placed in APG using that name, NSG threatened to sue over the use of the name "Icon". NSG, aka "National Survival Games" is the company that made the popular "Survival Game" Splatmaster pistol in the 1980s.
NSG apparently made a special version of the Splatmaster for Law Enforcement training, called the "Icon Splatmaster". It was identical to the regular Splatmaster, except the name was changed because NSG felt that the title "Survival Game" would create a negative image for marketing for Law Enforcement training. More importantly, NSG owned the trademark for the name "ICON" for use in paintball. Interestingly, NSG also owned the trademark for another gun called the "Gurn-Z".
To avoid any trouble, Moe and Marcus agreed to stop using the name, and immediately use a different name. Like the J-Marc, they decided on combing there names together to make "MONTNEEL". A mix of "duMONT" and "NEELy".
People forget how revolutionary the Tippmann 68-Special was. It was the first reliable, mass-produced, direct-fed semi-auto, and was extremely popular. This was despite some serious flaws in the design. Most notably, the 68-Special was badly inefficient, and sliced paint when fired at certain angles.
To remedy this, Montneel designed a "68-Special Performance Kit" that consisted of: A brass Breech-Sleeve (to prevent chops), and custom valve which included a totally reduced "hi flow" cupseal (to double efficiency, and improve consistency/accuracy). The only problem was that Montneel was an unknown company, so they made a deal with BULLSEYE PAINTBALL to distribute all of there products.
The kits were a huge success, and considered "Standard Equipment" by most 68-Special owners. The Montneel parts allowed the 68-Special to remain competitive longer after Tippmann replace the 68-Special with the improved Tippmann PRO/AM paintgun
Shortly after the 68-Special came out, better guns were hitting the market that did not have the problems that the 68-Special had (ie Illustrator), and it didn't take long for Montneel to realize that the market for 68-Special accessories was short lived. They decided they would produce there own semi-auto. The concept was simple: Start with the "Enhanced 68-Special", and add some of the refinements that Marcus and Masse created for the J-Marc I/II bushmaster clones.
A major problem was the lack of decent machine shops that were local to southern Massachusetts. Another problem was Marcus had just been robbed, so they began looking for a new place to move to. After some searching, they agreed on north-eastern Pennsylvania. The main reason was a wealth of machine shops, and other fabrication facilities. Another bonus was that Marcus had family in Montrose, as well as a huge paintball player base. In particular was "Wolfs Lair". It was owned by Mike Hanse (who would later sell it and join Montneel) who allowed them to setup there initial shop in some unused space.
The goal for there first gun was an efficient, fast, reliable semi-auto, and is tournament-ready "out of the box". By mid 1991, Montneel had 12 prototypes built. They were given the name BULLSEYE ICON-Z since Bullseye was still contractually the sole distributor, The name "Icon-Z" came about because Moe really liked the name "Icon". It was originally going to be the company name, but NSG threatened to sue, and they used "Montneel" instead. However, NSG was out of business now, so they felt it was safe to use the name "Icon" for the name of the gun. The "Z" part of the name was a jab at NSG, as they also produced a gun called the Gurn-Z.
The prototypes were distributed to various teams, companies, and magazines for evaluation. This was in the summer of 1991.
Unfortunately, these prototypes had a serious problem: Every shot fired curved to the right! The source of the problem was discovered to be the side-mounted FPS adjuster. Somehow it was adding a lateral spin that produced the curve. Moe redesigned the valve, which moved the adjusted BELOW the valve, and in theory product a small amount of backspin. This is significant because shortly after the Z-1 was released; it gained a reputation as a "Cheater gun" because it could shoot farther then other guns. I personally think this was do to improper chrono techniques, though the Apex barrels shows it really could have been spin-related.
With the Z-1, Montneel retained the 68-Special 2-piece receiver, internal gas-line, liquid valve, and lightweight bolt-link, but used the external appearance of the JMarc double-action, and pump guns designed years earlier. Marcus really pushed to retain the unique appearance that became the signature style of all Montneel guns.
The 68-Special also had a very crude delayed-bolt system. Montneel refined this with an elaborate spring-loaded design. Around this time Tippmann released there own enhanced version of the 68-Special called the "Pro/Am", but Tippman went the opposite route making the Pro/Am a cheaper, simplier entry-level gun. The Pro/Am would eventually evolve into the Tippmann Carbine
An early design choice by Montneel was to have the Z-1 run on LIQUID CO2 exclusively. Running liquid co2 gave you impressive benefits, like no shoot down, no hot shots, and extremely good consistency. Unfortunately, it was also fairly inefficient, and hard on internal orings, requiring a fairly balanced valve-system, combined with some beefy synthetics for orings.
Montneel also made the unusual choice to bead-blast the finish to reduce glare, and they moved the cocking knob from the traditional LEFT side, to the RIGHT side. The idea was that it meant you could fire while snug against a bunker without worrying about the knob hitting something. It also meant that the "vapor cloud" would not be blasting you in the face when you fired.
However, I have also heard that the original reason was really that Moe was left handed.
The ICON-Z was released in late 1991. It retailed at $450 and was a huge hit, especially in the North-East where it was nearly impossible to gets mags and cockers to run well in the cold. However, there were problems. Montneel contracted a local machine shop named "Circle-T" to assist with the prototyping, and fabrication work. They were located a mile up the street in South Montrose, Pa. It was at Circle-T were the first 100 guns were made, and where most of the "Bugs" were worked out. However, the problem with Circle-T was tolerances, and quality control.
Parts were not interchangeable, and Circle-T was making unapproved changes to the design. Basically, it was too complicated for Circle-T to produce so many different complex parts. After the 100 were made, Montneel had to dump Circle-T as the primary fabricator, and find another shop.
This change came at a hard time, as APG magazine just did a favorable review in the Feb-1992 issue. Demand for the gun increased, but Montneel had none to sell. They had to ask APG to give back the gun. APG also ran a "Gun Giveaway Contest" in the March-1992 issue. It was won by Barbara Goodman, but again, they did not have any actual guns, and the winner had to wait many months until Montneel was able to locate another machine shop, and start up production.
Unfortunately, they were unable to find a single suitable facility, so instead they hired 4 small shops to each make a section of the gun. This way, each shop would not be overwhelmed, and they could keep quality extremely high by focusing on specific parts. Then, all the parts would come to the Montrose proshop to be "fine tuned", finished, assembled, and shipped to Bullseye for distribution. About 400 guns were made by these shops.
Moe took this opportunity to make some improvements to the design. The valve was redesigned to better handle liquid. Non-liquid valves were also released for hot climates, and color coded. (ie Blue and Red). The trigger was improved for speed, and the roll-pins were replaced with solid dowel pins. The single detent was replaced with a dual-detent. The original nylon bolt was replaced with an aluminum version.
There was still concern that the parts from the various shops would be out of spec, and not fit together with parts from other shops. To handle this problem, Moe revised the blueprints so that certain critical parts were purposely OVER SIZED. This way, once they arrive at Montneel, any variance in the specs would be fixed when they trimmed the parts to exact specs. A good example of this is the sear, of which needed very critical specifications. In fact, years later when clones started to appear, many did not function properly because they were based on the Icon-Z blueprints which contained the OVER SIZED specs, and not the actual "finished" specs!
The demand for the Icon-Z surprised Montneel, and orders quickly became backlogged well beyond what the small shop in Montrose could finish and ship. For assistance, they started shopping around for larger machine shops. In particular, they went to "Akraturn Manufacturing" to produce 1,000 barrels. Akraturn instead said they wanted to produce -all- the parts. They offered to produce the entire gun cheaper then Montneel was currently paying the 4 smaller shops.
Akraturn was owned by "Walt Gardner" AKA the "Millionaire Hillbilly", and run by his son Dave Gardner. Akraturn was a large fabrication facility. This was great news because the small shops they were working with could not produce the parts fast enough, and the contract with Bullseye had a quota they needed to fill.
So Montneel cancelled contracts will all the small shops, and gave all the blueprints to Akaturn. parts for 1,000 complete guns were ordered, and to be delivered in 4 weeks. After 3 weeks, Akaturn said they needed a couple more weeks. Then in a couple weeks, they needed a couple more weeks. During this time Montneel had no guns to ship to Bullseye, and Bullseye was getting angry. Finally, 8 weeks later, a shipment arrived, but instead of complete parts, it contained only barrels and valves. No receivers or any other parts.
Akaturn said they were too busy to make the other parts, but still demanded to be paid. Montneel had no money, since they could not sell barrels and valves. They needed all the parts in order to finish them, and send to Bullseye. So, desperately, Montneel went back to the shops they worked with before, and asked them for help. They refused, then demanded TRIPLE what they were paid before. They knew how desperate Montneel was to sell a finished product. Months had already gone by without a single gun to sell.
Once they received enough parts to build a few hundred guns, they shipped them off to Bullseye. At this point, the guns were no longer bead-blasted. The shop that did the work would no longer work with Montneel. Unfortunately, this meant when a bead-blasted Z-1 came in for repair, or upgrades, Montneel would have to use NON bead-blasted parts, making a few owners unhappy when there guns came back with a mixed finish. Montneel also stopped porting the barrel on stock guns.
Bullseye, angry over the many delays, refused to pay the $30,000 that they owned Montneel. Montneel was then unable to pay the $30,000 they owed Akaturn.
Akraturn sued Montneel, and Montneel sued Bullseye. It quickly became very ugly, and Moes lawyer said "At times like this, the only winner is the lawyers. Just declare bankruptcy and walk away". And that is what they did. They closed the shop, and declared bankruptcy.
A few months later Doug Gardner, the son of Walt, approached Moe, and told him he would like to get Montneel up and running again, despite what happened in the past. Walt also put some money into the company, and the owners were now: Walt, Doug, Moe and Marcus. They quickly returned to producing the Icon-Z at a new factory in New Milford Pennsylvania. Primarily using the machine shop Doug owned "Protofab". Montneel needed a new primary distributor, and went with "National Paintball Supply", or NPS.
Also around this time in Dec-1992, one of the Montneel machinists, Mark Silar, had an idea to adapt a Montneel to work similar to an Automag, with an on/off trigger, and spool-valve. Both Mark and Marcus spent a few weeks working on the idea, and eventually Moe and Craig also contributed to the project.
It was a fully pneumatic, spool-based, blow-forward Montneel. The name was called the "LEGEND". The design was very advanced, and featured a clever anti-chop mechanism, the first in paintball. Marcus insisted that the design be based on the original Montneel platform, so it could still utilize the Icon-Z forward breech assembly. But that meant that the complicated pneumatics had to be shoehorned into the main receiver and frame, giving the prototype an awkward look.
The performance was fantastic, and Montneel took the prototype to "National Paintball Supply" to look for a distributor. Gino, president of NPS, absolutely loved the gun, and wanted Montneel to produce it immediantly. Bob Long, of Ironmen, heard about the prototype, and wanted to use the gun as well. But there was a problem. The spool-valve mechanism could not handle CO2 very well, and suffered from many of the problems that the Automag had. It worked awesome with HPA, but Gino felt that HPA was not common enough, and backed out of the deal, and instead wanted Montneel Z-1s. SO, the design was dropped.
This created some tension between Montneel and NPS. Montneel had put a great deal of research and development into the LEGEND, only to have NPS back out at the last second. Gino of NPS was also making new demands. NPS wanted an exclusive distribution deal, cheaper wholesale prices, and increased production quotas. Montneel responded to these demanded by ripping up their existing NPS contract, and decided to market the gun directly. This made Gino very angry. So angry that he came up with a fairly clever plan to pay back Montneel-
Gino found out that the trademark for "Icon" was actually owned by Bob Gurnsey of "National Survival Games". He purchased the trademark from NSG, and then immediately sued Montneel for trademark violations, forcing Montneel to change the name from "Icon-Z", to "Z-1". He then sent a Montneel Z-1 to a company in China to make exact copies as cheaply as possible.
Since NPS owned the trademarks, they named they Chinese clones "Icon-Z", and sold them at NPS to replace the Montneel versions. This created confusion in the marketplace, since NPS made no attempt to tell people about the change. More about this further down.
Unfortunately, there were more problems.
Doug and Marcus were constantly fighting over direction of the company. Doug thought Marcus was "useless", and Marcus thought Doug was "mean". (Their words, not mine).
The main problem, however, was that Marcus was spending a great deal of time away from the company. Much of time away building his house and that created some sore feelings. Eventually he was asked to leave, and sell his shares in the company. He did, and Craig bought into the company. Craig had already been an employee at the Montrose shop. He saw the potentially, and agreed to take Marcus's spot as co-owner.
Marcus did not leave empty handed, however. As co-designer of the Z-1, he left with blueprints to the Z-1, with plans on creating his own company that he could run the way he wanted, and create the exact gun that he wanted. He was also given the designs to the LEGEND since it was primarily his creation. He moved back to Massachusetts, and teamed up with a field called "Paintball Heaven" and started working on prototypes.
Not long after Marcus left, there were also issues with Walt. Like Marcus, he was co-owner, but never around. Walt had is own business, and was unable to contribute any time or effort to Montneel. Walt sold his shares to the company to Mike "BLUE" Hanse (of EMR field). Montneel was already friends with Blue since he owned Wolfs Lair that had rented space to Montneel in the previous years. Blue had a strong business background, and came to Montneel to reorganize the company, and be in charge of marketing and promotions. In fact, Blue is probably the person most players know best since he traveled extensively promoting Montneel throughout the 1990s. Blue felt the best way to advertise Montneel was in person, so he went to almost every major event from 1993-1996, including all the national tournaments, big games, and special events. More then anyone, he was the face of Montneel, though not involved in the technical aspects.
After the split, Moe immediately went to work on completely upgrading the Z-1 renaming it the "Z-2". It had many upgrades from the original Icon-Z (ie valve, hardened trigger, etc). Moe also released a totally new gun, based on the Z-2, designed specifically for tournaments, and was called the Mega-Z.
Efficiency was bumped to an amazing 1200/20oz (on liquid), trigger was much faster, and never broke down or needed adjustments like other tournament guns. Cycle rate was faster then the mags and cockers, without need for expensive regs and expansion chambers, and could fully strip in seconds (Unheard of with inline paintguns). It could run either a vert, or back bottle, or bottom line (with adapter). The barrel was made by J&J Performance, Bolts by PICO, On/Offs by Cooper-T, etc.
The efficiency, however, was the main benefit. A major problem for paintball guns was getting enough shots from a 20oz to last an entire game. A typical gun back then got 600-800 shots, but you might need to shoot 1000-1200 paintballs. Common solutions were to carry 2 20oz tanks, or run larger tanks like 32oz or 40oz. In order to get that, Moe had to use an exotic alloy of steel to get the correct mass, length, and shape for the hammer. This combined with a fine tuned valve and special spring bumped up the efficiency to 1200 shots from a 20oz.
The base Z-2 sold for $325, and the Mega-Z started at $525, and went up to $900 with all the options. Despite being the most expensive blowback ever made, they sold extremely well. In fact, orders for the Z-2 and Mega-Z far exceeded what they could build.
In particular, a major event for Montneel was a well publicized game between Easy Company (aka Avalanche), and the FL Terminators. At the time, the FL Terminators was a top rated pro-team that used Autocockers. Easy Company was a new amateur team that was supplied Mega-Z guns by Montneel. Easy Company won the game without loosing a single player. When results of the game were covered in the paintmags, interest in the Z-1 and Mega-Z SKYROCKETED.
Around this time Doug decided to sell his shares in Montneel. As part of his contract, he retained the right as sole fabrication shop, but now as a contractor, not owner. It was actually a pretty good deal for Doug since it meant he would still make money, but without any risk.
By the end of 1994, the Mega-Z was one of the most popular tournament guns in the country. This was despite Montneels desire to not to give guns away as part of sponsorship deals. There attitude was they can not even meet the demand, so it would be a total waste to give them away. This generated some animosity among the "Pro tournament" crowd, but many teams used Montneel guns exclusively anyway. The most famous Montneel team was EASY COMPANY (later known as AVALANCHE). They were one of only TWO fully sponsored MONTNEEL teams. The other was the HIGHLANDERS. A few other teams had partial-sponsorship deals like the MASTER BLASTERS, Damage Inc and WILD GEESE. After that, there were MANY all-MONTNEEL teams that had to PAY for them, like Connecticut Wolverines, Gang Green, MOB, Pac-Rats Florida Terminators, and Swamp Rats.
The Montneel guns were so popular, that they were unable to meet demand. So, many other companies produced "clones". Some clones were near exact copies of the Icon-Z, while others were adapted from the Icon-Z, with changes made.
The best example is the USI Eliminator. USI bought a Z-1 directly from Montneel, then sent the gun to a local machine shop to figure out how it worked, and to be copied. Changes were made to make the gun cheaper, and faster to produce. Jim Masse actually worked for USI at the time, and was one of the machinists who built them! PMI then hired USI to produce a clone of the Eliminator called the PMI Mustang, but the quality was so poor then PMI refused the entire order, and USI renamed the gun the Apache Mustang, and sold it themselves. PMI then hired Akraturn to produce a higher quality clone, called the Avenger AK1. But balked at the higher price tag, and refused that order. Akraturn then sold the gun themselves. PMI then went to a third company, PGD, and asked them for a direct Z-1 copy. Neither cheap, nor fancy. Just a direct copy. This gun was called the Boxer, and sold fairly well until PMI switched to making spyder clones.
The BOXER by PGD is also an interesting story. PGD did not actually make the BOXER, but was simply the importer who acquired the guns from "T&L Paintball". T&L was a European company who actually imported them from China.
T&L was originally the European distributor for Montneel guns. They were also in charge of all service and repairs for the European market. Moe provided them with blueprints, and other technical materials to help T&L take care of all the Montneel guns in Europe. Unfortunetly, T&L secretly sent the blueprints to a "slave labor" factory in China to have them produce extremely cheap knockoffs. These clones were called the "Medusa", and were nearly identical to the original Icon-Z. They were very popular in Europe, primarily because people thought they were made by Montneel since they were being sold by Montneels sole European distributor.
Eventually Montneel found out when people started complaining directly to them that T&L were selling crappy knockoffs, and refusing to do warranty repairs on official Montneel guns. Montneel ended its deal with T&L, and switched to another distributor. T&L decided to shop the "MEDUSA" to the USA. A Dallas company called "Paintball Games of Dallas" agreed to be the American distributor, and they sold them to PMI. PMI changed the name to "BOXER", and it sold very well since it looked exactly like an Icon-Z. A year later, T&L also worked out a deal with NPS, and NPS sold the same gun, renamed the NPS ICON.
The Daystate Patriot was a good clone made in England. It featured a number of upgrades and improvements over the original Montneel design (like bigger screws, improved bolt system, etc). Thousands were made in the 90s, until production ended in 1997. It was replaced with the TFX-2000 designed as an entry-level gun. Ironically, NPS discontinued the TFX-2000 in 2002 and replaced it with its new entry-level spyder-clone called "ICON-Z". We have officially come full circle!
Marcus also noticed the huge demand for the Montneel guns, and decided to make his own "updated" version of the Icon-Z, and he called it the "CHECKMATE" to be sold through TASO. It shared a few features of the Mega-Z, and Marcus advertised it heavily in all the paintball mags.
In fact, Marcus did more then just advertises it. He sent flyers to all the retailers and distributors that sold Montneel products, and advertised the Checkmate as an "updated Mega-Z" from the creator of the Icon-Z. As you could imagine, this created massive confusion. Since the Checkmate was cheaply made, it had a much higher profit margin, and many retailers dumped the Montneel line in favor on the Checkmate (or one of the other cloness).
Then it started to get dirty. Retailers that switched from Montneel to a "clone" were told to tell there customers that "MONTNEEL went bankrupt, and they should buy a clone "since they are much better then the originals".
Also involved was AKRATURN Manufacturing. They were the machine shop that was contracted to make the bodies for the original Icons in 1992, and were obviously familiar with the design. So, they took there old blueprints, and completely redesigned, and updated the gun, and released the Akraturn Avenger AK-1. It was very well designed, and over a thousand were made. Akraturn still repairs old AK1s.
Surprisingly, the clones actually sold pretty well. There was a huge demand for Montneel guns, but they were unable to produce the guns fast enough, so these clones filled in that gap rather well.
Another problem is that many people thought the clones were MADE by Montneel since the average paintball player had no idea of the history, and just assumed that since it "looked" like a Montneel Z, then it must be a Montneel Z. Most of the clones had no identifying marks. Even the manuals or box did not say the brand name. For example: The Checkmate simply says "Semi-Auto" on the box, manual and gun. If you look closely at the Checkmate manual, you can tell that it is a Mega-Z manual, changed slightly, with all references to Montneel blanked out!
So, when someone bought a checkmate, or boxer, and then it died a few weeks later, they would often SEND IT TO MONTNEEL for repairs, only to have it returned with an angry letter. This problem became so widespread that Montneel had to place full-page ads in the magazines explaining that the clones are NOT made by Montneel.
After Marcus made the Checkmate, he also tried to revive the LEGEND prototype. He refined the design, and changed the name to the "FALCON". As before, the design was very advanced. So advanced that it attractted the attension of Crosman Airguns. They had just bought Sheridan, and was looking for a "high end" replacement for the aging VM-68 line. Marcus Neeleys partner, Eric Scott, also had a similar advanced prototype called the Phoenix. Crosman approached Marcus, and Eric to buy up there designs. It all looked pretty well, but before the deal went through, the company producing the Checkmate, and Falcon fell apart, and stopped paying its suppliers. The suppliers tried to sue Marcus and Eric, but both ended up moving from Massachusets to Florida. Crosman ended up getting stuck with the bill, but fortunetly also had the designs for the Falcon, Pheonix, and the regulator used by them.
Crossman combined the Pheonix, and Falcon, and released the Sheridan Equalizer: Unfortunetly, the Equalizer suffered from the same problems as the Falcon, and Legend Prototype. It didn't not work well with CO2. It was a total disaster for Crosman/Sheridan, and they lost a huge amount of money in the process. Crosman needed a gun to replace the Equalizer, and they approached Montneel. Originally they wanted Montneel to build them a replacement for the Equalier, then they actually considered buying Montneel. Crosman wanted to get rid of the entire Sheridan paintball line, and return Sheridan to only airguns.
In the end, the deal fell apart. Crosman was concerned with the issue with the Clones. Montneel did not own any patents or trademarks, and did not have any control over all he clones on the market.
In the end, Crosman went to Mokal to have them design a Mokal-based inline
Another problem Montneel had was misconceptions about the MegaZ. Originally, there was the misconception that the MegaZ could magically shoot MUCH FARTHER then anyone else. Then this developed into the idea that the the MegaZ was a "cheater gun" because the extra range gave the teams that used Montneels an unfair advantage. Montneel actually played up with myth a bit, and said the extra range was due to a special valve that gave the ball a backspin, thus generating extra lift as it travelled. However, I think its far more likely that the myth developed simply due to the fact that Montneel guns were not being chroned properly. So, if improperly chronoed, it would give a low reading, then jump 100fps during the game. Moe worked very hard to explain to fields how to properly chrono the MegaZ. In fact, most modern tournaments, like IAO and NPPL style have a "Moe Rule" explaining how to chrono the gun correctly. Similar to the later "Tom Kay rule" for his RT-Mags
TO make matters worse, Marcus Neeley was selling a device for the MegaZ and Checkmate to actually TRICK the chrono, and give a false reading 100fps BELOW normal that would spike during the game. This picture has a MegaZ with the device attached. It was known widely as the "Cheater Chamber", and did not help misconceptions since most people thought Marcus was still working at Montneel. Despite all this competition and production issues, the MegaZ still sold extremely well. Eventually, the clones all died out, and Montneel looked to expand. They made a new gun called the Victory-Z in 1995, which was a Mega-Z totally redesigned to run Nitro. They further enhanced the Z-2 as well, and was going to be called the Z-3. But since the name "Z-2" confused many, they were going to call it the Super-Z instead, but that seemed confusing as well, and left the name alone. In 1996, Montneel worked with local police to design and produce the MZ-16. It was designed specifically for police/security training, and was to be sold to POLICE-ONLY through a Florida company called "Stess Shot". It looked very much like an AR-15, and was clip-fed with full-auto, burst, and semi-auto capabilities.
A deal was worked out to produce 1,000 MZ-16s for the North Korean government to be used for police training. Unfortunately, after sending them a prototype for evaluation, the deal fell apart when the North Korean official in charge was arrested, and sent to jail for corruption charges.
After Montneel was burned on the North Korean deal, they dropped the MZ-16 project. Only 2 are known to exist. It is interesting that a few years afterwards, a company in China starting producing magazine-fed paintball guns that worked almost identical to the MZ-16. Hard to say if they stole the design from the MZ-16, but the same company produce identical ripoffs of Tippmanns and Sheridans, so I would not be surprised.
In early 1996, Mike "Blue" Hanse had purchased back "Wolfs Lair" that he had owned in 1992. He totally rebuilt the field, and renamed it "EMR". This created a problem for Montneel since Montneel was paying for Blue to travel around the country promoting Montneel, not EMR. Often Blue would be promoting both. This was a conflict of interest, and Blue was asked to leave the company. This worked out well for Blue, as he was able to focus on EMR, and turn it into the finest woodsball/scenerio field in the country.
Montneel also released a special "field only" gun called the "RENTAL-Z". It was similar to a Montneel Z-2, but with the Mega-Z style barrel quick-release, plus thumb-screws, and all stainless hardware. Also special was the lower receiver, and site-rail were anodized bright RED, and the words "RENTAL" were machined into the side of the receiver. This made it pretty hard to steal any, since it would be impossible to sell one.
These were popular throughout the northeast, especially Pennsylvania and upstate New York. Around 2,000 were made.
By late 1996, Montneel was in trouble. They were having a great deal of trouble getting the parts they needed from various fabrication shops. Furthermore, the MegaZ was very expensive to produce. Montneel needed a constant flow of parts to come in, so they could finish, assembly, and sell guns. Then they could pay the fabrication shops, and especially Protofab, who they owed the most money too. If one shop was a couple weeks late making a certain part, then no guns could be assembled, and that meant that no profit was coming in. Yet contractors demanded to be paid, and refused to ship parts. This problem because larger, and larger until eventually Doug at Protofab threatened to sue Montneel out of business, and end Montneel for good
Fortunately, a former Protofab employee named Perry Khuen had opened his own fabrication shop named "K-Tooling". He had been a small Montneel sub-contractor, and felt he could turn the business around. Montneel owned K-Tooling money as well, so Moe, Craig, and Blue traded Montneel to K-Tooling, in exchange for K-Tooling taking care of all outstanding debts.
Perry had big plans to expand Montneel. He wanted turn it from a custom "high end" shop, into a mass-production factory, similar to Tippmann Pneumatics.
Unfortunately, it was a case of extremely bad timing. Shortly after Perry bought the company, the PVI Shocker, and WDP Angel hit the market. The market for high quality blowbacks vanished completely. Also, the cost of HPA systems became cheap enough that the advantage that the Mega-Z had over its competition was diminishing. And Perry still had the same problems with fabrication shops, He was unable to get the parts he needed to produce guns, and eventually Doug at Protofab sued Montneel over contract issues. The next day, Perry closed Montneel and ended all contracts.
Technically, Perry still owns Montneel, and all the blueprints, CAD, and CNC programs. He also has a great deal of assorted parts in storage. He does offer MINIMAL support for Montneel, and will sell "new" parts to those that are interested. He will also make a new Z-1 or Mega-Z to those willing to pay the price. He still owns K-Tooling, so he has the ability to make any part. The only issue is that he no longer has interest in paintball.