The Automag is one of the oldest semi-autos in our sport, and yet, like the Autococker, it and its descendents are still used on the field today. The Automag uses what was at the time a unique and revolutionary blow forward design.
The Automag was created by Tom Kaye. Tom’s real name is Kotsiopoulos, which he changed to make his name more business friendly. It is rumored that the Automag’s design was borrowed from a pneumatic nail gun, but that isn’t true in the least. The name was borrowed from the mean looking .44 caliber firearm by the same name that Dirty Harry made famous.
The solid stainless steel design of the valve and body means it was built to last, and markers made in the early 90’s are still in use today. The height of its popularity was from the early to mid-nineties when the Automag and Autococker where the dominant tournament markers used in the sport. Its main features were simplicity of design, reliability, and rate of fire. The Automag used a new “twist lock” design barrel for fast removal. It also used the first “powerfeed” which tucked the hopper out of the way as well as aided in reducing ball bobble from blow back. It also had a pressure regulator as part of the valve design, which allowed for greater shot to shot consistency. Its down side was its intolerance to liquid CO2. Remote lines, expansion chambers, and loops of steel braided hose were all used to try to keep liquid out of the marker. With the advent of using compressed air (another AGD creation), the Automag became even more reliable than ever before.
You may hear the term “Level 7” often mentioned. As the early markers were made, AGD made some changes to the design of the marker. They offered free upgrades to their customers who sent in their markers. The “Level 7” was the version most widely used and had all the kinks worked out. There are a few older “Level 6” markers out there that never got sent in. These are identifiable by having the power tube able to be unscrewed from the valve. Earlier levels we believe only exist in prototype form.
In the late nineties the Automag’s popularity began to wane. Part of this was due to the influx of reliable electronic markers, and the other was that AGD began to focus on work for the government in producing a non-lethal paintball marker for military and police use. Another issue was that Automags were known for breaking paint. This reputation was both earned to a degree, and blown out of proportion to a degree. The Automag must be shot with a full trigger stroke, or the marker will short stroke and chop a ball. However, its real issue was that paint was becoming more and more brittle for tournament use. The speed of the bolt would crack paint waiting above the breech and blow up as it was shot through the barrel.
To combat this, AGD developed the “Level 10” in 2002. This drop in bolt kit worked in all their markers and not only prevented balls from being cracked, but the design would actually stop on a paintball and not chop paint. Unlike former “levels”, the Level 10 was a name chosen more for its marketability, not that it was the 10th design level.
Its important to note the various bolts used in Automags over the years. The first ones used a bolt with a “foamie” on the end. They later made a “non-foamie” bolt as the foamies often came off the bolt. Around 1998 they made the “long nosed” bolt, which was a longer, non-foamie bolt that helped reduce blowback. In 2002 they made a “Superbolt” which was extremely light, using a sleeve of Delrin over a stainless steel bolt. This design didn’t work well as the sleeves would often crack. The “Superbolt II” comes packaged and only works with the Level 10 kit. It’s a lighter stainless steel bolt with a foamie and a broader area around the rim.
Based on the Automag, AGD later released the Automag RT in 1995 which used the similar but better performing RT valve. They also made a drop in kit called the “ReTro Valve” that would upgrade the Automag to the RT performance. The RT Pro was to follow as a lighter version of the RT that was more compatible with certain upgrades. In 2000 AGD put out the E-Mag, which was an electronic version of the Automag with an RT based valve. In 2002 AGD made the X-Mag, which was a lighter version of the E-Mag, using lightened parts, and an aluminum valve and body.