X-trordinary, X-ceptional, X-TREME!
ANS Generation-X Xtreme Autococker
© Ravi Chopra, 1999
For the past six months or so, Ive been getting a steady stream of questions regarding what appeared to be a whole lot of Autococker for a price that just seemed too good to be true. The paintgun people were asking me about was ANS Generation-X Autococker. ANS is probably best known for their extensive assortment of aftermarket Autococker (and other paintgun) parts and upgrades. Now, it seems theyve come to market with their own custom Autococker bearing all of their own aftermarket Autococker parts. As youll soon come to see, that accounts for virtually every single component.
As that last statement indicates, the Gen-X is a fully loaded custom Autococker. But lets face it, thats no big deal in todays market. Just about every shop out there has its own custom Autococker. What made people really sit up and pay attention was the price. The Gen-X goes out the door at the startlingly low price of $799. That price includes not just the gun, but their own custom barrel, secondary pressure regulator, and padded gun-case to boot!
Suffice it to say, I had to see this gun. I called up ANS and expressed my interest in reviewing the Gen-X for Paintball Games International. "Sure," they said, "wed love for you to review our gun." Something like six months later, they finally put a Gen-X Autococker in my hands. No, they arent jerks. Theyre constantly sold out of the things.
Those of you who have read my articles before will likely be stunned into a near-catatonic state to find that Ive broken the description of the Autococker down into its various components: trigger, pneumatics, internals, accessories & extras, and cosmetics.
The Gen-Xs trigger is very different from most other custom Autococker triggers. There is a lot of very non-standard and controversial modifying and tuning.
The trigger is built into an industry-standard Benchmark .45 frame one of the few parts on this gun not manufactured by ANS themselves (though they say that that may change in the near future as well). A standard vertically oriented front trigger-guide screw floats the front of the trigger plate, its action smoothed by a Teflon insert in the screws tip. ANS approaches stopping the triggers travel in a very unusual way. They do not use the hole that comes drilled and tapped in all Benchmark Autococker frames for a back trigger-stop screw. Instead, ANS actually installs a screw transversely (left-to-right) through the frame in front of the trigger to limit its forward travel. The Teflon-tipped guide screw I mentioned earlier limits the triggers back travel. The point of this is that neither of the trigger stops is adjustable. For most people this is not an issue, but for those who like to tweak their triggers to their own tastes, being fixed within the limits that ANS set out for them (about a 3mm pull length) may be a frustrating limitation.
Adjusting the timing (should that be something you like to do) is easy given the now-stock sear-access hole in the top of the gun and ANS own stainless steel threaded timing rod. The threaded rod coupler is hexagonal shaped for easy adjustment with a wrench. Instead of a setscrew in the back hole to hold the rod in place, ANS has placed a Teflon insert which holds the rod tightly in place, and cant back out, but still allows easy adjustment.
More traditionally, the trigger plate itself is meticulously polished for a very smooth action. Since current Benchmark frames do not have back trigger-guide screws, ANS bends up the back of the plate to take up vertical slack. The result is a trigger action that is as smooth and slack-free as the best triggers currently available.
The second controversial modification is how they further modify the trigger plate. Standard plates have an oval-shaped hole for the bent end of the timing rod. This oval shape is considered important for correct timing because it allows the correct order of events both when the trigger is pulled and released. When you pull the trigger, the first part of the pull drops the sear, firing the paintball. The oval hole allows the trigger to move back and tip the sear before catching the timing rod and switching the 4-way valve to cock the gun. When you release the trigger, this gap allows the sear to ride back up to a height where it can catch the sear lug before catching the timing rod, switching the 4-way back, and closing the bolt.
In the ANS Gen-X, the oval hole has been filled and a round hole just big enough for the timing rod is drilled. Standard, conservative reckoning and physical logic would indicate that this should cause timing problems. With no lag at all between sear movement and 4-way movement, if you set it to fire and then cock the gun in the correct order when you pull the trigger, the events should reverse order when you let go of the trigger: the 4-way closing the bolt before the sear can rise to the point where it will catch the hammer. Curiously, I did not encounter this problem when firing the ANS Gen-X Autococker normally.
The reason the ANS Autococker didnt have that problem is, I think, due to a combination of factors that allow it to work when the trigger is pull and released normally. First is something that is common to all Autocockers a small time lag between when the 4-way valve switches and when the ram actually moves the block and bolt. Unlike the sear and trigger connection, which is direct, mechanical, and immediate, when the 4-way switches, gas is fed through very small hoses into the ram. Pressure has to build to sufficient pressure on one side of the ram to drive it into motion while pressure on the other side has to vent through similarly thin hoses and back out of the 4-way. This buildup of pressure to move the ram takes a period of time which is hardly noticeable to the user, but which is significant in terms of the Autocockers functioning. It is my contention that, upon release of the trigger, this tiny time delay is sufficient to allow the sear to ride up high enough to catch the lug before the ram can bring the back-block forward. To test my theory, I tried releasing the trigger extremely slowly over a matter of several seconds, far slower than you could (or would want to) in play. By doing so, I eliminated the effect of the time delay and allowed the 4-way to complete its cycle before allowing the trigger to move any further forward. When I did this, the hammer did not catch the sear before the bolt closed, just as I predicted, and just as the simple mechanics of the situation demanded.
So, if this tiny time delay in the autococking pneumatics (common to all Autocockers) is enough to allow the sear to rise high enough to catch the lug, why doesnt it work with all Autocockers (it doesnt, Ive seen others try)? The answer lies in ANS modified (and patented) sear lug design. Rather than using the standard round-bottomed lug, ANS mills their lugs into a cone shape with the small end pointing up into the hammer. The result is that the sear catches the wide, sharp bottom edge of the lug and hangs on tenaciously. In a further advantage, as the lug wears, a larger surface area will be exposed for the sear to hang onto. Its a clever idea that appears to work well.
In short, the ANS trigger is very short (about 3 mm long) and very smooth. The firing and cocking points in the trigger pull are rather far spaced apart, completely eliminating blowback, but making it a bit easier to short stroke. It is stopped out both in front and in back, and neither stop is adjustable. The very short pull is achieved through very controversial means, most notably being the complete elimination of slack in the trigger plates hole for the timing rod. From a traditional, conservative point of view, this is not correctly timed. Never the less, it appears to work perfectly well due to clever sear-lug design and the naturally occurring time delay in the front-end pneumatics. My only concern is with long-term reliability something I was not able to test in the short time I had this gun to review. The few people I have heard from who have owned these Autocockers for longer periods of time have predominantly described an enjoyable and trouble-free experience.
In play, I found the trigger to be easy to snapshoot and rapid fire. It has a unique feel, quite unlike any other Autococker Ive shot. It will definitely appeal to those who like short, smooth, tight triggers. But unlike other short-trigger Autocockers, it doesnt have that "snappy" feel of a Bad Boyz Toyz or Wildside Autococker, very likely due to the wider spacing between the firing and cocking stages of the trigger pull.
ANS is probably best known for their line of Autococker front-end components. Im sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that these are precisely the parts incorporated into the ANS Gen-X Autococker to drive the back-block.
Driving the system is ANS Jackhammer regulator. Its shorter than the stock Sledgehammer, comes with a large stainless steel adjustment knob, and is easy to tear down and repair if it fails at the field (an uncommon occurrence). It shares many regulator components with the Automag AIR valve and Uni-Reg regulator, so parts are easy to obtain should they be needed. The only problem with this regulator is that the adjustment knob fits a bit loosely and works its way out with use. Subsequently, every couple games as youre firing merrily away the knob works itself so far out that it no longer delivers enough pressure to cock the gun. Unfortunately, it does deliver enough pressure to feed another paintball. The result is that you suddenly stack 4 or 5 paintballs up in the barrel before you realize what is happening. The fix is easy: just turn the knob back in until the gun cycles correctly again. Despite the rather innocuous nature of this problem, it is a particularly irritating and common occurrence. To avoid this problem, ANS recommends a drop of loc-tite on the threads of the knob to help hold it in place. ANS is at work on the problem and is planning on adding a Teflon insert in the side of the adjusting knob to hold it tightly in place while still leaving it easy to adjust.
The 4-way valve is ANS popular short-throw unit. The valve is a one-piece aluminum design that eliminates the end-caps and C-clips of the stock valve. It also has closer spaced outlets for a much shorter switch length (in part allowing for the very short trigger pull on this paintgun). The tiny O-rings on the valve piston are made from a non-swelling urethane that should stand up to CO2 much better than the stock valves black O-rings. ANS seems to have corrected a problem with earlier iterations of this valve leaking. Not only did the ANS 4-way offer smooth-as-butter action, but it also sealed perfectly as well.
ANS stainless steel Mini-Ram occupied the spot above the Jackhammer. This ram is just about the shortest, smallest ram on the market. It has a stainless steel front-end with a forward-facing front nipple and an aluminum base that threads into the front block. Due to its very small diameter, this ram will require a bit more pressure to deliver the same force as a larger ram, but its small volume minimizes gas expenditure. This ram has a very smooth and quick action. You will certainly not be able to pull the trigger faster than this ram can keep up. Like their 4-way, ANS Mini-Ram had a reputation of sometimes having an out-of-the-box leak. Also like the 4-way, this problem has been corrected and the ram now functions in a perfectly trouble-free manner. Similar to the Clippard ram, the ANS Mini is not rebuildable, so if it blows out it needs to be replaced.
Rounding out the components that drive the cocking system is a stainless steel pump-rod and ANS own custom-look cut block.
Starting at the front, ANS has, like every other company on the face of the Earth, come out with their own low-pressure chamber. An LP chamber is nothing more than a replacement for the front-block screw, but with a big, empty chamber at the front in order to provide a larger volume of pre-regulated air ready to rush through the exhaust valve. ANS chamber is an all stainless unit with a curiously phallic appearance. It is certainly equal to, or of better quality construction than other LP chambers on the market. In all honesty, Im not convinced that these chambers make all that big a difference on Autocockers (though they are a valuable addition to Minicockers, which have very small internal valve chambers). But then, LP chambers are all the rage these days and have almost become an obligatory add-on. At worst, it does nothing to hurt performance, and at best it may allow a marginally lower operating pressure and slightly improved efficiency.
Moving further along the gas-path is the ANS Phase II Xtreme exhaust valve. This valve has an aluminum body and stainless steel pin. The valve body has O-rings at both the front and back, though the back O-ring is of questionable use since it rests in a threaded area of the gun body and is unlikely to provide a particularly good seal. The jam screw, which holds the valve in place from behind, has an O-ring seated in its front-face to help keep it from backing out a nice and very important improvement over the stock screw. In a shameless copy of the Shocktech RAT valve II design, the ANS Phase II valve has the valve seat in the body of the valve, making for much improved reliability and less expensive replacement should it ever fail and start to leak.
Last in line is ANS superb 15 hole Phase II venturi bolt. This popular bolt has 15 small holes leading straight out to its concave face. The inlet isnt a hole. Rather, its a big, donut shaped space all the way around the bolt so you dont have to worry about accidentally putting the bolt in upside-down. This is among the freest flowing bolts on the market and works very well.
The hammer is the relatively standard ANS Nelson-style kit. Its pretty much the same as every other Nelson kit out there, offering fully stainless steel construction, a fat sear lug, and allowing the use of Nelson springs. In one nice addition, ANS has printed directions for use on the back of the unit so newer players can tell at a glance which way to turn it to increase or decrease velocity.
The performance of this whole system is a mixed bag. On the positive side, this gun operates at an impressively low pressure of about 250 psi. Velocity consistency is truly exceptional, falling within a 3 fps range with fresh paint and a clean barrel. The downside is that it doesnt offer much in the way of efficiency improvements, providing only 800 or so shots from a 68 ci 3000 psi nitrogen system. This falls right in the same efficiency range as a stock Autococker. ANS is currently at work on a new spring and hammer system, which they claim will drastically improve efficiency, though I have not had the chance to see or test it as of this writing.
Accessories & Extras
You want accessories and extras at that price? You got em. There isnt much that ANS doesnt build and they put it all on this gun.
Lets start with the basics. This gun has a relatively standard chromed ball-bearing style detent. Like all the others, it works just fine at preventing double-feeds. The bolt-retaining pin is a durable, stainless steel, 4-ball bearing unit. The rubber wrap-around grips (yes, even these are made by ANS) offer a good, comfortable grip, though they are a bit thicker and less molded than Hogues. Even the trigger-shoe gets ANS preferred treatment and is an aluminum unit that is far more durable than the stock Autocockers plastic piece.
All Gen-X Autocockers come with a full air system, including a 20 oz CO2 tank, standard duck-bill bottom-line ASA, hose with disconnect, and ANS Generation X-2 pressure regulator. Anyone familiar with Air Americas Uni-Reg will likely find a lot of very familiar features in the half-stainless steel (bottom), half-aluminum (top) Gen X-2 regulator, which is almost exactly identical. It does offer a few nice new features, though. Internally, the ANS regulator is completely ported out to provide the largest possible volume and freest flow in a valve of this design. The adjusting screw in the bottom is a stainless thumb-adjuster with two locking screws. The regulator top features two high-pressure taps (one for the inlet) and one low-pressure tap. This allows ANS to install an 800 psi pressure gauge (even this has their logo on it!) indicating the regulators output pressure. Nice!
The final extra that ANS includes is their stainless steel 3D Phase II barrel. This 12" barrel has a three step design: 0.6865" near the breech, 0.6870" in the middle, and 0.6875" at the barrel end which also has 4 straight rows of ports and a 4 slot muzzle break. Ill admit that I was prepared not to like this barrel, but I was surprised. It shot really nicely. Ill grant that the Polar Ice I shot through it wasnt much of a challenge, but was dead-nuts accurate and cleared out really well when the Jackhammer drifted low and I ended up breaking paint after stacking 4 balls in the barrel. At this ID it will be too tight for larger paints like Nelson, but smaller paint shoots through it quite nicely.
Finishing the package is a foam-padded gun case and VL200 hopper. As with all Autocockers, youll likely want to discard that hopper in favor of one of Viewloaders popular moto-loaders.
The only really significant omission is a beavertail, required on all Autocockers for tournament play. I doubt youll be surprised to hear that ANS is working on their own beavertail and will be including it on all Gen-X Autocockers very soon. Those who bought Gen-X guns prior to this will have the option of getting an ANS beavertail at a highly discounted (possibly free) price.
At $799, this paintgun had to give somewhere and cosmetics is it. The Gen-X Autococker has a very stock-looking body. Even their custom back block barely diverges from the stock look. The only real indications that this is an ANS gun are the words "Generation X Cocker" engraved in the right side of the gun body, and a pair of large "X"s on the sides of the back-block.
You can have it anodized in any of a variety of simple colors, but it isnt what you think. The only parts that are anodized are ANS parts: Jackhammer, Mini-Ram back, 4-way, X-2 regulator top, trigger-shoe, and bottom-line. Everything else stays black.
Sprucing up the look a bit is the full silver-bits look. The pump-rod, cocking-rod, and pushpin are all stainless steel. The ball-detent and gas-line fittings are all chromed.
The ANS Gen-X Autococker is definitely a sleeper: all performance, no looks.
At an out-the-door price of only $799, the ANS Generation-X Autococker is awfully hard to dislike. This is a HUGE amount of stuff for the money. This gun is definitely a value leader in Autocockers, and ANS is working hard to get the price down even further!
In a final parting note, I should mention that the ANS Gen-X Autococker is a work-in-progress. By the time you read this article they will likely already have updated the Jackhammer and very well may have changed a host of other parts. ANS is constantly updating the design as they discover new problems or come up with ideas for improvements.
Ravi Chopra is Detroit Fusions low-man-on-the-totem-pole, and is happy to just be there. He can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the world wide web at http://www.paintballravi.com/index.html.
All material at this site is © Ravi Chopra, 1999