This is the part of the Infosheet that has been in most desperate need of updating. WGP has gone all-out in recent years trying to eliminate the notion that the Autococker was only good once you'd done hundreds of dollars worth of upgrading. Though many came very late, the results have been impressive.
What constitutes a "stock" Autococker has become extremely complex with the yearly improvements that Budd Orr has brought to the paintgun that comes out of the box from WGP. Things are further confused by the Minicocker and STO Autococker. The most important thing to note is the year of the 'gun (I don't know what serial numbers are associated with what upgrades), and what accessories came on it.
"Old" Autocockers & Minicockers ('96 and before)
I'm grouping the pre-'96 Autocockers together for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most important is that I didn't start shooting the Autococker until '94 or '95 (who can remember), so my familiarity with the different versions before the distinctively improved '97 is somewhat limited. I know what was there, but I can't break it down as well. Additionally, the improvements to the Autococker before the '97 were relatively small and slow in their arrival.
Way back when, when Autocockers were converted WGP Snipers, the 'cocker was not the most impressive semi-automatic around. The Sniper was one of the most reputable paintguns around when pumps dominated the scene. The Autococker on the other hand was clunky, quirky, froze up, blew hoses, double fed, and basically made their fanatical owners miserable. I remember a couple people showing me theirs and thinking, "Why in the world would anyone do that to such a nice paintgun?"
The single most significant problem of the original Autococker was it's miserable regulator. It would be insulting to things that suck to describe it as having sucked. It was miserably bad, awful, terrible, horrible. To keep from blowing all the hoses off your pneumatic system, you had to turn the reg all the way down, gas the 'gun up, then turn it back up. Even following that procedure was hardly a guarantee - it was very inconsistent and passed liquid CO2 like it was going out of style and blew hoses out in the middle of games. It was the sheer badness of this regulator that led Glenn Palmer to make an external version of the regulator he was building into his Typhoon semi-auto, the Rock, which still dominates the aftermarket segment. Thankfully, Budd Orr replaced this part early (sometime before '94, I don't know the exact year) with the much-improved Sledgehammer regulator which corrected all of these problems.
The second biggest problem with the original stock Autococker was that it didn't have a ball-retention system (usually referred to as a "ball detent" or "ball jock") to keep from double-feeding. If your paint was relatively small, it was very easy for two balls to feed, or worse yet for one-and-a-half to feed leading to chopped paint in the breech when the bolt came forward and hacked the half-fed paintball in two. Once the Sledgehammer was included with the stock Autococker, the first thing a player did after taking his new Autococker out of the box was hand it to an airsmith to have a detent installed. This led to all sorts of problems. Though there were many skilled, qualified Autococker airsmiths out there, there were twice as many hacks who installed the detent too far forward or too far back. There are many Autocockers built in those days that still have feed problems due to incorrect detent placement. In 1996, Budd Orr finally and at long last started including a Cooper-T ball-bearing style detent in the stock Autococker. The only small disadvantage was that, unless you were buying a very expensive, custom autococker from Bad Boyz Toyz, Pro-Team, or Belsales, you no longer had the option of a wire-nubbin or Pro-Team detent (both of which are, IMHO, better than the ball-bearing detent, though more difficult to install properly).
Until 1997 rolled around, that was just about it. The Autococker received some marginal improvement in the timing and smoothness of the trigger. The 4-way and ram were a bit better polished. But other than that, there was very little to distinguish the newest stock Autococker from the original converted pumper. It shot a lot better and was quite a bit more reliable, but no one was keeping it stock for very long.
The Minicocker deserves some mention at this point. The Minicocker was pretty much the same as the Autococker, but the front end was cut off a bit (shrinking the already small valve chamber) and feeding the gas in through the bottom of the front-block. Rather than a vertical ASA, it had a hose to a bottom-line adapter. The Minicocker had a cut back-block rather than the gigantic brick of a back-block that the Autococker had (reducing the weight of the Autococking system), and a shorter shroud with slanted shark-gill cuts. Minicockers also received nicer molded grips way before the Autococker which was stuck with those crappy flat-plate grips until '97. Early Minis had all sorts of starvation problems due to gas-flow restrictions through the front-block screw and the tiny valve chamber.
The '97 Autococker & Minicocker
1997 was a revolutionary year for the stock WGP 'guns. A large number of significant improvements appeared this year that finally made the Autococker a usable out-of-the-box paintgun.
First, Budd Orr finally brought the Autococker up to par with the Minicocker by making the cut block and rod standard equipment on both of them. He took things further by drilling out and lightening the bolts significantly.
Second, the 'cocker was given a brand new carbon-fiber frame, not unlike the one that had been used on the Automag for a couple years already. It was lighter than the original aluminum and manufactured to better tolerances, making for a nicer trigger pull. With this frame came much improved molded grips on both the Auto and Minicocker. Though they're still cheap and plastic, they are far better than the grips that had come on either 'gun before.
Third, the Autococker finally became tournament legal with the addition of a beavertail to the stock Autococker. About damn time if you ask me.
Fourth, WGP included a much improved 11" tight-bore barrel that shoots much better than the old stock barrel and has a much more durable finish.
Probably the most significant and least heralded improvement to the '97 Autococker was the dramatically enlarged valve chamber. It was becoming increasingly evident at this time that the tiny channel that fed the valve was restricting flow through the 'gun, increasing the required operating pressure, and killing efficiency. The larger chamber finally made it possible to get decent low pressure performance from the 'gun without rediculous springing or having to have an outside shop drill it out for you. Kudos to Budd Orr for implementing this mod. I thought this would be one of the last things he'd ever change in the 'gun.
Finally, the '97 was the recipient of a significant cosmetic upgrade. In addition to the much-better-looking cut block, the '97 Autococker sported a satin black or silver (black was much more common) finish rather than the old black industrial hardcoat. It also had polished stainless steel rods all around.
If you're interested in reading more detials about the '97 Autococker, you can read my full review of the 'gun here.
The '98 Autococker & Minicocker
WGP continued what they started in '97 by improving the 'gun even more. Where the '97 was finally tournament legal, I'd go so far as to say that the '98 is nearly tournament usable out of the box! It almost seems like Budd Orr is trying to put the aftermarket manufacturers out of business.
In addition to the bevy of improvments that appeared in '97, the '98 now includes the STO hammer kit. This kit is a HUGE improvment over the old stock kit. First, it takes Nelson springs! Hooray! A Nelson kit in the stock 'gun! It also uses the fat sear lugs that have become popular in aftermarket kits in the last couple years. The really unique aspect is that the adjusting screw threads right into the back of the 'gun body rather than into a guide sleeve. And to make this kit easy to use and adust, WGP is now drilling an external sear access hole through the top of the 'gun so you don't have to take the grip frame off to time the stock 'gun anymore.
Taking what they did to the '97 'cocker even further, the valve chamber in the '98 is enlarged even further to be as big as the area available will allow. This modification along with the STO hammer kit allows the 'gun to operate at 400 psi out of the box!
Since it now operates at a lower pressure, full CO2 tank pressure would be too high for this 'gun to operate properly. The high pressure would actually cause early valve closure and make it nearly impossible to get 300 fps velocities. To address this point, the WGP external regulator has been made stock equipment, threaded into the vertical ASA on all Autocockers now. This is a huge addition when you consider that the price of a stock Autococker is still under $400.
Finally, WGP has gone a bit further in improving the Autococker's cosmetics by sloping both the front and back of the sight rail and rounding off the bottom of the body.
The only really egregious omission from the '98 stock Autococker was a threaded timing rod. I explain this in more detail later, but suffice it to say for now that a threaded timing rod is inexpensive and prevents a huge percentage of the problems that people have with new Autocockers. Given all the work they've put into making the stock 'cocker look nicer, the absence of this simple, crucial upgrade from the stock Autococker is inexplicable.
The 99 Autococker
With 1999 came more improvements to the stock Autococker, including the threaded timing rod and far more other stuff than I can mention here. Suffice it to say, the 99 Autococker is better than the stock cocker has ever been. You can read my full review of the stock 1999 Autococker here.
The '99 STO Autococker
This is, by no small margin, the best paintgun that WGP has sold. Again, far too much cool stuff to put in here. You can read my full review of the 1999 STO here.