The Shocktech SFL Autococker from Bad Boyz Toyz
© Ravi Chopra, 2000
Its been a bit since I last reviewed the top-end of the Shocktech Autococker line from Bad Boyz Toyz. In the intervening time, the clever little trolls at Shocktech (i.e. Danny Love) have been working their fingers to the bone designing their own improved versions of every part of the Autococker. Theyre not quite there yet, but theyre close. Since then theyve also switched their air affiliation from Air America to PMI.
When I last looked at Bad Boyz Toyzs top-end gun, it was the curvaceously milled Westwood Autococker. Since then, theyve switched to a new, more conservative body style called the SFL, short for "super dog-gone light" (or something like that). Its not as skeletonized as some ultra-lights out there, but they do cut it down to a mini and take a lot of the dead weight away. The SFL also receives the full measure of Danny Loves attention, receiving every top-end part and nifty trick in his repertoire.
Ive been hearing about the stylish SFL for some time now without a review gun arriving at my door, so once again I was reduced to begging. After several months of coaxing, cajoling, and open weeping, Renick Miller finally agreed to send me an SFL to try out. The black and chrome gun reviewed here retails at a steep $1275. The 4500 psi 68 ci PMI Pure Energy air system adds another $369.99 to the price tag.
Once again, Ive broken the gun down into systems to review: trigger, pneumatics, internals, accessories and extras, and cosmetics. This is how it fared
Trigger jobs have long been a strength of the work done by Danny Love and Bad Boyz Toyz. Every few months seems to bring some new innovation that improves things further. the trigger in the SFL was no different.
The SFLs trigger is installed in the new Shocktech .45 frame. Like every other .45 frame out there, the Shocktech frame has both front and back trigger guide screws to take out all vertical slack in the trigger. As has been the case since 1998 there is no trigger stop due to changes in the shape of the trigger plate. Some companies have installed front trigger stops in their frames. Shocktech has not since other changes have allowed them to significantly shorten the trigger pull. This .45 frame also extends back much further than most other .45 frames and includes the much-copied Shocktech beavertail built into its back section. It also has the name "Shocktech" stylishly engraved above the trigger guard.
The trigger plate is also a new Shocktech innovation. The plate doesnt look particularly special, and the apparent machining lines may even look bad to some people, but allow me to assure you that this plate gives up nothing in perfect fit, smoothness, and performance. As opposed to most other trigger plates on the market which are laser-cut or stamped, the Shocktech trigger plate is machined. The result is a trigger plate with perfectly smooth and parallel top and bottom surfaces. Most other plates have slight irregularities that make it impossible to set the guide screws right up against the trigger plate since they bind either at the forward or backward extreme of trigger travel. The perfectly parallel surfaces of the Shocktech plate make it possible to set the vertical guide screws in the frame flush up against the bottom surfaces of the plate to eliminate the final traces of vertical slack without the risk of trigger binding. Furthermore, the trigger plate is wide enough to perfectly fit the width of the .45 frame. The result, when properly set-up (as is the case with this paintgun), is a perfectly slack free trigger pull.
The ramp on which the sear tip rides is smooth and flat, lacking the bumps and ridges that plague the stock plate that result in a bumpy, grinding trigger pull. The end result of this nicely designed trigger plate is perhaps the smoothest, most slack-free trigger pull in any Autococker.
Following current trends, the new Shocktech trigger plate has a round hole rather than a slot for the timing rod. This shortens the trigger pull significantly since it removes the delay in activation of the 4-way valve. While I recognize why people like this and understand that Shocktech makes it this way because everyone wants a slotless trigger, I still dont think it is the best way to go. Removing that delay forces much closer timing of the gun, increases blowback, and allows the gun to slip out of time with less sear wear. Its important to note that these potential problems exist with all Autocockers being built today since even the stock Autococker has a slotless plate now. Ill jump ahead a bit in saying that some of these problems are ameliorated by the superb new "Bomb" 4-way valve that Shocktech includes on all their Autocockers. This superb valve switches over a shorter distance than any other competing valve on the market.
The overall feel is typical Bad Boyz Toyz. Ive already talked about how the trigger plate and frame make for a smooth-as-butter action and slack-free motion. The slotless plate and "Bomb" 4-way make for a medium-length pull (3.5-4 mm). It could be shorter, but the lack of a trigger stop doesnt allow it to be stopped out less than that. Return springing is moderate to heavy - actually a bit heavier than the stock Autococker. This heavy return is by design. For a person used to shooting guns with ultra-light electropneumatic triggers, this heavy pull can be disconcerting. But many people find after shooting an Autococker for a while that they prefer a heavier return for a faster feel and easier rapid fire. The timing is, as required by the slotless plate, very close. Danny Love has always timed Bad Boyz Toyz Autocockers with very little gap to minimize the chance of short-stroking and shorten the pull, but this goes even a bit further due to these new constraints.
Overall, an exceptional trigger. Definitely built to my tastes, this smooth and springy trigger counts among my favorites. If you want the absolute lightest and shortest though, you may wish to look elsewhere.
Ive said it before. The new stock WOrr Games front-end parts work really well and dont really need changing. Replacing them is always a dicey action, risking leaks and reliability problems if not installed properly. Ive tried most of them and can confidently say that very few front-end replacement parts outperform the stock Sledge, Angry 3-way, and ram. When youre buying an expensive, fully custom gun you expect the best, even if it is only slightly better. In their quest to provide any edge in performance for the player or convenience for the airsmith, Shocktech has been spending considerable time designing their own Autococker components.
Feeding the front-end is Shocktechs new FGP low pressure regulator. This chromed, adjustable reg falls somewhere between Palmers ultra-short Micro-Rock reg and the full length Rock in length. It includes a stylishly-milled adjustment knob for easy adjustment without tools, and a small teflon grub-screw to ensure it doesnt back out while youre playing. Proving that he is truly the airsmiths friend, Danny Love has designed this regulator with a modified Schraeder valve that can be easily accessed and replaced by unscrewing the reg in half after disconnecting the hose. No need to remove this reg from the gun if it ever needs servicing. The FGP reg has been designed with the largest regulated air reservoir in the business. The end result is that this reg recharges fast. Ive tried this reg on a few different Autocockers, always with exceptional results. With other low pressure regulators you usually need to turn the pressure up a bit over the point where the gun starts cycling properly to ensure sufficient pressure during rapid fire. I was surprised to find that I could turn the FGP right up to the minimum pressure required to cycle the paintgun and just leave it there and never suffer a problem.
Everyone and his brother has come out with his own aftermarket switch valve for the Autocockers front-end. Even Budd Orr has gotten in on the act by installing superb new stock valves on the STO and Stock gun from the factory. What differentiates one aftermarket valve from another and from the new stock valves? Not much. Every aftermarket 4-way uses the same basic design to switch the low pressure air flow between the two ends of the ram. Every one was the same until now, that is. Danny Love has come out with one of the coolest, cleverest ideas Ive seen in ages. The SFL comes with Shocktechs new "Bomb" 4-way valve. This is the first truly new design in 4-way switch valves for the Autococker. On the outside it doesnt look all that different - three standard hose-barbs on a nifty bomb-shaped body. If you look closer though, youll find a ring of holes in front of and behind the hose barbs. Pull out the piston and youll find a long shaft with 3 O-rings rather than the standard two. Hook up the hoses the way youre used to and it wont work - the Bomb has to be hooked up opposite to the way youre used to: front barb to the front of the ram, back to the back. Every other 4-way valve on the market works by switching the two O-rings back and forth across the two outer hose barbs to direct the constant flow of air in to one end or the other. The Bomb works by switching the center O-ring back and forth across the center barb to direct the air flow, and the two outer O-rings across the rings of holes to vent or seal each end. The end result is that the timing rod only needs to move as far as the diameter of the center hose-barb hole to switch the valve - something well under 1 mm. The long shaft and widely spaced O-rings allow them to make its action extremely smooth, but at the same time virtually impossible to twist the shaft far enough to make it leak. As the SFLs body is cut down to Minicocker-length, the shaft can be pulled straight out the back of the valve so you can pull the timing rod out without having to disconnect the collar. In my opinion, this is the best 4-way on the market right now. It provides the shortest switch-length with the best combination of smoothness and leak-free action.
Though Shocktech is working on their own ram, it wasnt finished at the time this gun was built, so it came with the excellent STO ram from WGP. Along with Palmers QuickRam, the STO stocker counts among my two favorite rams for the Autococker. The wide barrel allows it to operate at low pressure, its rebuildable, and it works reliably. No complaints here.
The internals found in the FGP are about what youd expect - mostly Shocktech stuff.
The hammer is a standard stock Autococker hammer modified with a small teflon grub-screw to hold the lug in place. The stock hammer and velocity adjuster for the Autococker have taken Nelson-style springs for years now, so there is really no reason to change this. The springs are specifically selected to match the valve.
The valve is, no surprise, a RAT valve 3:16. This valve is just the latest iteration of the ground-breaking RAT valve that created the market for aftermarket valves. As with all RAT valves to date, the 3:16 comes with a narrowed cup-seal stem for higher flow, and an O-ring fit around the stem to stop air loss back into the gun body. As with the RAT valve II, the seal is a small plastic ring set into the front face of the valve. This heavily copied, nifty innovation makes the seal very inexpensive and easy to change. The 3:16 differs from the earlier version slightly in that the valve guide is now made from aluminum rather than stainless steel (the cup seal is still stainless), and the hole in the top matches the hole that leads up to the bolt. This valve works well at 300 psi input pressure and gives between 1000 and 1200 shots from a 68 ci 3000 psi nitrogen system.
I was surprised to find that the bolt is Shocktechs Alien bolt held in with a standard 4-bearing push-pin. I had expected Shocktechs more stylish new SuperFly bolt which is essentially the same bolt, but with an Evolution-style push-pin system. Shocktechs bolts have a 3-hole face and a ramped inlet much like the Lightning bolt from AKA.
Accessories & Extras
SFL Autocockers are built from center-feed Autococker bodies that have been cut down to Minicocker length and extensively milled to reduce weight and provide a custom look. In this respect, the SFL is very successful. It isnt the most totally skeletonized Autococker Ive ever seen, but most of the dead weight is removed making for a light-weight body without compromising structural integrity.
Up front, the pneumatics are threaded into a Shocktech front-milled STO block. Its really no different from the standard STO front block from a performance perspective, but a bit of front-face milling gives it a custom look and reduces weight by a tiny amount.
In back, threaded into the Shocktech .45 frame is a Shocktech ring-shaped beavertail. This cool looking beavertail has been ripped off by every other manufacturer on the market, so expect new SFLs to have a differently designed though equally cool beavertail back.
The cocking rod is also of Shocktech design. Youd think the stock Autocockers cocking rod was just about right the way it is. Its a knob with a rod, whats the big deal, right? Wrong. Anyone who shoots an Autococker knows the frustrations that the cocking rod can cause by sticking in, backing out during play, or having the knob unscrew when youre trying to take out the whole rod. This Shocktech design is the first truly perfect cocking rod. The Shocktech rod comes with the rod, a knob, and a bumper (dont laugh - most dont include a proper bumper). The magic is all in the knob. The knob has a hole drilled and tapped in the side for a locking screw. Loosen this screw to shorten or lengthen the rod, then tighten it down to lock the knob in place on the rod. To make things even better, the back of the knob has an allen screw fixed in place. The allen screw takes the same size allen wrench that you use to adjust the Autocockers velocity. When you want to adjust your velocity just stick the wrench into the back of the rod and use that to unscrew it - no more pliers needed. When youre done adjusting the velocity, use the same wrench to tighten the rod back down so it wont back out.
The .45 frame comes wrapped in DYEs increasingly popular sticky-grips. These ones are clear and look great on this black and chrome gun while providing a great gripping surface that doesnt slip even when slicked with paint.
Wrapping the trigger plate are Shocktechs super-cool trigger pants. Shocktechs trigger pants are a trigger shoe actually designed to fit the curve of the Autocockers trigger plate, curving above and below where shoes stop. Theyre also carved away on the sides to take away sharp edges and conform more naturally to your fingers curves.
The barrel is DYEs Ultralite Boomstick; an all-aluminum Boomstick that comes in much lighter than the standard stainless-steel back Boomer. It shoots every bit as well as the standard Boomstick with the Diablo I was shooting as well.
Threaded into the vertical ASA is PMIs new regulator, the Pure Energy. This nice reg is finger-grooved for use as a forgrip and have a swivel-base so you can orient the inlet hole to wherever you want to bring in your hose. Fully adjustable, lightweight, and stylish, this reg is now in use by Aftershock on all their Autocockers and come on all Shocktech Autocockers as base equipment. I found it to recharge quickly and efficiently with no problems keeping the SFL fed and keeping velocity consistency within a 5-10 fps range.
A Shocktech bottom-line is included for your air system. Most drop-forwards are frumpy, blocky parts that get the job done but look butt-ugly on a high-end paintgun. The Shocktechs sexy curves simply embarrass the competition. It is also cut with an Armageddon/Apocalypse compatible dove tail to fit these two hugely popular air systems. This one also came with a custom-milled bottom-line adapter to screw a CO2 bottle or fixed pressure air system into. Bad Boyz Toyz sent along a PMI Pure Energy 4500 psi air system that fits this bottom-line perfectly and was very comfortable.
Its inevitable that this guns milling will be compared to that of Bad Boyz Toyzs former heavyweight, the Westwood. Frankly, theres no competition. The Westwood was a sexy, swoopy, curvy masterpiece that required a computer-controlled mill to make.
The SFL is a much more conservative design with an eye towards nice looks and light-weight. In this was I think it was very successful. The bold, deep cuts look slick without being ostentatious, and diverge significantly from the detailed surface work Im accustomed to seeing come off Danny Loves mill. It also has a very cool P-block custom fitted to the back of the gun body and curved and grooved to match the milling at the back of the gun.
The black anodizing and chrome were both of very good quality, though a few small scuffs in the anodizing were evident upon very close examination. The black/combo is a great look that is easy to match new parts to if you ever change anything.
A laser-engraved "Shocktech" logo and "SFL" are engraved on either side of the gun body just forward of the vertical feed.
"SFL" is supposed to mean this gun is light. In reality I found it to be extremely light in weight. Though Im sure the extensive milling takes away a significant amount of weight, it is probably most heavily influenced by the very light air system and all aluminum barrel. The whole package with Pure Energy air system installed was surprisingly light and easy to run with and whip around. I really liked it.
On the field, it didnt take long for me to get used to this trigger either. Though I was at first impressed with the exceptional feel of the trigger (I really cant stress enough just how much of a difference these well-fitted, milled and chromed parts make), I soon did exactly what I hoped. I forgot all about it and played. For me, this is the single most important finding indicative of a product done well. The last thing you want is to be thinking about your gear while playing paintball. You want your gear to become an extension of your will, and for me the SFL did just that.
On the whole, this an extremely good paintgun - even better than the Westwood was thanks to new, better parts. The less expensive milling allows them to sell the gun for about $550 less than the Westwood as well. Though its impossible to call $1275 "cheap", I do think it is a reasonable price for a no-holds-barred Autococker from one of the most reputable companies in the business.
All material at this site is © Ravi Chopra, 2001