Pro-Series Nitrogen Cradle for Air America Raptor systems by Pro-Team Products
© Ravi Chopra, 1997
The use of nitrogen and compressed air in paintball is no longer a curiosity. For many, especially tournament players, the use of nitrogen is a near mandatory fact of life. Among the several very good nitrogen systems currently on the market, the Air America Raptor systems have the longest track-record and are perhaps the most popular.
There's an unfortunate "Catch 22" in using these nitrogen systems, though. If you use the small 68 ci tank, you're generally limited to 600-700 good shots between fills. If you use the larger 114 ci tank, you get more shots, but are saddled with a big and heavy tank.
These problems are exacerbated for players who want to run their systems in the bottom-line configuration. The most common bottom-line adapters for Air America nitrogen systems (called "cradles") bolt to the bottom of the grip frame and stick the tank straight out behind them. The problem comes from the fact that these tanks are enormous. While the 68 ci tank is generally usable, the 114 ci is so long that many will find it uncomfortable to use as a stock, and of such a large diameter that it interferes with comfortable positioning of your forearm. Many players add a drop-forward adapter to bring the tank forward into a position where it is comfortable as a stock. Unfortunately, this brings an even wider part of the tank into opposition with your forearm, forcing your elbow far out to the side and increasing forearm fatigue because of the unnatural position. Finally, the significant mass of the fiber-wrapped tanks positioned entirely out behind the grip frame tends to make 'guns so tail-heavy that it takes genuine effort to keep it pointed anywhere but skyward.
It was in response to complaints of these problems that John Gross designed the Drop Forward-Offset nitrogen cradle, currently being produced and distributed by Pro-Team Products.
When I first saw the Pro-Series cradle, the first thing I thought was, "Wow, that's the biggest, goofiest looking thing I've ever seen. Who in their right mind would put such an atrocity on their 'gun?" I have an answer for that question now. The answer is "me."
You'll probably have the same first impression that I did. The Pro-Series Nitrogen Cradle sticks way down, way out in front, and off to the left of the grip frame. Without a bottle in it, it looks mighty strange. The fact of the matter though, is that once you get a bottle in it and bring it up to your shoulder you'll see that John Gross knew exactly what he was doing when he built this cradle, goofy looks and all.
So how good is it? Sigh. I'm really starting to get edgy about reviewing Pro-Team's goods. People tend not to take you as seriously when you give nothing but positive reviews. Unfortunately for me (but, I suppose, fortunately for those who buy Pro-Team stuff) I have thus far not received anything from them that did not work at least as well as advertised.
I'm afraid that this cradle is no different, and once again I am put in the position where I have no choice but to make some very positive comments. This cradle is, by no small margin, the best nitrogen cradle currently made for an Air America 114 ci nitrogen system, bar none. There, I've said it.
This cradle does three very big things, all of which contribute to making the use of a bottom-line 114 ci Air America system a much more pleasant experience.
First, it lowers the bottle (the "drop" part of drop forward). The effect of this is to shift the 'gun up with respect to the tank such that when it's shouldered, the 'gun is positioned right up in front of your face. As such, you don't have to crane your head and neck down in order to aim down the side of the 'gun or look through a sight.
Second, it shifts the tank forward. The advantage of this is two-fold. It brings the tank far enough forward to be comfortably used as a stock. Better yet, it improves the 'gun's balance significantly. I've found that a 114 ci system mounted in the Pro-Team cradle on my Autococker with a Uni-Reg in the vertical adapter is almost perfectly balanced for level shooting.
While the above two features can be added to some degree to a traditional cradle by installing a drop forward adapter, the third and most impressive feature of the Pro-Series cradle is entirely unique. It shifts the tank to the left. By moving the entire tank just 1" to the left, it takes the tank completely out of the way of your forearm, reducing fatigue dramatically.
One last little nice feature it has that, perhaps more than anything, exemplifies the thought that went into the production of this product is the fact that the regulator's pressure gauge faces UP unlike other cradles which turn the gauge down to face the ground. What this means, apart from making the gauge much more convenient to read, is that if you accidentally set your 'gun down hard, fall while running on the field, or otherwise accidentally drop the 'gun, you're not in jeopardy of smashing the relatively delicate plastic face of the gauge.
Everyone I've shown this cradle to so far has been absolutely nuts about it. Paul is a team mate of mine who has, to date, made a royal pain of himself by insisting on using the smaller 68ci tank which he has to fill after every single game (his Automag is notoriously inefficient). After feeling a 114 ci mounted in the Pro-Series cradle he exclaimed that it was more comfortable than his small 68 ci in his old cradle! He's decided to start using a 114 ci in the new cradle which he won't have to fill nearly as frequently. For this I owe Pro-Team all my thanks.
The only thing I find lacking in the Pro-Series cradle is the fact that it brings the bottle much too far forward for use with a 68 ci tank. A shorter version would be nice for people who wanted to enjoy the left-offset advantage with the light weight of a 68 ci nitrogen system.
The suggested retail price for the Pro-Series cradle is $59.95, making it cheaper than a competing cradle with a drop forward. While it is currently being manufactured only in right-handed (left-offset) versions, Pro-Team will custom-convert right-offset cradles for south-paws free-of-charge. In addition, the cradle's 6061 T-6 aluminum construction (same as used in the Micromag) allows them to be anodized in any of Pro-Team's proprietary colors or patterns to match the rest of your gear.
I said it once before, but I think it bears repeating. The Pro-Series nitrogen cradle from Pro-Team products is the BEST cradle currently available for 114 ci Air America nitrogen systems. No other cradle currently on the market comes anywhere near its virtually perfect bottom-line positioning of the larger Air America nitrogen system.
All material at this site is © Ravi Chopra, 1999