A Shocktech by any other name
Paintball Inc.s sweet-shooting Vortex Autococker
© Ravi Chopra, 2001
Once Doug Brown realized that there really werent any strings attached when he sent me a paintgun or product to review, the flood-gates opened. Ive received no fewer than five enormous boxes of gear from National Paintball Supply, SC (now Paintball Inc.) and there doesnt appear to be any end to the flow.
The last large box sent to me included a number of new products in NPS new "Vortex" line of stuffs, including their line of paint (Vortex Tremor, Quake, Armageddon, and Doom from consumer grade to tournament quality), piles of accessories, and the Vortex Automag (to be reviewed in a future issue) and Vortex Autococker.
When I pulled it out of the box, the Vortex Autococker was immediately familiar. This is with good reason. There was a time once when buying a custom paintgun meant getting a piece specifically built for you by the shops top airsmith. This is only rarely the case today. These days, the vast bulk of "custom" Autocockers are actually mass produced by a small number of manufacturers, packaged, rebadged, and resold by smaller shops who want to carry a custom gun but dont want to be bothered with sourcing parts and building paintguns. WGP, Pro-Paintball, and Bad Boyz Toyz are all such large producers and build paintguns for many of the "custom" shops youve heard of.
National doesnt pretend to be a custom shop. Theyre a big distributor and everyone knows it. With the Vortex line they are trying to build a strong brand name to help sell their products. The folks at NPS South Carolina know that a custom Autococker is a signature piece that can carry the entire names reputation. Being the clever fellows they are, theyve enlisted one of the most reputable Autococker shops in the world to build their Vortex Autococker: Bad Boyz Toyz. As a result, anyone who read my recent SFL Autococker review will find this one to be very very familiar.
The Vortex Autococker trigger is built into a DYE .45 grip frame. These days, just about all .45 frames are pretty much the same and this one is, functionally, pretty much the same as the Shocktech frame found on SFLs and Shocktech Autocockers. It has both front and back vertical guide screws and is milled to take the post 98 trigger plates that dont allow a back-stop. This frame is comfortable and has the stylish DYE logo milled on the side.
Quarterbacking this excellent trigger is the new milled and chromed Shocktech trigger plate with perfectly parallel and smooth surfaces to completely eliminate binding when the vertical guide screws are set right up against the trigger plate. I covered this in more detail in the SFL article but this wide trigger plate makes for the smoothest, most slack-free trigger available when properly set up and timed. As these guns are assembled by Bad Boyz Toyz it comes as no surprise that this is absolutely the case.
The timing of this trigger is classic Bad Boyz Toyz. The trigger is timed with very close spacing between the firing and cocking stages of the trigger pull. The threaded timing rod will ensure it doesnt slip out of time, but as always, sear lug wear can cause timing problems with the slotless trigger over the long term. The pull length is something on the order of 4 mm and it is sprung with stiffer springs than the stock 2000 Autococker to make for a more responsive trigger that experienced Autococker shooters tend to prefer for rapid fire.
Just like the SFL, this is one of the nicest triggers Ive felt on an Autococker. For me, its darn near perfect. If you prefer an ultra-short, snappy trigger, youll probably want to look elsewhere, though.
The front-end pneumatics that drive the back block, hammer and bolt draw heavily from the Shocktech parts bin. This is no bad thing since Danny Love has designed some of the nicest Autococker parts in recent years to be graced with the Shocktech badge. All front end bits are mounted to a STO front-block.
The low pressure reg is Shocktechs FGP regulator. It includes an adjustment knob, larger air reservoir than any other reg on the market, and easy on-field repair without tools (schraeder valve). In use Ive found this to be a very high-flow and fast-recharge regulator that doesnt need to be turned up much beyond the minimum operating pressure to ensure reliable operation even in a wide range of temperature situations.
The 4-way valve up front is the Shocktech "Bomb" valve. Ive said it before and Ill say it again. This is the best 4-way currently available for the Autococker on the market today. It is the first truly new design in such valves since the original stock "3-way" Budd Orr put on the first stock Autococker. Its benefits are a super-short switch length, exceptional smoothness, and impressive leak-free operation even with less than perfectly straight timing rods and collars.
Finally, the pneumatic cylinder is WOrr Games own STO ram. Expect the upcoming Shocktech ram (currently in development) to replace this in the near future. No complaints with the STO ram, no way to tell about the Shocktech ram yet.
The spring and hammer kit is the stock Nelson-style parts that come on the stock Autococker today. These parts work perfectly well and are compatible with all aftermarket Autococker parts. These used to be an important part to replace in days of yore. Stock hammers today work every bit as well as aftermarket ones.
The hammer smacks open a RAT valve 3:16, the 3rd generation successor to the valve that started it all. This valve still includes the small o-ring around the shaft of the cup seal to prevent air loss back into the gun body. Improving that seal is accomplished with a plastic seal mashed between the jam nut and back of the valve body. Also a much-copied innovation of the RAT valve is moving the valve seat from the cup seal (moving part) to the front of the valve body, making the seal much less expensive to replace, reversible, and generally more reliable. The 3:16 version of the RAT valve now has an aluminum body, anodized in a variety of colors to look nicer in the display case, I suppose. In my experience this is a very good valve that, when properly set up with a good bolt and air system, will deliver 1000-1100 shots from a full 3000 psi 68 ci nitrogen system.
The bolt is another Shocktech product, the Alien bolt which has a ramped inlet and a three large hole venturi face. This bolt delivers air to the back of the paintball every bit as well as any bolt on the market today. The only thing Id have preferred to have seen is an Evolution-style ball detent as that seen in Shocktechs own SuperFly bolt. Not too big a deal, though.
Its important to note that the Vortex Autococker maintains a pre-2000 length cut block, so most stock-length aftermarket bolts will fit it with no problem.
Accessories & Extras:
The standard Vortex Autococker is based off a right-feed WGP Autococker body, though center-feed is available. As already mentioned, the frame is a DYE .45, front block is stock STO, and back-block is pre-2000 cut length. The back of the gun is graced with what well may be Shocktechs most copied product; the rod and ring beavertail still the coolest looking beavertail on the market (in my opinion).
That stylish beavertail protects your mask from a Shocktech cocking rod, by far the best cocking rod on the market. Ive discussed this rod in much greater length elsewhere. In short, this rod is easier to adjust, install, and remove than any other rod on the market. Others may look cooler, but the Shocktech rod blows the competition away in user friendliness.
As has been standard for a while, the Vortex comes with a ball-bearing style detent to prevent double feeds and help reduce ball chops in the breech. I suspect that it will be chromed, but as a mistake was made with the gun sent to me and I had to substitute an extra brass detent I had laying around I cant say for certain.
The DYE .45 frame comes wrapped in rubber wrap-around, finger-groove grips. The Shocktech trigger plate comes wrapped in the very cool and comfortable Shocktech trigger-pants.
It is important to note that the Vortex Autococker does not include either a barrel or in-line regulator in the vertical ASA. This gun is pictured with the TASO Stone Cold II barrel (sold by NPS) and the Belsales Ergo regulator (stock equipment on the STO Autococker). In a brief aside, I have to admit that I am more and more impressed with this Ergo in-line regulator the more I test and play around with it. It recharges very quickly and has a very stable and consistent output. I am also starting to really dig the new Gladiator reg from MAC Developments down in Australia. Theyve got a lot of very cool new stuff that Ill be covering in a full article sometime soon.
The milling on the Vortex Autococker will be moderately familiar to anyone who has seen Bad Boyz Toyz milling before. The cuts are fairly simple, but are extensive enough to give the gun a custom look and set it apart from the piles of other custom Autocockers out there. Personally, I prefer the cuts found on Shocktech Autocockers, but these certainly dont look bad. The only thing Im not too fond of is the window that shows the bolt from either side of the bolt through the sides of the gun body. I suppose it is not too big an issue, but I really dont like things that give dirt easy access to the inside of the paintgun.
The anodizing trumps the Shocktech gray by offering a three-color fade that goes from the back of the back block to the front of the front and includes the grip frame as well. All accessories are chrome for that shiny custom look.
The easy conclusion here is that the Vortex Autococker is basically a Shocktech Autococker with different milling and anodizing. This is a superb Autococker with cutting-edge parts and one of the best triggers Ive ever had the pleasure to shoot. If you like Bad Boyz Toyz Autocockers, youll like the Vortex.
The price? Try $799.95 for right-feed and $869.95 for center-feed. These prices put the Vortex right smack-dab in the middle of the pack of low-priced performance custom cockers. The difference is that they dont include either a barrel or in-line pressure regulator. Consider that youre going to spend $100-$200 to add both of those and the price is a bit higher. The question you need to ask yourself is if the color anodizing and different milling are worth the trade off for a DYE barrel and PMI regulator (which come with all Shocktech Autocockers).
All material at this site is © Ravi Chopra, 2001