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Flashback Friday- History of Gases Part 2

By Ryan Dupras
Published Friday, April 4, 2014.

Part 2 of a look back into the history of paintball gas.

AGD 6 Pack

The awesome contraption on the back of this Sharidan is called the AGD 6 Pack. It changed tournament paintball forever. Released in 1989, the 6 Pack allowed players to almost seamlessly change out 12 grams during play. Its release quickly made all arguments against CA moot. It initially sold so well that the following year every major tournament series allowed constant air. So far the AGD 6 Pack is the only product in paintball history whose demise was directly effected by its general popularity.

Ever the innovator, Tom Kaye of AGD went back to work on air systems, and in 1991 he developed the first nitrogen system for paintball. However this idea was initally set aside as some thought high pressure nitrogen was too dangerous for the sport. It was even banned by some field insurence agencies for a short period of time. He eventually passed off his designs to Air America, which eventually became Guerrilla Air. 

Angel Air

Angel Air. The games first and only electronically controlled pressure regulator.

Unfortunately this is where history isn't as clear, and I'll be relying on the collective memories of the players that lived and played during this time. This section is based entirely on a thread I posted on a popular "vintage" paintball forum. As such, I will be crediting information to user names, and some replies will not appear exactly as they did in the thread. This is only for formatting, no information will be changed.

When do you remember nitrogen/HPA first becoming commercially available?


The first tanks I remember seeing were from Air America in '95 or '96. Only in 3000 psi and either 68 or 114 ci. Cost was $350 and up. This was on the East coast. I might be off a year or so. It has been a few brain cells between then and now. I remember watching Sugarstump (A forum member who play professionally with team Paraplegic Turtles in the early days of tournament paintball) on ESPN2 playing World Cup in '96 and HPA was already the dominate air source. Legend has it the systems are a carry over from compact emergency systems carried by fire fighters.


Tom Kaye did develop the first HPA system, which was a direct copy of the AIR reg used on Automags. I believe that it was around '96 that the first commercially available tanks were available from Air America. TK didn't think that they (HPA) would become profitable so he pretty much gave Air America the designs.


Like said above, Tom Kay started pushing for HPA back in 1992, but there was no infrastruture, and MUCH WORSE: Most insurance companies specifically banned it (ie APL, etc). But it was 1994 when people started becoming interested. Air American sold 3 systems, Nitro LPS, MPS, and HPS. (for low, medium, and high pressure system. Something like 1800psi, 2500psi, 3000psi). They were very expensive, and interest was mainly from Mag owners... I hate to say it but automags were garbage on CO2, the only propellant used at the time. So lots of interest. By late 1994, insurance companies started lifting bans, and we started seeing the Air America systems show up.


The first time I saw HPA was during the IAO in Pittsburg in 1992. (...) I also seem to remember a team Phantom Force [??] back then who were using it on Automags with the shortest Armson barrels I ever saw. Those thing were some of the worst sounding paintguns I've ever heard. Tom Kaye really was one of the first to push for HPA or actually 3000psi N2, I definitely remember the arguments about safety and such. Tom had a vested interest in pushing HP Gases because of the problems Automags had on CO2.

When do you remember the switch from remote and cradle regulators to the "screw in" regulators we use today?


Originally in 1995, all the tanks I saw were the large 114 and larger. All on remotes. Remotes were trendy at the time, but by late '95, cradles had started coming out to mount the tank to the gun. Then 1996 or so? we started seeing drops to replace cradles. 


'99. The first screw in tanks started to appear from ACI and Crossfire, from what I remember. As screw in tanks became available, the need or the extra costs for dedicated on gun setups decreased as people who would have multiple guns, but need only one tank to feed them.


There were rumors of a screw-in system in '96, and PBMania/Nitro Duck started selling 20-oz tanks with a screw-in regulator in '97. (I still have two '97 stamped 1800 psi tanks from them. They still work, too, despite being looooong out of hydro.)

The idea back then, was simply to let fields upgrade to HPA cheaply. Fields that had big piles of 20-oz tanks could just swap the pinvalve for a reg, fill it with (regulated) 1800 psi air, and go. As I recall, the wholesale on the reg alone was less than $100 (maybe as low as $60-$70) whereas the cheapest "normal" HPA system at the time was still $250-$300 each.

The only real drawback being that you had to also buy a regulated fill station, and the 1800 psi tanks only gave about 200 shots per fill to the average marker at the time.

So within about half a year or so, they came out with a 3000 psi version, and before long, everybody was making them.


I'm reasonably certain I bought my screw in Nitro Duck 68/3000 fiber tank in 1998, pretty sure the Hydro date was '98 on the tank..


One other anecdote:

Back in '96, the magazine PGI had a big full-color full-page ad for Boston Paintball, showing (I think) a Twister 'Cocker and another gun (Mag? Angel?). It also showed a then-brand-new Apocalypse system from Air America.

The people laying out the graphics for the ad, though, had placed the image of the Apocalypse as if it were screwed into the bottomline ASA on the 'Cocker. As in, somebody doing the page layout apparently thought the adjuster threads on the reg screwed into the ASA.

Since that was the first time we'd seen even a photo of the then-brand-new Apoc(alypse regulator), we actually called BPS and asked if that was real. WAS the Apoc some kind of big, blocky screw-into-the-ASA system? (Which was, keep in mind, a brand new concept in and of itself back then.) Nope, the guy said, the magazine guys flubbed that one when they laid out the page.

Advertisement for HPA tanks

An early magazine advertisment for HPA. Prices sure have come down.

And this is where the article ends. Screw in regulators have become the standard, and companies now strive to create the best performing regulator they can. This has been the trend from about 2002 on. Some companies thrive, some fall. Some are absorbed by others and come out as something new.

Currently Ninja Paintball makes arguably the best regulator on the market and are developing lightweight bottles. While Empire/Pure Energy continue to put out solid regulators and bottles at affordable prices. I don't see these trends going away anytime soon. Hopefully some time in the near future, we'll see a company produce a carbon fiber wrapped tank in the sub $150 price point.

If you want to read the entire thread I posted about the history, that can be found here. If you have any comments, feel free to leave them below.

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