The Upgrade Question

We all love upgrades. Those little bits and pieces that can make our guns a little better. The urge when you walk into the paintball shop looking for that one thing that will make our guns a little faster, a little more consistent, or a little better. And in that search, we have all bought junk, at some point.

Well this is a guide that will hopefully keep you from making the same mistakes other people have made. First are the questions to see if you really need the part that you are going to buy, then the rules on which one to get.

The Questions:

No.1: Why do I want this? What do you expect from this upgrade? Are you buying it to make the gun perform better, or just to look better? If you want it to simply look cool, stop reading, and buy whatever you want. If you want performance, keep reading.

No.2: How does it work? If you can’t answer this, you are not ready to buy the upgrade. If you don’t know how the thing works, how can you figure out which is the best one for the money? This also includes knowing what the different features of each manufacturer do, and why they’re made that way. Lets look at grip frames for Auto-Cockers. In my never to be humble opinion, the Benchmark frames are the best on the market right now. Why? The craftsman ship that goes into making the frames. When you buy a ‘cocker frame, you need two things to get a nice trigger, a smooth internal passage for the trigger plate, and set screws installed at critical points in that passage. The Benchmarks have both of these, but they cost around $80. Now, with a little digging, I found that the Free Flow frames have all of the same features, but at $20 less. So without the research, you spend $20 more to get the same product. Or you spend $40 dollars on a different frame completely, and miss out on either the set screws, or the smooth finish on the passage way, and end up buying it later anyway.

No.3: What do people think of the product? This may sound simple, but it isn’t. If you talk to 10 people about the exact same product, you will get 10 different answers, from “It’s the greatest thing ever!” to, “I wouldn’t let my dog crap on it.” Every thing you hear from people is biased in one way or another. All of them are basing they’re opinions on they’re own experience, or on what they have heard from other people. Lets deal with the second one first, because it’s the hardest to clear up. What people feel (notice I said feel, not think) about a product can be influenced by many things. If they work for a company or are sponsored by a company that make a competing product, you can not take what they say as unbiased. Now that filters down to all the people that they talk to, and the ones they talk to, and so on, and so on.... This creates a situation where someone that has no stake in what you buy can be influenced by the competition of the marketplace. If some one can’t give you a reason other than, “that’s what I heard”, ignore what they say until they can give you a reason to believe them. Now the second, personal experience, is simple. I sell you a product, and it doesn’t work the way you thought it would, you no longer like the product. Two things can happen here, the buyer misunderstands the reason to buy the item, or the item fails to perform as it should. Now if you get a bolt, and it doesn’t work, in your gun, it sucks right? But the guy down the street has had no problems with the exact same bolt. So what happened? It’s not the exact same bolt. Quality control in my opinion is one of the most important things to keep in mind when researching a product. If you find that half the people that owned the product say it sucks, but the other half say it’s great, then that could be the fault of quality control. If the company doesn’t keep the product the same from one item to the next, some people will have a good review of it, and others will hate it. So keep that in mind.

No.4: How well is it made? Well, this sounds a lot more simple than it is. Is the product well made and designed? Is it strong enough to with stand the punishment you’re going to give it? Is the thing built to be used, or put on a shelf to look pretty? The things you should look for are: Fit, Finish, Design, Construction.

Fit: This is the major part of quality control I was talking about. I was looking at two ‘cocker bolts from the same company, same make, same model, but one had the hole for the locking pin 1/8th of an inch farther back. This one little difference made it so the bolt wouldn’t line up correctly with air transfer hole inside the body of the gun. If you can get two of the same item, and compare them, side by side, as well as in a gun, thats how to check fit.

Finish: This one is harder. Any part that is anodized will wear over time. On a bolt, that means there will be spots that get rubbed off as it is used, not much any one can do about that. On the other hand, finish also covers the outer appearance of the part, like was it polished then anodized? Did they take the time to round any sharp edges? Do the crew holes line up correctly? Most times, a company that goes the extra step to make the part look nice, they will go the other extra steps to make it work as well. Just another in a list of things to think about.

Design: Another tough one to cover. Basically this is how it will work. Most people go out and buy the newest thing in the store, figuring that it is the best. Well, that is not always true. The first run of Angels had what was called heat-stoke. If the gun got too hot, like in the Las Vegas Open, the board locked up. The problem was the circuit board, it wouldn't work properly in high temperatures. The gun would shoot at a very low velocity, or not at all. They fixed this problem as soon as they found out about it, and offered a free replacement board to every one that had an old one, but it was a problem that wasn’t found before hand. Now I’m not bashing WDP for not finding the problem, they tested the gun for a long time in England, they just don’t have 110 degree heat there. The whole point of looking at the design is, will it do what it is supposed to do? Also, will it do it better than the other ones? If you look at bolts again, there are a million venturi style ones out there. Some have 4 large holes, some have 9 small ones, and there are others that fall everywhere in between. So what’s the difference? Well the larger holes let more gas pass through it more easily, but does less to split-up the impact of the air on the paintball. The smaller holes split the air better, but restrict the flow of gas more. If you use a low pressure gun, you want the bolt with 4 holes, the gas is already easy on the paint, and you need the flow to keep the gun shooting consistently. On the other hand, if you run CO2 with out a regulator, you want to split the impact as much as possible, and flow isn’t as important. On the cradles that have a hex shaped rod for the collar to attach to, there is one problem. You only have three ways to swing the tank, 60 degrees to the right, dead center, or 60 degrees to the left. If they used a round rod, you could put the tank any where you wanted to. It basically boils down to this: Does the design of what I plan to buy do what I want and need it to do?

Construction: This is very closely related to the other three, but not quiet the same. The material that is used, the workmanship that goes into it, and the design all come together in the construction. All the brilliant design in the world won’t save an item with bad materials, all the best materials won’t save an item with bad construction, all....well you get the point. All these things must be done to make a good up-grade. Here is an example: There was a company that make a bolt for the auto-cocker, it was very light, very thin. It was billed as a bolt you could never put in up-side down, because instead of having one hole for the gas to go through, they cut it down so there was just a thin bit of metal holding the head of the bolt on to the body. Well, it was a good idea, but the thin piece of metal that held the head of the bolt on to the body of the bolt was a little too thin, and some times broke after some use “read: the front of the bolt came flying out of the barrel of the gun.). Also to make the bolt even lighter, they got rid of any thing that would guide the bolt back into the body of the gun, so when you fired, and the bolt came back, it could twist, that helped to stress the joint at the head, but also beat the hell out of the inside of the gun body. Well, they heard about the problem and fixed both of them.

Now back to the bolt to tie everything together. The first problem was a design and material created problem. If the material was stronger, it wouldn’t break. If the design had been better, and the joint thicker, it wouldn’t have broken either.

So newer isn’t always better. Personally, I wait at least six months before I buy anything that just came out. That gives them enough time to work out most of the bugs, and I won’t have to deal with it. Well, the end of another rant on my part, hope I helped, and do us both a favor. Think about what you are buying before you buy it, a little research will save you a lot of money.