In the 1990’s, while paintball marker’s were evolving from shoebox shapes to milled masterpieces, few creations reached the mystique and uniqueness of a rare series of guns known as,”the Space Mags.” The ever expanding internet allowed these guns to be seen across the world, and as the images were being passed from one computer to the next, the rumors started. When all was said and done, the stories that were circulating left no trace of the truth behind those seemingly surreal guns.
I first saw them years ago on the old version of AutomagsOnline, a small forum dedicated to Automags. The pictures from back then are the same as those found today, four shots of three guns, revealing little more than their profile.
The first question was,”do they work?”then,”are they real?”and finally,”it must be photo shop!” Then came the stories, the most imaginative of which described the guns as props for a B-grade French science fiction movie that never made it to the screen. Though evidence to support that claim was never found, the tale was diligently spread around.
Soon more theories surfaced, ranging from the notion that they were plastic showpieces, to the conclusive belief that they did not work. How could they? Their unique shape and construction made them look almost like they came from, well, yeah, a science fiction movie! They must be showpieces!
Next up were the doubters who wondered why there were only four pictures and no more. On top of that, they were all profile shots. That gave many people good reason to believe that the guns were little more than a nifty photo enhancement. After a while, the story of the Space Mag was reduced to a few pictures cut and pasted by some guy in France and that was that.
Recently, the editor of a magazine was looking to do a piece on unusual paintball guns and he asked me for some assistance. The Space Mags immediately came to my mind, and I sent him a link to the famous four pictures. The editor’s response was as follows,”those are nice guns, but we need to have better pictures.”
So the search was on to find a set of guns that hadn’t been seen or photographed for over a decade. Embarking on such a journey 20 years ago would have most likely cost me a bunch of money, time and travel. Today, my only concern was having enough coffee and getting up off of my butt once in a while to make sure it didn’t grow roots. Cyberspace is definitely the tool of the times.
I turned to AO first, and announced that I intended to find these guns, come what may. Responses were scarce at first, until a polar bear by the name of Doc Nickel took notice and offered his help. He also mentioned that the Space Mags impressed him enough that he dared to reconstruct one of them five years ago. He never took pictures, but the quest to find the originals appears to have spurred him into doing yet another recreation. The enthusiasm for such a retro project made itself quickly recognizable.
I kept at it, looking for any guns that were intended to defend France from Martians, and hounding all the old schoolers of our sport who had seen nearly everything back in the day. I was surprised to hear that some of the most famous Mag toters of the 90’s never knew about the Space Mags, and that other industry stalwarts had to brush the cobwebs from their memory to recall them at all. I posted on paintball forums in France, Belgium, England and America, where I encountered many people who showed great interest and curiousity, but provided little information.
Two weeks went by, and after tapping every resource I could think of, I was ready to give up. On the same day that I announced my failure, Doc came through with the crucial link that sent the search onward. Doc’s own website, www.DocsMachine.com has a forum named the Tinker’Guild and it’s filled with fans of the extraordinary. Links to the known pictures were found there, as well as a rare shot of what appeared to be an anodized Space Mag. Most signifigant however was the discovery of a five year old post intending to sell one of the Space Mags.
MarkM, a fellow AO member living in the UK had also joined the search early on, and he took charge when he noticed that the phone number in the post from Doc was in England. Mark was quick to act, tracing the old contact to the present day, and before I could get another cup of coffee, he supplied me with the info I had set out to find.
Half an hour later I was on the phone talking to an Englishman who hadn’t played paintball for more than ten years. A man who still had the final incarnation of the Space Mags he created collecting dust in his closet. A man named Allan Hastie.
Well, we talked for a little while, and Allan told me everything I wanted to know about those guns. So now, after this lengthy introduction, I’m happy to present you with the facts, and though they may not compare to the spectacular legends that have been told, some of them are actually quite interesting.
First, here’s a bit about the way he did it:
The parts were all aluminum, cut out of inch thick plate stock with a jigsaw, and manually milled on a small bench lathe in his dining room. Hand filing and shaping was done while watching television, with the final finishing done by hand in the bathtub to minimize the mess it made. None of the work was done in a workshop, and each gun took roughly three months to finish.
Allan also said he did some technical modifications to his guns, including spring reinforced triggers that helped them shoot faster, and other work on the internals to tweak their performance. All of the guns were set up for remote lines, and none of them have any attachments that allow for the mounting of a pressure cylinder. But perhaps the most cunning part of their construction is that the first two have air passages internally cut and drilled to supply air to the gun.
Try doing that in your dining room!
The first Automag Allan modified was close to 15 years ago. On the top of that gun, what appears to be some kind of a red dot site is actually a barrel cleaning device, designed to be ready for action when a ball broke in the barrel. Allan says the whole project was merely an experiment to see what he could do. When asked why he did it, he said it was fun to have something that looked different from everyone elses.
Someone made Allan an offer on that gun, and he accepted, but he only sold off the parts he made, keeping the Automag body and A.I.R. valve. He said he’s pretty sure that the pieces he sold are lying at the bottom of a scrap pile by now.
For the second gun, Allan used the same body and valve that he kept from the first one, and this time he went so far as to build a shot counter into the grip. He played with it for a while until he sold it off to someone at his local field. The gun has since been anodized with a silver splash pattern on a dark background. No one knows where it is today.
The third and final Space Mag was created almost ten years ago, a design based on the RT Automag from Airgun Designs. Serial # RT 00554. It was one of the first RT’s to see English soil, incorperating the prototype body with the raised and angled backward power feed. According to Allan, this was his best work, the most complete version of the Space Mags, and he’s still got it after all these years.
Having found Allan with one of the original guns, and possibly inspiring Doc to resurrect one of them from the recycling bin, it looks as though the Space Mags can rest in peace, and so can the rumors. We can now say for certain that they are not just pictures, nor are they wannabe laser zappers. They have absolutely nothing to do with France and they’re not made of plastic. They are(or were as the case may sadly be)fully functional aluminum markers created by someone who had the desire to turn his Automags into something special.
Hats off to you Allan!
Thanks to AO, especially Doc and Mark for their help. This would not have happened without you guys.
Now, if I may dare to be so cheesy……Vive la Space Mag!!!