Home Companies 45 Elite Expansion Chamber Grip / Euro Frame for Mags, Cockers, VM68s

45 Elite Expansion Chamber Grip / Euro Frame for Mags, Cockers, VM68s

June 1994 Paintball Sport Internal Scan showing the 45 Elite Expansion grip.
June 1994 scan from Paintball Sports International showing the .45 Elite Expansion Grip.

Over the last decade I’ve occasionally seen Automags surface with a funky gas through expansion chamber frame. Some of these frames have surfaced utilizing the gas through assembly but a few have been configured in a standard bottomline asa that bypasses the gas through aspect. Most of these have popped up in the UK but I managed to find a decent shape example in the US back in 2004. 

Some of these have been identified as “Euro Frames,” suggesting they came stock from AGD Europe while others have been labeled as 45 Elite frames made by Pressure Point, Inc. and originating in the US.
Pressure Point, Inc.’s 45 Elite frame appeared in the June 1994 issue of Paintball Sport International as a new product.  The article didn’t mention a “Euro Frame” version or european distributions though so I still wasn’t sure if there was a difference?

Over the last month though, more information on these frames has surfaced on both facebook and Automags.org. With the additional perspectives offered by Brad Nestle and Mark Gong on facebook, and the scans posted on Automags.org by Robert “Bunny” Ballesteros, the history on these frames is more concrete and it’s clear the frames were manufactured in Texas by Pressure Point, Inc. and then distributed in the UK by John Sosta’s company, Powerpulse Products.

A 45 Elite frame for the VM68.
A 45 Elite VM68 frame that David Ladnier’s found at Xtreme paintball park in Millstadt, IL. Photo Courtesy David “DAVID(GEN)” Ladnier.

One particular conversation on the facebook’s “Old School Paintball Guns” group shed a little more light on the history behind these frames. David “DAVID(GEN)” Ladnier posted photos of a frame that many, including myself, automatically assumed was a stripped down automag frame.

Total Greif promotional photo from RPS Florida.
Sal Briguglio and Total Greif out of Xtreme Paintball Park. Photo c. mid 90s. Location unknown. Photo originated with Susie Stonelake of RPS Florida.

David had come across the VM68 frame in a shed while working at Xtreme Paintball Park near St. Louis, Mo. He wrote me:
“I found [this frame] in one of the back sheds at the field that I work at, Xtreme paintball park, which is also the home to Total Greif. It’s located in Millstadt, IL just south east of St. Louis MO. One of the original owners was Sal Briguglio and now his son runs it.”

Will Golden pointed out that Ladnier’s frame was actually built for a VM68s, and posted a link to Chris Mader’s vm68 website which showed the same style frame empty, sitting with some of Mader’s spare parts.
Find that photo on Mader’s site at:
http://www.vm68.com/me/vm_goodies.html

Left side view of a 45 Elite frame on a Airgun Designs Minimag.
Left side view of a 45 Elite frame on a Airgun Designs Minimag I purchased back in 2004. Photo courtesy David “DAVID(GEN)” Ladnier.

Brad Nestle also saw David Ladnier’s post and remembered back to the mids 90s when a local guy, near Houston, Texas, was producing these frames:
“[The 45 Elite frames] were made by a guy here in Houston for a while. Kinda a neat idea but [Ladnier is] missing parts.”

Brad continues:
“If this is what I’m thinking, there is a special bottom line that mounts to it. Inside the grip is an expansion chamber. Air goes into the ASA, up into the grip, then down into the front of ASA, then to the gun. Guy here that made them, designed ones for cockers, mags, and I think VM’s were in the works. I know some folks were modding them to just use normal ASA’s and bypass the expansion chambers.”

David also posted a photo looking at the base of the frame. In this view, the hole pattern is a little confusing but as Brad Nestle points out, the back raw hole is likely the inlet and the front raw hole is the output.  Other holes would be plugged and you would have a rear facing asa on the rear base of the frame and an 1/8th npt output on the front facing side of the base.

Bottom view of the 45 Elite frame for a VM68.
The two bottom holes on this VM68 45 Elite frame are not bottomline holes but actually the air routing holes for the expansion chamber. Air is routed through the back hole and then outputs the front hole into an 1/8th npt output on the base front of the frame.

Brad explains the photo above in more detail:
“In the 2 silvers holes [pictured on the based of the frame], the back hole is an inlet, the front hole is an outlet. Both are sealed with an oring to the bottom line. You can see 2 holes in the front strap. Those are cross holes to be plugged and hidden under the grips.”

When asked about the Autococker 45 Elite frames, Brad remembers the prototype design that was being worked on by Pressure Points Inc.
“The [Autococker frame that Pressure Points Inc.] designed [had] all sorts of cams and levers in it for the trigger and 3 way actuating. Way over complicated. I told him to just make it take drop in parts and be done with it. This was back in ’94 or so. The mag one had the air outlet up on top in the back to take air right to the valve. I think the cocker one was like this one. A few of the older cocker versions that took stock parts got out and some were made into guns by the custom guys. I worked/rebuild one that Vu [Huang] had done for someone in Dallas. I think they failed in the market and the designer (no idea on his name any more but he had all sorts of ideas) just sold them off to a dealer to dump them.”

I realized that Joel Kaufman, of Constant Pursuit, had sent a photo several years back showing one of Vu Huang’s personal Autocockers which used a similar frame.

Vu Huangs 1990's Blue Autococker with a 45 Elite frame.
Vu Huang early 1990’s Blue Autococker with a 45 Elite frame. Photo courtesy Joel Kaufman.

Along with the photo, Joel pointed out some of Vu’s stylistic choices:
“[Above] is an early cocker photo that used to be one of [Vu’s].
[Similar to Vu’s other paintguns,] there’s blue, chrome, and some pretty crappy ad-hoc milling/lathe and sometimes hacksaw and file work done on it, but functionally it would have been fine. He switched over to the Cocker the first year that the Ironmen started winning, so it’s from 1991-1992.”

Until recently I had not been able to identify the frame Vu used on this. In person Joel had told me it was a prototype frame but didn’t know it’s origins.

Close of up Vu Huangs autococker with 45 Elite grip frame.
Close up of the 45 Elite Expansion chamber grip on Vu’s Autococker. The 45 Elite grip is used in the standard style in this photo and air is not routed through the grip frame. Photo Courtesy Joel Kaufman.

From reading Brad Nestle’s comments on facebook I realized that Joel’s Vu cocker pictured above used the same frame!
I posted the photo and Brad confirmed it was one of Vu’s guns:
“…That’s Vu’s personal gun as far as I know. The one I worked on was a lot rougher. It took a lot of work to fix and get running well.”

Brad elaborated on the customers gun that Vu worked on writing:
“The gun I [re]worked that Vu did was for a guy in the Dallas area. He worked/ran one of the big pb distributors up there, maybe PMI’s warehouse. The gun was horrid. Vu put one of the [45 Elite] cocker frames on it, drilled it for a normal bottom line but never cleared the chips out. [I] got it working and cleaned out [the chips] but it was bad.”

Early 90s patch for Constant Pursuit.
Early 90s patch for Constant Pursuit.

Mark Gong, who played with Constant Pursuit, Bo Peep, Image and Personal Vendetta (just to name a few), also posted his memories on the frames on facebook. Mark frequented one of the Desert Fox shops on Steven’s Creek Blvd in Santa Clara in the early 90s (up to 94/95? when Vu moved to Chicago with Danny Love). Mark also suspects that Pressure Points Inc., or at least the contact he knew there, Jeff, made the AKA barrels that originated out of Texas around the same time.

AKA barrel from Texas
AKA barrel (not AKALMP) in steel with a hard chrome (or nickel?) coating was possibly also made by Pressure Points, Inc.

Find the barrel above here:
http://www.baccipaintball.com/bar796.html

Mark contributed to the post on facebook, writing:
“The frame was designed and made by Jeff. I think that is what his name was. He also made AKA barrels [(not AKALMP barrel)]. The grip frame was built with a expansion chamber in the grip frame. The theory behind this concept was back then CO2 was used and if CO2 was piped in as a bottom line, the warmth of your hand would help your CO2 not shoot snow.”

Gong also wrote me explaining Jeff’s link to Vu Huang and Desert Fox Paintball:
“Jeff lived in the bay area when he designed this frame. Before moving to Texas.”

Paintball Sport International close up new product article featuring the 45 Elite frame.
Close up crop of the product photo from the Paintball Sport International new product article featuring the 45 Elite frame. Notice the QD on the back of the frame.

Nestle agrees that “Jeff” was likely the first name of the guy behind these frames:
“…Jeff sounds right to the guy who I knew of making them in Houston. It was a neat idea but didn’t work quite well.”

Through the information from Brad Nestle and Mark Gong, the origins of the frames became apparent but the link to the UK was still not really clear.

In the video above, the 45 Elite frame I found in 2004 is picture on a TVL Automag / Colonial Mag clone body. I recorded this video a couple months back but uploaded it a week or so ago.

Nov 1995 French 'Paintball Mag' Scan
Nov 1995 scan from the French magazine ‘Paintball Mag’ showing a TVL body equipped with a 45 Elite Frame.

I had started assembling my green splash TVL body to look similar to this small write up I reshot from the November 1995 issue of the French paintball publication, “Paintball Mag.” I I didn’t clearly differentiate between the body and the frame in the video so seeing my TVL body and the article above both with similar configuration could lead to the mistake of thinking the frame was manufactured by TVL.
For more about this post visit:
https://paintballhistory.com/t-v-l-mag-featured-paintball-mag-111995

right side of a minimag with a 45 elite expansion chamber frame.
Right side of a Minimag I purchased in 2004 that included a 45 Elite Expansion chamber frame.

Yesterday (November 4th, 2014), a post appeared on Automags.org which renewed my interest in the mystery behind the European distribution of these frames.  

In the initial post, a user posted asking where they could find a “TVL Automag frame.” Since I had not clearly identified the frames as a separate part from the body in the video this was totally my mistake.  But luckily this mistake spurred some conversation about the frame’s origins.
Find the conversation at:
http://www.automags.org/forums/showthread.php?270190-TVL-automag

In the thread on Automags.org I linked my original post from 2004, which motivated Robert “Bunny” Ballesteros to post a few photos.

Find this link, with ton of photos and scans posted by Bunny’s at:
http://www.automags.org/forums/showthread.php?154163

One of the ads that Bunny dug up clearly states that John Sostas was the “Distributor of the 68 Automag and the .45 Elite Grip.”
The text also says “The new “.45 Elite” expansion grip is available for the 68 Automag, the Bud Autococker and the VM68.”

Indicating, as Bunny writes, “Powerpulse Products (John Sosta’s company)” as the distributor. This clearly shows that the so called “Euro Frames” are the same .45 Elite frames my by Pressure Points, Inc.

So considering the larger presence of these 45 Elite frames in Europe, Pressure Points, Inc. could have done as Brad Nestle thought and dumped the frames to John Sosta’s Powerpulse Products / AGD Europe. And through this sell off could have led to the large quantity that seem to appear in the UK?

If anyone has any corrections on what I’ve put together please post or email me and I can update the article.
Thanks to David Ladnier for his VM68 45 Elite photos, Joel Kaufman for his photos of Vu’s cocker and the information with it.  Another giant thanks to Brad Nestle for his sharp memories on the paintball scene in Texas in the mid 90s and Mark Gong for his knowledge on Desert Fox and Vu’s work.
Also thanks to Robert “Bunny” Ballesteros and Frizzle Fry for their knowledge of Automags on Automags.org.

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