In this video we talk with Danny Guardado of The California Bushmasters, The Mafia and Airsmith at Adventure Games Supply in Van Nuys, California.
Danny remembers starting to play paintball “back in 1986.” He and his family began “playing bootleg fields, up in the mountains [around the] sunland area” of San Fernando Valley. Guardado thinks they played their first game at a commercial field in “probably 1987 or 1988 at Steve Buzick’s Southern Comfort” located in Lopez Canyon.
Around that time Danny and his family “formed the Mafia” and established their home field at Southern Comfort (Pacoima/Sylmar area?). Facing off against classic SoCal greats, such as The Good, the Bad and the Deadly, the Flinstones, Southern Comfort’s home team, the Stars and Bars and Ralph’s Killboys (comprising of employees from Ralph’s supermarkets), the Mafia grew in numbers and skill.
A few of the The Mafia that played along side Danny were his brother Joe Guardado, his cousin, Art Hernandez, uncle Tuty Hernandez, Gilbert Martinez and Paul Vasquez, maker of the Hornet pump.
Find the complete team photo with member listing here:
Danny’s first paintball job (along with the rest of Mafia) was helping out at Buzicks’ Southern Comfort. Danny remembers, “I helped out, we [refereed] a lot and [Southern Comfort became our home field.”
But during one Mafia skirmish, a teammates Sheridan / PMI went down and Danny quickly rebuilt the paintgun. He managed to get it working again before the next round of what was likely a two out of three challenge. The quick rebuild was noticed by Dan Allen, the store manager of the Van Nuys Adventure Game Supplies store.
“I had to take it completely apart, I stripped it down and put it back together with brand new seals and [Dan Allen] was really impressed that I could do that. He told me to come in on Tuesday if I wanted the job at AGS.”
He took the job, starting at Adventure Game Supplies a few days later.
At the time, Adventure Game Supplies, AGS was located (I’m guessing based on google maps) roughly 10 miles away from Southern Comfort and during that time AGS becoming a major player in the mail order paintball business, against I&I, and the Command Post. According to Danny the Skirmish store was located just half a mile away from AGS’ Van Nuys location.
At the time (1988 or 1989), AGS operated several stores in Southern California, an indoor field in Gardena and were well known country wide based on their 2-4 page spreads in APGs with a variety of their own products sold along with items from many other manufacturers.
Danny remembers the Devastator and the AGS Comp already being available when he started at Adventure Game Supplies. The Vindicator was just coming out as well.
When Danny started as an Airsmith at AGS the next week the Devastator breech drop pump was very popular. Their comp gun never really picked up stream but their next pump the Vindicator bore drop pump was also a popular choice.
Danny began using a Bright Purple AGS Vindicator. Danny decribes many players paintguns as painted black or covered in camo tape during 1989, but Danny took the opposite route, catching the eye of his fellow players with a nicely tuned nelson that was also vibrantly colored.
Danny explains his method to draw players into his AGS store:
“At the time [paintguns] weren’t really bright colored. I was one of the first guys to have a purple gun and it called a lot of attention. A lot of people saw me playing with it on the field and come tuesday they would be at the store buying [a Vindicator] ’cause they really liked the way they would shoot.”
Eventually Danny met Bert Vigil who worked in an office above AGS. Vigil played on The California Bushmasters and invited Danny out to practice.
Danny started on the Bushmasters and played his first event, the 1990 Lively Series Bay City open, soon after on the Bushmaster’s B squad in the Pro Division.
“[Bert] worked upstais from AGS…[The Mafia] played a couple team games and skirmished against [the Bushmaster] and Bert came in [to AGS] and asked if i wanted to play with them at the  Bay City Open ’cause [the Bushmasters] had an opening on the B squad.
[In the Bay City Open] the B squad ended up [finishing] better than the “A Team” and we ended up getting second place and were [really close] to winning the tournament.”
During a critical moment in the finals Danny managed to turn the game in the Bushmasters’ favor and Bushmasters’ B squad actually finished ahead of the the Bushmasters’ A Team, getting 2nd place in the pro division.
A large solo shot of Danny was pictured in Paintball Sport International and the Bushmaster’s team photo made all three major paintball publications of the time, Action Pursuit Games, Paintcheck and Paintball Sports International.
Danny’s photo was also featured in the Vallejo Times Herald.
And a close up in the Vallejo Times Herald.
During the next two years Danny played with both the Mafia and the Bushmasters and continued to work at Adventure Game Supplies.
Gilbert Martinez joined the Bushmasters soon after the Bay City open.
Above is a photo of the California Bushmasters at the 1991 Texas Lively Series Lone Star Open. In the above photo Ross Alexander of Line SI is top center (tall guy) and Danny and Gilly are on the right side. Find a complete list of players in the photo here:
Soon after the Bay city open Danny received a new team gun, a later style snub Line SI Bushmaster in hard anodized Diamond Dust finish with “Line SI Factory Team” engraved on the pump handle and receiver rail.
Danny remembers, “I think these guns came out in 1991 where they had the [longer body] with hard anodizing, minus the two thumbscrews on the sides.” He goes on to mentions how he got rid of almost all his other gear but hung onto his Bushmaster Deluxe. “[My bushmaster] was special to me because Ross gave me this gun personally.”
But Danny describes himself as a sort of traitor player, “I was working at AGS while playing for the Bushmasters. I was working for the Competition,” since the Skirmish Store was” just down the street.”
Danny went on to explain another secret to the Bushmaster’s success and another reason he considered himself a bit of a traitor to his Sponsor, Line SI.
“We would take the bushmaster gun and we would replace it with the AGS internals. I felt the AGS internals were a lot better than the Bushmaster internals. [The AGS internals] had the adjustable bolt where you could come down the barrel and adjust it rather than taking the back end apart.”
The Stainless AGS internals were not only easier to adjust but were heavier and allowed for a lighter mainspring which as Danny says could allow a faster rate of pumping and firing.
Danny explains another benefit of the heavy AGS hammer:
“…The hammer was a lot heavier than the [Line SI] aluminum hard anodized hammer. So your able to go with lighter springs, which made for a lighter trigger pull [since you don’t have as much tension when your bolt and hammer are cocked together] and you don’t end up breaking as many balls. You [are also] able to shoot faster with lighter springs.”
He remembers helping many of his Bushmaster teammates switch out their stock Line SI internals for AGS internals over the next year.
I asked Danny which of his paintguns, the AGS Vindicator or Line SI Bushmaster would get used on a regular day out. He replied that it depended on the circumstances of the day and who he was playing for:
“If I was playing practices [with the Bushmasters] I would use my Bushmaster gun. When I played with The Family [(Mafia)] I would use my Vindicator.”
Guardado’s Bushmaster picture above is unique in several ways. The receiver’s rail is flat on the left side and has team engravings for the California Bushmaster, the pump arm also has the Bushmaster engraving, the body is the later style snub in Diamond Dust Anodizing, and the Line SI Lever Changers arm is cut down, Guardado added a check valve to the piercing valve assembly and changed his internals out for an AGS stainless bore drop setup.
Guardado explains his modification to the lever changer:
“The lever changer was a lot longer. We would cut them down, roughen the end, knurl the end so you could grab it with your finger and [this modification] made for a lot faster quickchange. [With this modification the lever changer] wouldn’t get caught and wouldn’t break as easily.
The other thing we did was put a checkvalve in the lever changers valves so when you did pull [the lever to release the 12 gram you] wouldn’t loose the air in the knob. The later style [lever changers] removed the knob on the end and added a spring into the internals of the piercer that was self adjusting.”
Danny played with the Bushmasters till around 1992 and traveled to the master in 1990 and 1991. In 1990 he shot his Bushmaster and in 1991 was one of the few players (if not the only player) on the Bushmasters to shoot Line SI’s new Promaster. After extensively tweaking the Promaster Danny got it working well enough to trust the Promaster reliability in the Masters and as he remembers it shot great without chops. After the tournament he sent the Promaster to Ross Alexander to incorporate the changes into the factory models.
In the next couple weeks I’ll have three more videos of Danny and Gilbert Martinez online.
This video was recorded at Spring Pump Event West (at Poso Creek), thanks to Danny Guardado, Gilbert Martinez, Art Hernandez and Tuty Hernandez for the help with this video and media associated.