Home History Kenneth Farrell's Development of the F-1 Illustrator

Kenneth Farrell’s Development of the F-1 Illustrator

A few months back I received this F-1 Illustrator from David Freeman, of PMI, Tippmann Pneumatics, Inc. and Direct Connect.  This F-1 looks to be completely stock, and is a neat piece of paintball history since David’s company, Direct Connect was the sole distributor of the F-1 and the base of the body is engraved for David from the F-1’s inventor, Kenneth Farrell.

Underside engraving on David Freeman's F-1 Illustrator.
David Freeman’s F-1 Illustrator. Under side view. Engraved is:
For David – From Kenneth Farrell.

From storage in David’s personal collection for the past 2 and a half decades, this Illustrator has “For David From Kenneth Farrell” cut into the bottom.  Kenneth Farrell was the inventor of the F-1 Illustrator and (I would imagine) the owner of Fastech.

Kenneth Farrell on the F-1 Illustrator, scanned from Paintball Magazine July 1992.
Scan from the July 1992 issue of Paintball Magazine on Kenneth Farrell’s struggle from design to development and production of the F-1 Illustrator.

The July 1992 issue of Paintball Magazine contains a great write up by Kenneth Farrell on his struggle to get the F-1 Illustrator on the market. The F-1 eventually ended up being released at “the end of 1990,” according to Farrell.

So looking at Farrell’s development timeline of the F1, the release can be dated to late in 1990. By this point, the other mass produced 1st generation semi automatics, which included the 68 Special and VM-68, were already on the market. Both were released at the July 1990 Bay City Open. The Automag was used in the 1990 Masters by Swarm (who placed first) but was likely released to the public slightly later? The Autococker wouldn’t be released until (mid?) 1991.

Front side close up Direct Connect F1 Illustrator Shirt.
Close of up the front side of the Direct Connect logo on Direct Connect F1 shirt.

I asked Michael Karman, who worked at Direct Connect and played on Farside, Scream and Aftershock, about the F-1 Illustrator’s introduction. Karman remembers using the Illustrator at what he thinks was the 1990 Masters while playing on Scream. He writes:
“I have fond memories and nightmares of playing with them. Scream [played the] Masters with them.”  Michael picked out one specific memory of his F-1 Illustrator, serial 009, which stuck with him 25 years later:
“I just remember crawling up behind Tommy Cole [who was] giving orders to 6 other [Bad Company] guys and I pinched a ball 10 ft from them.”

But a couple chops are inevitable and the F-1 proved a reliable marker with Direct Connect selling thousands before Fastech moved to producing F-2 Illustrator (c.1992?).

Front of Direct Connect F1 Illustrator Shirt.
Front side of Direct Connect F1 Illustrator shirt. Shirt came from Glenn Pensinger, of Hole in the Wall Paintball (MI), and Guns of Paradise.
Back of Direct Connect F1 Illustrator Shirt.
Back side of Direct Connect F1 Illustrator shirt. Shirt came from Glenn Pensinger, of Hole in the Wall Paintball (MI), and Guns of Paradise.

And Farrell’s article gives a very in depth look at process to the F-1’s invention.

Kenneth writes, “Shortly after starting to play paintball in late 1988, I knew I had to have a semi-automatic. …I decided the only way to get a good one to play with was to make it myself.”

David Freeman's F-1 Illustrator. Left side view.
David Freeman’s F-1 Illustrator. Left side view.

Farrell’s timeline for development of this early stack tube blowback starts in late 1988.
Late 1988 Farrell plays paintball and decides he wants to build a semi automatic.
Over the next quarter, while working building “mechanisms for repairing composite plastic structures such as the wing panels of the B-2,” Farrell “roughed out three different designs,” eventually abandoning each.

His next prototype became the F-1 Illustrator.  The F-1 started as two connected aluminum tubes which “demonstrated that the blow-back striker and gas porting worked…”

Back side close up Direct Connect F1 Illustrator Shirt.
Close of up the back side of the F1 Illustrator logo on a Direct Connect F1 shirt.

The next three prototypes were designed in stacked drilled blocks of aluminum with an external line to connect the gas from back bottle to valve. “By late 1989, these models were adequate for serious field testing.”

The first production piece was the aluminum extrusion. Farrell explains that, “A key design task here was replacing the external tubing which carried CO2 from the rear to the front of the previous models with a small passage-way in the lower right corner of the extrusion.”

Farrell joined with David Freeman and Direct Connect out of Illinois to handle distribution of the F-1 Illustrator.

Direct Connect Patch
Direct Connect Patch

Kenneth writes that “David Freeman’s Direct Connect, in South Holland, Illinois, was awarded the worldwide distribution contract for the paintgun because of Direct Connect’s excellent reputation.”

The F-1 Illustrator crop from the July 1992 issue of Paintball Magazine
A crop from the July 1992 issue of Paintball Magazine showing an F-1 Illustrator similar to David Freeman’s.

“Mike Oaks, owner of Evergreen Action Sports in Renton, Washington” joined Direct Connect along with his partner Phil Smith. Oaks suggested the name “Illustrator” after “watching a target being covered with paint” similarly to “a very fast paintbrush.”

Farrell writes that “The first production [paint]guns came off the line at the end of 1990.”

David Freeman's F-1 Illustrator. Right side view.
David Freeman’s F-1 Illustrator. Right side view.

I’ll be asking David Freeman about other interesting details on this particular F-1 Illustrator and post another article eventually with his comments.

Thanks to David Freeman, Michael Karman, Glenn Pensinger and Renick Miller of Bad Boyz Toyz. 

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  1. IIRC, I bought my F1 at the 1991 world cup up in Newburgh, NY. I could have sworn that it was the introduction of the F1, but i might be off by a few months. I know that i was one of only 2-3 people at the entire event with one. I was with Constant Pursuit, and after the All Americans, Black Diamonds and Ironmen started to sweep everyone with their all-Semi teams, i thought i needed something to up my game. Bought the F1, but the couple of us playing with them noted that they were hooking downwards and not having great range or accuracy. Renick Miller had a table set up and gave me a brass-lined barrel with a supposedly tighter bore on it to help with that. It didn’t help much. Used it for games against the black Diamonds, and a few other teams, but eventually went back to my Carter comp for the finals due to the accuracy letting me put the drop on quite a few AA’s, and quite a few(but not enough) Ironmen. One specific memory i had of the F1 was how efficient it was. i was stunned that it was getting more shots out of a 7oz bottle than i was getting out of my tuned Carter. 400+ rounds before tapering off. I remember having a game where i ripped out what i thought was a ton of paint, came back, and only needed 2oz of fill.


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