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A discussion with Glenn Palmer on "Camille"
The following "interview" took place in email. Glenn was nice enough to discuss the history of one of his first semi-auto conversions, "Camille." Within this discussion, you also get something of a history of Glenn's semi-auto conversion legacy.
SM: Glenn, while we were at the Big Game you showed us a very old gun (7 years?).
GP: I began putting "Camille" together in early August 1988 and it became a working model in Sept. '88.. However, I didn't get a couple of bugs worked out of the automation system, namely the switch (4-way valve) and timing setup until late October. I dubbed it a Hurricane because most would simply seek out the best cover available when it was bearing down on them. An awesome force that most were just not prepared to deal with. Talk about a "power trip", it is easy to have am extreme level of confidence when you have that much of an advantage over everyone else on the field. I could basically dominate the field, wherever I went, with a "horrizontal hail storm, in living color."
[October '88] is when it went into full time service but it did not look the way it does now until June, 1989. Until then it looked very much like a stock Sheridan rifle (direct fed) with the operating cylinder (ram) extending from the rear of the barrel, behind the bolt. After I had figured out that I needed to turn the cylinder around and decided to mount it on the side of the gun I decided to change the appearance of the gun as well. After some thought as to how I wanted it set up, (sleeping on it several nights) I took it into surgery one night and emerged from the operating theater around daylight the next morning with what you see today. I then had EXACTLY what "I" wanted in a paintgun and haven't changed a thing about it since. [In fact, Glenn hasn't taken it apart for cleaning or repairs. It has been running perfectly for all these years. -sm]
SM: Specifically, was it one of your first semi-conversions?
GP: It is my first semi that worked. My first attempt at a semi was very early in 1988. It was based on the "blow back" concept applied to a PMI pistol. That concept was quickly abandoned by me because it would have required that it be force fed, by a spring, from the standard magazine tube on top of the gun and it also turned out to not be very reliable or consistant in operation. I wanted to have a closed bolt system so I had to figure out a way to get the bolt to stop momentarily at the rear so the balls would have time to drop into place.
In all honesty here, I got the idea for my automation system from David Craig who was Mat Brown's partner in what was then Adventure Game Supplies, now TASO. He had a really strange looking prototype of an automated Sheridan at a tournament in New York (it incorporated a very large regulator from a oxygen tank for a welding torch, and a 2-way valve hooked to a 1" dia., spring return cylinder). We talked about it a bit and since I was aleady working in that direction I would get it worked out and let him know what I came up with. The first order of business became an effective, CO2 tolerant regulator that was small enough to be built-INTO the gun. Next to be worked out was "timing".
I wanted a semi for myself because an old football injury in my shoulder was causing me considerable discomfort from pumping a gun several hundred times a day, especially in tournament play. I really did not have the desire or resources to go into producing paintguns so when I got the system worked out, I again talked with Dave Craig about turning all the details of the setup back over to him, but he had decided that the system was too complex to be worth while producing and it got dropped right there. I had what I wanted and did not really want to build any more of them because I couldn't see that I could produce the same gun for others without having to charge them an arm amd a leg plus their first born. I even tried giving the whole system away to a couple of others that should have been able to do it right but to no avail. It did not seem practicle or cost effective to others so I ended up having the only operational, gravity fed semi automatic paintgun for a bit over a year before I built another one for anybody else. The second one that I built was a double barelled version in a pistol format that wasn't a conversion but built entirely from scratch. Dan Debone, who is now my Service Manager came to me and said, "you build double barrels and you have a good semi, can you marry the two and build me a double semi in a pistol format." I said that I would give it a go and that It would take some time and money but I would let him know when it was done. Well, three months and $900.00 later I presented Dan with HUGO (the only hurricane that I could think of that was "badder" than Camile. Some of the things I learned from building HUGO led to my deciding to go ahead and begin building the Hurricane on a limited production basis. Most of the early Hurricanes were built from Sheridan, pump type, pellet guns; primarily because the "pump-up" pellet guns have a larger valve chamber that is better suited to get the performance that I wanted.
SM: Do you think it could qualify as *the* first semi-auto?
GP: I think it qualifies as the first FUNCTIONAL, GRAVITY FED semi auto. Others have told me that they were working on a semi at about the same time but I have not seen anything that worked. Tippmann's SMG came out in 1987 I believe, but I never did see it as an effective piece. The joke around here, even before Camille was that using the SMG just made you a better target and easier to find. Balistically, the .62 cal paint just couldn't cut it and they didn't go to the .68 cal semi SMG until late '89 and the .68 Special (gravity fed) didn't show up until mid-1990. About the same time as the PMI-3. Both, the 68 Special and the PMI-3 were both introduced as prototypes at the first Bay City open in Vallejo in July 1990. In that tournament, the Dogs Of War were fully equipped with Hurricanes and had not a single gun problem during the tournament. I am fairly certain that Camille is the oldest living Gravity Fed semi. Gravity feed is the distinction that I claim "firsts" in along with "functional". I don't claim to have invented the first semi ; my claim is to have developed the system that made semi-auto a reality to this sport. I prooved that gravity feed and semi-auto was possible and certainly the paintgun of the future, when most were telling me that it wasn't possible for gravity to keep up with the gun.
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