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Tiberius Arms

Perfect Circle

Control Testing performed with DraXxus Paintballs provided by Procaps Direct

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First Strike Projectiles
by Bill Mills - Photos by Dawn Mills - Aug 09

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Since the dawn of paintball, with players shooting oil based paintballs from markers designed for forestry use, paintballers have looked for advantages in range, accuracy and rate of fire, to have a leg-up on their competitors. Bob Gurnsey, one of the three creators of the sport was credited in the early 80s with the “Gurnsey Goofball” - a modification that involved gluing sandpaper inside the top of a barrel to impart backspin much like today's APEX barrel. While the advent of semi-automatic and electropneumatic markers the sport has seen radically improved rates of fire, but there have been serious limits to changes in range and accuracy.

Early on much of the search for better accuracy and range focused on improving the roundness of paintballs, and minimizing their seams. In the 1990s, Perfect Circle Paintballs, a spin-off of Airgun Designs, developed the technology to manufacture paintballs with shells made of injection molded plastic, rather than flexible gelatin sheets. Althought the resulting paintballs were more consistently spherical than most gelatin paintballs and had a less prominent seam, they offered nearly the same the same flight dynamics, rather than a radical improvement in accuracy, as they were still the same basic shape.

Perfect Circle still found a niche for its plastic paintballs. Perfect Circle paintball shells could be easily filled with practically any payload - fills that would dissolve gelatin, or that could not be fed as fluid through a gelatin encapsulation machine were now possible. Also, the manufacturing process of simply gluing two rigid shell haves together made small volume production runs practical, as they lacked the set-up and cleaning of a gelatin encapsulator. Perfect Circle paintballs found use in the special effects industry with spark balls that simulate bullet hits, for less-lethal law-enforcement applications as the shell of Pepperball brand projectiles, for easy clean-up police and military water filled rounds (even usable for amphibious assault, as moisture would destroy gelatin paintballs) and more esoteric uses like delivering insect pheromones to tree-tops for agricultural research.

Other companies took things in a different direction – by stepping out of the .68 caliber spherical box. The Double-Trouble paintball was a 63 caliber football shaped paintball, designed to have better aerodynamics, and maintain its point-on orientation by spin generated in a rifled barrel. The SniperBall was a 68 caliber paintball with a small cone with guide-fins glued to it. Markers to fire the Double-Trouble were never mass-produced, and the SniperBall had to be muzzle-loaded one at a time. Similarly there was a push to popularize .62 caliber spherical paintballs fired from specially built, or adapted markers. Worr Game Products offered a conversion kit that fit the Autococker and Siper. None of these past attempts showed a large enough performance difference to garner the player interest needed to overcome their incompatibility with standard markers.

Another new projectile project was spurned not by the sport of paintball, but by 68 caliber less-lethal weapon systems. What began as the XM-303 UBTPS (Under Barrel Tactical Payload System). Based on paintgun technology, the XM-303 mounted underneath a rifle, providing a less-lethal firing option. Its concept evntually evolved into the FN-303 less lethal weapon system marketed by French arms manufacturer Fabrique National.

The FN-303 fired a new projectile designed and manufactured by Perfect Circle – its front half was a spherical 68 caliber plastic shell, but its back half was a slightly tapered cylinder with a spiral of angled fin ridges. In flight, the FN-303 round does not require a rifled barrel to spin, instead the air it flows past forces it to spin at a consistent rate. According to Gary Gibson of Perfect Circle paintballs, the spin not only keeps the projectile oriented round-end to the front, but it also breaks up the chaotic airflows that are shed in random directions from a paintball, eliminating the tendency for a ball to wander in flight and reducing drag. While the FN-303 is capable of striking a person at 100 yards on the first shot, its velocity and projectile weight made it unsuitable for use in the sport of paintball. Additionally the shape of the projectile makes traditional hopper style feeding impossible – the FN-303 uses a drum-feed magazine reminiscent of a 1920s gangster's Thompson submachinegun.

Tiberius Arms, manufacturer of clip fed pistols and carbines for both paintball and less-lethal law-enforcement applications, was also able to adapt their marker designs to fire the new shaped round, producing a less-lethal pistol for Fabrique National (below the FN-303 in the above picture).

Now with the First Strike round, paintball projectile development has come full-circle again – from agricultural/industrial oil filled paint to water based sport paint to a less-lethal spinning projectile, to an adaptation of that projectile for the sport.

The First Strike round is produced by Perfect Circle and distributed by Tiberius Arms. Tiberius debuted the new projectile at the 2009 Paintball Extravaganza paintball industry trade show, in Atlanta, Georgia, explaining the projectile could be muzzle loaded into existing paintball markers, or Tiberius Arms markers with appropriate conversion kits installed. The conversion kits, consisting of a new bolt, barrel/breech, magazine and other key components allow the projectiles to stack sideways in the marker's clip and feed the same as a paintball.

The shape of the First Strike round is compatible with a feed arrangement that places the projectiles side by side, such as a vertical clip in Tiberius' markers. A feed system placing them nose-to-tail would be more difficult to implement, as the rounded front of one round would fit into the hollow rear of the next.

The First Strike round looks at first glance like the FN-303 projectile, but upon closer inspection, it can be seen that only the front hemisphere carries the paint payload. The rear cylindrical section is left hollow, so it carries about ½ the amount of paint as a typical paintball. With a smaller payload of paint, the First Strike round uses a fill that is relatively thick, and has a slightly chalky feel, making it rather difficult to wipe. The sample paint Tiberius Arms provided for review had a metalic silver shell with white fill.

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