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by Bill Mills
Very often, research prototypes are kept under tight security by paintball companies, so a chance to see what they have up their sleeve is pretty rare. This is usually for two reasons. First to prevent competitors from taking their idea and running with it, and secondly to prevent the public from expecting a product based on the prototype, or expecting future problems based on that prototype.
Research prototypes are typically far from anything that will go into production. They are used to prove whether a concept will work, and to learn about what would be involved in taking that concept further to make a finished product.
Because of the security held around these prototypes, it was quite surprising to see Dennis Tippmann Jr. playing with, and demonstrating a research prototype loading system at the annual Paintball Long Island big game.
Tippmann was the first company to develop an indexed forced feed system. The original SMG-60 paintgun, carried paintballs in 5 round "stripper clips" that were fed to the breech from a spring driven magazine. A latching system advanced the clips once for each shot fired. This system allowed for reliable feeding in semi-auto or full-automatic mode at a time when most paintball guns were gravity feeding from 10 round tubes with pump action.
The drawback to the SMG-60 was it's non-standard .62 caliber paint which was changed with the 68 cal SMG-68. This still suffered from the very limited magazine capacity (10-15 balls) when compared to the 100 and 200 round loaders that became popular for pump paintguns.
Tippmann went to traditional hoppers with the 68 Special, and later Pro-Am/Lite and Carbine paintguns.
Their next feed innovation came with the Tippmann F/A. A wide bottomed loader mounted on a cylindrical feed drum on the side of the F/A. A clockwork spring in the bottom was wound up by the user each time they reloaded. This powered an impeller in the bottom of the feed drum to push paintballs into the breech. Unfortunately, the mechanical complexities of the delay sear that kept the F/A's firing rates reasonable lead to the demise of the F/A, despite the fact that its loader was ground breaking and very reliable. Winding up a loader didn't prove very practical through.
This new prototype positive pressure feed system is based on the design of the Tippmann F/A. Mounted in a 98 Custom, it exchanges the winder crank for a pneumatic cylinder. The 98 custom valve with a side tap which allows for gas actuated accessories, like the Tippmann Response Trigger. When the 98 fires, a burst of gas extends the actuating rod of the cylinder ratchets the new loader's impeller just far enough to feed one paintball into the breech.
Dennis Jr. was quick to point out that
while the system was working great for him on the field, it is solely at
the research level, and does not indicate that it will necessarily ever
go into production.
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