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By Bill Mills - Nov 2004
As the game of paintball has evolved, increases in firepower – specifically in terms of rate of fire – have been sought out by paintball players and paintball field and store owners alike. For the player, the concept is simple. The more paintballs there are flying toward a target, the better the odds that a target will be hit. For the store selling paintballs, more paint in the air means a better Christmas bonus at the end of the year.
In terms of real firearms, machineguns made their first appearance on the Petersburg front in 1864, during the American Civil War. Twelve six-barrel machine guns developed by Richard Jordan Gatling were purchased for use there by Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, despite the fact that the US Army had previously passed them over.
The Gatling Gun, like later models from its inventor featured six rotating barrels, and loaded cartridge based ammunition. It was fired not by a traditional trigger, but rather by turning a crank which chambered the rounds, rotated the barrels, and fired at a then astounding rate of 10 shots per second.1
Over the years, machinegun development continued, and military strategists discovered that machineguns could play a far different role than single shot or repeating rifles. As an area affect weapon, a line of fire could be swept over an area so that a single shooter could strike multiple targets.
Many old school paintball players, happy to tote their vintage 1980s technology pump action paintball guns will deride those who apply high rates of fire on the field, saying that it only takes one shot to take someone out of the game. While this is true, it does not take into account firing for area affect. When one paintball player is facing a group of 5 in the woods during a scenario game, the ability to sweep a hail of paint across a trail can make the difference between completing a mission or heading back to the staging area.
Equalizer Paintball has developed a simple product to allow players to easily achieve high cyclic rates on electronic or mechanical paintguns. The firestorm is a trigger crank which allows a paintgun to be fired like the Gatling Gun of the nineteenth century – by turning a crank.
The Firestorm is made of lightweight molded polymer, similar to the materials of which the Tippmann A5 grip frame is made. A pair of hex head screws clamp the crank onto the trigger guard, and a two inch crank sticks out on the right hand side. One full turn of the crank causes an internal cam to drive an actuator arm a distance of about a quarter inch, to pull a trigger four times.
The crank is available in four versions. FC101 fits Tippman 98 and Pro Carbines which have single finger triggers, by attaching to the bottom of their trigger guard. The FC 102 model attaches similarly to the lower edge of a Tippmann A5’s trigger guard, as well as the trigger guards of many single finger trigger paintguns. FC 103 is designed to fit on a Tippmann A5 that has a two-finger trigger by attaching to the angled front surface of the trigger guard. It is also designed to fit many other two finger trigger paintguns that have an angled guard.
The final Model, FC104 is designed to fit most two-finger trigger paintguns that have a vertical or near vertical front edge on their trigger guard. Equalizer Paintball states that it is specifically compatible with Spyder, Piranha, Rebel and JT paintguns.
In addition to the two mount screws, each Firestorm Crank is packaged with a second actuator arm. If the crank is mounted in a position where it doesn’t quite reach to push the trigger back far enough, the longer actuator can be used, and trimmed to a precise fit if needed.
Installing the crank for testing proved to be a fast process. An FC 102 crank simply bolted right onto a single trigger Tippmann A5 and no adjustments were needed. Test fitting the 103 showed it to also work on a two-fingered A5 setup (though trimming of the actuator arm was needed,) as well as a Matrix LCD, and an AGD Y Grip. On other paintguns, including a Shocker SFT, Blazer and RaceGun equipped J2, the mounting screws interfered with the paintgun’s vertical regular. For paintguns not specifically mentioned as compatible by Equalizer Paintball (a full list is available on their web site,) test fitting in a paintball shop before purchase would be a wise idea. For paintguns with vertical regulators placed close to their trigger guard, the Firestorm Crank models designed to attach to the bottom of the guard would be a more likely fit.
Another item of note while test fitting was wear to the trigger guard. The Firestorm crank attaches with a pair of hardened steel screws. On the surface of a plastic trigger guard like the one on Tippmann’s A5, these screws bite in for a solid grip. On a paintgun with an anodized or painted aluminum trigger guard, the mount screws are likely to bite right through the metal’s finish. Slipping a thin shim of plastic or sheet metal, or even two or three layers of paper cardstock into the crank’s clamping space can provide some protection for the paintgun while still allowing the crank to attach securely.
Firing a paintgun with the Firestorm crank is an acquired skill. Because one can no longer place a finger on the trigger and hold the grip in a traditional manner, a more practical shooting style involves holding the paintgun by a foregrip, and bracing its stock or tank against the shoulder, while churning away on the crank.
The paintgun can also be mounted on a pivot for paintball tank owners. In this type of configuration it is much more natural to swivel the aim by the paintgun’s grip in the left hand and crank with the right. For scenario gamers this is also a more fitting application for a paintgun taking on the role of a machinegun.
For players wishing to crank left handed, switching the crank from one side to the other takes about one minute and can be done with the included hex wrench, which is also used for the mount screws.
Equalizer Paintball claims that the Firestorm Crank can deliver rates of fire at up to 700 rounds per minute, which is 11.7 shots per second. To achieve this rate, the user would have to turn the crank at a rate of 2.9 full turns per second, turning the crank that fast in testing threw the concept of aiming right out the window. A rate of around one and a half turns per second, yielding 6 shots per second seemed much more comfortable, and very easy to achieve while still keeping aim in mind.
Of course where the Firestorm Crank can be used will be another issue. Equalizer Paintball’s packaging claims “Field Legal: 1 Paintball Per Trigger Pull.” Despite this claim, one should not expect the Equalizer to be allowed at any given paintball field or event without first checking with the producers running the site or game. Since the Firestorm Crank is a bolt-on external device which requires no modification to the paintgun it is easy and fast to remove for fields where it is not allowed.
If the rate of fire available with the Firestorm Crank isn’t enough, they also offer their Double Trouble Kit. The Double Trouble kit contains a mounting system to attach two Tippmann A5’s in parallel and operates them both from a single crank. Designed for use on paintball tanks, or defending forts, Equalizer Paintball states the two A5s can reach a combined rate of 30 balls per second.
California residents should note that
California penal code section 12020-12040 prohibits sale, import, manufacture
or possession of trigger activators, and has been applied to products which,
although designed for the firearms industry, are very similar in design
and function to the Firestorm Crank. Residents of states with restrictive
gun laws would do well to review their laws before purchasing a product
which might not be legal in their area.
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