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The Puma, Reborn!

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    The Puma, Reborn!

    The what, you ask? Even most experienced paintball players have never heard of it. Basically considered the first "second generation" paintball marker, one of the first made specifically for the sport. (That is, not originally a cattle marker or a rebarreled pellet gun. The Splatmaster was the very first purpose-built marker, and the Puma supposedly the first of the 'next generation' as technology progressed.)



    (Photo borrowed from VintageRex.)

    I'm given to understand that the gun had some leakage or reliability issues, the true extent of which no one can say. But according to a very old rec.sport.paintball newsgroup post from '96, the problems- or possibly financial issues- led the developer to slink off into the night, leaving behind the guns, his field, and everything. Supposedly the gun cost twice what a Nel-Spot did at the time, and I'd wager that between that and reliability issues, sales weren't up to expectations.

    AND... this was not a cheap gun to make. The pump grip and the grip panels were injection molded, the grip frame die-cast, and the body was a custom extrusion. As a rough guess, I'd bet the guy sank over $100K- in 1985 money!- into them, before the first one ever hit the fields. If he had bank loans to finance it, lower than expected sales could have easily crashed the company.

    But, that's mostly guesswork and rumor. Hopefully we can get more real info, but for the time being, let's see if we can't bring one of these badboys back!

    I bought or horsetraded for a pair of them from some fellow in Canada, back in 1999, just as I was getting this little biz of mine up and running. They'd been dismantled and were in a bag when I got them, and a quick survey showed a few parts needing repair or replacement. One of the biggest being the upper CO2 plugs- the knob with the red button, seen above.

    That's where the 12-gram goes, like the old BE Nightmares, and the red knob is both a "piercing" and a 'degas' button. You drop a cartridge in, and then smack that knob- that drives the cart forward a bit and pierces it against a fixed and not-hollow pin. That pressurizes the entire chamber.

    Smack it again, and that vents the upper tube, so the knob can be easily removed and the cartridge replaced.

    Both of mine were missing them, and back then I didn't even have a picture of what they looked like. AND... at the time I got them, I may not have even had a good lathe, and even if I did, my skills weren't up to snuff. The knobs use a heavy, shallow ACME thread- it's only about two full turns to remove the plug. I had a local machinist make three blanks for me, just doing the threads, and I'd take care of the rest.

    "The rest", however, had to wait for three things: One, I needed to find out what the plug looked like, and how that degassing knob worked. I didn't even know at the time the knobs had to actually seal the chamber. Two, I needed a better lathe, and maybe a little more practice before taking that on. And three, I needed the free time to do it.

    Fast forward roughly twenty-four years.

    I've been thinking of some of these old projects, with an eye towards making some nice little videos out of them. (And as an excuse to finally get some of them done. ) I remembered these, and one evening when the project du jour was not going well, I decided to go dig them out see what all needed to be done.

    It took me much longer than expected to find them, and as it turned out, they were in a wholly unexpected box.



    They should not have been jumbled in there- I'm not sure how it happened, but at least I found them.

    Or most of them, anyway. I was pretty sure I had very close to all the parts needed to put both of them back together, save for the CO2 plugs. But after sifting that box, I had two bodies, two pumps, two grip frames... one set of grip panels, one hammer, one spring, and some miscellenous screws.



    Turned out one of them still had the valve and bolt...



    So with the one hammer and mainspring, and single set of grips, I had at least one complete gun. I'm still fairly certain that I had a bag with the extracted parts from the second, but an exhaustive search still hasn't turned those up.

    And, of course, I'm not sure I've even looked at these in somewhere around fifteen years. Since they were in a box I didn't expect them in, chances are that bag wound up elsewhere. I don't know.

    However, a Guild regular pointed out that there was actually one for sale up on eBay right then, and checking that out, it seemed not only complete, but actually had the CO2 plug as well. It was missing the 'degas' part, but I could at least have the body of the knob to measure to fit new ones.

    While waiting for it to come in, I set about looking mine over to finally take the first close look at these things, in more than a decade. Just mocking one up real quick, here's what it looked like.



    And while I was doing that, I noticed something I had not noticed before- namely, the grips.



    They'd been duct-taped together when I got them (I'm pretty sure both pairs were) and even back then, the tape was so old the silver cloth had crumbled off, and all that was left was the dried-up adhesive.

    With a little care, I was able to scrape the adhesive off; wipe the rest off with solvent, and then lightly polish the plastic to get rid of some of the decades of mild oxidation.



    Notice anything? Look at the pic at the top of the page. Every other Puma I've ever seen (all in pictures, of course) has "PUMA" molded into the grips, and usually filled in with yellow paint. So are mine early-generation guns before the name was added to the molds?

    Quite the opposite, I think. The inside of the grips shows where the lettering used to be.



    The lettering has the apperance of having been welded- and by that I mean it appears that the letters in the molds had been partially filled in with TIG welding.

    Why? Pure guess, but look how bad the inner mold was:



    That suggests the molds were damaged at some point, and possibly a new outer was made. The lettering was probably left off as a cost-cutting measure, as money might have been getting tight at that point. Had they left the negative voids for the letters on the inner mold, that may have left visible impressions on the outer surface, as the plastic cooled and shrank- so they mostly filled them in with TIG welding, to reduce that happening.

    Curiouser and curiouser. Hopefully we can find out more of this whole operation.

    And stand by for more! I'm doing a video of this, too, and fully expect to have at least one, if not two, fully functional examples when I'm done.

    Doc.


    Doc's Machine & Airsmith Services: Creating the Strange and Wonderful since 1998!
    The Whiteboard: Daily, occasionally paintball-related webcomic mayhem!
    Paintball in the Movies!

    #2
    Anyone else see a face ? Cool restoration project
    Click image for larger version

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    • Trygve
      Trygve commented
      Editing a comment
      Yeah i saw a viking type dude. Big beard.

      Actually a lot like ragnastock logo.

    • Carp

      Carp

      commented
      Editing a comment
      I was seeing more of a Gimli with helmet or Davey Jones type.

    #3
    Originally posted by NONOBLITUS View Post
    Anyone else see a face ?

    Comment


      #4
      Has anyone here ever even seen one of these in use? I'm kind of surprised how little information there is on them, like they suddenly turned radioactive in 1989 or something.

      There's no serial numbers so we don't know how many were made, but it wasn't just a boutique make- they had a custom extrusion made, and last I looked into that, you had to buy, like, 5,000 feet to make it worth their while. The frame is die cast and the pump and grip panels are injection molded- neither of those is cheap. (Or rather, cheap on a per-part basis, but the molds are fabulously expensive.)

      If I had to guess, I'd bet at least three thousand of these were made. That's 100% pure guess, and I could be off by thousands either way, but where are they all? Why did they basically completely disappear? There are players today that will swing a Nel-Spot or a Splatmaster, where's the guy that has a Puma he pulls out every now and then to baffle the kids? Did everyone just spontaneously agree to not use them anymore after 1990?

      Doc.
      Doc's Machine & Airsmith Services: Creating the Strange and Wonderful since 1998!
      The Whiteboard: Daily, occasionally paintball-related webcomic mayhem!
      Paintball in the Movies!

      Comment


      • XEMON

        XEMON

        commented
        Editing a comment
        I Always wanted one, nearly pulled the trigger a few times ... But never actually seen one for real ...
        I love pressurized 12g chamber so I might actually make the plunge next one pops up ...
        PS: what material re the tubes?

      • Ecapnation

        Ecapnation

        commented
        Editing a comment
        If I had the bet.....some where in a dark dusty corner of a machine shop site several hunks of this extrusion

      • DocsMachine

        DocsMachine

        commented
        Editing a comment
        After almost forty years? No, I doubt it. Pretty much everything's been scrapped by this point.
        Doc.

      #5
      The eBay Puma arrived today!



      In pretty good shape overall, except the fact that somebody took a hacksaw to it at some point, and tried to convert it to direct feed.



      On the plus side, it had the important part- the original CO2 plug. Although it too, had been butchered in an attempt to tap it for constant air...



      The body of the plug is intact enough I can copy it, and Bacchi sent me a pic years ago of roughly what the degas mechanism looked like, so it should just be a little fabwork to whip one up.

      Just to start with, though, from the weekend's look at my original junkers, I was most interested in having a quick peek at the grips. These new ones, of course, still said "PUMA" on them, and you can even see a trace of the old yellow paint still in there.



      However, I was expecting to see how these were injection molded... and they're not. They're cast from some rigid material.



      The stuff feels and looks almost like black-tinted Bondo, and the flat side, which has been sanded, shows a lot of minute porosity, making me think whatever the material is, it was probably hand-mixed, and was certainly not degassed before pouring.

      That's actually kind of curious. I was given to understand that these things really weren't available for sale for all that long- maybe a couple of years at best. But clearly at least the grips went through an evolution- from these presumably hand-cast pieces, to injection molded, and even the molds appeared to have been modded at least once.

      We can make an educated guess that the cast grips came first- they have the lettering, and basically every photo that is known to exist of these things, shows that lettering. Were sales good enough early on that they invested in having the panels injection molded? Or was that always in the plan, but to get the first few batches out the door, they had to cast a bunch, since the injected ones weren't ready?

      Don't know. Not enough info.

      Anyway, it's finally time to crack one of these things open. Looking into the back, towards the valve, we see it has a pair of drive pin holes, meaning we need a special tool.



      I'd bet money no valve tools ever made it into the wild, so we're gonna have to make one.

      I found some 3/32" TIG rod fit the holes nicely, and I turned down a chunk of aluminum round to make a tool body. A couple drilled holes and the pins pressed in...



      And voila`! Everything came out nicely.



      The yellow disc is both the cup seal and the rear valve seal, and the power tube and stainless steel bolt is at the right.

      Here's the valve guts. The piece at the far left is basically just a spacer, and the middle is the valve power tube.



      There's two holes in the cylindrical part (that is, the one with the dot on it) and air goes down the center and out towards the bolt. Very similar to the old Nightmare valve, and the Montneel valves. (And it might be worth noting that black O-ring to the right end of the tube is the only one I've found that's gone goopy. The rest are probably Buna-N, and while not in the best shape, other than that goopy 'ring, this thing probably would have held pressure.)

      Next, the piercing pin just pushes out the back. There's no screws or pins holding it in place, just a step machined in the bore, and a couple O-rings to seal.



      Note the piercing pin isn't hollow. As noted earlier, the button on the back of the CO2 knob pushes the cartridge against this pin, which pierces it, but the gas then fills the rest of the chamber. Pressure goes down to the valve through a tiny hole in the bore, just below the pin.

      These things supposedly had a bit of a reputation for being a gas hog, I wonder if that wasted gas just used to fill the 12-gram chamber had something to do with that? It certainly didn't help, of course, I just wonder how much it hurt.

      In any case, moving on, we come to the holy grail: The CO2 plug.



      As noted, this one's been butchered, but the important dimensions are intact. It should be fairly easy to fab more from scratch- and according to Bacchi, the "degas" bit is just a long screw with a red button on the end. The head of the screw seals against that O-ring seen on the left end. Bop the button, the cartridge is pierced, the chamber pressurizes, and pushes the screw head onto the O-ring, sealing it.

      Bop the button again, and that pops the screw head off the O-ring, venting the air and letting you unscrew the plug. The obvious pliers marks on the knurled part either indicate somebody didn't know how to degas it with the button, or that's how they held it while they were trying to tap it for the constant air hose.

      Minus that plug, I should be able to have one of these reassembled in the next few days. Some threads are stripped on this one, so it's not just a case of throwing it back together, but it shouldn't take major effort.

      Doc.

      Doc's Machine & Airsmith Services: Creating the Strange and Wonderful since 1998!
      The Whiteboard: Daily, occasionally paintball-related webcomic mayhem!
      Paintball in the Movies!

      Comment


        #6
        I Always wanted one, nearly pulled the trigger a few times ... But never actually seen one for real ...
        -You'd be pretty much guaranteed to be the only player on the field with one.

        I've been wondering where they all went. All the evidence points to a fair run of these being made- I'd wager several thousand at least. Ten thousand is, I think, unlikely, but by no means out of the question. But still, even if it was only two or three thousand, where are they? There's like, NO mentions of them online that I can find- I've had these two for something like 24 years, and in that time, the only ones I've ever seen have been Bacchis, and the only other person to even mention them... has been me.

        I love pressurized 12g chamber so I might actually make the plunge next one pops up ...
        -I have to ask: You "love" a pressurized 12G chamber? Um... why?

        I mean, it makes for a simple setup, and I like the pierce/degas knob, at least as a concept, but from an efficiency standpoint, I'd wager it costs you probably 20% of your possible per-cartridge shots.

        As noted above, the gun has a bit of a reputation for poor gas efficiency, but part of that is also from the massive hammer- it's probably twice as heavy as a typical Nelson hammer. According to the articles from back in the day, players liked it since it got more "range"- which of course meant that it was shooting a higher velocity than other guns.

        Which reminds me, two things of note: First, there is no velocity adjuster. You could, I'm sure, alter the velocity with different springs (or clipping a coil or two) or adding shims/spacers- the hammer I have may have a spacer in it. Whether that's factory or a piece a later owner added, I couldn't say.

        And second, the bore mics at 0.691", so keep in mind if you decide to pick one up, you'll need big paint.

        PS: what material re the tubes?
        -It's surprisingly well built. The main body is an aluminum extrusion, anodized a more-or-less black, the grip frame is die-cast aluminum (painted) the pump grip is injection molded from something that feels a lot like Delrin, and all the internals are either aluminum or stainless steel. This was not some cheap toy- some of the designwork is not the greatest, sure, but it's pretty well built even by today's standards (especially compared to some of the truly cheap entry level stuff) and was top-notch for 1985.

        Doc.
        Doc's Machine & Airsmith Services: Creating the Strange and Wonderful since 1998!
        The Whiteboard: Daily, occasionally paintball-related webcomic mayhem!
        Paintball in the Movies!

        Comment


        • XEMON

          XEMON

          commented
          Editing a comment
          I "love" filled 12g chamber because I love to put the 12g not worrying about how quickly it's gonna pierce and how fast I need to screw it in ... Just screw it in and smack the back ... (That's why I absolutely love my WGP pump changer, but they're super hard to come by ...)

          I'll definitely pull the plug next time I get the chance ...

          Are you gonna make a single rear plug or a few spare while you're at it?

        • DocsMachine

          DocsMachine

          commented
          Editing a comment
          Yep, I'll be making a small handful of the CO2 plugs. I'll need two just for mine, Bacchi has mentioned wanting a couple, and he also has two listed third-party from Renick Miller, both of which are missing the plugs. (Come to think of it, I'm not sure if he wants the extras for those guns...)

          I'll probably make like 10 or 12, which should pretty much cover everybody, and be a lifetime supply after that.

          Probably whip up a couple valve tools, too- they're easy enough.

          Doc.

        • XEMON

          XEMON

          commented
          Editing a comment
          Awesome!
          Now I don't have to hunt one down with the rear plug 😅

        #7
        Need a favor, ladies and gents.

        I'd gotten around to stripping the remaining paint off the worst of the three grip frames, and got an interesting surprise: The name of the gun ("Puma AP-5") and the company's mailing address is cast into the side of the frame. (Neither of which is new information- both were mentioned in the manual, which is posted up on VintageRex. )

        Except I'd swear it wasn't there before I stripped the paint. And the other two frames show no sign of any lettering- not even a ghost, under directional lighting. The lettering (recesses, like the lettering on the grips) has been filled in for some reason.

        Anyway, before I speculate on that any further, it also said "Pat. Pending".

        I have no idea if the patent was granted, though I'd wager not. Anyone know if it's possible to search patent applications? Or submissions that weren't granted?

        For those that have some keyboard time to spare, we're probably looking in the 1985 range. The gun was definitely out in the wild as of mid to late 1987.

        It's also going to be patent speak- it's not a paintball gun, it'll be something like a 'paint pellet launcher' or 'marking pellet device'. It should mention 'CO2' or 'carbon dioxide', but it may also just say 'compressed gas'.

        It won't use the proper name of the gun, and we don't know the name of the developer/filer. That's actually what I was hoping to find out.

        Worse, the patent may cover some specific aspect, like the degas mechanism, and not the gun itself.

        The only hard evidence is the mailing address, which was in Amelia, Ohio. (Which, according to Wikipedia, doesn't exist anymore. It got incorporated into another township.)

        I don't know if it's even possible to search ungranted patents, and our supply of keywords to search for is pretty thin. I poked around both USPTO and Google Patents for about an hour, but came up with very little for my trouble. Anyone else want to take a crack at it?

        Doc.
        Doc's Machine & Airsmith Services: Creating the Strange and Wonderful since 1998!
        The Whiteboard: Daily, occasionally paintball-related webcomic mayhem!
        Paintball in the Movies!

        Comment


          #8
          Continuing the main story, I picked up a chunk of the right-sized round stock, and made a couple simplified valve wrenches.



          I figure I'll make four or five (plus the original one I turned) and list them just in case there's some other nutball out there wanting to fix one of these up. I might put together a seal kit, too, since there's one unique one- the big 'disc' seal at the back.

          No idea if they'll ever sell, but won't cost me anything but a little time and a few bucks.

          Anyway, I stripped down the two bodies I have that have internals, and the next step is to clean everything up, swap some O-rings, and put one of these back together.



          Now, continuing with the forensics, rumor has it these guns had some issues- I haven't been able to nail down any specifics, other than the magazine article that referred, vaguely, to poor seals, and a couple offhand mentions of reliability issues.

          One thing I may have run across, is the bolt. It's stainless steel, and the mouth of it, has a very sharp edge.



          It almost looks like it was hand-turned using the compound, but however it was made, nobody deburred that edge. If this were a semiauto, that would be a ballbreaker right there, and I'd wager there may have been issues even with a pump.

          The other part is the way it attaches to the pump rod. It's a flathead screw with a spacer, and has to move the bolt in an off-axis way. Both the bolts I have are stripped, and all three grip frames show marks- in one case gouges- where the loose screw was dragged back and forth as it was fired.

          The factory screw is 6-32, I may try just re-tapping the bolt (one of them, anyway) to 8-32. If that doesn't work, I can always make a new one.

          And, as noted above, I took the nastiest of the three grip frames, and stripped off the last of the paint.



          This one had gotten badly corroded, which flaked off a lot of the paint. This one, too, is the one those injection-molded grips were originally on, before I got the lot, since the frame had matching swaths of the old dried-up duct-tape adhesive. (You can see some yellowish spots on the front strap.)

          And, as also noted, this one actually had the marker name and company address cast into the side of the grip frame.



          I feel a bit silly I never noticed that before, but looking back at the photos I'd taken earlier, it was pretty well covered by flaky paint and fluffy white corrosion.

          The other two grip frame don't have that lettering- they're not filled in as I originally thought, they're simply not there. The frames were not cast with it.

          Again, curiouser and curiouser. Was this particular one an early model? The lettering is indented, meaning the mold had raised letters- it would have been easier to mill those off than add them in. But again, we simply have no other indication of which way the progression went.

          Anyway, I finished scrubbing that one off, and gave it a coat of black rattlecan. In the morning I should be able to start piecing one of these together.

          Doc.
          Doc's Machine & Airsmith Services: Creating the Strange and Wonderful since 1998!
          The Whiteboard: Daily, occasionally paintball-related webcomic mayhem!
          Paintball in the Movies!

          Comment


            #9
            If you ladies and gents haven't yet been bored completely to death by this little foray into long-forgotten and obsolete paintball history, one of the guys over on the Guild came up with a bit of info- The company was incorporated in Ohio in June of '86, and cancelled by the Ohio tax department in December of '88.

            The 'incorporator', and thus presumably the inventor of the gun, is/was a fellow by name of Robert H. Welch. And according to a rec.sport.paintball post that Bacchi dug up many years ago, he also ran a field in the Cincinnati area.

            Anyone from Cincinnati? Know any old-timers that may recall an early field from back then?

            Doc.
            Doc's Machine & Airsmith Services: Creating the Strange and Wonderful since 1998!
            The Whiteboard: Daily, occasionally paintball-related webcomic mayhem!
            Paintball in the Movies!

            Comment


              #10
              Ah.... Gun forensics. This is a neat read

              Comment


                #11
                I am very invested in seeing how this all ends
                Feedback 3.0

                Comment


                  #12
                  Another thought. (Sometimes I can't make my brain let go. )

                  What magazines were out in '86? APG didn't hit the stands 'til "Fall 1987", the first issue of Paintcheck was May of '89, and the first Paintball Sports International was the following August.

                  I have all three, but I don't think I have much of anything earlier. (And if I do, they're in deep storage where I haven't seen them in a good number of years.)

                  Anybody with a collection of PB mags from '86 and '87 want to give 'em a quick scan to see if you can spot anything about the Pumas? An ad with a price would be cool, an actual review would be better.

                  Doc.
                  Doc's Machine & Airsmith Services: Creating the Strange and Wonderful since 1998!
                  The Whiteboard: Daily, occasionally paintball-related webcomic mayhem!
                  Paintball in the Movies!

                  Comment


                    #13
                    Doc what paint stripper do you use?
                    I use Tapatalk which does NOT display comments. If you want me to see it, make it a post not a comment.

                    Feedback
                    https://www.mcarterbrown.com/forum/b...323-s-feedback

                    Comment


                      #14
                      I spent some time on patents.google.com, and I couldn't find shit. I did, however, find a really neat patent on a reciprocating barrel semi-auto from Mr. Farrell (Farral? Something?) of FASTECH fame, and it definitely wasn't a NOVA.

                      I'll try again when I have time. There's so much Gardner and Kee bull to sort through, not to mention BB stuff from the 40s through 60s, and airsoft. Hell, I can't even find any patents under the Robert Welch name, except for a bunch of really weird patents claimed by a British dish and silverware company.

                      I'd love to see this come to a happy ending.
                      Feedback

                      Comment


                        #15
                        Originally posted by Trbo323 View Post
                        Doc what paint stripper do you use?
                        -I have a carefully-hoarded stash of the good methylene chloride stuff. I tried some of the citrus stuff from Home Depot once, and I'm not sure it could strip dry-erase marker off of teflon. Using straight orange juice probably would have worked better.

                        I spent some time on patents.google.com, and I couldn't find shit.
                        -Remember, it's very likely the patent wasn't granted. Even today, with relatively fast internet searches, the patent process takes a couple of years. And if what we've found is true, the business started in mid- '86 and was defunct by late '88. If he filed for the patent in '86, it might not have been granted, even under ideal conditions, for three or four years, and five or more is not out of the question.

                        Chances are good that even if it had been approved, Welch may not have been in a position at that time to finish the paperwork, or pay the fees.

                        That said, if it's possible to search applications (rather than completed/granted patents) focus, if you can, on '85 through '87, which should be the most probable timeframe. Also, I was thinking what might be patentable on that thing, and really, there's only the valve and the still-unique-to-this-day pierce/degas device. The latter, I suspect, is the most likely thing to be patented- and if so, the application may not say anything about paintball, a paintball gun, an air gun, or anything else.

                        Also keep in mind, that in '85, and especially on an official form like that, they wouldn't use "paintball", it'd be a "marking pellet", or "paint pellet", or even a "frangible dye-filled marking-pellet launcher" or something like that.

                        Sorry, I know none of that makes the task any easier.

                        Doc.
                        Doc's Machine & Airsmith Services: Creating the Strange and Wonderful since 1998!
                        The Whiteboard: Daily, occasionally paintball-related webcomic mayhem!
                        Paintball in the Movies!

                        Comment


                        • Brokeass_baller

                          Brokeass_baller

                          commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I haven't tried "pellet" yet, but that's a good point. I live in Ohio, but I live in the northeast. So I know Indian Springs, BOA, Allen, etc, but up until a year or so ago, I've never heard of Puma, let alone Amelia.
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