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St. Louis Arch  

National Pro Shop's

St. Louis

Big Game IV and Open House

May 16 & 17, 1998
by Bill Mills
St. Louis, from the top of the arch.

National Pro Shop's big games have become a mid-west tradition. My wife Dawn and I had the pleasure of meeting Tim Schloss, the owner of National Pro-Shop, and Pursuit Products in the winter of 1997 at Florida Paintball Productions Grand Finale Area 51 scenario game.

When I first introduced myself to Tim, he immediately jumped into conversation about pet box turtles, something Randy Kamiya had told him we have in common. At the scenario game, and later at the Earon Carter Stock Class invitational we had a chance to talk more with Tim, and learn about his views on paintball - mainly that having fun is the most important part. He sees the social aspect of paintball being a group activity where people get to meet together and share ideas being just as important as the actual game.

When he invited us to his big game, we were excited to be able to go. He had characterized the game as being a fun get together more than anything else, so we hopped on a jet and headed for St. Louis. Walking down the jet-way we were discussing how to get to the Pro-Shop when we were greeted by Tim himself, and Marty Tripes from Scott USA. We got a bit of a road based tour of St. Louis, passing the Anheiser Busch brewery, and a lot of turn of the century buildings before getting out to the shop. Along the way Tim explained that this year's game probably wouldn't be so big attendance wise, because the final date was announced rather late. The date was dependent on his new field, Xtreme Paintball being completed. Regardless of numbers, he was determined to make sure it was a fun weekend, and it was.

We pulled into the shop and met some of the players from Total Greif, and the Phantom Jesters, and got a look around. There was the usual... a wall full of paintguns, shelves with squeegees and masks, but there was more. There was a lot of paintball history. Hanging from the ceiling beams were T-shirts and jackets from some big name paintball teams going back enough years that most people today have never heard of them. On the walls were photos from tournaments with players and teams. Tim proudly displayed a white pullover top. It wasn't snow camo, it was actually the pattern mock-up for the first Tiger Stripe pullover that he manufactured through Pursuit Products. This was the shirt that started the fashion of pull-over tops in paintball - the holy grail of hemlines.

Friday night Marty fired up the barbecue and prepared a great dinner.  Unbeknownst to most people, aside from his background as a moto-cross racer, and paintball eye protection, Marty Tripes is also an excellent chef.  I spent some time talking to Sal (one of the partners in the field) and his son Tory while they set-up their purple Phantom SCs (Purple is the team color for Total Greif, and all the Greifer's have matching Phantoms - they look SHARP). I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd seen them before. It wasn't until a  week later when putting some updates into WARPIG that I noticed a picture of both of them with Dave Youngblood in an article on the 1997 Zap Amateur Open (in the Tournament Section) by Rocky Grismore. The internet makes the world a small place.

Saturday was the first game day. On the schedule was stock class play in the morning, and pump class in the afternoon, with the semi-auto big game planned for Sunday.  One entry fee covered both days.

Around 30 people turned out for the stock games, and there were a number of well known faces in the crowd. Fred Schultz, and "Paintball Dave" Ruddig were on hand.   Simon Cole came from England to join in the game, and Marty Tripes greeted people at the staging area.

For many people this was their first look at Xtreme Paintball, and it left a good impression.  From the parking areas into the staging area (complete with border gardens) the field looks professional.  The main building isn't a ramshackle shed, it's an honest to goodness building, with three service windows to take care of customers.  Going out into the field area, the first field is the speedball court with its barricades made from 50 gallon plastic drums.  The next field is the tournament field.  It has gently rolling terrain covered in mowed grass and bunkers made of stacked logs.  Further back there are more fields with larger areas of heavy brush and woods with trails wood bunkers and sheds, and ponds.  Each of the fields features flag stations made with three "legs" of 2" PVC pipe, making their locations un-mistakable.  Even further back there is undeveloped land waiting to be made into new fields as Xtreme Paintball grows.
I broke out my long barrel Nightmare for the morning stock class game, while Dawn was taking pictures,  but  I forgot to pack one of the essentials - 10 round tubes.  Fortunately, Rob "Tyger" Rubin had a few to spare.  The open spaces between the bunkers and lack of small brush on the tournament field meant move fast or be shot.  It's not a field for crawlers.  In the second game I ended up one bunker away from Fred Shultz.  That was it, me and "Mr. Paintball" just 10 feet away.  There was a bit of a hole in my bunker which Fred so kindly pointed out.  While I concentrated on getting just the right angle to make use of it, one of his team mates ran up on the left and took me out of the game.

Stock play then moved onto the hyperball field where the pace got faster due to the smaller space.  In the afternoon though, the games were officially switched to pump class   Many players kept on shooting their stock class gear, while others broke out the hoppers and CO2 tanks.  Matt "Shives" Shively, hit the field with his parallel fed (stock legal) Nelspot 007.  It was nearly stock.... except for the mammoth PMS compressed air system that was powering it.  It would be more accurate to say that the air system had a tank mounted paintgun, rather than the HPA system being bottom line mounted on the 'gun.

With the pump games, the brush fields were used giving crawlers and stealth types ample opportunity to use their skills.  After a full morning and afternoon of paintball the players thinned out, and eventually it was just the refs left at the field.  We'd left for a late lunch, then come back to find the field nearly empty.  The old saying that when the cat is away, the mice will play held true.  The refs and field staff got out their gear for some Speedball.  Dawn took to the field with her Minimag.  I was setting up my Rainmaker and ran into a problem (later I discovered that it was just the regulator adjustment being backed out too far... rookie move), so I took some pictures.

Sunday morning, a larger crowd arrived, anxious for the big game.  Player passes were issued in red or blue to indicate teams.  Fred Shultz had to get back to California to attend his wife's birthday party, but insisted I make use of his Rainmaker (yes, he is a dedicated representative of Brass Eagle).  His set up wasn't quite stock, it was equipped with "Official Fred Gear" - OFG, his signature series line of accessories.  He'd added an OFG vertical foregrip, OFG barrel, and OFG gas-thu "shark" stock.  Running remote was his original Fred Schultz signature HPA system from Air America.

I followed behind Shives, moving up one of the trails on the right side of one of the brush filled fields.  A few minutes in while trying to move up the trail, Shives was eliminated.  I found a nice gully in the trail far enough back that I wasn't exposed to the guy that got Matt, but still had a shot down the road.  Dawn sent another player from our team to take a position up and behind me where he had a clear view down the road.  Each time members of the blue team came down to the road, the player behind me started calling in fire.  I'd lob a few paintballs until he told me I was right on, then it was time to hammer on the trigger, and wouldn't you know it, out of the brush a hand would pop up.  I burned through a lot of paint, but kept taking out player after player.  The teamwork with that spotter worked great, and we even took out Tim Schloss when he tried to crawl the trail.

After getting all those eliminations in one game, I figured that my odds wouldn't be so good for the next, so it was time to break out the video camera and get some footage for PigTV (that and I'd already burned through half a case of paint in one game), and Dawn joined me, taking 35mm stills.

The games went on into the afternoon, when the players gathered in the staging area.  Tim Schloss stepped up on one of the tables to thank the sponsors who came out to be involved, including Scott and Diggers.  Through the days games, referees had been taking the names of players they thought had exhibited exemplary sportsmanship.  These players were awarded Scott Bucks - certificates that can be exchange for Scott paintball gear.

Before leaving to the airport the next day, Tim took us, along with Simon, on a tour of the Pursuit Products factory.  We learned a bit about the history of the company.  Originally Tim was one of two partners in distributing Tiger Stripe clothing in the US.  The two main markets for this specialty camo pattern were military, and the growing field of paintball.  Tim ended up taking the paintball end of the company turning that into what is now Pursuit Products.  The Tiger Stripe pattern, Tim explained, is optimized to camouflage a person who is going to be moving, because of its horizontal structure.  Vertically structured patterns,  only work when a player is perfectly still, with any lateral movement, they stand out rather than blend in.  Tim also showed us some of the points of quality construction that make him proud of his products.  All of the seams on Pursuit Products clothing have the fabric folded over and triple stitched.  That extra layer of cloth, and three separate rows of stitching give much greater durability.  While you might think this would make construction a very complicated process, it isn't - they have specially constructed sewing machines that fold the fabric as it is fed in, and run three needles simultaneously.  Clothing isn't all they make at Pursuit Products.  Under contract for other companies they also do nylon goods.  The Brass Eagle "ball hauler" paint pod pouches are cut, assembled and stitched in the Pursuit Products factory.

With a couple of hours remaining before our flight, we headed to the top of the St. Louis arch to take in the view.   That is not a trip for the claustrophobic the elevator/trolly system consists of cars which resemble laundry dryers and aren't much roomier.

At the airport while waiting to check in we got to watch the airport security decide what to do about the Automags in the luggage Simon was checking in.  It took a few security guards conferring with each other, and a trip to talk to their supervisor, but they straightened everything out, assured that the paintguns weren't firearms, and got Simon on his way back to England while we winged back to Florida.

To contact Xtreme Paintball, Pursuit Products, or the National Pro Shop, call (314) 845-7079

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