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Mark 30 Paint Mine
by Bill Mills
While many designers in paintball are focusing on paintguns, BlackPoint Engineering, a division of specially machine shop Jet City Specialties has developed the Mark 30 paint mine. Priced as much as a typical paintgun, the Mark 30 isn't for every player. For the serious scenario paintball player though, the Mark 30 is a very impressive product.
In the simplest terms, the Mark 30 is a sprinkler that sprays liquid paint. It is powered by CO2 and either an electronic radio controlled triggering system, or a mechanical trigger.
Simply handling the Mark 30, it becomes readily apparent why it commands a premium price. It is solidly build of machined aluminum parts that are laser engraved, and have very tight construction tolerances. Its base is billet machined. It starts out as a solid block of aluminum that is then hollowed out to provide excellent strength. Four brass screws and a gasket seal the bottom plate protecting the electronics inside from even the most harsh field conditions.
A series of warnings are laser engraved on the bottom of the Mark 30, as well as a Federal Communications Commission compliance label (for the wireless remote version) which states that the unit is "for home or office use." A word of caution - if you fire off the Mark 30 in your office, you may be asked to look for a new job.
A back plate stands up out of the rear of the Mark 30, with a pair of tubes running out of it, parallel to the base. A narrow tube is used for the CO2, while a larger tube is the paint reservoir and piston.
The operating premise of the Mark 30 is easy to understand. The paint reservoir holds paint at the ready. It is a tube, roughly two inches in diameter with a pop-up spray head at one end and a piston disk in the other end. When the Mark 30 is fired, a pin is driven by a spring into a disposable 12 gram CO2 cartridge. The gas expands and pushes the piston disk down the length of the paint reservoir forcing the paint out of the nozzle.
Loading begins with the paint. It takes three or four turns to remove the end cap from the paint reservoir. If the Mark 30 was recently fired, the piston disk must be reset to the far end of the paint reservoir. This is done by pulling on a steel reset rod out of the rear of the unit, rather like loading a grease gun. It is critical that the reset rod be locked when it is slid back into the paint reservoir.
BlackPoint's paint is sold in gallon sizes. It is fairly thick, with the feel of tempera paint, but it is smoother so it will spray well. It also doesn't have the binding agents of tempera paint so when it dries, it simply turns to dust rather than leaving painted trees.
Before loading the CO2 cartridge into place, the pierce pin must be secured to prevent a mis-fire. This steel pin extends out the back of the unit, and has a ring through it, so that it can be pulled back, cocking the mechanism. A clip pin goes through a hole in the pierce pin as a safety - this is very important. The clip pin is kept on a plastic leash to keep it conveniently close at hand.
With the pierce pin safe, it's time to drop in a new 12 gram cartridge. That's done by unscrewing the knurled knob from the end of the CO2 tube, inserting the 12 gram and screwing the knob back in place.
Now the Mark 30 is ready to be placed. It should be put in an area of the field where the operator can see the target area, and the spray nozzle has an unobstructed path to spray the target area, but the unit itself it not on plain view.
The Mark 30 could be placed on the ground near a trail intersection, up in a tree, or more deviously in the ceiling rafters of a fort or base (so long as it is not in a sealed building like a radio room where goggles might be removed).
Once placed it is time to arm the Mark 30. First the electronics are armed by rolling the waterproof power knob to the on position. Then it is time to fully cock the pierce pin. This can be a little tricky. A finger goes through the cocking ring, and the safety clip is removed. The pierce pin is pulled back to the full-cocked position.
The sear that holds the pierce pin back is quite sensitive. This is so that it can be tripped by the solenoid in the base. The slightest twist of the pierce pin, or even a good solid rap on the Mark 30 case is enough to set it off, showering the person setting it.
For this reason it is as important to use paintball goggles/mask when setting the as when using it. Fortunately, the pierce pin isn't damaged from dry firing, and Blackpoint engineering recommends dry firing the Mark 30 many times to get the feel for setting the pierce pin. In practice simply dry firing a couple of times by twisting the firing pin is enough to get the feel for how to properly set it. With very little effort, one can learn to load and set the Mark 30 quickly and reliably.
Once the Mark 30 is set, that's where the fun starts. Using the remote, it can be activated from a hidden location. In testing the Mark 30 performed reliably at ranges of over 150 feet. The remote is a simple keychain design, like an auto alarm remote and features two buttons. Each remote is programmed in to the Mark 30 at the factory, but the mine can also be programmed to recognize additional remotes. Each of the remote's two buttons sends out a different code. This means one remote can control two mines, or two groups of mines programmed on the same code, and team members can jointly program their Mark 30s to work with each other's remotes (nothing would be worse than to have the mine in place and the one guy with the remote be shot out of the game).
When it goes, it goes! The Mark 30 sprays quite a volume of paint out in a cone shaped pattern. Objects or players within 5 feet of the paint mine are heavily market, while the complete spatter zone extends more than 10 feet from the nozzle. The bright Blackpoint mine paint paint shows up well on players. In testing at Karma and Company paintball field in Vero Beach, Florida Jake Schweich found this out well after sliding into a bunker protected with the Mark 30. Alternatively BlackPoint offers different spray heads to spray further in a fan shaped pattern that can cross a trail.
The Mark 30 is
far from what one would consider a conventional paintball product.
While mines don't have a place in tournament play, they fit perfectly in
scenario games, and can be a fun addition for field owners catering to
group customers such as corporate and church groups, where mini-scenarios
and and extra surprise can be fun. The Mark 30 is very well built,
simple to operate and very effectively marks players within its range.
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