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LAPCO Ratchet Upgrade for Cyclone Feed
Few of the accessory brands that were a major part of the paintball scene in the late 1980s and into the 1990s are still around today. One exception to that that rule is the Los Angeles Paintball Company, better known as LAPCO. Famous for producing the Grey Ghost marker and introducing the bottom-line gas configuration, LAPCO continues today producing barrels and upgrade accessories for a wide variety of paintguns.
Tippmann's A5 marker was well received immediately upon release not only because of its MP-5 like styling, but because it was the company's first model to include the Cyclone Feed system. Based on the impeller design of the wind-up spring powered loader on the short-lived Tippmann F/A, the Cyclone is pneumatically powered, requiring no winding or batteries. The Cyclone feed is now found standard on Tippmann's A5 and X7 markers, and is available as an upgrade option for the venerable Model 98. For the A5 and X7 it provides true indexed forced feeding (one ball is automatically fed each time the breech opens for loading) without the need for a $100+ electronic loader.
The Cyclone Feed system works rather simply. Each time the marker is fired, the main gas channel through the marker's valve vents gas forward to fire a paintball, but smaller amounts are also directed out the back of the valve and a side-tap to drive gas powere accessories. This gas is what pushes the hammer (rear bolt in Tippmann-lingo) back, re-cocking the marker for the next shot, as well as to advance the Cyclone feed.
When pressurized, the ram pushes forward, pushing the latch in the loader's ratchet assembly past a cog in the loader's axle, while a spring on the opposite side prevents the axle from rotating backwards. Once the piston is fully extended, the latch is able to grab onto the next cog in the wheel. When the air pressure is released, the ram's return spring pushes the ram back into its rest position, pulling the cog around with it. This rotates the impeller and pushes a paintball into the newly opened breech.
The stock cog and latch used in the Cyclone Feed system are made from durable plastics, and like any moving part are subject to eventual wear. LAPCO's Ratchet Upgrade replaces these parts with smooth finished hard-anodized aluminum components designed to give a longer operating life than the stock parts.
Packed with the Ratchet Upgrade is a small folded instruction sheet that walks the user through the installation steps necessary, using color photographs and short descriptions. During installation of the upgrade on an X7 for review, it was found that the process could easily be shortened further, by leaving the Cyclone feed on the marker. This leaves the lower impeller wheel trapped in the loader, but its removal was unnecessary for the install.
Removing the Cyclone Feed's bottom cover with a Phillips screwdriver exposed the stock cog mechanism and allowed the loader's direction biasing spring to be lifted out. Unscrewing the stock feeder axle from the impeller paddles on the top of the loader left the axle and ratchet assembly free to be lifted out the bottom of the loader, along with the pneumatic ram (still attached to the marker by a short hose) far enough to remove the ram's piston and spring (still attached to the axle and ratchet assembly) from the ram's body.
A pin punch was then used to push out the steel pin linking the ram's piston to the stock ratchet arm. The piston was then attached to the LAPCO upgrade ratchet with a provided hex socket screw pins.
A spring and guide are visible inside the semi-clear stock ratchet, and they serve to position it to grab into the cogs of the axle. These parts are not included in the upgrade ratchet and need to be moved from the stock assembly to its replacement. The stock ratchet's second steel pin was removed, freeing the spring and its guide. These were placed in the LAPCO ratchet and secured with an included hex socket cap screw.
A little wiggling was necessary to get the LAPCO axle past the spring loaded guide in the ratchet, but it went in easily, and the assembly was lightly lubricated with marker oil before reinstalling in the Cyclone Drive.
While purely a subjective observation, the author noted that manual operation of the Cyclone Feed, felt smoother. This may be in part due to the slightly different geometry of LAPCO's latch and ratchet compared to the stock components, as well as a different friction coefficient between the latching surfaces, and between the spring guide and the polished anodized axle.
Test cycling paint through the modified cyclone feed exhibited no problems and only reliable operation. It is reasonable to expect that the more durable materials of the LAPCO ratchet and axle will extend the operating life of the Cyclone Feed.
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