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Palmer's Pursuit Blazer
by Bill Mills
In the 1980s, Glenn Palmer took his background as a gunsmith and combined it with his love of paintball to establish Palmer’s Pursuit Shop in Sacramento, CA. Palmer felt that a shoulder injury restricted how fast he could pump his customized paintguns, so he developed a pneumatic automation system to recock his paintgun each time the trigger was pulled.
Orders piled up fast, and soon Palmer was building a variety of semi-autos including the Typhoon, Hurricane, and Stroker. While the argument of whether Glenn Palmer or Bud Orr built an automated recocking system first is still hotly debated to this day, it is undeniable that Palmer Pursuit has built a solid reputation for quality airsmithing and products.
Pneumatic recocking is used on Palmer’s semis, as well as other semi autos including the Autococker and Sovereign. While the systems can be complex, the principle is simple. The gas supply to the paintgun is tapped and fed to a low pressure regulator. When the trigger is pulled, a hammer is released, striking the paintgun’s main valve and firing the paintball out of the barrel. As the trigger is pulled further back, it actuates a 4 way valve (called a switch in Palmer terminology) that directs gas from the low pressure regulator to a pneumatic cylinder, or ram, that cocks the bolt and hammer back. Releasing the trigger flips the switch and closes the bolt, chambering the next ball. In essence the pneumatics are added to a pump based design, to do the work of pumping the paintgun.
Through the 1990s, the vast majority of Palmer built semi-autos were either conversions of Sheridan based pump paintguns or pellet guns, or scratch built custom paintguns using the same general design structure. These paintguns are built of brass tubes soldered together to form their receiver, with the pneumatics added on. The structure of these paintguns meant they could not simply be slapped together assembly line style. Instead each was hand built on a custom per-order basis.
During this time period, Palmer’s Pursuit also produced aftermarket products. The regulator Palmer had developed for his custom paintguns was packaged into an external case and labled the rock. It quickly became a “must have” upgrade for owners of the WGP Autococker. Similarly Palmer’s Stabilizer regulator became very popular as an inline regulator, especially for users of CO2.
Glenn Palmer was an active user in the rec.sport.paintball newsgroup, one of the first people in the paintball industry to make real use of the Internet. In fact, several of the first pictures to be archived on the FTP site that would later become WARPIG.com were submitted by Palmer. Some of these pictures can be viewed online HERE, and a 1994 WARPIG interview with Palmer can be found HERE.
By taking part in online communication and helping players Palmer was seen as a member of that community, rather than an interloper simply trying to advertise within it. Via the Internet, Palmer developed a strong customer following throughout the United States and beyond, despite the fact that his paintguns were not sold in many stores beside his own.
In the later half of the 1990s, while his son Craig was coming on board the business, Palmer focused his attention on the Blazer, a paintgun that would include all of his design principles and philosophies, but be built that could be built assembly line style, and built from the ground up as a pneumatic automation semi, rather than a retrofit of pneumatics onto an existing design. Unfortunately, the Blazer did not simply roll off the assembly line. Problems arose with the first aluminum receivers, and quite a few other delays occurred before the Blazer was available to the public.
With Palmer’s pride in craftsmanship, the Blazers didn’t ship until Glenn was pleased with the results. Because they both work on similar principals, comparisons between the Blazer and an Autococker are inevitable. The first striking difference is that all of the pneumatics, and even the sear are integrated into the receiver of the Blazer. There are no external hoses, fittings or valves. Like all of Palmer’s production designs the Blazer uses a swing trigger, something that has only recently become a popular option for Autococker paintguns. The way a person pulls a swing trigger makes it easier to shoot quickly without short stroking. Short stroking is a problem found only in pneumatic automation designs. It is what happens when a player pulls the trigger back far enough to fire, but not back far enough to recock, or long enough for a paintball to drop into the breech all the way before releasing the trigger and closing the bolt.
Another striking feature of the Blazer is its compact size and feel. The integrated pneumatics mean there is no front block, and its overall size is smaller than many blowback semis.
The Blazer used for this review was built in 2002, with a number of design changes that were integrated in that year. A centered feed port is now a common option for the Blazer, and this model shipped with a two finger 45 style grip frame, and Stabilizer vertical regulator connected by braided Stainless Steel hose to a bottom line ASA.
Starting at the front of the paintgun is one of the Blazer’s features loved by some and hated by others. The Blazer has its own, unique barrel retention system. Rather than threads or twist lock systems, the Blazer simply clamps down into the rear of a smooth barrel. From a manufacturing standpoint this is an inexpensive solution, and it takes up little space in the design compared to other systems. While no other manufacturers produce barrels for the Blazer, many barrels, can be modified by Palmer’s Pursuit, to fit the blazer, but cutting down the rear barrel exterior on a lathe. The stock barrel is 10.5 inches, though the barrel on the review model was 12 inches in length with spiral porting in its last 3 inches. Its interior finish is bright polished brass, and it is optionally available with a nickel plate finish, or black enamel exterior. PPS barrels feature what Glenn Palmer calls a Wedgit. An elongated dimple is made in the rear of the barrel, providing a small bump that prevents slam bore paintballs from rolling out of the barrel after they are chambered. Newer Palmer’s barrels have three evenly spaced Wedgits, which minimize the chance of accidentally inducing a spin on the paintball, or the possibility of a very small ball getting past just one of them.
Moving further back along the receiver is the feed neck. The switch to a vertical feedneck rather than an angled feed moves the Blazer in line with current trends in paintball fashion. Rather than deal with complex and comparatively bulk clamping feed necks, Palmer has utilized a much simpler solution to making sure that the loader is locked into the feed neck. A pair of hex screws on either side of the feed neck bite into the neck on the loader keeping it from slipping out. These can alternatively be replaced with thumb screws for tool free locking of the loader. A pair of holes in the side of the feed neck offer visual confirmation that paint is in the neck, ready to load on the next shot as well as vent any possible blowback gas.
The feed neck is welded into the body. While this does not provide as crisp and edge with the receiver as provided by other paintguns, it offers incredible durability – most feednecks are held in with adhesives and or very fine threads which can be stripped if cross threaded or impacted.
The new ball detent placement is unusual. Most paintguns with dual detents feature one on each side of the breech, right and left. The Blazer however, features one in front of and one behind the ball. The reason for this is that some minor dimensional changes to the Blazer design bring the bolt back further during the cocking stroke. Amongst other things this added distance slightly increases the time the bolt is fully open, making it harder to short-stroke and close the bolt before a ball has fed. The rear ball detent keeps the freshly loaded paintball from rolling back against the bolt, and allowing the ball above it to partially feed.
The Blazer bolt features three o-rings. The first seals it to the breech, and the next two seal around the gas entry hole, to maximize gas efficiency. It is a large bore, basically hollowed out bolt, the gas path also designed to optimize gas efficiency. The bolt pin links the bolt to the small cocking block mounted on the side of the Blazer. The pin is spring loaded and is not removed from the bolt. Instead it is pulled about ¼ inch out of the bolt, to clear the top of the cocking block, and the bolt slides out the back of the receiver, in one motion. This leaves the Blazer open for the use of a pull through squeegee, or inspection of the bore and breech.
The cocking block itself has a small rod which extends into a slot in the lower portion of the receiver. This rod catches on the hammer, cocking it when the trigger is pulled back. The block is mounted directly on the actuator of the pneumatic ram. The ram is integrated into the left side of the receiver. Instead of air hoses and fittings, it is powered by gas coming through internal channels drilled inside the gun body.
The low pressure pneumatics regulator is blended into the right side of the body. All of the valve internals, which function like a Rock regulator, fit in a cylindrical protrusion, and the cocking pressure can be adjusted with a hex wrench.
On the rear of the Blazer is the velocity adjuster cap. A hex wrench can be used to increase or decrease the pressure on the hammer spring, directly adjusting velocity. In a thoughtful move missed by most paintgun manufacturers, Palmer’s laser engraves the velocity adjuster, showing which way to turn for an increase or decrease in velocity. Because Palmer’s does their own laser engraving in house, custom logos, graphics and labeling are all options for the Blazer.
The original Blazer, like most palmer paintguns utilized a Sheridan style die cast grip frame with a swing trigger. The Blazer reviewed included a billet machined 45 style trigger frame with two finger trigger. This is rapidly becoming a popular option for Blazer owners, as the 45 style frame accepts industry standard wraparound grips like those from Hogue, DYE and Extreme Rage. The two finger trigger is also machined from a single piece of aluminum, which has a better look than the previous trigger shoe models.
In the trigger frame is a sliding trigger-block safety. Many paintguns lack this feature, and in many cases airsmiths or end users remove it, in a quest for a smoother trigger. The safety in the Palmer’s 45 frame fits with such tight tolerances that it does not interfere with the trigger pull, and doesn’t accidentally get switched on.
A brass link connects into the back of the trigger, and is what actuates the pneumatic switch. The brass link rod ties into a rocker arm inside the grip frame, which trips the sear to release the hammer, and also links to the pneumatic switch with another brass rod. It is these links which determine the pneumatics timing, and they are all internal which helps prevent the problems of mis-timing that come from adjustment by the inexperienced. The rocker and sear spring bushing are made of brass which gives them self lubricating properties in their interaction with the hardened steel sear.
Set screws limit front and rear trigger travel, and from the factory come dialed in for a reasonably short trigger pull that is long enough to minimize short stroking issues.
On the lower front end of the receiver is the vertical ASA, connected with a gas through bolt. Another one of the Blazer’s more common options was included on the review model – a vertically mounted Stabilizer regulator. The Stabilizer gives the Blazer the ability to provide stable velocities from CO2 as a power source while getting the high shot per fill the gas provides. The Stabilizer also works just as well with compressed air, functioning as a secondary regulator to smooth out any pressure fluctuations coming from the compressed air system’s on-tank regulator.
The Blazer manual is a bit dated – focused mainly on the use of CO2, however it does a solid job of explaining how the paintgun functions, and how to set up and maintain it. For testing, the Blazer was used with a Crossfire 4500 psi compressed airsystem pre-set for 800 psi output. While the manual describes the procedure for setting up the pneumatics pressure, this was unnecessary. The blazer was cocking reliably on gas-up. Adjusting the Stabilizer regulator was unnecessary as well, and the velocity dialed in with just a few shots over the chrono, and turns of the velocity adjuster screw in the rear.
On field, the Blazer showed its strengths. The compact size and light weight proved well suited for a front player who needs speed, or a big game or scenario player who will be on the field for a long period of time and moving through brush. The blazer lived up to its name when it came to firepower. The two finger pivoting trigger delivered high rates of fire, with no short stroking problems whatsoever. Accuracy proved to be excellent, and the noise signature was similar to that of most semi-auto paintguns.
After use, maintenance was simple. The Blazer manual recommends washing the Blazer with liberal amounts of hot water in the sink, or even simply taking it in the shower at the end of a day’s play. Excess water can be shaken out of the paintgun and then the remainder dried with a hair dryer on its lowest setting. The bolt can be removed and its o-rings oiled followed by a couple of drops for the hammer and mainspring through the side slot. Oiling the pneumatics and exhaust valve is simply a matter of placing a few drops of oil in the ASA, and firing the gun. Palmer’s doesn’t recommend a fancy of expensive paintgun oil, their favored lubricant is air tool oil, available at most industrial tool stores, and in small dropper bottles from PPS.
Because Palmer’s Pursuit Shop does not advertise as extensively or sponsor high end teams like a number of other paintgun manufacturers, the Blazer hasn’t gotten as much exposure in the paintball media, so not as many players are aware of it. When choosing a new paintgun, the Blazer should not be overlooked from the list of options. Despite its compact size and closed bolt pneumatic automation, the Blazer is extremely rugged and requires a minimum of maintenance attention. With its compact size, high rate of fire, quality materials and construction, simple reliability, and accuracy, it offers a production line paintgun with the options and support of a custom manufacturer.
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