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Product testing performed with DraXxus Paintballs

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Tippmann C3

By Bill Mills - Photos by Dawn Mills - Dec 2005

Overview - How It Works - Disassembly - Testing - Raw Test Data


Caution: This guide is meant to provide augment the reader's knowledge and should not be considered a substitute for the manufacturer's literature and advice.

While a pump paintgun is usually simpler in construction than a semi, the C3 is rather complex in design.  Fortunately, the typical user will need to do little more than adjust the velocity, clean the barrel, and change the battery.  As always, maintenance work should only be performed after the paintgun has been unloaded of both paintballs and its propellant supply, and dry-fired multiple times in a safe direction to ensure that no propellant gasses are still in the system.

Cleaning the barrel is easy, especially with the Straight Shot Squeegee.  For a more thorough cleaning, especially of the bolt or the ball detent, the barrel needs to be removed. 

The front sight and the under-barrel tube are held in place by a push-pin, that slides into the front valve body and through a hole in the back of the under-barrel tube.  Popping this pin out by hand releases the under-barrel tube so it can be slid forward and out. 

With the under-barrel tube out of the way the front end of the linkage arm (the rod connecting the pump to the bolt) can be pushed inward to the space previously blocked by the under-barrel tube, and be freed from its locked position in the left side of the pump.

The top-forward most receiver bolt clamps the receiver tightly onto the C3’s un-threaded barrel, much like the barrel retention system of a Palmer’s Blazer.  After loosening this bolt, the barrel is able to slide within the receiver.  It must be moved forward a fraction of an inch so that the linkage arm is clear of the receiver.   The linkage arm can be lifted out of the bolt and set aside.

At this point the barrel can slide out of the receiver, through it will probably need some wiggling to do so, as the barrel seal o-ring will be pressing against it.  With the barrel out, both it and the bolt can be inspected and cleaned.  The ball detent can also be inspected and repaired by bending, or replaced if necessary.  It should be noted that once the barrel is removed by this method, it is often difficult to reinstall it by simply sliding it back in, as this will many times cause the barrel seal o-ring to be pushed out of place and to bind between the barrel and receiver halves.  Reinstalling the barrel will usually mean taking the two receiver halves apart, and then closing them back up around the barrel.

Before going further into disassembly, it is important to remove the left side grip panel, and take out the AAA battery hidden beneath it.  Not only will this allow the battery to be tested and inspected for corrosion, but it also stands as protection from accidentally triggering the ignition circuit and getting a 40,000-volt shock from exposed components.

Further disassembly requires removing the propane regulator from its position at the bottom of the grip frame.  Two screws pass through the regulator and into its mount.  With these removed, the regulator is free from the grip, but still connected to the marker by its steel braided hose.

Two more screws go through the regulator adapter – a cradle shaped mount – and into a pair of square nuts in the bottom of the grip frame.  These are easily removed with a hex wrench, allowing the mount adapter to be set aside until it is needed for reassembly.

On the right hand side of the C3, the fuel transfer tube will then need to be removed.  This is a thin piece of hose, similar in size and flexibility to that used in Autococker pneumatics.  It is through this tube that propane flows from the fuel injector around the main combustion chamber, to be introduced to the back end of the chamber.  Both ends of the transfer tube are secured by banjo bolt style fittings.  A banjo-bolt is a hollow screw that allows the gas to flow through it.  A socket wrench or straight slot screwdriver is needed to remove these fittings.  On each fitting is an o-ring to provide a secure seal, these should be inspected and cleaned if dirty, as should the surfaces to which they mate.

A total of ten bolts hold the two receiver halves together, eight on the main body of the receiver, and two at the top of the feedneck.  In a move that makes life easier for C3 owners, Tippmann’s design crew made all of these bolts the same length, so there is no need to worry about keeping them in order for reassembly.  All ten of these bolts screw into nuts sitting in hexagonal recesses in the right half of the receiver.  By screwing into hardened steel nuts, rather than the softer polymer of the receiver, the C3 is well protected from thread stripping problems.

In the C3 tested for review, all of the receiver nuts were firmly seated in their slots.  A user who finds any which are loose may wish to secure them in their place with a tiny drop of cyanoacrylate super-glue on one of their outside edges (being very careful not to get any on their threaded inner surfaces.)  This will help prevent them from dropping out accidentally and hiding under a chair leg during disassembly, but still allow them to be removed with mild effort (simply screwing a bolt into them from the right side and wiggling and pulling) if needed.

With all ten of the receiver’s bolts either removed, or at lease loosened out of contact with their nuts, the left half of the receiver can be lifted away from the right.  While one could take every thing apart, keeping the right side down, and lifting off the left will keep all of the parts organized and sitting in the right receiver half.  The small parts to watch out for at this point are the square nuts in the bottom of the grip, the trigger spring, the trigger, and the two steel pins that hold the trigger in place.  All of these parts should sit nicely in the right half of the receiver, but some may attempt a getaway at this point, especially the trigger spring.  Much like the receiver nuts, the two bottom-line nuts can be secured into the right receiver half with a tiny dot of super glue, making them easier to manage.

At the very rear of the receiver is a flexible plastic end cap, which is easily removed at this time.  The combustion chamber – the aluminum tube that is the core of the C3, still has a few things in the way of just lifting it out.

Lifting up the front end of the chamber about a half inch allows the fitting on the end of the braided gas line from the regulator to be pulled out of the front valve body.  The gas line is held in by ridges in the receiver, rather than being threaded into the valve front.  This means it can be sealed with an o-ring rather than needing sealing tape or thread locking compound, so disassembly and reassembly goes much faster.  At the end of the hose is another o-ring, which should be inspected for nicks or damage.

At the back of the combustion chamber, on the bottom is a hex head screw holding the grounding wire from the ignition coil.  This line completes the electrical circuit, allowing a spark to jump from the spark plug to the closes un-insulated surface in the combustion chamber which is usually one of the center rings on the exhaust piston valve.  The ground wire, and its lock washer are removed by unscrewing their screw.

Once unencumbered, the combustion chamber will easily lift out of the right receiver half, with the pump and exhaust piston assembly still attached. 

The spark plug, assembly, which simply presses up against the bottom of the combustion chamber will fall away, as it is wired to the ignition circuitry.  Any time these two components are apart, the metallic spark plug surface should be cleaned by wiping it with a piece of cloth.

It is important to note, when disassembling the C3 for the first time, how the o-ring sits in the barrel seal.  The barrel seal is a tube that routes the exhaust gasses from the combustion chamber up to the barrel where the bolt will direct them to the paintball.  In a groove on the barrel seal’s top is an o-ring that is bent into a saddle shape, sealing the seal to the barrel.  It is this o-ring shifting out of place that can make sliding the barrel back in a difficult task.

The front valve body can be removed from the combustion chamber simply by twisting it loose, and sliding it forward.  Along with it will come the exhaust piston from the center of the combustion chamber.  The piston’s seals can then be checked for damage and lubrication.

The barrel seal also acts as a key, locking the rear valve body into the combustion chamber.  It is held in place by the friction of an o-ring around its lower end.  It is removed by carefully grasping one of its edges with a pair of needle nosed pliers and wiggling it out. 

With the barrel seal out, the rear valve body comes out of the back of the combustion chamber, leaving the chamber as a simple piece of pipe.  Care should be taken, when removing the rear valve body, not to twist it very much, or its front o-ring is likely to bunch up and stick out of the barrel seal opening in the combustion chamber.  If this happens, the o-ring must be carefully worked back into place, or it may be sheared off when the rear valve body is pulled further out.

On the front of the rear valve body is a flexible orange seal.  This seal rests up against 10 gas passages that run the length of the rear valve body.  When the exhaust piston is pulled forward, this seal flaps up, and allows fresh air into the expanding space, mixing it with propane.  When the C3 fires, the seal presses against the rear valve body, sealing the passages, leaving the velocity control piston as the only path for the expanding gasses to leave the combustion chamber.  If the orange is cracked or brittle, this it will need to be replaced in order to achieve proper velocity levels. 

Inside the rear valve body is the velocity control piston, its spring, bumper o-ring and the velocity control screw.  The velocity control screw is better described as a disk than a screw, due to its shape.  Unscrewing it from the back of the rear valve body with a straight slot screwdriver is all that is needed to slide out all of the body’s internal parts, allowing all of the o-rings to be inspected.

The remaining major component to be disassembled at this point is the fuel injector, the brass valve that delivers a squirt of propane into the back of the combustion chamber at the rear of the pump stroke. 

This valve is located in the front of the front valve body, and is held in place by a C shaped snap ring.  Removing it requires a pair of compressing or reversible snap ring pliers.  The rounded tips of these pliers fit into holes on the ends of the clip, and pull them together, compressing the clip so that it can slide out of its retaining grove. 

With the clip removed the fuel injector can slide out of the front valve body – a pair of needle nosed pliers can help with this process.  Along the fuel injector are four o-rings all of which must be inspected for damage.

WD-40, an oil that most airsmiths avoid, due to its reputation for damaging buna o-rings, is what Tippmann recommends for cleaning the interior surfaces of the combustion chamber, and the ends of the valve bodies.  It is what they recommend as a cleaner – not a lubricant however, and once cleaned up it is their own brand of paintgun oil that they recommend for lubrication.  All of the o-rings can be lubricated by a very light coating of paintgun oil.  In addition, white lithium grease topped by a light coat of oil is the recommended lubricant for the large black seals around the exhaust piston.  It is important to be careful here, as excessive grease and or oil can foul the C3’s spark plug, preventing proper ignition.

Reassembly of the C3 is mostly a reverse of the disassembly process.  The valve bodies are assembled and fitted into the exhaust chamber with the barrel seal locking the rear valve body in.  The ground wire must be re-attached to the exhaust chamber, the spark plug snugged into position and the propane line fitted into the front valve body.  To get the barrel seal’s o-ring into proper shape it is easier to place the barrel in place (with its bolt inside, connecting rod hole aligned with its slot,) working the o-ring into position before closing and bolting the receiver halves.  The transfer tube bajo bolts can then be screwed back into place – carefully as to avoid cross threading, and propane regulator and its adapter screwed into place.  The linkage arm fits into the bolt, and then the barrel must be snugged backward into its final position, checking with a finger to be certain that its breech opening is properly aligned with the feedneck before tightening the top front receiver bolt locking the barrel in place.  The front end of the linkage arm is finally locked into the pump by sliding the underbarrel tube back in place and securing it with its push pin.  The rear cap can be pushed into place after the receiver is reassembled.  The battery can then be reinstalled and covered with the left grip.

Upon completion of reassembly, pulling the trigger should cause the ignition system to fire, which can be easily heard, confirming that it is working.  A few minute after re-inserting a propane cylinder (which should be done out doors) a detectable smell of propane odorant (which is normal within a minute or so of installing or removing the cylinder) will be a sign of a propane leak and should be investigated.

Continue to Testing

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