Marker classification - hammer > Tech index > Marker classification > Hammer

The first of two overall categories is for markers that use a hammer/valve design to operate. This mainly includes low-end blowbacks however some high-end markers are also included.

This covers a wide assortment of markers however they all share one common feature: the valve used to release air. In almost all cases there is a poppet held shut by a spring, which is forced open by the percussive action of a hammer to initiate the release of pressure. The hammer is a heavyweight component which is pushed forward to fire the gun. The means by which it moves forward depends on the marker being mechanical or electropneumatic.
The main difference between mechanical and electronic markers on this page is that the mech ones are more inexpensive whereas the electros cost a bit more due to the obvious performance increases they bring. The actual firing mechanisms between the two are usually identical. The difference is how the hammer is actuated (explained).

Non-Automatic Pump Markers:
Pump markers were the first paintball designs used. All hammer-based markers can be traced to one of a couple of the original pump designs, with a few small alterations. All the pump markers that are currently produced have more or less not changed since the original days, except for features such as adjustable velocity and assorted parts of greater reliability (of course there are many small differences, I'm being general here).
These are all mechanical versions that require cocking for each shot to proceed. The classic pump design is generally considered to be the Sheridan valve system, which resembles the more current designs more closely than the Nelson, which was the first paintball marker. The Sheridan valve is stacked-tube, like most blowback markers these days, and utilizes a forward-moving hammer system. Nelson markers use a rearward-moving hammer instead.


Current markers that function like the Sheridan include the WGP Sniper. Markers that resemble the original Nelson design include the Phantom, Trraccer, PGP, and a few others. Many of these designs were taken and made into semiauto versions and exist today as open bolt blowbacks, or even closed bolt versions with some other differences.

Pneumatic-assist, Closed Bolt Markers:
These markers are typically considered to be higher varieties of the mechanical hammer/valve markers, however I will explain them now to help show the progression from the earlier designs. The design behind the pneumatic assist closed bolt is extremely similar to the stacked-tube Sheridan pump markers, except for one important difference: they're semiauto instead of pump. The markers are a literal conversion of the closed bolt pump marker to a closed bolt semiauto marker.
This semiauto modification is carried out with the addition of pneumatics to the bolt, to move in accordance with the firing. A pneumatic valve known as a three-way is linked to the trigger, which is used to control the position of the bolt depending on where the trigger is in its swing. While the trigger is uncompressed, the bolt is held closed. Then, right after the marker fires, the bolt is pushed open to load a new round, then it is closed again when the trigger is released.
The most prominent example of this is the WGP Autococker, which is based on the WGP Sniper pump marker. It is shown here:

Similar markers include the Palmers Blazer, Aarow Precision Sovereign, and all the Autococker clones.

A more simple version of the Autococker is the Evil Omen marker. This uses the same stacked tube layout with closed bolt action, except without the pneumatics that drive an Autococker. Omens are a hybrid design that use blowback pressure to open the bolt and reset the hammer, then the bolt is pushed forward a short time afterwards by a spring behind it to keep the marker idle.

The Omen is the only marker that uses this design, however in this case it's for lack of trying. Omens are electronic as stock, however a mechanical version would be easy to create using the same principals.

Open Bolt, Blowback Markers:
These markers are directly based from their closed bolt pump parents (above) with two important changes. The first is that they're semiauto, second is that they're open bolt. This design involves a mechanically-linked hammer and bolt which move forward as one part, simultaneously firing the marker and closing the breech in one stroke. The same pressure from the valve that fires the ball is then used to physically blow the hammer back again, thus recocking the breech. The most notable open bolt blowback design referred to as the stacked tube. It consists of a bottom bore for the hammer, valve, and pressure storage chamber, and an upper bore to hold and guide the bolt. This is a very effective way to produce a consistent and reliable marker system, and is used by many, many marker manufacturers.

Examples of this design include the Kingman Spyder (pictured), PMI Piranha, Illusion, M3 blowbacks (Dragun, etc), as well as many other inexpensive entry-level markers.

The other version of open bolt blowbacks functions similar except the marker is laid out in an inline configuration instead of stacked tube. These markers go back as far as the stacked tubes, however don't seem to be as popular except for the Tippmann line of markers (all of which are inline). Other inline markers include many Brass Eagle blowbacks (Poison, Stingray, etc) and a few others.
These markers function by using a hammer in the rear of the marker, a valve in the middle, and a bolt tip in front of the valve. The bolt tip is linked to the hammer so they move together. A good example of this is the Tippmann Prolite:

This design evolved into the Carbine, then the Pro/Carbine, Model 98, and eventually a major redesign to the A-5. The A-5 functions like the previous markers except the orientation of the valve is reversed. When the hammer opens it, air is passed out the back of the valve and shunted around it to get to the breech/barrel of the marker. This is depicted in the animation below.

This valve function more resembles the stacked tube markers, which use the hammer to push the valve poppet open against air pressure in the chamber. Previous versions of the inline blowback valve required a more complex valve design since air had to be released in the same direction as the hammer.

There is one exception to this, and that is the Tippmann SMG-60 marker (later redesigned to the SMG-68). These markers used a valve like the other inline Tippmanns, however they didn't use a moving bolt. Instead a force-fed paintball-holding belt (called a stripper clip) was used to hold the ball in the chamber and advance to the next round. The stripper clips held six rounds each so they were changed frequently.
The SMG-60/68 was the first of many bolt-less markers that were later developed, however none of the other bolt-less designs used a hammer. They are explained on the other half of the marker classification section, about hammer-less designs.

Electronic Hammer/Valve Conversions:
The next step up from an entry-level mechanical blowback is an electronic blowback. These markers are functionally identical to the mech versions, except they use a solenoid to actuate the hammer instead of the mechanical sear and spring setup. The solenoid is controlled by a control board so these can use firing modes as well as slightly more precise firing control. The added benefit to this is that the electronics are typically housed within the frame section, so they can be literally bolted up onto a compatible mechanical valve system and instantly transform the marker into an electronic version of itself. This applies to both open bolt blowbacks as well as closed bolt pneumatic-assist markers (except they also require a new set of pneumatics with an electronic valve instead of the trigger-linked mech one).
Examples of this include the various electronic Spyders, Piranhas, Draguns, and many others. Inline blowbacks such as the Tippmann A-5 were also made electronic with the addition of their E-grip accessory. Autocockers and Blazers are made electronic by adding one of several conversion systems, notably the Eclipse E-Blade, RaceFrame, or Sandridge Firestorm frame.
Most companies that were successful in producing mechanical blowbacks took the inevitable step toward making electronic versions of them since that is in higher demand these days for low/mid-level players.

Electropneumatic Hammer/Valve Markers:
These markers operate in a similar way to the mechanical open bolt blowbacks, except the method that the hammer moves is altered. Instead of using a spring to push it forward and blowback gas to reset, they use a pneumatic piston to actuate the hammer weight.



Like the similar stacked-tube blowback versions, there are many of these as well. Examples include the Impulse, Bushmaster, Angel, Nerve, Viking, NME, Daidem, and others. The first marker to use this design was the Angel, but it is a little different from most others out there since it needed three bores instead of two. The third bore was used to store the special battery. Later, the AKALMP Viking marker ended up being extremely similar to the Angel, except the space occupied by the battery was simply used to store pressure instead.
These markers typically use a low pressure regulator to drop the pressure of the hammer piston lower than the operating pressure. This leads to improved cycle times with better efficiency and consistency at the same time (when properly set up, that is).

A shortened version of this design was released as the AKALMP Excalibur. This version uses the same hammer/valve system however the bolt operates independently, using its own piston. Both the hammer and bolt pistons use their own solenoid to fire, electronically timed by the control board. The marker was made closed bolt due to popularity at the time, but could have been made open bolt with a redesign.

A modified way to perform this operation is to use a spring to reset the hammer after firing, and use air pressure to close it. This is referred to as the spring forward, air return design and is used by the Bushmaster pre-2004, Model 98 E-Bolt system, and M3 The One marker.

The more refined versions of this electropneumatic model removes the hammer and uses the piston ram to actuate the valve. The valve itself is smaller so it doesn't require as much force to actuate. This was first used in the Bob Long Intimidator, later used in other markers including the Eclipse Ego, which somehow maintains its high selling price today even though the original design stems from one of these old hammer/valve systems.



Pneumatic-assist Hammer/Valve Markers:
There is one other category of design that was created several years ago, but hasn't been followed since. These markers are similar to the Sterling pumps, except an added series of springs was used to make the markers open bolt. This started out as the Vector marker, and later was used to make the Rainmaker in 1995. The design of these markers is similar to the pump Sterling, except the firing of the hammer is actuated by a pneumatic ram similar to an Autococker or similar. The hammer is linked to the carrier which propels the hammer against the valve and fires the ball.

The Rainmaker was reportably Brass Eagle's answer to the Angel marker back in 1995, however was discontinued several years later. The company PGI (makers of the Mayhem) released an electronic conversion for Autocockers (Firestorm kit) that functioned similar to these markers as well.