Title:
Paintball firing mechanism
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An improved pneumatic firing mechanism for a paintball gun of the electronic (automatic) type, having selectable burst-firing modes and integrated bolt and ram to improve efficiency and yet simplify manufacturing. The firing mechanism generally comprises a bolt formed with a forward portion and a fixed portion, and a coaxial valve piston inside the bolt, the valve piston being formed with a central passage for directing compressed gas from the gas inlet of said main body into the compressed gas storage area, said valve piston selectively preventing the release of compressed gas from the compressed gas storage area. Low pressure is employed in the gun in order to move the bolt rapidly forwardly towards its front shooting position, where the bolt causes high pressure gas to be released into the barrel through a high pressure gas passageway running through the center of the bolt. The number of paintballs fired in a single burst can be set by the user.



Inventors:
Cole, Christopher (Oxnard, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/593122
Publication Date:
05/08/2008
Filing Date:
11/02/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F41B11/32
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ABDOSH, SAMIR
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver (Baltimore, MD, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A paintball marker for shooting paintballs, comprising: a main body having a handle grip, pivoting trigger, a muzzle defining a chamber, and a tubular barrel connected to said muzzle through which paint balls are discharged; a paintball feed port for gravity feeding of paintballs from a hopper into said chamber; a gas inlet for introduction of compressed gas into the main body; a first regulator in fluid communication with said gas inlet for regulating said introduction of a low pressure charge into said main body; a second regulator in fluid communication with said gas inlet for introduction of a high pressure charge into said main body; a pneumatic firing mechanism comprising a bolt resident in the chamber of said main body and slidable therein; an electronic controller circuit including a switch coupled to said trigger; and a solenoid electrically connected to said electronic module for sequentially initiating said low pressure charge from said first regulator followed by said high pressure charge from said second regulator, said low pressure charge sliding said bolt from a ready-to-fire position in which a paintball may be gravity fed from a hopper through said paintball feed port into the chamber, to a firing position in which said high pressure charge is released from said second regulator into the chamber and barrel, thereby accelerating said paintball down and out from the barrel.

2. The paintball marker according to claim 1, wherein said first regulator admits a low pressure charge of approximately 90 psi to said main body.

3. The paintball marker according to claim 1, wherein said second regulator admits a high pressure charge of approximately 300 psi to said main body.

4. The paintball marker according to claim 2, wherein said first regulator comprises a Shrader valve with valve cap.

5. The paintball marker according to claim 4, wherein said gas inlet comprises a conventional Air Source Adapter with said first regulator attached thereto and protruding forward.

6. The paintball marker according to claim 1, wherein said second regulator is adjustable to provide an output pressure in a range of from 0 to 900 PSI.

7. The paintball marker according to claim 6, wherein said second regulator is preset to admit a high pressure charge of approximately 300 psi to said main body.

8. The paintball marker according to claim 1, wherein said pneumatic firing mechanism further comprises a slidable hollow bolt resident within the chamber, and a valve piston inserted within the hollow of said bolt.

9. The paintball marker according to claim 8, wherein said valve piston remains stationery within said main body for sealing said chamber.

10. The paintball marker according to claim 8, wherein said slidable bolt is the only moving component within the chamber.

11. A pneumatic firing mechanism for a paintball gun having a main body with a chamber formed with a gas inlet, a muzzle end, and a compressed gas storage area there between, said firing mechanism comprising: a tubular bolt formed with a high-pressure forward portion, a mid-section vented by a plurality of radial slots, and a low-pressure rearward chamber, said bolt being adapted for movement between a forward and a rearward position within said main body; a valve piston formed with a central passage for directing compressed gas from the gas inlet of said main body into the compressed gas storage area, said valve piston selectively preventing the release of compressed gas from the compressed gas storage area.

12. The firing mechanism for a paintball gun according to claim 11, wherein said valve piston remains stationery within said main body during firing.

13. The firing mechanism for a paintball gun according to claim 11, wherein said valve piston remains stationery within said main body during firing.

14. The firing mechanism for a paintball gun according to claim 11, wherein said bolt is moved by a low pressure charge from a ready-to-fire position to a firing position in which a high pressure charge is released into said muzzle to accelerate said paintball down and out from the barrel.

15. A method of firing a paintball gun, comprising the steps of: loading a paintball into the chamber of a paintball marker by gravity feed; inputting a low pressure charge of compressed gas into the chamber of said marker to move a bolt to a firing position; inputting a high pressure charge of compressed gas into said chamber when said bolt is in the firing position to expel said paintball from the chamber.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application derives priority from provisional patent application No. 60/732,823 filed Nov. 2, 2005.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

(1) Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to paintball guns and, more particularly, to a pneumatic firing mechanism with selectable burst-firing modes and integrated bolt and ram.

(2) Description of the Background

Paintball has become an extremely popular hobby and, for some, a profession. The guns used to fire the paintballs are referred to as “markers”. Paintball markers are pneumatic projectile launchers that fire encapsulated paintballs by releasing a burst of gas (typically CO2 or compressed air).

Current paintball markers are very sophisticated devices comprising a reservoir of compressed gas connected to a regulator, and a trigger mechanism for actuating the regulator to discharge the gas, ejecting paintballs from the chamber through a barrel at between 280 and 300 feet per second. The barrel has a closed breech end leading to an open muzzle. A magazine of paintballs is typically mounted above the breech of the paintball marker, and the paintballs are fed into the breech by gravity or mechanically. High-end paintball markers are now semi-automatic or fully automatic, each paintball being loaded into firing position automatically. Such paintball markers typically utilize a reciprocating bolt that moves between a loading position that permits a paintball to drop into the breech, and a firing position in which the bolt moves toward the muzzle of the marker, covering the magazine outlet. While in the firing position the bolt re-directs a charge of compressed gas that propels the paintball out the muzzle.

There are a number of design factors that go into a well-designed firing mechanism. Efficiency is important since the capacity of the gas cartridges is limited. Thus, it is desirable to maximize the number of shots possible from a single cartridge. Thus, it is necessary to maximize the efficiency of energy transfer from the released gas to the paintball projectile. In conventional markers the propellant charge enters the bolt generally perpendicular to its axis through a port or opening in the side of the bolt. This abrupt right-angle junction creates turbulence in the flow stream and deprives it of efficiency.

There have been efforts to improve the bolt configuration. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,474,326 discloses a bolt with flared angular ports that eliminate the “corner” formed at the intersection of the prior art perpendicular flow passages. The flared ports reduce turbulence in the propellant charge and minimize energy loss.

Other examples of paintball marker guns used in the field include Anderson, U.S. Pat. No. 5,515,838 (paintball gun with a passage for porting pressurized gas to a ball projectile); Lukas et al., U.S. Pat. No. 5,613,483 (a gas powered gun with a piston and cylinder assembly for ejecting projectiles from the gun) and Lotuaco, III, U.S. Pat. No. 6,065,460 (gas-powered paintball gun with two pressure regulators; one for supplying lower pressure for loading paintballs and one for high pressure for expelling the paintball from the barrel.)

There remains a need for a pneumatic firing mechanism with selectable burst-firing modes and integrated bolt and ram to improve efficiency and yet simplify manufacturing.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is, therefore, a primary object of the present invention to provide a high-efficiency paintball marker incorporating a pneumatic firing mechanism with selectable single/burst firing modes that makes more efficient use of compressed gas, thereby allowing firing of more rounds per charge.

It is another object to provide a pneumatic firing mechanism for a paintball marker having selectable burst-firing modes and integrated bolt and ram to improve efficiency and yet simplify manufacturing.

In accordance with the foregoing objects, the present invention provides a paintball marker incorporating a pneumatic firing mechanism with selectable single/burst firing modes, that makes more efficient use of compressed gas, thereby allowing firing of more rounds per charge. The marker incorporates an electronic trigger (E-trigger) that actuates an improved pneumatic firing mechanism with selectable single/burst firing modes. The electronic trigger comprises a programmable processor-based controller board that can be programmed by insertion of pre-programmed EPROM chips to achieve semi-automatic modes, burst modes (firing one, two, three or more times with a single pull of the trigger), or fully automatic (continuous firing) modes. The various modes are determined by a software program on the EPROM, and the EPROM can be swapped out for addition of new or different modes. The particular mode is set by the user. The pneumatic firing mechanism comprises an integrated bolt and ram that simplifies manufacturing and makes more efficient use of compressed gas, thereby allowing firing of more rounds per charge. Low pressure is employed in the gun in order to move the bolt rapidly forwardly towards its front shooting position, where the bolt causes high pressure gas to be released into the barrel through a high pressure gas passageway running through the center of the bolt. The improved bolt includes an annular sleeve that slides within the chamber of the gun, and a ram slidably inserted into the sleeve. The ram is defined by a single central passage. The ram has only a central through-bore (not flared ports) and is much simpler to manufacture.

The net result is a high-efficiency tournament grade paintball marker that makes more efficient use of compressed gas, thereby allowing firing of more rounds per charge, and which is nevertheless simple in construction and easier to manufacture.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments and certain modifications thereof when taken together with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the paintball marker according to the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the partially disassembled paintball marker with barrel assembly 90 removed from body 10.

FIG. 3 is a perspective break-apart view of the paintball marker body 80, inclusive of internal components.

FIG. 4 is a perspective exploded drawing of the firing mechanism according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a composite view of the individual components of the firing mechanism of FIG. 4.

FIGS. 6 and 7 are operational diagrams showing the firing mechanism of FIGS. 3-5 in an open versus closed position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT(S)

The present invention is a paintball marker incorporating a pneumatic firing mechanism with selectable single/burst firing modes, and an integrated bolt and ram that simplifies manufacturing and makes more efficient use of compressed gas, thereby allowing firing of more rounds per charge.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the paintball marker according to the present invention. The paintball marker includes a main body 10 with a detachable handle grip 54 and pivoting trigger 56. The main body 10 includes a muzzle 13 by which a paint ball is discharged through an extending barrel assembly 90, and a regulated gas inlet 52 for introduction of compressed gas into main body 10. Internally, the compressed gas is used to accomplish two things: 1) provide high-pressure gas charge (approx. 300 psi) to expel the paintballs, and 2) provide a low pressure gas charge (approx. 90 psi) for manipulating a firing mechanism. As will be described the unique electronic firing mechanism of the present invention employs a programmable electronic controller circuit 58 that is switch-actuated by trigger 56. The electronic controller circuit 58 may be user-programmed to output a variable firing control signal that ranges from single-shot (semi-automatic) mode, to fully-automatic burst modes for firing a user-selectable number of paintballs machine-gun style. The firing control signal is fed to a solenoid 59 that selectively admits compressed gas through gas inlet 52 to move an internal bolt (to be described) from a ready-to-fire position (in which a paintball is gravity fed into the chamber) through a firing cycle in which the bolt is urged forward by the low-pressure gas charge, which in turn releases the high-pressure gas charge through the bolt and into the barrel assembly 90 of the gun, accelerating the paintball down the barrel.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the partially disassembled paintball marker with barrel assembly 90 removed from main body 10. The barrel assembly 90 is screw-attached to the body 10, and in accordance with the present invention the barrel assembly 90 comprises a two-piece screw-together barrel inclusive of tubular sections 92, 94, each having cooperating screw threads and a uniform continuous through-bore. The two-piece construction allows swapping out to implement different bore sizes, if desired. While dimensions may vary somewhat, the barrel 90 dimensions are crucial for accuracy and a 12″-16″ assembled length is suitable, and a 0.684″ internal bore size is typical, plus an array of pressure porting holes in the discharge section 94. The porting holes provide vents into tubular section 94 and may be patterned in a variety of known “tournament patterns” to accomplish pressure venting and sound suppression. It has been found that a helical line of porting holes encircling the tubular section 94 is preferred. A conventional paint ball hopper (not shown in the drawings) may be coupled to a feed port 12 leading into the top of the main body 10, for feeding paintballs into the main body 10 via the feed port 12. In addition, a conventional gas cylinder or storage tank (not shown) is coupled to the gas inlet 52 as a source of pressurized gas (air or CO2).

FIG. 3 is a perspective break-apart view of the paintball marker in its entirety, inclusive of internal components. A gas inlet regulator 50 is attached to the gas inlet 52 leading into main body 10 to regulate a source of high pressure gas for powering the paint ball gun. The source is typically a compressed air or CO2 cartridge screwed to the open (lower) end of gas inlet regulator 50 at port 54. The gas inlet 52 comprises a conventional ASA (Air Source Adapter) with a low pressure regulator 53 attached thereto and protruding forward (approx. 90 psi) for bleeding the low pressure charge to manipulate the firing mechanism. The low pressure regulator 53 comprises a 90 psi Shrader valve with valve cap. The gas inlet 52 ASA adapter may be any safety-vented air source connector, preferably using standardized bottle threading, such as most vertical adapters and bottom-line setups. The SEM Company produces a line of suitable ASA adapters. The preferred gas inlet regulator 50 should be adjustable, preset to provide an approximate 300 PSI output, and may be adjustable to an output pressure in a range of from 0 to 900 PSI. Regulator adjustment may be accomplished by turning a setscrew located on the bottom of the regulator 50, and a variety of commercially-available paintball regulators are well-suited for these specifications (such as the Bulldog™ 0-900 psi adjustable regulator).

A conventional paint ball hopper (also not seen in the drawings) is coupled to a feed port 12 leading into the top of the main body 10, for feeding paintballs into the main body 10.

The trigger 56 is pivotally attached to the handle grip 54 behind a conventional trigger guard, and actuates an electronic trigger system (“E-trigger system”) which allows for a plurality of different firing modes. The electronic trigger system comprises an electronic battery-powered controller circuit 58 mechanically connected to the trigger 56 to actuate a solenoid 59 installed into the main body 10, which in turn activates the pneumatic firing mechanism of the present invention. The solenoid 59 is a conventional three-way electronically-controlled pneumatic solenoid that selectively (in accordance with controller 58) controls application of either the low pressure charge from regulator 53 (90 psi) and/or the high-pressure charge (300 psi) from regulator 50. Specifically, when the trigger 56 is pulled it actuates a microswitch on controller circuit 58 that activates controller circuit 58 to transmit a firing signal (one pulse or a series of pulses, depending on the selected firing mode) to actuate the firing mechanism 2. The controller circuit 58 is a microprocessor based digital controller operated by an on-board battery (conventional 9 v), and a variety of digital controllers are commercially available and will suffice for this purpose. The controller circuit 58 may be conveniently programmed to perform an array of different user-selectable firing modes upon each trigger 56 actuation, the programming being accomplished by insertion of a pre-programmed EPROM memory into a socket resident on the controller circuit 58 board. The EEPROM memory tells the controller circuit 58 which firing modes are available, and the user may select between the various modes by half-pulling the trigger. An array of colorized LEDs resident on the controller circuit 58 board flash through the handle 54 (which may be translucent plastic for this purpose), or through an aperture in the handle 54 to display to the user which particular firing mode has been selected. The firing modes preferably include a primary (default) mode of firing which is traditional semi-automatic (one shot per pull as quickly as the user can pull the trigger). Other firing modes include burst mode firing (which makes the marker fire a predetermined number of paintballs every time the trigger is pulled), and fully automatic (the marker will fire paintballs continuously as long as the trigger is held down). The benefit of this electronic trigger system lies primarily in the ability to fire rapidly without breaking paintballs due to human error. This is essential in tournament play since paintballs can break inside the marker when a manual trigger is pulled irregularly.

The pneumatic firing mechanism 2 is internal to main body 10 and includes a bolt 20 (not shown in FIG. 1) and valve piston 30 to be described. In accordance with the present invention, the compressed gas is diverted into a low pressure charge by low pressure regulator 53 (approx. 90 psi) for moving the bolt 20 within the main body 10, from a ready-to-fire position (in which a paintball is gravity fed into the chamber) through a firing cycle in which the bolt is urged forward by the low-pressure gas charge, thereby releasing the high-pressure gas charge through the bolt 20 and into the barrel 90 of the gun, accelerating the paintball down the barrel 90. This may be accomplished singly (in semi-automatic mode) thereby loading and firing one paintball with each trigger pull, or in burst or fully automatic mode in which a succession of paintballs are fired.

FIG. 4 is a perspective exploded drawing of the firing mechanism 2 according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a composite photo of the individual components of the firing mechanism 2 of FIG. 4.

In detailing the interior of the main body 10, the feed port 12 opens into a chamber 13 that extends the length of the main body 10, the chamber 13 defining a compressed gas storage area that selectively fills with the low-pressure charge (90 psi). The gas inlet 15 is adapted to receive a regulated supply of compressed gas which is conveyed throughout chamber 13. A slidable bolt 20 resides within the chamber 13, and a stationery valve piston 30 resides within the bolt 20 primarily to seal off the rear of chamber 13. In this configuration the firing mechanism 2 is considered a “closed bolt” or semi-automatic mechanism which fires a paintball and then moves the bolt 20. Thus, the trigger action fires the paintball and, a split second later, pushes the bolt 20 back in a cocking action, and allows a ball to drop into the chamber 13. When this is done the controller 58 and solenoid 59 impart a low pressure charge (90 psi) of compressed gas up through ports 19 and into the chamber 24 of the bolt 20, driving the bolt 20 forward, and feeding the ball into the breech. The paintball is then fired when the controller 58 and solenoid 59 impart a high pressure charge (300 psi) of compressed gas up through ports 19 and through radial slots 26 defined in the bolt 20, the high-pressure charge of gas being released through the bolt 20 down the chamber 13. The entire process repeats itself when the trigger 56 is depressed again or if the controller circuit 58 is set to a burst firing mode. A key improvement in the foregoing is that there is a single moving component (bolt 20) that slides within chamber 13.

The specific configuration and operation of the bolt 20 and valve piston 30 will now be described. The slidable bolt 20 and valve piston 30 are fitted together end to end to form a contiguous in-line assembly, the valve piston 30 remaining stationery and stoppering the rear of chamber 13. The valve piston 30 includes a central passage 36 in communication with front ports 39 and rear ports 37 for directing high-pressure compressed gas from the ports 19 into the bolt 20. The other end of the valve piston 30 forms a plug 34 that seats against and seals the chamber 13. When seated, the plug 34 prevents the release of high-pressure compressed gas from the chamber 13. The pressure of the compressed gas on the plug 34 keeps the valve piston 30 in a closed position, with the plug 34 securely seated. A variety of O-ring seals are disposed along the length of valve piston 30, inclusive of seal 31, which conforms to the interior of the bolt 20, prevents high pressure gas from entering the rear of bolt 20, and seals the bolt 20 for recharge. Seal 33 comprises a pair of O-rings that seal off compressed gas and force it into front port 39 of valve piston 30 and into central passage 36, thereby allowing it to escape through rear port 37 into the bolt 20. One skilled in the art will understand that the O-ring seals may be changed without departing from the invention.

The bolt 20 is a generally tubular member comprising a forward portion 22 joined to a perforated section defined by radial slots 26, in turn joining a rear low-pressure chamber 24 of bolt 20, the entire bolt 20 being adapted for movement between a forward and a rearward position by virtue of the low-pressure (90 psi) charge in rear chamber 24. A variety of O-ring seals are disposed along the length of bolt 20, inclusive of seal 21 which is an O-ring that prevents blowback when the marker is fired. Front seal 23 seals off the chamber 13 of main body 10, and also helps guide the bolt 20.

FIGS. 6 and 7 are operational diagrams showing the firing mechanism 2 of FIGS. 4 and 5 in an open (FIG. 6) versus closed (FIG. 7) position.

With collective reference to FIGS. 4-7, intermediate seal 25 also seals off the chamber 13 of main body 10, and also makes the chamber 13 low pressure to open the bolt 20 as in FIG. 6. The plurality of radially-spaced slots 26 serve as ports that allow the high-pressure charge of gas to escape down through the interior of bolt 20 for firing the paintball. The rear chamber 24 of bolt 20 is a low-pressure gas storage area that opens the bolt 20. Rear seal 27 (like intermediate seal 25) seals off the chamber 13 of main body 10 and forms an area of low pressure to close the bolt 20 as in FIG. 5. Thus, when the rear chamber 24 of bolt 20 is charged with low-pressure gas, the bolt 20 is moved by the low-pressure charge from open to closed (moving from FIG. 4 to 5). This low-pressure bolt 20 movement is accomplished by the low pressure regulator 53 diverting some of the gas into a low pressure charge controlled by three-way solenoid 59 and used only for moving the bolt 20 within the main body 10, thereby loading one or a succession of paintballs (in accordance with trigger pulls and/or firing mode), whereas the high-pressure charge is used for firing each paintball. The low-pressure charge is generated by the low-pressure regulator 54 and is controlled by the three-way solenoid 59 (see FIG. 1), which is under control of the controller board 58 and the trigger 56. The solenoid 59 interfaces the main body 10 directly below the bolt 20 and, with regard to FIG. 4, ports a low pressure charge upward through port holes 19 into the rear chamber 24 of the bolt 20, thereby causing the open bolt 20 as shown in FIG. 4 to close as seen in FIG. 5. Thus, operation of the trigger 58 will admit the low pressure charge from solenoid 59 into the rear chamber 24 of bolt 20, urging the slidable bolt portion 22 forward and causing the slidable bolt portion 22 to rest in the forward (closed) position of FIG. 5, ready to fire. When the solenoid 59 next admits the high-pressure charge upward through ports 19 it enters the piston 30 through ports 39 and is fed through chamber 30 into the bolt 20 to expel the paintball.

Tracing a single activation of the pneumatic firing mechanism, when trigger 56 is actuated, the controller 58 and solenoid 59 impart a low pressure charge of compressed gas to the rear chamber 24 of bolt 20, driving the bolt 20 forward, and feeding the ball into the breech.

The controller 58 and solenoid 59 then impart a high pressure charge of compressed gas into and through the valve piston 30, and then into and through the bolt 20 and into contact with the paintball, thereby launching the paintball. The foregoing action is repeated as desired, the number of paintballs being fired per trigger pull being pre-programmed and selected by the user.

After each firing, the low pressure charge is relieved from the rear chamber 24 of the bolt 20. The bolt slides back to the open position (FIG. 6), and the cycle is repeated. The foregoing configuration is simple and easy to manufacture, and yet highly efficient. Whereas conventional paintball markers may yield 300-400 shots per cannister of compressed gas, the foregoing configuration has been shown to yield 1300-1400 shots. This is a critical statistic in tournament play where it is desirable to minimize the need for carrying and changing air cannisters.

Having now fully set forth the preferred embodiment and certain modifications of the concept underlying the present invention, various other embodiments as well as certain variations and modifications of the embodiments herein shown and described will obviously occur to those skilled in the art upon becoming familiar with said underlying concept. It is to be understood, therefore, that the invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically set forth in the appended claims.





 
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