The ram is the component at the upper left on the front of the 'gun. It attaches to the block through the cocking rod which runs down the left side of the 'gun. It acts to pump the back-block back, allowing another paintball to feed and recockign the hammer. There are quite a few options for the ram.
- Stock Ram
WGP has been hard at work improving the stock ram. While they've always been rugged, the new ones are shorter, smoother, and fast. The new-for-'99 crop of stock rams are every bit as fast as the best aftermarket rams. The stock ram also has the advantage of being much more durable than most aftermarket rams, and can be repaired even if it does blow a seal.
- STO Ram
I really think the original STO rams were a bit nicer than the current crop, but the new ones are superb cylinders as well. The new ones are a lot like the new stock rams, but offer a chrome finish and a swiveling end hose barb. Like the stock ram, it is very smooth, durable, and fast. The STO ram is one of my two favorite rams right now.
- Clippard Ram
The advantage of the Clippard used to be that it was faster (allows you to fire faster and keeps the breech open a bit longer, reducing the chance of chopping balls a bit) and more efficient than the stock ram. It may still have a small edge in speed, but it's nowhere near where it once was. The disadvantage is that if you blow it out (by overpressurizing it), it can't be repaired like the stock ram. Another problem is that the Clippards tend to wear out quickly, stiffening up significantly over time. Though I never ran into any problems when I used a Clippard, I have seen a couple of bad Clippard rams on 'guns I've worked on. The real hazard of a blown Clippard is that it still functions partially, but it moves very slowly. It's very easy to mistake a blown Clippard for a bad regulator.
- Palmer QuickRam
Palmer's has finally brought their QuickRam to market in significant numbers. This is my other favorite ram along with the STO, and is the one currently holding the spot of honor on my new Westwood Autococker. Palmer builds these rams to be both fast and absolutely bulletproof. Designed to run perfectly for 1,00,000 cycles (yes folks, one million!), I doubt anyone is going to have problems with durability. They offer very smooth and fast performance, but they don't feel as loose as the ANS ram because of the much tighter seal of the piston O-ring. With nickled ends and a stainless cylinder, they look sharp too. The only downside is their steep price when compared to other rams on the market.
- J&J Stainless Steel Mini-Ram
These are tiny new stainless steel rams are made by Clippard and marketed to the paintball community by J&J. Honestly, I don't know if J&J even makes these any more. I don't know too much about how well they work because from everything I've heard, most of them leak. I have seen one functional J&J stainless ram, and it seemed to work fine. I can't say that it worked any better (or even as well) as my Clippard. As things stand, the tiny weight savings of this ram hardly seem to compensate for the potential problems.
- ANS Stainless Steel Mini-Ram
These look rather like the mini-rams that J&J was selling before, but from what I've seen, they're a whole lot more reliable. The one I've actually had chance to use was on a Wildside Autococker and it worked well. Just keep in mind that, like any ram with a smaller diameter, a slightly higher pressure will be required to operate this ram than the stock and STO rams. I have heard some reports that these have some tendency to leak, but the problem does not appear to be as prevalent as it was with the J&J rams. I can definitely say that they don't seal up as well internally (they can allow some leak-through past the piston O-ring - a trade off for the smoothest action) as the stock and Palmer ram. People usually buy them because they look cool and because of the subjective sense that they are smoother. In fact, though they are smoother when no gas is applied, they are no faster than other good rams.
- Other Rams
A whole host of other replacement rams have now entered the market. Palmers is carrying new rams, I&I has a new stainless ram for sale, several stores sell nickle or chrome plated stock and clippard rams. Are these rams any good to use? The others are a mixed bag. I'm somewhat hesitant to try new, untested equipment because of the frequently bad results. Plated rams are a similar mixed bag. If they're plated by someone who knows what he's doing, the result is a ram that works fine. If the plater isn't any good, though, the dimensions of the ram could be altered, and the final result could be a ram that doesn't work at all. Make sure that you can return the ram if you buy one of these unproven rams.