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Palmers Pursuit Shop
3951 Development Drive #3
Sacramento, CA 95834
(916) 923-9676
Glenn Palmer
Ravi's Paintball Place


Palmer's Pursuit Shop Minicocker

© Ravi Chopra, 1997

This is the first installment in a series of Autococker/Minicocker reviews. In these, I plan not only on reviewing each as an individual 'gun, but also comparing each to a reference 'gun (my own custom Autococker) and the other 'guns already reviewed.

To start, I should first describe my reference Autococker. My Autococker started its life as a Bad Boyz Toyz Stage III Autococker. Since I bought it I have modified it extensively. Its current modifications include: trigger-job (guide screw, trigger-stop, polished 4-way valve, custom-springing, prototype Pro-Team trigger, double-finger trigger-shoe), .45-style frame, Smart Parts .45-style grips, threaded timing-rod with flattened-arm, externally adjustable sear-lug, RAT high-efficiency valve, OTP hammer and spring kit, Clippard ram, Rock regulator, wire-nubbin style ball detent, Bad Boyz Toyz quick-strip bolt system, stock-face bolt, reverse-cut block, custom mill-work by Danny Love, stainless steel rods, beavertail, Violator Air America pressure regulator. I have tuned the trigger on this 'gun significantly to fit my own tastes. The pull is now 3mm long, very soft, and is timed so as to eliminate virtually all blow-back. This 'gun has been extremely reliable over the long term, the only significant problem having been a single cup-seal failure in the last year-and-a-half. Though I originally shot CO2 through this 'gun, I now shoot nothing but nitrogen/HPA with which I usually get velocity consistency in the +/- 5 fps range.

The Minicocker I received for review was built at Palmer's Pursuit Shop. It is, specifically, the work of Glenn Palmer's son, Craig. I originally became interested in what Palmer's was doing with Autocockers because of their exceptional experience with the autococking system (actually originally implemented in Palmer's own Hurricane and Typhoon semi-autos). I was also interested in what they could do because I've always known Palmer's as a value-oriented shop. Their price list indicates that they do large amounts of performance-oriented custom work for VERY reasonable prices. I contacted Glenn Palmer to request a Palmer-customized Autococker that was representative of their work. I must admit that I was expecting him to send me a "sleeper"; an Autococker that looked very close to stock on the outside but with a whole host of internal performance modifications that would allow it to perform with other top-level Autocockers at a bargain-price. What he sent me was quite a shock. Not only did it have the expected internal performance mods, but it also had received a complete cosmetic work-over and a gigantic price-tag to match!

In reviewing this 'gun, I'll be breaking it down into individual systems which I will cover separately: trigger, autococking system, internals, accessories & extras, and cosmetics.

Trigger

The trigger is the first thing an experienced player evaluates when he picks up a new Autococker. The stock Autococker used to have a very loose, sloppy, and rough trigger pull. The '97 Autococker has raised the bar by smoothing out the stock trigger pull significantly. There is still significant room for modification of the stock trigger, though. Most custom Autocockers on the market improve the stock pull polishing moving parts, installing guide screws, and shortening the pull. The Minicocker that Palmer's sent me had some of the common modifications, but was strangely lacking in certain areas.

The first thing I noticed was that the trigger-pull is exceptionally smooth. Palmer's has polished out all the contacting surfaces of the trigger mechanism and 4-way valve. As a result of this, the trigger pull exhibits absolutely no drag or roughness. Softer trigger and sear return springs were also installed, giving the trigger a softer pull and an easy, progressive feel.

Following a current popular trend, Palmer's has also cut off the trigger-guard and installed a double-finger trigger shoe. This modification alone reduces the subjective pull force by allowing you to use two fingers to pull it. On the other hand, adding a two-finger trigger increases the subjective sloppiness of the trigger by allowing you to pull it with greater force in directions other than straight back. In other words, with a double-finger trigger it feels as though the trigger has more side-to-side and up-and-down looseness and wiggle. Most shops combat this by installing a trigger-guide screw which helps hold the trigger in a straight backward-and-forward path. Curiously, Palmer's did not install this guide screw, leaving the trigger with a very loose and sloppy feel. The length of the trigger pull is also somewhat long. The trigger is timed and dimensioned very similarly to the stock Autococker, resulting in a very stock-like 5 mm long pull. This has advantages and disadvantages. A long delay is timed in between the firing and cocking stages of the trigger pull results in the complete absence of blow back up the feed tube. This also improves the reliability of the 'gun significantly since it takes a very large change in timing settings to cause the 'gun to misfunction. On the other hand, this type of very conservative timing leaves a lot of room to short-stroke the 'gun. Short stroking is what happens if you are shooting very quickly and with one or more shots do not pull the trigger completely through its cycle. When there is a large gap between the firing and cocking stages of the pull, it is relatively easy to pull it enough to fire the 'gun, but only get it part-way through the cocking cycle. When this happens, the bolt may not cycle completely back and chop a half-fed paintball. Additionally, the trigger pull is much longer than that of some other top-dollar Autocockers. My own reference 'gun has a 3 mm long pull which makes it very easy to shoot the 'gun extremely quickly. The Palmer Minicocker's trigger does not encourage quick, snappy strings of rapid fire like a short trigger does. Rather, the Palmer trigger is better suited to rhythm firing. I found that I could shoot the Palmer 'cocker quickly, but I had to get into a rhythm with the trigger and build it up to speed.

Finally, Palmer's has installed a threaded timing rod. I consider this simple replacement to be the single most crucial upgrade for the Autococker. The stock timing rod slips into the coupler which connects it to the 4-way valve, and is held in place with a single, small set-screw. When the set-screw loosens (an in time they almost inevitably do), the rod slips out and the 'gun stops functioning until the screw is tightened back down and the 'gun is retimed. The threaded timing rod screws into the coupler as well as having the set-screw, so even if the screw loosens, the rod stays in place.

All high-performance Autocockers offer some trade-off between rapid-fire and reliability. The trigger of the Palmer Minicocker leans towards the reliability end of the spectrum. While it is smoother and faster than the stock 'gun, the Palmer's trigger is long and loose when compared to other top-dollar Autocockers.

Autococking System

The Autococking system is the system of components that pump the 'gun for you between shots. It includes the regulator, pneumatic cylinder (a.k.a. the "ram"), 4-way valve, and back-block. The Palmer Minicocker has upgraded or tuned versions of all of these components to bring it up to state-of-the-art performance levels.

Naturally, the Palmer Minicocker is equipped with Palmer's own Rock regulator. The Rock has more reserve volume and puts out a more consistent pressure than the stock Sledgehammer regulator. Most valuable, though, is the Rock's external adjustability. When you want to adjust the pressure into the autococking system, all you have to do is twist the knob. This is much better than the stock Sledgehammer which must be taken apart to adjust. The Rock has long been the high-end standard against which all other regulators have been judged. Today it remains the most robust, high-performance regulator available for the Autococker.

Palmer has also replaced the stock ram with a new ram made by Clippard Pneumatics. The rams currently shipping as stock equipment on Autocockers are now actually very fast and, in my opinion, remove much of the advantage that aftermarket rams used to provide. Additionally, Clippard rams can not be repaired if an internal seal fails, and must be replaced entirely. That said, the Clippard-made rams are still the fastest-responding rams on the market.

The 4-way valve on the Palmer Minicocker is a polished out stock valve. This really has more effect on the trigger pull than the autococking system, significantly smoothing the trigger pull and allowing the installation of lighter return springs.

Finally, the Palmer Minicocker is equipped with a custom cut block to reduce the weight that the autococking system has to cycle. Cut blocks are now stock equipment on '97 Autocockers.

Internals

The Palmer Minicocker really differs from most other custom Autocockers in how it's internals are upgraded. Most companies drop in aftermarket bolts, hammers, springs, and valves. Palmer's has taken a different approach to improving the performance of the Minicocker's internals.

Rather than simply dropping in pre-made aftermarket parts, Palmer's lives up to their motto: "Where custom still means something," by polishing and tuning the parts that come stock on the 'gun. They polish the hammer for smoother, lower friction performance. They drill and tap the hammer, drill the body, and reverse the sear-lug for external sear adjustment. They port and polish the valve for best efficiency. The bolt is unmodified stock equipment, though it would be very easy for anyone to drop in any aftermarket bolt they pleased.

The result of all this custom work is that you really do get quite a bit of actual work done for your money. And Palmer's custom-tuned internals appeared to work as well, if not better than the all-aftermarket internals of my own custom Autococker, keeping very consistent velocity (+/-5 fps) and shooting very well, particularly out to very long range (more on this later). Efficiency was also very good, running about par with my 'gun's R.A.T. valve. The only disadvantage of this setup is that it uses the stock springs, meaning that you can not experiment with different combinations of Nelson-style springs (which are of a larger diameter than the stock) as you can with most aftermarket kits.

Accessories & Extras

Probably the biggest modification of this Minicocker is one that you won't notice unless you ask about it is that this Minicocker started its life as an Autococker! Probably the most obvious clue is that it has a full-length Autococker shroud. While this isn't really a performance upgrade, many people prefer the lighter weight and shortened body of the Minicocker. In addition, this modification alone actually costs less than the price difference between the stock Auto and Minicockers. The only disadvantage of this upgrade is that the serial number of the 'gun is on the forward part of the Autococker which is removed in the conversion.

What I consider to be the most impressive performance feature of this Minicocker is one that you can add to your own Auto/Minicocker. It's the 12" custom Palmer barrel. All Palmer barrels start out as brass J&J stock. Glenn Palmer believes that bare brass simply shoots better than all other materials currently available. The barrel is nickel plated, but the plating is entirely external, and is purely cosmetic. The barrel also has spiral end-venting similar to Smart Parts barrels helping to quiet the 'gun down to a soft whisper. The holes are smaller than those of Smart Parts barrels, though, and therefore clear much more quickly and easily after a barrel break. The bore of the barrel receives what Palmer's calls elliptical match-honing. In this process, they hone the barrel out in an elliptical pattern from end-to-end, resulting in a tight-loose-tight pattern. They further hone and test the barrel to match the barrel to the 'gun's valving and to achieve optimal performance. I own two of these barrels myself (one ported, the other smooth-bore). In my experience, these are among the best barrels made. On this 'gun particularly, the range and accuracy were exceptional. Furthermore, these barrels are extremely tolerant of old and poor-quality paint. I had some old left-over paint from a tournament earlier in the year that was breaking in everyone else's 'guns, but was flying straight-and-true from the Palmer.

The Palmer Minicocker also came with a bottom-line mounted Stabilizer pressure-regulator. A whole article could be written on this regulator alone. According to regulator design theory, it should be the most consistent regulator currently on the market. In practice, I've found its performance to be exceptional. The velocity consistency of this 'gun fell in the +/-5 fps range throughout the time I used it. I should mention though, that this is also influenced by the barrel, internals, and paint quality. My past experience with the Stabilizer has shown it to be very good at keeping liquid CO2 out of the 'gun as well. The only real disadvantage of the Stabilizer is that it can not be mounted in the vertical ASA of an Autococker, and when mounted bottom-line as on this 'gun, it prevents you from mounting a bottom-line nitrogen system.

Finally, Palmer's has added a beavertail, protecting your face from the moving block and making the Minicocker tournament legal.

Cosmetics

Cosmetic work is one of the really special things about the Autococker. Few other 'guns have the same range of appearance that you find on Auto and Minicockers. Despite this, it came as a big surprise to me that the Palmer Minicocker sent to me had the complete cosmetic work-over. I've always thought of Palmer's as being a value-oriented shop and never would have considered them for expensive custom cosmetic work. While you will have to judge for yourself how much you like the cosmetics of this 'gun, I can judge the quality of the work.

The millwork on this 'gun is clean, even, and tastefully done. One very nice thing is the uniqueness of the work. All too many shops these days do little more than cut generic slanted shark-gills and horizontal channels. The polishing job was also excellent since swirls from the milling were not evident. The only thing I really didn't like is cutting holes through the body to expose the bolt. It looks cool when the 'gun is cycling, but I've always been afraid of getting dirt in there.

Most of this gun is coated in a "triple" chrome plating. This finish is gorgeous. It is very even over the surface of the 'gun, not pooling or thinning around any of the cuts, and it is polished to a stunning mirror-finish. Stainless steel pump and cocking rods were added, as well as a nickeled Clippard ram and 4-way valve to match the silver motif. The only odd thing is that the ball-bearing style ball-detent has been left as bare brass rather than nickel plated to match the rest of the 'gun.

Other aluminum parts of the 'gun (shroud, front-block, bolt, Rock, and Stabilizer) were anodized green. In contrast to the triple chrome plating, the anodizing job was very thin and of relatively poor quality. After a single day of play, much of the anodizing on the bolt had worn away. The shroud did not appear to have been polished well before anodizing and came out a slightly flatter color than the other anodized parts. Small bits of anodizing also started to flake off the shroud in a couple of places shortly after it arrived. This was very disappointing given the very high quality of the rest of the 'gun.

Overall Impressions

At an out-the-door price of $1165.00, this Minicocker is quite expensive. This appears to fall in sharp contrast to Palmer's reputation of exceptional value. Granted, other top level Auto and Minicockers price in at or above this level as well, but those usually include such options as .45-style grip frames, aftermarket bolts, and more elaborate trigger-work. Most of this steep price tag covers the custom cosmetic work. Custom millwork runs $40/hour at Palmer's, almost $300 for this 'gun. The chrome plating is also very expensive, coming in at about $200.

The real value in Palmer's custom Autococker work becomes evident when you consider the custom performance work without the expensive cosmetics. Palmer's Ultra Minicocker conversion for an Autococker includes main-body shortening, valve and barrel tuning, hammer polishing, external sear adjustment, threaded timing rod, full trigger-job, ball detent, and bottom-line fittings - virtually all the performance work done to this 'gun - for only $225!

Palmer's has built a very impressive paintgun that steps away from the mainstream in many areas. The conservative design and timing of the trigger probably will not appeal to people looking for absurd rates of fire. But for the sniper and back-field support shooter, it's other characteristics are nearly ideal. And if the price tag is too steep for your wallet, the performance work alone is priced below the work of virtually any other shop out there.

All material at this site is © Ravi Chopra, 1999