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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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