Let It Rain
Brass Eagles new for 1999, Model 1451 Rainmaker Semi-Auto©
Ravi Chopra, 1999
Electropneumatic paintguns are all the rage these days. Most of them are targeted to the high-priced tournament scene and are priced well beyond the means of the average recreational player. Brass Eagles original Rainmaker was released to allow the less affluent player access to electropneumatic performance ultra-light triggers, easy high rates of fire, and cutting edge features at a price far below the Angels stratospheric tag. Though it never really gained the kind of tournament popularity required for a paintgun to reach legendary status in this sport, the Rainmaker did make ground in the quieter but much larger recreational scene. Looking to improve on the original design and expand its popularity, Brass Eagle went back to the drawing board to release a new Rainmaker for 1999, the Model 1451. The updates that found their way into the new Rainmaker improve the performance, reliability, and cosmetics.
How it works
Despite its electropneumatic nature, the Rainmaker actually has an extremely simple mechanism. If you are familiar with the Vector, this will all be very familiar to you since the Rainmaker is very similar, but with a solenoid-operated 4-way valve (the MAC valve) rather than one operated mechanically.
In short, the Rainmakers hammer cycles very much like an auto-trigger equipped Nel-Spot pump-gun. From front to back are the bolt carrier, hammer spring, hammer assembly, and the exhaust valve and guide. The hammer assembly incorporates both the hammer and sear into a single unit. The sear is a rocking part attached to the bottom of the hammer which can hook the bolt carrier if it is brought close enough. When the gun is pumped back, the bolt carrier is pressed back against the spring towards the hammer. When the bolt carrier is pressed back far enough, the sear on the hammer assembly catches the bolt carrier, trapping the compressed spring between the two parts. When the pump-gun was pumped forward, the whole locked-together assembly was brought forward, positioning the sear over the trigger. When pulled, the trigger would unlatch the sear from the bolt carrier, allowing the spring to launch the hammer back into the valve. When fired in auto-trigger mode, the trigger was just held in while the gun was repeatedly pumped back and forth, the gun firing automatically when the sear bumped the trigger on the forward stroke.
In the Rainmaker, rather than you having to pump the gun manually, a pneumatic cylinder (the "ram") works the bolt carrier back and forth. Instead of a trigger, a permanently placed rod releases the sear from the bolt carrier on the forward stroke. The gun starts in the pumped-back position (open bolt), pumps forward to fire, and then pumps back to feed a new paintball, relatch the sear to the bolt carrier, and await the next trigger pull. Unlike Nel-Spot pump-guns, the valve is more Sheridan-like, feeding its outflow up into a bolt above it rather than forward through a power tube and bolt in line with the valve. The bolt is coupled to the bolt carrier by a bent rod that rides between the upper and lower receivers.
The end result of all this is that all the gun has to do to fire is pump the bolt carrier back and forth. Thats it. A single action to fire the paintgun without any of the complex timing issues that plague the other electropneumatic paintguns on the market today. This makes the gun simple, reliable, and relatively headache-free for the average player.
The trigger operates a micro-switch in the grip. The circuit board hidden in the grip operates the MAC valve, switching it back and forth when the trigger is pulled. The MAC valve is really nothing more than an electronic (solenoid-operated) 4-way valve not at all unlike similar valves found in the Angel, Bushmaster 2000, and Shocker. The MAC valve sends a low pressure air feed first to the back of the ram, pumping forward and firing the gun, and then to the front to pump it back and reset the whole assembly.
Air input to the Rainmaker is through a standard duckbill bottom-line adapter. Unlike some of the more expensive electropneumatics out there, the Rainmaker can shoot both CO2 and nitrogen/HPA equally well. Naturally, as with all paintguns, nitro/HPA is still a more reliable and consistent gas source, but it is not a prerequisite. New for the 1999 Model 1451 is a high pressure hose to channel air from the bottom-line to the regulator at the back of the gun. This hose replaces the microline offered on previous models. The hose incorporates an in-line filter to prevent debris from entering the gun and fouling the seals.
The large cylinder jutting rather inelegantly from the back of the gun is a pressure regulator. As spring tension is not adjustable in the Rainmaker, this regulator is the means by which you adjust velocity. Clockwise adjustment of the screw increases the pressure into the gun, and thus increases the velocity. The regulated air that comes from this reg is fed forward to the exhaust valve, and down to the low pressure regulator. The low pressure reg is a small unit just below the main regulator. This passes a very low pressure gas feed for the MAC valve, very much in the same way the LPR does in the Angel and the Sledgehammer does for the Autococker. Unlike those two though, this low pressure reg is not adjustable. This makes it more idiot-proof for newer players, but doesnt allow experienced airsmiths to adjust it for lower pressure and improved efficiency.
Some players will also be bothered by the main regulator used to adjust velocity. Since it is an integral part of the gun, you can not just unscrew it and replace it with your favorite aftermarket reg. You can replace the entire unit with an aftermarket part called the "Ice Box", which allows you to use any regulator you like, but those tend to just even more obtrusively from the back of the gun. Personally, Id have much preferred it if Brass Eagle had found a way to mount this in a forgrip position, reducing the overall length of the gun and giving me a good forgrip.
I also have one major concern about the regulators design. The sleeve that holds the regs spring pack (basically the entire cylinder) is very easy to unscrew from the back of the main regulator block. If you chrono the gun in with the sleeve slightly unscrewed, the unscrupulous player can get a quick and easy jump in velocity by tightening it back down by hand on the field. Refs should be aware of this and ensure that Rainmakers have this sleeve tightened down snugly before chronoing onto the field.
The grip frame, which houses the trigger assembly and most of the electronics is the now standard .45 style. It is cast in two halves, much like Tippman grip frames of late. Some players will take issue with the cheap look and feel of the plastic trigger, though I did not find it to be bothersome on the field. The frame is wrapped in comfortable rubber wrap-around finger-groove grips. Underneath the wrap-around grips, on the left side of the circuit board you will find the mode switch, rate-of-fire pot, and the power-indicator light. The mode switch allows you to select standard semi-automatic, full-auto, or 3-shot burst. It is my understanding that Brass Eagle has decided to eliminate this option, and that full-auto and 3-shot burst will not be offered in new guns. The ROF dial allows you to set the maximum fire rate of the gun most useful for those who find that they fire too fast and chop paint. The power indicator light is a red LED that flashes when the gun is fired.
I do not like how the grip frame mounts to the body. Both low pressure hoses and wires run in a funky space between the two. It is far to easy to pinch a hose or cut a wire when reinstalling the grip frame. When doing so, youll have to take particular care to ensure that everything is in its proper place before sliding the frame in place and fixing the screws.
The very front of the grip frame has an extension with a hole that is, irritatingly, just barely improperly drilled and cut to fit an Automag vertical ASA. If you open the hole out a bit more, you can attach an Automag vertical and install your favorite forgrip or secondary regulator.
The model 1451 Rainmaker does not have a power switch. Instead, it has a power-saving feature that shuts the electronics off after 5 minutes of non-use. Pulling the trigger turns it back on and fires the gun again. Though this may be effective for short periods of time, Id still recommend disconnecting your battery at the end of the day. I found that my battery died out over just a single week of sitting unused. This also means that while at the field, the safety essentially acts as your on/off switch. Use it.
The low pressure pneumatics are located at the front of the gun, much like the Autococker. Here, underneath the new (suspiciously Autococker-like) shroud, you will find the ram, MAC valve, and 9 volt battery (a welcome change from the original Rainmakers 4 double-As). What I dont like about this is that only the ram has a solid connection to the gun. The MAC valve and battery are both zip-tied to the ram! I suppose that there is no real reason they should tear loose, but Id be strongly inclined to keep the shroud on until Brass Eagle comes up with a 9V clip and a good, solid mount for the MAC valve.
Moving to the top of the gun is the standard open-faced bolt. When the Rainmaker is gassed up and the bolt is cocked back, you can easily field-strip it without tools by sliding the bolt-access cover off and lifting the bolt out. Just forward of that is a standard center-feed, handily equipped with a hopper-retention screw in its side. For those who like to use a sight, Brass Eagle has equipped the Rainmaker with a pair of dovetail sight rails tilted off at 45° to either side of the center-feed. Below and to the left is a wire-nubbin style detent to prevent double feeds.
Rounding out the package up front is Brass Eagles new polished aluminum Eagle Works custom barrel. This barrel looks suspiciously like the Jacko Infinity barrel, from the cosmetics (which are nearly identical) to the design (a step half-way down the barrel length and 6 rows of ports down the loose half) to the length (12"). Brass Eagle ensures me that this is their own barrel, and not a Jacko Infinity. The biggest difference youll find is that the Eagle Works barrel has an ID of about 0.691", much larger than the Jackos 0.686". This makes the barrel much more friendly for use with a wide variety of paints, though it wont be nearly as good a match for small tournament paint. In use, I found it to be a very nice barrel that shot very well. Most players wont find a need to replace it any time soon.
In what I consider to be a damn smart move, Brass Eagle has equipped the Rainmaker with Autococker-compatible barrel threads. This means that just about every barrel made is offered in a version that will fit the Rainmaker.
The Rainmaker includes a decent, current manual that includes safety, operating, and troubleshooting instructions in English, Spanish and French.
The new Rainmaker is a piece of cake to use. I found it equally easy to use with both nitrogen/HPA and CO2, though nitro/HPA provided a much more consistent velocity. A straight CO2 tank resulted in very erratic velocity spikes and drops, so CO2 users will likely want to use an anti-siphon tank or run remote to keep liquid out of the gun. Efficiency was usable, but nothing to brag about. I got something like 800 shots or so from a 68 ci 3000 psi nitrogen system.
The trigger pull is very light but, for an electropneumatic, very long. This is due to a couple of things. First, the trigger has a great deal of excess play in front of and behind the firing point. Second, the micro-switch in the grip frame is way below the trigger, and coupled to it by a long, flexible plate. This excess height and flexibility make the trigger much longer than it needs to be. With a micro-switch positioned right behind the trigger, the Rainmaker could easily have a trigger pull every bit as short and fast as the Angel. As it stands, it is much, much longer.
When fired, the Rainmaker has a strange, barely noticeable delay between the time when you pull the trigger and when the gun actually fires. I dont know whether this delay is due to something in the electronics or due to a slow ram (its not the MAC valve that is very fast). It doesnt really effect play any, but it has a funny feel that takes some getting used to.
On the whole, I found the new Rainmaker to be a competent mid-range paintgun. For a very low price, you get a lot of high-end features and an extremely soft trigger. At the same time, you have a very limited upgrade path and a trigger pull which is disappointing only in that it could have so easily been made so much better. Clever airsmiths will undoubtedly find many simple ways to markedly improve this trigger.
Bottom-line: no one is going to pick up a Rainmaker and mistake it for an Angel or Shocker. It simply isnt as refined or easy to shoot fast as either of those high-priced tournament guns. But then, the Rainmaker has an MSRP of $575 and can often be found at or below $400 in many stores a price range in which it is quite competitive.
All material at this site is © Ravi Chopra, 1999