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Regulator Infosheet

© Ravi Chopra, 1996


Purpose of this infosheet

This is the second major revision of my Regulator Infosheet. I originally wrote it to explain how regulators worked and the advantages of having one on your gun. It still tells all that, but I've gone to a bit more pains to explain the best ways (I've found) to run regs on the guns I'm most familiar with, some things not to do, and to clean up the format.

One other thing, this is a very basic primer to give you a general idea as to what you're dealing with. If you really want to know the mechanics of how a regulator does what it does, there is a very good description with pictures here. Check it out.


What regulators do

Pressure regulators allow gas to pass through them only to a certain set downstream (past the regulator) pressure. This does not mean that they keep the pressure constant through upstream (before the regulator - typically tank pressure) variations. In fact, upstream pressure variations will be reflected in lesser inverse downstream variations. The degree of variation is dependent upon the regulator's construction and manifests as a ratio. For example, the ratio in Palmer's Stabilizer is 50:1. Thus a 50 psi increase in your tank would result in a 1 psi decrease downstream into your gun.

The advantage of this for the paintball player is obvious in that radical tank pressure variations (eg. tank chilling/heating) will be dramatically reduced into the gun resulting in smaller velocity variations.


Multiple regulators in series

The advantages of running regulators in series is obvious since the pressure change would theoretically be reduced by another factor (in the case of the Stabilizer, a factor of 50). Thus, with 2 Stabilizers run in series, and a tank pressure jump of +50 psi, the pressure change downstream of the 1st Stabilizer would be only -1 psi, and downstream of the 2nd Stabilizer would ideally be only +1/50 psi into your gun. In practice, the results are rarely this good, but double regulation does result in significantly better pressure stability into the paintgun.

A potential problem exists in the form of choking the gun due to insufficient flow through multiple regulators. When properly set up, 2 regulators in series aren't going to cause you any major problems, but running three or more can starve the gun in rapid fire situations. To prevent starving when double regulating, it is important to keep a significant pressure difference between the regulators. This will ensure a steep pressure gradient across both to provide good flow through both. I like to keep at least a 200 psi difference between the regs. For example, if I'm running 500 psi into my 'gun from the second regulator, I like to run at least 700 psi from my primary regulator (in my case, on the nitrogen system).


Regulators vs. Expansion Chambers

With regard to expansion chambers, regulators do essentially the same thing that expansion chambers were designed to do (keep liquid out of the gun), but also include the ability to regulate pressure. Additionally, the current crop of good expansion chambers hold little or no price advantage over the regulators. It can be a good idea to run an expansion chamber upstream of your regulator to keep liquid out of it (regulators do handle liquid pretty well, but will pass liquid if too much is fed to it), but if you're running anti-siphon or remote, it's not critical.

One thing to stay away from is running an expansion chamber downstream of a regulator. First, it doesn't do anything too useful there. Second and worse, under rapid fire, your tank will chill and the expansion chamber will be filled with a large volume of cold gas up to the regulator's pre-set pressure level. When you stop firing and the gas in the expansion chamber warms up, it's pressure (and thus your velocity) will climb significantly and won't come back down until you've fired or bled the excess pressure away.

This is much more of a hazard with Autocockers than with Automags since 'mags have thier own built in regulator. In fact, there is a potential benefit in running an expansion chamber between an Automag AIR reg and a slow external regulator since you'd have a reservoir of gas to feed the gun when rapid firing rather than drawing the gas for each shot through two close-set regulators. In fact, Jason Beck (jbeck@trg.saic.com) related an experience doing just this (running an expansion chamber between the external reg and built in reg of a 'mag):

I tested this very setup with a WGP inline reg and a CPP expansion chamber and found about a 10-15% improvement in my mag's consistency. I've noticed that the chilling (which I surmise is due to the pressure drop in my tank) [actually, it's because of the liquid CO2 flashing off to gas - it takes the energy required to enter the gas phase from the thermal energy of the remaining liquid -Ravi] is mainly isolated to the tank itself and possibly the WGP inline. My expansion chamber stays warm, as does the AIR reg. Plenty of air for blowing off as many balls as anyone could possibly want -- it's virtually impossible to freeze the gun with this setup -- I've emptied a full 20 oz tank, passing the gun around among freinds, each of us firing as fast as possible for as long as possible! IT WON'T FREEZE!!! -- cool, huh.


How to set your regulator up to work best with your gun

This section goes under the big heading of My Opinion. You will certainly find many people who would completely disagree with everything I have to say here. My recommendations here come from my personal experience and what makes most logical sense to me. I only make recommendations as to the use of regs with the Autmag, Autococker, and Typhoon since those are the three guns I have most experience with.

Automag
This is by far the easiest gun to set up with a second regulator. If you're running CO2, turn the AIR reg all the way up then set the gun velocity to 350 fps with the external regulator. Now set the gun velocity to 300 fps (or whatever) with the AIR reg. You're done. If you're running Nitro/Compressed Air, I've found that you get good results and efficiency running 850 psi from your tank to the gun, then set the velocity as usual with the AIR reg.

This way, you spread the pressure gradient across the two regulators while still maintaining the advantage of dramatically reduced pressure variation gained from 2-stage regulation. One mistake I've seen that you want to make sure to stay away from is using the upstream regulator to adjust the velocity of your paintgun. If you are doing this, your downstream regulator (AIR reg) isn't doing any regulatory work, it's just slowing flow and potentially starving your gun during rapid fire.

Autococker & Typhoon
Both of these guns work pretty much identically, so they can be set up similarly. The first, biggest problem is deciding what pressure to run into the gun. The problem comes in that different people run different weight mainsprings, so the valve is open for diffent periods of time, so a different pressure has to be run into each gun. The basic way to do this is to set the velocity adjusting nut (that adjusts mainspring tension) to about the middle of it's possible travel then set the velocity with your regulator to a level in the general ballpark of where you want to be shooting, then fine tune the velocity with the nut. One thing to keep in mind is that you want to be feeding your gun a pressure below tank pressure or the regulator won't be doing anything useful (it'll be just allowing tank pressure straight through to the gun with no regulation). These days, stock Autocockers run at about 400 psi. Autocockers with aftermarket valves and springing can run as low as 180 psi. With 'guns that run at extremely low pressures like this, you often have to use your regulator to adjust velocity. This is particularly true if you have the Tornado valve installed in your 'gun.


Autococker built-in regulators

There is a very common misconception that the Autococker's built-in regulator regulates pressure to the whole gun. It does not. It's only purpose is to drop the pressure to below 100 psi for the Autococking system (which would blow out immediately if fed full tank pressure). The gas going to the valve that fires the ball is totally unregulated.

There are four basic regulators which you typically find here: the original stock regulator (which is a piece of junk), the new stock regulator - the Sledgehammer, the popular Palmer's Rock regulator, and the new Jackhammer regulator. The Sledgehammer which has no exteral way to adjust it is commonly referred to as being "self-regulating". In fact, it is not. What it is is pre-set to a workable level. With wide temperature variations it may need to be periodically opened up and adjusted to continue functioning properly. All of these regulators operate pretty much like the regulators described above, but feed a lower pressure range to your autococking system. The difference between them is also much like the regulators described above - the difference is in the downstream pressure variation with upstream fluxuation and in ease of adjustability. The Rock varies less than the Sledgehammer (has a higher ratio) and is easily adjusted externally with either nut or knob where the Sledgehammer must be opened up to adjust. I don't know what the Jackhammer's ratio is, but I do not think it is as good as the Rock's. All of these regs work well, but I prefer the Rock for two reasons. First is the ease of adjustment. Since it's so easy to adjust, it's very easy to tune your gun in to the lowest pressure that will still operate the Autococking system (important in setting up and maintaining the best trigger jobs). Second, it has the Palmer's name behind it. I've been using Palmer's stuff for many years now, and have yet to regret the purchase of any of it so I tend to trust their stuff over the competition.

Good luck

All material at this site is © Ravi Chopra, 1999