And more Tippmann SMG-60 Paintball History
Recently two Tippmann SMG-60s appeared on eBay, with the seller making an unbelievable claim that the serial numbers were a consecutive #01 & #02. Looking at photos these two SMGs featured serials stamped on the right side, above the Tippmann patent pending info and not under the body!
Early SMGs used an external hard line to transfer air between the asa and the valve. On the later models (likely c.1988) Tippmann revised the airline to run inside the receiver.
Standard Production Details on Tippmann SMG-60s
Every early external line production model Tippmann SMG-60 I had seen, with the exception of David Freeman’s example, featured the serial stamped on the under side of the body. Freeman, president of Tippmann Pneumatics in 1986-1987, kept the first produced external line production model, and this example, from what I’d seen in photos, lacked a serial number.
Looking at the two markers from ebay, my first thought was, these were stamped post factory, but after asking the seller, who was the original owner, he clarified with a photo of the original invoice, which read that the markers were in fact “serial no’d.”
Joseph’s Invoice from Tippmann Pneumatics, Inc.
On the invoice, the original owner, Joeseph McClain, purchased a dealer package of 5 guns. When I purchased these markers from McClain, he was nice enough to find and send me the original deposited and dated checks along with the SMGs to prove authenticity. The first check dated 2/87 & was cashed in 4/87. The second & third checks were dated to 5/87 and 6/87.
It’s important to realize that the SMG-60 was likely released by Tippmann in March of 87 at the earliest. Most original tanks with these markers date to March of 1987.
Talking to Joseph and hearing more about his history further confirmed his connection with Dennis Tippmann Sr, and backed up his story that he had claimed and purchased these markers well before they became available to the public.
Joseph had known Dennis Tippmann Sr, and his brother, prior to Dennis’ involvement in paintball. Joseph had been going to gun shows since he was 16 (he was 66 when we spoke), and met Dennis at various gun shoes around Indiana. Joseph also owned 3 of Tippmann’s miniature machine guns and worked on Gatling guns himself. Since he lived only 50 miles away from Fort Wayne, he would often visit Dennis’ shop.
Around 1987, Dennis told Joseph he was going to be making paintball guns and Joseph asked to purchase the first two. McClain stated, “I had just bought the Tippmann 22s, the machine guns. [I purchased] a set of three [from Dennis]. I think sometime during the period he was building those [firearms] he developed [his] paintball [gun] and i said “I want the first two.””
Dennis’ said he wanted to sell them to dealers so Joseph signed up to purchase 5 total. When Dennis had them ready, Joseph visited his shop to pick them up.
Dennis said they were in pretty high demand so Joseph didn’t need to purchase all five, resulting in the purchase only being for three of the 5 SMG-60s. Joseph kept the first two and sold the third to a friend. He never played paintball with these SMG-60s, just shot some paint through them. Joseph says, “I put in an order for 5 …a friend of mine took the third.”
When asked if he ever played paintball with these SMG-60s, Joseph remarked, “I just shot them around. I never played paintball.”
I also asked if Joseph had ever seen Dennis’ prototype for the SMG-60, which featured a drum magazine and he replied that “[Dennis] talked about the drum magazine prototype, but no, [he] did not see it.”
External Line Serial Numbers on Tippmann SMG-60s
I’ve been tracking serials on external line Tippmann SMG-60s for a while, and have found various low single digit serials over the years. Prior to last month, all early external line product SMG-60s I had seen (besides David’s model) were stamped with serials under the trigger guard. These serials numbers had prefixes starting with U, DC, DT, HR, R, SR & HT.
I had heard that these prefixes were for assembler initials, where the following initials were the names:
HT=was another Tippmann employee (maybe Huy Troung?))
DC= Don Castle
An exception is like SR, which seems to stand for “Sniper Rifle” since I’ve only seen it on the long barrel models.
Edit: I talked to Dennis Tippmann JR in March of 2021 and he confirmed these letters were the assembler’s initials.
I’ve seen single, double and triple digit serials on various early external line model SMGs and even a few numbers repeating through different prefixes ( DC 04 and a U4). Not a super clear order, but the HT stamped serials seems to run the highest and pop up the most often. Possibly HT assembled more SMGs than other employees.
Dennis Tippmann’s Patent
Dennis Tippmann’s Smg patent was filed 12-22-86. David Freeman, Vice President of PMI and initially president of Tippmann Pneumatics Inc., remembers driving with his partner, co-founder and President in PMI, Jeff Perlmutter & meeting Dennis Tippmann halfway between Chicago and Ft. Wayne, IN. During this trip they shot Dennis’ drum fed prototype (illustrated on the patent) in a back alley and thought it was amazing.
Differences between Prototype, Pre Production and Production (External Line) Tippmann SMG-60s
Between the design prototype (drum magazine), the pre production models (peep sight on back cap and side plate) and the production external line SMGs, the design saw a significant change:
- Design Prototype: Drum Magazine and many other different details. Matches patent drawing. One model has surfaced.
- The Pre Production model: No serials, right side plate above trigger group, no serial numbers, powder coated and welded magazine end. Three examples have surfaced. Also featured in the premiere issue of APG. Featured in ad designs and the original Tippmann SMG-60 manual dated 3/1987.
- David Freeman’s first production model: No serial number, possibly powdercoated finish, no burst disk on tank.
- Pictured SMG-60 models from Joesph McClain with side stamped serials: Anodized cast aluminum, side stamped serials 01 and 02. Apparently serials 03, 04 and 05 exist. Magazines have caps. One of several tanks has no burst disk. Other tank valves styles vary (each is a little different).
- Standard external line production SMG-60: Anodized sand cast aluminum, have serials stamped on the bottom of the trigger guard, magazines have end caps.
Another details is that some of these low serials (usually single digits) came with cast butt plates and most of these early tanks have dates between 3/87 and 8/87.
I would guess the first few SMG-60s were not serialized, David Freeman’s example isn’t, and David was told his model was the first production model. There may be a few more that aren’t. Pre production models also aren’t but the cast on those are different.
Joseph McClain’s SMGs were likely serialized for him specifically, prior to Dennis’ standardizing serialization on SMGs (on the bottom of the breech). Joseph McClain had a great story and I was lucky to get these paintguns from him.
Joseph also included the original tanks which include a variety of pin valves. One tank, pictured above, dated 1-87 and lacks a burst disk.
David Freeman also confirmed his unserialized production gun’s tank lacks a burst disk.