Back in 2007, Grant Fraser, a long time paintballer of New Zealand and employee of Dave Pellet’s Tactics, sent me a photo of his Pursuit Supplies International (PSI) M-16 Stinger, or as Grant knew the pump, the Commando.
Grant also mentioned the name of Steve Constable as the creator of the M-16 Stinger and other PSI paintguns. Grant mentioned that Constable was essentially the grandfather of paintball in New Zealand.
At the time, I had only been able to trace the PSI paintguns to Canada and I assumed that was where they were manufactured. I was also a little skeptical when Grant began explaining some of Constable’s innovations and connections to well known paintball companies. I doubted one individual could be as innovative as Grant made Constable out to be and leave absolutely no trace pointing back, aside from brief mentions on a few NZ forums and NZ websites.
But, based on Grant’s info I started researching and sure enough I’ve been able to confirm Constable’s associations and even managed to contact Steve Constable for more details on his early creations.
As I started researching I came across issue of Action Pursuit Games and Paintball Sports Magazine/International with articles on fields and tournaments in NZ and Australia. In those early articles, a majority ranging from 1988-92, were photos with various pump and semi automatic Pursuit Supplies International markers.
I’ve also talked to many individuals who knew Constable (Dennis Tippmann Jr.), had dealt with Constable as a supplier (Doug Brown, of NPS South and PSI Worx), knew of his products and innovations (Greg Muller, of NPS/Valkan, and Guy Cooper, of Pro Star Labs), traveled to New Zealand to work with him (Lyle Kuchmak of Quest for Adventure) and even hosted Constable on his trips to the US (David Freeman of PMI, Tippmann and Direct Connect).
And since 2007 I’ve been emailing back and forth with Grant every few months as we keep digging up more and more information on Constable, Pursuit Supplies International and New Zealand’s Paintball History.
But two months back, as I was looking through scans on my computer, I came across a photo that was associated with one of Durty Dan’s articles on realistic paintguns. The top paintgun in the photo was very similar to one that Grant has sent me a picture of back in 2007 or 2008.
I emailed the APG scan to Guy Cooper, David Freeman and Jessica Sparks (of Action Pursuit Games, the International Paintball Players Association, and “Who are Those Guys and That Gal? Mercenary Service”), asking if any of them remembered or recognized the rifles.
Guy responded, that at one time, he owned one of the rifles, the second from the top model, which was imported from Australia by a friend. He sold it many years back but it was essentially the same as the pictured rifle.
David Freeman responded that he also owns a rifle very similar to the second rifle down, and it was given to him when Constable visited the US (which at my best guess was in 1987).
Jessica didn’t have any information on the rifles but she did give me a lead on contacting Constable. Since then I’ve been emailing back and forth with him and he’s sent me a few photos.
Constable did confirm the rifles were his but the origin of how the photo came to APG is unknown. My best guess is that it might have been from Lyle Kuchmak, who runs Quest for Adventure in Canada, captained Co2 Samurai and distributed PSI paintguns for most of PSI’s run in North America.
Kuchmak ran Pursuit Supplies International Canada and was Constable’s distributor for North America from the late 80s until about 1992 when PSI was no match for Tippmann’s distribution and a problem with a US dealer resulted in the loss/theft of many PSI Delta inline blowbacks. At this time, according to the Paintball Magazine write up above, Gramps and Grizzly took over distribution.
Over the last couple weeks Steve Constable has sent me clear photos of a few of his rifles and I’ve combined the information that Grant and I have dug up to fill in their history and when I assume they were produced.
One of Constable’s first innovation for paintball in New Zealand were bulk air / live lowertubes on a batch of K (long) rifles and K1 rifles. These K rifles would have arrived to NZ and Australia in 1984-85 and are the missing part of the story in Tim McMurray’s transition to the Delrin Sheridan pump handle.
As Tim McMurray of Mac-1 Airguns explains, Pursuit Marketing, Inc. ended up sending the rifles to New Zealand and Australia to get around, what I believe, was a barrel length minimum law, at the time. These extra long rifles might have been the only options to fill interest in Australia especially?
With his money refunded and no K series long rifles to convert, Tim Murray needed to use his borrowed funds on another investment which turned out to be the pump handles that South Bay Arms produced (and the Elevator Gun/Master Blaster).
After converting the K rifles Steve moved to working with Nelson based internals. His earliest scratch built earliest full paintgun was the wooden Pursuit Supplies International M-16.
“I made this gun from wood. I copied a Nelspot gun and added my bits on to it. I did this after converting sheridan rifles to constant air.”
I would guess this M-16 with a wood exterior would have been produced in 1985-86. Constable says the production number is “about 20.”
Steve goes on to write:
“[The body and air chamber are] all inline [in this paint] gun. Filled with co2, much the same as hpa today, [it held and shot] 25 shots of 62 caliber. I also made some 50 cal, but they were firing at 600 fps and you needed a flack jacket and welding mask to use them. Note pump grip is missing on [this paint] gun.”
There must have been a fiberglass body version produced after the wood body version since the PSI M-16 rifle in Grant’s paintgun photo from Tactics doesn’t appear to be made from wood?
Perhaps Constable’s most widely produced early paintgun was the “FN 49.” I would place this rifle as 1986 to 1987.
“I called it the FN 49. I averaged 100 shots in a fill. I think the first time i took these guns to America was to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania [when I visited] a tournament there.”
The FN 49 rifle uses a valve and trigger design roughly Sheridan based. I’m not sure if the trigger mechanism was built by another company and Steve just added his components or if he built the trigger mechanism as well. I’ll have a break down of the FN 49 rifle in another short video up soon.
And Constable elaborates on the constructions:
“[The rifle is outfitted with] an air chamber machined out of a solid brass block. [It’s a] pump action [and holds] 25 shots [in the] 62 cal mag. [This rifle would cycle] [100-]140 shots out of one co2 fill. Both [rifles (the PSI M-16 and the FN 49)] would probably be classed as dangerous these days. I didn’t know much about pressures back them.”
Constable on the distribution of the two early rifles:
“I made about twenty wooden [PSI M-16s], and a couple of hundred of the second one, [the FN 49 rifle, which] mostly went to Australia.
On Constable’s trip to the United States in 1987 (not sure if this was the same trip as the Jim Thorpe PN tournament) he visited David Freeman of Pursuit Marking International and tagged along with Freeman to visit Tippmann.
On this trip to the US, Constable gave Freeman one of his FN 49 rifles. This trip could have been Constable’s introduction to the Pin valve which would replace the bulk filling mechanism on his early rifles.
Another of Constable’s early creations is the PSI Lever Action Rifle. This rifle was likely built in 1987? The barrel and feed tube look to be the same construction as the 1200 (Hornet) but the valving and trigger mechanism looks similar to the FN 49 (roughly similar to a Sheridan style valve).
“[Here is a] lever action 62 caliber [rifle]. I made 50 of these for a guy in Canada who was going to open a western them paintball [field] but I never heard from him again. Awesome gun to use, but no 62 cal paint around.”
I imagine that after Constable’s trip to the US, where he met David Freeman and Dennis Tippmann, he began using the standard ASA pin valve and it would be after this point that he produced PSI’s more well known Hornet, M-16 Stinger, Scorpion and Scorpion Elite but more on those paintguns in another article.
I’ll be posting more on PSI, Constable and NZ paintball history next month.
Giant thanks to Grant Fraiser, Steve Constable, David Freeman, Renick Miller, Jessica Sparks, Greg Muller, Doug Brown, Guy Cooper and Dennis Tippmann Jr.